I 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 🙂
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.
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
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
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.
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.
– 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
1. Pre-task – 20 – 30 min
Invite everybody to sit around the fire.
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)
Think about the following questions while there and take some notes for yourself after the simulation has finished:
1. How did you feel when you first saw the fire start? What was your first reaction?
2. Are you happy with the way you reacted, or do you think you should have done something differently? What?
3. Do you think that such a simulation in Second Life can be effective in training people for real life emergencies?
4. Did you learn anything about kitchen fires or how to react correctly in such a situation that you didn’t know before? What?
(Note that this is quite a realistic simulation that could be rather stressful for someone, especially if they have already experienced a fire. If it makes you feel uneasy, remember that you are in control and can leave the simulation at any time or teleport away).
Once back from the simulation, you will report about your experience with the simulations to your class members using your notes above to help you.
If it is a large group, one group goes first. Those outside can hear what is being said and can use their camera controls to observe what is happening inside. They are asked to take notes to give language feedback later.
Do the activity again with reversed roles.
3. Discussion + language work – 30 -45 min
Say: Before we speak about our experience, we’ll do a quick vocabulary exercise.
You have heard and read many words and expressions related to fire. For the the next task you have 1 minute. I’d like you ALL to type into text chat as many words and expressions as you can related to fire. Start now!
Words that were listed in the demo lesson:
JunCar Static: fire extinguisher
– burn, escape, help, put out a fire, call
– fire department
Werka Ferina: fire brigade
Jim Gustafson: extinguisher
Rhonwen Beresford: brilliant intense incandescent
San Krokus: extinguisher
San Krokus: put out
Jim Gustafson: blanket
San Krokus: firefighters
Werka Ferina: fire extinguisher
Heather8 Devin: fire blanket
Jim Gustafson: fire alarm
Alexandra Ergenthal: alarm, rescue, extinguish, blanket, oil/ grease fire
San Krokus: water
Jim Gustafson: smoke detector
Anza Rosenblum: fire brigade
Anza Rosenblum: put out
Misha Writer: danger, heat, burn
amal Cliassi: fryer
San Krokus: emergency
JunCar Static: burn
Alexandra Ergenthal: escape, fire brigade,roll on the floor
Heimlaga Svenska: smoke
Anza Rosenblum: explosion
JunCar Static: fire extinguisher
Heimlaga Svenska: heat
Jim Gustafson: heat
Alexandra Ergenthal: oven, electrical, water
nahiram Vaniva: arsonist?
Werka Ferina: fear
Astra Martian: hot oil
amal Cliassi: flame
Astra Martian: burning
Astra Martian: blanket
Heimlaga Svenska: alarm sounds
Alexandra Ergenthal: fire hose
Clarify meaning, pronunciation and use of some of the words.
Depending on time and students’ needs work with these words some more or leave this to the language focus stage.
Divide the students into pairs or small groups for the discussion.
They discuss the questions on the notecard (see above).
Teacher monitors and takes notes.
(If possible record these conversations. I will right in a separate post how and also how they can be used for feedback and language work).
Ask everyone to come back together. Some students report about their discussions if times allows for it.
4. Feedback and language focus stage
Peer feedback, teacher feedback, language work according to student’s needs which emerged (We skipped this in the demo lesson).
Extended tasks (after the sessions)
(I usually give the option of doing this in writing or orally)
– report about their experience
– report about a real experience with fire
– answer one of the questions above in more detail
– create a presentation or video about a topic related to fire and safety
– do a role-play and maybe record it (as a machinima)
– write a safety leaflet
Discussion with teachers and learners about the lesson
How did they like it? Ideas for improvements. How they experienced it as a learner. Difficulties…
Your feedback on the lesson and what you heard in the recorded discussion is very welcome.