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Second Life vs Google Earth


  • Using Google

    Earth and

    Second Life

    for education

  • Virtual Worlds: Second Life and Google


    Rome, London, Californiaeven the Moon. Locations that are physically

    impossible to travel to from a classroom in New Jersey are no longer

    inaccessible to students thanks to technology and the Internet. In the

    past, students were only able to see pictures or videos of places that

    they have never been. Now, however, through advancements in

    technology, vast interactive worlds have been developed through which

    teachers and students can explore all over the world and beyond. In a

    matter of minutes, students can go from examining a 3D scale layout of

    Big Ben and the Parliament in London, to exploring craters on the moon.

    Two different services that both offer the virtual world experience are

    Google Earth and Second Life. While these are not the only options

    available, they are two of the larger, more developed, and more popular

    programs currently available and while they are both free, the

    programs are vastly different in their approach and resources.

    Additionally, both programs have some areas where they either excel or

    are lacking. This is to be expected, however, since technology is ever

    evolving and rarely perfect. The goal then, as an educator, is to locate

    and utilize the best tool for the job. There will never be one perfect one

    size fits all solution.

    This booklet will take you through both Second Life and Google Earth,

    discussing the pros and cons of each site, and looking at 20 different

    examples/reviews of places you can visit in either program. These

    reviews will provide a beginning foundation of how you, as an educator,

    might use either of these programs in your classroom.

  • Second Life is a true virtual world that is accessed online. Similar to a 3D

    game, users take control of an avatar (or digital character representing

    themselves which they create) and explore generated and created content.

    Users travel to various islands which are owned by corporations, schools, or

    even individuals to experience a wide range of different content and activities.

    The game is more than just scenery; there are interactive scavenger hunts,

    guided tours, games, interactions, and a lot of other content. Users can truly

    become immersed in the world as they wander and explore the various islands.

    Another aspect of Second Life is the interaction among other users the game

    is in a category that is referred to as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing

    Game, or MMORPG, where users can talk to each other, travel with each

    other, and explore the virtual world together. This is a benefit for those who

    interact with people they know, but can provide for unsuitable experiences

    when interacting with strangers.

    Below are some pros and cons of Second Life:


    Immersive environment

    Ability to visit some real places recreated in Second Life

    Ability to visit locations inaccessible in the real world

    Chat feature ability to hold an online interactive class


    Open world. There is a LOT of inappropriate content for minors

    that is easily accessible

    Not all real world locations are replicated sometimes hard to

    find what you are looking for

    Chat feature random strangers can interact with your students

    Runs choppy on older computers

  • Google Earth, while not technically a fully interactive online virtual world (there

    is no avatar, no direct online interaction with other users, no chat feature),

    rivals the worlds created in Second Life in many areas.

    Where Google Earth excels, is that many cities have been authentically

    recreated in scale 3D models. A user simply has to type an address in to be

    taken to another part of the world where they can zoom in and out, explore

    satellite images, explore user uploaded photos, get directions, and more.

    Google Earth can be very appealing for a classroom setting because of its

    safety. Whereas Second Life has a lot of interaction between members, there

    is no filtering content, and there is inappropriate content, Google Earth is

    essentially an interactive 3D map that can be explored safely and efficiently.

    One additional user generated feature that Google Earth has, however, are

    user uploaded photos of specific areas that people have visited. This adds a

    very unique and personal touch to the otherwise very technical maps.


    Safe no inappropriate content

    Easy to navigate

    3D models of most large cities, satellite photos of all other areas

    Ability to travel via directions

    User uploaded photos


    No chat feature

    Not as interactive

    No fantasy locations

    Can freeze from time to time on older machines

  • International Space Flight Museum


    The International Space Flight Museum is pretty interesting in a few different

    aspects. I enjoyed

    being able to fly

    around the area and

    get a close look at

    the different

    rockets from

    various countries

    and time periods.

    There were also

    tours that

    visitors could

    take through the museum. Because of the interactive features, this location is

    definitely worth a second visit, and is also something interesting for students to

    visit as well.

    Kennedy Space Center

    While not an exact comparison to the International Space Flight Museum found

    in Second Life (since that is a unique location to only Second Life), visiting the

    Kennedy Space Center in

    Google Earth does have

    some unique benefits.

    Students curious about

    the former space

    program could visit the

    Kennedy Space Center

    and examine the area,

    photos, and the shuttle

    launch zones. What may

    be eye opening for some

    of them is the distance the shuttles used to have to take to get from the space

    center to the launch pads. While perhaps not as exciting as some of the

    information at Second Life's International Space Flight Museum, the Kennedy

    Space Center makes for an intriguing first hand 'real' experience.

  • ARCHI21


    ARCHI21 was an interesting

    area, and definitely one worth

    checking out more than once.

    The island was set up with

    various architectural 'marvels',

    some of which are physically

    impossible, improbable, or

    impractical - but all of which

    together in one location makes

    them extremely invaluable.

    This would be a useful island for

    not only architectural students,

    but art students as well - or even just

    those who are just curious about buildings and shapes.

    Sydney Opera House

    Google Earth has its own

    share of archetectural

    masterpieces - take, for

    example, the Sydney

    Opera House. Like many

    of the Google Earth sites,

    the opera house is easier

    to locate than many sites

    in Second Life. One simply

    has to type in the location

    and they are brought to it,

    as opposed to having to

    take the time to search for an appropriate area. Like other Google Earth

    locations, a visitor cannot enter the location, however, users can get a good

    feel for the area based on pictures provided by other users.

  • Virtual London


    Virtual London was somewhat of a disappointment. The area was fairly small,

    and only some of the more prominent landmarks (such as Big Ben, but not

    Parliament) were present. The little bit of content that was there was

    developed well, however, it was not entirely accurate. I do not think it would

    be necessary to visit the

    area again, especially

    when there are other,

    more accurate tools

    that can be used to get

    a virtual view of the

    surrounding area.


    Visiting London in Google Earth was a much more complete and valuable

    experience than visiting it in Second Life. While the visitor cannot go inside any

    of the buildings (like you can in Second Life), there is not much of a need. The

    city is complete and an individual can spend a lot of time exploring the streets

    of London, which would be

    useful in many different

    situations. Perhaps a

    history teacher wants to

    show the students the

    Parliament buildings that

    Guy Faux attempted to

    destroy he or she would

    be able to virtually visit

    the area quickly and


  • Globe Theater


    Another area in London, though

    located on a different island in

    Second Life, is Shakespeares

    globe. Rather than just a visual

    replication of the globe, however,

    this theater actually has a

    schedule of events in which other

    members of the community

    recreate Shakespeares plays.

    Unfortunately, viewing these plays

    require Linden Dollars.

    Individuals can enter the globe and look around

    while there is not a play being performed, and the accuracy of the scale

    is pretty good. In general, though, the resource would be most useful to

    individuals who had access to Linden Dollars.

    Globe Theater

    The Globe Theater displayed in

    Google Earth is