“Second Life” Brought Into Classroom
July 8, 2011

The future of the classroom is not on a college campus.  While most students are signing up for classes in a campus building or online, some schools are now providing the opportunity to take classes in a virtual world.  It is in the virtual world of “Second Life.” More than 60 schools and educational organizations have started using the online program to explore ways to enhance learning.  “Second Life” makes it possible for students taking an online course to develop a sense of community.  This is a key concept considering one of the main characteristics of social media is building a community.

Physics professors feel that “Second Life” would suit their subject material well replacing science labs and videos.  For example, one could use “Second Life” and adjust variables as density of the air, surface area, initial velocities, and even things out of physical control.  This would provide a hands-on experience that would not be possible in the classroom.

Using the virtual world in the classroom could also provide enrichment and understanding, specifically through role playing. For example, rather than visiting a museum five hours away, students could create what they think happened during a specific time period and experience a day-in-the-life of that era.  Not only would this interaction allow students to discover information on their own, but students could also construct multiple meanings.  This is something that could not be achieved through an ordinary lecture.

Video games can also be used to adjust, control, or facilitate social situations not possible in the classroom.  While a student may not feel comfortable talking in front of the class, they may be able to be more socially active within the virtual world of “Second Life”.  This holds particularly true for a special education class at Suffern Middle School.  The teacher of the class was prepared to slowly teach the kids how to use the virtual world; however, the kids learned quickly on their own and through peer-mentorship.  The special education students felt more comfortable using the online program before the teacher. The students even started giving up lunch for library passes.

The virtual world, “Second Life”, does come with a few disadvantages. Some say it can be distracting to have people “flying” above you while trying to concentrate in a classroom discussion. Ultimately, the virtual world has been a huge success in many schools. It does not seem like it is going to be long before the program goes viral and other schools realize the success “Second Life” provides.

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