I gave this presentation about language learning and teacher education in the 3D virtual world of Second Life at the final conference of the EU-funded Talk With Me project in Vienna in spring 2011.
Although the Arabic speaking community in Second Life is quite large, Second Life is still not capable of “understanding” Arabic. It does display Arabic letters but they are not connected so that it it almost impossible to read. The community has campaigned a lot for this feature to be implemented but to no avail.
So, most have resorted to writing Arabic based on a mixture of Latin letters and some numbers that represented those Arabic letters that are not in the Latin alphabet.
One Arab SL user, however, developed an online flash converter that converts Arabic text into Arabic which Second Life displays correctly. These are the steps:
- copy a text written in Arabic into the first box,
- click the convert button (the orange button between the two text boxes),
- copy the text displayed in the second box (the converted text),
- paste this text into the Second Life text chat window or a notecard.
Of course, this is not an ideal solution for live conversations, but it’s great for Arabic language lessons and for notecards when one has time to prepare the text in advance.
I can’t believe it’s been over four months when I last blogged. And if I don’t count the last two posts, it’s been over seven months! I do miss it and have something to say too but I am not thinking of getting back to blogging just now.
Actually, I was planning to blog a lot during my 3-month summer break but then I decided I needed a complete break from my online activities for some time. Since starting to work full-time, doing my Master’s and after having spent a considerable amount of time working and learning online for the past three years, I felt physically and mentally tired. So, I took the complete 3 months off which I spent entirely with my family, who hadn’t seen much of me during the last year or so.
One task I had originally set myself for the summer break was to move my blog (and other online presences) to one new unified domain. As you can see, Edublogs has added ads to free blogs and disallowed embedding videos and useful widgets (see my Twitter “button” on the right). Also, I have started so many different websites for different projects that it was impossible to keep all of them updated. Yet another reason for wanting to move this blog is that I would like to write about educational topics that are not restricted to Second Life.
I’m not sure when I will actually get back to blogging. I might just continue a bit longer with lurking on colleagues blogs and maybe occasionally add comments. The ELT/educators blogosphere has grown considerably and there is a lot of fantastic “stuff” out there that’s worth reading.
So, I might be less visible on some online platforms and communities but I am here and I am following what is going on (though not so closely anymore for now) and at some point I will jump into the stream again and swim with you instead of just looking on 🙂
Beim 14. Blog Carnival auf WissenWert, stellt der Moderator, Andreas Mertens, die Frage, wie sich virtuelle Welten bezüglich ihrer Akzeptanz und Durchdringung entwickeln werden.
Wenn es um Technologien geht, ist es immer schwierig Voraussagen zu machen, aber ein Blick in die Gegenwart kann vielleicht Hinweise über die Zukunft geben.
Als Sprachtrainerin habe ich mich überwiegend mit dem Sprachenlehrern und -lernen in virtuellen Welten beschäftigt. Seit 2007 unterrichte ich Englisch und seit 2009 trainiere ich Lehrer im Unterrichten in virtuellen Welten. All dies findet in Second Life statt, vieles kann jedoch auch auf anderer virtuelle Welten übertragen werden.
Wie schon von anderen angemerkt, hat Second Life sich ein bißchen den Ruf verscherzt und viele, die SL nur aus den Medienberichten kennen, können sich wahrscheinlich nicht vorstellen, dass es tatsächlich für ernsthafte Zwecke genutzt wird. Nichtsdestotrotz ist dies zunehmend der Fall, zumindest in der Bildungsbranche. Hier sind es hauptsächlich Universitäten, da deren Tätigkeiten oftmals gut finanziert sind und sie dadurch einen längeren Atem haben und keine schnellen Resultate benötigen. Das mehr und mehr Projekte in virtuellen Welten von Universitäten und auch von der Europäischen Union finanziert werden, ist für mich ein Zeichen, dass viele tatsächlich eine Zukunft in virtuellen Welten für die Bildung sehen.
Gerade im Bereich der Sprachbildung hat sich in den letzten Jahren viel getan. In 2007, als ich mich zum ersten mal in SL eingeloggt habe, waren es überwiegend einzelne Lehrer, ob privat oder an einer Universität, die das Unterrichten in SL auf eigene Faust ausprobierten. Wer etwas detaillierter lesen möchte, wie es wahrscheinlich vielen Lehrern damals ging, kann folgenden (englischen) Blogeintrag lesen: Starting a Second Life
Mittlerweile gibt es regelmäßige Sprachlehrertreffen, wo Erfahrungen und Kenntnisse ausgetauscht werden und ess gibt mehr Lehrer, die unterrichten. Wir haben die SLanguages Konferenz, eine Konferenz in der sich alles um das Unterrichten in virtuellen Welten bzw. Second Life, geht. Es gibt EU-finanzierte Projekte wie z. B. Niflar und AVALON. Im Rahmen vom AVALON Projekt haben wir den ersten durch ICC zertifizierten Sprachlehrer-Kurs durchgeführt. Ziel dieses Kurses ist, dass Lehrer einerseits lernen mit Second Life umzugehen, aber vor allem auch lernen, wie sich das Unterrichten in einer virtuellen Welten vom Präsenz- oder anderen Online-Unterricht unterscheidet. Die Lehrer, welche alle qualifizierte und erfahrende Lehrer im “Real Life” sind, müssen in ihrer Präsentation aufzeigen was in ihrem speziellen Fall ihren Unterricht in Second Life rechtfertigt. Der Kurs besteht aus einem theoretischen und praktischen Teil und am Ende muss neben einem schriftlichen Bericht und der Präsentation auch ein Demo-Unterricht stattfinden. Das Ziel ist die Qualität des Sprachenunterrichts in virtuellen Welten zu erhöhen, virtuelle Welten pädagogisch sinnvoll einzusetzen und dadurch den Ruf von Bildung in bzw. durch virtuelle Welten zu verbessern.
Es gibt auch immer mehr Studien, Magisterarbeiten und Fallberichte über das Sprachenunterrichten in virtuellen Welten, welche wir hier sammeln, und ich weiß, dass auch einige an ihrer Doktorarbeit darüber schreiben möchten.
All dies ist für mich ein Zeichen, dass die virtuellen Welten nicht verschwinden sondern Absatz vom Hype mehr und mehr für Bildungszwecke genutzt werden. Dies lässt mich hoffen, dass sich in vielleicht noch ferner Zukunft, diese Technologie normalisieren und zweckgebunden genutzt werden wird und nicht weil es gerade hipp ist.
Ich sage “in vielleicht noch ferner Zukunft”, da es natürlich auch nach wie vor noch Hindernisse gibt. Der neue SL Viewer ist in vieler Hinsicht ein Schritt vorwärts, aber immer noch zu kompliziert. Es braucht nach wie vor etwas Zeit, die ersten notwendigen Schritte zu erlernen (auch wenn dies nicht die einzige Anwendung ist, wo dies der Falls ist) und es gibt immer noch viele technischen Probleme, vor allem mit der Audiofunktion. Es ist also nicht möglich, dass man im Online- oder Präsenzunterricht sich für eine Aktivität mal schnell in SL einloggt.
Es sind aber nicht nur technische Probleme. Viele Lehrer, haben in SL eine neue Einkommensquelle gesehen. Es wurde ihnen gesagt, dass es dort bereits tausende Schüler gäbe, die in SL Sprachen lernen wollten. Das stimmte auch und ist vielleicht sogar vermehrt der Fall. Jedoch sind nur wenige dieser Schüler bereit, etwas für den Unterricht zu bezahlen. Vielleicht weil ihnen wiederum “versprochen” wurde, dass es in SL viele Gelegenheiten gibt kostenlos seine Sprachkenntnisse zu verbessern. Was eigentlich auch stimmt. Neben der Möglichkeit formellen Unterricht zu nehmen, ist der Hauptreiz der, sich mit Menschen aus anderen Ländern treffen und unterhalten zu können. Auch Unterricht mit qualifizierten Lehrern gibt es oft kostenlos, da viele Lehrer selbst noch am Lernen und Experimentieren sind. Was aber nicht heißen soll, dass kein Geld verdient wird.
Man kann denke ich mit einer gewissen Sicherheit sagen, dass es mehr und vielleicht auch bessere Alternativen zu Second Life geben wird. Es gibt auch mehrere Projekte, in denen virtuelle Welten speziell zum Erlernen einer bestimmten Sprache (z. B. Spanish und Französisch) programmiert werden und ich bin gespannt auf die ersten Beta-Versionen. Sprachenlehrer und -schüler sehen viele einzigartigen Vorteile, die virtuelle Welten für den Sprachenunterricht haben, aber wir sind alle noch dabei zu experimentieren. Es ist und bleibt spannend! 🙂
When I started exploring Second Life in 2007 to find out whether it had to offer something for language teaching and learning, I didn’t know anybody in SL and only made slow progress, which was very frustrating. You can read more about my first steps and experiences in these blog posts:
During an EVO session in 2008, we visited SL and I finally met some language teachers who were also interested in SL’s language teaching and learning potential. Although, some Webheads had met in SL for some time, there didn’t seem to be any meetings anymore. Two friends and I wanted to meet regularly to explore SL together and share our knowledge. This led to the founding of the SLExperiments group in the spring of 2008. Read about how we started and some SLExperiments activities in these posts:
We had regular weekly meetings in SL for one and a half years and learned a lot together. We have also been collecting resources on the SLExperiments wiki like links to papers, books and articles related to teaching in virtual worlds.
Meanwhile, many more language teachers have joined SL and through the SLanguages conferences I have met more teachers who had already been in SL much longer and had had experience with teaching. There were also some universities and SL “schools” offering language courses. However, most teachers seemed to work on their own.
One interesting community was Second Life English, whose founder is Kip Yellowjacket and who has an island in SL which is dedicated to language teaching and learning and a web presence. Kip has been quite successful in creating a community of teachers and learners.
Cypris Chat and English Village (which is probably the oldest community) have a similar concept and bring together teachers who want to learn teaching in SL with students who want to learn or practise their language skills.
Then, there are the two EVO sessions VWLL (2009) and TLVW (2010) which brought several hundred teachers interested in language teaching in SL together and some stayed active and even started teaching after the session. (VWLL and TLVW Nings will cease to exist soon. We will move the content to our wiki, which we will make public soon).
More organizations and universities have become interested in virtual worlds. This resulted in EUROCALL and CALICO to join forces and create a virtual presence in SL and online. Then, there are the EU-funded projects AVALON and NIFLAR. AVALON has a web presence and an island in SL. One of their aims is training teachers to teach languages in virtual worlds in a pedagogical sound way and to create a teacher community for continual support.
It is wonderful to have so many individual teachers and communities in SL now. Many of us are members in several or all of these communities. However, there is also a downside, it is impossible for many of us to be active in all of them.
So, recently, we have decided to bring the SLExperiments and AVALON members together and start having regular meetings twice a month at different times. We hope this will boost participation and help build a stronger community who can share their knowledge, test activities with peers, and share lesson plans and resources.
Both communities and their platforms will continue to exist and members can, of course, have other meetings besides the two mentioned above.
Do you know of other language teacher and learner communities in SL which should be mentioned here? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Are you a member of a teacher community in SL? If so, can you tell us what benefits it has has for you and what kind of activities you do?
In a previous post, I described a tour of Makkah and Al-Andalus on which I took teachers who were participating in the Teaching Languages in a Virtual Worlds workshop. Anne Fox from Denmark, who is a fellow Webhead and participant in the TLVW workshop included part of this tour in the popular podcast Absolutely Intercultural, which she produces together with a German colleague.
She wanted to highlight intercultural aspects of the TESOL EVO sessions in this particular podcast
“since it draws people from all over the world both as moderators and as participants and is built on the voluntary efforts of a growing band of enthusiasts.”
The other two session that are mentioned are Becoming a Webhead (BaW) and Multiliteracies.
Absolutely Intercultural has been nominated for the European Podcast Award in both Denmark and Germany and you can still vote.
Last year, I participated in an EU-funded teacher training Project in Second Life called MUVEnation. One of the activities we did was to collect, test and describe educational tools in SL. These were compiled and reviewed and will soon (probably end of March) be published in a book as an Open Educational Resource under CC licence. There is more information on the project website.
Here is a list of all the dissemination activities of the MUVEnation project.
Yesterday, I showed several possibilities how to use the new SL viewer function “web on prim” to browse websites and write collaboratively.
Another important function would be to be able to show slide presentations in Second Life. This is often necessary when students practise giving presentations in English.
Here is a short video showing a fully functional Google Docs presentation fullscreen on a prim:
Update 28 February 2010
Today, I tested with a colleague whether it is possible for others to see the slideshow and whether it is synchronous. It turned out that the former is possible what the latter is not. That means, the presenter would have to say which slide he or she is at. That’s not ideal really. So, we will have to look further.
A colleague has set up a wiki where we can post our experiences with media and web on prim and say what works and what doesn’t. So, we don’t have to duplicate efforts.
Yesterday, I tested the new SL viewer with some SL colleagues. I have to say I really like what I have seen so far. Of course, it will mean that we have to relearn some things. But so far it has been relatively easy to find what I was looking for and Linden Lap has already provided short video tutorials showing the new features.
The main novelty and something many SL educators have long been waiting for is the “web on prim” feature. And this is really brilliantly solved now. Not only do we not need any parcel media settings anymore to show websites or stream audio and video, websites are completely interactive: links can be clicked, websites synchronously browsed, pages can be scrolled, one can even log in to Ning, Twitter, etc, and update once status… Collaborative writing tasks on Etherpad are possible. And all of this is set up very easily. It is even possible to play online flash games or use other flash-based tools for more serious work. I also like the fact that we can now not only watch youtube videos directly without any conversions but also many other video types. I have my own videos on vimeo and can show these in SL now!
This will not only make educators lives much easier but will make many tools like clunky whiteboards and slide presenters redundant. Uploading of slides will also not be necessary anymore, except if one wants to use the textures for building. This will make it much easier to assign tasks like having learners do presentations or talk about pictures/snapshots. So far, it cost money to upload their slides and meant they had to learn how to do this or send their slides to the teacher who then had to upload them — a waste of time and money.
(Click the icon on the left of the word “vimeo” to watch it fullscreen.)
I am sure once we have gotten used to the new viewer, we will come up with many other activities that can be done more easily now or that were not possible at all in the past. This will, however, only be possible when everybody in a class uses the new viewer.
Having said that, just because we can browse the web in SL and do all that cool stuff does not mean we have to. I often use no tools at all in my classes as SL has to offer a lot on its own. However, I do occasionally miss a good writing tool. So, being able to do that now with Etherpad, is one of my favourite new functions of this new viewer.
I believe that the new viewer is indeed easier to learn to use for new users. This will make it easier to bring learners into SL without having to spend too much time explaining the User Interface.
I am sure there are still some things that need to be sorted out (e.g. with the old active speakers list it was faster to mute several people), but this is the beta version and we have the chance to provide feedback before the final version is released.
Anyway, these are my first impressions. Have you tried the new version yet? Seeing what you can do now, can you think of how to use these for language teaching/learning activities? Will these change the way you have taught or do you use the Second Life environment without any such tools anyway and it won’t make any difference?
This question (in a more general form; not related to ELT) crops up every now and then on the various Second Life educational or research lists or other SL education platforms and among among individual teachers. Often it is a question asked by teachers who are not in SL and want an answer to this before they decide whether it’s worth spending their time on SL or virtual worlds. But SL-/virtual world-experienced teachers are also asking themselves this question and rightly so.
The same question was asked by Wlodekzimierz Sobkowiak during the EVO Virtual Worlds and Language Teaching session and generated quite a lot of discussion (you can find a collation of all contributions here) and again in our EVO session Teaching Languages in a Virtual World this year.
I’m not going to attempt to answer it in this post. Firstly, I should actually be working on something else rather than writing a blog post … and secondly, in this form, this question cannot be answered in my opinion.
I have read through the discussion several times and there was always this feeling that everybody was talking about a different aspect of SL relating to their own context but without really saying it. This made it impossible to come to terms with the seemingly simple question. After all, if we have been spending so much time in SL, there must be something that we find is worth our time and energy, right?
One statement or question related to the one above that I keep hearing is “why use SL if we replicate real life activities?” And usually there seems to be agreement among many educators that this certainly isn’t the best use of SL. But I kept asking myself “for whom”?
I believe that what has been missing in all of these discussions is the context.
Before we can answer this question about “added value”, we have to know the context in which someone (teacher, learner, …) wants to use Second Life or any other virtual world (or any technology for that matter). Two such contexts (and there are many others) are the mode of delivery of a course and the location of the students:
a) face-to-face class
c) face-to-face and in a country where the target language is spoken
d) face-to-face but in a country where the target language is not spoken
If the context is b) for example, you can justify using SL to replicate situations and activities that you would do in a face-to-face class because in such a situation, SL serves as a means to close the spacial distance between the learners and the teacher (compared to web-conferening and similar tools). The teacher and learners can be in one place and actually do things together (e.g. field trips). It is not (exclusively) used to add anything to the methodology. Though hopefully this would follow.
If you teach English in let’s say the US or UK and your students have paid a lot of money to be there and to immerse themselves in the language and culture, you better have some very good reasons to take them to SL. I’m not saying that there aren’t any but these would certainly not be the same as for situation b).
So, we cannot automatically dismiss activities as being too traditional or too real-life like (and thus less appropriate for a virtual world) without having a clear idea of the situation and the aims of a particular group of students and their teacher.