Lately there has been a lot of dicussion amoung the educational community about using virtual worlds and second lifes to teach students in the classroom. Honestly though after doing a bit of research on the topic I am not a big fan of this possible advancement. The only benifit I truly see in adding this to classrooms is that it will possibly engage odler students more since the learning is in online computer game form instead of texbook reading and such. (yes we are in a more technilogical world and are dealing with a more tech savy generation but there are other ways to use tehcnology in the classroom).
There are a few reasons behind my frowning upon virtual world learning:
1) From the small amount of research I did I didn't find anything done in the virtual classroom that could not be done in the real life classroom. You can still perform experiments, go to art museums, watch movies, and simulate events within the classroom. Sure some of it may take some creative thinking but the students will surely benifit from it. Probably even more since it is hands on activities that can be physically intereacted with.
The only exception would be Google Earth. This is an amazing resource for teachers to use and can defiently give students a better picutre of what they are learning about (almost like being there). Other cirtual worlds however all look virtual and fake so I do not see how it is like being there.
2.) Though most people are saying that a virtual world will help with communitcation and collaboration skills I surely do not. I feel that virtual worlds will actually hinder communication skills! Students will start becoming more accostumed to talking with people via computer and not learn how to talk with people face to face or over the phone. hate to break it to you but I-interviewing for a future job is not going to be through a virtual office! Thus I think that virtual worlds are actually hindering face to face communication.
3.) Lastly I think that there are still way to many dangerous poeple and sites out there that can be easily found by students in their spare time. Though you as an educator might not use any of the risker sites there is nothing stopping students from finding them on their own; espeically if you have already provided them with the tools on how to start a virtual life. (Yes students will likely do this on their own anyways but you have increased the likelyhood by already introducing them to virutal worlds - saying that they are good). I just feel that there are way to many risks still before we as educators can take this giant step.
Now I am not against second life in the classroom 100%. If done with a more mature group of students (about highschool age) every once in a while it might be alright to incorporate it as a variety piece. As for doing a lot of teaching through the virtual world..... I say NO WAY!!