In the amazingly popular virtual world of Second Life, anything is possible. Users create an avatar while participating in an simulated environment and populate it with any kind of being. It's easy to see how educators could take advantage of this popular Web activity and incorporate it into the classroom curriculum. eSchool News reports that Second Life, which boasts 1.2 million users worldwide, has been encouraging educators to take advantage of the multimedia and social-networking possibilities within its program.
A year ago, Second Life developer Linden Labs reached out to academia by starting an email list for interested educators. It has quickly grown to over 700 teachers worldwide. To pique their interest, Linden Labs offered the purchase of private islands at discounted rates to educators and nonprofit organizations.
Second Life has some advantages over distance education classes.
"I think that is one of the things that's so attractive to educators using Second Life," says Linden Lab community developer Claudia L'Amoreaux, or Claudia Linden as she is known within Second Life. "The quality of interaction is hard to even describe. It doesn't replace face to face, but it does enable working with people all over the world."
Just like our first life, Second Life has some unseemly aspects such as prostitution and gambling—subjects a teachers might not want students to experience. To address to issue, Linden Lab has set up a teen version of the world, known as Teen Second Life. Teen Second Life is restricted to 13 to -17 year olds and adults are banned.
Recently, Global Kids was given a MacArthur Foundation grant to study the possibilities of a new learning environment within virtual worlds. With the grant, Global Kids proceeded to create the first public island within the Teen Second Life world.
In the real world, "when we meet with our students, we bring them into a classroom or computer lab, give them some paper and objects, and see them the same time the following week," says Joseph. "In Second Life, the Global Kids space never closes. Our workspace is their play space. Not only are they there, but they're also building everything there. They're building things they want to see in the program themselves."