Nov 07

Taking a break

Daffodil relaxingI 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 🙂

Mar 04

Absolutely Intercultural Podcast

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.

SL TLVW10 Middle East Tour_009

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.

Feb 08

So, what’s the added value of SL for ELT?

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
b) distance
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
e) …

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.

Jan 25

It’s burning? What now?

A Second Life language lesson using a simulation

As part of the “Teaching Languages in a Virtual World” session, I gave a demo lesson using a kitchen fire simulations (this is a Swiss project and you can reed more about in English here und auf deutsch hier).

The following is a report on of this event including

– an outline of the lesson

– necessary preparations for the teacher

– video recordings of the discussion stage in the lesson

– video recordings of the discussion afterwards including teachers and language  learners.

This is a type of lessons that even teachers who are very new to Second Life and have little or no own resources can do.

Preparation

– fire pits, logs to sit on, fire extinguisher (this is all optional)

– notecard with instructions (placed in firepit(s))

– story and questions for pre-task

Lesson outline

1. Pre-task – 20 – 30 min

Invite everybody to sit around the fire.

SL TLVW Kitchen fire 2010_005

Lead into the lesson by telling a person story:

I like sitting around an open fire and chatting with friends…

But, sometimes things can get out of control. As a kid I was told not to play with fire.  Unfortunately, I didn’t listen and one day, when I was alone, I decided to cook something. But then I got caught up in play and forgot about the food on the stove. There was lots of smoke billowing out of the open window and the neighbours called the fire brigade. Fortunately, they weren’t angry with me but happy that I was all right.

Then ask some of the following questions and encourage students to speak:

Have you ever experienced a fire? Would you like to tell us very briefly?

Have you ever had to extinguish fire? How did you do it? If you saw a fire, what would you do? How would you react? Would you try to extinguish it yourself or call the fire department?

Do you know of any dos and don’ts when trying to put off a fire?

2. Field trip to the simulation – 20 – 30 min

-> Click the firepit to get the notecard with instructions

-> Go through instructions, clarify questions.

Fieldtrip to a Kitchen Fire Simulation

Second Life is an immersive environment and is therefore, often used for simulations that would be too expensive, too dangerous or plain impossible in the physical world (also often called Real Life).

Today, you are going to visit and experience a simulation of a kitchen fire. You will be placed in a situation where a kitchen fire starts and will have to decide how to react. The simulation will show you what the result of your reaction would be and whether it was a good decision or not.

Once you arrive at the location, accept the notecard with instructions that you will be offered in the blue pop-up menu.

Do the simulation together with your partner or your group and decide together how to react. You can do it a 2nd or 3rd time to try out different options.

—-> Make sure you have all the ambient sounds turned up for the best experience (see snapshot)