Direct link to lesson plan
What was good
The actual lesson went well. We had no technical problems. Everybody who wanted was able to use voice and all students (except one at the beginning) could hear me. Sound quality was good. All students with one exception (the one who couldn‘t hear us) participated very actively in the lesson. The female students could hear me and participate in local chat and work together in pairs using private IM/Call. I managed to write part of what I said into local chat for those who could not hear me.
I enjoyed myself and had a good feeling during the lesson. We had one unexpected furry visitor who suddenly flew in and sat down among the students. I said hello and welcomed ”it” but it didn‘t talk 🙂
The main aim was for students to introduce themselves and get acquainted with each other, the teacher and the SL course and start using voice.
The sub-aims: Greetings and introductions; review of question words, question formation and short answers; practising small talk
What students thought
According to the survey, students liked all activities and the lesson in general. They stated that they only learned a few new words but vocabulary was not the main teaching aim of this lesson. I wanted the students to have an easy start. Nevertheless, even at pre-intermediate level students often do not know how to properly introduce themselves and say ”Nice to meet you(,too)” and have a small talk.
Needs working on:
What didn‘t work out well was mingling activities. I had thought that walking away a bit would help but voice and text chat reaches quite far. So muting the others or IM/Call are the best ways to communicate in pairs or groups, but not easy, especially with a group of SL newbies and larger groups. It‘s OK with one partner but in a mingling activity where everybody moves from one person to the next it‘s difficult even for those who have the skills. Some obviously didn‘t know how.
I will have to think of alternative ways of doing mingling activities. It is also definitely worth having one session prior to the actual lessons to go through the necessary SL skills and practise them.
Shortly before the beginning of the first lesson, there were some last minute problems. The announcements for the course were a bit too late in-world. In addition to that, the Arabic article in IOL announcing the course appeared on the day of the course. The good news was that there was a lot of interest but many were new to SL or even had only signed up to SL because of the course. However, in order to attend the classes, they needed at least some basic SL skills. I would have no time to help them during the class. So, besides one person, who I helped directly, I sent potential students to an orientation station which is available in many languages.
My original plan had been that students who subscribed to the course would get access to the Moodle course component prior to the course where there are links to tutorials in-world and online. They would then have had time to learn all the necessary skills. I was even planning to offer one session before the actual lessons to help students with SL skills.
Another totally unexpected issue came up: Some Arab female students from the Gulf did not want to use voice during the lesson. But the lessons will all be in voice. What do do? I contacted the IOL Manager of the Island. They searched the Fatwa bank and found some Fatwas that stated that Islamically this is not a problem. But the students still did not want to do it. I didn‘t want to exclude them, so I agreed finally that they could observe the lessons.
Another problem. When I logged in minutes before the lesson, my skirt suddenly disappeared! I always hear about these embarrassing moments that some teachers have in class in Real Life. Nothing of that sort ever has happened to me so far in RL but here I was without a skirt. I was wearing it but it was invisible). Fortunately, changing into a different outfit helped – off the Kimono and into my Vietnamese outfit 🙂 Just in time. Glad this is much easier done than in RL.
Planning lesson for SL classes is really very time-consuming, especially when one has to start from scratch. This was one of the reasons why I have started meeting regularly with online colleauges in SL and created the SLexperiments Wiki. Besides making the transition to SL teaching and pedagogy and keeping the limitations and strengths of SL in mind, I also have to keep the costs under control. At the moment, presentation slides and pictures for SL have to be prepared out-of-world and uploaded for a cost. L$ 10 for one picture doesn‘t seem too much, but if you plan a whole course it can accumulate. As there isn‘t a tool that would replace a Real Life whiteboard*, on which you can quickly draw a picture or write a sample sentence, lesson preparation has to be very thorough and this also means that there are more slides and pictures than in a regular RL class.
But talking about money, SL residents seem to be very generous people. One day, I was preparing the class, when a lady flew in and started chatting with me. I kind of complaint about the costs of uploading pictures as I was just doing that. When she learned that the course was offered by me free of charge, she donated some Linden dollars. I was speechless! I thanked her and because she is an English native-speaker, asked whether she would like to be a guest in one of my lessons so that students could interview her. She agreed.
For another lesson, I needed flags of many countries. I found some in the onrez shop for a reasonable price. But somehow I had problems buying them. I contacted the owner, Waldo Schumann (SL name). First, he tried to help me solve my problem but then he decided to donate the flags 🙂 I was very happy, as you can imagine.