In our last session we’ll navigate virtual worlds to explore their potential use in our courses. Educause serves up another concise explanation of virtual worlds and their importance in education while the four part T.H.E. Journal series provides a newbie’s perspective on initial forays into Second Life along with an intriguing and provocative interview with John Jamison (aka Virtual Bacon) on the future of Second Life as well as what he sees as seven key issues for traditional educators to consider when contemplating the implementation of Second Life in their teaching and learning.
We’ll wrap up the semester with a reflective look back at our experiences, discuss our wiki work and if time allows, take a few surveys!
Virtual Worlds as described in our readings give me mixed feelings. On the one hand I think that they might be useful for educational purposes as described in Educause’s “7 things you should know about… Virtual Worlds”. It might be a good idea for job training, e.g. the example with student doctors who can prepare interacting activities with future students. I am also thinking -history is my other major- on this great German-Italian cooperation in creating the Forum Romanum as it was in Roman times. Projects like this might enable students to “dive” into times and architecture that are long gone or that is lost. In a language class student’s can experience other countries and culture’s without leaving the campus.
On the other hand I think it is important that student’s are guided in this process. Otherwise, in my opinion, virtual world that are so closely linked to computer games (compare the “Second Life: Do you need one?” by Patricia Deubel), the impact of these virtual worlds for (language) learning can become as “blurred” as mentioned in the Educause article. Of course it is fun and one can lean collaboration — but it this really a substitute for a “traditional” class. Similarly, the border between reality and imagination has to be treated carefully in a class, e.g. if I present medieval Germany/Italy/Spain etc. how much is this my fantasy and how much hard facts are involved. Of course everybody has fun playing a king/queen/knight etc. but who presents and who would be interested in experiencing the plague, hard daily work etc.? Influenced by Hollywood & Co. there is more make-up then historical truth and this could give student’s a wrong impression.
Again, I think that Virtual Worlds could be great tools. But I think we are just in the beginning process and should evaluate carefully how to use these tools in a classroom. Otherwise we have beautiful and entertaining, but, from a teacher’s perspective, meaningless pictures/pixel.
I would like to comment on the virtual world session because I think this tool is the one that will develop the most in language classes. When we talk about virtual worlds they necessarily have to be a place where the rule of the society we are studying are the same. I mean that in a contemporary Italian setting some slang has to be inserted. If we are trying to reproduce an experience close to the real one (that is a trip to Italy) we need to give the students an environment which is as close as possible to the real thing. And here start the problems and the mixed feelings. I have no idea how much work is involved for the instructor and the academic apparatus involved in such a project. To create such para-real environment one needs powerful means and a lot of time, and real people to talk and interact with the students. A program cannot do the job. Right now we are using a workbook on line and many students complain about the rigidity in which the program corrects their answer (it takes points off even if they miss the period!). Can you imagine problems like that in a virtual reality?
In the end such experience, to be effective, cannot be done once on a while. The students need to be familiar with the environment and then they can positively interact with the native speakers. My doubts is: how many of you would spend hours on line dealing with another world? Is ours not enough?