I am an English teacher and teacher trainer with an interest in improving learner motivation and providing my students with the best of "traditional" and new ways of learning and teaching a language.
On this blog I write about learning and teaching languages in three dimensional virtual worlds.
Your comments and constructive criticism will make this project more valuable.
Language teachers are welcome to use the lesson plans and provide feedback on how they worked out for them (see the CC license below).
I apologize for the ads which Edublogs.org inserts into the most recent posts on free blogs. I have not updated my pro subscription as I am planning to make some changes to this blog and my other online spaces.
This question (in a more general form; not related to ELT) crops up every now and then on the various Second Life educational or research lists or other SL education platforms and among among individual teachers. Often it is a question asked by teachers who are not in SL and want an answer to this before they decide whether it’s worth spending their time on SL or virtual worlds. But SL-/virtual world-experienced teachers are also asking themselves this question and rightly so.
I’m not going to attempt to answer it in this post. Firstly, I should actually be working on something else rather than writing a blog post … and secondly, in this form, this question cannot be answered in my opinion.
I have read through the discussion several times and there was always this feeling that everybody was talking about a different aspect of SL relating to their own context but without really saying it. This made it impossible to come to terms with the seemingly simple question. After all, if we have been spending so much time in SL, there must be something that we find is worth our time and energy, right?
One statement or question related to the one above that I keep hearing is “why use SL if we replicate real life activities?” And usually there seems to be agreement among many educators that this certainly isn’t the best use of SL. But I kept asking myself “for whom”?
I believe that what has been missing in all of these discussions is the context.
Before we can answer this question about “added value”, we have to know the context in which someone (teacher, learner, …) wants to use Second Life or any other virtual world (or any technology for that matter). Two such contexts (and there are many others) are the mode of delivery of a course and the location of the students:
a) face-to-face class
c) face-to-face and in a country where the target language is spoken
d) face-to-face but in a country where the target language is not spoken
If the context is b) for example, you can justify using SL to replicate situations and activities that you would do in a face-to-face class because in such a situation, SL serves as a means to close the spacial distance between the learners and the teacher (compared to web-conferening and similar tools). The teacher and learners can be in one place and actually do things together (e.g. field trips). It is not (exclusively) used to add anything to the methodology. Though hopefully this would follow.
If you teach English in let’s say the US or UK and your students have paid a lot of money to be there and to immerse themselves in the language and culture, you better have some very good reasons to take them to SL. I’m not saying that there aren’t any but these would certainly not be the same as for situation b).
So, we cannot automatically dismiss activities as being too traditional or too real-life like (and thus less appropriate for a virtual world) without having a clear idea of the situation and the aims of a particular group of students and their teacher.
As I mentioned in part 1 of the recording video blog posts, I have only recently started recording in Second Life. It had never crossed my mind that I might need to worry about copyright when making recording in SL. I had simply not thought this might be something to have to consider. I was made aware of this when I came across a video tutorial about copyright by David Miller, who had left a comment on my part 1 recording post.
For legal reasons, you usually have to ask creators of buildings, clothing or attachments if you may use it in the movie. I think for school it’s not as important as for the movie (since you don’t publish it worldwide). I personally would just ask the owner of the place. In most cases they will be delighted if you like their place for a class.
I would also check if a place will be used by other people on a regular schedule. For example, most SL schools are open for everybody to use their sandboxes and classrooms, as long as your class don’t clash with one of their scheduled classes.
From my experience, most of the owners of SL places like people to come and use it, because they will benefit from the traffic (it will increase their search rank in the SL search). And technically, you cannot break anything in SL accidentally and sandboxes have auto-return so that you won’t harm anybody if you forget to pick up some of your prims after class.”
Now, this answered some questions but also raised more for me. So, I asked Marian:
“I am a photographer in my first profession and I know a bit about copyright issues but was surprised to find that I would have to ask creators in SL when making recordings. I mean, in some cases, I would do it. If an object, house or island played a major role in my recording, I would certainly ask for permission. But the house may be full with objects (e.g. furniture, deco) from all kinds of creators. Would I have to go and ask all of them for permission? In RL, you wouldn’t need to, would you?”
Marian’s very informative reply:
“Yes Nergitz, that’s right. You won’t ask in real live if you have a desk, a chair or a suit in your picture or movie. But it’s different if you see the label “Armani” on the suit or if there is a bottle “Pepsi” somewhere in the picture. You definitely would better get permission to use these brands if you want to publish photos or videos showing these brands.
In SL, you usually don’t ask for every desk or chair, as long as it is nothing special. But if you do a scene in a fancy castle for example, and the creator of this castle will recognize it in your photo/video, they may be able to sue you because you used their creation to create a work on your own and you publish it. It’s even worse if there is a brand name on the object. For example if you buy Nike shoes in world, you cannot be sure the creator has Nike’s permission to sell their brand in SL. So if they will see your photo or video, they will first come after you because you used their brand in a photo/video without written permission.
For me as a director and producer, this was the hardest part in machinima to get all these permissions, because I needed to get them in writing. Technically, I should have sent out papers to sign, but I just used notecards and kept the returning notecards so that I had a proof that I’ve got permission. After the first movie, we decided to use only material that we created ourselves because it’s sometimes too difficult to contact the creators.
This usually is not so important if your photos/videos will be viewed in a small community like in your classroom. But if your video becomes famous on youTube for example, you can face the risk of a very expensive lawsuit if you overlook something.
In my movie “the future is hear” you see some Pepsi-Machines in the background that I have blurred out. The producer who took the job in the first place wanted to get permission from Pepsi (she claimed that she know some people there, but in the end we found out that these people did not exist), so after we could not get the written permission, I decided to remove all brand names form the movie. I think it took me one or two full days to accomplish that for the already finished cut
For school projects, it might be less difficult, because some countries have the concept of “fair use” which protects educators from being sued. In Germany we don’t have this, so we have to be extra careful :)”
This makes perfect sense and is not that different from RL then. I can imagine how much work it must have been to find and get permissions from all the creators (or blur the brand names).
I’m not intending to make machinima myself (although there is such a project at the school I occasionally teach) but I have started making tutorials. So i’ll keep these things in mind.
Another related issue is asking for permission when recording students, trainees or anybody else who happens to be around when recording, like I did in the first recording here . Again, this is similar to real life and permission has to be asked before recording and especially before publishing them. I also try to remember to hide avatar names that normally show above each of them but it is still often possible to recognize who they are and it is safer to ask for permission.
This is what Graham Stanley has to say about recording students and getting their permission:
“When we filmed (and recorded) students during the AVALON Business English course, we asked for permission to do so and received it verbally. But we also asked all the students involved to sign permission forms too just in case. Even though the machinima is only intended for use with teachers in the Teacher Training course, it’s only ‘fair’ that you do what you can to get permission from those people involved”
We are in week 3 of our Teaching Languages in a Virtual World seesion, which is all about real life places in Second Life and how these can be exploited for learning or practising languages or teaching them.
We started out in what I call Virtual “Makkah”, which has a replica of Masjid Al-Haram including the Ka’bah, the most sacred place on earth for Muslims. I explained the objectives for this place in SL, which in short are:
Hajj training for Muslims (non-Muslims always welcome to participate)
Providing information for Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam
Interfaith and inter-cultural events (e.g. the Ramadan events, discussions, lectures)
Lessons (English, Arabic,…)
Meeting place for Muslims and non-Muslims
Here is the recording of the tour:
This is one of the educational places in SL, which really uses the strength of a 3D virtual world. The alternatives would be to learn the hajj rituals by reading a book with text and illustrations or by attending a presentation with a speaker showing slides. Here, those who want to learn about the hajj and how and when to do certain rituals, they have to actually do it, which is for most people much more memorable than simply reading or hearing or even watching a video about it.
This is one of the mostbeautiful places I have come across in Second Life, a replica of the 13th century Alhambra in Spain. It has also a very vibrant intercultural, interfaith community. They are trying to bring back to life how it was when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in relative harmony. There is a church, a mosque and a synagogue, a market, and residential areas that can be rented. They also participate in intercultural or interfaith dialogues and organize events, some of which are educational (e.g. lectures) and some more entertaining (e.g. competition and games). It’s a great place if one wants to be part of a community.
Now, how can these places be used for language learning or teaching?
Learners, who want to practise their language skills and are interested in religion, history, intercultural events, etc. can join the communities, both of which are very active. The main language is English, but there are many Arabic and French speakers, too.
In a language course, students can prepare a tour for their peers and teacher. These can be short tours or longer ones prepared by a group of students. It can be extended to a project, where they have to collect information from different sources, interview people, compare the places to RL, etc. and then give a “presentation”, which in this case would be a tour of the place.
Different groups of learners from different countries and cultures can be brought together to show each other places related to their culture or country and discuss differences and similarities to foster understanding and practise language skills at the same time.
Over to you: Do you have more ideas? Have you used real life places in SL for teaching or practising a language? Would you like to describe how you used it or would use it? Would you use it in a face-to-face class or only with distance learners? Why so?
As part of the “Teaching Languages in a Virtual World” session, I gave a demo lesson using a kitchen fire simulations (this is a Swiss project and you can reed more about in English here und auf deutsch hier).
The following is a report on of this event including
- an outline of the lesson
- necessary preparations for the teacher
- video recordings of the discussion stage in the lesson
- video recordings of the discussion afterwards including teachers and language learners.
This is a type of lessons that even teachers who are very new to Second Life and have little or no own resources can do.
- fire pits, logs to sit on, fire extinguisher (this is all optional)
- notecard with instructions (placed in firepit(s))
- story and questions for pre-task
1. Pre-task – 20 – 30 min
Invite everybody to sit around the fire.
Lead into the lesson by telling a person story:
I like sitting around an open fire and chatting with friends…
But, sometimes things can get out of control. As a kid I was told not to play with fire. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen and one day, when I was alone, I decided to cook something. But then I got caught up in play and forgot about the food on the stove. There was lots of smoke billowing out of the open window and the neighbours called the fire brigade. Fortunately, they weren’t angry with me but happy that I was all right.
Then ask some of the following questions and encourage students to speak:
Have you ever experienced a fire? Would you like to tell us very briefly?
Have you ever had to extinguish fire? How did you do it? If you saw a fire, what would you do? How would you react? Would you try to extinguish it yourself or call the fire department?
Do you know of any dos and don’ts when trying to put off a fire?
2. Field trip to the simulation – 20 – 30 min
-> Click the firepit to get the notecard with instructions
-> Go through instructions, clarify questions.
Fieldtrip to a Kitchen Fire Simulation
Second Life is an immersive environment and is therefore, often used for simulations that would be too expensive, too dangerous or plain impossible in the physical world (also often called Real Life).
Today, you are going to visit and experience a simulation of a kitchen fire. You will be placed in a situation where a kitchen fire starts and will have to decide how to react. The simulation will show you what the result of your reaction would be and whether it was a good decision or not.
Once you arrive at the location, accept the notecard with instructions that you will be offered in the blue pop-up menu.
Do the simulation together with your partner or your group and decide together how to react. You can do it a 2nd or 3rd time to try out different options.
—-> Make sure you have all the ambient sounds turned up for the best experience (see snapshot)
Think about the following questions while there and take some notes for yourself after the simulation has finished:
1. How did you feel when you first saw the fire start? What was your first reaction?
2. Are you happy with the way you reacted, or do you think you should have done something differently? What?
3. Do you think that such a simulation in Second Life can be effective in training people for real life emergencies?
4. Did you learn anything about kitchen fires or how to react correctly in such a situation that you didn’t know before? What?
(Note that this is quite a realistic simulation that could be rather stressful for someone, especially if they have already experienced a fire. If it makes you feel uneasy, remember that you are in control and can leave the simulation at any time or teleport away).
Once back from the simulation, you will report about your experience with the simulations to your class members using your notes above to help you.
If it is a large group, one group goes first. Those outside can hear what is being said and can use their camera controls to observe what is happening inside. They are asked to take notes to give language feedback later.
Do the activity again with reversed roles.
3. Discussion + language work – 30 -45 min
Say: Before we speak about our experience, we’ll do a quick vocabulary exercise.
You have heard and read many words and expressions related to fire. For the the next task you have 1 minute. I’d like you ALL to type into text chat as many words and expressions as you can related to fire. Start now!
Words that were listed in the demo lesson:
JunCar Static: fire extinguisher
- burn, escape, help, put out a fire, call
- fire department
Werka Ferina: fire brigade
Jim Gustafson: extinguisher
Rhonwen Beresford: brilliant intense incandescent
San Krokus: extinguisher
San Krokus: put out
Jim Gustafson: blanket
San Krokus: firefighters
Werka Ferina: fire extinguisher
Heather8 Devin: fire blanket
Jim Gustafson: fire alarm
Alexandra Ergenthal: alarm, rescue, extinguish, blanket, oil/ grease fire
San Krokus: water
Jim Gustafson: smoke detector
Anza Rosenblum: fire brigade
Anza Rosenblum: put out
Misha Writer: danger, heat, burn
amal Cliassi: fryer
San Krokus: emergency
JunCar Static: burn
Alexandra Ergenthal: escape, fire brigade,roll on the floor
Heimlaga Svenska: smoke
Anza Rosenblum: explosion
JunCar Static: fire extinguisher
Heimlaga Svenska: heat
Jim Gustafson: heat
Alexandra Ergenthal: oven, electrical, water
nahiram Vaniva: arsonist?
Werka Ferina: fear
Astra Martian: hot oil
amal Cliassi: flame
Astra Martian: burning
Astra Martian: blanket
Heimlaga Svenska: alarm sounds
Alexandra Ergenthal: fire hose
Clarify meaning, pronunciation and use of some of the words.
Depending on time and students’ needs work with these words some more or leave this to the language focus stage.
Divide the students into pairs or small groups for the discussion.
They discuss the questions on the notecard (see above).
Teacher monitors and takes notes.
(If possible record these conversations. I will right in a separate post how and also how they can be used for feedback and language work).
Ask everyone to come back together. Some students report about their discussions if times allows for it.
4. Feedback and language focus stage
Peer feedback, teacher feedback, language work according to student’s needs which emerged (We skipped this in the demo lesson).
Extended tasks (after the sessions)
(I usually give the option of doing this in writing or orally)
- report about their experience
- report about a real experience with fire
- answer one of the questions above in more detail
- create a presentation or video about a topic related to fire and safety
- do a role-play and maybe record it (as a machinima)
- write a safety leaflet
Discussion with teachers and learners about the lesson
How did they like it? Ideas for improvements. How they experienced it as a learner. Difficulties…
Your feedback on the lesson and what you heard in the recorded discussion is very welcome.
Two weeks ago, I was checking my email when suddenly there was a flood of messages from Second Life coming in:
Your object “……’ has been returned to your inventory lost and found folder by Kip Yellowjacket …
Normally, I would have been alarmed and thought something must have happened but I only felt a strange kind of sadness because I knew what was happening. I was surprised by this feeling…
Like many other teachers, I was lucky to have met Kip Yellowjacket, the owner of Virtlantis, early in my Second Life. He not only gave me my first Linden dollars but also a place I could call home. Well, he called these plots “launchrooms”, which teachers could use as a meeting point with their students and “launch” from their to other destinations in SL.
I was so happy to have a place that I could decorate like I wanted and invite friends, colleagues and students to, that I spent long hours to make it look nice. At that time, I didn’t know about prims and that there is a limit of how many one could use on an island …
But that was not the end of Kip’s generosity. Some time later, he started building houses on Virtlantis and he gave these away for free, too. I was lucky enough to get one. It was called Casablanca and I loved it from the first moment. It was huge, had two large rooms and in the middle a garden. It also had two porches. Once again, I started decorating and Kip helped me with positioning the furniture.
One day, I was preparing for a lesson which would partly take place in my home. When I logged in half an hour before the lesson, I was in for a shock. My house had been vandalized!
It was the first time that I had experienced something negative in Second Life and strangely enough it felt real to some degree. Unfortunately, it happened two more times and I decided to move to another house on Virtlantis.
This one was smaller but cozy and to make up for all the annoyance I had a sea view now
This time, I hung up some pictures from my real life home, which I uploaded and even had a copy of my real life praying rug. In the front garden, I had planted daffodils, which Dennis, a dear friend, had given me as a gift.
I’m really sorry now that I didn’t take more pictures of it but I had been very busy. So much so, that I even didn’t log into SL for days and if I did I mostly teleported to some other place for a lesson or meeting.
At the end of last year, I rented a plot on EduNation for a teacher training course I would be giving. So, this became my temporary second home for some weeks.
Then, I had to make a decision. I was busy with my Master’s, which I had recently started. Then, several SL projects were coming up, which would all take place in different locations. I knew I wouldn’t have time to be in my home … Funny enough, this wasn’t an easy decision but I made up my mind and wrote to Kip telling him I would give up my home. I took my personal belongings back into my inventory, had a last look and teleported away. I also gave up my home on EduNation.
Sometime later, these messages started coming in…
Your object “……’ has been returned to your inventory lost and found folder by Kip Yellowjacket …
Your object “……’ has been returned to your inventory lost and found folder by Kip Yellowjacket …
Kip was sending me the furniture (one more act of generosity) … he was finally taking apart my home… I was staring at my computer screen and thinking:
“You are homeless in SL now.”
I didn’t think it would make me feel sad. It’s just a computer server somewhere and some pixels, right? Well, obviously it wasn’t. Second Life is a place. It’s a place where I work, meet friends and go to places. So, having a home is an important part of (second) life.
The EVO (Electronic Village Online) sessions are free 6-week online teacher development sessions for language teachers. This year’s sessions have started on 11 January. This means we are already at the end of week 1! However, it is not too late to join. This year, there are twelve sessions that you can choose from.
I am moderating the “Teaching Languages in a Virtual World” session with my colleagues Mary, Nahir, Dennis, Graham and Wlodek. We have already 322 participants now from all over the world, from total beginners to very experienced. You can read more about our session here.
This year, we have set up a mentor system. That means, that participants with experience in the use of SL who have volunteered to help can set up events in addition to what the moderators are offering to help new users. This way we can offer many more sessions catering for different time zones. For the advanced users it is an opportunity to practise training newbies if they have had no experience with this yet. It also means that they don’t have to wait until the sessions become relevant for them but can be active from the start, and it helps us moderators to accept and manage this large number of participants. This is also a great opportunity for both newbies and experienced users to get to know each other from the start. So far, feedback has been very positive.
If you want to participate, request to join our TLVW Ning.
Through a comment by David Miller on my blog about recording videos in SL, I came to this blog with a video tutorial about how to make animations for SL. My first reaction when watching it was “Why is there no sound?” I even checked my sound settings on my computer to make sure volume wasn’t turned down. I had a strange feeling that something was missing and “craved” to hear the person making the tutorial speak to me.
Only when I read David Miller’s comment on that blog, did I realize that what I considered as lacking was actually something that made this tutorial more accessible for others like the deaf or maybe even speakers of other languages. I suddenly realized that, even though we have the tools and possibilities to make things more accessible we don’t always do it. Often this is not because we wouldn’t want to but because we are not always aware that we are settings barriers.
Coming back to video tutorials, I think ideal would be to create some that have voice and visuals (e.g. written text in the video highlighting keyboard shortcuts) and clearly visible step-by-step instructions. This way we could make them useful for more people. I can see that this is challenging because I’m sure we often mention important information in speaking in addition to what we actually show. Makes me think I should get different people to “proof-watch” my tutorials
Thinking about these issues makes me realize how wonderful environments like Second Life and other virtual worlds are for people with different abilities. In most cases you can choose whether you want to communicate in voice or in text or a combination of both. In addition to text and/or voice, you also have the visual 3D environment itself to help get across meaning. This makes it much more accessible than a 2D virtual class- or conference room, except of course, where sign language is used and it is important to see the real person via a web cam.
These are just some quick thoughts that came to my mind when watching the “silent” tutorial video. There is a lot more that one can say about accessibility and virtual worlds.
What do you think about accessibility of virtual worlds and/or tutorial material?
I am sure you have all watched some video tutorials or machinima recorded in Second Life. Up to version 1.19, the SL viewer had a recording feature built in but this is not the case anymore. So, if you want to make recordings, you need special recording software.
Several such recording tools are available for free (some with the option to pay for a version with more features or longer recording time). Some of these have to be downloaded to your hard disk (e.g. Jing) and others are online tools (e.g. ScreenToaster, Screenr, ScreenJelly). If you search for “free video recording software”, you will find many more.
I tried making video recordings in the past with freely available software (Jing). This was fine for very short sequences. However my MacBook was not powerful enough to make good quality or longer recordings and Jing produced very large files (see one example here).
When I bought my iMac two months ago, I finally had a computer that was powerful enough. So, I started to look for commercial (and more professional?) recording software that was easy to use and provided me with all the features I thought I would need. I asked some colleagues for recommendations and I found a list of recording software for the Machere. I downloaded the trial versions of four of them and tested them briefly:
My idea of easy-to-use software is that I can create a basic recording without having to read any instructions. All of the above fell in this category except SnapZ Pro. I have read a lot of positive things about SnapZ Pro so may be it was just me. It was the last one that I tried and had pretty much made up my mind which to buy by then.
iShowU and CaptureIt were both inexpensive, offered nice features like instant exporting and automatic snapping to the window that I wanted to record. However, ScreenFlow was the easiest (for me) to use, gave me the most flexibility and had the most features (that I wanted). At the same time, it was also the most expensive but as I wanted to use it regularly for recording lessons and making tutorials, I bought it.
I have been using ScreenFlow for a couple of weeks now and I have to say making recording with it and the post-production is a lot of fun. It only takes seconds to understand how to record. Basic editing is also very easy and for all other cases there are good video tutorials available.
My first recordings were of role-play activities in language classes in Second Life to allow me and the students to watch and analyze them afterwards (I will write a separate blog post about this later). Then, I made my first video tutorials for a group of teachers who were doing an introductory SL course with me. The first one shows how to use a presentation screen*.
In all of these recordings, I used the text feature, which I like a lot. It can be used to highlight certain phrases that were used (in lessons) or to show shortcuts in tutorials to make it easier to remember them. Next, I produced a series of videos that show the different ways of communicating in SL.
One problem with all of these first tutorials which a colleague mentioned was that they weren’t easy to follow. I knew from other tutorials that I had watched that they zoomed in on details. So, this was the next skill I learned and which I used in this tutorial*.
For all of these recordings, I used the built-in microphone of the iMac. Although, the quality is not bad, I think I will invest in a separate microphone next because the volume could be a bit higher at times and I have to remember to be close to the microphone all the time, which is not always easy when I have to do demonstrate things at the same time.
There is still a lot that I can learn to make these recordings better but I think it is a good start and, as I said before, a lot of fun, too
In another blog post, I will write how such recordings can be used in a language class and what type of activities can be done with them (other than creating machinima which I blogged about here).
*Edublogs.org has recently removed the possibility to embed videos on free blogs. Embedded videos in new or updated blog posts are removed. This is why I can only provide a link to the videos. I apologize for the inconvenience. Related blog post:Accessibility of video tutorials and Second Life
In October, I was invited by a Second Life friend of mine, who teaches a course on Second Life and journalism at the American University of Cairo, to a meeting with his students. Their task was to interview me about education in Second Life, my work and other SL-related topics and to write a report. They were all journalism students.
For most of the students this was their firsts experience with Second Life. Most of them were present with their avatars. At the same time, SL was streamed on a screen in the physical room. They had decided that one student would collect the questions and ask in voice while the other students added additional questions and comments in local chat. I replied in voice but also added comments in text chat.
The students were very curious and asked a lot of good questions but they were skeptical, too, which I thought was good. Now, I am waiting to see their reports.
There are many different ways in which avatars can communicate in Second Life. We can distinguish between:
public and private
text and voice
all vs groups versus one-to-one
SL groups versus ad hoc groups
features that are part of the SL regular communication features or other tools and settings (parcel settings, sky tables, etc)
It is important to know which possibilities exists and when to use them whether you hold staff meetings in SL, do training or give lessons.
In order to be able to easily communicate with others, it is good (and sometimes necessary) to befriend them first so that they are in your friends list. It is also possible to IM (instant message) or call avatars who are not in your friends list by searching for them but there are limitations when it comes to group chat as an example.
How to add someone as a friend:
Here is a series of video tutorials on the different ways that avatars can communicate in Second Life.
I know there are already many Second Life video tutorials but often they don’t show exactly what I want, so I have started to create my own. I have created these for a teacher training course which I am doing at the moment.
I usually don’t use a script when doing these tutorials, so you might here the occasional “er” and other mistakes. Live with it! I am not going to record them again so soon.
SL Communication 1 – Public Text & Voice Chat:
SL Communication 2 – Private Text Chat:
SL Communication 3 – Private Voice Chat:
SL Communication 4 – Group Chat:
SL Communcation 5 – Ad Hoc Group Creation & Friends Conference: