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Graham Davies

SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

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I am reproducing here what I wrote in the ICT4LT blog at:

http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com/

On 23 June 2007, I took part in a virtual conference, SLanguages, on learning foreign languages in Second Life:

http://www.secondlife.com

The venue was the Glass Pyramid on Second Life's EduNation Island and there were around 50 participants from all over the world. The conference made use of audioconferencing facilities, using the Ventrilo audioconferencing software, so we could hear the speakers and talk to them. The SLanguages conference went very well, with only a few minor hiccups. I've added a couple of screenshots to the ICT4LT site:

Section 14.2, Module 1.5, headed Chat rooms, MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs

http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm#14.2

The main thing that made the conference so engaging for me was being able to listen to and communicate with speakers from all over the world - all in our various avatar guises. It worked. We could use the standard Second Life text chat at any time and when we wanted to ask a question or make a comment we lit up a bulb on top of our heads in order to attract the chair’s attention and then we spoke when invited. Coffee breaks and a lunch break were built in, and we were able to continue chatting at the disco after the formal day’s proceedings had finished.

The advantages of Second Life compared to videoconferencing were immediately obvious to me. I have taken part in several videoconferences and, even as an adult, I have always felt a bit uncomfortable seeing myself on screen. Lip-synchronisation in all the videoconferencing systems that I have used was not very good - although it may have improved a lot by now. Head and arm movements came across as rather jerky too. In the SLanguages conference I was able to sit my avatar down and then do what I liked. He was always quiet and attentive even if I sneaked off to make a cup of coffee, and I could hear the audio very clearly, either through speakers or headphones. I could speak to the other participants by pressing a single key to activate my microphone - or I could ask questions and make comments in text chat. The speakers were able to show slides on a large screen - which you can see in the screenshots at the ICT4LT site.

Don't be misled by the negative reports about Second Life that you may have read in the press. I was very sceptical when I first had a look at Second Life. It appeared to be peopled by sad geeks who probably only have a half-decent First Life. but as a colleague of mine, Chris Jones, stated in the title of an article he wrote way back in 1986: "It's not so much the program: more what you do with it: the importance of methodology in CALL".

At first sight Second Life appears to be quite daunting. There’s a lot to learn, but I picked up the basics in a couple of hours and I’m content to ignore the bits that I don’t need. There's a lot of garbage there - shopping malls selling virtual designer gear, casinos, etc. All this can be ignored. In any case most of us only use a fraction of the facilities of the software installed on our computers - and there's nothing wrong with that.

The SLanguages conference proceedings will be archived at:

EduNation 178, 40, 22

http://www.secondlife.com/

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I sometimes hang around EduNation Island in the early evening, around 6-7pm. You can search for me under my avatar's name, Groovy Winkler.

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Sounds interesting. My avatar's name is Davric Rinkitink (I was watching a lot of Aristocats at the time!).

If we run into each other, perhaps I could show you some of the places I visit regularly (Virtual Roma is a favourite).

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Sounds interesting. My avatar's name is Davric Rinkitink (I was watching a lot of Aristocats at the time!).

If we run into each other, perhaps I could show you some of the places I visit regularly (Virtual Roma is a favourite).

OK, I'll look for you on my next visit.

Presumably you know about Patrick Svensson's work. He is Director of HUMlab, Umeå University, and has worked in the area of virtual worlds and language learning for some time. There was a well-known project he set up within Active Worlds, for example. See:

http://www.humlab.umu.se/patrik

Svensson P. (2003) "Virtual worlds as arenas for language learning". In Felix U. (ed.) Language learning online: towards best practice: Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

See also Lesley Shield's work. Lesley used to be an Open University tutor:

Shield L. (2003) "MOO as a language learning tool. In Felix U. (ed.) Language learning online: towards best practice: Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Lesley and I are members of the EUROCALL Executive Committee. We are both involved in the Virtual Strand of this year's EUROCALL conference in Coleraine. I'll be helping Lesley to run a workshop on blogging for beginners - part of which will be delivered online. You can join the conference's Virtual Strand free of charge via EUROCALL's website:

http://www.eurocall-languages.org

http://www.eurocall2007.com

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I've recently taken part in another audioconference in Second Life, using voice chat. The theme of the conference - or rather "tour", which was led by Graham Stanley of The British Council - was the use of quests in language teaching.

EUROCALL now has an HQ in EduNation III, Second Life. The building is still empty, but it will be furnished it during the next few weeks. If you have already downloaded the Second Life software and wish to locate the EUROCALL HQ just paste it into your browser's address box:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/EduNation%20III/9/29/22/

This will enable you to teleport to the front porch. Turn right round and you should see the EUROCALL logo on the wall next to the front door. Click on the door to open it and then have a look round. It is possible to hold meetings and run training courses, etc in the EUROCALL HQ (and many other places) using voice chat, text chat and visuals (PowerPoint, videos, etc), but there doubtless many more interesting things that can be done. I can meet you at the HQ at a pre-arranged time for a chat.

Just a reminder that if you are new to Second Life then there is an expanded Section 14.2.1 in Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site that should help get you up to speed:

http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm

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I forgot to mention that there is a lively thread on Second Life going on right now in EUROCALL's CMC SIG discussion list:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/

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I don't know if I mentioned this, but my university is offering the first 'regular' course in Sweden on Kamimo Island, our island on SL in the spring. The course is called Oral Production, and is worth 3 European Credits. It'll be held entirely on Kamimo. You can apply for the course by going to http://www.studera.nu. There's an 'English' link right at the top of the page, and you need to uncheck the box that says something like 'Courses for International Students' in order to be able to find the course.

You can read more about Kamimo in general, and about some of the thoughts we've been having about preparing the course on our blog (http://kamimo-islands.blogspot.com/).

I'm also going to be in Berlin on 30th November, presenting at On-Line Educa (http://www.online-educa.com/). I'm planning to use the Peer Gynt Rotunda on Kamimo to make the presentation, which means that visiting avatars will be able to attend there. I'll be talking about which kinds of activities I think fit better in an environment like SL and which work better on more conventional video conferencing equipment. If you'd like to be there, the SLURL for Kamimo is on our blog. I'm in Session DES51, from 11.45 to 13.30. I'm on last, so I'm expecting to be there at around 13.00 (CET). We're not sure if the German IT-infrastructure will hold out, so there's a Plan B, for just in case it doesn't.

One extra trick will be an attempt to use Veodia via SL (http://www.veodia.com). You can (apparently) link live video to any prim in SL, so I'm going to try to turn the camera on the audience in Berlin and show the avatars what I can see in the room! If it works, this'll be a given for the Oral Production course.

We've been running a pilot course called Social English for Doctoral Students this autumn too, with students from Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Italy, and teachers from both the north and south of Sweden, and Missouri. It worked like a dream! Just as Graham says, it's a very interesting feeling sitting around a camp fire on Kamimo, discussing a student with Luisa from Pisa and Mats, who's sitting about 800 kms away, broadcasting the discussion to a room full of people.

We're writing the Social English course up right now (our Norwegian project leader is a very competent writer of academic papers - thank the lord!).

Edited by David Richardson

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David dropped into the new EUROCALL HQ this evening in his Second Life avatar guise. We were able to chat using Second Life's voice chat. Just after he left an old friend dropped in. We used text chat for a while - his voice chat was not activated - so I contacted him via Skype. We chatted, free of charge (of course) for around an hour. His webcam was activated, so I was able to see him as well as hear him clearly. I can foresee great potential with this new technology, especially in language learning and teaching. All we need is a bit of imagination.

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There is a great deal of activity going on in the area of Computer Mediated Communication right now, especially in Modern Languages. EUROCALL has set up a CMC SIG, which has a very active discussion list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/

I notice that David has already made a contribution about his activities in CMC.

EUROCALL's CMC SIG will be holding its first regional conference in Padova, Italy, April 2006. Further information in the above discussion list.

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Oops! I meant "in Padova, Italy, April 2008" (I type faster than I think).

"

There is a great deal of activity going on in the area of Computer Mediated Communication right now, especially in Modern Languages. EUROCALL has set up a CMC SIG, which has a very active discussion list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/

I notice that David has already made a contribution about his activities in CMC.

EUROCALL's CMC SIG will be holding its first regional conference in Padova, Italy, April 2006. Further information in the above discussion list.

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