I’m in my counseling office in Chestnut Hill pondering how to get those pesky continuing education credits that all licensed and certified counselors must obtain within their credentialing cycle. An intriguing announcement on a professional message board catches my eye. It details a free 3 day Virtual Conference on Counseling (2VCC) taking place in Second Life. Now as a Mom of Millennials and avid reader I’ve heard of SL. I’ve also counseled a few digital natives who believe it’s an enjoyable way to unwind. We’ve talked about the potential down side since it can be addicting. There are certain areas of Second Life, like the Internet, that should be avoided if you are trying to use your time wisely in healthy pursuits. With one client we work on boosting real life resources, supports, and recreation to off- set the pull of SL, Farmville and World of Warcraft (WOW).
As I drop into the live video stream of the conference, which is explained as a way
to experience it without being in SL, I observe the workshop occurring in real time. My interest piqued, I enroll in Second Life so I can attend the conference “in world’ as they say.
Registering is easy but I have no time to check the orientation tools. It’s already late in the evening, I’m tired, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get to
the virtual conference, even though one of its organizers says she sent me a Land Mark. Seeing my distress, this kind soul “teleports” me there and low and behold, it’s set up exactly like a real conference, complete with banners, a power point screen, stage and refreshments. On my own, I figure out how to walk into the session and take a seat. After noting my Avatar’s red leather jacket and spiked heels, I attempt to alter my attire to appear more professional. Suddenly, I find myself bald. I give up on the hair endeavor and instead choose to listen and watch the presentation. It’s similar to lots of live webinars I attend through various professional associations although, in addition to sound and slides, I feel part of a unique learning community. A chat is occurring amongst attendees as the session unfolds. It’s well done and the few technological glitches are addressed as much by the attendees making suggestions as by the organizers. Despite my promise to never use this word, I have to admit, the whole experience is “epic”.
It’s compelling to hear some of the ways other professions are using this technology, including teachers establishing worlds where students participate in pioneer life.
Returning to the Real World I’m grateful for the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. Will I go back? It’s doubtful that I’ll do so for social purposes. However, as a counselor training process I’ve discovered an exceptional way to obtain professional education. I recommend it to my peers as another option to consider and look forward to how it develops.
The next evening I find my way back to the conference site to grab the articles mentioned by a presenter. There’s a kiosk. It looks like I just need to identify which clicks will accomplish the task. Another Avatar comes along and asks if I know how to locate the materials. No clue. While there, I send a thank you email to the avatar associated with the sponsoring organizationin the UK. She’s the one that guided me here. Perhaps she’s been keeping an eye on this newbie since she IM responds and, oh so kindly, offers to assist me in getting back my hair.
Deb Owens is a Licensed Counselor in Chestnut Hill and Lower Gwynedd, PA