Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Second Life Fifth Birthday Languages Roundtable session 7 July

I attended an interesting session last night in Second life, the roundtable for language teaching. Several very experienced language teachers discussed the benefits and innovations of teaching in Second Life. The panel was made up of
• Dudeney Ge (Director, EduNation)
• Iffaf Ling (Teacher Trainer, LanguageLab)
• Head Teacher (Director of Studies, LanguageLab)
• Daf Smirnov (Spanish Courses, LanguageLab)
• Baldric Commons (Project Leader, British Council)
• Howie Yokishawa (CEO Avatar Languages)
• Calisto Encinal (Glendale Community College, Arizona).
On arrival it took a few minutes to rez there were already a lot of people there and by opening time the sim was full and more people were trying to get in.
Dudeney opened the session by explaining that the first thirty minutes were for the teachers to tell us how they perceive the current situation in teaching languages in Second Life followed by the second thirty minutes being thrown open to the audience for questions.

Everyone agreed that language teaching for beginners is just as difficult in Second Life as anywhere else but the advantages of being able to put people in “real” situations such as hotels, shops, banks etc. made it a good place to teach. Mention was made of the Language Lab’s city and Calisto’s Mi Casa which had been presented at the Slanguages conference in May, both being examples of how being able to take students to something or somewhere virtually aids learning and is impossible in real life.

One of the draw backs to teaching in Second Life seemed to be the skills that avatars need to learn before they can take a full and active part in their classes. Views ranged from people needing just a few hours to twenty hours and even more were expressed. A question was raised about just how much skill was needed, being able to navigate, use voice note cards etc., seemed to be the least and simple building skills to most.

A big question seems to be how much people are prepared to pay for learning in Second Life. There is no answer so far, but it affects the number of trainers needed, the time they can spend on preparation etc. That also impacts on the size of classes, all agreed that a small number of pupils is good, above 12 seemed to be considered impossible, and six seems to be the ideal. One or two trainers for six people for two or three hours a week may make it too expensive to be considered viable by some.

Teaching preparation time seems to be extended when teaching in Second Life, it takes hours to make the interactive resources used for teaching, but I guess the opposite of that is that once they are done they can be used time and time again for different groups of people.

Questions were raised about how the balance of reading, writing, listening and speaking is achieved in Second Life. Listening is what occurs most frequently as learners are listening to the teacher. Reading is achieved though the use of note cards, posters, on wikis and blogs, writing on note cards, IM and speaking essential – though sound can still be an issue as it proved for a couple of the panel!

Someone raised the point of shy learners benefitting form the anonymity of Second Life.

So very interesting, I am sure I have missed most of the important points out, I did not take any notes, must sat and listened and enjoyed it!

1 comment:

Graham said...

Great summary, Carol! Glad you enjoyed it - I did too and thought there were lots of interesting points made.