Virtual immersion

B. We all explore new technologies, some grab our attention more than others, some seem revolutionary, others simply bore us. Tell us about that new tool, or set of tools, you have just discovered that really excites you, talk about the potential it has to change your work. What do you want to do with it?
I know that this will not sound very original, but the tool I discover lately (well, 2 years ago) and whose big potential I still believe in, is Second Life.

I first found out of the existence of 3D environments in a e-learning course I too. Actually, it was not in the course, it was a message I got from another participant (forum messages sometimes can change one’s life he he). The link that she gave me was simply a 3D house with the image of some people inside. Nothing really revolutionary, but it was completely new to me and I had a flash. Of course, I did not know anything about Multi-user Environment but I understood the potentiality of being able to bring language learners into a virtual world. I bought “The Sims” videogame. And It was a delusion: I could not use it at all because I did not have access to pc in my class and therefore it was not possible to create a discussion around these “people” lives, nor to control them collectively.

Shortly afterwards I heard of Second life. On the 9th of November of 2006 I created my avatar and gave my first steps in the Metaverse. I literally felt the walls of the classroom falling down. It was such a sensation of freedom, of infinite possibilities to explore, the urge to try everything, thousands of ideas to start coming to my head. I was still stumbling and clumsy but really excited.

In the following months I had to calm down and start learning. And the fist thing that I had to re-learn was the English language. I studied English at the university, but I had forgot so much that I even misspelled “bye bye”.  In Second Life I learned it again in a natural way, as I would have learned it living in the country: using it every day, and using it for communicate and collaborate with others.

In this almost two years I observed myself and others language learners, and this reaffirm my conviction that Second Life is a wonderful tool for learning languages. I’ve never felt so at ease using the English language as now (I know I make mistakes, and that my expression is far from being perfect, but give me the time :o)) ).

This experience is influencing as well my RL teaching style. I’m always been space aware in my classroom: I love to use the whole classroom, not only the table and chairs in it. I love to have students stand up and move, to occupy the space. Nonetheless, now I’m more and more aware that we often make 2D classes in our rich 3D real world, and that does not make much sense, does it?

In SL I will start now, on Monday, my second attempt: Italianiamo.

With this project, I don’t want to “teach” language but to help learners to learn in a natural and informal way.
To achieve it I will point out different activities in SL they can take part in and where they can meet native speakers, and I will offer a weekly meeting where they can meet other learners of the Italian language, get to know each other and form a learning community. To make this meeting more atractive, I will prepare little games or short activities.
In addition,  they can post their questions and doubts on the use of the language and read the answer on the blog.

In fact, as I experienced first hand and as many said in the totally unscientific survey I started last month, when we are learning on our own, in a unstructured way, sometimes we would like to have a person to help us clarifying and solve to all those doubts and questions we stumble upon in our learning.


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