Learnt Lessons from a basically well done Presentation

The presentation on May 2, 2013, of the project team’s work on “Future of Education” as a final completion of the virtual study at Dublin Institute of Technology in between social media and virtual worlds with the title “Is One Life Enough?” has now been done – and well done. All foreseeable technical and other challenges had been taken care of prior to the final presentation and luckily the system and all server sided capabilities worked blameless this night, including the voicing, so that good communication could be carried out.

Round table talk connected to the presentation on "Future of Education"

Round table talk connected to the presentation on “Future of Education”

Nevertheless there also were some lessons to learn from a project show taking place in a virtual world:

  • There could have been the try to promote the event even more intensively, maybe by involving some selected persons personally at an earlier stage of the preparation of the presentation to ensure a wider audience.
  • Bill and me could have designed the presentation form more interactively, maybe by doing parts of it as a role play with interviewing and questions and answers leading to our core thoughts to make better use of the options a virtual worlds holds and to ensure a more lively experience for our guests.
  • We had a lot of topics on the agenda for the short time the presentation could take and some of them we had to skip, such as the hands-on activities, which had been prepared with huge amounts of time. Also the use of supporting music for the event felt unsuitable in our chosen setting of presenting mainly oral and by the slideshow.

With this said, we are pretty satisfied with the presentation as it turned out. It has fostered a fine discussion of the topic of contemporary web 2.0 tools and soon to come hardware inventions entering the traditional scene of education and turning around the requirements for, what the education of the future has to face, e.g. by implementing new roles for both teachers and students in learning processes, that include the use of social media and virtual worlds to a higher extend.

Discussion of the "Marriage" of Social Media and Virtual Worlds

Discussion of the “Marriage” of Social Media and Virtual Worlds

A very interesting discussion was about the question, whether we would see a more advanced “fusion”, a “marriage”, of the use of social media and virtual worlds.

In our project team we had used integrated social media in the virtual environment from the beginning of the study and in our preparing work, so that it also was natural, that the presentation platform at BABEL Language School contained several boards and screens of our content with the ability to be used actively by the use of the “shared media” feature of Second Life, which now also is available on Firestorm and Singularity viewers. For the hands-on activities 6 boards were prepared with documents on Google drive, to offer the option to combine social media examples, which our audience would estimate, would make their way in the future, as well as to add comments on the necessary evolvement of educational practices for inspiration of all and to bring the discussion of the topic further. In the same way, we had our material from Youtube and Flickr on screens and we initially also planned to view our slideshow directly from Google drive. This showed closer to the presentation day sometimes to give transmission delays, so that we changed the slide viewer to be static on SL-premises by the use of forwarded images on the scripted viewer board.

As a good completion of the presentation, and after our collegue Eliza’s presentation was done too, we also got time for a relaxing dance to world music and music of Pink Floyd. Thanks to Elfay for moderating the evening and our lecturers for their constructive comments, as well to our guests, who all, in pirate outfit or not, gave us their attention and contributed to a splendid atmosphere.

Standing ovations to Eliza's presentation at the  presentation platform at BABEL Language School prior to the informal and relaxing dancing time :)

Standing ovations to Eliza’s presentation at the presentation platform at BABEL Language School prior to the informal and relaxing dancing time 🙂

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Avatars in the Comfort Zone

A year ago a model was developed and published, which intended to explain, in which way efficiency in team collaboration was supported by the use of 3D virtual environments. It is also highly relevant for the understanding of our ways in virtual worlds in general.

Figure 1: Theoretical model

depicting how capabilities of 3D virtual environments affect information processing and communication processes, leading to shared understanding

van der Land et alt., 2011

Presence
When the lecturers of the “Is One Life Enough?” course in this third class asked us to sit down in the comfortable armchair lounge at the DIT classroom to head towards the topic “Personal branding”, the situation immediately felt homely and invited to share experiences, thoughts and outlooks.
A convincing setting, which constituted a high extent of immersion, i.e. that “one feels perceptually surrounded in the virtual environment rather than one’s physical surroundings” (van der Land, 2011, 4). Furthermore the expectation of interesting aspects to be turned around in this close round circle of engaged and to the topic dedicated people, opened for the wish to involve and to contribute in the best way.
At class in BABEL Language School we also use a round table to be seated at, for literally to “surround” the class topics in focus, or we chose sitting in sofas when watching a video episode from screen, for the demonstration of, that we now have to focus on a common source for our further together work.

Realism
As the voice function this time did work for all of us, and we had a setting, which easily enabled us to zoom in to the speakers with our camera and to notice and follow their lip synchronisation and facial expressions, a high extent of realism of the class meeting and the ongoing discussion was given.
Also the occasionally used written chat supported common understanding of remarks and comments, e. g. when Locks Aichi added: “someone said facebook is where you lie to your friends and twitter is where you tell the truth to strangers…they hadn’t gotten to linkedin” (On Thursday, February 21, 2013 in the “Is One Life Enough?” course’s discussion [2013/02/21 12:53]).
According to van der Land, 3D virtual environments compared to 2D representations “offer more cues and provide a higher degree of reality, which might positively affect information processing” (van der Land, 2011, 5).
Moreover, both in the IOLE module and in BABEL Language School’s methods, it is included, to explore virtual sites and spots in Second Life, to open up for the feeling of being settled in life-like situations with a representation of realistical objects to navigate through.

Interactivity
Even though sitting in the audience or at a roundtable doesn’t open for much interaction with 3D objects for the student, there is no doubt, that we find huge possibilities for the control of surroundings and their behavior and the constructive process in the virtual world. At BABEL Language School at least a mug of coffee and a plate of fruit is served to take from during classes. The teacher will be the most active user of tools such as whiteboards and presentation boards in class, but the Media Board with the content for repetition and for homework is provided to the student, who then interactively can proceed with it in her/his own pace.

Also the IOLE module from DIT is expecting from the project teams, in the end to present their results with the variety of media in use, which is possible in a virtual environment – including to carry out promotion for a guest audience to come and join the final project show as an event. It will at that time hopefully be easy to experience, “that users are active rather than passive in their engagement with the information” (van der Land, 5), because of the highly interactive options in a 3D virtual environment.

Social Presence
One of the tasks to do for class this time was to make contact with at least two people relevant to our interests. I have to admit, I like to dance. Some would say, I talk too much, while I dance. Also I am a member of a couple of communities, which frequently announce nice and funny themed dancing events.

I attended a “Best in the 70’s look” event and went there early, for not to miss anything. It was amazing to see the efforts done on the club decoration, which I now could study some better. The played music was totally in format. The Volkswagen bus was interactive and I could sit on it’s roof and meditate.The water pibe allowed smoking … But I stopped it, when the first other guests arrived. I didn’t want to send out this signal – some don’t like the smell.

An intensive local chat started, commenting on the surroundings and the tunes. As this beautiful and Woodstock alike dressed or partly undressed girl arrived, I was lost. I had to dance with her. I send her an im (which is only between the two) and complimented her fitting look and said that I felt beamed back to the 70’s by looking at her and asked, whether we should try a dance together to the next song, which already was to be announced – it was “Joe Cocker – Unchain my Heart”. She said “yes”. For the rest of the night we switched through the talks in im’s, funny remarks to the others in the local chat, and we even did some voice talk. It wasn’t easy to get my attention away from her lovely brown eyes, but I also managed to make another friend this night, who was the dj, and who I tipped eagerly and wished music from.
What made a difference this night is just what is stated theoretically in the model (van der Land, 5): “Avatar-based interaction offers a wide array of symbol sets: it is synchronous, uses text or voice interaction, and offers more cues than text-based interaction, such as gestures, avatar appearance and avatar behavior.”

Self-presentation
I have to add, that I also ran into business related talks at the party this evening. From the presentation of my avatar, some saw, that I drive BABEL Language School. After having given out the official notecard on the school’s offers and the other one with practical informations for teachers, I both had a request for learning Spanish and a potential teacher to be trained to carry out some English classes.
In this moment I looked back to the discussion we had in the IOLE class earlier this week: We need to be in control of our virtual identity on the folio of, what we want to use it for. If we want the freedom in the virtual world or in social media use, to explore and to live independently from our real identity, or to let our entrances be as determined as possible for the particular outcome we want from our presence, we have to reflect our self-presentation pretty well, herunder which informations we expose in profile and our choice of nom en ligne (Sitearm: “Nom en ligne  – online name. December 23, 2010, accessed February 23, 2013: http://sitearm.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/nom-en-ligne-online-name/ ) and whether either our profile or our nome en ligne or none of them should carry any  connection to our real life identity, and if, to which degree and about what in detail.

Locks Aichi put it this way: ”If you are not paying …you are the product” (On Thursday, February 21, 2013 in the “Is One Life Enough?” course’s discussion [2013/02/21 13:01]).
It is also easy after these examples and at this point, to follow van der Land’s conclusion, that “in real life there are physical boundaries that limit one’s ability for strategic self-presentation. Online, these boundaries exist to a lesser extent. People have more freedom to present themselves the way they would like to. These opportunities for strategic self-presentation also exist in 3D virtual environments through the manipulation of avatars.” (van der Land, 6)

Anyway, this night was an experience of the better, and I love this study and to be send out for these tasks, the IOLE course has for us, to get conscious about the means and purposes we join our virtual environments with and to get better to determine the direction we want our virtual existence to move into and to bloom in, as well as to be pushed to achieve the position, to make our own agendas in virtual worlds.

Van der Land, Schouten, van den Hooff, Feldberg: “Modeling the Metaverse: A Theoretical Model of Effective Team Collaboration in 3D Virtual Environments.” Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 4 (2011) 3: 1-16. Retrieved February 11, 2013 from: http://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/index.php/jvwr/article/view/6126

Lessons at BABEL Language School at SL

At the time for class, the student and the teacher will have their tags turned on and worn above the heads, “BABEL Student” or “BABEL Teacher”, in connection to the class group, they are member of. The group notices and the group messaging facility have been used to deliver learning material, to adjust or remind of appointments or for help to do some of the homework between classes.

Various kinds of lessons are used depending on the students’ needs and preferences for their language learning process at BABEL Language School at Second Life. In hands-on-excursions some regions, in which the target language is used, are visited. In a walk through the schools locations the foreign language will be used to talk about what is seen and what is experienced.

Back in the classroom, the topic of the recent unit is visualized on boards and screens. Former tasks will be commented and deepened out and new exercises will be introduced to start up a new homework. Grammatical overviews are present in the classroom as well as touchable objects to play the sound of single idioms or expressions. Interviews, dialogues, passages of radio or TV programs are played from Media Boards. On video screens at BABEL Language School some shorter episodes from broadcasting stations or programs of actual or historical interest are presented and inspire the written and oral communication, e.g. when the history of the Berlin Wall is streamed to the parcel.

Writing down essential explanations on the grammatical or thematically topic in chat and making written proposals for sentences and answers provides a good method for many students, to collect the new content on their own note cards. Engaged home study is required at BABEL Language School, so the language learner can achieve proper results in the new language. Using the voice function gives the student the possibility to train the pronunciation and enables the teacher to give in specific corrections to improve the students’ oral skills. Listening to text audios takes place in class, so the authentically language speed and the specific usage of the target language can be reviewed and acquired.

As the classes at BABEL Language School normally are about 45 minutes two times a week, the content of the unit and supplemental material for home study is given to the student for additional practice. Sometimes larger parts of the unit are taken from existing real life language courses and books and the student therefore also is asked to buy the published work book in question.

Courses at BABEL Language School follow a fast progression towards the new level of language proficiency and communicative fluency according to the levels A1-C2 in the “Common European Framework of References”, CEFR. The school also guides the student to use the state-of the art testing system “Dialang” in order to improve own awareness about the real competencies in the new language.

BABEL Language School’s model for language instruction shows, that learners approach the school both from real life and second life and that they are working on getting new language skills both for their engagement in real life and in second life. The first thing is that learners are tested to define the starting level for the appropriate course. From the starting level, the instruction will cover all skills – reading, listening, writing and speech – towards the new aim and the reachable level, which is defined from the CEFR. Working through 4-5 units, all with connected classroom activities, will lead to the next level. The content in class is inspired from facts and circumstances in the real and the second world and it delivers competencies for both of them. The grade which the student leaves the school with, could be some passed test sections at www.dialang.org, which the school has guided the student to take.

Educational Media

Organisation of learning materials in Second Life

BABEL Language School - March 2009

To support the students’ learning process, this school – BABEL Language School –  has chosen to implement the instruction in equipped classrooms. The set up in classrooms covers actual Media Boards, Study Boards showing grammatical structures, video screens for displaying web based podcasts, like a broadcasted news program or a popular science episode from tv-stations web pages.  Not all residents of Second Life have a place where they can put training material and practice. These avatars like to get back to classrooms between classes, in order to deepen what is learned.

The normal communication is written chat, which generally gives the students fairly good writing skills, but according to the teacher’s planning also talk via the built-in function “voice”, which corresponds to speak with each other through Skype, is incorperated in language courses. In all cases, the used teaching materials will also be sent out to the students’ avatars to use for homework. System limitations are so, that students will need to be in Second Life to work with the lesson material. Often they will draw their homework on the so-called “note cards” and send them to the teacher’s avatar. Guten Tag - Deutsch 1.1.5 - BLLB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Board, containing the material of 4-6 lesssons. In the top frame the controls for browsing through and playing the related  audio content are found. Furthermore there are buttons to let the Media Board board give out a task notecard and to open a webpage with an online dictionary. At the bottom of a frame, the user goes through the pages of the chapter.