Participants in Second Life and other “virtual worlds” say the use of avatars and seemingly 3-D environments add a different dimension to their online lives. Popular uses of Second Life among educators include a range of communication, networking, and learning activities.
Education groups, some of which exist outside of Second Life and others that operate there exclusively, offer lectures, seminars, and demonstrations that draw in participants from around the world. Less formally, virtual coffeehouse chats, concerts, and balls create settings for relaxed online contacts among educators.
Educators can choose from many of the hundreds of education-focused user groups that share conversations, resources, and activities.
Educators engage in professional development by passing around text documents, short videos, animations, and audio. While most of Second Life is barred to children, some schools have bought space for hosting student activities and instructional demonstrations on Second Life’s Teen Grid, which is off-limits to most adults and where access can be further limited to a school’s teachers and students.
Participants are encouraged to create structures in 3-D that mimic real-life spaces and buildings, both in current and historical settings, or novel structures that help learners visualize data and concepts, such as science experiments or geometric shapes that users can manipulate. Second Life is full of designers and builders who tackle such projects, for hire and sometimes for free.
The making of short videos, called machinima, has flourished in Second Life, especially on the Teen Grid, where students write scripts and film on virtual locations and sets.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2008 edition of Digital Directions as Digital Persona