It’s Week 1 of the Electronic Village Online 2011, an annual online even sponsored by the CALL-Interest Section of TESOL, Inc. Latecomers are often allowed to join, so I wouldn’t hesitate to request membership in a group if a particular session catches your interest. I signed up for VILLAGE: Language Learning and Community Building in Second Life. I don’t know how active a role I’ll be able to take in the coming weeks, but even if I increase my familiarity and comfort with Second Life just a little, I’ll be happy. I’m already pleased that I managed to teleport to EduNation, the moderators’ headquarters, without getting too lost (I did somehow make a sidetrip into a land called Korea).
While it’s too early for me to jump on the bandwagon and tell all teachers to get an avatar on SL and regularly hold virtual classes with students, I do see some possibilities for everyone, including those who are hesitant to delve into virtual worlds. The reportedly steep learning curve on SL might falsely create the impression that no language lessons are possible until one masters everything. Not true.
If you and your students have Internet access at school, you can learn some of the basics in SL and turn these early experiments into language lessons:
- Infinitives of purpose. Go through the tutorial on Orientation Island and learn how to sit, stand, walk, fly, and perhaps teleport. After the orientation is completed, have students answer “how to” questions with infinitives of purpose to recall what they’ve learned. Example: (Q) How do you sit? (A) To sit, you right click on an object. / To sit, right click on an object. / You right click on an object in order to sit.
- Present simple and present progressive. Learn to change the appearance of your avatar. Even if only the teacher has an avatar and the class is observing, students can describe the appearance of the given “resident”, using present simple for permanent features (she has long dark hair) and present progressive for clothing and accessories (she‘s wearing a jacket and skirt).
In my experience, learning how to use a new tool is easier and more fun when you’re not left alone. Frustrations are reduced and successes are celebrated together. Mistakes become amusing, and having shared goals can increase confidence. Good luck if you decide to try out SL. Perhaps our avatars will one day cross paths.