Second Life, a virtual 3-D online environment, has been gaining popularity in academic circles due to its unique platform for simulations and immersive experiences. The University of Wisconsin System Learning Technology Development Council presented a virtual conference about educational uses of Second Life June 16-17 which included national keynote speakers and attracted an audience of educators from Wisconsin to as far away as Scotland.
Leif Nelson from the UW-Green Bay Learning Technology Center was one of the organizers of the conference. Session presenters included UW-Green Bay Social Work Prof. Doreen Higgins and UW-Green Bay Nursing Prof. Christine Vandenhouten. Higgins discussed a service learning activity in which her students impersonated elderly characters in Second Life and observed the stereotypical reactions they received from others in the virtual environment. Vandenhouten discussed the Second Life poverty simulation she uses to expose students to the challenges of living in poverty.
In case you’re wondering what virtual reality looks like, Social Work Prof. Doreen Higgins provided this picture (left) of one of the older avatars. She says it’s a very uncommon sight on the Second Life virtual reality site.