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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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Chapter 5: Language Learning in Second Life 115


115 Chapter 5: Language Learning in Second Life Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? (Morpheus, The Matrix, 1999) There’s actually a vibrant community of educators already in Second Life, and we’re happy to see it continuing to grow. We’ve seen a range of academic and educational uses of the platform, from research to modeling to distance learn- ing to real-time collaboration […]. (Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, as interviewed by Dubner, 2007) Introduction Almost any setting in a Virtual World has the potential for language learning and telecollaboration. Just as in the real world, the key to the usability of any environment is the quality of the pedagogy that takes place there; even the best-equipped educational environment (wheth- er in RL or a VW) is limited in its pedagogical potential if the teacher using that setting does not put adequate thought and effort into a sound pedagogical plan. While not all settings are appropriate for all learners, and while some settings would most certainly not work well for some classes, any location in a VW where the language under study is produced—written or oral—may benefit the learner. The trick, of course, is to determine what setting works for the purpose you wish to accomplish. As mentioned in the previous chapter, working with students in VWs can...

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