DO YOU EVER DREAM ABOUT HAVING A SECOND LIFE?
Have you ever wished that you took an alternative path in your life's journey? Well, there is good news. You can have a second life. You can create a virtual life in a virtual new world. * This is the second in a series about Web 2.0 tools and how you can use them to transform nursing education. According to the 2007 Horizon Report, the time-to-adoption for virtual world is between two and three years (1, p. 18). So, unless you are retiring within that window, you might want to learn more about the potential of virtual worlds in nursing education.
Virtual Worlds When most of us think of virtual worlds, we picture video games where people shoot aliens or slay dragons, or wear helmets and data gloves to participate in a different reality. But here we are talking about the virtual worlds that exist on the Internet and make use of Web 2.0 technologies to create simulated experiences. "Virtual worlds are richly immersive and highly scalable 3D environments" (1, p. 18). The most popular are multiuser spaces where many people (avatars) interact with each other in real time (1). Virtual worlds are not just for computer geeks. Real corporations, such as BMW, American Apparel, and Coca-Cola, use them to sell products. BusinessWeek Online has a good slide show of companies using virtual worlds (http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/11/ 1117_secondlife/index_01.htm) on a site developed in 2006. Another website, Business Communicators of Second Life[R], provides an extensive listing of uses (http://freshtakes.typepad.com/sl_commu nicators/projects/index.html). Even the National Review of Medicine is talking about Second Life (2).
According to Dede, "The standard 'world to the desktop' interface is now complemented by multi-user environments in which people's avatars interact with each other, computer-based agents, and digital artifacts in a simulated context" (3). This is important because neomillennial learning styles include: "fluency in multiple media and in simulation-based virtual settings, communal learning, a balance among experiential learning, guided mentoring and collection reflection.... and co-design of learning experiences personalized to individual needs and preferences" (3). Mediated immersion is how this generation of learners will construct their knowledge (3). So, forget the idea that virtual worlds are merely games and remember that "pure virtual worlds like Second Life ... can be applied to any context" (1)--even higher education and health care.
Let's start with a description of Second Life (SL). According to the homepage (www.secondlife.com/), SL "is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents." In this case, resident refers to an end user, who is represented in the virtual world as an avatar. In case you are not familiar with the term, an avatar is a representation of oneself in a two- or three-dimensional world. Your avatar can be a character, person, or even an animal or icon. For example, I can be a Teaching Diva with purple hair if I want, or a nurse dressed like Florence Nightingale. According to Wikipedia, SL was developed by Linden Lab and is an advanced level of social network ... where "Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another" (4). To get an idea of what it is like to be part of SL, a YouTube video will take you on a tour of Thomson NETg (a major publisher) in Second Life at www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HYi HOmaFyk.
Relationship to Learning So, why is SL important to higher education? This particular tool represents common features of the Web 2.0 movement. First, it is an immersive environment where users interact and construct knowledge. Second, it is highly dependent on user-generated content. Remember, the web is moving from a dissemination tool to one where …