I attended a talk on Second Life today by Andy Powell of Eduserv. Second Life is a 3-d virtual world that is currently being very hyped up and has received a great deal of interest from educators interested in its potential for e-learning.
Second Life (SL) is free to enter and navigate around, but in order to really get involved you need to buy land, which effectively means buying server space with Linden Labs, the developer and owner of the software. The world is populated by avatars (residents) but Andy warned that those who are looking for a gaming environment would be disappointed – Second Life does not have a purpose as such; it is generally used to buy, sell, entertain and learn. In fact, you can (within acceptable limits) do what you like within SL, including building your own games, houses, galleries, offices and shops.
The software does require a high spec machine, which is likely to limit its value to schools and colleges, but it does have potential as a useful learning environment. You could, for example, buy a plot of land, build a gallery and show an exhibition of archive materials, complete with notes about each exhibit and links to the online catalogues. You could also decide to have a lecture space where you run a slideshow – Andy had just such a space on ‘Eduserv Island’ where he was showing the PowerPoint slides for the day’s session. You can also have an audio presentation as QuickTime is integrated with SL. The main drawback is that you can only have about 40 people in a space at any one time, but it is likely that this will change over time.
You communicate in SL by chat, either public or private, which effectively means typing rather than true audio communication, though this is apparently proposed for future versions of SL. You create your own profile, which may include your interests and skills, and you can create groups of friends so that you are told when a friend is currently in SL.
Andy had built himself a shoe shop and was designing and selling shoes for