Everyone's a kool-aid man today : pedagogical implications of teaching first-year composition in Second Life/

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Baldwin, Dianna
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Middle Tennessee State University
Second Life Second Life (SL), a massively multi-user virtual environment (MMUVE), is called the metaverse, a parallel universe, and a world not unlike our own. This makes SL an ideal environment for first-year composition students to pursue a second life. This is a world that can offer students "analogies and metaphors for real-world issues [and] can provide a way for students to discuss issues in a safe environment, where there are no real-world consequences" (Williams, Hendricks, and Winkler 11). In SL, students can experience issues that we often ask them to write about, such as identity or otherness, but of which they have little knowledge.
This research investigates the world of SL and its uses in the real life (RL) first-year composition classroom. It seeks to answer the questions: (1) Will using a virtual world like SL change student writing? (2) Will my students come to understand SL as a culture uniquely different from their own? (3) Will they embrace this new medium? (4) Will they form an online identity? (5) How will they react to such learning? In general, I investigated whether or not their experiences in SL would in any way change their writing. I found that SL can be an exciting and volatile experience for educators who choose to use it. Students became engaged with their writing and began to make connections between their own lives and the topics we pursued. The overall theme for the class was otherness, which also included issues of identity in both RL and SL. The connections were made because of the students' abilities to investigate life in SL in a way that was not possible in RL, such as becoming an oversized Kool-Aid man and then having to socialize with complete strangers as this other. Many commented that SL gave them interesting ideas about which to write. The students' responses, both positive and negative, to SL were evident in their writings, which consisted of blogs, journals, quick writes, and essays. SL gives instructors a tool for teaching that up until now has been missing: experience.
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Adviser: Trixie G. Smith.