Learning in virtual worlds - the role of the classroom


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What is the function of the classroom in a completely virtual learning setting? Does it even have a future? These were questions I set out to answer reporting on over two years of English and Spanish language programme development with Languagelab.com inside Second Life.
Presented at Slanguages 2009 as
Classroom Is Dead Long Live The Classroom Paul Sweeney V2

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  • This presentation outlines lessons learned over two years by a team of educators and materials developers which I led working at Languagelab.com to develop immersive language learning programmes in the virtual world of Second Life. In addition to sharing many years of teaching experience in quality institutions internationally, the team had a considerable array of expertises to draw on: Materials development to published standard for English and Spanish teaching Teaching training Materials development for web and other electronic media e-community management Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and learning management systems Virtual world design and development As a playground we also had the huge virtual city which Languagelab.com had created in SecondLife to explore as many permutations of formal and informal learning as we had the energy and creativity to do. The process was notable for its creativity, its highly collaborative and iterative nature within a commercial development. Languagelab is a for profit, private company and part of the development criteria were to produce services which people were prepared to pay for. This may sound hard nosed to the educator community but in fact it was arguably far more learner centred than what happens in many schools and universities: the learners at all stages were either satisfied to very satisfied with what the learning but there was always room for improvement either in terms of fine tuning or as we had another paradigm shift in perception and explored a new perspective. We changed what we were doing from one development cycle to the next in response to detailed learner feedback. The topic has other resonances. For creative educators working in virtual worlds. Very often the sheer potential of the medium leads us to assume that the way we are constrained to do things in a real life classroom has very little transfer value into a virtual world. Surely in such a highly social, potentially autonomous environment students need to be freed from the shackles of the classroom – and perhaps even the teacher. What then the role of the classroom? This is what we found …
  • Learning in virtual worlds - the role of the classroom

    1. 1. The classroom is dead - long live the classroom Paul Sweeney, [email_address] http:// www.eduworlds.org SLanguages 2009 http://www.slanguages.net
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Value of recreating the 'traditional' classroom in a MUVE </li></ul><ul><li>Different phases of 'classroom deconstruction‘ over 18 months in Languagelab </li></ul><ul><li>Role of the teacher / guide / instructor / facilitator in supporting semi formal and informal learning </li></ul><ul><li>Changing student expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Guidelines for good practice </li></ul>
    3. 3. Reality check 1
    4. 4. Teaching / learning ‘spaces’ <ul><li>The classroom space </li></ul><ul><li>The city space </li></ul><ul><li>The suggestive space </li></ul><ul><li>The functional space </li></ul><ul><li>The thematic functional suggestive space </li></ul><ul><li>The fun and leisure space </li></ul><ul><li>The game space </li></ul><ul><li>The simulation space </li></ul>
    5. 5. The Classroom Space What? Business English course Language input +Soft skills+ Fieldtrips + team building Where: Classroom
    6. 6. The City Space What? Exploration of different city locations for themed ‘classes’ Where? School, sports field, theatre, cinema, restaurant, art gallery ..
    7. 7. The Suggestive Space What? General English – adults. Most material developed CEF B1, B2 Conversation class aimed to build on student reactions to a particular space whatever discussion arose depending on student experiences, culture, perception etc. Very open ended and non prescriptive. e.g. “life experiences”, “art” Where? Garden, beach, riverbank, hotel, art gallery, campfire, park
    8. 8. The Functional Space What? Material based on CEF ALTE Social & Tourism descriptors – approx 2 x 90 minute lessons per descriptor per level. Most material developed B1, B2 Main focus on oral + listening skills. Where? Airport, hotel, dry cleaners, restaurant, bar, post office, bank, martian temple, residences …
    9. 9. The Fun & Leisure Space <ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>programme of: </li></ul><ul><li>talks by invited artists & students </li></ul><ul><li>TV style language quiz show </li></ul><ul><li>obstacle course style </li></ul><ul><li>game show format </li></ul><ul><li>TV interview format </li></ul>Where? Theatre / TV studio Quiz, obstacle course, ice rink
    10. 10. The Thematic Functional / Suggestive Space What? General English – adult, B1 & B2 Functional / tasked based within a classroom paradigm Narrative-structured syllabus e.g. Holidays took students from holiday planning to catching the plane, arrival, checking in & sightseeing @ 2 X 90 min classes per week) material per level Broader range of skill and language input Where? Garden, beach, riverbank, hotel, art gallery, campfire, park, airport, hotel, dry cleaners, restaurant, bar, post office, bank, martian temple
    11. 11. The Game Space What? Teacher co-ordinated but not teacher led sequence of tasks related to an ALTE CEF descriptor drawing on game-based principles. Where? Tourist office (& tours), bank
    12. 12. The Simulation Space What? Classes are reporting teams for English City newspaper. Decide on choice of / approach to articles. Prepare collaboratively. Where? City News offices, other ‘admin’ spaces All SL for research
    13. 13. The Formal & Informal Space What? Undisguised input, skills work, preparation, support, feedback Where? What? Location informed tasks using simulation & role play Where?
    14. 14. Reality check 2
    15. 15. Reflection 1: Warburton’s typology of 3-D virtual worlds (adapted McKeown, 2007) … . yourself. … . yourself. … .an extension of yourself. … . a character in a role with a defined purpose. You are .. .. provides a virtual workplace setting for collaborative activity & often includes the necessary tools. .. a close representation of the physical world + governed by the same rules. .. elements of both a fictional and physical world. Exists mainly as a place for social interactions to occur .. a setting where your story or narrative unfolds within constraints of the rules / goals set by designers. ProjectWonderland Olive Open Croquet Distributed Observer Network Google Earth Second Life Metaplace Habbo Hotel Sims Online World of Warcraft NeverWinter Nights Ardcalloch Rivercity project e.g, 3-D realisation of Computer Supported Collaborative Workspaces-CSCWS Simulations or reflections of the ‘real’ Social platforms, 3-D chat rooms and virtual world generators Games (MMPORGs) and serious games Defn. Workspace Simulation Social world Flexible narrative What
    16. 16. Reflection 2: a checklist of success factors for teaching & learning <ul><li>Language learning as a social event </li></ul><ul><li>Communication & interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Real audience - establishing contexts for the use of language with genuine interlocutors who have a real need to interpret what is being communicated and react to it </li></ul><ul><li>Meaningful learning via authentic tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Varied input </li></ul>
    17. 18. References <ul><li>Warburton,S. 2009 Second Life in higher education: Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual worlds in learning and teaching, British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 40 No 3 2009 414–426 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00952.x © 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Canfield, González, Guerrero, MacKichan, Palomeque, Speck, Sweeney, - in preparation - Task design for Language Learning in an Embodied Environment, Teaching through Multi-User Virtual Environments - IGI Global </li></ul><ul><li>Common European Framework </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.coe.int/T/DG4/Linguistic/CADRE_EN.asp </li></ul>
    18. 19. http://www.eduworlds.org – paul@eduworlds.org