Salmon, G. (2009). The future for (second) life and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 526–538.
This article, written in 2009, examines the three-dimensional multi-user virtual environments (3-D MUVEs) Second Life, and its use in higher education. In this article, Salmon attempts to predict “trends and emerging issues, the power of pedagogical imagination and the potential impact of humans as learning avatars” (p. 527). Trends discussed include the ability to explore concepts, such as history or science topics, not easily explored in the real world as well as the increased emphasis on collaboration. In regards to pedagogical imagination, Second Life offers a 3-D space which can be used in a variety ways limited only by one’s imagination, and the relationship of tutors and students may be different than what is experienced in a face-to-face classroom. Then, in regards to becoming an avatar, it allows the student to become someone or something different which will allow him or her to explore the world in a different way than what they possibly could in a human form. She ends the article with a caution, “A well-designed learning experience, like an accurate map, does not detract from the learning journey nor does it necessarily dictate the final destination” (p. 535).
The author states that 90% of her experience in 3-D MUVEs is with Second Life (p. 527). Throughout the article she balances the positives in regards to using 3-D MUVEs in higher education with possible drawbacks that must be taken into consideration. She is an advocate for using Second Life, but only if it is pedagogically sound. She sees a place for 3-D MUVEs in higher education as these are ways to explore concepts and to work collaboratively, but admits, that there is a great need for development so that educational goals in a virtual world are attained.
When I first started at the university in 2008, I was introduced to Second Life. However, at that time, it was glitchy, difficult to use, and hard to manipulate as the computers were not as fast as they are today. At the time, I thought it would be a great way for students to practice their English skills. It would be a way for them to take on a different personality and speak to people or chat with people in English. It would limit the amount of personal embarrassment felt because it was their avatar communicating, not them. I did introduce it to a few ESL students, and only one of them actually began using it to do as I thought that ESL students could. He seemed to enjoy it, but it was more of a game than an educational experience for him. To me, in order for Second Life to be useful for education, a lot of work needs to be done by educators to make it more educational. In other words, because it is such a blank canvas, it is almost too much so. What has been created does replicate the real world. According to Bell (2009), “While pretty much anything is possible in Second Life, architecturally,what is striking is the serial replication of the same types of built form, and the expressions of aspiration that builders there create: beachfront locations, familiar scales and layouts, recognisable houses” (p. 519). As with any type of learning experience using technology, this takes time, creativity and collaboration. This could be why some teachers do not jump it. Time seems to be a valuable commodity these days, and one that some may not want to spend creating, learning, developing and teaching using Second Life.
Bell, D. (2009). Learning from Second Life. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 515–525.