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Virtual Worlds for Language Learning

From Theory to Practice

Series:

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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Chapter 2: Overview and History 19

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19 Chapter 2: Overview and History Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream (Jake Sully, Avatar, 2010). In the virtual world you have the divine power to create life, your life, and mould it into pretty much anything you please (Winder, 2008, p. ix). Introduction Modern Virtual Worlds do not exist in a vacuum (except those that are set in outer space). The VWs that we may experience today are evolutions of those that came before, going back to more primitive 3D graphics, then 2D images, and finally to text-only environments. While almost none of these environments were initially specifically designed for use in language education, it is important to note that all of those discussed in this chapter have indeed been used for that purpose. After introducing some of the key terms and concepts re- lated to Virtual Worlds, this chapter will give a brief history of the evolution of VWs and then provide an overview of some of the most popular VWs that are available today. Key Terms and Concepts As is often the case when dealing with matters of technology and education, there are a large number of terms—many of them see- mingly random collections of letters in the form of acronyms—that are currently used in this area. In this book the term you will most 20 often see used when referring to the 3D environments discussed here is Virtual World, but because of the...

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