Second Life Overview

Second Life, a 3-D virtual, online world created by its residents, is owned by Linden Labs. It was opened to the public in 2003, and today it is inhabited by millions of residents around the world. Initial sign up is free. Users get to create one Avatar (online residents pictured below) that can be made to look like anyone, but after signing up once, each additional time costs $9.95. Second Life users have to purchase clothes, housing, and food with real money and can live in this virtual, online world just like living in the real world. There is a virtual economy as well as just about anything else found in the real world. This is essentially a real community where people interact with one another on a daily basis and live life online. Second life is a place to connect, shop, work, love, explore, and be anyone imagionable.

After initially joining Second Life, users learn the basics of controlling their Avatar: walking, zooming, chatting, standing, sitting, flying and teleporting. Yes, Avatars can do more than we, as humans, can physically achieve in the real world, such as flying on a magic carpet and teleporting. Modern forms of transportation are also available (car, train, bus, plane, etc.). Unlike real life, Second Life allows users to live life without limitations. Users can go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone. The only real limitation on Second Life is the monetary cost of using the program.
Avatars created in Second Life
Avatars created in Second Life

This Avatar picture was taken from Second Life user Erik Gordon Bainbridge's blog. Read his blog here. Below, you will find Linden Lab's Second Life promotional video.







Popularity

Second Life has been featured on television shows such asThe Office. Virtual Worlds are popular in today's tech-savvy world. For some, living in a virtual world may be an escape from their actual lives, while others may use it to live out fantasies that they would not have the courage to embark on or the opportunity to experience in real life.



Major universities and businesses use Second Life as a communication tool. Read a USA Today article written in 2007 over Second Life use in colleges here. Sussaman's article quotes: "More than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool, says Claudia L'Amoreaux of Linden Labs. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes." An example of what a virtual classroom in Second Life may look like is shown below.

example of a classroom in Second Life
example of a classroom in Second Life

This picture is courtesy of Edutechtalk's Blog. Read the blog here.


Pros

Cons

  1. go anywhere imagionable
  2. offers major opportunities for enriching learning across geographical boundaries
  3. meet real people in second life (in Avatar form)
  4. realistic dimentional design (3D)
  5. adaptability (e.g.. transformation from barren land to resort)
  1. moves much slower than video games
  2. no face-to-face interaction
  3. encounter disruptive and disturbing Avatars and conversations
  4. inappropriate environments for educational settings (e.g. strip clubs)
  5. virtual worlds may attract higher proportion of predators (in Avatar form)

Parental Advisory

Second Life is not appropriate for unsupervised children, and it is Second Life's policy that users in the adult world must be 18 years of age or older. Like the real world, Second Life is host to inappropriate places, images, and conversations that many parents do not want their children to see. There is a risk of coming into contact with obscene individuals and images during online participation. There is a complex abuse report mechanism within Second Life where users can report offenders who disrupt feelings of safety and comfort. Offenders are usually punished by being confined to a remote area in Second Life (similiar to a prison in the real world) for a set period of time. Second Life does offer a special version for teens, reducing the risk of inappropriate use and bahavior.


Fees and Charges

Owners of private islands in Second Life pay a montly fee to Linden Labs. Setting up a private island cost $1000 and monthly fees are set at $250. Like the real world, you can earn money by getting a job in Second Life; Avatars are paid in the form of Linden Dollars. Second Life can also be linked to your PayPal account or any other credit card.


Using Second Life as an Educational Tool

Second Life's use as an educational tool is only appropriate for use in higher education. Because of Second Life's policy that users must by 18 years of age or older, most high school students will not be old enough to use Second Life. In order to monitor and filter what students see and do in Second Life, the teacher must be central to the virtual world. His or her role is just as, if not more, important that the role of the teacher in the traditional classroom.

Today's students grew up in a world where technology was readily available and used in everyday life. Second Lifeallows users to merge their outside world with their educational world in a unique way. Virtual world are both stimulating and engaging for 21st century learners. Tracey Taylor sums up the unique educational advantages of virtual worlds: "Putting the learner in an experiential environment that has some association with the subject matter provides a learning advantage. In virtual worlds, learners can experiment, plan, solve problems, negotiate, collaborate, evaluate, learn from mistakes and take risks, while acquiring a wide range of life and employability skills, improved self-esteem and learning in a real way."

For more information regarding the use of virtual worlds, such as Second Life, in education, click here.
For further information regarding Second Life, visit the Second Life wiki here