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What are your thoughts about virtual environments and “life on line?” Do you feel there is a correlation between life on line and academic achievement, for better or worse?

The article “Second Thoughts About ‘Second Life’” (Bugeja, 2007) really struck a chord with me this week. Though I think he does shade into reactionary and overly-dramatic responses at times, he does present some very valid points that faculty, students and parents should consider as more and more students and schools take or allow their students to go online and become a part of these virtual worlds.

A brief anecdote sums up my unease with ‘Second Life,’ though I don’t extrapolate my isolated experience the way Bugeja does: when I was in the military, I had several friends in my shop (fellow enlisted Airmen) who loved World of Warcraft and Second Life. They would play for hours, even on duty (as long as we were on night shift and it didn’t impact their work). They played at home and linked up with each other, forming ‘squads’ or ‘guilds’ and even some of their wives joined in. One industrious friend—perpetually delinquent in his rent—even created and advanced WoW characters to sell on ebay, which he actually received hefty payments for. Another friend, sadly, lost himself in these two particular games a bit and suffered a nasty divorce as a result of his unending playing and even virtual infidelity. Ever since that experience, fair or not, I have been hesitant to become involved in such games—the ones that are so pervasive that people seem to lose themselves in them.

Another area of concern is that, with this new age of ‘digital natives,’ there may be a correlation between life online and academic achievement. In “Facebook and Academic Performance” by Kirshner & Karpinski (2010), the researchers find a negative correlation between GPA’s and Facebook use. Their study is framed around the concept of multi-tasking, and how students and children nowadays involved themselves shallowly in ten different tasks at once, rather than pursuing one topic or train of thought deeply. Though the former (current) method may lend itself well to some careers and fields, the overall effect the researchers found was deleterious. Of the 200 or so respondents, the effect of less study time and lowered GPA’s was found amongst males, females, undergrads and grad students alike. Though I’ll save my problems with their sampling for another day, the study does raise some questions that educators and parents should ask themselves: are we equipping the next generation with skills of discernment, to know when one has had ‘enough’ Facebook, for instance? Is it the job of parents and educators to intervene or are we the ones that need to get with the program and realize that this—for good or ill—is the new way of things?


Comments on: "Life (Online) As We Know It" (1)

  1. On your last note about teaching children about discernment I would have to say it is really important for parents at home to restrict their kids on multimedia usage. No, I do not feel like being on FB directly correlates to drop in GPA. However, I do know that (from just growing up with no control over media consumption) unless kids are pushed towards limiting themselves with using the Internet, computer, videogames, etc. they have a greater chance of overloading themselves with media consumption that definitely could lead to less time spending on homework, school work, critical thinking, reading and all other educational activities that should occur sometimes without the help of technology. I remember when I was growing up I wanted to watch TV so much and would always do whenever I had a chance to, thinking that I was fooling my mother while the volume was low or something. She never subscribed to cable till I was long gone for college (and even then she would not let me watch it because I would carelessly watch a lot of TV when I went back home). If it was not for her strict restraint every step of the way till I became an “adult” that I am today I think I could have wasted months, years, in media consumption that would have gotten me nowhere. From my teaching experience in Williamsburg I also realized that my students simply did not do work because at home all they would do is watch TV or go on the Internet. There was nobody for them to push them to set priorities.

    If anything, before we teach any hard conceptual theories or what not we need to teach them when enough is really enough. A lot of students these days, at least from experience in public schools in NYC, have no time management skills, or discernment of any sort when it comes to academics and making smarter choices for their future. It is a concern that really bugs me constantly because support is simply just not there at their homes.

    I am assuming you had similar experiences in the Bronx schools you taught at? Sometimes when you share those stories in class I see myself nodding profusely! Haha.

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