My thoughts and energy are now self-directed towards incorporating Second Life in the teaching environment. The idea may not be new but it is based on the firmly-held belief that play is the best form of research and on the potential this medium has for further research in TEFL/ELT.
Most reviewed literature so far focuses on higher and further education or teacher education, rather than school learners or other groups of the population and those learners who are challenged with certain disabilities.
To ensure Young Learners' safety and save learner families from worries, we need to provide them with a safe and free (of charge and risk) SL environment through machinima we teachers have filmed for them. It is an easier solution until the possible development of a new free SL Grid for YL or an easy-to-use safe desktop platform, or console SL software (which could create LL young clientele). It is a more immediate solution than having to wait for laser holographer Patty Rangel's idea of Avatar Holographic Projection to reach every real-life stage and consequently every classroom around the world in my generation of language teachers. All we can do as educators is offer them the pedagogical and didactic oppportunities they deserve for language in use through machinima, a new form of edutainment and engage them in languistic production.
The process below may not be as immersive as inworld learning, which adult learners have the privillege to enjoy, but it is still engaging and fully experiential. Even if it does not offer the benefits deriving from geospacial representation, identity, social norms, cognitive, affective and linguistic processes are still activated throughout the process of real-world machinima-making. Still, it is a clear indicator of teacher good will and allows plenty of room for storyboarding, script-writing, audio recording and performing scenaria on footage the teacher makes for their YL classess in SL.
Research carried out at Peachgrove Intermediate School, New Zealand (Faloon, G., Janson, A. & Janson, R. 2010) suggests that both higher order thinking (analysing, evaluating, creating) and lower order thinking (remembering, understanding, applying) can be achieved through virtual world instruction. Judging by personal experience as self-directed member of the MachinEVO2015 and EDSL2015 groups of language educators, the learning process is motivational and activates strategies and competencies. With the benefits of gamification in education becoming more obvious through research, educators, parents and policy makers are changing their outlook to institutionalise it as an educational tool.
Besides all this, it is the nature of the task and carefully selected staging that promote learner participation and can ensure the linguistic quality of learner output. Give them plenty of space for initiative and, for their peers, they can produce miracles, regardless of their age.
But how can you embed and promote your driving force as teacher through this relatively new aesthetic and powerful tool packed with contextualised information? And how much can you invest in time and finances to convey the knowledge, ideas and values which your grandmother so successfully entertained and instilled in you through free-giving tenderness? In actual fact, through this channel, you can promote family values and best practices in the classroom or in your scientific field.
To produce your machinima, some say it only takes skill; others, believe it takes imagination. It has to be both. It is a combination of IT skill, fruitful imagination and educator competencies. But most of all, it is yet another teaching medium, an effective tool expressing professionalism and care for your learners. Since we live in a 'Modem world', whichever angle you see it from, you can still produce first class lessons through this medium to please the most difficult of your little etrotters.
Here are some ideas for representative activities you could implement on your course, depending on the age of your learners and lesson stage.
- Individual Role playing
- Problem-solving Learning
- Enquiry Based Learning
- Inworld Quests
- Attending a Class inworld
- Collaborative Simulations
- Building Activities
- Texturing your prims
- Strategy planning based on scenaria
- Learner teaching inworld or on machinima
- Script writing
- Voice recording
- even lecturing takes a new shape through this medium
...to mention but a few.
Out of respect for our little ones and to ensure best practices in our classroom, YL can watch teachers' screen captures (clips or photos) of your avatar(s) in sim, on their classroom Interactive Whiteboard, which may not be as immersive as inworld participation but can still provide realistic opportunities for meaningful practice, authentic involvement and genuine motivation.
As learners appreciate the benefits deriving from drama activities and project work in class, you can invite them to devise the characters, scenaria and script to serve the purposes of your lesson and show them footage you have made on these lines. Although this is an ELT author's usual job, you will be amazed at the outcome of young learners' contributions in script-writing, directing and dramatic skill.
There is significant literature on the procedure which to follow, with CAMELOT* providing a storyboard template for educators. Marisa Constantinides has also developed a comprehensive guide of 19 lucid steps for teachers, including technical considerations to follow when making machinima in SL.
Nevertheless, here is my own reflexion of the practical steps I find useful in class to activate Young (but also Adult) EFL Learners, shifting the angle towards their language output.
Be prepared to employ your best classroom management skills for this.
Steps for TEFL Classroom Use
Steps 1 & 2 mostly involve teacher preparation activity, 3-8 promote learner oriented action while 9 can be carried out by the teacher or technologically-geared students, and 10 is collaborative.
In terms of linguistic involvement on the learner's behalf, I have divided this process into three parts:
- First and foremost, determine the aim and focus of the machinima. For this, you may prefer not to keep it grammatically controlled and strictly structural-based but to gear it towards freer production (oral mostly but also written) and integration of skills (my preference so far in TEFL machinima-making -more about this on another post)
- If you have large classes of YL, make for them raw footage/photos with different SL characters first, to stimulate learner brainstorming of the storyboard and exhibit your visual collection in class for students to select the heroes and scenaria (a more guided approach for YL; adults prefer their own footage) -or have a photographic exhibition for them to choose.
3. Learners write a general outline of their storyboard (group or individual work)
4. With a working screenplay in hand now, it is easier for learners to determine in detail the scenes and assume roles that suit them best (promote autonomy at this stage)
5. The write up of dialogues and narration can be done cooperatively in groups/pairs with prompt monitoring from the teacher, or individually per scene after class discussion, or it can even be set for homework.
6. Class, peer correction can take place now -final teacher correction before returning the script for rehearsing.
7. Workshop on Phonology and rehearsals
8. Audio Recording (this may take the form of out-of-class work, in the breaks or for homework with learners' digital desktop tools)
9. Post-production: compiling audio and video files, adding background effects & music
10. Class viewing, feedback & evaluation
One variation of step 2 in this approach - if you wish to make this stage less guided and depending on the class size - is to log into SL for screen captures after you have got group suggestions and guidance (on characters, locations, props, costumes) - a tailor-made approach, more learner-centred. For this, you may need more than one avatar in which case you can either make use of your colleague-friends' avatars or you can create multiple of your own (up to 5 permitted per landline).
Another variation of step 2 for recycling the course material is to provide learners with a role card with instructions, or the outline of the scenario or just the title of the storyboard and allow them the time to brainstorm the script (dialogue, narration and set-up description) for a machinima or inworld role play instead of acting it out as a drama activity in the classroom. Choose costumes for your avatar and embark on unscripted production of the language in focus.
Be sure to compile a machinima of your end-product on which to base feedback and further revision.
Niki's suggestions for a better world came as a natural end-product to activate the language, with the learner using a lot of her own ideas and adding her experience in her geographical location. She took initiative to choose the scenes from the footage I had made and insisted on audio recording her voice and self-correcting several times before reaching the high standards she had set herself. Here is the result:
Wherever Avatars go after logging off, they still hold their dearest ones in their heart even in their sleep.
This is Helena Galani (aka ErlinaAzure) in SL
For further reading, you might want to try:
- Randall Sadler (2012) Virtual worlds for language learning Peter Lang (Bern & New York)
- Michael Thomas et al (2011) Digital Education and Learning (Palgrave Macmillan) including a chapter on 'The Role of Adult Educators in the Age of Social Media' by Rita Kop and Paul Bouchard
- Garry Falloon (2010) 'Learning objects and the development of students' key competencies: A New Zealand school experience' in Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2010, 26(5), 626-642.
CAMELOT is a two-year funded EU Project for language educators, coordinated by the University of Lancaster (UCLan), School of Language, Literature and International Studies and it stands for ‘CreAting Machinima Empowers Live Online language Teaching and learning”. The project investigates the use of machinima through a task based approach developing a teacher training to facilitate educators with their own use of machinima.
Thank you to Carol Rainbow, Dennis Newson, Christel Schneider, Shelwyn Corrigan, Alfonso Garavito Olivar, Hazel Workman, Ann Nowak, Marisa Constantinides and Dr Michael Thomas, Dr Randall Sadler and Heike Philip (to name but a few) for their boundless free-giving.