Jul 17

Course 1 – Lesson 3

Direct link to lesson plan

Small details do matter

I was adding one more flag to the row of flags when I realised that students would be able to find the names of the countries by simply right-clicking the flags and choosing edit. While they might not do this, it was a possibility and would spoil the fun. So, I quickly took copies of the original flags and then changed the names of the ones I had set up.

Crashing students and a bit of lag

These are the usual ingredients of SL classes. So nothing unusual happened in this lesson. 

Number of students

fluctuates highly (this time I forgot to send reminders, too). One student had forgotten about the class but was in SL. He said he can join us but cannot use voice because his wife was sleeping in the same room 🙂 These are things online and Second Life teachers and learners have to deal with 🙂 This is why I had the students work together as one group or as individuals.

What went well?

Everything actually. The lesson plan was kept simple and allowed for a relaxed slower paces lesson than the past, two. I also “leaned back” a bit and allowed students for space to express themselves freely. I kept instructions to a minimum and let them work out the details by communicating with each other.The students seemed to appreciate this and group dynamics were great.


Although students arrived late, there was enough time for all stages as I hadn’t packed the lesson plan with activities but planned in lots of time for the game and discusions. In addition to that, only few students came to this lesson so that had plenty of time to for the discussions.


We were joint by two onlookers. I invited them to join and help my students. They were very interested but were French and couldn’t speak English.

Peer correction

In class, I also refrain now from correcting too quickly. I’ve realised that the stronger students help the weaker ones and type corrections when I take my time before correcting.  Ex: We were reviewing countries and nationalities at the end of class. One student had to type in a country name and another the nationality.. One student typed “France” and another typed  “Franch” as nat. A third student corrected, copying the way I corrected someone before, typing “Fr..nch”.

Update, 19 July 2008

Beware of cheaters 🙂

In one stage, I had planned for pairs of students to practise countries and nationalities by standing on different sides of the notecard displayer, one student facing it and quizzing the other. It is important to know, that students could cheat here. Using camera controls, they could be standing on one side but looking at the other 🙂 I wish we had had that when I was in RL school 😉

Update, 24 July 2008

Student Feedback

Students learned a lot of new words and it was the right level for everybody. One student says they didn’t practise speaking enough and states sound issues as reason. Best activity according to several students was rying to find the countries the flags belong to because it required a lot of movement so it was fun. What one student didn’t like in this lesson was the fact that the number of attendants in this lesson (four) was small.


Jul 15

Tip 8 – Organise your inventory!!!

Organise your inventory very well. This is extremely important.
Rename your notecards, objects, Landmarks, etc. so that they make sense to you.
Create folders and sub-folders. As an example:

Notecards folder

SL101 course notecards sub-folder

SL101 Lesson 1 sub-folder

      • SL101 Lesson 1 note 1 overview
      • SL101 Lesson 1 note 2 instructions task 1
      • SL101 Lesson 1 note 3 language/vocab
      • SL101 Lesson 1 note 4 homework

Do the same with your educational tools, objects, landmarks, etc.

You could also create one folder for your course and then sub-folders for notecards, objects, textures, etc. instead of using the default folders that SL gives you. 

Jul 15

Tip 7 – Do not give long instructions orally

Do not give longer or complicated instructions only orally, especially not in lower level classes. Instead write the instructions on a notecard and display them using a notecard displaying tool. Advantages:

  • Students can follow what you are saying by reading the notecard 
  • Students who cannot hear you can still read the instructions
  • Less explaining needed thus less Teacher Talking Time 🙂
  • Fewer questions will arise and thus there will be more time left for the actual activity.
Jul 15

Tip 6 – Keep lesson plans flexible

Keep your lesson plans flexible! I know this is something we have to do in Real Life, too. It is even more important in SL because more unexpected things happen and there are often technical issues that cost time. In general, you have less control of the class and the environment than in RL.

However, this does not mean this is something negative or a disadvantage to RL classes. To the contrary, if you are flexible and keep your lessons flexible and if you are confident enough as a teacher and SL resident, the uncertainties can make the teaching and learning events in SL much more authentic and fun. The outcome might be different from what you had planned but as long as learning takes place and we keep relaxed about not having all the control, everything is just fine.

When planning flexibility  into your lessons always keep in mind what your main aim(s) or objective(s) for this lesson are. So that when you have to leave out a stage it is not one that was important for the main objective(s). If you don’t think in advance about what you could leave out, shorten or change, what often happens it that there is no time left for the last stages, which might be more important than some of the previous ones. 

Jul 15

Course 1 – Lesson 2

Direct link to lesson plan

Technical issues

We had extreme lag and sound issues at the beginning of this session, which cost us a lot of time. Students kept crashing, logging off and back in. I started out with 4, then 6 students and at the end I had around ten, including three new students, who appeared in the second half of the session. Two of the new students participated immediately, the third just observed and didn’t talk. After the lesson, I had a private chat with him and he told me this was all new to him and he would join the class.

Adept lesson plan

The loss of time meant I had to adept the lesson a bit. I did this in the following way:

  • Instead of having students work in groups and come up with definitions and quiz each other, I gave the definitions and students wrote answers into local chat.
  • Instead of eliciting how to describe rooms, I simply showed the notecard and went through it quickly. This was OK because it was not a new concept and students did use the language correctly in the following activity.
  • I left out the recapping of the lesson.

The first two points led to more teacher talking time (TTT) than planned.

What else wasn’t so good

I wanted to introduce a bit of competition into the building exploring activity. As there were only few students at the beginning of the lesson, I decided to have two teams – the boys and the girls. Interestingly enough, the girls worked together fine and did the task without asking many questions but the boys seemed to work alone, didn’t know what to do and had a lot of questions.  I don’t know whether this is a gender issue or partly due to the fact that the girls’ English is a bit better than most of the boys’.

Unfortunately, I could not monitor the activity as I had planned because at that time new students arrived (some who were late and some completely new). So, I quickly explained the task and send them off. At the same time, I also received several IMs and had to reply and ward them off (they were not student IMs). I think receiving IMs during a lesson is one of the most distracting things for a teacher.

What went well

First of all, the students and I had a lot of fun during this lesson and everybody participated very activly. Which again proves that lessons in SL need to be dynamic and interactive. Students do not enjoy sitting and listening to a lecturer for an hour in Real Life, less so in Second Life.

In this session, students had to walk a lot and explore a large building and find different kinds of rooms and furniture. All students accomplished the tasks and I had the chance to clarify some words and talk about some differences (e.g. reception/lobby; meeting/conference room, toilet/bathroom). Students had no problems knowing which rooms I was defining. 

Students had to work as a team in two of the tasks and I told them to really work together and share the work. It was great to see that they did and used language to negotiate (e. g. “so you have the first floor and i will get the second ok?”)

The last activity was to look at six pictures of very different living rooms and decided which they liked and why. It was a good idea to set these up as separate picture boards in the garden so that students could walk around and did not have to sit and look at a board with many pictures on it (which would have cost much less money to upload).

Students had fun talking about their favourite rooms and they used the language for stating their opinion, agreeing and disagreeing politely. They participated so actively at this stage because they really had to say something and had choice (of picture/room). 

Nationality of students:

Turkish, Egyptian, Qatari, Saudi Arabian, Indian

As the course was mainly announced through IOL’s website and group notices, most students are from the Middle East. IOL has many American members as well, but they speak English so we intentionally planned the lessons for a time that would be convenient for Turkish and Middle Eastern students. 


It was good that my lesson plan was flexible enough to make up for the lost time. It is very important to plan dynamic, interactive lessons in which students have to move a lot. Giving students choice makes them participate more actively. I think 8 – 10 students is a good number. Because of this and because we had two lessons already, I have announced that I won’t accept more students into this course.

Update, 17 July 2008

Student feedback

Very positive. They all enjoyed every activity, learned new words, most of them say they had enough opportunity to speak. One student would like to speak more and write more. This is interesting. It’s probably a students who needs English for their studies or job (the survey is anonymous, so I can only guess). Another student would like to have more conversation in class and speak after class. I have already planned more student talking time (storytelling, discussions, interviews, etc.) for future classes. I also suggested students meets before or after the lesson and chat with each other. In Lesson 3, we will also be looking at ways of how students can improve their English outside class (this discussion will continue in Moodle and I will, then, give them an article where 100 different ways are listed in detail.

Jul 15

Tip 5 – All class members and teacher are friends

All course participants should be asked to add everybody else including the teacher to their friends list. This is necessary for pair and group work or when students need to be teleported* or teleport others. Also, outside of class, they can keep in touch and practise together or help each other with questions and problems.

*It’s time that the spell checker recognises the word “teleport” and it’s derivatives 🙂

Jul 15

Tip 3 – Sound check

Do a sound check at the beginning of every lesson. Do not assume everybody can hear you just because they could last time. You do not want a student to ask you to repeat all that you said after they finally realised you were talking but they couldn’t hear. If you know from the beginning that some students cannot hear you or others, you can, for example, use local chat more. 

Personally, if students cannot hear me due to technical problems, I will try to and write as much as I can into local chat to accommodate them. If, however, I have announced that the course will be in voice but students have not set it up, I do not help them during the lesson.

That’s why having one session before the actual course is a good idea or, at least, sending students to places where they can get help (tutorials). Another option, if you possible, is to have a technical assistant, at least in the first couple of lessons and only at the beginning of a lesson, say the first 15 minutes. Students can then be told to IM the assistant for technical help.

Jul 15

Tip 1 – No class shouting in voice

Do not have students shout out answers in voice when you work as a whole class in larger classes. It is very difficult to hear who is saying what even if you know the voices of your students. The quality of voice also differs greatly depending on SL that day, on bandwidth, on the qualitiy of the participants microphone, etc. 

Good alternatives:

1. Have students write in local chat (eg. T or a student asks in a game: Which is the longest river of the world?) All students type in their answers in to local chat as fast as they can. This way everybody has the same chance and it is easy to see who was first.

2. If you have “hand show chairs“, which are available in-world for free”, use these. Students who sit on these chairs can raise their hand by simply clicking on one key on their keyboards and everybody can see who raises their hand. 

I do prefer the first option, though, as it is easier and can be done everywhere without having to set up or rez any objects.

Jul 15

Second Life student survey — What to ask?

I have prepared a feedback survey form for my students to fill out after each lesson. So far participation is low although I kept it short and easy and have been reminding them about it. I’m thinking about how I could get them fill it out. Suggestions are welcome.

If you were teaching a class in Second Life, what would you ask them in your feedback survey?

I will publish my survey questions here. But, first, I’d like to see what others come up with 🙂

Jul 14

More unexpected challenges

This time it was Real Life interfering. Around noon somebody in the neighbourhood started playing extremely loud annoying music. Concentrating on work was impossible, so after being patient for about an hour, I decided to find out who was causing this noise. What I found out was not good news. There was to be an engagement party on the street and they were only testing for tonight 🙁 How was I supposed to teach my SL lesson with this noise that sounded as if it was coming from my room?

The real party started at around 6 pm and lasted until 0.00 with non-stop music playing. I had decided to “move“ upstairs where the windows are insulated but where it is also much warmer. I closed all windows and doors, sat in the kitchen and was, fortunately, able to keep the noise away from my students.