Language Learning and Teaching with the aid of Technology

According to this article at the BBC News Magazine website, Second Life is on the way out:
What happened to Second Life?

The author, Lauren Hansen writes:

"Not long ago Second Life was everywhere, with businesses opening branches and bands playing gigs in this virtual world. Today you'd be forgiven for asking if it's still going."

Read the comments section and it's clear that the News Magazine's readers have mixed views. What do you think?


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As usual, there is no mention of education and educators in Second Life. It's all about businesses.
If you read the original interview with M Linden, it is obvious that the writer had made his mind up about SL before even doing the interview. I wonder how many hours the writer has spent in SL to do his research for the article.

Yes, Nergis, there is no mention of education - as usual – but some of the contributors in the feedback section do mention the value of SL in teaching and learning. I wrote a comment to the BBC website in the feedback section, indicating how useful SL is in education, especially our area of work, but it has not been published - not yet anyway (21 November 2009). The BBC article is very biased and highlights the ignorance of the writer, Lauren Hansen, who is obviously interested only in the business aspects of SL.

I wonder if Lauren Hansen is aware of the excellent work being done by organisations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) in SL. The ACS holds regular support meetings for cancer patients, who can give voice to their anxieties in their anonymous avatar guises and seek the support and advice of other cancer patients. I was once invited to talk about my own experiences as a cancer patient to an ACS support meeting in SL. It was a rewarding and very moving experience.

That is one of the many great projects that exist in Second Life, Graham.

The "problem" with such environments like Second Life or tools like Twitter is that you can't fully understand their value if you haven't taken the time to engage with them for a while. Unfortunately, some reporters don't seem to have that time.

Most of the people who comment negatively on such articles are usually those who either have never been in SL or only for a short time a couple of years back.

But then, there are educators like the English teacher at a university in Baghdad. She asked me what Second Life was. When I explained it to her and gave her some links, she immediately signed up and tried it. She was so excited that she has bought herself a new laptop and got a faster Internet connection and has started exploring SL. She wants to be prepared when we start our next EVO session in January :)
I took part in a demonstration of Kamimo Island for a group of 16 year-old boys who were all on a computer science course a year or so ago. We asked if any of them had been into Second Life (they were all fanatical computer gamers). One put his hand up. "What did you think of it?" "Nothing happened", was the reply. I think that a lot of the 'talkers' had the same experience with Second Life when they first went in and are now ready to write the whole thing off … because they haven't realised that SL is a place where *you* actually *do* things (not like a game where other people do things to and for you).

I had the same experience a month ago in a discussion with one of the bright young bloggers at our university. "Second Life? I thought that phenomenon had faded away", he said. He was quite surprised to hear that his own university had been running courses on an island it has an interest in each term for two years, and that there were 90 applicants for the spring 2010 round.

My own reading of the situation is that we're in transition from 'talking the talk' to 'walking the walk', so it's not surprising that the talkers are feeling left out of things.
A few months later from the beginning of this discussion...I don't know what SL looked like "not long ago" but I entered the world 2 months ago and it's very much alive.

I see a lot of fund raising for worthy causes, as Graham points out, and agree with Nergiz in that environments like these can only be assessed from the inside really. And education is certainly there.

What I'd like to add to the discussion is my view that SL also offers innumerable possibilities for informal learning -be it culture, language, art&design... Just by talking to people you can learn a lot.

I think that perhaps there is a view (which may have been reflecting the reality of SL at the time it began or not) that SL is a game (I've heard people ask "how do you play?") when in reality it's much more. But, of course, it's also what you want it to be. I'm taking classes to build, make clothes, script and I'm a member of several groups involved in the same areas and we help one another. I'm learning to use image processing software and animation software to be able to do what I enjoy in SL. I meet once a week with a group to practise my Italian and on a different day with one to practise my German. And I'd love to organise cultural field trips for students.

I'm also in a wonderful RP called The Berlin Project, set in 1920s Weimar. It's not blown out of proportion, it gives true historical insight, it's fun, and it's run single-handedly by an amazing woman!

I also go to parties and explore...but my view is that if you just expect SL to be a place to play a game or run naked or "hook up"...well, you'll get bored and disappointed very easily.



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