Last night we held an informal meet-and-greet for Second Life residents (and newbies) who are interested in participating in our course in some capacity. We met at 6pm SL time in the open meeting area in front of Austin Hall on Berkman Island. Ansible had the presence of mind to take some pictures and upload them to our Flickr photostream, so you can see what it looked like. We probably had about 10 avatars there, and me, Ansible and Gene. None of the people who attended were enrolled in the class, but it turned out that quite a few had watched the lecture video from Monday already. They were particularly interested in the three hats riddle, so we decided to go over it and do it together. I posed the riddle and we got three volunteers to act it out, and we all worked it out together. Ansible even made us red and white hats on the fly to use as props! Check them out in the photo above.
It was my first time leading a class-like gathering in Second Life. One thing that worried me before we began the course was how it would be to lead class when people would be typing their comments and responses. It certainly is different than speaking, but I found that it has its advantages. It does take a long time for a person to say something because it has to by typed out. On the other hand, because there is some time when people are typing, many people can “talk at once” without causing confusion because the listeners have the time to read each of their comments and also parse out which conversation threads they pertain to. It also gives a better chance for people to compose their comments carefully and also choose precisely when to add them into the conversation. It will be even better once I gain more facility with gestures so that I can more fluidly use body language.
But what was truly amazing about last night was the genuine enthusiasm for learning among the group. Everyone was there because they were interested, not because they were required to be there, not because they were going to receive some kind of credit or reward. And they wanted to discuss the content of the course and the ideas raised in lecture. Having studied and taught at Harvard for over ten years now, I am all too familiar with students rushing through work, being resistant to engaging in conversation, and balking at spending too much time on a course. It is too easy for us to forget what an amazing privilege we have to be able to study and think about such interesting things. With that in mind, I wasn’t sure whether people really would want to engage in a class just because it interested them, even if it was at Harvard. Last night demonstrated to me that people really do want to, and on a Friday night no less. It is inspiring.
– Rebecca Nesson