Annotation of “The future for (second) life and learning” Salmon (2009)
Salmon, G. (2009). The future for (second) life and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 526-538.
Virtual reality (VR) is a topic that has been explored in movies since the late 70s. We watched as film characters created best friends, nearly took the country to war, and created their dream girl all with the use of VR. But what roles does VR play in learning? And more importantly for Salmon (2009) how can we develop evidence-based research that explores the role of VR in the future of education?
As of 2009, the trend in second life (SL) worlds extended mostly to areas like social networking, simulations, and online gaming. Salmon’s area of expertise is in the future of 3-D MUVEs (three-dimensional multi-user virtual environments) for higher education. Salmon’s article looks at other current trends in this particular field and some restrictive behaviors not by the platform, but by the users. For example, when working in SL users tend to recreate what they already know instead of building new places. But this is not necessarily a limitation as a strong scaffolding must be necessary in order for an SL learning to be possible.
Another benefit discussed of SL is the ability for learners to put themselves in places to learn about cultures that perhaps no longer exist. Or are not accessible. This concept of traveling to the past has infinite possibilities in fields like history or archaeology.
Some of the key trends in SL include:
- Awareness of potential for virtual worlds
- Collaboration or overlap between different disciplines
- Creation of artefacts for educational purposes, sometimes by learners themselves
- Immersion in cultures that are otherwise inaccessible
- Creation of realistic environments for practice
- Awareness of virtual worlds and interest from Internet users
- Integration with other learning tech
- Predictions of interest from commerce and industry for skills development (p.530)
Salmon goes on to discuss the importance of creativity in SL. We are only able to tap into SL affordances to do what we could not before by being creative.
Salmon raises some interesting questions about ownership in SL. Student-created environments used for educational purpose may call into question issues related to copyright which in turn lead to financial concerns. And even the concept of avatar creation may overlap with this “creator-owned” issue. An avatar can create “reusable learning objects and build collaborative displays” of work (p.532), but to what extent are these “owned” by the learner? Salmon also brings up the topic of identify as it relates to the learner’s own representation versus their constructed avatar.
While it is abundantly clear from Salmon’s work that there are learning benefits to be had through SL and there are serious issues to consider as we apply this technology to learning, the author has a few gaps in her work. While I can agree that support must be given by the educational institution in order for educators to explore the possibilities of this technology, Salmon does not explicitly address issues related to financial support and implementation of this technology, these could and perhaps should be issues that are addressed.