Language Teaching Gains Second Life:
Virtual Worlds Offer New Methods to Teach Languages
3D virtual worlds like Second Life are now being used by language
teachers to provide simulation of real life environments and allow
students to discover more creative and more realistic ways to improve
their language skills.
Language teaching is appearing in Second Life and the online language
school "Avatar English" is taking an innovative approach by combining
Second Life with voice messengers such as Skype and other online teaching tools.
Language educators in Second Life are working together to develop and
improve their teaching methods, and an example of this collaboration
is the recent SLanguages 2007 virtual conference.
Language teaching in 3D virtual worlds is still at its early stages
of development, yet it is generating interest from students, teachers
and education consultants. Second Life with over 7 million registered
users and $1.7m of business done daily is rapidly becoming a parallel
world for socializing, trading and, learning. The 3D online world is free
to access and allows its virtual residents (or avatars) to build their
own creations, allowing for an imaginative virtual world.
"Second Life brings immersive, immediate and - more importantly -
supportive, social and truly constructivist - potential to distance
learning. Combined with a virtual learning environment such as Moodle,
this is the killer education application for the inventive teacher" says
Gavin Dudeney online-education consultant of The Consultants-E and co-author
to Teach English with Technology, Longman, 2007.
Second Life is especially suited to younger learners of foreign languages
because they already see the internet as a natural place to learn and play.
Marc Prensky (author of Digital
Game-Based Learning, McGraw Hill, 2001) refers to this generation
as "Digital Natives" because they have grown up within a digital world.
Second Life offers new approaches to language learning and initial
feedback from students is very positive. "At first I was so surprised
by this virtual school in Second Life. It was a totally new experience
for me to learn English like this. Every class was a virtual experience,
but at the same time, you get a real improvement in your English" says Bo
Jian, student at Avatar English. Teaching in Second Life is more than
just the 3D experience. "Technology doesn’t replace the professionalism
of an experienced and qualified native speaking teacher, it simply allows
us to be more creative" says Howard Vickers, Director of Avatar English.
A growing movement of foreign language educators is exploring the
potential of virtual worlds. The SLanguages 2007 symposium on 23 June
2007 brought together language educators to share experiences of teaching
languages within Second Life and explore how best to use the virtual world.
"SLanguages 2007 served to explore the major issues for language education
in Second Life, and guided educators towards best practice" says Gavin
Dudeney, whose education consultancy company, The Consultants-E, organized
the virtual conference.
Although Second Life will introduce an internal voice chat soon, some
language teachers have already been using messengers such as Skype to
fill this gap. "Languages are all about verbal communication" says Howard
Vickers, "so we were very keen to make sure that the students are talking
and listening within our 3D virtual classrooms. To do this we use VOIP
alongside Second Life". Tools like Skype have additional advantages by
allowing the teacher and student to simultaneously work together on the
Avatar English is an online language school in the 3D virtual world
Second Life. The school offers individual English classes with professionally
qualified and experienced native speaking English teachers to students globally.
Classes take place in custom built virtual classrooms that reflect the
theme of the classes, such as airports, markets, banks and cinemas. Avatar
English has recently opened its doors to students around the world and was
established by Howard Vickers, an English teacher with international experience,
currently based in Bolivia.
About the author
Howard Vickers is currently based in La Paz, Bolivia, where he teaches
English. He is also the founder and director of Avatar