TESOL and Second Life

In my recent blog, I talked about an e-tivity designed for DUCKLING TESOL students to visit language teaching classes in Second Life (SL), with 4 stages: Preparation, Training, Visiting and observing language teaching classes in SL, Discussion and reflection.

The e-tivity was launched on Monday 12 October 2009 on Blackboard and the training stage happened on Monday 26th October.

Phase 1 is now completed. In Phase 1, 12 TESOL students were actively involved in the Blackboard discussion. They introduced themselves and shared resources and links on SL in the first week (12-18 October). In the second week (19-25 Oct), they learned to create a SL account and avatar, and practised basic skills individually by using a SL training guide that we provided. They shared their first experiences in SL, introduced their avatars and bought out technical issues by participating in the discussion on the VLE.

We’re now in Phase 2: Training in SL.  We provided the 1st SL training session to a group of TESOL students on Monday 26 October. The trainer of this training session was my colleague Paul Rudman (PD Alchemy in SL) and Terese Bird (Aallyah Kruyschek in SL) was the helper. Five distance students located in Canada, South Korea and Singapore joined the training in-world.

Building on our training experience from the MOOSE project, we addressed key skills that are important to TESOL students and for this e-tivity and enables participiants to learn, practise and enhance the skills.

The training session was scheduled for 90 minutes, and the following key skills were covered:

  1. Adding people to your friend’s list
  2. Using ‘Contacts’ and ‘Local chat’
  3. Walking and flying
  4. Teleporting
  5. Creating landmarks and using inventory
  6. Sitting down and standing up
  7. Changing environmental settings
  8. Using cameral control and changing views
  9. Testing audio and voice

The training went really well. One of the participants posted her experience on Blackboard after the training session, ‘I enjoyed the experience and I think we had a great group working together’. Another participant said on Blackboard VLE, ‘it was fun learning how to move and fly’.

We reflected on problems, difficulties and issues that happened in the 1st training session. One of these is how to help students sort out basic technical settings on their computers, e.g. setting up audio and voice preferences, before coming to the training. Another is how to manage a group of participants with different technical backgrounds particularly avatars getting ‘stuck’ or ‘lost’. We recommend having a trainer focusing on the technical aspect and a helper ‘rescuing’ the participants and looking after emotional is a good model!

Students need more practice in SL to be able to enjoy the whole learning process, and we propose training in two stages:

  • Stage 1: Tutor and trainer-centred, focusing on practising key technical skills
  • Stage 2: Student-centred, focusing on building confidence, developing identity and a sense of immersion

Stage 2 training can also consist of some asynchronous and synchronous activities, such as asking students either individually or working in a group to find something , e.g. a Media Zoo T-shirt and report the result back to the group.

Our TESOL training activities will continue for another 2-3 weeks. I’ll keep updating the progress in my following blogs.


 Ming Nie              28 Oct 2009

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