29.5.08

SLanguages 2008

dubai

SLanguages 2008, a 24 hour conference in Second Life about teaching and learning languages in Second Life, has just finished. I have to admit that I did not stay the course and took a normal nights sleep even though the events continued unfolding throughout the 24 hour period. This is the second such conference put on by The Consultants E and this time in association with Avatar Languages.

For me it was a chance to catch up with what is possible in the field of language learning in SL since I have rather left the field since I gained my Language Lab certificate in January mainly due to a weak computer and a very variable timetable which makes regular ongoing class teaching difficult. I feel rather guilty about that plus my SL skills rust up in the meantime. There were two presentations from Language Lab, one on the teacher training process and one about innovation in teaching. Regarding teacher training, a willingness to try out communicative techniques is valued over high qualifications and technical expertise. But I think this is not specific to SL teaching and would be a desirable list of priorities in many language teaching situations.

One thing which might make me try again in SL is the desire to try out some of the free tools given out by Gavin Dudeney as part of his presentation. I am sure that you can achieve a lot with notecards and the use of audio and text chat but other tools would certainly expand the repertoire by allowing you to show presentations or to create an instant classroom by throwing down a seating arrangement.

I also appreciated the opportunity to go on a language learning tour of various Sl sites designed for learners. Of particular interest was the Dubai Women's College campus since I had attended Mark Karstad's session about how he has enabled the heavily protected female students in his college to visit other parts of the world vicariously through Second Life. This was the most interesting session for me because it was full of contradictions. VOIP is banned in the United Arab Emirates and therefore the session was completely text based. The women have to dress modestly in public in real life but love dressing up in exotic clothes in SL. Through Second Life the students experience virtual exchanges with students from other parts of the world such as Korea.

I also got a personalised tour of International Languages which had a very attractive tardis, amongst other items,  to get the conversation flowing.

As in any other conference I have met up with some new people, joined new groups and gained an insight into how the issue of language teaching is approached in different parts of the SL world. It is this opportunity to gain new perspectives which is the most valuable part of the conference because it brings together organisations which are competitors for the rest of the year.

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