I left the way of having my students emailing one to one in international exchanges early. Attached pictures and presentations easily got to huge and there was no common show of working products – only in the individual mailboxes, they were found. And there was a wish to motivate to use the foreign language more widely and across in class.
Language Learning in social networks became the new way to do it. Here a profile could be filled out of any participating student and teacher to voice to other users of the platform. There also was a chat option and the content could be organised in forum discussions, which hereby appeared more as dialogues than an one man show. The facilities in such forums also to include links, images and other embedded content made this way of presentation highly attractive for the students.
Also the document library was useful for the producers of content of more static character, such as the teachers to give helping information on sheets with hints to fulfill the assignments.
First a .ning, then a grou.ps and lately a .spruz network has been in use – all giving the option actively, visible and dialogically to be both producers and users, hereas “produsers” (Bruns 00:12:44) in connection to the recent language learning topic and furthermore to connect individually with other produsers in a wider ranger.
At this point the etiquette was to be made clear for the students, that the chat only was to be used in the target and common languages of the exchangers. Also it was necessary, to advice about correct use of copyrighted material on the public platform and a new user had to await approval to get write rights. One French student, we exchanged with, was excluded because of harassing language. Other students were asked to change their profile pictures/avatars, so that they could reflect something of the person behind. Opposite it also was necessary to remind the students, not to give real life information such as addresses or phone numbers away, as all content would be visible on the entire web.
The experience with the use of these social networks was, that the quality of the content and the intensity of the language learning process increased compared with traditional writing.
Even if Social Media also is used in connection to BABEL Language School in the virtual world of Second Life either as an additional Language Learner .ning network, which is provided for the student’s autodidactical use, or as content brought into the metaverse on specially developed web & video boards in the virtual classrooms, some additional issues for the etiquette have to be regarded. As the virtual world is 3 dimensional and a produser has the representation of an avatar, some attention must be given to the appearance of the avatars in a serious language learning situation. Overdriven use of animation can disturb the learning process as well as unfitting clothing or provocative look of both the teacher’s or the student’s avatar. How fun is it to teach the German language to a dragon for 45 minutes – or to have to look at the teacher’s bare legs, feet and chest with tattoos on. We usually have interviews with the students prior to class start and have the teachers in a kind of trainee position at first before giving them classes where such topics can be talked through if needed.
It is also necessary eventually through the tools in the land menu, to avoid that everyone places objects on the school’s ground, so that there in the end not would be capacity enough for teachers and students to drag their prepared learning objects and productions into the world. Another aspect is, to use the community factor which can be made clear in Second Life by membership of e.g. the school group. This will give out a tag over the head, in this case “BABEL Student”. Apart from the focus a teacher tag and the corresponding student tag gives to the learning situation, in a virtual world it also applies, that “as a member of a particular group, one has access to other members who might be more experienced not only in that group but also the virtual environment in general” (Wise, 15), and that it helps to regulate behaviour in the community. All students and teachers at BABEL Language School are therefore connected in a group, which also is used for messaging.
With such conventions and questions of etiquette regarded, not only individual learning processes are supported to their best, but also the service provider’s reputation is taken care of and increasing.
Bruns, Axel: From Prosumer to Produser. Understanding User-Led Content Creation. 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2013 from: http://www.slideshare.net/Snurb/from-prosumer-to-produser-understanding-userled-content-creation
Wise, Deborah L.: Virtual Identity. How Virtual Worlds Affect Identity. Retrieved February 23, 2013 from: http://debwise.com/Matrix_2_files/wise_virtualidentity_presentation.pdf