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Risky Business

13/09/2012

Second Chance at Second Life for Second Language Acquisition

Today was the first time I’ve been back in Second Life for a long time, with my first life students that is. I was running out of steam (but we’ll talk about Steam and Second Life in another blog post!) My first life students were running out of steam. You see, it’s nearly the end of the term for us; I haven’t been able to introduce my students to SL for all this time, for one reason or another (mainly due to lack of resources). 

Today I made an executive decision to take my students into the PC Lab where we could access SL on campus. This is the risky bit – you can check, double-check, triple-check, and certain things can still go wrong. On the other hand, sometimes some issues have a funny way of resolving themselves (thanks to those Internet/WWW/IT pixies :-)) I experienced both today.

In the first half of the class I was just lecturing! Yes, I know, I know, I can’t believe some tutors are still doing that, including me. But sometimes it’s just the way it is. I say I was lecturing because I could tell from the students’ faces, glazed looks and even deep sighs – they were probably saying “What are we doing here?” “When is she going to stop?”. I was trying to demonstrate really, showing them how to walk, fly, turn around in SL. Well, I should have known better to keep the ‘lecturing’ to 10 mins max, and just let them get on with it.

During that time, things were going wrong, right, wrong again. I was trying to make up excuses. I was actually working up a sweat! Thinking to myself “I’ve done it now!” “What a way to put off students, just show them something that doesn’t work (one of those things was the disappearance of a sim, which I should have checked before the lesson…) [BTW – it’s not uncommon for many sims pulling out of SL at the moment].

Just as I was about to give up on the whole lesson, I asked my students whether they’d like to join and have a go. There was a reluctant murmur, “ok.. yeah.. why not?”. Of course at that point, I just wanted to disappear into a hole on the floor to save myself the embarrassment.

But something happened. A complete turn around. Every single student, including those reluctant ones, were happily creating accounts, helping each other choose an avatar, landing in a location, flying to another location, and some even changing their appearance all in those first 10 mins! Argh! When am I going to learn? Rule Number 1 – Speak less! Rule Number 2 – Just let them have a go! The two rules actually go really well together according to the Big Book of Teaching!

They were just getting into it and I announced that it was time to leave the PC Lab, because the next class was waiting to come in. One of my students even asked whether he could come to the PC Lab another time, on his own. Yes, was the answer, as long as he had his student ID card with him, and that there was no other class in there. I was just  chuffed that he was so keen. It was just an introduction and that I had far more to do for next time – actually to get them talking, practising, learning some English.

Well, what have I learned from that lesson? Hopefully a lot more than my students:

  1. Prepare your Lesson Plan (LP)
  2. Check your LP
  3. Check your LP again
  4. Less Teacher Talk please
  5. Set the task
  6. Set them free

Teaching is a risky business. But you certainly reap the benefits when it just works out. How do you know? Just look at the students’ faces, you’ll know 🙂

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