The beauty of the Web is that . . . well . . . everything is connected. You read an article that leads you to a site that connects to your RSS feed which is mentioned on Twitter that becomes a Skype conversation that sends you to an old listserv . . . and within a couple of minutes, you’ve learned something really cool!

I’m having a morning like that. Bear with me.

Nancy Willard posted a message this morning on the EDTECH listserv concerning another attempt by Congress to push through legislation that would severely limit the use of Web 2.0 tools in schools. The DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) would

require schools and libraries that receive federal subsidies through a program called E-rate to certify that they’ve put in place a “technology protection measure” on all of their computers that “protects against access to a commercial social-networking Web site or chat room, unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision.”

The focus this time is on Second Life and other similar virtual worlds.

OK . . . so. That triggered me back to an article in EdTech magazine from last fall that highlighted future educational tech trends. Among other things, the article suggests that the use of virtual worlds (and specifically Second Life) will continue to expand in K-12 education:

Virtual world platforms are gaining acceptance on many university and college campuses, and K–12 districts are now looking at these new technologies to engage students in the learning process. Any subject that benefits from collaboration, socialization, simulation and participatory activities can be enhanced with virtual lessons in an online world.

Of course, we now have a problem. Educators see the benefits of virtual worlds while Congress is working to limit the use of a teaching tool with tons of potential.

So what to do? Even if this second attempt at DOPA doesn’t pass, teachers will likely face pressure from system admins and principals to limit the use of virtual worlds.

One solution is to use less threatening virtual worlds than Second Life.

Which finally brings me back to the whole Web connectedness thing going on in my head this morning. Two days ago, a small group of middle and high school teachers sat down to talk about possible gaming and simulation tools. From that conversation, several virtual worlds floated up that seem to offer educational benefits without a lot of the political baggage.

The first is MinyanLand. Created by MinyanVille, Kaboose and the National Council on Economic Education, MinyanLand is a virtual world that teaches grade 4-8 kids responsibility and financial awareness. One of the cool pieces of the world is that teachers and parents can assign chores and homework in both the virtual and face-to-face world. Completion of these tasks by the student results in Minyan Bucks. Some very sweet stuff going on here!

The second is called Active Worlds. Around since 1997, Active Worlds provides the chance for a school or district to create their own protected world through the use of their Educational Universe. A little more work to get things set up but still a tool that deserves a look.

More information on these types of tools can be found at the Virtual Worlds Review and the Second Life in Education Wiki.

Don’t ya just love the web?