Through this post, I would like to present how I see metaverse can promote 'eu zein' (το εὖ ζῆν /ef zin/, wellbeing in ancient Greek) as a teaching medium in the language classroom. After all, “Life I owe to my parents, virtuous life I owe to my tutor.” as Alexander the Great put it ("Στους γονείς οφείλω το ζην, στους δε διδασκάλους το ευ ζην"). So this post approaches learner and teacher skills and competences from a different angle as there is already plenty of literature on the 8 interdependent Key Competences or the 21st century 4 Cs.
This entry is dedicated to our parents and teachers and to G. (Syrmas)Vizyenos, the Greek scholar, poet and pioneer of short prose whose study in 1881 focused on the use of play from a psychological and pedagogical perspective.(1) As founder of contemporary Greek narrative, he opened the path for a new literary form of prose with his inventiveness.
It comes as bitter realisation that, as a medium carrying strong messages about life and human existence, Literature (or literature) tends to be omitted in most EFL textbooks and classrooms as it is, wrongly, judged to be impractical in serving specific linguistically structural aims. Instead, it is amplified in mother-tongue language studies or on language degree courses in Tertiary Education. For non-native speakers of English, we should not be too fast to rule out the significance of 'divine literature' in stimulating learner language development, in enhancing sensitivity to language-in-use, in appreciating literary style and, eventually, in promoting life ideals and shaping personality.
If coursebooks are not strong enough a medium to illustrate all this, then TEFL machinima may be a more powerful tool to catch learner attention to this linguistic genre, with special reference to Young Learners. With all the animation, music, visuals and game effects simulating real life, educational literary machinimas in TEFL can act like an attention-grabber of, otherwise, easily distracted learners who would much rather spend their days playing inworld games. With parents generously investing in their children's use of technology for gamification or communication, why should language teachers neglect the ubiquitus of metaverse to tackle learner varied paces and multitasking habits?
In other words, in a world where technology has become second nature, interest in the study of literature through this medium - and in particular, 'literary TEFL machinima' - justifies the most tech savvy learners' high expectations at any age. It comes to promote appreciation of the aesthetic significance of literary works without running the risk of demoralising the learner in the process of literary analysis, semantic, phonetic or stylistic interpretation. Whatever the lesson aims, focus on pedagogical stylistics through machinimas can be employed as a means to promote the functional significance for text analysis through intuitions, interpretative skills, class research on locutionary/illocutionary/perlocutionary acts.
Similarly to 'Lives I', the second episode also promotes what would otherwise be a reading activity, through an oral communication chanel as most people tend to resort to and to be exposed to oral sources of input out of convenience nowadays. Without disregarding learner types/learning styles ofcourse, the reading skill is - for most younger learners who have not received training to expand their concentration span - an overly demanding skill requiring activation of multiple physical and mental processes. But this is perhaps a forthcoming guest entry on my site.
To go beyond the classical gap-filling, spelling, multiple choice, multiple matching or sentence completion types of exercises, I suggest more teacher-friendly exercises that promote learner interpretation, reader exploration, involvement and reflexion. or, eventually, discovery of author intentions. Whatever the original aims of the writer though, meaning and Interpretation are always in the eye and the ear of the beholder, as long as there is language produced, the text is not deconstructed 'irreversibly' and there is no shift of focus from the lesson aims. Interpretation of literary texts in the EFL classroom is always subject to the predisposition or age of the interpreter and their overall life stance. To encourage learner participation, class bonding and literary appreciation rather than depreciation, clear selection of tasks is of utmost importance.
Since language is a social fact, as social actors, learners can be assigned any of the following meaningful, purposeful and less mechanical tasks, in groups or individually through the aid of ELT literary machinimas - subject to their age range - to grasp the interrelationship between poetry or prose with real life. The level of difficutly is mainly determined by the type of task(s) set in relation to the literary text:
- find the missing part(s) of a poem/literary text,
- interpret the mood of the author or poem/text reader, and perform it in a different way
- change the phonological patterns of the poem to achieve different functions/mood/point of view (Todorov 1966, Genette 1972, ch 4),
- rephrase the poem into prose or dialogue
- create a dramatic activity based on the poem and act out the scenes,
- write a narrative,
- act out and film a machinima (or real world learner-made movie) of a comic/tragic soliloquy, an interior monologue based on the poem, a dialogue with a friend (esoteric dialogue derives from Socrates' dialectic method)
- write a poem/rhyme in response to the one presented in the class machinima
- leverage the type of background music, costumes, cultural signs and reflect on their significance in a machinima**
- translate into your mother tongue (this brings a variety of insightful interpretations)
- interview the creator of the machinima around the decisions on which they based their choices (direction, selection of language, location, lightning, music, outfit)
- carry out mini research on the historical background in which the text was written (the list is inexhaustible)
With particular reference to making language learner machinimas in response to my literary one ('Lives II'), my younger learners instantaneously absorb the target language as part of a game process. It is more pleasant and meaningful to recite a poem and a rhyme or set it to music than to memorise a bilingual list of new words which are never to be stored in active long-term memory anyway. Montessori M. said that playing is a child's job anayway. Through play, both young and adult learners are cognitively involved, learn to take control of learning and become active communicators in charge of their own learning process. Students take more initiative and become the centre in a learner-directed class.
It is not my intention to plagiarise possibly existing scientific evidence in the field but from empirical practice I come to confirm that through this relatively new medium of teaching, the learner develops cognitive and metacognitive control and gains personalised pursue of progress, achievement and reflexion on the language, cultures and learning processes. Whatever their age, with 'happiness hormones' released in their brain in a secure environment, learners are surely more eager and prepared to work towards immediate results by employing all their senses and monitoring feelings (own and others'), to better understand social roles and to manage thinking and behaviour.
With the use of literature-integrated machinima (learner or teacher-made), all this is amplified to help the learner better process emotional information, develop emotional traits (eg empathy) and balance them to navigate their life and environment.
With particular reference to my 'Lives II' machinima, to promote family values, Cultural awareness and appreciation, learners could carry out class research based on the notion of motherhood/fatherhood in their country or the origins of different types of music*
In education, there are no winners or losers. Education is not about punishment, hegemony or on the other end, meaningless self-eudaimonism. It is every educator's aim to prepare unharmed and useful achievers with successful and positive experiences, thus saviouring and strengthening their uniqueness through incentives. If there is a wrong which might disturb our class balance, appreciation of the value of time is essential and this is best done by employing friendly learner-centred approaches to reach a solution and lead students beyond self-actualisation or metamotivation.
Maslow explains this process (1967): "Self-actualizing people are, without one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin, in something outside of themselves". And ancient Greeks since Herodotus devoted themselves to being «καλός κ' αγαθός» 'good (handsome) and virtuous'. For aeons now, χρόνος chronos has taught us: there is no room for experimenting or resorting to time-consuming procedures since 'we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit..' (Aristotle, 384-322 BC).
The intended message to learners and teachers is that, if we are to accept the notion of transformative learning as the goal of education, it is essential to go through a self-igniting process materialising from within which leads to more humanistic dimensions beyond critical thinking.
There may be more to life than Metaverse but this is also a brilliant place to start from, and all I am hoping to achieve is softly swing the cradle with one machinima at a time.
** Belly dance music - set as background music in 'Lives II' - was meant to wake up the earth and gods, and to symbolise female substance and idiosyncracy. It derives from rituals in the name of Aphrodite and Artemis to practise eugenics and bashful femininity. Arabic music originates from Byzantine echoes and Systema ametabolon, enharmonium, chromatikon, diatonon.
The avatar's kimono encouraged discussion on Japanese and local costumes and occasions, and in my teaching set-up, it led to a discussion on the similarities between the Greek and Japanese mother role models.
Austin, J. L. 1962. How to do things with words. London: Oxford University Press
Genette, G. (1980) Narrative discourse, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Maslow, A. (1971) The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
Todorov, T. (1966) 'Les categories du recit litteraire'. Communications, 8:125-51
(1) Vizyenos G., (1881) 'Das Kinderspiel in Bezug auf Psychologie und Padagogik' available on Anemi archive, University of Crete http://anemi.lib.uoc.gr/metadata/b/6/9/metadata-106-0000080.tkl (special thanks for the permission to use this link)
Widdowson, H. G. (1975) 'Stylistics and the Teaching of Literature', Longman
This post has been written with all my dedicated colleagues in mind; with all my respect to all miracle makers who support life. Also a big Thank You to Chic Aeon for her contributions and artistic quality work in Second Life.
Helena Galani (aka ErlinaAzure in SL)