Posts from ACTS: David Thompson on 3D sustainability

Posted on October 7, 2008


ACTS_davithompson David Thompson spoke about 3D sustainability at the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability conference in Christchurch last week.   He got a mixed reception.  Some hadn’t seen SecondLife before and were impressed.   Others gave him quite a hard time.  They picked up on his “gee, second life is cool, you should use it for sustainability” and probed for evidence which unfortunately wasn’t there. 

Here’s the premise of the talk: the goals of sustainability education are to change minds, and to explore ideas.   A persistent immersive simulated “world” such as SecondLife is well suited to addressing these goals.   Withing the 3D world we can use and embody experiential learning, and safely model  dangerous situations such as the social impact of sustainable living.   David showed a couple of screenshots of Etopia Island where there is a focus on sustainable development.  Users have, for example, “built” high performance sustainable homes.

Unfortunately he came unstuck on the questions (wasn’t me, I was busy typing).

Q: do you actually use SL for teaching?

A:  We have a computer games in education course where we use SecondLife.  

Q: But is that to teach something else or teach SecondLife?

A: Not actually using SL in teaching something else.

Q: Is it sensible to be trying to replicate traditional teaching in virtual world?  This modelling could can build misconceptions.  How accurate, how authentic?

A: It is not mature.  Wanting to find out more about authenticity.

Q: Are there alternatives?

A: Yes, OpenSim but less mature.

Q:  I can see that this might support problem based learning.  How far are we from an environment to teach this, and I mean teaching environmental problem solving, not the “problem” of how to build something in SecondLife?

A:  We use a murder mystery to teach discovery learning.   There are some things on horizon.    Drama management research underway.   Problem solving and engagement a human task, might always have to be outside simulation. 

Q:   Could this give unrealistic models and hope?

A:  Yes,  easy to build etopia. 

Q:  It could make the disconnect between students and sustainable actions worse then?

A: Yes.


We clearly need to move beyond the gee whizz and look at tools with a air of science.  Leigh is trying (SL and sustainability literature wiki), but as he points out, once you get past the footprint of the servers, the evidence is thin on the ground.