Pedagogy and Learning in the Virtual World of Second Life®

Pedagogy and Learning in the Virtual World of Second Life®

Leslie Jarmon (University of Texas, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch237
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Abstract

Second Life® is a computer-based 3-D virtual world environment that is accessible over the Internet and that features massively user-created content. Second Life (SL) involves multiple users, called “avatars,” who create and interact in a spatially-organized ecology of virtual 3-D representations of people, space, time, motion, sound, objects, topography, and tools. First made publicly available in 2003 by Linden Lab®, this 3-D virtual world environment is an emerging convergence of technologies. It represents the robust creative nature of human-centered computing with a rapidly growing population from 100 countries around the world (Linden Lab, 2007). Open virtual world platforms such as SL (that are not games, although games may be played within them), are still in their infancy, and extensive research, development, and investment are on-going as critical challenges continue to emerge.
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Introduction

Second Life® is a computer-based 3-D virtual world environment that is accessible over the Internet and that features massively user-created content. Second Life (SL) involves multiple users, called “avatars,” who create and interact in a spatially-organized ecology of virtual 3-D representations of people, space, time, motion, sound, objects, topography, and tools. First made publicly available in 2003 by Linden Lab®, this 3-D virtual world environment is an emerging convergence of technologies. It represents the robust creative nature of human-centered computing with a rapidly growing population from 100 countries around the world (Linden Lab, 2007). Open virtual world platforms such as SL (that are not games, although games may be played within them), are still in their infancy, and extensive research, development, and investment are on-going as critical challenges continue to emerge.

Yet educators are already able to create virtual classrooms, conduct classes, share virtual world teaching strategies, and design virtual research projects. Alongside the limitations of its current iteration, SL provides a complex system of affordances for learning, including synchronous interaction among real persons, an embodied sense of social presence, and virtual spaces where geospatially separated education practitioners are brought together to create situated learning environments. In particular, 3-D virtual world learning environments such as SL feature multiple channels for engagement, communication, collaboration, modeling, data visualization and simulation, sound and spatial relationships, language immersion, and opportunities for crossing physical, geographical, and even temporal boundaries.

In December 2007, SL reported 11,396,586 total residents, with resident defined as “a uniquely named avatar with the right to log into Second Life, trade Linden Dollars and visit the Community pages” (Linden Lab, 2007). Gartner, Inc. (2007) estimates that by 2012, 80 percent of active Internet users, including Fortune 500 enterprises, will have a “second life” in some form of 3-D virtual world environment. SL’s currency, the Linden dollar ($L), is tied to the value of the U.S. dollar with exchange rates fluctuating between $250-300 L per $1 U.S. Virtual activity in SL includes major corporations, sports, politics, commerce, real estate, building design and construction, services, religion, culture, art, music, entertainment, museums, libraries, government, environmental studies, non-profit activity, international development, research and education. An estimated 200 universities and colleges have a presence in SL, and this article focuses on some of the issues surrounding that educational activity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Avatar: The virtual representation of an online user’s identity; can be both persistent and mutable; users can have multiple avatars

3-D Virtual World Environments: Digital online simulations of contiguous, persistent virtual worlds that render 3-dimensional representations of avatars, objects, and landscapes.

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning: The field that studies the use of technology to mediate collaboration among learners and to enhance their learning

Embodiment: The construct of the self that experiences its own presence; can be both persistent and mutable

Second Life: A computer-based 3-D virtual world environment that is accessible over the Internet and that features massively user-created content

Social Presence (at-a-distance): The ability of online users to project themselves into interactions with one another

Human-centered Computing: Human-centered design of computational tools with an emphasis on user-input

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