Some weeks ago I was talking with Imparafacile Runo on the opportunity of bringing into SL learners of Italian who were already living in Italy. I found the idea an absurdity: they were already living in a 3D, interactive world, full of native speakers. A world that, let’s admit it, it’s much richer than Second Life.
He agreed on this point but pointed out that, for various reasons it’s very difficult for a teacher to bring students out of the classroom and into the real world: permission is to be asked well in advance and is not always granted, due to safety and organisation reasons.
Things are different when the school is small, may be in a small town or village, and – most important – when the management is cleaver enough to understand the importance of direct experience with the language in a real environment for the learners.
That’s the case of Edulingua, a small italian school in the Marche region.
I was talking with its director, Giorgio Massei (Giorgio Kuhn in SL), few weeks ago. Giorgio was one of the pioners in SL when he was teaching in the University of Michigan. Once he went back to Italiy he applied to real life what he learnt in SL.
In his scool students learn to go shopping in the italian town market of Castelraimondo, and when they want to learn vocabulary and expressions related to the house they visit a estate agency and then… a real house!
What an experience for these learners! the language becomes true, their interaction goes further than role play: it’s simulation. they do not ask question to each other pretending to be the seller/buyer: they ask question to a real estate agent, who will speak real, spontaneous italian. The vocabulary they will learn will not be associated to a 2d images on their book but to 3d objects, movements, emotions.
This is a dream for every language teacher, and for every language student. Yet, this way of teaching would not be possible in a large city like Rome or Florence: distances are greater and everything is more complicated. It’s possible in the small village of Castelraimondo, where you reach each destination in few minutes and where everybody knows everybody and the residents are somewhat actively involved in the life of this tiny, revolutionary school.