Facebook is a flat 2D text based pen-pal like online social networking website. We can send messages back and forth and keep in touch. But we can't have voice conversations easily because the premise of the site is set around text. If we truly want to get "connected" we need a visual representation with spatial proximity to "feel" as if we are truly connecting. Virtual worlds such as Second Life (http://secondlife.com) allow a person to create an avatar that is a representation of themselves. The anonymous nature of having a pseudo-name makes living in such an environemnt more comfortable than Facebook or Google+; which require students to use their real names. And let's face it, mixing school, work, and friends can be embarrassing. No pun intended.
But how can I bring this to my classroom and have students experience what you are talking about? It sounds very technical and expensive.
Technical. Yes. Expensive. No.
One of the greatest things about Second Life is that all of the objects (tables, chairs, clothes, trees, etc) are created by the users. The interface for building these objects is not very difficult. One can learn to build a house in less than an hour. But will it look nice, will it have interactive features? Hmm. This is where things become a little more difficult.
Where can I find people to help me build my virtual world?
OK. I've got a really nice looking sim. How do I get my students to use it and how do I get people from around the world to come visit with them?
Well. You'll just have to come to my presentation on Tuesday the 15th to hear more about that. ;-) Or leave a comment and I'll try to answer in pieces.
All the best!
Mike McKay, MEd Tech, is the founder and creator of Cypris Chat English learning community in Second Life. He has been building and creating language learning activities in Second Life since 2006. Visit http://cyprischat.org to learn more about using virtual worlds for language learning.