are we learning or just shopping?

What is the advantage of conducting a learning experience in Second Life? Does it just replicate a Real Life learning experience, or can it offer something different? Those are two of the questions we will be exploring this year as we develop plans for an island in Second Life.

I suppose there is someone working on a theory that would explain learning in a virtual world, but I’m just going to look at some anecdotal experiences of learning possibilities:

  • language immersion: We can’t take our world languages students to Spain, Mexico, Japan, France, or China at the drop of a hat, but in Second Life, we could have our students visit places where another language is primarily spoken. In fact, next week on Sept. 26, there is a Festival of European Languages, taking place on Bell Isle in SL.
  • participatory literature experiences: Earlier this year, Beth RitterGuth taught some lessons on Dante’s Inferno as part of a Literature Alive course, and offered students a life-size Inferno to walk through. I took that tour, picking up note cards of information along the way. Plus I could fly over it to get a grander scope of what Dante imagined.
  • science and math: There are many spaces devoted to math and science investigation, such as the SLecosystem or Svarga, a virtual and fully-functional ecosystem. Our own Chad Redmond has been working with the SL programming language to create mathematical structures, such as this fractal tree:

Here’s a short list of educational spaces to get you thinking about what you could do in a virtual world.

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