Jan 30

Virtual “Makkah” and Al Andalus in Second Life

We are in week 3 of our Teaching Languages in a Virtual World seesion, which is all about real life places in Second Life and how these can be exploited for learning or practising languages or teaching them.


We started out in what I call Virtual “Makkah”, which has a replica of Masjid Al-Haram including the Ka’bah, the most sacred place on earth for Muslims. I explained the objectives for this place in SL, which in short are:

  • Hajj training for Muslims (non-Muslims always welcome to participate)
  • Providing information for Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam
  • Interfaith and inter-cultural events (e.g. the Ramadan events, discussions, lectures)
  • Lessons (English, Arabic,…)
  • Meeting place for Muslims and non-Muslims

Here is the recording of the tour:

This is one of the educational places in SL, which really uses the strength of a 3D virtual world. The alternatives would be to learn the hajj  rituals by reading a book with text and illustrations or by attending a presentation with a speaker showing slides. Here, those who want to learn about the hajj and how and when to do certain rituals, they have to actually do it, which is for most people much more memorable than simply reading or hearing or even watching a video about it.

Here are some pictures of the real Makkah.

Al Andalus

This is one of the most beautiful places I have come across in Second Life, a replica of the 13th century Alhambra in Spain. It has also a very vibrant intercultural, interfaith community. They are trying to bring back to life how it was when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in relative harmony. There is a church, a mosque and a synagogue, a market, and residential areas that can be rented. They also participate in intercultural or interfaith dialogues and organize events, some of which are educational (e.g. lectures) and some more entertaining (e.g. competition and games). It’s a great place if one wants to be part of a community.

Here you can take a Virtual Walking Tour of the real Alhambra in Al Andalus.

And here are some lovely photographs of the Alhambra.

And this is a video of a project by Dancing Ink Productions called Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds which shows virtual “Makkah” and Al Andalus and provides some more information about the places.

Language Learning

Now, how can these places be used for language learning or teaching?

Learners, who want to practise their language skills and are interested in religion, history, intercultural events, etc. can join the communities, both of which are very active. The main language is English, but there are many Arabic and French speakers, too.

In a language course, students can prepare a tour for their peers and teacher. These can be short tours or longer ones prepared by a group of students. It can be extended to a project, where they have to collect information from different sources, interview people, compare the places to RL, etc. and then give a “presentation”, which in this case would be a tour of the place.

Different groups of learners from different countries and cultures can be brought together to show each other places related to their culture or country and discuss differences and similarities to foster understanding and practise language skills at the same time.

Over to you:
Do you have more ideas? Have you used real life places in SL for teaching or practising a language? Would you like to describe how you used it or would use it? Would you use it in a face-to-face class or only with distance learners? Why so?

Leave a comment, please.

Sep 30

Church and Mosque by Teleportation

An intercultural event: “Open houses of worship in Second Life”

Islam-Christianity dialogueIn order to promote dialog between Christianity and Islam, Norbert Kebekus from the Archdiocese Freiburg, Christian Kindler from the Department for Media of the Diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart and I invite to a guided tour of “Virtual Makkah” and the Saint Georg Church in Second Life on 13 October 2009 at 7.30 pm CET. This will be followed by a panel discussion on the educational values of virtual worlds. This event is in German.

This is the German press release:

Kirche und Moschee per Teleport: Interkulturelle Begegnung bei der Aktion „Offenes Gotteshaus im Second Life“

Eine Aktion in der Online-Welt Second Life will den Dialog zwischen Islam und Christentum fördern. Unterstützt von der MFG Baden-Württemberg, Innovationsagentur des Landes für IT und Medien, laden Christian Kindler von der Fachstelle Medien der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Internetseelsorger Norbert Kebekus von der Erzdiözese Freiburg und die Muslima Nergiz Kern am 13. Oktober zu Führungen im virtuellen Mekka und in der Second Life-Kirche St. Georg ein. Die Aktion beginnt ab 19:30 Uhr mit einem Come together auf der
“Baden-Wuerttemberg”-Sim im Second Life. Nach virtuellen Rundgängen in Mekka und der Kirche St. Georg trifft man sich hier zu einer Podiumsdiskussion wieder, um über den Bildungswert virtueller Welten zu sprechen.

Parallel zum Event in Second Life lädt die Katholische Erwachsenenbildung Ludwigsburg am 13. Oktober ab 19:00 Uhr zu einer Begleitveranstaltung ins Haus Edith-Stein, Parkstraße 34 in Ludwigsburg-Hoheneck, ein. Nach einer kurzen Einführung ins Second Life können die Teilnehmer die Führungen in den offenen Gotteshäusern an einer Großbildleinwand mitverfolgen und sich über einen „Anwalt des Publikums“ an den Gesprächen im Second Life beteiligen. Der Medienpädagoge Christian Kindler von der Fachstelle Medien der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart wird vor Ort und mit seinem „Avatar“ im Second Life die Schnittstelle zwischen Real-Life und der virtuellen Welt bilden. Zu dieser Veranstaltung sich besonders Interessierte eingeladen, die sich über die Möglichkeiten virtueller Welten informieren möchten oder die einfach einmal das “Second life” erleben möchten. Näheres untern www.keb-ludwigsburg.de.

Seit Einführung des „Second Life“ im Jahr 2003 haben zahlreiche Religionsgemeinschaften die Chance wahrgenommen, sich in der virtuellen Welt mit repräsentativen Bauten darzustellen und mit kommunikativen Angeboten für sich zu werben. Dabei nutzen sie vor allem den Vorteil niedriger Zugangsschwellen. Unverbindlich können sich die Second Life-Nutzer an Orte „teleportieren“, die im „Real Life“ unzugänglich bleiben und sich geschützt durch die Maske des Avatars (digitaler Stellvertreter) über fremde Kulturen informieren.

Die MFG Baden-Württemberg gehört zu den führenden Innovationsagenturen für IT und Medien in Europa mit Schwerpunkt Informationstechnologie, Software, Telekommunikation und Creative Industries. Ziel ist die Vernetzung von Kreativwirtschaft und Technologiebranchen zur Stärkung des deutschen Südwestens, zur Förderung von Kooperationen in Europa und zur Unterstützung globaler Zusammenarbeit. Im Rahmen des Virtual Worlds & Digital Games Lab ist sie mit ihrem MFG Innovation Park bereits seit 2007 in der virtuellen Welt Second Life vertreten. Dort ermöglicht sie baden-württembergischen Hochschulen und jungen Kreativen, kostenfrei neue Formen des Lernen, der virtuellen Zusammenarbeit und der Kommunikation im dreidimensionalen Internet zu erforschen. Für die Aktion Offenes Gotteshaus stellt die MFG einen Lernparcours zur Verfügung, auf dem Second Life-Neulinge üben können, sich in der virtuellen Welt zu bewegen. Weitere Informationen über die Aktivitäten in Second Life finden Sie unterhttp://virtualworlds.mfg.eu.

Die Erzdiözese Freiburg lotet als erstes katholisches Bistum weltweit die pastoralen Möglichkeiten virtueller Online-Welten aus. In der virtuellen Kirche St. Georg, die nach dem Vorbild der romanischen Kirche St. Georg auf der Reichenau gestaltet wurde, bietet das Secondlife-Team der Erzdiözese regelmäßig Bildungsveranstaltungen und Gebetszeiten an. Weitere Informationen finden Sie unter:www.kirche-in-virtuellen-Welten.de

Frau Nergiz Kern besitzt das Cambridge University Diplom für Englische Sprache in der Erwachsenenbildung. Sie ist Muslima und arbeitet als selbstständige Sprachlehrerin unter anderem in der 3D Welt Second Life. In der Lehrerfortbildung arbeitet Kern mit Sprachlehrer an Möglichkeiten, wie diese Web 2.0 Anwendungen und die 3D-Plattform Second Life zum Lehren und Lernen nutzen können. Sie ist an der University von Manchester eingeschrieben und macht den Master– Studiengang “Bildungstechnologie und TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)”. In der 61. Ausgabe des Fachmagazins English Teaching Professional, vom März 2009, wurde ihr Artikel „Starting a Second Life“ veröffentlicht. All ihre Erfahrungen, Reflexionen und Stundenpläne teilt sie in ihrem Blog https://slexperiments.nergizkern.com mit.

Mar 17

Intercultural meeting in SL

One of the many ways that Second Life can be used for learning and teaching languages and maybe one of the most authentic ways of learning and practising the target language are intercultural meetings. An English teacher from Dubai and a Second Life colleague of mine, Chris Surridge, from Korea have recognised SL’s potential for this very early and came up with a wonderful intercultural project that culminated in a Second Life meeting of their students. Chris repeated this project and linked his students with other cultures after the first successful meeting.

A couple of weeks ago, the topic of Muslim women in SL came up in the SLED list. Somebody was interested in how Muslim women from more traditional cultures were using SL and how their SL lives might reflect back into their RL lives and vice versa. I had several English students from the Middle East in my SL course and know some others from the Muslim community in SL, so I replied to the request. Several other educators who read this message contacted me to ask whether they and their students could meet me and other Muslim women in SL to talk about their lives and career choices and how similar or different they are in SL and in RL, what Islam means to them and why they wear hijab (the Muslim headscarf) in RL and/or in SL. I thought this was a great opportunity for my former students to practise their English with an authentic task and a topic that I knew would interest them. So, I asked and they agreed to meet with the educators and their students.

SL meeting 16 March 2009_001
The first of these meetings with a professor at a university in the US and her Spirituality and Human Behaviour students took place today. Unfortunately, none of her students logged in with their avatars but the professor’s screen was projected so that all students could follow the conversation and ask questions through their professor. There were around 6 Muslim women from the US, Egypt, Syria, UAE and Qatar, and I, of course 🙂 We also had a lady who was not Muslim but dressed like one because she was interested in Islam and a lady from France who was also not a Muslim but belonged to the same Muslim community (Ummah of Noor) which is open for everybody to join. The meeting took place on the Islamonline dot net SIM which shows a replica of the Al-Haram and the Ka’bah in Makkah, the holiest place for Muslims. The meeting officially lasted one hour and the conversation was extremely lively.

SL meeting 16 March 2009_003
Although, this was more an ad hoc, one-off meeting and we had no opportunity to meet the students from the US and have deeper discussions (it was more a Q&A session), the students watched and “listened” very intently (according to the professor) and the Muslim ladies replied to the questions in length and with much enthusiasm. It’s a shame that the discussion board where the US students will continue to discuss this topic is closed to the public and we cannot participate.

With a little bit of preparation and more time, these kinds of meetings can be transferred into real learning opportunities for both sides which go way beyond learning for a subject. How much more authentic can learning become? This is where technology does not get into the way of communication but makes it possible. How else could a group of students from the US have met Muslim women from so many different countries so easily to learn first hand about the lives of these women?