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Second Life calling –

17/10/2011

language students communicating effectively across the globe

Last week has been an inspiring week for me, in many ways. The NTLT conference has taught me a thing or two. The following C’s sum it up for me – confirmation, constructive criticism and the Crusaders. The conference confirmed many theories and application of theories when it comes to teaching and learning. That BOTH the learner and the ‘teacher’ must be engaged, stimulated and enlightened for any learning to take place. That humans are gregarious creatures and therefore must communicate with each other to enjoy each others’ company. In other words, if you want to succeed in teaching and learning, you must have a dialogue and keep it going – both with your students and/or teachers. Assessment, feedback, engagement, blended learning, literacy and numeracy…were all on the agenda. You could not help but learn from the participants, the delegates. I think all the organisations, institutions, businesses, entities were well represented. (We all behaved ourselves, even at the conference dinner, dancing the night away. I had to leave early but could see many happy and relaxed people, especially those who made presentations).

As for the constructive criticism, I had a realisation that I take far too long to give feedback to my students! I admitted, in public, at one of the sessions that I couldn’t give feedback to my students within 24 hours. I could feel the disapproved looks in the room. Yes, I’m ashamed 😦 But I wish to overcome this minor impediment. I could list millions of excuses as to why I suffer from this imperfection but that’s not the point at all. So, it’s my new semester’s resolution that I get over it. (That’s a promise to all those millions of people who actually take time to read this blog. Yes, I said millions of people – don’t get cheeky now). Another personal achievement was the inspiration, the muse, the calling that came over me during the course of the conference. I  actually came up with a title for my research proposal! Here it is:

Second Life calling: language students communicating effectively across the globe

It’s the more difficult of the two proposals that I’ve been working on, as it involves collaboration with another institution. So, if they can’t come to the party, I can’t have any ‘findings’. But I believe it’ll be worth it as there’s a need for this research to be done. Even if it’s not by me. What is the research you may ask? Well, I’ve always been interested in finding out about:

  • What the learners (of languages) think of using Second Life – is it really worthwhile? What are their perceptions?
  • What SL can offer language learners – as I see it as a language lab that’s on steroids! Is this the case or is it just a hype?
I’d like to investigate how language learners, from different parts of the globe use SL and whether they benefit from the experience. It all came about during a semester break ‘serendipity’. I was teaching English through computing, and simply asked the students what they’d like to learn. Second Life was one of those options (Please excuse the repetition of a previous post – tends to happen in blogging). We had a good play inworld, visited ”Cypris Chat” and before I could change my outfit, they were talking away! After a while, they also found out about the other languages they could speak (they could speak more than one as well as English). They were having a language exchange, whilst I was trying to add the location to my favourite landmarks.
The point of this spiel is that I found a Chinese Island in Second Life, administered by Monash University, where there are over 300 students learning Chinese. They have bots on the island but could do with some fluent native speakers of Chinese for some real communication. Coincidently, there’re many Chinese students who are learning English in my class, and they could also benefit from having a real partner to talk to. All done in an immersive, 3D multi-user virtual environment. There’s a need for this kind of project to take place. If not conducted by me, then someone else.
“The implication is that while virtual worlds appear to be able to support students’ perception of relevance, and thereby more effective enactive mastery experiences, further research still needs to be conducted to explore the relationship between the affordances of virtual worlds and the instructional design, including the simultaneous real-life and inworld experiences/interactions of students, in the impact on self-efficacy beliefs.” (Henderson et al., 2009)
Whilst the idea has been brewing for a while, the title really came to me during the 3-day conference. Thank you NTLT 2011. See you next year! (Keep your eye on the next blog post for the exciting links from the conference).
Wondering about the Crusaders? That was the theme music they played to make sure everyone went to their selected presentations on time 🙂 Go the Crusaders! Go the All Blacks!
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4 Comments
  1. 19/10/2011 6:34 am

    Looks like a successful Language Teaching model.

    • 19/10/2011 12:31 pm

      Thanks Grid Jumper! We’ll report on the findings, and the joys of researching it all 🙂

  2. Clare permalink
    28/10/2011 1:44 pm

    I really really like this idea! It is something I have been wanting to see happen for a long time – getting our international students involved in helping those wanting to learn their language in return for the opportunity to speak English! all my support with you 🙂

    • 28/10/2011 1:53 pm

      Thanks Clare! The idea came to me after you mentioned in class that there should be a need for a project, any project.
      I believe there is a great opportunity for our students in sharing their knowledge and experience. The best way to learn anything is by becoming a teacher, me thinks 🙂
      It has worked in real life – my Chinese students taught kiwi students how to order food in Chinese, in return for some lessons on travelling in NZ (they were from the tourism school).
      So it can happen virtually anywhere 😉

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