Final Media Presentation: Using Second Life

Please view my Second Life presentation:

Second Life is a new technology to myself as well as perhaps to many others. After experimenting with Second Life and viewing several articles and videos, I come away with the conclusion that this tool is very interesting and has great possibility. With this however, I certainly see some issues regarding how educators view it as well as how it can be used in the classroom.

First of all, I have to commend Second Life for creating Teen Second Life, a place solely for those 13-17 years old. On TSL, an educator can create an island for his/her class that is closed off to the rest of TSL users. This would be ideal if you wanted students to participate in group projects, such as having teens purchase specific items while staying within certain budget limitations. A business class could use Second Life for group projects to demonstrate what goes into running a business—generating funds, creating a business, developing it, as well as other aspects of business management, such as budgeting, profit margins, etc. It would also be ideal for Tech Ed, Architecture, or even Physics class, because students can work together to build objects. Overall I appreciate how Second Life recognized that privacy issues and exposure to mature content can be problematic on the Internet. TSL appears to be a safe environment where your students can still experience all that Virtual Worlds have to offer.

I read in countless articles that Second Life is not to be considered a game, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a game while using it. The fact that you create an avatar as well as your own experiences, generates a feeling of curiosity and fun—feelings most people have when playing a game. For this reason I think that today’s students would love Second Life. Our current students have grown up immersed in technology. A theme that surfaces throughout our discussions is that the students seem to know the technology better than the educators. Most of them interact with game technology on a daily basis—several video games now even offer customizable avatars, as well as the option to choose how the game progresses. When I think of my own freshmen students, they would jump at the chance to use Second Life in the classroom. Most of them would adapt easily to the Virtual World environment, and would probably be more engaged if they were actively participating in the content. I might even come off as cool for letting them do so, which is always a perk.

The article “7 Things You Should Know about Second Life” really helped me to see the educational potential of the program. The article states, “Educators are pursuing hundreds of experiments to elucidate the elements of a meaningful educational experience in fields ranging from journalism to the sciences to history.” This speaks to the rapid acceleration of Second Life being used as an educational tool in order to truly engage and motivate our students. Aside from the activities I mentioned earlier, Second Life could be used simply as a platform for groups to meet. If students have a project, they can meet in Second Life to discuss how they will go about the project, assign roles, and brainstorm ideas. This could help to build relationships with the students in the class. Educators could also use Second Life as a means to hold Office Hours during designated times after the school day. I think this is a great opportunity for students to receive assistance or clarification on assignments. Furthermore, teachers can use Second Life for presentations because you have the option to use Power Point in the program. This would be a nice change of pace from the regular classroom setting—probably welcomed by the students.

There were certainly some features of Second Life that I found especially interesting. I loved the fact that you can take field trips with your students to virtually anywhere. In social studies you can journey to Ancient Rome and experience the climate firsthand. I particularly liked Renaissance Island—what a great way to emerge students into Shakespeare’s lifetime. Art students can create original pieces and display them in the Second Louvre museum, while an Auto body class can visit a classic car museum. These locations, as well as the many others, provide our students with the opportunity to have experiences that they may not otherwise have in real life.

With this technology comes some reservations. First, teachers must feel confident to use Second Life in the classroom. This can only happen if teachers are given the opportunity to try the software in order to see its value. Teachers can do so in professional development meetings, and when they feel comfortable, the professional development meetings can be held in Second Life. This way they can further learn the educational benefits of the program. Second, Second Life is blocked in several schools, making it very difficult for these learning experiences to occur. Third, some parents may object to their children using these Virtual Worlds. I feel that the teacher could give parents a presentation on how it would be used in the classroom as well as send a letter home describing its educational merits. After experiencing all of this new technology, I come away with one thought: we must be willing to accept that change is happening in the way we run our classrooms. In order to serve our students to the best of our abilities as well as truly be life long learners, we have to try out these technologies and most of all be willing to keep an open mind. In the end, we just might be surprised with what we find.

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