Educational project exploring connections between real and virtual identities and environments

“The Avatar Project is a Vichealth funded Victoria University administered program researching the mental health of teens in virtual environments, specifically issues such as community engagement, self esteem, and self determination.

Many students we work with lack basic literacy skills, are not engaged by traditional classroom teaching and are at risk of not reaching their full potential once they leave school.

Taking these students into a virtual 3d environment allows them the freedom to not only express themselves and gain a sense of control over their lives, but also to learn educational skills in a fun way including a wide range of subject matter including maths, science, english, history, art, design and of course multimedia. Many students are already regular computer users and take to Second Life like ducks to water, and we work actively with the school’s teachers to incorporate Second Life-based activities into students’ existing educational curricula.

Some of the activities that we run include the following;

Activity 1 – Exploring the Virtual Environment

You must visit three places in Second Life and complete a short review on each place.

Location, Name, Region, People Online, What is done there? What do you like? What don’t you like? Would you visit again? Include a snapshot of each place.

The first purpose of this exercise is to learn how to take pictures using the built in SL snapshot button. The second purpose of this exercise is to learn how to navigate around Second Life whilst both individually and collectively gaining more knowledge about what has been done and how people react to and use the various environments.

Activity 2 – Online Identities

In this activity we will learn how to upload a texture and apply it to an object, whilst exploring the differences and similarities between our online and real world personas.

You must take a photo of yourself in real life, as well as a snapshot of yourself in Second Life. You must then post these two images in your blog(or a word document) and write about the differences and similarities, and anything else you have observed or felt.”

Information located at: http://www.avatar-project.org/ and accessed on 27/02/12.

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