Today Ruby and OLL class members had a online meeting using avatars in the second life. I was impressed that through using the identity in second life people felt free to talk and exchange ideas online. Compare with the classroom, the meeting place in virtual world is less formal and solemn. So it might be a good idea to have online workshops or some teaching activities in second life. For instance, one of my classmate suggested taking scavenger hunt and assigning students to complete tasks in second life. Such activities could be motivational and inspiring for students to participate in class.
In fact, this idea has been adopted in some studies about virtual worlds in which students engaged in various activities in virtual world.For example, the Schome Park Programme(SPP), which is an investigation with respect to virtual worlds education launched by the Open University team, assigned students to work collaboratively on the projects chose by themselves in three phases. Students utilized the area of Schome Park to complete various tasks, such as building a steam museum equipped with replica steam engines, organizing a wedding, holding a music recital and so forth (Twining & Footring, 2010). In our context, although we have not experienced completing tasks so far, we are able to determine the appearance and behaviours of our avatars. It is worth noticing that the approach of virtual worlds, whose learners are able to create their own environments and control the way in which objects behave in virtual worlds(Twining & Footring, 2010), could be social constructivist (Moschini,2010; Peachey,2010). As constructivism mainly deals with how social interactions and environments affect the learning experience and emphasizes the role of learners in constructing knowledge via interactions with other people and the society(Roehler & Cantlon,1997), virtual worlds which are constructed by their users offer an ideal platform “for the implementation and evaluation of some important theoretical approaches”(Moschini, 2010:34). Therefore, ideally, within the contructivism model, language teachers as the scaffolders,could design some tasks with regard to language learning in virtual world and guide students to complete the tasks. For instance, prompted by the proposal “scavenger hunt”, Ruby asked us how many kinds of ice cream could we find in the ice cream van. And then we started to find the ice cream van and counted the number of the flavors of ice-cream. During the process, we may learn the words like “vanilla” and “mint”.
Moschini, E. 2010.The Second Life Researcher Toolkit-An Exploration of Inword Tools, Methods and Approaches for Researching Educational Projects in Second Life. In. A. Peachey et al.(eds.),Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds, pp 31-51. London: Springer.
Peachey, A. 2010. The Third Place in Second Life: Real Life Community in a Virtual World. In. A. Peachey et al.(eds.),Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds, pp 91-110. London: Springer.
Roehler,L.R. & Cantlon, D. J. 1997. Scaffolding: A Powerful Tool in Social Constructivist Classrooms. In. K. Hogan & M. Pressley (eds.), Scaffolding Student Learning: Instructional Approaches and Issues, pp.06-42. Cambridge/Massachusetts: Brookline Books, Inc.
Twining, P. & Footring,S. 2010. The Schome Park Programme: Exploring Educational Alternatives.In.A.Peachey et al.(eds.),Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds, pp 53-74. London: Springer.