TAG | German
This week we completed a collaborative activity with the German 3-4 classes and the Dresden Museum in Second Life. Students were able to chat and explore the artwork in the Dresden Museum. The experience provided new insight to the use of virtual worlds and education. My theory for the project was that students would be more inclined to experiment with language when they have an avatar as opposed to when they are in the classroom. I predicted that Second Life and virtual worlds would create a barrier of “self” to enable the students to have a sense of freedom to practice their language. I would like to give a few of my initial thoughts.
The first day I was disappointed because I felt my thesis was going down the drain. The students were enthusiastic, yes, but they spent too much time running, flying and changing their appearance. I felt as though the German teacher and I had to spend most of our time redirecting focus. I was frustrated, but she was not. The German teacher said it would take time for the students to get used to the new environment. I thought the virtual world environment created too many distractions and that learning standards were not being met. I reflected back on an article I read (for the life of me I cannot find who to give the credit to!) and the author explains an observable behavior of one student. When the student walks into the computer classroom, the first things he does are; adjust the mouse, move the monitor to his plane of vision, change the icons on the screen, and change the background to a picture he likes. Once those steps are completed, the student is ready and willing to begin school work. The point the author was making was that students in this generation want customization and want to display a sense of self through the computer. Thinking back on that article, I gave myself another day.
The second day I realized how immersive the virtual world environment can be. The students spoke in German with the Dresden docents in Berlin and with other avatars in England and the Czech Republic. The conversations kept the student engaged and they no longer spent time customizing their avatar. The students had an avatar, a barrier to their true selves and therefore had more of an opportunity to experiment with their language. The virtual environment created an immediate immersible culture for the students to follow. They did not need to pretend they were in “Dresden.” They did not need to simulate real conversation. The students were in a virtual world and had true conversations with others who knew the language. The opportunity to take students to a location where this is all possible was immense!
These are some of my initial thoughts, and I hope that the students themselves will be willing to comment on the experience. I will continue to pursue this concept with our Foreign Language Department because I feel the experience has meaning and validity to provide students a language learning atmosphere.