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All in the loom

Life all around me here in the village:

Tragedy, comedy, valor, and truth,

Courage, constancy, heroism, failure——

All in the loom, and oh what patterns! —Masters

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It was drizzling outside. The streets and buildings got shrouded with a white veil of mist. Edinburgh looked broodingly beautiful after raining, which swept me off my feet as I dined out with Kathy tonight. So I quoted Masters’s poem, which sounds like a bit sarcastic and kinda impotent though, a good confession of affection.

But actually indeed, Edinburgh has a very gentle disposition——bright and breezy, though sometimes the wind howls in winter. There is a film “Sunshine on Leith” telling a story of how people exert themselves to live a good life and get rid of the nightmarish wars in Afghanistan. You see how lovely it is. As the song of ‘The Proclaimers’ says: I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best to do the best I can, awuh-huh awuh-huh awuh-huh…

About game education

One of the most striking things for me during my school visit to Tynecastle High School was that students from S3 onwards are equipped with an iPad in school ( I am not sure whether students in other Scottish school use it in class or not). It might be very common to see children playing iPad beyond the classrooms, but it seems, for me, quite a fashionable approach in language teaching in the classrooms. In my observation, the students in S3 and S4 were taking French classes. The French teacher was giving instructions about how to download the recorder app from iPad to complete speaking tasks. Students were expected to work in pairs to record their speaking contents( in French) and to assess each other’s recording in terms of pronunciation, grammar and so forth (unfortunately no criterion for peer assessment was provided). Not all of the students were concentrating on the tasks in fact. After the class, the French teacher told us that using iPad and its applications to assist teaching could be somewhat time consuming initially as teachers need spend time explaining the way to use it; and sometimes students might be distracted by websites irrelevant to the classes. However it could be an amazing and innovative idea if the tutors receive appropriate and sufficient trainings on teaching with iPad. I agree with his opinions. There are many interesting apps and games available for students to learn language, which to some extent could increase their motivations in learning. However, lack of appropriate training for tutors could result in ineffective learning and other problems. Students might be indulged in playing games or using iPad for online shopping regardless of the instructions of teachers.

Useful link:

The Future of Games in Education: Avatar Generation

Recommended reading: Virtual Environments: Issues and Opportunities for Researching Inclusive Educational Practices

I read Kieron Sheehy’s article about the application of virtual worlds in inclusive education which is very interesting. In his article, Sheehy proposes that avatar mediated interactions, for instance “Second Life”, make it accessible for learners to alternative social interactions and contribute to developments of learners’ social communication skills. For learners with learning difficulties in classrooms, like autistic people or blind people, virtual worlds enable them to engage in activities in virtual worlds which might be challenging for them to participate in the real world.
Further reading:
Sheehy,K. 2010. Virtual Environments: Issues and Opportunities for ResearchingInclusive Education Practices.

SL meeting
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”.
Useful references:
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.