Second Life and education

Though my professor was not thrilled, I have decided to do my MCOM 100W article on Multi-User Virtual Environment games such as Second Life and the effects they can have on education. In order to learn more about the game and its possible applications I met with Steve Sloan and resident SJSU Second Life expert Jeremy Kemp on Wednesday.

In speaking with the two, I learned of the positive effects that such environments could have on distance learning, providing an immersive and engaging learning experience. Another possible benefit was the experiential learning that could take place withing a virtual environment. In the case of a journalism classroom, Mr. Sloan gave the example of staging a news event, such as a shuttle crash, and having students in-world have to interview witnesses and experts as they might do in the real world. The virtual world allows instructors to set up news situations that are not possible to experience in the real world due to location, cost or any other number of restrictions.

One word that continued to come up during the discussion was serendipity. Following our talk, I went online to learn more about Second Life and how educators across the country are employing the technology. I came across the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. The Berkman Center has an in-world presence known as Berkman Island. On the island, users can take online classes and participate in and watch moot court trials.

The next moot court trial listed under Berkman Island Info and Events follows the case of Josh Wolf, the journalist currently imprisoned for refusing to give video footage of a 2005 protest to authorities. Coincidentally, I am currently working on a project about this case in my ANTH 136 Thought Control class. Because Harvard Law School offers this virtual learning environment I now have the opportunity to witness a moot court trial presided over by Prof. Charles Nesson and argued by students from Harvard Law School.

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