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About KiwiBelma


Mini me 2016KiwiBelma is a virtual world traveller. This blog traces my journey and discoveries in 3D multi-user virtual environments. Introductory video on my virtual classroom.

I’m also an IT Tutor, English Language Tutor and an Education Developer, in sunny Nelson, NZ. I combine all three roles to discover engaging and innovative ways to learn and teach.

I wanted to become a teacher when I was six years old. I had to save up for over a year to buy a portable blackboard (yes, it was black) including the pieces of chalk so that I could ‘teach’ the neighbourhood kids how to write! It was very ‘teacher-centred’ and only a selected few were allowed to write on that blackboard! I’m glad things have changed, and I’m not just referring to the blackboard!

Despite wanting to be a teacher, my first job was a library assistant position. And, yes, I used to get into trouble for reading books, instead of putting them on shelves. When I was undertaking my Master’s in Library Science, I was also working as an assistant at the University library. It was at that time I started giving students library orientations, and I was terrified of public speaking. The students looked like they were not enjoying themselves, distant and uninterested. I panicked so much I left the country and moved to New Zealand 🙂

My library studies were put on hold, and I moved more towards interpreting and translation. I felt it was important to sit for the NAATI exams as I was taking on a lot of translation assignments. In order to prepare fully, I enrolled on the certificate programs at AUT for Liaison Interpreting and Translation Studies. Combining theory and applying it to ‘real-life’ situations immediately made so much sense, and was so rewarding! My training lead into facilitating the Certificate in Liaison Interpreting programme. One of my tasks was writing up scripts for the Lab practice, and all of the content came from my role as an Interpreter at the Refugee Status Branch and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. Of course, anything identifying individuals was modified to protect all parties (including me!)

It was around that time I decided to take on the challenge of completing my CELTA, mostly because I wanted to have an internationally recognised teaching certificate, and also because interpreting and training of interpreters were ‘part-time’. Though every interpreting assignment was extremely intense.

I was privileged enough to kick-start my English Language teaching with a wonderful group of colleagues who have become friends immediately. They were so willing to support and encourage me, and I think they knew that I felt discouraged in teaching English when it wasn’t my native tongue. And I’m still learning English 🙂

It meant sense to carry on with post-graduate studies in Language Teaching, but studying part-time whilst working full-time was hard. It was taking its toll on me personally, and I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough justice to either. There was just not enough time to invest in both fully. I decided to put my studies on hold – again.

English Language teaching industry can be extremely volatile. I think it was quite a number of years before I became a tenured academic staff member as a tutor, which soon followed restructuring due to decreasing number of students wanting to learn English in New Zealand. Both my husband and I had to leave the ESOL classroom during that period.

My travels took me into a totally different industry – IT Training. I was happy to remain a teacher, but changed the content a little bit. The principles of learning and teaching remained I’m glad to say, and it was definitely hands-on. I was also training professionals, who’d take time to train in the use of IT Applications. There were also a few number of International students completing papers on the National Diploma in IT, so it wasn’t a lot of change. Though the deferred Master’s degree turned into a series of Microsoft exams, and the pressure to convince a computer that you can complete the same task in fewer clicks, well, let’s just say that I tried very hard not to let a machine to give me a complex 🙂

In  my current roles of being an an IT Tutor, Educational Developer, and an English Language Tutor, I have access to the best of educational worlds to combine my love of learning, teaching, languages and technology. I couldn’t ask for more really. Then I discovered 3D multi-user virtual environments, as a result of having to change a PD session workshop which was too full! I ‘took the road less travelled’ and went to the session next door. I was totally mesmerised! I couldn’t believe such technology had existed. Can you imagine the possibilities for language learning and teaching, from anywhere in the world? I was like a little kid in a lolly shop! And I was allowed to eat all the lollies as they were all virtual 😉

That was my calling so I undertook a research project in virtual worlds, entitled “Second Life calling: Language learners communicating virtually across the world” which was part of my Grad Dip IT. I’m glad to say that my academic journey in virtual worlds is coming to an end, and I should be graduating at the end of this year. It has been a challenging journey, combining studies and full-time work, but it was all worth it! I enjoyed the journey of discovery, learning, experiencing and sharing. I was fortunate enough to meet other professional academics who have collaborated with me in my research projects, and continue to do so to this day. I believe research/theory is best applied to practice, and vice versa. Both is needed and should be cherished. It’s like ‘Ying-Yang’, and would be empty if either was missing.

While I continue this learning journey, I hope to meet more researchers, educators, learners and learn from each other. My next ‘untravelled road’ is the path of coding and programming, which can be done by anyone, regardless of educational background. My dream would be to see those from non-English speaking backgrounds to take up the challenge of learning to code and programme, and create wonderful software that the world needs. The more the diversity, the better the results. Watch this space 🙂

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.

Look forward to hearing from you.

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