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An Accidental Geek


Learning about technologies – a common interest

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to meet the other research project students at our last seminar. I really enjoyed finding out about their projects, how they are coping with it all, and how much they’re really enjoying it, despite running out of time (just like me). I’m sure we’ll see these students in prominent positions in the IT industry very soon. No, I have no idea about their level of skill as an IT student/graduate, I can only tell by the level of enthusiasm. I think ‘geeks’ get a lot of bad publicity – ‘not sociable, nerdy, loves computers only’. What a lot of ….rubbish! Everyone in the room, perhaps except for me, knew exactly what they were doing, how they were going about it, their weaknesses, and strengths. Most importantly, their attitudes, that they loved what they were doing! And it wasn’t just about ‘computers’ but more about how people interact with each other via the computers – web design projects, app development project, research into student and teacher perceptions about computers and the work placements, which are ALL about being sociable and people skills. They knew about interacting with people, probably better than anyone else.

So, what was I doing there? Amongst some of the most clever, hardworking and extremely enthusiastic people, who will probably lead companies like IBM, Microsoft and many others that are not yet established? Apart from feeling really ‘out of place’, I tried to convince them that I could ‘play’ in Second Life, that I could meet people and interact with them with the hope of assisting them with some English language skills. Hence the title of my blog post – an accidental geek. I had no idea I could actually do it, especially at my young age (!), especially as a female and especially as a non-native English speaker!

Thanks to a great community of people, both in FL and SL, I can build my own sofa & create some note-cards in SL! Seriously, this time last year, it was a different story. Now, if only we could introduce this platform [of 3D multi-user virtual environments] to language tutors and students? What would they make of it? Too difficult? Too irrelevant to language learning? I can’t really answer what the tutors would think – perhaps the topic of the next research project…but I think I can talk about what the students feel about it. After all, isn’t learning about them? Isn’t it the students who actually pay for their learning? Even if it’s ‘free’, isn’t their time valuable enough to be considered and appreciated? I’d like to be asked, if I were participating in any learning process as a student.

Asking I did! Peer pressure is a great cure for procrastination. After the seminar yesterday, I said, “Ok, that’s it! No more mucking about! Stop scooping the articles on SL and stop the Google Alerts on latest articles coming to my inbox, and just ask!’ I’ve interviewed more students this week than in the two years I’ve been trying to think of a good title for my project! (I’ll blog about the reasons for procrastination later – I just can’t be bothered right now 😉

Anyway, here’s the line up – one former student from last semester in FL, one new language learner from Cypris Chat, and another new one from Cypris Chat, who’d like to remain totally anonymous. And another learner from Virtlantis. BTW, these locations in SL are communities of practice, literally. These are the locations where volunteer tutors meet up with some willing learners of languages and practise their language skills. (There’s a possibility of moi, oui, moi facilitating a French language session – watch this space!)

I’ve got my notes and assessment sheets for the one student I had last semester in FL, with some inworld screenshots. I’ve got a video recording of a new learner, though I can only hear her, not me (my fault, or lack of expertise in the use of Frapps). Another learner, who was happy to join me in Koru but would like to remain anonymous. I won’t give away what came out of the sessions (yes, I have written it all up, just don’t want to give away the best bits in bits’n’pieces’), but it’s very interesting.

 Back to the research report now. The clock is ticking…tick…tock…tick…tock

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