The Next Generation of Learning

By Joe Dysart

While initially a novelty, K-12 educational opportunities in the virtual world Second Life ( are gaining heft, crystallizing into formal courses, and in some cases, even offering high school students the opportunity to earn college credit.

“They (students) like technology and understand the use of it as a means of communication and collaboration,” says Shirley Carraway, director of special projects at East Carolina University, who oversees a series of college credit courses in Second Life for students at North Carolina’s Pitt County Schools.

An outgrowth of the virtual reality craze, Second Life first gained popularity in the mid-1990s as an online social meeting place where members could reinvent themselves in any shape, color, or form, and interact in virtual worlds whose only design limitation was the human imagination.

“The fact that today’s students are so technologically savvy is one of the reasons high schools and universities are looking at social applications such as Second Life,” Carraway says.

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