Among the most emergent platforms for game-based teaching is Second Life, a virtual world superficially similar to online role-playing games, such as World of Warcraft or Sims Online. The Federation of American Scientists recently published the results of a year-long study suggesting that games have the power to teach analytical skills, team building, and problem solving.
As a pedagogical resource, players (or Residents, in the SL lingo) maneuver their stylized avatars, or alter egos, through a three-dimensional landscape of forests, mountains, and plains, typing chat messages to other users, and interacting with them at parties, events, and so on. Unlike online games, however, Second Life is entirely user created. Residents build the online world around them using 3-D construction and programming tools with people logging in from all over the world.
Residents retain the IP rights to their creations without fear of losing control over them. The game also received considerable press lately when Reuters opened an all-digital bureau within the environment.
Teachers should play with SL in the mature grid, then move on to creating pedagogical resources that could be rebuilt in Teen Second Life (pending Linden Lab's approval, of course.) Accounts are free; go to the website (www.secondlife.com), choose a Resident name and download and install the software. The best place to find both is at the official site's educational page and through the SL Education wikia compendium of resources, contacts, and educational sites.
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