Another Look at Second Life

Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent several hours submersed in the virtual world more commonly known as Second Life.  This was not my first experience with Second Life.  I first became familiar with this virtual world a couple of years ago while studying for a course titled E.C.&I. 833, which was a critique of different distance learning models of education.  Over the last couple of years, I have returned to Second Life a couple of times.  I explored the Regina Public Schools virtual campus with the help of Garnett Gleim and Paul Cutting.  At that time, I was just exploring the world out of curiosity.  Paul gave me help customizing my avatar and learning ways to communicate, travel, landmark places, and teleport.  I remember being intrigued by the technology, and being optimistic about its potential impact on education.

Last year, I visited the world of Second Life again with Dr. Alec Couros and the rest of the class of E.C.&I. 831.  We met up with an instructor from the University of Saskatchewan and went on a virtual tour (similar to the experience in this class with Marnie) of several places of interest within Second Life.  We visited some interesting educational institutions, and a campus of the International Spaceflight Museum among other places.

This year’s experience has confirmed some of my previous thoughts about second life.  There are a lot of very interesting places in Second Life that are worth visiting.  This time around, I visited ancient Mesopotamia, 19th century Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in 15th century London.  These are some great places, and Second Life is full of places just like this.  One of my favourites is still the Sistine Chapel.  I’ve spent much time checking out several virtual art galleries, include the virtual Louvre, and many others.  There is even a virtual Batoche, SK.  And so again, I am convinced that there are a lot of very interesting places to visit in Second Life.

I have now become rather cognizant of the fact that many of best places to visit in Second Life have been created by educational institutions.  The SL Sistine Chapel was created by Vaser College [as one example], and many colleges and universities have well developed campuses.  I’m not entirely certain what this means, but it is very clear that there is a very strong connection between Second Life and education.  I think that, as I was a couple of years ago, many educational institutions get very excited and optimistic about the overwhelming potential that Second Life poses.

Although I’ve found many particularly interesting places to visit, I’ve become somewhat skeptical of Second Life’s ability to amount to anything more than just potential.   And potential for what really?  I question the value of the experiences available in Second Life.  What exactly is the potential?  The potential to have artificial experiences?  I am not sure.  Years have passed, more interesting places have been developed, and yet I am still skeptical of any truly valuable learning experiences taking place in Second Life.

Click these links to read more about my first and second experience in Second Life.  Or better yet, click here to read an excerpt from a paper in which I discuss some of SL’s futuristic potential.

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