Author Topic: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!  (Read 8760 times)

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Offline Randall Sadler

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Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« on: February 12, 2009, 10:04:56 AM »
Since Virtual Worlds like Second Life can be very "hands on" they can be an ideal space for Task-Based Language Learning Activities.  This exercise asks the participants to build something in Second Life.  After giving the students a tutorial on building, they are asked to create "something."  That item could be art, furniture, a flower, a car--anything they can imagine.  As you'll see in the attached instructions (soon to come) the only requirement is that their creation include at least 7 parts (prims) and 5 colors or textures.  Each group is sent to a different area to work on the build.

In stage 1, the students, who I have work in groups of 3,  must engage in a great deal of communication and negotiation while brainstorming their design and building the object.  In addition, part of the assignment is for the groups to take detailed notes and to create a set of detailed instructions for how to build their creation.

In stage two of the project, the groups exchange those instructions, and then each group must try to recreate the creation of another group, solely based on the instructions (remember, they created in different areas, so they've not seen each other's builds). 

In stage three, everyone comes together in Second Life, having given the instructor copies of their creations.  The instructor then takes out the originals, and then, one-by-one, the recreations.  Usually there is some great laughter since some of of the recreations are very close, and others are waaaayyy off.

In stage four, the groups should revise their instructions based on the feedback from their classmates.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++
My questions for the other users of the forum.  Based on my description, and the instructions attached, what language lessons can students learn from this activity?  Also, what other ideas/extensions can you make based on this idea???

Thanks for any suggestions you can give!!!!!!
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 10:07:48 AM by Randall Sadler »
Randall Sadler, Administrator, The CMCforum
Assistant Professor, Linguistics
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,  http://www.eslweb.org

Offline CapnMike

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2009, 10:40:37 AM »
My group recently completed the first stage of this assignment for Dr. Sadler's class, so we'll have to see how this works out.
Due to time constraints, we were really rushed to write quick instructions, but also make them detailed and explicit without being too technical.  At the same time, we had to be technical when it came to specific terms.  We could say simply "Stretch it out and put it all together and stuff," obviously.  It remains to be seen how well the next group will be able to recreate it, though, so I'll try to post the eventual result for whoever builds our object and our own success building someone else's object.

Offline ltabb

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2009, 10:43:00 AM »
Dear all,

In terms of language learning, before this particular exercise, I had always used recipes and meditation tapes, both of which use imperatives and commands.

This exercise also uses commands and it is a hands on experience for the students.

This could also be a great way to teach colors if you were to make your structure multi-colored.

This also can serve as a great vocabulary lesson involving anything that might be in the students' inventories.

Offline bucha2

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2009, 10:46:01 AM »
The activity is overall very interesting, the necessity of cooperation encourages students to interact and communicate with each other when doing the building project. One thing that seems challenging to students is the description part. When the group tries to put down what they have done in words, they might need help from their teacher to describe the precise procedure. Also, the time control would be another issue in class since this project takes some time to finish.One question raised in my mind was: how can we avoid the phenomenon that students might rely heavily on their native language when communicating in this task?

Offline pmuhati

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2009, 10:50:52 AM »
We learnt a lot as pertaining language. Some of the things learnt are as follows:
a) We exchanged ideas in English as we figured out how to construct our structure.
b) We gave instructions in English to one another as we constructed our structure.
c) One of our members wrote the instructions in English in the notecard and we edited and corrected the grammar before sending those instructions to Dr Sadler.
 Other ideas


a) We should construct other structures so as to become more familiar with different ways of constructing different structures.

Offline kellychen

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2009, 10:51:42 AM »
This activity is interesting and challenging. This is my first time to create a building in SL and I have some problem figuring out some math or architectural questions (it always took me some time to clarify position X, Y, Z!). This exercise helps students practice English, although this kind of conversation is a little bit different from daily conversation. However, this activity does help me know some vocabulary and some phrases. Maybe they may not so useful in my field of study, but this activity does provide me an opportunity to do something I will never do in my real life.   :D

Offline ynumata

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2009, 11:10:05 AM »
The activity encourages interactive AND presentational communication, which is excellent for ESL/EFL class.

Students would engage in interaction by speaking with one another about the single construction/project.

They then engage in presentational use of L2 by writing down the instructions for creating the construction.  Here, they need to correctly use the related vocabulary and grammatical structures in order to write the instructions which allow other students/people to recreate the same construction.

The other group of students then need to read the instructions made by the first group, and recreate the object.  Again, they need to have the understanding of the vocabulary and grammar related to object/location descriptions.

The instructor can assign this activity after introducing the vocabulary and grammatical matters on object/location descriptions. He/she needs to note that students' descriptions would likely contain errors in vocabulary and grammar as implied in the original post.  It is important to give the students some time designated for self correction before exchanging their instructions with others (tell them that the time is specifically for proofreading - otherwise they may not actually do it). 
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 11:16:18 AM by ynumata »

Offline Shawn Fitzpatrick

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2009, 12:56:40 PM »
WHAT OUR GROUP DID
I worked in a group of 3 students, and we constructed a fairly simple building in Second Life (Total of 7 primitives, 5 textures).

Even though our building was a fairly simple structure, we quickly realized that the instructions for this project were going to be really long.  Since we wanted to make the instructions user-friendly enough that someone else would actually be able to use them, we had to come up with a way to subdivide the instructions into bite-size sections.

SKILLS ADDRESSED BY THIS TASK
After doing this, I realized that organizing a text in this way is a skill that students normally cover in writing classes.  The specific skill is what Canale and Swain (1980) refer to as “discourse competence.”

For this reason, this task could be used in a writing class a tangible way of introducing different organizational patterns (aka “rhetorical modes”).

However, I think this task might *ALSO* have a place in lower level classes as a way of introducing vocabulary.  However, because the likelihood of communication breakdown is much higher with lower level students, the task may need to be altered slightly.  Specifically, students may benefit by giving each other instructions ORALLY rather than in written form.  This would give them the opportunity of repairing any miscommunications.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS (AND SOLUTIONS)
Above, Bucha2 raised some concerns about this task.  Here, I suggest some potential solutions.

Potential problem – Students don’t have sufficient vocabulary to write instructions

Solution: Anticipate some basic vocabulary for construction that students will need: Create a cube, right-click, Select the ___ tab, Enlarge the ___ by ___%.  Preteach.  This type of vocabulary lends itself very well to TPR (Total Physical Response).

Potential problem – Students resort to L1 (This is a problem in EFL settings)
Possible cause: If there is a time limit imposed on students, they may become more interested in completing the task quickly than in using the task as an opportunity to use the L2.

Solution: Give students more time.  (If students are building for the first time in Second Life, they may need several hours to complete even a simple structure.)  Also, since this is a fairly complex task, it would be beneficial to stage it:

1) Discuss ideas with your group, draw sketches, come up with a rough "blueprint"
2) Build it
3) Write the instructions
4) Proofread the instructions (i.e. try re-building object using your instructions)
5) Swap instructions with other groups and build each others' objects
6) Compare versions created by groups with versions created from instructions
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 01:05:33 PM by Shawn Fitzpatrick »

andy

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2009, 01:48:32 PM »
I agree with much of what Shawn and others have said.  The basic advantage of a project like this is the kind of task-based interaction that is taking place.  Students are interested, engaged, and focused on the task at hand; in this kind of environment the language itself may become secondary.

In an ESL/EFL environment however, making an activity like this manageable and level appropriate could be a real challenge.  It has taken our class most of 3 weeks to build up the skills necessary to take part in this activity.  With a group of intermediate level language learners, the time frame would invariably be longer.  It comes down to a question of whether or not the time investment would ultimately be worthwhile and in the best interests of the students.

There is also a question of the rather specific nature of the vocabulary needed to take part in this kind of activity.  Should students be spending the time to learn vocabulary items that are specific to second life?  It is a difficult question.  Certainly there is also a lot of meaningful language use going on that could have applications outside of the classroom.  If we were teaching an ESL course with a specific goal of developing students' e-literacy then certainly, investing the time in second life would be worthwhile.  Otherwise, I think teachers would need to weigh the potential advantages of having students involved in tasks like this against the disadvantages of investing a good deal of time and overcoming the learning curve inherent in getting people started in second life.

Offline Zekariya Ozsevik

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2009, 01:00:22 AM »
Building in Virtual Worlds project is a great example of task-based learning. First of all, students have a goal which is to design and create an object based on the given instructions. This makes the activity meaningful to the participants and having a goal to accomplish makes students become more engaged in the task at hand.

Secondly, this project requires the students to brainstorm ideas to come up with an object to design. This process allows students to communicate with each other and share their insights with other group members so that they can learn from each other. This inhibits the so-called affective factors since shy students will most likely raise their voices in a warm and friendly group learning activity.

Having decided on their object to build, students distribute responsibilities to each group member, ranging from writing the instructions, and working on the object in second life, as well as suggesting ways to improve the quality of work. By doing so, each groups get involved with a series of problem-solving activities such as analyzing real and hypothetical situations, reasoning and decision-making.

This project also involves jigsaw puzzle type of an activity as well since students are supposed to replicate a finished object by only reading the instructions without actually seeing the original object. Comparing the two finished objects and seeing both similarities and differences will definitely help learners to identify where they fell short in the process of building their replicates. This is a great way to self-correct and become independent learners.

Finally, there is only one point that seems challenging in applying such a project into language classes which is the time management issue. As it is a very comprehensive task which require multiple skills, teacher should be alert to pace up the students and keep them on track...

Thanks for sharing all those insightful ideas:)))

As the old saying goes, sharing is caring ;) 
Zekariya Ozsevik,
MATESL, Department of Linguistics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Offline Mijeong

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2009, 11:04:32 PM »
I think it's a good idea to use a Task-Based activity in Second Life. Actually, it is amazing to me the fact that TBLT (Task-based Language Teaching) can be applied to Second life because I am sure that this activity can attract students' interest in learning language even though, at first, it is needed to learn how to handle tools in Second life.

Through participating in the stage 1 activity, I became to more familiarize with the way how to make items and change the shapes. After finishing building the object in group, I become attached to it because we created a good unique object than I expected and I cooperate with our group members to complete our mission. Especially, when we share ideas and communicate with memebers together, our design became to be more sophisticated.

Constructing the object itself was interesting to me. However, our group became to face a littel problem in writing instruction in time because we need more time in choosing proper vocabulary and expression in order to describe our object effectively in instruction.
I think that time management is very important to complete this task. So we, as a teacher, need to focus on allotting suitable time depending on learners' language proficiency.  ;)


« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 11:07:28 PM by Mijeong »

Offline JewelHunt

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2009, 10:40:03 PM »
I concur with Zekeriya's point, this activity is a good example of TBLT, which may also illustrate the essence of CLT, according to Brown (and Ellis).  By building in the virtual world, our team (composed of four members) broke down the task into three little tasks: two members were in charge of building, one taking notes and still one monitor.  It then became a collaborative task that requested certain communicative competence, in terms of the effective communication with Second Life building language and perception. 

As in CLT, overt presentation and discussion of grammatical rules may not be as important as pragmatic and effectual communication.  This first task of building in Virtual Worlds allow VR newbies to be acquainted with the internet-based learning platform.  Along with the task, in addition, VR community language acquisition also takes place.

For me, this is a good start for collective learning in which the skillful ones help the less handy ones with building whereas the less handy ones may take part in taking notes and designing/brainstorming.  After all, this TBL Learning relies much on first verbal then text communication.  That is, this activity lands on overall goals: speaking (verbal communication for the building task), listening (for mutual understanding in the building ideas and plan), writing (taking notes) and reading (for the other team to comprehend the building notes and recreate another identical build)

As for language acquisition in CMC setting, I see this TBLT perfect for a plan to help students improve their communicative competence.  Take this building task for instance, once the building plan becomes greater in scale, when students are asked to work on a project with a manual instruction, the internet service such as google (great god Orz ;D) comes in pretty handy.  Out of class, the google talk and gmail instant messenger allow students to communicate in real time.  Google docs grants students chance to edit the manual on-line synchronically.  And when in class, real-world verbal communication enable further collaboration.  With a well-deliberated lesson plan, the teamwork may turn out to be a good opportunity for students (esp. ESL students from different origins designated in one group) to work on their communicative competence.

Offline wowsunho

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2009, 10:32:23 PM »
I think one of the advantages of tasks in virtual world like this is to expend tasks which could be limited in a real world.  The more various tasks are, the more communication could occur among students. For example, in this building task, it could be expected that the students use language related to describing shapes, constructing structures, prepositions, and comparative forms of adjectives... Even though we just did the first stage of the task, we already experienced communication where four language skills are integrated.

However, I think two things should be considered in planning language teaching using tasks like this in a virtual world. One is students' technological proficiency and the other is their language proficiency. In both cases that a task is too difficult for students' technological and language proficiency, natural communication would be discouraged. 

Offline viharckbart

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2009, 11:14:24 PM »
This was a great activity and demanded a lot of group work and collaboration. It is a great activity to be used when dealing with instructions, since we had to write very detailed instructions of how to build the objects we made. However, it cannot be used with students of lower proficiency, because the instructions demanded for a wider range of vocabulary and more complex grammar structures.  :)

Offline chiyun

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2009, 01:57:55 AM »
I like the activity very much. It was a lot of fun! Also, as I recall, when I and group were working on the project, I focused more on the mission we were doing, paid less attention to the language I communicate with others. So, I guess, in these kinds of activities, language learners learn and use language unconsciously which benefits foreign language learners in producing real language in use (four language skills are integrated), and makes language learning much more fun!
Therefore, activities with different contexts can reach the same purpose; some possible activities might be doable on second life come to mind; such as holding parties: discussing with friends (other hosts) of the party them and other details, sending invitations includes dress code, time, and place to guests, so that hosts can set up the party (food and beverage, party decoration etc.), and guests can do preparation to attend to the party (dress up, prepare food for potluck maybe), and have an virtual party and have fun!  ;)

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2009, 08:52:58 PM »
Finally, we got the chance to build anything we like in second life after a few class sessions.

I enjoyed building stuff in second life simply because I like designing and contructing. And it's a well-known fact that such tasks can help generate much discussion among students and provide them with opportunities to use English, and real-life English that it is.   

However, I wondered, if CMC class becomes a required course in ESL/EFL classes in the future, whether or not my students will like it since it's time consuming to build stuff and not every student is patient or is fond of doing so. Moreover, if the object that the team members decides to build is the one that one or two members dislike, will that be an enjoyable learning experience?

I'm playing devil's advocate here because I thought there should be negative voices in CMC class. The fact that I enjoyed building stuff does not necessarily mean that other people will also like it.

Therefore, if the purpose of CMC is to promote oral communicative competence, I'm curious how effective that will be in terms of language learning since some students may not enjoy building things or improve their oral communication skills by such means. No matter what we do, there's always this problem of students' learning styles. As a teacher, that's a question that has been puzzling me...
« Last Edit: February 17, 2009, 09:12:09 PM by Francine »

Offline JewelHunt

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2009, 12:12:30 AM »
I am fascinated with the holodeck module in SL.  The fact that it provides different settings is an ideal VR learning environment.  With the holodeck in SL and SL avatar, it is possible that we create a Star Trek learning setting on a holodeck that generate/reenact Enterprise or Voyager.  If only all of the students are Trekies, we could have the language instructor be Captain Janeway giving our all imperative requests/commands, select one star student to be the Vulcan that monitors other students' grammar mistakes, a student with the avatar Klingon to demonstrate the indicative mood focusing on verb usage and perhaps kinesics, etc.  This Trekie language setting could be fun particular when Halloween is around the corner...I imagine... ;D

Seriously, the holodeck can be a great device in terms of the setting for L2 language/sociocultural learning.

Anderson

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Re: Building in Virtual Worlds....and language learning!
« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2009, 11:47:42 AM »
I think that this kind of task-based activities as we actually did in our class can serve as an important tool for language learning to a degree by ultimately encouraging students to collaborate and interact with each other in a target language, in this case, English for the purpose of accomplishing their given task at hand. While doing this task, I actually had to use English to communicate with the other group members from doing brainstorming about the “Magical Rainbow Fountain” to creating the instructions for other classmates to refer to when they tried to recreate it, and to creating it ourselves. Even during the final stage where we compare the originals with the recreations, I had to exchange my opinions about the other groups’ work in English. In this sense, I think that this task-based activity in the virtual world can be a great way to promote collaborative learning by making students engaged in sort of meaningful interaction, as well as by providing students with more authentic language input or output.

Furthermore, this task itself may be quite exciting and fun to most students who have been gotten sick and tired of the traditional lecture-and-teacher-based classroom learning because the SL uses realistic graphics and sounds and also makes students do something for themselves just by putting them in the problem-solving process, which might also contribute to students recalling the input more easily later in the real lives. 

However, when it comes to what kind of input or output can be learned in this task, I think that most of the languages we can produce or learn through this activity may be very simple imperatives or directives, and vocabulary. For this reason, I am not sure that adult language learners, who have to learn English as soon as possible for a variety of specific purposes, for example, studying abroad and getting a job, will like this elementary-level “step-by-step” activity due to their limited time. Therefore, I think that it would be better for English teachers to design this online activity at proper intervals in the course of the traditional English education. In other words, they will have to organize online and offline tasks in an appropriate proportion, simultaneously considering more urgent students’ needs, for example, passing the entrance exams in my country, Korea. As a result, for a lower level of students who have some prejudices that leaning a new language is rather boring, this kind of virtual world task can be a wonderful stimulus to encourage them to continue to be engaged in learning English even in their home at night. ^^