A decade ago, a few could imagine studying online in a virtual world, outside of the classroom. Now the idea of integrating online virtual world into the education seems to be appealing to most of the teachers.
Second life, an online 3D virtual world, which launched on June 23, 2003, enables the users to experience a virtual life in different spheres. For exploring the virtual world of second life, the users need to create their avatar, then, they are ready to start the adventure. The game is similar to MMORPGs (read my previous post), where the users had the chance to meet other avatars, build their own communities and talk or write to each other.
In the recent years, many educational complexes integrated the game into their classroom by uploading their lectures as an event, asking the users to join and participate. Calogne in her article discusses that SL gave the teachers the opportunity to make their classes more interesting, by going beyond the conventional educational tools and transferring their classes to the virtual world. According to her, the students no longer have to sit in the traditional classes and listen to the teacher’s lecture and get bored. They can have the same lecture in SL, when their avatar is sitting around a fire on a beach. However, for me this point is not a convincing one to implement SL in my future EFL/ESL practice.
SL can be used for language learning purposes, as the avatars in the program have the chance to voice chat, skype or write to each other. Consequently, when a user meets an unknown avatar, most probably English is the language used for communication. Hence, the teachers can take advantage of the situation, asking the students to meet new avatars and try to communicate with them. An empirical research carried out by Milton et al. shows that SL helped the students to improve their English fluency and vocabulary. The same study revealed that students use the target language more in SL rather than in the classroom. SL creates a real context for communication. The avatars can buy or built houses and other materials by communicating or negotiating with other users. The researchers of the study came to the conclusion that using the program in language classes may increase the target language production, the students’ motivation.
However, both Milton et al. (2012) and Welch (2008) emphasize that SL is not a safe environment for young learners because of its diversity and having various types of communities and users. As it is written in Wikipedia, the game is considered for users aged 16 and over. Another drawback mentioned by Milton et al. is that the users tend to use informal language while chatting with each other, which may hinder the formal educational goal that the teacher tends to achieve.
I am still exploring the program, and trying to figure out how it works. If now I ask myself whether I will use SL in my classrooms or not, my answer will be definitely NO, as I still struggling to learn it. But after mastering the program and totally figuring out how to use it, I may change my opinion!
Thanks for reading my post!
P.S I may update the post later! 🙂