I'm looking at a thing called Second Life right now. It's a social networking, virtual world - something that is suppose to be one of the top trends in education this year. I learned about it on a blog and in a group I'm currently doing the "discussion board" thing with. So being curious -I'm checking to see what all the hype is about.
My first reaction: It personally kind of scares me. There's a Tom Clancy novel that I read awhile ago - a couple of them actually- the Net Force Series. They are set in 2010 - which is really that far away. In the novels they talk about Cybernation -which is exactly what this whole virtual world is going to. A whole new set of taxes, a new citizenship, a new way of everything.
But what scares me more is visually seeing people - sort of like the gamers in SPY KIDS 3 - wearing the goggles to view the 3 D life. They were escaping from who they are and not accepting themselves. They portrayed themselves as someone smarter and cooler - AND THOSE WERE KIDS! What if these kids only interact online, and well - if they get so caught up in it, what will old fashioned hugs be like? Can they socialize in person? It's hard to socialize in the real world after being so caught up with "living and working" online. :-)
On the flip side, in moderation, I like the idea of virtual classrooms for kids to take advance classes (already doing this with distance learning) and communicating with students in other nations (again - already doing this, just not as sophisticated). There are some benefits - as long as the parents balance the social networking, online learning and virtual world experience with in person social opportunities.
And they give the kid a hug -not just the avatar.