It’s a picture perfect setting for the first day of class. The grass is green the sky is blue, the weather is perfect and the floating stack of playing cards make great seats. No I’m not imaging things, it’s true. The Global Writing Project (GWP) Summer Institute really has floating cards as seats. How is this possible you might ask? Well, The GWP Summer Institute is located in a 3D immersive environment known as Second Life. Peggy Marconi, associate direct of the Oregon Writing Project at the University of Oregon, had an idea to counter the federal budget cuts for professional development of educators in the US. Armed with a team of experts in literary arts, technology and 3D immersive environments, Peggy opened up this idea to all educators from around the globe.
On June 25th 2012, the first ever literary arts professional development summer institute in Second Life began. Classmates gathered from different corners of the world including, Lagos Nigeria, Rodos Greece, Washington DC and Oregon USA. The first day consisted of an overview to the class, interactive lessons on using the 3D space, professional photo shoot for all participants (aka avatars) and meeting fellow classmates. It was a full morning of adjusting to a totally new and exciting environment. Reflecting on her first day in the GWP Summer Institute, Anastasia Bekou, an English Teacher in Greece, noted that the experience “was exciting!”
The second day had some technical difficulties. The voice chat feature wasn’t working, but it didn’t stop the participants from effectively engaging through the chat box with presenters and fellow classmates. The topics presented ranged from “Setting Web Preferences” to “Using art as inspiration to write in the middle grades” and provoked interesting discussions.
Regardless of the learning curve or technical difficulties, one thing is for sure. Everyone is excited to see what happens with this new approach to educational professional development and the global connections that ensue.