South Shields Community schools have created a model their new school build in Second Life so that the teachers and pupils can experience the school before it is even built. There is a school close by that is did something similar and the teachers who were involved with the build felt they had already been there :-)
“It is quite strange that you know your way round before you get there” Graham Firecaster said in
one night just before I visited! “You don’t have to think in 3d,” which is a problem I have, “you can just experience it!” Graham did not know of Second Life, he saw the cad/cam model videos and realised he wanted their pupils to experience the build before the whole things was built. He started to investigate the possibilities offered by using a virtual world and so they started out in Second Life. Graham is now taking a whole school lead in it.
The head and deputy head are pushing a project in TeenGrid where the school build will be taken eventually ready for the pupils to build the furniture, make interactive projects etc. That island is already ordered! What a lovely refreshing attitude from UK education - Yay!
This morning I have visited the build and walked around. I love the huge expanses of glass surrounded workspace, one can only hope their wireless network will be enough to empower the student to make full use of the learning opportunities afforded by the space!
Gone are the corridors of old school days, instead there are square areas with rooms built off them where there is room for pupils to move comfortably around. There seem to be some large teaching areas, with smaller group areas around them but whole swathes of self study space where, I am sure, individuals and groups of students can work in whichever ways they want to when they have the opportunities to do so. Where solid walls they are coloured with rich but soft, gentle colours that should be soothing and inspiring, they lead to each of the four branches out from the main structure.
Toilets, lifts, staircases, cupboards, offices, the dining hall, fire escapes, gym and more are all there – one can wander around and work out where everything is and how to get around without ever having seen the plans of the actual build. Disabled visitors and pupils will be able to plot their routes around, the facilities really do look to be inclusive. Students can start to understand the layout and main navigation routes before they go there.
This is inspired use of Second Life for a purely practical demonstration of what a new school will be like.
The only thing that would improve the school for me is some signage helping me to understand the use are various places. I can’t, for example, work out where the music area is. I thought I had found it – a large rehearsal room, but could not find practice rooms – so think I must be wrong :-(