Started in 2003, Second Life is a 3-D virtual world run by Linden Labs and has 14.7 million residents (avatars) from around the globe. It is a multi-user virtual environment where basic accounts are free, however if you chose to buy items, money does become involved. You can actually create, buy, sell, and travel. SL has an economy with Linden dollars ($1 = 300 L$). In fact, the virtual world supports millions of U.S. dollars.
In 2007, users spent over 220 million hours in SL, and by the end of 2011, it is predicted that over 80% of internet users will have a virtual world avatar. Users must be over 18 and SL runs on U.S. west coast time.
When you register for SL, you create an avatar and chose a name. As you move around in this 3-D virtual world, people know you by your avatar. You can walk, fly, or teleport to get from one place to another and you are able to search for locations to visit.
The presenters, Joan Greene and Don Marchant, don’t support the use of Second Life with students (It really is an adult world.), but they do think there are many possibilities for professional development. You can work in virtual classrooms and other amazing learning spaces, and take part in simulations and role plays building environments collaboratively. You can visit the Alamo, attend University classes, and do science heart simulations, to name just a few.
Linden Labs supports a program focusing on the use of Second Life for educational, academic and serious applications. In fact, there are about 400 Universities holding sessions in SL. The University of Alabama is on SL and plans, this fall, to offer the first class for college credit in SL--a trend that is spreading like wildfire.
I must admit that before this session, I thought a few of my colleagues had fallen off their rockers when I saw and heard about their avatars. I mean, why in the world would they want to spend time in a virtual world when their real world offers so much. But, as I sit here watching the presenter’s avatar move from one learning experience to the next in SL, I have to acknowledge that the learning possibilities seem endless. In truth, I’m now thinking that if I don’t get involved in this virtual world, I will be turning a blind eye to a remarkable learning tool.