“Ay, caramba”, said Javier Vasquez, resident of Camaguey, Cuba, #1 game player of the Cuban Game League for players 12 to 16. “Every time I use Second Life for more than 40 minutes, it crashes. “Mamita! Por Favor, can I get a new gameboy? I think there’s something wrong with this one.” His mother Cecilia walked into the living room, and looked at what he was trying to do. She shook her head and laughed softly. I can’t believe you’re trying to play such a complicated game as Second Life on a game boy. Didn’t I just get you more RAM for your MacBook Pro? I suggest you pick up where you left off on that platform. Javier sighed, and said yeah, OK – you’re probably right. My characters are waiting to resume their lives, and I can’t keep them waiting too long, can I?” Cecilia rolls her eyes, and says, “Oh my goodness, no – they wouldn’t know what to do without you, eh?” Then she asked him the question he’d been dreading all weekend. “Have you done your summer assignment?” Javier sighed, and said, “Yes.” She replied, “May I see it?” “What, you don’t trust me?” Cecilia just stood with hands on her hips, one eyebrow cocked to demonstrate her skepticism at the words of her game-playing son. Javier picked up his laptop, and pressed the button to power up. In short order, it was operational.
Javier opened the file labeled “Summer Assignment” and showed the topics to his mother. It listed his projects by class. Cecilia said, “Yes, I see. These are the classes in which you had homework. Now where are the assignments? He looked down at the floor. “Ay, Dios mio! You will drive me crazy!” Have you not begun any of these assignments? This is the last day of summer, and you’ve had 12 weeks to finish this. Your teacher, Father Rodolfo will give you 6 detentions – one for each assignment – tomorrow morning!” Javier responded, “Pero, Mamita! I did each assignment! I just completed them in a slightly different way!”
“What exactly is that supposed to mean, young man?” Cecilia’s patience was exhausted. Javier responded, “I created a world in Second Life. I populated it with avatars whose lives and activities illustrated all my assignments. I would argue that using virtual reality makes these assignments come alive, and isn’t that the best way to learn? I thought Father Rodolfo would think it was very clever and very creative of me. Here – look at all these assignments I’ve created!” Javier began to go down the list. “For my history class, I have written a report about how the Americans tried to annihilate us in a nuclear war in 1962, but Fidel and Che saved Cuba in spite of the betrayal by the Russians. Next I wrote book reports on two books that highlight the work of Nikolai Kardashev and Stephen Hawking and their theories about black holes and cosmology for my English class. The two books were Visions by Michio Kaku and The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, both of which I got from Amazon.com. Mamita, are you familiar with the concept of model-dependent reality? Stephen Hawking, probably the world’s greatest physicist and cosmologist theorizes that the world as we know it is only as real as what is in each of our individual minds. I tried to illustrate his principles with my avatars living and working, totally unaware of their status. Don’t you think that’s a good way to illustrate a scientific theory?” Cecilia responded by crossing herself, and looking up toward the ceiling. “Forgive him, Father, for he knows not what he says.” She looked sternly back at Javier. “What else have you accomplished in this world of yours in Second Life?” Javier continued to describe his work. “I did a review of the repression of the Cuban people by Batista for political science, including Fidel’s return from exile on The Granma, and Barquin’s attempted coup in The Conspiracy of the Pure. I even finished my pictoral review of vernacular Cuban painting for that dreadful art teacher, Señora Lopez. The assignment I liked best was to detail the enormous shortage of water around the globe. Mamita, did you know that only 2% of the water on the globe is drinkable, and that within 6 years that quantity will be down to only 0.005%? A combination of global warming and water-intensive energy exploration by the wasteful, capitalistic Americans and growth-hungry, neo-capitalistic Chinese is to blame. But the solution is at hand if those corrupt governments would fund research instead of weapons and war. The problem could be solved by terraforming on Mars! That report is for Professor Linares in Chemistry. The only thing I have to finish is my obituary for Connie Marrero that Coach Flores asked me to prepare for the sports section of the school newspaper. But that won’t take long. So, see? You had nothing to worry about!”
“Nothing to worry about? Um hm. I hear you, but I still have seen nothing to show me that you have done these things. Go into that program of yours and show me your work.” Javier sighed, saying “Okay. If you insist. But this could take a while.” With that, Javier moved the mouse over the Second Life icon. He pressed it. This is what appeared.