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Plenary given 16th October 2010 at the 4th annual SLanguages conference
The fourth SLanguages conference is being held in the midst of a sea change in virtual world education.
Although Second Life was not the first virtual world to be used for education, it was the first to become a focus of popular culture, and it has continued to be the main focus of educators interested in using virtual worlds since that time in 2006 when it was catapulted to people's attention as a possible 3D alternative to the flat web.
Although the mainstream attention has largely deserted to Facebook and Twitter, educational attention in Second Life has continued to increase steadily as more is learned about the value it and other virtual worlds can bring to distance learning in particular.
Recently, however, changes such as the impending closure of the Teen Grid and the announced abolition of the island discount for educators have seen many become doubtful of their existing and future in-world projects.
The Second Life Educators (SLED) list is currently dominated by talk of an exodus to open source virtual worlds such as Open Sim. What is interesting, however, is that these educators are not looking for an an alternative to a virtual world, simply an alternative virtual world. And they want it to be as close as possible to Second Life.
In this talk, I plan to take stock of what I have learned about language learning and teaching in virtual worlds, looking at some examples of what could be considered to be 'viable language learning' in-world, and to ask whether Second Life should be given a second chance by anyone now considering packing their virtual bags.