I have finally succombed. I have started to explore Second Life. The Women of Web 2.0 offered a tour, which for me was a great way to start. I'm still just getting the hang of walking around, but I don't mind being seen as gauche. I can hide behind the anonymity of my avatar.
Our guide skyped the participants so we had the advantage of voice interaction as well as the Second Life interface. I was impressed by the Space Museum. There is certainly a lot to explore there, with many links to Internet sites to elaborate on what you are seeing. I would not be ready to take students there as, when I looked at the list of most popular places (even when I did not click "include places in Mature regions" I found arms testing and gambling. Not my speed. On a further visit (while listening to a webcast done by Steve Hargadon of EdTech Live (who is an excellent interviewer) with Sarah Robbins, I learned about more educational areas in Second Life. I can now teleport directly to the library and other educational venues. More exploring to be done. The interview is worth hearing. Sarah talks about how she tries to create an environment for her students that is different from what there would be in a face-to-face class. Otherwise there is no point to using the virtual space. She commented that some students were more comfortable, especially initially, with the virtual space. More students contributed to the discussion. Her class met face-to-face once a week and in Second Life once a week.
I know there is a lot to be said about virtual environments. I would like to see a safer virtual environment if students are going to use it. From what I understand there is a youth only section, but that bars adults. We need to have a safe place where teachers and students can interact. I know that students would find this very engaging. I'll reserve judgement until I have explored more.