Jul 21

EUROALL and CALICO in Second Life

EUROCALL and CALICO, or better Graham Davies and Randall Sadler (I prefer speaking about people rather than organization), have been very active in Second Life. They have joined headquarters in SL now and are working together on several projects one of which is collecting and making available resources for language teachers. Graham took the SLExperiments members on a tour of the HQ and showed us among other things the three holodecks.
Holodecks in Language Classes

Randall, who is the master builder :-), also showed me his most recent scene, a most beautiful tree house with lots of built-in goodies which are fun to explore.

Randall's new tree house

Graham kindly agreed to an interview to answer some of my questions which I hope are interesting to other language teachers as well.

Nergiz: Can you describe the EUROCALL/CALICO HQ, what kinds of resources are available there and who can use them?

Graham: EUROCALL set up its HQ building in 2007 with a view to advertising the existence of EUROCALL, holding small meetings and running training sessions for newcomers to Second Life. So far it has served these purposes well. The visitor log shows that many people drop in and pick up notecards providing information about EUROCALL, and we have used the facilities regularly for meetings. My colleague Lesley Shield and I ran the first training workshop for newcomers to Second Life at the EUROCALL 2008 conference in Hungary, and I will be running a similar workshop at the EUROCALL 2009 conference in Spain.

Currently the EUROCALL building has facilities for holding small meetings, with display screens for the presentation of PowerPoint slides and videos. There is also a Horizons holodeck rezzer on the roof. These facilities are available at no charge to anyone who wishes to use them.

The CALICO HQ was set up by Randall Sadler earlier this year, when a plot became vacant next door to the EUROCALL HQ. It was felt that having the two HQs side by side would be useful. We already collaborate closely as professional associations, so it makes sense to work together in SL. On the CALICO side of the sim, 1000 metres high in the sky, there is Resources centre, accessible by the internal teleport system, which contains a growing collection of free resources: clothes for newbies, landmarks of interesting locations, PowerPoint presenters, building resources, etc. There are two holodeck rezzers, both of which use the Horizons system. One is at ground level and one is located on the Skydeck, 2000 metres high in the sky and accessible via the internal teleport system. The holodecks contain a selection of off-the-shelf scenes and some new imaginative scenes built by Randall Sadler. The holodecks may be used freely by visitors.

Groovy Winkler and his dog

Nergiz: Can you say something about the new Virtual Worlds SIG?

Graham: Both EUROCALL and CALICO encourage the formation of SIGs dedicated to special aspects of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).

There are currently three EUROCALL SIGs: Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), CorpusCALL and Natural Language Processing (NLP). The NLP SIG collaborates closely with the CALICO Intelligent CALL (ICALL) SIG.

CALICO has six SIGS: Teacher Education, Second Language Acquisition and Technology (SLAT), Courseware, CMC, Virtual Worlds, ICALL (Intelligent CALL – which collaborates closely with the EUROCALL NLP SIG.

CALICO set up a Virtual Worlds Special Interest Group (VW SIG) in 2008, and Randall Sadler ran the first CALICO workshop for newcomers to Second Life at the CALICO 2008 conference. A wiki was set up for the 2008 workshop participants and another workshop, with accompanying wiki, took place at the CALICO 2009 conference.

At the EUROCALL Executive Committee meeting in March this year I proposed setting up a Virtual Worlds SIG to build on our activities in Second Life and to encourage more people to take an interest in the potential of using virtual worlds in language learning and teaching. Rather than setting up a completely new SIG, I suggested creating a joint SIG with CALICO. This was approved by the Committee, and the first outcome is the joint EUROCALL/CALICO HQ that you can see under development on EduNation III Island.

The joint VW SIG will be formerly launched at EUROCALL 2009, when we will hold our first face-to-face meeting to discuss the way ahead. We have no fixed plans in place yet and we are open to new ideas. Depending on the facilities available, we would also like to open up the meeting to online participants in SL. As with the other SIGs, only EUROCALL or CALICO members can join the VW SIG.

Nergiz: Where does your and Randall’s interest in holodecks come from?

Graham: I cannot speak for Randall but, as a Star Trek fan, I have been aware of the concept of a holodeck since the 1970s, i.e. a Star Trek holodeck is a virtual reality facility for the Starfleet crews and is used for recreation and entertainment purposes. It is capable of generating, for example, simulations of historical events, crew members’ homes back on earth, and facilities for training. And the Starfleet, of course, also used “transporters”, which work in a similar way to SL teleporters, instantly transporting crew members from one location to another.

My first personal acquaintance with a holodeck in SL was in April this year, when Randall set up a holodeck in the sky above his house in SL, using the Horizons system. The holodeck contained a lecture theatre in which he gave a presentation to participants in the EUROCALL CMC SIG conference in Spain. I was impressed by the ease with which a temporary scene could be set up for a special purpose and I immediately bought the Horizons system (L$500) for the EUROCALL HQ. The Horizons system came with a set of ready-made scenes, and in the meantime I have added a few additional scenes that I have purchased off the shelf. The rezzer is currently located on the roof of the HQ.

Holodecks in Language Classes

Nergiz: How would you like the holodecks to be used?

Graham: Holodecks make it easy to set up facilities for special teaching and training events, e.g. Randall’s lecture theatre that he used for his CMC SIG conference presentation in April 2009. One advantage of doing this is that the facility can be located a long way from ground level so that uninvited visitors do not stumble into it accidentally and it is also completely out of earshot from the ground. This is preferable, for example, to setting up such a facility at a ground-level location, e.g. in a public sandbox. There is already a wide range of holodeck scenes that can be used for teaching foreign languages, e.g. a hotel lobby or a restaurant in which students can act out different roles, and also shops and markets – something along the lines of the facilities that exist, for example, in dedicated sims such as the Ciudad Bonita SL sim for learners of Spanish and the LanguageLab sim. Having the scenes available as holodeck scenes means that they can be set up instantly in any location. Such scenes may, of course, be found in various locations in SL, but one has to look for them and they are usually public, meaning that anyone can walk in at any time, which may not be desirable in a teaching session. The Horizons system allows the scenes to be set up almost anywhere, including a public sandbox, either within the Horizons rezzer or independently – rather like the individual builds that can be created with the Builder’s Buddy, Rez-Foo or Rez-Faux packaging tools.

We welcome ideas for creating new scenes that can be made available through the EUROCALL/CALICO holodecks. It does, of course, take a bit of time to create new holodeck scenes, but we are prepared to share what we produce with other teachers. Randall is the expert builder. I have dabbled only with Builder’s Buddy, which I found very easy to use. It took me just one and a half hours to create a furnished log cabin, assembled from items in my inventory, and now I can share it with anyone who wants it. It would make a nice starter home for somebody!

Holodecks in Language Classes

Nergiz: The EUROCALL conference is in September in Spain but there is also a virtual strand. How can teachers participate from a distance?

Graham: The EUROCALL virtual strand made its debut at the EUROCALL 2006 conference in Granada. I was able to experience it at first-hand at a distance as I was recovering from major surgery at the time and unable to attend the “real” conference. The 2006 virtual strand consisted of a dedicated blog and wiki, with facilities for text chat and voice chat (which didn’t work very well at that time as it was still rather primitive). I enjoyed using the virtual strand. I watched all the plenary presentations in streaming video and I was very active in the blog. Since then, we have added new facilities, but we no longer use a wiki as this was not very popular at the 2006 conference and hardly used by participants. The 2009 blog has now been set up, and we will also be using CoveritLive and Twitter feeds.

The plenaries will be streamed this year, and there will be also be exclusive presentations online, along with selected podcasts. If you wish to participate in the full range of the virtual strand facilities there is a charge of 25 euros, but the blog and Twitter feeds are open to everybody. More information can be found here.

Nergiz: Do you have any other comments?

Graham: I would like to add that I find Second Life the most exciting development in new technologies for language teaching and learning that I have experienced since I first became interested in CALL in 1976. I have experienced a huge range of new technologies since the first microcomputers appeared at the end of the 1970s with black-and-white, text-only screens. I have witnessed the arrival of full-colour graphics, audio and video playback and recording, interactive videodiscs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, the World Wide Web, interactive whiteboards, Web 2.0, and now Second Life. See the History of CALL, Section 2 of Module 1.4 at the ICT4LT site.

All the new developments were exciting at the time, but virtual worlds have really got me hooked, both for educational and for entertainment purposes, and especially for making new friends all over the world. As teachers, we often overlook what is going on in other areas of activities in Second Life. As a cancer survivor, for example, I have discovered the excellent work that the American Cancer Society does in Second Life, providing support both for sufferers and carers and supporting the fund-raising Relay for Life initiative. I also enjoy going to live music performances, and I am trying to learn Spanish by visiting Spanish-speaking sims. Just look around. There is so much to see. I also have written a brief History of Virtual Worlds, which can be downloaded from here.

Personally, I was most intrigued by Graham’s “Virtual World History” which says that VWs have a long existence and started with text-based VWs back in the 70s!

Thank you very much Graham for taking the time to answer my questions!

Snapshots by Nina/Nagora

—> Link to all blog posts related to holodecks, Builder’s Buddy and language teaching ideas.

Jun 28

Holodeck or Builder’s Buddy Challenge

Many dismiss holodecks or Builder’s Buddy scenes (see my previous posts here and here) as tools for learning and teaching languages in Second Life thinking they are only good for role-plays (e.g. restaurant scene to practise ordering food). While I personally don’t like role-plays that much, they have their place in language teaching. However, when we started the Holodeck Challenge two months ago, we asked participants to be creative and literary think out of the box when creating scenes for language teaching and learning. And they did!! I am still amazed  what they have come up with — those who built scenes and participants who were at the final event and contributed with their ideas. The final event took place on Saturday, 28th July 2009.

Here are snapshots of some of the scenes and some ideas that have come up:

1. Mary Roussel’s gardens

Holodeck Challenge Final EventHolodeck Challenge Final Event

Mary added some free educational tools to her beautiful class spaces which can be used to brainstorm and write words collaboratively and to display notecards.

Her teaching idea:

Send students to a furnished building to collect furniture names. Then, they come back and write the words on the board, which can then be used to for further activities.

If I had been taught in such lovely class spaces, I might have liked school more.

2. Mary’s Venezuelan market

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

Teaching ideas:

  • Role-play different tourist/sales-person dialogues (not only for buying/selling souvenirs. Tourist could ask questions about the culture, city, life in Venezuela, etc).
  • Learn/teach the names of the objects in Spanish
  • Talk about Venezuela
  • Talk about markets and customs associated with them in different countries/cultures
  • Talk about traveling, holidays, souvenirs, shopping, etc.
  • Talk about handicraft, art, …

Mary created this Souvenir Market because there seems to be nothing about Venezuela in SL.

All participants loved this scene. It is such a lovely scene that it made me want to stay there longer and explore. It also made me want to say something. I wanted to express my feelings and ask questions about the place and objects. I think this is a very important point in language teaching. If emotions and feelings  are involved, then students do want express them and they will more readily seek and accept help to formulate what they want to say in the target  language.

3. Anna Begonina’s shop scenes

Holodeck Challenge Final Event
Holodeck Challenge Final EventHolodeck Chalenge Final Event

Anna teaches Italian in Second Life and always comes up with creative ideas. She said that although, there are a lot of shops in Second Life, shops and items are mostly named in English even in Italian places. Shops also often move or close so you can never really on using them again when you need them for a class. Also, most items in a shop cost money and are not modifiable. This is why Anna has created two different market/shop scenes in which the objects show typical Italian brands and the names of the objects are in Italian. They are modifiable so that objects can be moved, copied, renamed or retextured (e.g. for teachers who teach other languages).

Teaching ideas:

  • Teach/learn names of the objects in display
  • Practise shopping language and dialogues

4. Anna’s kitchen scene

Link to snapshot with kitchen scene

Teaching ideas:

  • Talking about how to cook pasta
  • Talking about Italian food
  • Learning vocabulary related to kitchen and cooking
  • Moving objects from one table to another (e.g. those that are needed for a certain recipe)

—> Check out Anna’s Italianiamo blog where, I am sure, she will post more ideas

5. Denni’s Dogme garden

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

Dennis has created a garden which can be used as a nice place to sit together and talk about anything that comes up in a language lesson. As it is as a Dome garden, he could obviously not give specific ideas or language points that would be taught there.

One thing that is special about his garden is that the some of the textures that he used (like the walls) are from Real Life, which would well be a starting point for discussions as well as the up-side-down trees, which he wanted to “correct” but we thought he should leave as they are 🙂

6. Carolrb Roux’s garden scenes

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

The first one is intended as a meeting space (above).

Link to snapshot of The Owl and the Pussy Cat garden.

The second one is The Owl and the Pussy Cat garden. It is a beautiful place to explore. There is music, hidden objects in the trees and the garden, a snake ladder game and many other things from the poem. Carol even recited the poem for us as a special treat because some of us didn’t know the poem.

Carol’s reading room with some books in notecard form, notecard giver and dropbox.

This is a nice room to sit together to read and talk about a book. It also makes a nice space for other kinds of meetings and discussions.

Carol also generously helped other participants to build their scenes and troubleshoot them during the two months which this challenge lasted.

Teaching ideas:

I don’t remember whether any were mentioned because I had some technical trouble at this stage but I can imagine the following:

  • Have students explore the garden and think what this could be about
  • If students had to memorize the poem, playing in the garden can help them remember the poem.  They can walk from place to place and recite the lines connected to the objects.
  • It can also be simply a fun activity after having worked with the poem as a kind of bonus or reward.

I’m sure Carol and others have more ideas.

7. Nahiram Yakubu’s flea market street scene

Holodeck Challenge Final Event
Nahiram has created this beautiful flea market scene.

Teaching ideas:

I missed most of this because I had to relog but one idea nahiram mentioned when I was back is the following:

Students take out objects from their inventory and set up there stand or area. Then, they can all walk around and explore the market, ask questions about the objects on sale and haggle over the prices of the objects. If students don’t have enough freebie objects in their inventory, they can either be given different boxes full of objects by the teacher or sent freebie shopping in SL first (depending on the available time). If two students have the same object, it could be interesting because they might have different prices and would have to justify why theirs is more expensive.

Of course, their could be an activity first to learn or review the names of the objects or this could come at the end and only if necessary.

8. Shawn’s maze

Another brilliant idea and very different way of using holodecks for language teaching purposes. Shawn has built this (and other scenes) with the Horizons holodeck.

Teaching idea:

Students work in pairs. One student sits on a chair that automatically lifts them up to a certain hight where they have a good bird’s eye view of the maze. The other student stand in front of the entrance of the maze and waits for instructions. The student on the chair gives directions to the student on the ground and guides him either to certain objects that are distributed in the maze or to the exit.

I can imagine adding extra fun to this activity by having them go to certain objects in the maze to interact with them (e.g. retrieve their content, get a copy) and then find the exit. Several teams could compete with each other using IM voice/text chat so that they wouldn’t be overheard by the other teams.

We have tried this activity with some colleagues and it generated a lot of speaking (giving instructions, clarifying, asking for help, providing help, vocabulary, different tenses and structures).

You can see more snapshots in the SLExperiments flickr pool.

There are some more ideas about how to use holodeck or Builder’s Buddy scenes in language lessons in my previous posts here and here.

We have also created a page in the SLExperiments wiki for the Holodeck scenes and ideas.

The Holodeck Challenge is over but this does not mean we don’t accept more scenes 🙂

I know that others wanted to create scenes but couldn’t do so out of lack of time. Maybe some have time during the summer holidays. If so, we are happy to see more scenes and ideas here or in the wiki.

We will find a place where we will deposit the created scenes and language teachers will be able to grab a copy. Whether the creators will offer them all for free to everybody is up to them. As soon as we have agreed on how to make them available, I will post it here.

If you are interested in Holodecks, you might also want to check out what EUROCALL and CALICO are up to at their HQ in Second Life. You can contact Groovy Winkler or Randall Renoir in SL or join one of their in-world groups for more information.

A big thanks to everybody!!!

—> Link to all blog posts related to holodecks, Builder’s Buddy and language teaching ideas.

Apr 22

Holodecks and language learning

In my first post about holodecks, I mentioned some ideas how holodecks could be used for language learning. Meanwhile I had time to create a scene with the Horizons holodeck. In our last SLExperiments meeting, we sat in my holodeck living room I have created and brainstormed some ideas. Here is what we came up with (some ideas depend on the permissions settings which we still have to find out about):

  • Describe a scene students are in
  • Give a description of a scene to students (notecard?) and they build it in groups. Then, compare and talk about the differences
  • Students build scenes collaboratively (or alone), then describe why they built it that way, etc.
  • Instead of describing a scene, give students a description of a situation or a dialogue and have students build the scene which will then be used as to role-play the dialogue/situation.

Building scenes might sound difficult but the advantage of holodecks and the Builder’s Buddy script (see below) is that very basic building skills are sufficient. Students or teachers can use objects that are available as freebies (permissions need to be at least copy/modify) and don’t need to build anything from scratch.

A snapshot of my living room scene:

And here is a short video that shows how the scene is made to appear when needed:

A good alternative to commercial holodecks is the free Builder’s Buddy script. In my first post about holodecks, you can see pictures and watch a video of a scene that I created with the BB script. Should it turn out that it is not possible to build collaboratively with a commerical holodeck or the class has no money at all to invest in (a) holodeck(s), students can all be given the BB script.

Scenes like the living room or the worshop setting are not the only situation that you can use the BB script. Anything from complex building to simple creations (like in the following video) can be built.

When several prims that contain different scripts are linked only the scripts in the last object will be recognized. In such cases, instead of linking them, the BB script can be used

Another advantage of the BB script is that several scenes can be nested. If you are, for example, giving a presentation and you want to reveal  the “scene” step-by-step, this can be done relatively easily. The most important thing to remember here is to use different channels for the nested scenes.

—> Link to all blog posts related to holodecks, Builder’s Buddy and language teaching ideas.

Apr 11

Building holodeck scenes in Second Life

muvenation logoNow, some of you might ask: “What on earth is a holodeck?” Those who have watched Star Trek are familiar with the term and this is how Wikipedia explains it. The article mentions several uses for holodecks (see Application) one of which is training. So, even in Star Trek, they had educational value 😉 Holodecks in SL, can be simple to complex scenes, built in advance and packed up which can then be created “on demand” by one click in a limited space. Unfortunately, the SL versions lack the function of simulating smell… Well, not yet… And, well, yes, it could be a disadvantage, too, but would definitely add to the immersiveness 😀

OK, back to the seriousness of this task. Here is a definition of Second Life holodecks, what they are used for and links to different kinds of holodecks. Loki Clifton, who introduced himself as “the grandfather” of holodecks in SL, was apparently the first person who invented holodecks for SL. He was kind enough to show us different types of holodecks and explained how they are used and demonstrated how to build a scene with a production holodeck. As our task would include building our own scenes, Loki generously agreed to give us all a copy for testing purposes – a 2in1 production holodeck.

Holodecks can be quite expensive compared to other tools in Second Life. There are some free or inexpensive ones but usually with very limited functionality. In most cases, they do not allow the owner to build new scenes, which is what we wanted to do. It is also possible to buy scenes for some holodecks. Again, this depends on the type of holodeck you have (here is an example). A free simple alternative is the Builder’s Buddy script, which functions in a very similar way.

Due to lack of time 🙁 , I have only been able to play around a bit with Loki’s holodeck but built my workshop scene for the MUVEnation task with the free Builder’s Buddy script. You can see the scene below.

Workshop scene packed - Builder's Buddy

Above: This is the box in which the whole scenes is packed. I can take drag it from my inventory on the ground anywhere I am and rez (= create) the scene with a click. I can also allow others to rez my scene. With the BB script, every scene is in its own box (or any other object used as base).
Workshop scene - Builder's Buddy

Above: Here, you can see the rezzed workshop scene (and the green box). The scene normally rezzes within seconds. I can reposition the scene by simply dragging the green box. All other objects then reposition themselves accordingly keeping their distances to each other. One click and everything is cleaned up and back in the box and the space available for other things.

Here is a short video showing how the above scene is being rezzed (built) and then, cleared with one click:

Besides the MUVEnation task, I am also working with a group of colleagues on a holodeck project. Actually two projects joined togehter now, one initiated by Kip Boan who shares his holodecks with the SL English group, the other by Leon Cych. The aim is to explore its uses for educational purposes. Leon has kindly provided me with a professional Horizon holodeck. So, after building simple scenes with the Builder’s Buddy, I will try my hand at building a scene for a holodeck. Here is a short video of Leon demonstrating a holodeck:

And here is another video showing some scenes of Loki’s holodeck:

Language learning and holodecks

The first use of holodecks for language learning that springs to mind is scenes for role-plays (checking in at a hotel, ordering food in a restaurant, etc.). Scenes could also be used for students to learn the names of objects (furniture, plants, animals, kitchen utilities, …). But one can also imagine creating different cozy places for more undisturbed meetings with students or different spaces for students to work in groups. The settings could be changed according to the topic the group is talking about. Students can also be asked to build their own scenes as a kind of project work. One interesting project I have come across is the Literary Holodeck Project where educators built scenes to represent different literary works.

These are only some initial thoughts. I hope working with my colleagues in the projects mentioned above will bring about more ideas. If you have ideas on how holodecks could be used for language learning (or learning/education in general) or you know of other educational holodeck projects, I would be very happy to read your comments.

—> Link to all blog posts related to holodecks, Builder’s Buddy and language teaching ideas.