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"Second Life" becomes arena for promotion of education

Sweden 11 February 2008, 00:00

Second Life (abbreviated as SL) is an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003. Uses of Second Life are becoming more serious.

Second Life is an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003. The downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse.

The leading universities are present on Second Life

Second Life offers virtual classrooms for major colleges and universities,  including the University of Florida, Princeton, Rice University, University of Derby (UK), Vassar College, the Open University (UK), Harvard, INSEAD, VU university of Amsterdam (Holland), TU Delft (Holland) came recently on Second life. 

Second Life fosters a welcoming atmosphere for administrators to host lectures and projects online, selling more than 100 islands for educational purposes, according to a New York Times article. The article quoted Rebecca Nesson, an instructor at Harvard who brought her Legal Studies class to Second Life in the second half of 2006.

"Normally, no matter how good a distance-learning class is, an inherent distance does still exist between you and your students," she says. "Second Life has really bridged that gap. There is just more unofficial time that we spend together outside of the typical class session."

Joe Sanchez, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin evaluated the use of Second Life in education in an interactive qualitative analysis, finding that once students overcome the technical and interface difficulties with Second Life.

They "indicate a preference to social learning activities and find it enjoyable to interact with other avatars while learning in this space".

Among the more active educators in Second Life are librarians.

The Illinois' Alliance Library System and OPAL have teamed up to extend the programs currently offered online to librarians and library users within Second Life. There are numerous libraries within what is referred to as the Info Islands. A virtual reference desk in SL is staffed by real life volunteer librarians for many hours every week. They also teach workshops there to help librarians and educators learn more about Second Life.

Late in 2006, a trend emerged whereby large consortia purchased several islands comprising an archipelago of education-focused land. The land is then subdivided into smaller parcels and rented to colleges, universities, and educational projects.

Typically, land is rented for as little as $200 per year and comes with permission to use some common space for larger events.

Two prime examples are the Info Islands, which includes EduIsland I and II, and the New Media Consortium's NMC Campus which includes many Teaching Islands and a wide range of educational tools, services, and meeting spaces, a museum and library, and a planetarium. The consortial model has allowed for many more institutions to offer participation to students and faculty within a learning-centered environment.

As a result, there are now hundreds of educational institutions and organizations experimenting with Second Life, some hosting advertisements for real life teaching facilities / jobs.[54]

In 2007, the International Society for Technology in Education ISTE became the first non-profit educational organization to purchase and build on its own virtual island. Since that time, ISTE has hosted educational webinar events, presentations, social events, book talks and more.

There are now many universities, colleges, schools and other educational institutions researching the use of Second Life as an environment for teaching and learning which offers a community of practice and situated constructivist learning.

Among the institutions bringing the use of Second Life into the provision for distance learners is the Open University in the UK which already offers a range of teaching and learning provision on two islands in the metaverse (CETLment and SchomeBase) and is gradually developing a range of tools and resources which support learners and offer a sense of presence and engagement to distance learners who can otherwise feel isolated and alone.

In 2007 Second Life started to be used for foreign language tuition.

Both Second Life and real life language educators have begun to use the virtual world for language tuition. English (as a foreign language) has gained a presence through several schools, including the British Council, which has focused on the Teen Grid. Spain’s language and cultural institute “

A list of educational projects (including some language schools) in Second Life can be found on the SimTeach site.

Second Life's usefulness as a platform for prek-12 education is limited due to the age restrictions on the main grid and the difficulties of collaborating among various educational projects on the teen grid.

New approaches to fostering collaboration on the teen grid, such as the Virtual World Campus, offer some hope of overcoming some of these obstacles.

For now, however, the primary utility of Second Life for prek-12 education is in the education and professional development of teachers and school librarians.  Source: Wiki


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