That’s right, there really is a groundbreaking virtual world out there that I’ve just discovered and with it, comes a myriad of endless possibilities in online education.
Second Life is a virtual world phenomenon with approximately 13 million registered accounts were registered in March this year. Although the vast majority of accounts remain inactive and some residents have multiple accounts it was recorded in January this year that 2nd Life residents spent 28,274,505 hours there with an average about 38,000 residents were logged on at any particular moment.
This slideshow presentation by the British Council demonstrates how ESL student may learn English through an independent, autonomous approach. Today’s ‘digital native’ children that are being socialised in a highly different environment to the previous generations and programs such as ‘English for the World’ and ‘Serious Fun for Teenagers’ are specially crafted to appeal to this generation of digital natives.
Teens can meet up and spend time together in the self-access teaching centre. Games and quests either in audio and/or text are the assessment tools in this world and students learn English using role-play on different islands and villages. Language activity worksheets can even be downloaded, alternative reality game puzzles (ARG) can lead to clues in blogs, podcasts, videos etc. to provide an attractive, stimulating environment for learning.
There is the interesting element of how art and animation has been utilised to encapsulate British icons and cultural representations which makes Second Life a locus for ESL students to gain an understanding and knowledge on British culture.
Learning English on Second Life is a visually rich experience and the experience is maximised through interacting with other residents and using the resources that link outside the 2nd Life world. Games and learning activities are also graded to cater for different ability groups.
Some good practice guidelines and tips are even included for learning such as:
- exploit language to the full – multi-use
- remember audio, video – not just text
- use the other residents for language
- don’t try to do everything!
I find this all very fascinating and intriguing and plan to look more into the benefits and uses of education in Second Life as well as researching some of the disadvantages or concerns in regards to autonomous student learning through virtual mediums. Even Harvard University and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (which is next-door neighbours with my campus!) offer their students virtual classrooms in Second Life. I find that extreme, yet its also rather staggering to think that this is where education may be heading in the future!