Magazine article Momentum

Second Life: Avatars, Learning Experiences and More

Magazine article Momentum

Second Life: Avatars, Learning Experiences and More

Article excerpt

Second Life learning offers opportunities to create experiences that are richer than text-driven teaching and learning

The wide world of virtual opportunities continues to expand in leaps and bounds. Many Catholic educators remain skeptical about the virtual world of second Life, and such skepticism is a cautious barometer in our fast-paced technological age. While we do not have to engage or embrace all emerging trends, we need at least to be aware and alert to their developments and the potential immediate or future impact on our teaching and learning environments.

What is this second Life issue that seems to be capturing the educational imagination? A study of most higher education journals unfolds research and applications sprouting throughout the curriculum. Basically, Second Life is a virtual environment that can replicate situations that are too dangerous or expensive to do in real life. It can create virtual classes and field trips that pave the way for new options unrealizable within the present school context. Trainees can learn in a safe environment without the danger that comes with real-life mistakes. Students can have vicarious trips to places in history or in the present that offer them a second dimension for understanding and interpreting events.

National Public Radio's Andy Carvin states:

There are hundreds of thousands of people involved in second Life, and often tens of thousands of them will be logged in at any moment in time. If you're thinking it's something like MySpace or another social network, that's not doing it justice. When you use a social network, lots of people may be logged in, but you don't see them. In second Life, you actually meet them-their virtual characters, or avatars, can walk right up to you and have a conversation. It's actually kind of amazing the first time you visit SL and see an animated character walk by. That's no character-that's a living, breathing person somewhere else on the Internet who's looking at your avatar from their own perspective (www. / teachers / learning. now).

There is always a word of caution that needs to be expressed. second Life is still a pioneering space. Media stories indicate that more and more people are choosing to live some kind of second life online. There are concerns with knowing if one is addressing the authentic person or the second Life character or persona when communicating online. We are only beginning to name the challenges and ethical issues that people are to encounter in the future.

Yet, this digital world continues to expand and, as in any moral or ethical context, Catholic educators need to inform and transform these contexts into counterculture entities that can be used to heighten and intensify our own perspectives on the meaning, value and purpose of quality human living. It is possible that rather than a game, educators could design life situations, a virtual world, that embraces positive human and Christian values that challenge the status quo of contemporary culture. We meet the culture where it is having its most significant impact on the young women and men in our midst.

You already may have come across the term "avatars." Avatars are visual images that represent oneself in the virtual world. reflects more than 170,000,000 references to information and creation of one's avatar online. …

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