Learning in Second Life: Developmental Theory of Avatar Growth and Change

Learning in Second Life: Developmental Theory of Avatar Growth and Change

Maureen Ellis, Patricia J. Anderson
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch014
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As technology natives, 21st Century students are dramatically different than their counterparts of the previous century when many university educators were learners themselves. Piggy-backing off of the technology that students already use, the use of Second Life as an immersive instructional tool offers innovative opportunities for simulation, collaboration, and virtual field trips not easily replicated in the traditional online classroom. As an online manifestation of self in a virtual world, a Second Life avatar enhances interaction in a virtual space, facilitating movement, choice, and interaction within the virtual environment, allowing the user to take on a visible persona (Falloon, 2010; Peterson, 2005). An individual’s personification with his/her avatar, ranging from human form to animal form to robot form, is the key to an immersive experience and affords the user the opportunity to engage in surreal and imaginary experiences transcending the actual world in which they live (Deuchar & Nodder, 2003). This chapter describes the characteristics and skills comprising maturation for the five stages of avatar development, along with matching pedagogy for facilitating the teaching and learning process for avatars and users in Second Life.
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Over the last few years, the emergence of 3D virtual environments to facilitate an immersive educational experience has become more commonplace. This change in learning environment stems largely from a set of socio-technical transitions such as wider access to broadband, the development of powerful Web 2.0 technologies, platforms and computer graphics capabilities, the emphasis upon social and experiential interactions, and advances in the uses and applications of the Internet. Together, these tools allow for a range of options in the context of education for enhancing teaching and learning (De Freitas, Rebolledo-Mendez, Liarokapis, Magoulas, & Poulovassilis, 2010). These forces have led to greater challenges and opportunities for the learning and teaching communities that may broadly be categorized in terms of social, pedagogic, institutional and technological advantages. Second Life, the social virtual world developed by Linden Laboratories, emphasizes the use of immersive worlds for supporting human activities and interactions while presenting new opportunities and challenges for enriching how we learn, work and play (Boulos, Hetherington, & Wheeler, 2007; Prasolova-Førland, Sourin, & Sourina, 2006). The creation and use of a unique and interactive environment provides access to users through Second Life settings, using real time interactions in a unique 3D multi-user educational environment (Bignell & Parson, 2010). Lambert (2007) has created a series of four introductory videos introducing people into the world of Second Life:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Avatar: Term for computer-generated “person” whose movements, interactions, and activities are controlled by the Second Life user.

Second Life: Virtual world environment used for social networking and educational purposes.

3-Dimensional: A graphic display including depth and height and width.

Teleport: A method of movement where the avatar is moved from one location to another.

Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching.

Virtual Reality: Computer-simulated environment creating an existence outside of normal life events.

Constructivism: A learning theory and approach to education emphasizing ways that people create meaning of their world through a series of experiences and constructs.

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