I’m currently at 2010’s EuroCALL conference in Bordeaux. Yesterday was an opportunity to attend two pre-conference workshops. Firstly, an introduction to Second Life with Graham and Sally Davies. The workshop was organised using a handy ‘I can’ list, similar to Common European Framework for Language’s Can Do statements but relevant to Second Life. The session covered some very useful tips for basic usage of Second Life, e.g. the use of the sun setting to change the luminosity of the viewer, the back arrows for teleporting to the last landmark and the escape button to refind your avatar in the middle of your screen: all helpful tips for students who are new to SL in order for classes to run smoothly. However, the most useful disovery, for me, was that of holodecks (see the one in SL on Eurocall’s roof on Edunation III) and their ability to create a new setting e.g. a ball room or hotel lobby, around a group of avatars without teleporting to other locations. The possibilities to use this feature in teaching in order for situtional practice and role-play certainly will be interesting to test with language learners.

The second workshop I attended was the London School of Economic’s presentation of their project ‘Deja Vu’. This was a FLE project taking place in SL at Castor’s Retreat. The project’s aim was to prepare an art exhibition with artwork prepared by a French artist and to display these exhibits alongside written and oral commentaries prepared by the FLE students (of C1/C2 CEF level). Three student volunteers were involved over a period of six months in the building of the exhibition and all class students prepared the commentaries as part of their formal assessment. After introducng the project, the workshop focussed on hands-on skills for teachers wishing to do similar project work in SL. These included learning to build a cone which sends the avatar a notecard, learning to produce a poster display, learning to adapt basic clothing (similar t-shirts were worn by the students at the exhibition launch in order for guests who needed assistance to see who was involved in the project) and building a simple video media player. The project is a showcase piece of different departments within an institution working together (language classes, language centre, ICT for learning department) and, as the exhibit will remain in SL for at least one further year, I see it as a great resource for other FLE teachers to use with their students: worksheets could be prepared about the exhibits or student pairs could be asked to study one exhibit and then to introduce it to the group through the audio chat.

Summary: An interesting, hands-on day.