This post has been inspired by those few learners who come to challenge their teacher's skills. It is for all my friends and colleagues who breathe only to cover their most difficult learners' educational needs, to motivate them and to help them improve their performance. It comes as a natural next step after years of work with inspirational and progressive colleagues, employers, and parents.
And it is also inspired by my recent experience with dedicated and skillful MachinEVO2015 moderators and coordinators who have been focusing on the use of Virtual Worlds to facilitate learning languages.
This post does not simply refer to gamification. It comes as a natural consequence to reflect on the idea that innovation and creativity have been taking place throughout generations and they never stop.
The average EFL learner may feel content with their books and (if lucky enough) an interactive whiteboard, but what about those who have been born with their finger on their game consoles? The majority of our students, especially the younger ones, have been playing Virtual reality games in their free time, so much so that they acquire new language from their favourite heroes - on a positive note - or get distracted from their school work -as a downside. However, Second Life® three dimentional virtual world gaming does not compare with other online or desktop experiences. So, why not try adding a totally new dimension in your everyday classes along with your coursebook or encourage your learners for some self access practice at their own time.
You can get them to watch and make online machinima or, if they are adults, to 'go Inworld'.
Using virtual world senaria in the classroom can be a most illuminating experience for your learners or your trainee teachers. Through Second Life® you can give them stimuli on which to observe, conceptualise and experiment by using role-play simulations for instance, to introduce new language, to help revise, practise or consolidate.
Take my experience in Second Life® with the Gomez Family as an example. How would you feel if during the flight you fell off the plane and ended up at the bottom of the sea hairless, then having to fly after your plane? What language would you need to use to express frustration, amusement, complaint or anger to the pilot (Alfonzo Garavito Olivar aka Alfonzo Perfferle) or cabin crew? For language teachers, this inworld experience can inspire them to teach language connected with aviation or story-telling. For EFL learners, this simulation can stimulate their writing or speaking skills, for example. The future of storytelling has now changed through this medium which adds a new expression!
You can use teacher-made or learner-made machinima for distance or blended learning, for in-class instruction or for learner/teacher self access. Or you could get your learners to make their own machinima but, mind you, it is not for inworld use with young learners as one needs to be 18 to enter Second Life. This may be a consideration for Second Life researchers and Developers to bear in mind if they are considering opening SL up to education. Still, to appeal to their young learners, teachers can use child avatars to promote their teaching aims.
By using such a totally immersive environment as Second Life® (which is free and safe and should stay free especially for educational purposes), your classroom mirrors real life, promoting thus not only linguistic development but also social development, intercultural awareness, creativity, resourcefulness and multiple intelligences. It helps them improve their concentration levels, build determination and creative thinking. However, you need to carefully prepare lessons with linguistically relevant tasks on SL experiences, to activate your learners' target language skills, to help them express their cognitive and healthy emotive capacities. In case this is disregarded, you are bound to end up with a class using their own mother tongue.
With a group of like-minded, well coordinated and cooperative educators, new material (machinima), tasksheets and holodecks can be created to promote learner reflexion in all languages, on situations resembling real-life or even inconceivable experiences such as dancing the night away with 'King Osna' and friends at 'Castle Renoir', flying to catch your plane, hugging the universe in a cosmic sci-fi galaxy or getting it off your chest at the Speaker's corner in Hyde Park - you name it.
For those who are interested in the inside story, this very innovative medium of teaching has opened up horizons for scripting to build new scenes and to make your objects move, speak and interact like real life agents.
So, what do you think? Get a Second Life®
Enjoy the experience
ErlinaAzure (& Baby Tux) in SL
If you wish to learn more about machinima, you can read Christel Schneider and Carol Rainbow's 'Making and Using Machinima in the Language Classroom' on Scribd. Highly recommended!