Peaking Interest in Second Life: Demonstrations at ASTD Meeting

25 08 2009

On Thursday, August 20, I volunteered to demonstrate Second Life (SL), one of the most popular 3D user-generated virtual immersive environments (worlds) at the ASTD DC Chapter monthly meeting.  The meeting was facilitated by members of our chapter’s Technology Special Interest Group.  Members and guests who attended were treated to a wide range of continuous demonstrations on web 2.0 technologies including Skype, Twitter, Articulate, and Second Life amongst others.

I prepared for the demonstrations by asking myself the question: “What would a person who has never used (or just started to use) SL want to know and be able to easily digest in around 10 minutes?”

I asked a few attendees the question: “Have you ever experienced a new culture in a foreign country where you did not understand the language and customs?”  I then explained that just like the “real world”, the “virtual world” has its own culture where you will see, hear and experience situations that you will not immediately understand (but will over time through coaching and immersion).

I further explained that SL is not a game, although you can play games “in world”.  Rather, SL is a platform for building objects and experiences that can be delivered, revised and reused for an endless variety of engaging and interactive education, learning and business purposes.

I also asked the question: “So why should Organizational Development and Learning and Development professionals care or become involved in SL?”  My explanation covered the following key points:

  • Within our very challenging global economic environment, a multi-generational workforce that contains a larger number of Generation Y (“millenials”) is demanding new ways of interacting, collaborating, learning, living and working.
  • On the one hand, businesses are seeking innovative solutions for doing more with less and for harnessing the power of informal learning for increased performance and profit.  On the other hand, individuals, teams and communities (both “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”) are seeking new ways to connect, share knowledge, create value and continuously learn in an engaging way.
  • The paradigm is quickly shifting from “live to work” to “work to live” (and having fun while you are at it!).

During the demonstrations, some attendees commented on the richness of the experience while others were amazed at the prospect of being able to easily deliver and discuss 2D webinars within a visually-appealing environment.  I also demonstrated artificial intelligence by holding a text chat conversation with a pet parrot (a “bot”) that I had programmed to respond to specific question and to “ad-lib” responses to other questions.  I also steamed my SL activities live to a streaming video site on another computer and attendees were able to compare the two experiences.

I plan to give other SL demonstrations and to continue evangelizing this amazing technology that has real-world application for learning, education, and business.

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