Yesterday, I tested the new SL viewer with some SL colleagues. I have to say I really like what I have seen so far. Of course, it will mean that we have to relearn some things. But so far it has been relatively easy to find what I was looking for and Linden Lap has already provided short video tutorials showing the new features.
The main novelty and something many SL educators have long been waiting for is the “web on prim” feature. And this is really brilliantly solved now. Not only do we not need any parcel media settings anymore to show websites or stream audio and video, websites are completely interactive: links can be clicked, websites synchronously browsed, pages can be scrolled, one can even log in to Ning, Twitter, etc, and update once status… Collaborative writing tasks on Etherpad are possible. And all of this is set up very easily. It is even possible to play online flash games or use other flash-based tools for more serious work. I also like the fact that we can now not only watch youtube videos directly without any conversions but also many other video types. I have my own videos on vimeo and can show these in SL now!
This will not only make educators lives much easier but will make many tools like clunky whiteboards and slide presenters redundant. Uploading of slides will also not be necessary anymore, except if one wants to use the textures for building. This will make it much easier to assign tasks like having learners do presentations or talk about pictures/snapshots. So far, it cost money to upload their slides and meant they had to learn how to do this or send their slides to the teacher who then had to upload them — a waste of time and money.
(Click the icon on the left of the word “vimeo” to watch it fullscreen.)
I am sure once we have gotten used to the new viewer, we will come up with many other activities that can be done more easily now or that were not possible at all in the past. This will, however, only be possible when everybody in a class uses the new viewer.
Having said that, just because we can browse the web in SL and do all that cool stuff does not mean we have to. I often use no tools at all in my classes as SL has to offer a lot on its own. However, I do occasionally miss a good writing tool. So, being able to do that now with Etherpad, is one of my favourite new functions of this new viewer.
I believe that the new viewer is indeed easier to learn to use for new users. This will make it easier to bring learners into SL without having to spend too much time explaining the User Interface.
I am sure there are still some things that need to be sorted out (e.g. with the old active speakers list it was faster to mute several people), but this is the beta version and we have the chance to provide feedback before the final version is released.
Anyway, these are my first impressions. Have you tried the new version yet? Seeing what you can do now, can you think of how to use these for language teaching/learning activities? Will these change the way you have taught or do you use the Second Life environment without any such tools anyway and it won’t make any difference?