Engagement in the Second Life Virtual World with Students

Engagement in the Second Life Virtual World with Students

Caroline M L Ho (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch042
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This chapter focuses on participant engagement in an immersive virtual environment among a group of Singaporean teenagers in the context of the subject, General Paper, aimed at developing students’ critical thinking and argumentation skills. Investigation based on the functional linguistic resources of ‘Engagement’ (Martin & White, 2005) examined 17-18 year old pre-tertiary students’ engagement with each other in the Second Life virtual world. Of specific interest in this study were the linguistic resources and strategies used by students as they thought, ‘spoke’ and acted on issues from the perspectives of simulated personas. The exchange of perspectives revolved around the theme of euthanasia. Findings highlighted how students engaged with a range of perspectives on issues raised, and the level of assertiveness and moderation in their claims proposed. The examination also showed the extent of participants’ dialogically expansive or contractive stance. The pedagogical implications of the findings are discussed.
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Engagement And Experiential Learning

The approach to this investigation was informed by Bakhtin’s (1981) notion of dialogism. Texts generated from participants’ enactments, are ‘dialogic’, in that ‘to speak or write is always to reveal the influence of, refer to, or to take up in some way, what has been said/written before, and simultaneously to anticipate the responses of actual, potential or imagined’ respondents (Martin & White, 2005, p. 92). The SL setting where students enacted their roles provided ‘a dialogic space in which a variety of voices, including the textual voice can participate’ (Swain, 2007, p.170). This realized, in a concrete way, the Bakhtinian (1981) notion of ‘dialogicity’. This ‘verbal performance in print…inevitably orients itself with respect to previous performances in the same sphere’ (Voloshinov,1995, p.139) in its response to, support of, challenge to and anticipation of views from other participants. A dialogic perspective of interaction emphasized how students aligned themselves with, against or were neutral with regard to other participants and their positions taken on issues.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dialogism: The ways and extent to which participants responded to prior messages and how they engaged with them in their response to, support of, challenge to and anticipation of views from other participants.

Second Life: Internet-based, immersive, three-dimensional, virtual environment developed by Linden Lab, US.

Virtual World: Computer-mediated, simulated, three-dimensional environment that presents the user(s) with a rich, visual experience and real-time communication with other users.

Engagement: Linguistic resources for the individual voice of the author to position itself and engage with other voices and perspectives presented in a communicative context.

Argumentation: Ability to present well-grounded and reasoned arguments, and to engage with alternative points of view.

Enactive role play: Embodied approach to learning where thinking is not abstract but involves doing something concrete in the process of sense- or meaning- making.

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