Virtual worlds in language education
Developments in computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies provide both practitioners and learners with access to robust and accessible tools, which have made various types of real-time computer-mediated communication (CMC) a practical reality. Of these CMC technologies, the emergence of desktop 3D virtual worlds brings forth new opportunities for educators to shape online learning in the 21st century. These dynamic environments have been increasingly utilized across learning domains. However, in the field of second language education, the use of these tools has only recently attracted significant interest. This article explores how a type of 3D virtual world known as Active Worlds, has been utilized by researchers in computer-assisted language learning (CALL). This article provides an overview of the key features of the environment and examines research on the use of virtual worlds in CALL. Findings from student-based experimental studies involving Active Worlds, including two recent projects conducted in Japan, are analyzed. The discussion examines evidence from this emergent body of research, which suggests that Active Worlds is an environment with great potential in CALL, as it brings together learners in an engaging new communication context that appears to foster the types of interaction that play a central role in second language acquisition. This article concludes by identifying promising areas for future research.
Peterson, M. (2008). Virtual worlds in language education. The JALT CALL Journal, 4(3), 29-37.