Students teleported to different locations in their groups
After updating all our computers to the latest version of Second Life (2.5) we were able to solve the sound issues we had in the first session. We met on the LSE island Castor’s Retreat and sent the students off in pairs and small groups to different locations on the island via the Teleport Board (see photo above). As the students are part of the “Opening Learning Group” we can send them all notecards and notices in one click. We used this function to send them notecards with questions, vocabulary and suggestions for disscussion on the articles they had prepared in both French and English. For the first 30 minutes the discussion was in French, then half-way through the session we sent out a notice announcing the discussion should continue in English.
This session was smoother than the first because there were few technical issues and we attempted to give the session a clearer structure. The students are also now becoming more familiar with the platform. However, a few things did go wrong such as the teleport board transporting some avatars into the sea instead of the correct location and students flying off to explore the island instead of staying with their group. I look forward to Session 3 which will have a similar structure and this week’s articles will be on the theme of cultural stereotyping.
On a more serious note, below is a video which was produced by the UNESCO Liaison Office in New York. It was made to raise awareness of the importance of language learning. Note the section (around 3.15 on the video) on linguistic diversity and cyberspace.
Chaos. Excitement. Sound issues. French or English? Voice chat or text chat? Totally absorbed students. Can’t wait for Session two..
The 1st session of the Virtual Learning group was successful but not exactly smooth; chaotic would be a better description. The session had been well organised with a clear structure but some things are unpreditable. We had technical issues, specifically the sound. The sound worked for some but not for others. For several students the voice chat worked only in a private call not in a local call. Nevertheless, there was a lot of interaction, a lot of French and English was exchanged and there was never a dull moment. The students were very focused although a few were frustated by the sound issues but these were overcome; they either used the text chat (still very useful for language practise I think) or used private voice chat to talk to the French students in pairs.
This was a “getting to know each other” session and each student had previously sent in a powerpoint slide with a few photos to represent their life which were then put on notice boards. The students were put into groups of 4 and their main tasks were to introduce themselves to the group, using the photos on the boards, and then to chat to other members of the group about their photos and their lives. We had decided to use EdunationI as the plots are sound tight but I think perhaps this was a mistake and we will be using the LSE Island from now on. Université Blaise Pascal’s site is probably too small for so many avatars whereas the LSE Island is much larger and there is more freedom to move around. The idea was for the groups to stay in one area next to their group’s notice board and to use the seats provided (see photo above) but not all the students wanted to stay put or to sit down. This did create some confusion and it was not always clear who was talking to who. This problem I think can be solved by giving groups more space to move around in.
We are testing and investigating the sound issues this week and I really hope we can have the problems solved by next Monday for session two so that we can concentrate on the tasks and language exchange.
Tomorrow we begin the French/English Virtual learning group on Second Life. Last week, there was a last minute surge in interest and we now have 10 students signed up, which nearly matches the French group of 11 students. All but one of the students has had a one hour training session on Second Life and only one of these had any previous experience of the platform. We have decided to hold the first session on Université Blaise Pascal’s site on EdunationI as the plots are sound tight. We thought it may have been confusing for the novice SL students to have mixed sound. If all goes well the following sessions will take place on LSE’s SL island Castor’s Retreat (see image above). It will be interesting to see how these SL novices fare on their first day and how much French and English will be exchanged.
This Friday 11th February, the Conference “Storytelling Without Limits” is taking place at LSE. It is being organised by the LSE Language Centre, the University of Westminister and Routes into Languages. The conference combines both the Traditional forms of Storytelling and the Digital forms of Storytelling and will consist of presentations by academics and teachers, interactive sessions by Storytellers and performances by schoolchildren. It promises to be a fascinating and inspiring day!
There is more information below:
Conference – Storytelling Without Limits and the Pleasures of Language Learning and Practice:
Yesterday I lead a Digital Storytelling (DST) workshop for some English language students. This is the first time I have given this workshop to students – normally I give it as a training workshop for teachers so they can use DST as part of their courses. The Digital Story is created by choosing and uploading some photos, recording a commentary then adding some transitions to make the story more visual. An animated photo story really. This can be done on MovieMaker, Imovie, Powerpoint or online programmes such as Show Beyond. I normally use MovieMaker as it is easily available to all who use a pc and is a very simple programme.
DST can be a very effective tool for language learning and at the LSE Language Centre it forms part of the assessed coursework of the Spanish and French students. It is good for improving pronunciation and intonation as the student usually records their commentary several times until they are happy with it. It also increases confidence in the spoken language.
The English students were very enthusiastic and were in fact so keen that is was difficult to finish the workshop in an hour and a half. I was surprised that they wanted to work in groups as I had planned for each student to work on an individual story. I believed this would be more benificial to their language skills as they would have the maximum time to record their commentary. However, I found that the groups spent quite a lot of time discussing and planning their story, thereby using their language skills throughout the whole process not just at the commentary recording stage.
We have another DST workshop planned for March, this time in a Secondary school in Southall as part of a Language Enrichment Day. This workshop will probably be quite different as the students will be younger and their target language will be Spanish or French.
It is two weeks until the start of a new project I am involved in: The Virtual Tandem Learning French-English Group. It is a long title but the idea is simple: a group of French students from L’Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand, France and a group of English students from LSE will log onto Second Life for an hour every Monday and exchange their languages. Tandem Learning is a programme we have at the LSE Language Centre where we hold language exchange events. One reason we started this Virtual Tandem group is because we normally have problems finding enough native speakers for our students to practise with. The French students from L’Université Blaise Pascal are all advanced learners of English and the English students from LSE are advanced learners of French, studying the language either as part of their degree or as an extra-curricular course. It is a bit nerve wracking as we don’t yet have enough English students signed up; this could be because it is being held on Second Life and not everyone is familiar with this platform. It could also be because we are looking for native English speakers with a high level of French and the majority of our language students are not native English speakers.
If you are interested in independent language learning take a look at this site, developed by myself and colleagues at the LSE Language centre: http://www.pageflakes.com/languages/
Pageflakes is a personal web portal similar to iGoogle and Netvibes. You can use these platforms to gather together your favourite web sites in the form of links and rss feeds. We’ve used Pageflakes to recommend language learning sites to our students.
However, Pageflakes has proved to be rather unstable recently. It worked very well for most of last year and then it started being temporarily unavailable for days on end. So we are currently developing another site on Moodle called “Independent Learning Resources”. Does anyone use Pageflakes, iGoogle or or any other personal web portal?