[Technology 1372] SecondLife, literacy and computers

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Courtney Leigh DuBois cdubois1 at student.gsu.edu
Tue Nov 13 12:38:31 EST 2007

My department at Ga State University is considering buying an island in SecondLife (SL). Although I think it is interesting, I am concerned that SL is another example of technology for technology sake rather than an important tool in education. I’ve been challenging myself to find ways that a virtual environment like SL has tangible benefits to the learner. I know we have talk about SL before in this group, and I thought I’d look at the issue from the learner’s perspective.

Before I started my master’s program in Instructional Technology, I took classes at my local technical college (computer OS/hardware/networking classes). There were a number of students in my classes with LD’s and limited communication skills (no HIPPA or FERPA violations, the behaviors were obvious enough that a casual observer would notice.) Although these students weren’t successful in the class readings, discussion and tests, they were amazing during the hands-on, experiential portion of the coursework. Before and after class, these same students were playing interactive video games (MMORPG’s) with other students and communicating successfully in the online environment.

This experience made me think that SL may be an excellent tool to teach the learners who are more comfortable in the virtual world than in the classroom environment. To evaluate the idea more thoroughly, I need more information. I was wondering if you had seen a relationship between literacy and computer skills. Are they positively or negatively correlated or is there no relationship at all. Do you think the low literacy students you work with could learn efficiently in a virtual environment?

If SL is an environment where these students are comfortable and confident, wouldn’t it benefit them to teach in this virtual world? Of course, the challenge for the learners would be in applying the skills in the classroom/work/real world environment. And the challenge for the instructors, who are probably not digital natives, would be surviving in the virtual environment.

Courtney DuBois
MS Instructional Technology
Georgia State University
Expected graduation May 2008