Powerful But Not a Panacea: Virtual Worlds as a Tool for Situational Learning


Once relegated to the fringes of the games industry, virtual worlds such as Second Life are now viewed as a promising instructional platform. College instructors use this emerging technology to teach courses on topics ranging from architecture and anthropology to history, literature and computer programming, and a growing number of Fortune 500 companies conduct employee training in virtual worlds. In 2007 alone, educational institutions were responsible for the creation of more than 1,200 islands in Second Life.

While many educators are excited about the potential of virtual worlds, others are deeply wary. Some fear that virtual worlds are a faddish technology that actually degrades student learning. In this presentation, Professor Aaron Delwiche of Trinity University suggests that there are grounds for both enthusiasm and skepticism. Virtual worlds are certainly not an educational panacea, and they present many challenges for students, instructors, and administrators. When coupled with thoughtful strategies grounded in situated learning theory, however, these emerging technologies can be very powerful educational tools.

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