Science site sees training potential

Education and outreach have been the motivation behind SciLands.org, a virtual community in Second Life dedicated to science and technology. The dozens of members of the SciLands virtual mini-continent include NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institues of Health and the Energy Department. National Public Radio broadcasts its Science Friday show from there.

In SciLands, you can hear an astronomy lecture from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, participate in a rocket-building contest and meet authors.

“But we’ve had lots of talks and discussions when it comes to training,” said Eric Hackathorn, program manager of NOAA’s virtual world program. Potential applications include virtual-training sessions through the Commerce Learning Center and integrating 2-D and 3-D technology so people can use both Web and virtual-world technology to take a quiz and schedule an assignment, among other things.

NOAA chose Second Life in part because, “Second Life has one of largest potential audiences out there,” Hackathorn said. Still, many agencies block access to Second Life from the office.

If the goal is to get the younger generation excited about what government employees do, “blocking tools they’re growing up with is like cutting off an arm,” he said. “When it comes to training, we need unfettered access to it to take advantage of it on a corporatewide basis.”

About the Author

Colleen O'Hara is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

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