Jul 24

Course 1 – Lesson 5

Direct link to the lesson plan

 

Punctuality

Students arrived very late except two who were punctual. This cost a lot of time but on the other hand, I had a change to chat with those two and they had a change to speak a bit more (they are eager to speak). 

Etiquette in SL classes

One student excused himself and left in the middle of a pair work activity. I wonder if this is plain impolite or something we have to accept in online or Second Life classes. I do not want to say here what his excuse was but it did not sound urgent to me. 

Visitors

We had two visitors but one couldn’t hear me and left after a while. The other was there but didn’t participate except saying hello once and yes that he would like to participate. Later, I completely forgot to teleport him to the new location 🙁

Classroom management

I had forgotten to set up the notecard giver. So, I had to hand out tow notecards to every individual students. Cost time.

Dictation took too long because I was distracted with visitors. The guessing of my dates was too long, too, although I did want them to practise asking questions, 5 dates would have been enough. This meant that there was less time for the story writing/telling.

Transition worked perfectly as I can teleport a whole group of people at once. No time lost here. In RL this would have taken much longer or would have been impossible.

Boys and girls and parcelled houses

For group work, I had the girls work together and the boys. The reason for this was that the boys like to use voice but the girls don’t want to use voice while the boys are around. This is why I chose my house as a location for the groups to discuss and come up with a story. My house is divided into two parcels and what is being said in one cannot be overheard in the other half or from outside. I was hoping to give the girls a chance to practise speaking with this setting. Unfortunately, the girls did still use text chat only and the boys used IM. The stories both groups came up with were very different and funny, though, and students enjoyed the activity.

Conclusion

I told students to be more punctual. In future, I will not wait that long for students to arrive, so they do not get used to my waiting and see they actually miss something when they arrive late. I will not accept visitors after the second or third lesson. They can observe (I cannot prevent that anyway if lessons take place in public places) but cannot participate (maybe some exceptions, e. g. if the class is very small and observers have the necessary SL skills and level of English). I would do the dictation much more quickly and would only use 4 or 5 dates to be guessed and tell students they do not have to guess them in any particular order. I have to find a better way of monitoring students during pair work when they use IM. I will meet with the girls and let them test the parcelled house and see for themselves that they can really speak without being overheard hoping that next time they will use voice.

There is neticet, wiki etiquette, etc. Is there also SL etiquette? What is acceptable behaviour in SL? Are there any guidelines we and our students can follow? Do we have to establish them?

 

Update, 1 Augsut 2008

Student Feedback

All students who filled out the form, state the lesson was the right level, they learned a lot of new words and liked all activities. Most say they practised speaking a lot and one student says it was enough. They all liked the activities. Replies to best activity were: the Coca-Cola story, homework, conversation. There was nothing they didn’t like. All found the homework useful and some also fun.

 

Jul 24

Course 1 – Lesson 4

Direct link to the lesson plan

 

A very classic lesson (plan). Just wanted to test how it would work out in SL. 

Voice issues

There were six students and one visitor. Two students could not  hear me. I could help one  to configure voice quickly. All the other other students could hear me but opted not to speak due to various reasons (technical issues, too much noise at home, too shy) 🙁  This meant a lot of typing for me. 

The SpeakEasy HUD

Thanks God, I had prepared the long text (The story of Coca-Cola) for the SpeakEasy HuD, which is a tool that allows you to type up the text you want to “speak” in advance and displays it line by line by simply clicking on the tool.

What I did was was to tell the story in voice and at the same time show it bit by bit as text in local chat. This was good for the listeners, too. They could also read along if they wanted.

Analysing students’ language

Students’ sometimes not being able to use voice can be an advantage, too. They practise their writing skills (writing in chats is a real-life skill now) and I have a more complete chat log which I can analyse later. However, this course focuses primarily on speaking skills. Therefore, I am always happy when voice does function and students are able to speak. In order to have a record of what students have said, voice can be recorded, too. This would help with analysing their pronunciation and intonation.

After the listening and reading of the text, we did a quick review of the Past Tense and most students knew all about the form and use of it except one student. I gave some more examples and explained the concept briefly and also added links with information about it in the Moodle plus exercises for those who want or need practice. 

The last stage went well and students came up with several inventors. Some used the Internet which was OK. What was not OK was that one simply pasted what he had found into local chat but appologised when I said he should use his own words.

The film will be watched as homework.

Homework

I asked students why they don’t do their homework whether it is time or they don’t like it. Those at the university said they were busy working on a project. In the feedback survey, all students say that homework is useful and fun.

Conclusion

Always except something unusual to happen. Be prepared. Have alternatives. Be strict with no IMs during lesson. People will know with time that when I set myself into busy mode, that I am really busy and do not reply. But I have to admit that I do not know what it looks like on somebody else’s computer/list of friends. Does it say Daffodil Fargis (busy)? You do not receive inventory items that are sent to you during busy mode. So, if you want your students to write a notecard and send it to you, you have to leave the busy mode.

The lesson worked well for the students and feedback is positive but personally it did not satisfy me. As I said, at the beginning, this was a simple transfer of a classic Real Life lesson to Second Life. This is not what I want my SL lessons to be. What I am thinking about for future lessons is how to make grammar come alive using SL’s unique potential. 

Student Feedback

Right level of difficulty for everybody. They learned a lot of new English words. They didn’t practise speaking enough because of the reason I mentioned above. Best activity: Learning about Coca Cola (stated by several students). One students says: “I never thought that coca cola has a history.” (So, interesting content is very important to engage students).

Jul 23

Pre-lesson issues – Vandalism!

Fifteen minutes prior to the lesson, I logged in and found myself in a mess. My newly decorated house that I wanted to hold part of my lesson in had been vandalised. No time to fix it. I was glad I had planned two alternatives for that stage.

When I came back after the lesson, even more furniture was turned up-side down or moved. So, it was somebody who was observing me 🙁 This feels very strange. It is only my virtual home but it was a real person doing this. What for I wonder? 

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.

Time

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.

Onlookers

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. 

Conclusion

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 🙂