The Virtual Pioneers are a group of educators interested in using virtual environments in the teaching of Social Studies, particularly history. The group meets on Sunday evenings at 8:00PM EST at the EduIsland location on Second Life. They are taking a brief hiatus in January because of the History Conference they are hosting on January 20-21. Attendance at the conference will give you an idea of what happens all year-long along with some great Keynote speakers and surprises.
Spiff Whitfield(SL) provides a brief description of a destination for the evening along with a SLURL location, then attendees teleport over to the sim to virtually experience the location.
As the virtual pioneers arrive at the field-trip location they are greeted with a host from who typically provides an overview, highlights and purpose, and other interesting facts with ample time for Q and A. Participants have the option of a guided tour or self-exploration allowing for time to take pictures, interact with the environment and explore nuances of the build.
Sometimes participants tour on their own or are given a scavenger hunt list to help them explore the environment. Hosts are generally in costume and attendees may choose to do the same or have an opportunity to acquire costumes and/or relevant content during the visit.
Virtual Pioneers meetings culminate in sharing of photos everyone takes during the visit and Spiff uploads them into a flickr site. Some participants take their students on a trip to the same location, if possible, others use the session as a personal learning experience to improve their own knowledge and understanding of a geographic location, historic time period and/or cultural group. Some participants have their own virtual environments and use the information to improve what they have created. The majority of the trips have been on Second Life but the trips to Opensim worlds are increasing as those environments are developed.
The growing collection of the historic and cultural environments are available to all educators at no cost. Those on private grids do require an approval process. Access is, of course, dependent on firewall settings of specific schools and districts.