In an in-world presentation, Lesley Scopes aka Light Sequent presented ‘Learning Archetypes as tools of Cybergogy: A structure for eTeaching in Second Life‘ to VWBPE 2010. The presentation was worth watching for the information that was presented, but of particular interest was the presentation method. Lesley used 3D world tools to present rather than bringing the more frequently used 2D tool (PowerPoint) into the 3D world. This made the presentation more engaging than presentations I typically attend. The 3D models brought a unique physicality to the presentation that served to interest the audience.
A 3D representation is used to make a point
The presentation took advantage of tools not available in a 2D platform and perhaps demonstrates the evolution of 2D to 3D much like the evolution of overheads to PowerPoint was a few years ago. Using the tools available in virtual worlds requires that the presenter have some skills in the area of building. Light Sequent explained that the 3D items could contain scripts for additional interaction between audience and information 3D graphic. At the very least the presenter should be able to place the correct 3D object in front of the audience at the appropriate time but the actual building of the objects could be built by someone adept at building.
I look forward to using this method of presentation in the future, though I’ll need to label objects carefully so I don’t accidentally place a shoe or a silly gadget in front of my audience.
Learning of foreign languages can be somewhat of a challenge in the United States, partially due to proximity to countries where another language is spoken, yet global perspectives are essential and better addressed through a multi-lingual and multi-cultural citizenry. “According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, a higher percentage of students are studying a foreign language than at any time in history.” The Case for Foreign language Classes Education Week ( July 12, 2010). Students need to become prepared to conduct business and compete in a global economy, our competitors across the globe are addressing it.
Foreign language instruction is an area that can be handled effectively through virtual environment experiences. Foreign language teachers will tell you that practice in the native tongue with native speakers is a “best practice”. In real life it often includes field trips, at the very least to a local restaurant or community, students from affluent homes may participate in a trip abroad.
In a virtual environment, students can be placed in a variety of social situations, with native speakers, to practice newly acquired linguistic skills. There are instant translators available in virtual worlds that can translate written text to a limited degree, and/or students may turn on voice and actually practice speaking with individuals from another country. Environments can be constructed to elicit the practice of particular vocabulary such as sporting, arts, cultural, or social events. Students (through avatars) engaged in conversation and interaction will naturally acquire cultural lessons as well.
ESOL students could use the environment similarly. A characteristic that encourages language practice for the second language learner is the ‘security’ of the avatar. Students learning a foreign language may express a reluctance to speak, for fear of being made fun of. An avatar representation offers some shielding from potential or perceived ridicule.
A virtual setting may very well be the most ‘natural’ setting we can provide, at a reasonable cost, for foreign language instruction.
I attended the Second Life ISTE speaker series June 1st, regarding learning spaces. The speaker categorized learning spaces as formal, informal and virtual. This would seem to indicate that Virtual World spaces are only virtual, but that is not the case. The virtual environment contains formal and informal spaces within its’ ‘virtualness’. Perhaps it is more what you do with the spaces than what they are or what they look like.
A traditional classroom is a formal space, yet teachers often manage those spaces in ways that engage students in untraditional ways. A teacher in a classroom with desks, even desks in rows, can engage students in an informal, non-didactic way ( though a different setting may be more amenable to this).
During the ISTE Virtual session, the avatars all sat in an auditorium and the setting was certainly visually formal, yet it was virtual space. The speaker did not talk-at, lecture non-stop or read from 30 powerpoint slides. The speaker engaged the group by asking very pointed questions and then responded to the chatter in local chat. Participants also “talked” among themselves without disturbing the group, so there was an informalness to the presentation despite the visually formal setting. This strategy would not work as well in a face-to-face formal setting because of sound/noise. The ability to discern salient comments would be impossible.
Organization of visual space, virtual or real, certainly contributes to how the space is used, but it does not need to dictate the way the space is used. A skilled teacher will be able to conduct learning experiences that are effective and can usually adjust in spite of the setting. An exception would obviously be a lab or studio requiring specialized equipment. In planning for the teaching and learning that will take place in any space the instructor must consider the content, objectives, target audience and learning styles.