Serious Games challenging us to play a better future
Via: Global Kids Digital Media Initiative
Personal NoteI have been posting on Global Kids major breakthroughs since the very first days of this blog.
Even though I have already published 14 posts under a dedicated category, I felt compelled to transcribe Rafi Santos most recent article which, in my view, is a superb showcase on GK best practices for bringing a youth development model into Teen Second Life. Besides, it works as a summarized retrospective of Global Kids most successful journey in the field of Serious Games.
Engaging Youth with a New Medium: The Potentials of Virtual Worlds (and Serious Games as a derivative) By: Rafi Santos Published: May 14, 2007 Category: Trends
Rafi Santos is the Online Leadership Program Associate for Global Kids
Part of what makes working in the field of youth media so interesting and engaging is the process of exploring different media. Observing how youth act and react in relation to different media and supporting their investigation into the possibilities of new expressive media forms has been a rewarding experience as a youth media professional at Global Kids. For the past five years, Global Kids (GK) has been exploring what it means to bring youth media projects into the online world—with fascinating finds.
GK began with online dialogues and helped produce and run a website where youth around the globe could dialogue and share opinions on current events.
Soon after, GK began working on a serious gaming initiative, giving teens the opportunity to produce issue-based online video games. We soon discovered the virtual world of Second Life, which brought together the strengths of so many different online technologies impossible for us to ignore.
Second Life (SL) is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by approximately 6,240,600 people from around the globe. SL provides a rich virtual environment for teens across the globe to commune (Teen Second Life), which rolls together 3-D object creation, programming, social networking, gaming, chat and multimedia. For educators and media practitioners, Second Life is a playground with limitless possibilities.
Looking to understand where these possibilities could lead, we launched Camp GK, our pilot program in Teen Second Life, in the summer of 2006.
Over four weeks, 15 teens from around the world spent three hours a day, five days a week, participating in interactive, experiential workshops about pressing global issues—all in a virtual space. Over the course of the program, the teens picked a topic of concern—in this case, child sex trafficking—and built a maze to educate their online community to inspire them to take action on this issue. In its first eight weeks, the content-rich maze was visited by 2,500 teens, of which 450 donated money to an international organization committed to eradicating this global crime against children.
When wrapping up the project, we spent time documenting what we thought were best practices in various areas, from general program structure to workshop design and everything in between. We’ve since distributed these practices to those in the Second Life educational community and beyond, and continue to spread these practices to youth media professionals through publication and outreach opportunities (download a PDF here ). The practices that follow outlines ways youth media professionals (especially those from a distance education perspective) can use virtual spaces such as Second Life in their work.
Best practices for working in Second Life
General tips that apply to work in the space
- What happens in Second Life stays in Second Life
Especially in the non-profit arena, it is critical to show your work to other programs and funders. Unless you document your virtual work, no one outside of Second Life will ever know your program even existed. However, SL offers a myriad of methods for digital documentation. You can capture chat logs, blog, take photos, and record video and audio. If you’re working with teens, in Teen Second Life (the dedicated 13-17 year old space), this becomes even more important as other adults can not visit your online space because it is restricted to background checked adults and teens.
- Create multiple places of meaning
Best practices for bringing a youth development model into Teen Second Life
Global Kids employs an asset based youth development model in the real world, and found that Second Life allow this kind of progressive pedagogy to manifest in new ways
- Build, build, build!
- Don’t just build; design and manipulate avatars
- Think globally, act locally
If you’re structuring your program as a distance education model that draws from the larger Teen Second Life (TSL) community, the teens will be from diverse global locations. However, they experience TSL as their shared community. Strategizing approaches for effective education and advocacy will challenge teens to think creatively and critically. It will appeal to their desire to have their voices heard, make a difference, and develop their leadership abilities. Doing this also means the programmatic impact moves outside the scope of just the participants to a larger community.
Best practices in workshop design and facilitation in Second Life
No matter what kind of pedagogical approach you’re taking, there are a number of things that can be done to strengthen session-based learning in the virtual environment
- Use real world content when addressing real world issues
- Don’t fear multiple communication channels
- Make your space have its own culture
- Be flexible!
The above list of best practices is a result of reflections from Global Kids’ first extended project in Second Life. Since then, we had another year of holding two full scale in-person after-school programs that utilize SL to create machinima (animated film made using a video game engine) and other socially conscious games, as well as additional distance education programs and youth led workshops and events. All of these experiences are important learning processes and as youth media professionals, we must continue to share best practices as our project experiences grow and develop.
There’s no doubt that the learning curve for working with Second Life is a steep one. But so much groundbreaking work is already being done, and there’s a lot that can be learned from using virtual on-line communities such as Second Life.