I just came accross an interesting interview of Nik Peachey, a freelance learning technology consultant about teaching English in Second Life (http://www.blip.tv/file/2482035). The interview is a general overview of the subject, and is addressed at teachers rather than researchers, but I feel that some of the points made during his SWOT analysis are pertinent, particularly those concerning identity, the multimodal nature of synthetic worlds and the lack of social norms.
– personal attachment to avatar – Personally, my second life first name is the same as my real life first name. I wonder for how many avatars this is true? Why this choice? To what extent do leaners associate-disassociate their avatar with themself? How does this impact on participation?
– possibility to easily identify an identity and space ownership
– lack of established social norms. Different modes working together but not always at the same speed. I myself have noticed this. The text mode sometimes is used after the chat mode impacting on the turn taking in the conversation and the progression of the conversation. I wonder to what extent this impacts on learners. Do they find it difficult to follow a conversation through different modes acting at different rates? How does this impact on comprehension?
– gestures and body language is limited. There is no eye-contact. If the learning objective is spoken English do the limited visual clues force learners to be more forthcoming in their spoken communication? How does the lack of visual clues affect comprehension? Do learners find it more difficult working through one channel (audio)? In what way does the environment impact on the audio and therefore provide visual clues? i.e. how often are references made in speech to objects in the environment?
– autonomous language learning opportunities are limited
– possibility for tandem projects though difficulty in finding people to speak to in SL– authentic tasks and projects – more correlation with how languages are learnt in real life than in a classroom
– reliability Certainly this can be true. However, to what extent do technical problems provide real-life communication tasks for students. E.g. explaining to each other how to solve the problem? Is this not an opportunity for collaborative work in the target language?– « griefers » – outsiders who interrupt
– institutional resistance to adopting this way of teaching