I just had a listen to Australian ABC's Digital Living Podcast latest episode on Education in Virtual Worlds . Anne Delaney interviews Dr Barney Dalgarno about a project he has been leading to help prospective teachers experience what it might be like to be in a classroom through a simulation built in Second Life. Called "Virtual Prex," the project aims to study how a virtual environment can be used to prepare students to be teachers in a primary school setting.
Here's a video of one of the classroom simulations.
Looks like a really interesting educational project. I hope they are doing comparisons with similar groups of students doing more traditional teacher preparation, as well as follow-up later on how much it prepared them for the real life experience of being in front of a class of youngsters.
From my own experience teaching in Second Life, it can be just as daunting and "real" as teaching before a group of young people in the same room as you. I have definitely dealt with the frightening scenario of losing control of the classroom as kids goofed off, wandered around, and disrupted the class. It's just as nerve-wracking in a virtual space as in the real world, and in some ways you have less means of regaining control of the situation.
Head to the official website for more information about Virtual Prex at http://www.virtualprex.com.