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Virtual Schools for All?
by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD

Sakura Learning Center / SecondLife
 Sakura Learning Center in Second Life

For many years futuristic educators have been devising high-tech learning models for precluded people (see Universal Learning: Can We Plug it In?).

There are millions (even billions) of student wannabes who can’t even visit one of the world’s cities, let alone attend a university.

You sometimes spot them on the urban streets of developing nations: Hopeful village girls and boys, eyes wide and country-clothes fresh, gaping at the spires before they’re chugged back home on ragged trains.

Given the tightening gates of academia, how might they ever experience the intellectual joys of expansive university grounds?

Legions of us rose-eyed visionaries saw hope in online virtual world environments.

The transformational virtual schools early in the new century disappointed many. These worlds are typically user-defined, meaning *we* make the rules (within very broad reason).

And many self-defining users were not inclined to study, but strip.

Imagine Lord of the Flies with lasers, blatant sex beaches, plug-and-play genitals.

Also imagine the highest of realized aspirations: role-play lands governed by noble codes of honor; free and bountiful buffets for all; great minds sharing ideals regardless of space/time (you could lay on a cosmic couch and interact with Freud); actually walking in another’s skin; judging others by the content of their profiles since any outward face is only a pixel deep.

A world where the lion and the lamb lay together – no doubt there’s a ‘ball’ for that. But I digress.

Technology will inevitably allow broadband access and vast sensational flow, where we can create a sense of place for isolated peoples and students; where the immersion is deep, the relations are authentic, and the experience is satisfying.

If we look at the hype-cycle for emerging technologies, the virtual world has already peaked in inflated expectations, plumbed its low point in the trough of disillusionment, and is climbing the slope of enlightenment towards a plateau of productivity.

I’ve been designing educational centers in the Second Life virtual world for
more than a decade, and I’ve ridden that wave.

If you have a Second Life account, surf by our seaside learning center classroom and give it a test:
Drop me a note inworld c/o Kip Roffo, and we’ll befriend.

~ Steve

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