Virtual Worlds & Education

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I created a Second Life avatar about a month ago, but I initially had no idea what Second Life, or any Virtual Worlds for that matter were about. I made some fast judgements about Second Life based solely on the graphics and brief information I gathered from signing up. To me, it looked like a video game like the Sims. I thought to myself, “What place could this possibly have in the classroom?”

This past week, I had the opportunity to actually delve into numerous resources related to Virtual Worlds and to see how teachers have incorporated and used sites like Second Life in their classroom. Below are some of the coolest things I discovered about Virtual Worlds and the ways I could envision myself using them in my future classroom.

  1. Using educational games and simulations to allow students to explore key concepts and places. This stood out to me as the coolest application of Virtual Worlds. We can take our students on a couple field trips a year, but there are so many places and “worlds” that we can’t take them to. Virtual worlds does just that–it allows them to explore a virtual elsewhere that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to come in contact with–to see, for instance, The Sistine Chapel, Van Gogh Museum, Spaceflight Museum,¬†National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Island, and so many others. Even NASA has their own Virtual World for students to explore! What a great addition to a unit on Space. I could see my current third grade students getting so excited to explore these virtual locations and discuss what they discover.
  2. Using the virtual world to serve as a communication medium.¬†I wasn’t as excited about this aspect of virtual worlds for my third grade students, but I could see upper elementary, middle school, and high school students gaining a lot from this function of the Virtual World. In particular, I think it’d be really cool for students to be exploring a similar location or idea and then be able to chat with other students around the country (and the globe!) about what they are learning, discovering, and wondering about.
  3. Designing and building things in the Virtual World. This is another feature I think could be really cool depending on the age and technological experience of the student. Students can design, build, and then adjust their creations. This could be a cool addition to a unit on Architecture, Engineering, or other Science topics like space travel.

I’m so happy I now know how other educators use Virtual World resources in their classroom & I’m excited to learn more and try to incorporate it into one of my future lessons.

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