Educator’s Exodus from SL?

On Monday, October 4, Linden Lab announced, that the reduced pricing for educational sims would be given up by December 31, 2010. Many educators (Universities, K-12 education providers, Schools and Institutes) have intensively commented on the consequences of a raise of fees in the middle of the academic year on blogs and lists in the first days after the Linden’s announcement. Non-Profit and educational provider’s presence in Second Life seemed to be threatened.

Many institutions commented, that they wouldn’t be able to raise the double fee and the discussion of alternatives to Second Life was drawn out from many angles to get forward to alternative ways of carrying out the splendid experience with activities in a virtual world, which many educators have.

OpenSim was often mentioned as another virtual world, which could offer similar facilties for educational work. On the other hand some insiders could participate with observations of, that OpenSim looks good as a future platform but still misses the technical infrastructure, which residents from Second Life are used to. In this discusssion, parts of the educational scene still announced to leave SL and others declared to stay in the well known metaverse.

Some of the problems seem to be, that it is difficult to export buildings and environments, which have been constructed for and in SL with great efforts. 

BABEL Language School has always paid full fees, as we are a privat language learning provider. But BABEL Language School has also profited from and hopefully contributed to the huge network we got from our togetherness with other educational institutions at Second Life. So, we were about to follow our disapointed collegues or at least share there new experiences with them, by making a big new step towards another virtual environment too.

On Friday, October 8, 2010, Linden Lab by Terrance Linden in an interview took a turn around and opened for continues rabates on the normal land fees, if the providers renew their holdings before December 31, 2010. According to these latest information renewal now is possible for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months. With this statement in hand, educational providers and non-profit organisations now can look forward to maximum 2 years more on the old conditions.

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Using a virtual world – a substitute for real life or an extension of it?

Virtual worlds or virtual environments are taking up our minds in these years – what is it, that brings us to facebook, twitter, second life or blogs? Are we about to lose or replace our normal ways of human communication?

We may be fascinated and impressed of the possibility to get so many new contacts and friends abroad and to actively be able to make an agenda. Tv can´t compare with the option to create, to comment our contact’s funny status messages or to actively join groups and discussions.

Some of our new friends will be there and ready for exchange and communication always  – 24/7. Real life friends might be gone to bed a long time ago. Time can fade out this way and we will still be engaged, as we see us in good communication and company. There is a feeling of freedom about taking these new chances to get in touch out there and contacts by time can get pretty close.

Joining virtual worlds is extending what real life holds for us and there is the chance to express us selves in new ways. Instead of following the main track of our real life we get the option to do things different. A virtual environment allows us to try to be the one we always wanted to be in fitting communities without the fear, that our colleagues, partners or families find out about the new aspects of a for us enriched life style we try to establish. Our knowledge of the world and what others have on their minds is increasing and we learn more from the world we are part of. Our language skills are getting better too, as we need to be talk active to explain and to understand. It’s part of the human condition to show empathy and to support good friends – in cyberspace or in real life.

In virtual environments we can do things we hardly could in real life. We can place a message and look forward to the other’s response the next time. We can attend instruction and classes in subjects which wouldn’t be available for us in real life. We can save time and meet the other from our desk or working station at home. Now we also can share nearly everything easily: pictures, videos, music, instruction, virtual events by joining them with our avatar, ideas and drafts. And there is the possibility for real time togetherness.

For educational purposes, a 3D-virtual world like Second life adds great new facilities, as we can stream a broadcasted program to the virtual classroom and let us all comment on it. There’s also the feature to create inspiring spots or rooms, which point out the topic of our learning subject and visualize them. Environments and auditoriums can even be build up around interactive objects, so the learners would be the constructors of their own learning process.

To improve oral skills we would use the voice function and written chat will ensure good writing skills. What we use for lesson is all storable and can be handed out for home practise. The teacher will guide the students not only to good foreign language skills, but also to new competencies in using virtual material for learning.

Does this sound like a vision? BABEL Language School at Second Life has done it since February 2007.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pak/75.1802/243.052

BABEL Language School – Mike Meltzer

Linden Prize 2009

BABEL Language School has applied for the Linden Prize of the following reasons:

The establishing of BABEL Language School at Second Life in February 2007 provided the possibility for borderless and structured language instruction in order to increase the student’s mobility, their self confidence and ability to cross borders to seek for new working or studying challenges abroad.

The school’s vision is to offer a consistent alternative for those, who need to or prefer to approach new languages from home. According to this vision it’s the schools endeavor, either totally to transform structures from the best real life language learning experiences to the circumstances of the online universe of Second Life, or to develop new methods and technical solutions for distance learning and learning in virtual worlds, which take advantage of the options, the use of a virtual environment adds to traditional language learning.

BABEL Language School at Second Life is independent and self-made and it is encouraged by many years practice in language teaching on all levels out of world. The progress in classes and the creation of learning material is defined from and built up upon the levels of the Common European Framework of References (CEFR). Furthermore the school develops material and task cards for auto didactical use.

As the founder of BABEL Language School I have described the school’s history and recent activity in other posts and networks around before as it follows here:

After many years as an adult language educator first in Germany and then in Copenhagen, Denmark, I started in autumn 2006 to look for a platform to carry out language instruction in cyberspace. I was looking for a platform, a universe that would be able to accommodate in particular the following possibilities:

  • The student and the teacher can be part of an almost natural communication
  • Students may repeat content self and a self-selected number of times
  • Teaching content is represented visually and aurally
  • Educational activities may include speech, writing, listening and reading
  • There are objects such as a teapot, which, when activated, could play his own name
  • Participants from all over the world can gather for training or events

The choice became the online universe Second Life. After some investigation activity and production of material BABEL Language School could start in February 2007 with German and English teaching. The first two trainees were from Puerto Rico and the United States and were taught German. They had not been able to take a German course in their home area, but in cyberspace, they could.

The teachers were recruited in Second Life, and after interviews and a trial period with guidance they were put to the task. Many of them also work with education in the real world and they are fond of the vision BABEL Language School has, e.g. that the use of virtual worlds has the likeable aspect of being democratically and geographically reachable, why they are willing to make their contribution to a very modest salary.

Students in class feel safe in their virtual language learning process. A couple of interviews might have taken place prior to their classification in the respective courses and some may also be tested by the school to find the right level positioning in relation to the school course levels.

For the Second Life environment BABEL Language School is working in, special learning material has been developed. First of all BABEL Language School bases its class instruction on the personal presence of both the teacher’s and the student’s avatar. In the classroom Media Boards with the complete content of the current unit are used, which also are handed out to the student for homework. Some lessons will also be held as “field studies”, which for example could be to take a walk in the school’s park or to visit other well-chosen locations in Second Life, using the foreign language on what one sees and experiences.

At the moment BABEL offers beginner level courses in the following languages:

– Dutch

– English / American

– German

– Italian

– Spanish

– French

– Danish

– Russian

– Chinese

Classes are either in groups from 4-8 students, highly intensive with 2-3 students or intensive individually lessons with only one student on different price levels.

Although the content could vary depending on the language to learn and depending on the needs of the students, a typical structure could be:

The beginner level would be available from

– Monday in a given week. This class will continue at

– Thursday in the same week

and on Mondays and Thursdays for all the following weeks as long as the student keeps the membership of the group.

The Monday courses will focus on usual needs such as presentation, housekeeping, gardening, building, establishing, buying and selling, at work and on phone.

The Thursday courses will focus on leisure and love issues such as making appointments, suggest ideas, make a conversation run, express feelings and wishes, ordering drinks or other needs in a polite way.