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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 6: Conclusion 147


147 Chapter 6: Conclusion This book has examined the history of Virtual Worlds, from their earliest days with multi-person text-based environments like Avatar and Empire—developed with the PLATO system—though their increasingly graphically-oriented descendents like MOOs and Lucas- film’s Habitat, and on to the colorful, interactive, 3D environments of today such as Club Penguin and Second Life. After examining the theory that is often used to support the role of VWs in learning and some of the research on CMC and VWs, Second Life was examined in more detail, both in terms of the interface of the VW and in rela- tion to the users and their use of language. Finally, pedagogical envi- ronments and practice were introduced that might be useful for lan- guage learning in VWs. As is often the case, the process of writing this book led me to a number of questions that I did not have time to answer, or for which no answers yet exist. In the section below I put forth my plea for the reader’s help in answering questions in two areas that are currently in need of further research: pedagogical issues and questions related to a number of areas of sociolinguistics. Finally, I give my own thoughts about the direction that VWs may go in the future. Future Research While there is a rapidly growing body of research related to Virtual Worlds, as mentioned earlier most of this research has been in the form of case studies, and/or ethnographic in...

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