Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chain Reaction

Exactly two years ago today, while preparing to be a guest on our PBS affiliate's Spotlight on Education program, I decided to investigate something that I had started reading and hearing about in my PLN. That "something" was Second Life, a multi-user virtual environment. I have to admit that the photos that I had seen taken "in-world" struck me as more video game than learning tool and not being a gamer, I didn't have a lot of initial desire. I figured that I would spend a couple of hours investigating it's potential and move on never to return again.

However, I found quite the opposite to be true. The first person I met was Serena Offcourse (Mary O'Brien- a 3rd grade teacher from Maine). She helped me over the steep learning curve and encouraged me to stay the course, be patient, and explore the possibilities that Second Life could offer to an educator. Through her encouragement, I met many other outstanding educators and attended numerous formal, informal, social events and learning opportunities. I found that everyone I met at these events was very accommodating and willingly shared their expertise and advice. I was also invited to speak and share my experiences and insights to others on their learning path to becoming stronger educators.

Because of these opportunities, not only did I grow immensely as an educator, but the true recipients of my experience that began two years ago today are my students. Because of the learning that I gained from Second Life, my students are now involved in a cross-country, collaborative writing project with over 300 students in grades three through seven; an authentic audience, a real reason to write. The students are designing the projects to publish on their digital journal using tools that I learned about through my experiences in Second Life.  As a result, my students are actually providing a model for other teachers and districts, providing podcasts where they communicate, from their point of view, the importance of the writing, collaborating, and creating that they do.

So who would have thought that on a cold and rainy day two years ago that my students would become the teachers leading with tools that time, I had never heard of? Definitely not me. It serves as a reminder for me to seize opportunities because an amazing chain reaction can be set in motion that can revolutionize our classrooms.

If you are interested in learning more about Second Life, here are a couple of YouTube videos that demonstrate the power of this medium. And of course, if you're ever in-world, you can always message me (Austen Rae).

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