For those of you who do not have a presence in Second Life, it probably seems to be some sort of virtual game and possibly a waste of time for those who are firmly rooted in reality. However, I have been exploring SL as a potential place for virtual classrooms, and can say that it is a surprisingly rich and complex place, with tremendous potential! One school I know in Australia, with an excellent reputation and very strong academic programs, has an entire presence in SL. Many universities use SL for virtual classes, and its use is beginning to spread among high schools.
isn't a game...its a place where you can create simulations (such as
college interviews with real college admissions officers), where a
school with deficient resources can create a chem lab (where there is no
danger of spilling chemicals or causing an explosion) or support a
flying club with a flying simulator, where teachers can take their
classes to visit the Sistine Chapel or Paris in 1900 or have an
immersive and multimedia experience at the US Holocaust Museum.
There are hundreds and hundreds of 'sims' (simulations) that people
have built there, and it could take years to explore everything SL has
to offer. And skilled users can build their own sims to suit their
Last week, ISTE
(the International Society for Technology in Education), which is about
as upstanding and legitimate a tech organization as you can imagine,
held a conference in SL. Almost 200 teachers from all over the world
attended, listening and watching presenters from all over the world talk
about the ISTE Tech Standards and the immersive opportunities SL
offers. My virtual friend Louise, who has a full-time job at ISTE
working with their SL presence, sent me this link
which shows a recording of the conference. You can capture some of the
experience of attending a virtual conference by watching it...imagine
how much money schools saved by allowing teachers and administrators to
attend in virtual space.
There is still room for growth in SL;
there are occasional technology glitches that have to be managed, users
need to have developed the 'gaming skills' to know how to work their
avatar, and yes, there are distracting things there, too. Much of what
exists in real life also exists in Second Life...but there is a large
and growing cadre of professionals who are making use of SL as a
learning and collaboration environment, and there is plenty of reason to
develop a professional presence there. And for the kids...there is a
completely secure and isolated 'grid' (what SL calls their world) where
access is only granted to students and teachers, and it is closely
monitored and managed so that it is a safe and educational place. You
even need to go through a real-life security screening to have access
there as an adult...they take this stuff very seriously.
tons more...SL is a complex and fascinating place, and a lot has been
and is being written about it. I suggest that the potential is much
larger than most non-users can realize; try it out and see.