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Virtual Worlds for Language Learning

From Theory to Practice


Randall Sadler

This book focuses on one area in the field of Computer-Mediated Communication that has recently exploded in popularity – Virtual Worlds. Virtual Worlds are online multiplayer three-dimensional environments where avatars represent their real world counterparts. In particular, this text explores the potential for these environments to be used for language learning and telecollaboration. After providing an introduction and history of the area, this volume examines learning theories – both old and new – that apply to the use of Virtual Worlds and language learning. The book also examines some of the most popular Virtual Worlds currently available, including a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The Virtual World of Second Life is explored in depth, including research examining how users of this world are using language there, and how they are using it to enhance their second language skills.


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Acknowledgements 9


9 Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the many individuals I have worked with both in Virtual Worlds like Second Life and also in the Real World who helped to make this book happen. When I was a noob in Second Life, wandering about virtually dazed and confused, there were many gracious avatars—both educators and other explorers— who took me under their wings and helped me to understand the potential of the many virtual spaces we now have available. While it is simply not possible to put together a complete list of those indi- viduals (who number in the many hundreds), there are a few I would like to thank in particular. First, Melinda Dooly (Melinda Aristocrat in Second Life) has been generous enough to bring groups of students into SL from the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona (UAB) to work with my students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This interaction formed a basis for the creation of this book, and made me consider a number of pedagogical aspects of teaching in VWs that would never have occurred to me otherwise. She is an excellent education and research partner. I’d also like to acknowledge the work of several individuals on the EduNation islands in Second Life, first Heike Philp (Gwen Gwa- si in SL) and Carol Rainbow (Carolrb.roux in SL). Heike is the co- owner (with me) of the EduNation islands in SL—and a constant source of pedagogical inspiration. Carol has worked tirelessly to help make...

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