Heike Philp – How can you learn a language in a virtual world?

Learning2gether Episode 123

RECORDING (55min): http://lancelot.adobeconnect.com/p5msnj7676g/

Location: Adobe Connect and Second Life


Webheads HQ on EduNation which has recently been turned into an Irish Pub with stables, a horse, sheep and a dog named Mystic


Second Life is no longer in the news and many think that it has died out. Nothing is further from the truth, at least for us language educators, language schools and language learning communities. They are booming and many join virtual worlds to learn another language. Heike Philp will give a good overview of the various language learning sites in Second Life and outlines a unique way of teaching a language: emoting. Emoting is a fascinating way of expressing action in text chat (mostly in roleplaying sims) which is caused by the limitations of gestures and facial expressions of the avatars. Emoting is strictly only limited by imagination and can be very poetic, very descriptive and full of gems. Heike will invite Dr. Doris Molero or Edith Paillat aka Cyber Placebo to help us understand the enormous potential of language education in Second Life. And as a little suprise, she has an announcement in her sleeve, of an unusual language school she would like to start and for which she is inviting language teachers to apply.

View on screencast.com »

Participant response

Another surprise was in how Heike focused her talk. SL provides ways to emote in text chat; you write forward slash /me and then an action you would like to be perceived doing – for example, /me comments in the archive on Heike’s presentation.  However Heike suggested we dress this up – for example /me reflects pensively on the import of Heike’s presentation while having a goodnight tea in the warm glow of computer monitor.

Heike pointed out that such texts can form an interesting narrative if done properly in role play and saved after having been sustained over a prolonged discourse. She pointed out their rich language learning potential, and indeed some of us were at that moment at http://tappedin.org where we have for years carried on such chat.  TappedIn accomplishes much the same thing with the colon emoticon – for example VanceS :realizes that this is what we have been doing in TappedIn all along.  Tapped in may indeed be a better medium than SL for doing this if this is all you want to do; i.e. build a narrative in text where participants write out their actions in role play.  It can be done while in SL, but if you go online for the purpose of developing such a narrative, then TI would carry with it less overhead than SL, if that was the prime focus of your lesson.

Still I was struck at how good ideas tend to recycle.  This emoticon language was particularly a feature of MOOs, where participants could build rich perceptual descriptions of themselves, sometimes with the aid of scripts which might represent pets that needed to be fed, refrigerators that dispensed imaginary beverages, and so on.  This used to be one of the joys of MOOs, of which TI originally was one, and when TI revamped their site, they carried over traces of this in the colon emote feature, which Heike pointed out, also exists in SL. This insight was an interesting take-away from her talk. – Vance


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