Skills and unknown skills

Throughout the study in the “Is One Life Enough?” module from Dublin Institute of Technology and under the preparation of the project team’s presentation a mixture of known and unknown skills came into use.

Building, texturing, scripting, use of shared media, streaming, group communication options and the use of the content permission system for virtual objects were all well known skills from my 6 years with BABEL Language School (BLS) in Second Life. Also the use of a lot of social media has been a skill for a long time in my real life work experience as a teacher, namely such as the use of minor and major social networks like Ning,, Spruz, Live, G+ and Facebook.

It also showed that topic oriented blogging in WordPress, which I already used for BLS, easily could be extended to a higher frequency during the study and still with a proper quality of content often by citing relevant sources, theories, papers and both own and other’s experiences.

Selected social media from the study in the DIT "Is One Life Enough?" module

Selected social media from the study in the DIT “Is One Life Enough?” module

Some of the central new skills, which were explored, trained and then put to task in the study work, were to refine the virtual identities and own presentations in diverse kinds of social media and to adjust profiles according to the desired and expected audiences in Linkedin,Twitter as well as in Second Life, in the blogging and in the second Facebook account. These communities all have their own forces and styles of communication, so that one’s own voice has to fit with certain criteria to be successful.

Also there was the interesting perspective to build up new social media accounts and hereby to follow the evolvement of the new virtual communities of likers, followers and friends. A specific feedback and evaluation of what is posted is clearly visible in such a process, and it convinced me of, that it is possible with the right content, tagging and categorizing to brand a new idea and virtual dialogue.

The project team's collaborative tool Google Drive

The project team’s collaborative tool Google Drive

Closer to the planning of the presentation of our project team’s work I could observe, that the process of mind mapping, finding and focussing on the chosen topic went very well for Bill and me and that we could move forward effectively and that we with proper delegation of tasks between us were able to achieve results on a high level. There was clearly a good skill of team working present in our together study and work, which was adjusted in a fine way to the affordances of a cooperation carried out on distance and in the virtual world with the assistance of the collaborative social media we used.

For me as a participant in this study coming from a practical background of the use of virtual worlds and social media it was highly attractive and wanted to go in depth with the theory behind to get the eyes opened for aspects of virtual existence and identity, which would bring more consistency and context into my work, and “Is One Life Enough?” has provided a splendid step on this path.



I must admit, that I dread for this trip a little – It’s a little too much getting in touch with the real life for my taste. It needs 2½ hours to come out there, where we should meet our Bulgarian partner school seen from the airport in Sofia – And the weather, how would it be?

But I also love it – not only, that Virtual Online Language Learning and BABEL Language School have made it possible for me to take the study at Dublin Institut for Technology, they also let me go and – last but not least – cover the additional costs for me to be out there in what is pretty much nowhere land for me. I believe they must have gotten the idea, that our brand both at the school and at the blog is taken pretty good care of, by me travelling around too and to explore and to come home with new exciting impressions to be put in shape for a new promotion when back here.

Sadely I still fear the work they could figure out to put on me afterwards and the far away reality there out at the foot of the mountains at Asenovgrad. I never met a teacher or a student from Bulgaria at BABEL Language School and I really have no idea, what this language is about and the culture …

They provided me with a laptop, and I hope I will be able to get on any internet connection there, so I maybe could add a little here. For now just the welcome video we got from there, so there is a little impression to share. See you next week!

Thumbnail - Asenovgrad Video

Exploring “Changing Tides” in Second Life – Part 1

After exchanging email addresses and Twitter and Facebook identities, our new project team on the module “Is One Life Enough?” of AlaskanThunder Resident, BowlingBallBill Resident and Mike Meltzer started to interpret the semester theme “changing tides” in an awesome first discussion with mixed up voice and text chat and flown away or by mistake teleported avatars at the for the occasion established project room at BABEL Language School, as not all classrooms are in use all the time.

We figured and concluded, that “changing tides” must be seen more as a criteria than as a theme for all, what we would visit and see on our way. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any surprises on our field trips.
But we agreed on, that it is to investigate on location, whether or not

  • A realistic impression and feeling of the eventually rebuilt place is possible
  • Interactivity with objects in the virtual environment is established
  • The location includes the use of “traditional” social media and incorporates it as a natural part of the possible perception of the virtual site.

We then came forward to an expectation of, that we would see examples of “changing tides” at Dublin, University of Texas and BABEL Language School and went on field trip to “Dublin Virtually Live”.


Trinity College at Dublin Virtually Life!

Dublin Virtually Live!

On three sims in the virtual world of Second Life, the city of Dublin, Ireland, is reshaped with historical monuments, architectonic sites, streets to walk around in, recent activities and parts of the city life exposed – all to be joined virtually. Also education has found a huge representation e. g. with Trinity College and Dublin Institute of Technology being represented and even with offered study modules.

As we see it for Dublin, many metropoles and cities have made their entrance in virtual worlds as a  joined venture of city actors such as universities, municipalities, tourist organisations and commercial interests. The attempt to make cities or regions visible not only by websites, but also through 3D modelling and shaping of interactive sites, has been noticeable since 2003/2004, when MUVEs (multi user virtual environments) had become graphically enriched, technically reliable and equipped with more intuitive user interfaces.
Other virtual cities and regions, which can be visited in Second Life, are Berlin, New York and Denmark.

Some remarkable and contemporary tools and approaches, which we determined in Dublin, were

  • Detailed modelled buildings, streets, sites and heritages along with a landscaping up and down the hills, which gives a fine impression of the real Dublin
  • Informative city maps with teleporting facility and engaging descriptions on signs in front of remarkable buildings, which invite to explore the city further
  • Interactive website and video boards with navigation options as we know them from our browser use.

This last feature mentioned above has come to Second Life late in 2009 and goes under the term “Shared Media”. It is till today only available with the Second Life Viewer 2 – not with third-party viewers such as Phoenix, Firestorm or Emerald.

The Book of Kells and Trinity College

After having been worked on from the late 6th century through the 9th century in monasteries in Ireland, the Book of Kells was sent to Dublin of safety reasons in 1654, when Kells Church was to house Cromwell’s cavalry.
It was given to Trinity College Dublin in 1661, where it has stayed since and has been the masterwork, that has gathered a huge international interest, because of the very well done and maintained state of the text and the many illustrations as well as the splendid iconographic work.


The Book of Kells – Excerpt from folio 15v

The book is build up from the 4 gospels of an early version of the Bible, the Vulgate, and carries significant icons of Irish culture such as the Celtic knots.

In two ways Trinity has moved and changed tides:

– The famous Book of Kells from ca. 800 has been shown in it’s digital copy from 2006 online at the Digital Collections portal of it’s library together with 5770 other titles in a fine and zoomable quality.
– As Ireland’s finest national treasure it is also exposed in the recreation of Trinity College at virtual Dublin, which intends to attract visitors to Dublin and Ireland.

These steps refer to the changed patterns of international research in times of a well developed internet and content provider’s structure, where taking part in knowledge exchange can be carried out from any internet connected computer.

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, 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.