The pros and cons of working in Second Life

Panacea or Pandora? As with any new technology, there come challenges. Printed books, the radio, the telephone, the television, along with computers and now the Internet have all been met with resistance and a certain element of fear. Each of these tools have revolutionized our cultures and changed the ways we lived.

Today's youth represent the largest generation in U.S. history and have grown up as active consumers of media technologies in ways that any previous generation could not imagine. Attempting to keep the “millennials,” also known as the Net Generation, engaged in the classroom can be challenging. Second Life and the 3-D animated virtual world offers an alternative to traditional classrooms and teaching that many educators are finding very exciting. For example, educators can take students on an exploration through time and space unlike anything possible in real life. The 3-D immersive world can also provide unprecedented opportunity for creative collaboration from many disciplines. In a recent article in EDUCAUSE Review, an academic from the University of Kansas medical center described the virtual environment,“ as an exciting new laboratory, or as a giant sandbox to test new theories, or as a way to step into our collective and individual imaginations in a manner that we have never been able to do before”.

And, while there are enthusiastic supporters of Second Life as an educational tool, there are also others who believe the risks are too great. In a recent review of all articles pertaining to Second Life in education from both EDUCAUSE Review and the Chronicle of Higher Education, approximately ten percent of the articles mentioned the risks involved in teaching in Second Life. These risks included exposing students to sexually explicit content, harassment, virtual assault, legal liabilities, and ethical questions. Still, the overwhelming majority of articles offered enthusastic endorsement of adopting the technology in the classroom.