Sunday, May 5, 2013

Learning Through Technology: Second Life

We educators often encourage our students to be life-long learners, and we are typically life-long learners ourselves. In my experience, one of the most immersive and entertaining sources of life-long learning occurs in Second Life.  Second Life is a “virtual world” – a computer simulated online environment in which users can interact using self-created virtual representations of themselves (avatars).  Below is a picture of me with a group of virtual friends, none of whom knew each other before meeting in Second Life.

Universities and other schools use Second life for classes and encourage students to explore the educational benefits on their own. Second Life is a paradise of constructivist learning, where students can not only see and hear but experience what they are learning! I recommend Second Life for students college age or older, as there are some areas you may stumble upon that may not be suitable for younger students

Teaching a language? Encourage your students to learn by speaking to native speakers or online language teachers, perhaps interacting in virtual representations of various countries. Your students can converse in Italian as they tour Virtual Rome by bicycle or horse carriage, taking in marvelous representations of the Coliseum, Spain square, Trevi fountain, and St.Peter's square. Or they can practice French in virtual Versailles of 1774. Just about every language is represented in Second Life.

Discussion groups abound. I’ve attended discussions on everything from World Religions to book discussions to politics, and have been amazed at the diversity and intelligence of those who attend. It’s a pretty good chance that your students can find a group that’s discussing your latest topic or current event. I’ve even attended a meditation group on Second Life. (It can be done.)

If discussion groups don’t spark your students’ interest, suggest they explore areas created especially for learning.  One of my favorites is the Indian build at Dark moon, when the objects you touch give you notecards explaining the culture of the subcontinent.

Love the Stars? Check out the 3D astronomy sim where you can actually be among the stars as you trace the constellations.  Want to learn how to do a Japanese tea ceremony? Learn from the experts, then invite your friends to experience one as you don traditional Japanese clothes and conduct the ceremony.

Love music? One of my favorite experiences has been to go to Virtual New Orleans to listen to American Blues played by two musicians linked by technology -- an Australian living in Japan and an American piano player in Louisiana. Your students can learn about the Blues and then hear them live! Even more fun is that Komuso is a cyborg in Second Life. Find the right people and possess the right technology, and your students too could jam with musicians from around the world. Talk about an educational experience!

Komuso in Second Life

Komuso's animator in "real life"

Just about anything your students want to learn can be learned somewhere in Second Life. It's an immersive, fascinating microcosm of humanity, culture and learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment