Let me introduce to you Anna, the role player

I started to be interested in Role Play in SL some years ago. I spent a whole summer exploring Sims and reading notecards, then joined an Italian one. It was summer… there was very little going around and few people to ask advice, and I admit I felt quite lost. The Sim closed in autumn. End of story.
After that, I forgot about it till this autumn, when Pionia Destiny lured me, with my enthusiastic consent, to Artstonia.

I liked the Land, a sort of medieval village:

  • It’s a one-Sim-Land. Smaller lands are better in my opinion: it’s easier to meet people and thus to integrate faster in the community.
  • Role Play is not centred on fighting, there is a lot of everyday role-play, small little stories going on.
  • Action is not always GM* lead. Most of the time a sort of input is thrown out there and then everybody contributes to the story to go on.
  • It’s well organised: they give you classes to understand and learn to role-play, but at the same time is relaxed.
  • You do not find around people not role-playing, a thing that I observed in other Sims and that I founded very disruptive
  • There are some great roleplayers,  and some are also great “integrators”, people who naturally, instintivelly help you to integrate in a community (thanks, Alexius and sir Edge).

Therefore I decided to stay and to give it a try. So… first of all, role play classes and creation of a character. This, the creation of the character, may be the most difficult, the most useful, and the most interesting part of the rpg**. In short, you sit down with a piece of paper in front of you and ask yourself: who am I and who I want to be. And write down a story of your life, explaining, with facts, why your character is  the way she is.
Now, you can understand that it’s rather intimidating, and in this short time I’ve been role-playing I’ve seen more than one giving up at this stage.

My little advice is to start form the avatar. Create it. Don’t buy a ready made one, make it, make the body yourself, look for a skin that fits on that body, looks for hair that fit the skin and the body, then look it in his/her eyes and ask him/her what he/she wants to be. You will get a rough idea, only then, dress him/her.

Now I see already many of you turning up your nose at the idea of being someone else. Well – and this is a personal opinion- I find rather absurd people who want to be themselves in SL, who make the avatar “look just like them” or even want to have their “real” name in Second Life. I personally prefer to explore my many selves, and to observes how avatars with different aspect influence my behaviour and that of other people. I like to play with identities, and I like to observe how I develop a bond, a sort of affection to this or that of my avatars, while others let me rather cold.

To be “other” gives you more freedom. We language teachers use this trick sometimes in class, above all in discussion about conflictive topics.  We divide the class in two groups, one in favour and the other against something, give our students time to decide who they are and ask them to think as well about the reasons of their stand. Usually people react a bit negatively when first asked to do it, but then enjoy a lot the dynamic of the game, find themselves participating more, and  the discussion heats up. In the end we all laugh and are still friends, although we might have quarrelled quite harshily in the “game”.

The same th9ng happens here. To be “another” helps you to put a filter between your real self (or should I say your real selves?) and what is happening to your character and to remind you that’s a game. Because, for a game to be fun, there has to be conflicts, there has to be evil characters, there has to be tension and dramatic events. I mean, if we all are constantly nice to each other… what a bore!

As you play, and observe you to play, however, you will be surprised to see how much of you there is actually inside your character, and it’s interesting to watch you from the outside. For instance, I discovered that I’m rather chatty… who wuold have ever thought it!

Anna-the-roleplayer is between 17 and 20, she is uneducated, naive, fearful and trustful. She is a little animal, very natural, curious and impulsive.

*GM: Game Master, person who are somehow responsible of the Sim and that sometimes creates storylines involving all the roleplayers.
** rpg: role play game

Wants to know more? Here you will find a very instructive post.




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2 machinema project from the facilitator and the learner point of view

In October Gizmo and me presented in the Slanguages Conference some reflection on our experience with the machinema projects of Italianiamo from the point of view of the facilitator (me) and the learner (Gizmo).

For me, to sit down with one of my learner and to examine what we did and achieved (or not achieved) together was a very enriching and interesting experience.

The presentation itself… well, was as well a good learing experience :D. I’ve learned that I really have problems with slides (this time was lag, i was unable to see almost anything and to move, so it was impossible for me to show the slides that illustrated our talk) and that it’s better for me not to give presenatation in English: my level is not enough to feel confortable speaking in front of people, even if they are only avatar.

You can check yourself here, if you do not believe me 🙂

or if you prefer, you can read the text that we prepared.

Anna: Hi everybody and thank you for coming. The title of this presentation is Learning by machinima: reflection on pros and cons and we will analyse, from the point of view of the facilitator and of the participant, our experience with an Italian learning activity that involved making a short film in SL, a machinema.
But let’s first introduce ourselves.

Gizmo: I’m Gizmo, In RL I teach Spanish in Adult learning centres in the South  of England. In SL I am 3 years old and have been trying to improve my Italian in SL for probably about half that time. I have attended all three stages of Anna’s Italianiamo project.

Anna: I teach Italian in RL at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in SL and at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. In SL, I’m almost 4 years old, and I explore the possibilities that this tool offers for informal learning of languages.

Italianiamo, is an Italian informal learning project for learners of level A2 onwards. It started as weekly, stand alone activities. I used the SL environment to stimulate learners oral production. I used this formula for almost a year, trying different variations, and I learnt a lot from it.

I also saw that, the typical SL language learner, that is the learner you already find in SL (not the students you can bring in virtual worlds yourself) is a sort of a casual learner, more interested in communication than in accuracy (At least  this was what I observed with the my Italian learners in SL). It’s someone who comes to the language activity, participate with enthusiasm and interest, but is not going to study or work on his own afterwards. Therefore I felt that this approach was not the best one because it did not offer the occasion to repeat, in a natural way, the expressions, vocabulary and structures seen in the previous activities.

So I wanted to try something new, to try to focus on accuracy as well, without making a “class”.

I finished Italianiamo first phase and invited people who usually came to italianiamo to participate in a new project, if they felt like: to make a short film together.
Of all the things I wanted to try in SL, this was the easiest from the point of view of the learner: it did not require any technical skill from their part. But it required commitment. It was not anymore something you drop into when you feel like chatting in Italian. It was a project and for projects you need a group.

There were 3 people who came regularly to the first Italianiamo, and other who came from time to time, some more other less often. Italianiamo, being an activity open to everyone, also included native speakers who participated in our activities. 3 people came to the 1st meeting of Italianiamo-the movie: Gizmo Karelia and Paloma. One week later arrived Lluis and a native speaker, Marino.
Let’s look at the composition of this group, because it will be important to understand many things later.

Gizmo: yes, Karelia , Lluis and I were good friends, did other things together in SL, and had a strong interest in improving their oral Italian. Marino was developing a strong friendship with Karelia and me. Paloma came quite regularly for a couple of months, then would disappear,  for work reasons, then turn up again for another couple of months. But basically, most of  the participants in the first film were regular and committed attendees who had also been through the first stage of Italianiamo together.
When we say committed , what I mean was committed to the group. Some of us, myself included, are learning Italian in order to keep up conversationally with Italian friends. I can’t pretend that I do homework or serious study of the language – but the first stage activities of Italianiamo gave me a kick start to where I am now, when I speak Italian nearly every day with friends that I  have made on SL.

The whys and the wherefores

Anna: the idea underlying italianiamo-the movie was… to make them talk again and again about the same topic without boring them. The film was an excuse, a little trick, the purpose for doing everything in the middle. I wanted them to use and reuse the same vocabulary, structures, sentences, but in a natural way. And I wanted to be able to work on pronunciation too.  And I wanted them to be actively involved in the project in all its phases: it had to be their film, they had to feel they had the complete control of it. I was the one taking care of all the technical, difficult bits, like the settings, organising how to work, and the actual filming and editing

Deciding the story

Gizmo: We started to decide what  the central topic was going to be, brainstorming ideas and discussing them, and we decided the story would take place in an hairdresser’s shop. The ideas were quite simple, nothing too deep, with well worn themes and some good action in the end.

Anna: We started choosing a broad subject and a setting. The participants decided who they wanted to be in the story. I help them thinking up their character, made them reflect on the relationship with the other characters, how they felt etc, just to get them in their roles.
Only then, starting from the relationship between characters, we created a plot.
This part was a creative mess. Many idea sprung up, many were discarded, we were naturally forced to summarise again and again our story. You see? Repetition, same vocabulary coming up again and again, same structures… but without getting bored or feeling that they were “repeating it”.
My role here was to put some order, to keep them on track, to avoid changing the story over and over again, give little pushes form time to time when they got stuck.

Gizmo: the story in a nutshell is that the hairdresser, the character Alessandro,  has been having an affair with a client , Venus.  They have been planning to start a new life together when Alessandro gets cold feet when Venus tries to push him to act.  There is a big argument with his wife, Venus is enraged and tries to steal Alessandro’s savings but is stopped in her tracks by an all seeing black cat  who also speaks Italian.


Anna: Once the plot was finished and we had it written, we could start with the dialogues. I first thought that everybody could prepare simultaneously their dialogues, improvising them, and then we would write them down, correcting the language when needed, so that they had their script.
But i saw immediately that it did not work. if you have been studying a foreign language you will have noticed it. When the teacher asks you to prepare a dialogue, improvising, and then present it to the class, the “original” one, the one you are improvising, is always better, more spontaneous, witty, fresh, that the one you are representing in front of the class.
This is because to us, to the people representing it, that dialogue, it’s not so meaningful anymore. I mean, when we talk to someone, we react to what he/she says. We do not know beforehand what this person will say.

So we had to work in another way: I had to write down what they said when they were saying it, the first time.
At the end, I copied everything on a notecard, read it again, corrected grammar mistakes and some vocabulary, but trying to change as little as possible of their language. If some sentence was not clear, we discussed it, I made some proposal, but they always had the last word. Above all, they had to feel comfortable reading it. the language had to be their level. It was them who spoke, not me.

The notecard then was given to the people involved in the scene . they read it again, loud, acting the scene. Here we corrected pronunciation and made little changes when necessary.

Gizmo: I’d like to talk about  my experience of creating my part in the story . It was easy for me to invent the character of a speaking cat as I am a great cat lover anyway. In our story the cat introduces the other characters with a monologue, and later has a dialogue with Andrea, played by Marino. This dialogue influenced later parts of the story because of material that came up and was taken up later. The monologue came to me fairly quickly and was then written down by Anna. The dialogue was a joint effort between Marino and me. We created it whilst Anna was recording another part of the story. So bits of the story were developing independently and we had to edit some details later so that the story flowed and made sense. In the dialogue Marino did suggest a few of the Italian phrases I used, but  it was a good dialogue exercise because we were really trying to invent something new, add a new twist to the story, not just put together a collection of phrases. We then acted it out again for Anna, who transcribed it, and did 3 or 4 takes for the final filming. Even after a few times of repeating it it was still enjoyable to do.

Gizmo preparing her monologue

Anna: For me, to have a native speaker with me (Marino) was an help. Let me say that I had to “educate” him a bit, since he is not teacher, and he is italian (Italians love to speak). They like to speak a lot… because it’s natural and easy for them, and for non native speakers it can be difficult to understand everything and to participate in a conversation with a native speaker. Or for instance, in dialogue, they tend to suggest too much, try to put their words into the learners mouth, because of course their Italian is stylistically better.
But having another native speaker who could help a couple rehearsing their dialogue was wonderful, a big help.
Of course it was not everything went smoothly. We had problems. Let’s see them.

  • I was the only Italian person who typed quick enough to transcribe dialogues. So when I was writing what a couple said, the others often had nothing to do.
  • Paloma disappeared without notice, and we had to find someone who substituted her. Luckily my colleague Cvetcka Nackt convinced one of her student to participate.
  • The day we had to shoot the scene in a bar our barman could not come. So we were stuck. But in this case, the difficulty gave us the opportunity of practicing some more Italian: everybody was scanning his/her friend list looking for Italian speaking people (often native speakers) who could come to help. They had to wrote many IM in Italian before we found someone who agreed on being our barman.

Cvetkca "lent" us a student

The whole process took quite a long time: we started at the beginning of December and the “premiere” was at the beginning of March, but we were proud of our work, we were proud of having overcome the various difficulties, and to have a little film to show to our friends.
Because of it, we decided then to go for a second one.

This time we decided to use a real SL setting, and Alice Mastroianni offered WDT planet, a wonderful Italian Sim.

WDT Planet


Let’s see who were the people in the group this time
Gizmo, Karelia, Marino, Claudio, Grinta.

Then Claudio and Grinta got some misunderstanding SL and Grinta stopped coming. And Gwen Arrived.

Then Marino fell in love in RL and he disappeared (and we understood it) but we had to look for a substitute. And Bea arrived.

Later on Donatuccio and Kalyan arrived, Donatuccio disappeared, Bernard arrived and Bea disappeared.

Gizmo: the story line that we first mooted was about Greek gods who turn out to be the opposite from what one would think , like the huntress Diana becoming a vegetarian. However as more participants joined us after the start , the plot turned out to be too complicated because a greater number of contributors wanted their say  and other story lines became added.   Indeed it was difficult to remember what the plot was and perhaps that put off some people from returning.

There was fairly frequent change in the composition of the group with some avatars from the first film leaving the group  or not turning up for the rehearsals and then the arrival of some competent speakers with many  new ideas.

Some participants who were near beginners, joined relatively late on in the process of the ‘script writing’. It was difficult to cope with this as a group when we also had native speakers who could sometimes introduce idioms which were unknown to us or a few who would come along for the camaraderie but did not want to take part in the film. That said, I did like the mixture of  both learners and native speakers in the group . They were mostly friends of Gizmo and Karelia anyway! Perhaps there was the need for firmer boundaries, but in the SL environment that is difficult.

And…Was there ever a title? The first film had a title which encapsulated the main point.

Anna: You are right Gizmo, but every time I tried to discuss the possible title, the conversation went somewhere else….(sigh)
With all this coming and going of people, I was starting to feel that it was impossible to introduce ourselves, explain the story, how we worked, to the newcomers as I would have liked to.
On the one hand, to work together you have to create bonds among people, and people to collaborate in something so complex, have to feel commitment towards the group. They as well need to understand what is involved in participating in this kind of activities, and decide if they want to join in or not. They also have to understand how everything works, and why it works in this way.
On the other hand, I could not ask people who were in the project from the start to introduce themselves each time, to repeat the story we had thought of, to change it to let the newcomers participate, or to try to find a substitute for those who disappeared and where playing a central role. And do it over and over again.

We started at the end of March and at end of July I had to admit that we were stuck. So I decided to finish it.

Gizmo: Personally I felt a bit disappointed at the sudden ending of the project, which was done unilaterally, without discussion. If people start something together it is better to end it together whatever the ending might be. This brings the process to a cleaner end and allows everyone to reflect on the process and extract the learning points for themselves. Anna probably got fed up with the whole thing in the end, but I do think she can sometimes be quite impetuous ( well she is Italian!!!)

Anna: yes, it was like finishing a love affair with a sms. You are right.

After a couple of months of reflection, we want to share with you we learnt

  • In the first italianiamo-the movie we had a group, people knew each other and had had time to develop bonds.

comparing the two groups

In the second Italianiamo-the movie, the group started with some bonds, but then due to RL issue, new inclusions and drop off, we did not have a group anymore.

  • In the first italianiamo-the movie I knew well my people, how they are, who is more shy, who is more dominant, and had my trick to balance the situation. In the second italianiamo-the movie sometimes I did not even had time to understand the language level of each newcomer, and I lost control of the situation, above all with native speakers who tended to monopolise the conversation.
  • In the first italianiamo-the movie, almost everybody had time to understand the process, and many, being themselves language teachers, understood as well why I was doing it this way.
  • In the fist italianiamo-the movie, we all knew it was an experiment, and we all knew it was risky and difficult, but wanted to give a try, because if it worked, it was going to be great.

In the second italianiamo-the movie, many came because saw the result, the movie we proudly showed in our premiere, other just to practice Italian, other just for curiosity.
Since they did not live the fist experience, where we all learnt together how to do it (me included, I’d never done anything similar in my life) and since we did not spend much time with each new comer explaining it  they did not get it. Many, for instance, did not understand why we spent so much time talking about the character and the relations among characters. They would have preferred to have me telling them, deciding for them. But if they have to create a story and above all play their character, this is a fundamental step.
However, there were some good learning moments and some unique moments. I will explain just one. Gwen Gwasi, who had to try to play aloud her monologue, said “i will stand up to say it”. And we all were expecting her avatar to stand. But not, her avatar stayed sit. The one standing was Gwen, in RL. She was so involved in what she was doing, that she needed to stand up in RL to say her monologue.

Gizmo: now a few memories of mine

  • As the character of  Diana the huntress, I spent a lot of time  shooting rabbits which I had rezzed and cloned, with a bow and arrow , whilst others were going through their scenes.
  • And  Karelia as Juno having to change her avatar shape to become more Juno-esque ( that is,  curvy and well endowed).
  • And i won’t forget the verb bisbigliare  to whisper .- Claudio often had to speak in a whisper because he was online when members of his family were asleep.. Claudio bisbiglia…

good moments

  • Anna: to conclude, some advice to those who want to try this out themselves:
  • It’s a very exciting, satisfying learning experience. But to be successful it has to be done with people who know each other quite well.
  • Keep the group small, be sure they understand what is involved in the task and ask commitment from the start.
  • If you can, try to involve native speakers, but remember that you will have to restrain them from talking too much.
  • Don’t be afraid of learning yourself
  • Be ready to become a builder (but you can find many ready to use settings and things), a personal shopper, a location finder, a film director and of course, a machinima maker and editor and many other things. Your task is to make their task easier, to that their only concern will be the language.

And enjoy the process, because the film, the result, it’s only and excuse. It’s all the other part that’s important.

Gizmo …….Well, Ok the second film didn’t ever come to light – but the result of the different stages of Italianiamo was that some of us have been enthused to take our learning and develop it outside the virtual environment in forming real friendships  with people from different parts of Italy. That must be encouraging for any language teacher!

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back again with old friends

This year I will be sharing a little plot in Edunation with two old friends:  Daf Smirnov and Paolo Inventor (former Head Teacher). Really happy about it, and who knows, may be we will start collaborating again in some nice project.

At the moment, we are all too busy even to meet, so I will leave here a little drawing of us 3 together. Will add the “real” photo soon.


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add a dimension to your learning.. with a good friend

In October 2010 Karelia Kondor and I prepared a presenation for the 3rd Virtual Roundtable Conference.

For me it was a real pleasure to be able to collaborate with Karelia: we met in Edunation thanks to Carol and became real friends by now. And I love to work with people: I like the energy that is produced and the learning and teaching that is taking place. In this case, I was the one who learned more, and I have to thanks Karelia to offer me this opportunity.

Since the conference was not on SL and then probably our “pubblic” was mostly new to Virtual Words, we decided to give an overview of what can teachers do in Second Life and to explain it from the point of view of  our personal experience.

It was nice and reassuring as well to have Gizmo, Pionia and many other friends among the attendats, and to be able to rely on the wonderful organisation of Gwen.

Here are the slides, since we had a little problem with them and were not able to show them all.

For more information:

the recording: http://www.virtual-round-table.com/profiles/blogs/add-a-dimension-to-your

Karelia page: http://www.all-london.org.uk/second_life.htm


introduction (video)

Italian Art: Gallery of the italian creativity: dynamics painting  and sculpture by Gleman Jun.
Sculpture: Both myself by Gleman Jun
Avalon Learning

For information on the project:

Slanguages 2010

sharing resources (slide)

International School
One of the many places where you can find free resources for teaching in SL.
English at Cypris Chat (slide)

Virtlantis (slide)

Goethe Institut (slide)

Teleportnovela (slide)

Italianiamo (slide)

Games (videos)
Role play (video)

Artstonia (role play sim)
Chatlog: example of role play interaction
[2010/09/29 23:50]  gadget Cyberstar: greetings, anna
[2010/09/29 23:50]  anna Begonia: greetings
[2010/09/29 23:51]  Relm Foxdale: Greetings
[2010/09/29 23:52]  anna Begonia: greetings
[2010/09/29 23:52]  Whrek Nirvana: Eya Girly
[2010/09/29 23:52]  gadget Cyberstar: ooh goodie, the rat is here
[2010/09/29 23:52]  Whrek Nirvana: shut up
[2010/09/29 23:52]  gadget Cyberstar: and why would i do that?
[2010/09/29 23:53]  Whrek Nirvana: you’ve got shit spewwin out yur gums
[2010/09/29 23:53]  Whrek Nirvana: I’m sure relm doesn’t appreciate getting covered in it
[2010/09/29 23:59]  anna Begonia: *approaches Whreck, looks at his skin*
[2010/09/29 23:59]  anna Begonia: Sir, do you paint it every day? It would take long. How many hours?
[2010/09/30 00:00]  anna Begonia: do someone help you?
[2010/09/30 00:00]  Whrek Nirvana cocks his foot to the side and sweeps his tail around it, standing up tall in front of her, “Wha, You aint meanin ta tell me you aint never seen a tatoo before girly, THis down come off, its burned on my flesh”
[2010/09/30 00:00]  Relm Foxdale suddenly chuckles. “You have longer hair than me.”
[2010/09/30 00:01]  gadget Cyberstar: aye, frieking wood elfs, they dun know how ta cut hair
[2010/09/30 00:01]  anna Begonia: Oh, my god! burned! it has to be very painful! Why did they do it to you? *with a shrill in ther voice*
[2010/09/30 00:01]  Relm Foxdale grabs his ponytail playfully
[2010/09/30 00:01]  gadget Cyberstar: hey! no pulling!
[2010/09/30 00:01]  Relm Foxdale laughs
[2010/09/30 00:01]  gadget Cyberstar: pull my hair, i steal an ear
[2010/09/30 00:02]  Relm Foxdale: You wouldn’t dare
[2010/09/30 00:02]  gadget Cyberstar: try me
[2010/09/30 00:02]  Relm Foxdale frowns
[2010/09/30 00:02]  Relm Foxdale: Nah
[2010/09/30 00:02]  Whrek Nirvana holds his hand up and traces down his arms, “Traders and brands, each of these was given to me when I was slave to one or another, the Ravinica guild added the roses every time, or was it gruuls
[2010/09/30 00:02]  gadget Cyberstar: tatoos dun hurt, actually
[2010/09/30 00:03]  gadget Cyberstar: well, much
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Whrek Nirvana: they do when theyre seared
[2010/09/30 00:03]  gadget Cyberstar: yeah
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Relm Foxdale: Not very much, no
[2010/09/30 00:03]  gadget Cyberstar: i said much
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Relm Foxdale: Depends where they are
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Whrek Nirvana: take a hot Iron, dip it in ink, then brand the flesh
[2010/09/30 00:03]  gadget Cyberstar: well, ye stop feeling much after a whyle
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Relm Foxdale smirks. “You’ve never seen mine, Gadget.”
[2010/09/30 00:03]  anna Begonia: you were a slave? *goes nearer to Whreck* how can be that you were takein slave? You are so strong *smiles half shyly half mockingly* why did you not defend yourself?
[2010/09/30 00:03]  gadget Cyberstar: did nay know ye had one
[2010/09/30 00:03]  Relm Foxdale: But then I keep it hidden, for good reason
[2010/09/30 00:04]  Relm Foxdale: When i was with those…people
[2010/09/30 00:04]  gadget Cyberstar: ah
[2010/09/30 00:04]  Whrek Nirvana: I was a boy when I was taken at as a slave, and even now not much I can do to a camp of slavers ta stop em, though I’ve slipt outta theyre grips a few times as of late
[2010/09/30 00:05]  gadget Cyberstar: ye just gotta learn how ta fight right
[2010/09/30 00:05]  anna Begonia: I was told that there are raids sometimes in the village, they catch people, children or girls. Are they slavers?
[2010/09/30 00:05]  gadget Cyberstar: mostly just monsters
[2010/09/30 00:06]  Whrek Nirvana: Wouldnt doubt it, Sparten raiders are pretty notorious fer taken breedin stock, women and girls, athenians well take workers of men
[2010/09/30 00:06]  Relm Foxdale: Well, Gadget, I need to go to bed…it’s been a long day, traveling to Flotsam and back
[2010/09/30 00:06]  gadget Cyberstar: *frowns* alright
[2010/09/30 00:06]  anna Begonia: ah…. other mostners, not the one you have in the village, i guess
[2010/09/30 00:06]  Relm Foxdale: But thanks for dancing with me *smiles*
[2010/09/30 00:06]  gadget Cyberstar: goodnight, relm
[2010/09/30 00:06]  Relm Foxdale: Night
[2010/09/30 00:06]  anna Begonia: good Night lady
The real Virtual World
art gallery (slide)

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having fun… and collaborating with friends

I’ve been appointed stage technick by Gwen Gwasi 😀

That means, that I have a good excuse for doing what I like most in SL: prepare settings.

Here is the result:

The first scene of Gween play (two small pieces of “Baal”, by Bertold Brecht) will take place in a party.  So here I wanted light, opulence, and to give the idea that they are a sort of artist circle of friends.

To keep prims down, the pictures on the wall are… part of the texture. The middle of the room is empty to let some space for the actors to move.

The “prim” will be a little organ. Gwen will buy it for her rapresentation.

The second scene, is in a squallid bar, people are drunk and quarrel. Here the setting is dark, furniture are battered, lights are dim. Here actors will need more space to move, above all in the last scene.

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It’s time for me to sit on the other side

There are two kind of people in the world: normal people and teacher and students. For normal people the year starts on the 1st of January. For teachers and students it starts on the 1st of September.

And you know: new year, new promises and proposals (and new quitting smoking, collecting princesses’ and queens’ needles and learning languages adds on TV).

September is approaching and Anna Begonia is reflection on what she did, what she does, and what she wants to do. And she feels that she needs to take a break from sitting on the teacher -well, she does not like the word, let’s say facilitator- chair and would really like to sit again on the learner chair.

She wants to have time to experience learning, in all its form: from learning to fight like a ninja with Karelia Kondor, to brush up her German with Gwen Gwasi, to try to improve her English with Professor Merryman, to learn at last to use an holodeck, pupetree and all these stuff she keeps unused in her inventory. And to carry on at last her Mystery House project (what’s it? Aha, a mystery 😛 )

She feels not guilty towards the Italianiamo participants thanks to Misy Ferraris, who will start soon her Italian classes in SL.

Her RL counterpart too is not possessive with her students: she tends to avoid having the same class more than one year in a row. They have to change teacher, listen to other pronunciation, experiment other teaching styles and personalities. And, let’s admit it: all of us have our manias, strong and week points. All of us teach better something and less well other thing and insist more on this or on that. So, changing is good.

And changing for us teachers (opss, sorry Anna, facilitators) is good too. And changing prospective, sitting on the other side, is very, very important.


Filed under education, Second Life

A teaching experience. Some reflections

I was contacted by Luisa Panichi to teach in an Italian beginners course for the Avalon Project. For me it was an honour and a great responsibility. But above all was a learning occasion, so I accepted without hesitation… and then started to worry 🙂 ).

For me it was a long list of “first time”. The first time I actually teach an “Italian course” (I’ve been always busy with informal learning until now), and the first time I had to manage a rather large group (10-15 people).

You will ask: “What? You have been doing things in SL for almost 3 years and never faced a group of 15 people?”

People coming to Italianiamo -let’s confess it 🙂 – are not that many. And when I was at Languagelab it was quite different.

Recognising who is talking

Let me explain it better. When new people drop by at Italianiamo they are one or two for session. But we already know each other and recognise each other voice. Therefore you know that if you hear a “new voice” it belong to the “new person”. And this was the case as well at Languagelab: you ended up knowing almost all students, so when you were running an event for them, you had already met them before and learnt how their voice sounded.

But if they are 15  strangers, as your new students the first days of a course… well, it’s another story.

Next time you are in a large meeting, pay attention. Are you able to recognise immediately who is talking? Or at least, do you know immediately if the person talking is sitting in front of you, on your right or on your left? No. Not at all. Unless you already know the people in the meeting.

In RL, voices come from a direction, we hear where the voice come from, and we turn to that direction, thus spotting who’s speaking.

In SL voices have no direction: everybody is just speaking into your ears.

Of course the teacher can keep an eye on  the active speakers list and on the “green brackets” on avatar’s head, but a teacher is often doing many other things while he or other people are talking: rezzing objects or boards, writing key words in chat, fetching people who got lost on the way, etc. So I assure you that until he’s learnt to recognise his student’s voices, he will have no clue to know who’s asking a question or who’s asking for help.

A solution could be to have a one-to-one chat with each participant (for instance while testing their oral level) so that the teacher could get used with their voice, but since it’s not always possible, be prepared to ask “who said this? Who asked that” when needed. I’m sure your students will understand.

Technical problems

Technical problems are rather common in SL classes. It does not matter if students had their introductory SL skill class before starting, someone will always have technical problems. Some are not important (if you are a white cloud for the whole class… well, you can still follow and participate in it) others are hindering a person class participation: mostly voice problem or crash problems.

For a teacher that’s working alone (if it’s a tandem teaching… well one goes on teaching while the other can help the student to set up his micro) it can be a big problem. He can spend a couple of minutes helping the student, but he cannot spend half an hour with it.

I found short, very focused video tutorials helpful and I would have liked to have made them before the beginning of the course rather than “on demand”.

Video tutorials in my opinion are much better to explain “what to do and where to click” in SL than an inworld explanation. The student can see the teacher interface, where he/she clicks, which menu is she/he opening, etc. and following instructions became easier that in those conversation among blinds that we are forced to carry in SL.  “On the left upper corner of your screen. Do you see it?” (silence on the other part).” If you see please write “yes” in chat”. “Yes, I’m clicking on it, but nothing happens”. “Ok, what is written on the button you are clicking on?” etc.

And… most important : he/she can see it alone, after the class (if the problem is not urgent) or during the class but without interrupting it.

I think it’s better for the student too. It does not have to be easy for a student to ask for help and then feel that all the other students are waiting for him. I mean, having technical problems is already enough frustrating and we do not want to add to it feeling somehow bad about it.

Student does not react

I remember my first workshop. It was about creating a gesture. And I remember me spending time and energy to communicate with one of the avatar who… was obviously having problems because she was not following any instructions, nor answering to my questions.

Later, I learnt that she is always multitasking: she opens her SL viewer, park her avatar there and then… skypes with friends, writes articles for her blog, answer mails.

In conferences she usually leaves her micro on, so we can all hear her typing over the voice of the speaker.

Now when I see her in meetings, I mute her directly. It’s rude, but it’s useless to send her IM asking her to close her micro: she’s doing other things and will not read your messages.

That’s was not the case with the students in this course. They were all really good and participative and it has been a great pleasure for me to meet them all and work with them.

But let’s see some typical VW issues that can be at the base of the problem.

  • First of all: do the student know that someone is asking him (him, and not the group or another student) the question? When asking a question to someone, always say the name of that person, and teach your student to do the same.

If the name of the person the question was addressed to was specified, and we do not get no reaction whatsoever, it can be that:

  • The student did not understand the question but is too shy to admit it: ask the student if he/she understood the question.
  • The student understood the question but he’s thinking his answer: leave the student some time before starting to stress him.
  • The student is googling up words (you can hear him typing): leave him some time but then ask for the answer.
  • The students is distracted by IM: can happen, may be he’s just writing: “busy. In class.” Repeat or ask to repeat the question.
  • The student crashed. Check it by bumping into the student.   If he/she is phantom and you can walk through, he/she has crashed.
  • Sound problems. Sound problems divide themselves in different categories.

– He/she forgot her micro closed (I constantly do it 🙂 ). Solution: say and write in chat that you cannot hear her/him. (that was easy!)

– He/she has voice problems: ask her/him to write in chat the answer, go on with the class and try to help him later, so you are not interrupting the activity.

– No sound: he/she did not hear the question. Solution: Write in chat the question but be aware that not everybody is constantly staring at chat. So write it a couple of times.

  • RL interferences: like telephone ringing, someone came to say something, doorbell ringing, etc. It’s normal and understandable, we all have a RL.

In many cases, you will never know what was going on. I usually allow some time  (while i’m checking all those points) and then go on. If possible, I will go back to that person later, hoping that this time he/she will be able to answer and participate in the class.


Filed under education, Second Life