I recently attended the Midwest Education Technology Conference with a group of teachers. We elected to divide and conquer as many of the workshops deemed desirable. The conference offered a wide array of topics at various levels. One that moved me beyond my current technological state of being was the session on Second Life. First I should state the presenter did not show; however, there was a spectator that stepped forward to impart his knowledge on the topic. The professor from Southern Illinois University was scheduled for a session on Second Life the following day but offered to share his uses of the virtual world.
As he shared how students in his German class utilized their avatars to engage in conversations I began a search on how to sign up. By the end of the session I was determined to create an avatar and expand my level of knowledge. That night I designed an avatar and spent the wee hours flying around worlds. I met another avatar from Germany that was practicing his English in Second Life. Through trial and error I began to understand the virtual world. Not being an arrow key manipulator I moved rather clumsily around the objects and bumped into other avatars. As I became friends with others I began to ask questions and learn more about the experience.
The following day I attended the professor's session on Second Life and he invited my avatar to his island for German students. I am a member of a group that is working towards learning German in a nonthreatening environment. This virtual world offers the creative mind a way to learn and interact with one's surroundings (people, land, & objects). At first I did not understand the difference between it and the SIMS games but now I get it. This is not a game, there are no levels to be reached, and each avatar is a representation of a real person not a computer.
I look forward to expanding my knowledge of Second Life and just maybe our school will embrace Teen Life as a creative way to connect students with the curriculum in the near future.