Second life as a teaching and learning tool
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Second Life as a Teaching and Learning Tool. High School Student Constructs an Aleut Barabara. Case Study. Investigator: Assistant Professor Chip McMillan from the UAS School of Education Student: Aleut high school student Chelsea Suydam from Seldovia, Alaska.

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Second Life as a Teaching and Learning Tool

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Second Life as a Teaching and Learning Tool

High School Student Constructs an AleutBarabara

Case Study

  • Investigator: Assistant Professor Chip McMillan from the UAS

    School of Education

  • Student: Aleut high school

  • student Chelsea Suydam

  • from Seldovia, Alaska

Is Second Life a practical and useful tool for teaching high school students?

  • What are the time and energy requirements for a talented and motivated high school student to create something worthwhile in Second Life?

  • What are the learning benefits for such a student to create something significant in Second Life?

  • What are the technical, logistical, monetary barriers to using SL for education?


  • A talented and motivated Aleut high school student was paid $15/hour to create a virtual, but authentic Aleut barabara in Second Life.

  • She was required to document the time required, the technical and emotional trials, the learning and personal rewards.

Chelsea’s Input

  • 38 hours total time spent over 3 months

  • 1 hour to step up an account in SL

  • 14 hours learning the basics in SL, e.g., Online SL tutorials, SL help sites, reading the SL text.

  • 4 hours learning about barabaras from a variety of sources.

  • 13 hours building the barabara.

  • 4 hours on telephone, e-mail and in world with Chip

  • 2 hours of tech. difficulties.

The Output

  • Chelsea Suydam:

    • Learned something about her culture

    • Learned to set a goal and meet it

    • Personal satisfaction

    • Acquired graphic design skill

    • Acquired skill in content creation in Second Life

    • Enhanced problem-solving skills

Chelsea’s testimonial:

I feel that having to replicate a structure built in real life – a barabara built and lived in by the Aleut in Southwestern Alaska – caused me to thoroughly think about how these people lived, what materials were available to them, and what tools they had to build with. Creating a virtual version of what they have been creating for centuries enabled me to sort of breathe in the Aleut culture. By doing research online and having the benefit of residing in a traditionally-Aleut fishing village, I was able to envision the materials they had to build with and how the barabara reflected the land and the people's needs.

Chelsea, continued

As I was a beginner to Second Life, I didn't work extremely efficiently and it took me time to get comfortable with all the tools and controls I had to work with. I found certain controls frustrating throughout the whole development of the structure. Some of these were controlling the camera; changing values in size, position, and rotation; copying objects; and linking and unlinking objects.


  • To a highly motivated high school student for whom traditional schooling has been successful, Second Life does not appear to be a more efficient venue for learning.

  • As part of a semester-long course where visualization is at a premium, Second Life may be a recommended platform.

Future Work

  • I am creating, in collaboration with colleagues at the AK State Museum and in Colorado, a Virtual UAS campus to help connect distance students with faculty, staff, and each other. Chelsea’s barabara will be part of this campus.

  • We will see if it is used, and what the reaction from faculty, staff and students is to this mode of interacting.

The campus thus far

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