November 23, 2011
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Students discussing this week's topic: The London Riots
The last two sessions could not have been more different. In Session 2, where students discussed the Arab Spring, we encountered many technical problems and the turnout was quite low, whereas session 3, which had the theme of the London Riots, had practically no technical hitches and a good turnout. As there were more LSE students than French students we had a combination of pairs and groups of 3. The disadvantage with groups of 3 is that they cannot use their webcams (only premium skype accounts allow for group video calling), however it is good practice for language learners as it is mimics a real life situation; at their level they should be able to have a 3 way conversation comfortably.
We have noticed that students are not making the most of the Screen Share function which is very handy when having a discussion. Visual stimulation tends to aid discussion especially if they are in groups of 3 and therefore not using the webcams.
We have given the students the following tips for next week:
With Screen Share you can:
- Watch a video and talk to your partner/group at the same time
- Pause a video at an interesting point and discuss it
- Pause a video when there is a word/sentence you do not understand and ask your partner to explain it (you could use the ‘chat’ function for spelling)
- Look through an article and pick out vocabulary and phrases in French/English to clarify or discuss
- Look at photos together and describe/discuss them
Next week’s topic is Social Networking, a theme I think the students will be particularly interested in. We also plan to let one of the student groups try group video calling using the Language Centre premium account.
November 13, 2011
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Slightly less chaotic than last year’s Second Life Virtual Learning Group but only just! 12 English and 12 French students will be exchanging their languages for 5 weeks; and so begins the French-English Skype Group..
We’ve got some interesting topics lined up and this year we are including online content such as videos and podcasts as well as news articles for the students to discuss each week. The first session last week was a ‘getting to know each other’ session as well as getting to know the platform and its more advanced functions such as screen sharing. Screen sharing is a very easy function but a lot of people don’t know how to use it; it enables a user to show the person they are talking to their screen; for example they can show presentations, photos and videos and discuss them at the same time.
Tomorrow is the second session and the topic is the Arab Spring/Révolution Arabe and we have asked the students to prepare using the following resources:
Africa at LSE Blog – http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/about/
Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline
Video Content – Compare and comment on these two speeches:
Obama – http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/09/21/obama-on-the-arab-spring?videoId=221746316
Cameron – http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/09/22/cameron-on-the-arab-spring?videoId=221866654
April 6, 2011
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A selection of snapshots from the last session.
21st March was our last session of the Virtual Learning Group on Second Life. I think the regular participants got a lot out of the sessions. Contact with French native speakers. Confidence in speaking. Motivation to improve their French. Some students did drop out or only came occasionally; we have sent out a Feedback form and hope to find out their reasons.
We plan to run more of these sessions but not until the new academic year. We are still unsure whether to continue with Second Life or to try another platform such as Skype. A possibility is to combine the two, starting off with Skype and then going on to Second Life. It would be very interesting to be able to compare the two platforms with the same group of students.
Questions which arose from these sessions:
- Did we really use Second Life to its full potential?
- Do the benefits of such a dynamic platform outweigh the technical issues or vice versa?
- Are 5 sessions enough to gain a real insight into the potential of Second Life for language learning?
- Would another platform such as Skype serve the purpose just as well?
- Would it be useful for students if we recorded the sessions using a programme such as Camsoft?
I look forward to repeating and developing this project next year.