Dr. Matthew Trevett-Smith, a visiting professor of performance and communication arts at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., says Second Life Provides Real-World Benefits. He’s an anthropologist with a real sense of how our subjects intermesh in a liberal arts education, and he sees SL providing a means of bridging the traditional challenge of teaching critical thinking skills and broadening outlook/experience with the modern challenge of reaching “digital natives” who “will turn to Google rather than visit the library, or search Wikipedia instead of asking for a reference librarian.”

Virtual worlds engage my students in higher-order intellectual activity by requiring them to make and defend judgments. Ultimately, they are left with more questions to answer, a key outcome of liberal arts education. And as they immerse themselves in another culture — even a virtual one — they have physical emotional reactions to what’s happening on their screen.

Dr. Trevett-Smith isn’t arguing for us to replace study-abroad trips or other forms of education with SL; rather, he simply points out that SL is another tool in our toolbox, one with benefits that may not be more apparent without some deeper exploration.

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