Our session in Second Life yesterday, led by Martha was just what I needed and it’s a terrific example of Situated Cognition in action. The basic idea of situated learning theory is that learning is contextual. It also heavily emphasizes the idea of apprenticeship. Martha, while she wouldn’t call herself a “master” yet, was leading us through the Second Life (SL) world. Our “community of practice” had roughly defined roles of its participants, and I was a definite rookie (inbound? peripheral?). My movement among the SL world was awkward and stumbling until the DTLT folk all got in a room together (in the RL) and entered the SL domain. I was taught how to teleport, how to fly better, and even how to land gracefully. My laptop gave me a bit of a roadblock as 1-2 frames per second (fps) doesn’t allow for smooth movement. That problem will be remedied soon with a laptop upgrade.
For weeks Martha had been telling us about SL, and I would go in and putter around. She would give me tips about how to do things and what to try, but what was needed was something more authentic. Though the idea of all being in the same room is antithetical to Second Life, it was critical having a “coach” there in the room to guide us in our learning of this new world. I had discovered dancing on my own, but now I could dance with others. We were having a mini-party. How engaging is that! The only problem was I couldn’t stop dancing. Seriously, I didn’t know how to stop! People gave me “stop animation objects”, but I couldn’t get them to work. I resorted to exiting SL and coming back in. My backbone was no longer slipping and my Salsa was gone.
Later we went to the New Media Consortium when Rachel Smith found us cooling our feet off in a waterfall after a perilous airship journey. Jerry had crashed us into a wall. We took a brief tour of the NMC campus, but soon after RL reared its ugly head and the 5 o’clock hour was upon us. Time to get back home to my family. Later, I showed my son on our home computer what Daddy did at work. He likes to turn the tables on me and ask “what did you do today”. Oh how I fear he will get the wrong idea about my job based on today’s events. Anyway he was enthralled. He loved the idea that I could fly, and at 40-45 fps, we were smooth sailing. We stopped back at NMC and watched four robots dance. They were pantomiming YMCA. Larry Pixel stopped by to greet us. He is the CEO of NMC. Thanks for saying “hi” Larry. It was nice to meet you.
Again back to RL and getting the boy upstairs for dinner and then later ready for bed. He must have dreamt about it because the first words out of his mouth this morning were “let’s go get into Second Life”. I laughed a very proud laugh.
So here in one day I was living in two communities. One as apprentice to the master, and then at home, master to my apprentice son. Again, it’s classic situated learning. The master/instructor provides the scaffolding. As learners build up their knowledge, the instructor is there to provide the support needed, when it is needed. It was an exciting day in SL and in the RL.