In between work, caring for 2 new twins, and personal time I have been exploring a new world. After reading an article in Learning and Leading with Technology (or was it Edutopia, arrgh I have twin brain) about using the "game" Second Life in education, I decided to check it out. Initially after reading the article I was a bit skeptical about using this "game" at all however, I quickly am finding my attitude changing. I am going to assume that most of you reading this Blog know what Second Life is. For those that don't feel free to check out their website to find out more (www.secondlife.com). My intent here is to explore a bit about the site and discuss its possible uses in the educational field.
Second life is a virtual reality site where people can not only interact with each other but also change the environment. Within this virtual world you can buy and sell objects (that you create), land, services, etc. You can attend concerts, work, build a virtual home or office. They have their own economy where linden dollars are traded on an exchange. There are several other virtual worlds out there (PAX.com, World of WarCraft, etc.) but to my knowledge Second Life is the only one that is not a true "game" it is more of another world. There really is no end game with second life you just are there to exist the closest game that approximates Second Life would be "The Sims" but I believe it to be more than that. The interesting thing for me is to see the number of corporations and organizations that are entering into Second Life. Recently I saw the TV Program CSI: New York advertise virtual crime solving game in Second Life. ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) has an island setup in Second Life as well. There are probably more but as I am just a newbie starting out and only just in my 2nd day of the true second life world (you start out in a tutorial and then a learning island). I have a ton more space to explore as I continue my foray in to Second Life, however I want to change gears now and talk about possibilities.
I want to discuss the possibilities of using Second Life as a tool to teach children and adults. I know that some of you may scoff at the thought of teaching in a virtual world. There are several questions that come to mind to support the notion of not being able to teach. Questions such as: How will we know students are paying attention, How will they do assignments, How can they be learning in a game?, What if they look up the answers to our questions?, I could go on and on with these questions and I could answer each one of them but I am sure there are plenty of counter answers as well. But what if we set our biases aside for a second and think about the possibilities?
Within Second Life there is a separate Teen world that adults over 18 are not allowed, except in an educational capacity. This is where one would potentially set up their educational shop (sort ta speak). We would be meeting kids in their "world" that they feel comfortable. There is the constant complaint I here from some teachers that they feel they have to compete with "video games" will here is a way to turn the game into an educational tool. There are very few limits in Second Life, such as gravity. Residents are able to do/create anything they want (as long as they are within the core values set up by the owner (Linden Research, INC.). Think of the possibilities in a science class or a materials class or a programming class? This is the perfect tool for students to meet one of the goals ISTE has for students which is for students to become creators of media and not just consumers of it. Within this world of few limits they can create tools or products that are only dreams now. They can test scientific principals and theories that are impossible here. In a social studies class they can work on visiting lands that were created and populated with individuals from the lands they are studying. The possibilities are endless in my opinion. The question I pose to you all out there is how do you see second life being used as an educational tool?