8th SLanguages Annual Symposium 2015

Conference Organizer
Conference Organizer

Time: November 14, 2015 to November 15, 2015
Location: EduNation in Second Life
Organized By: Heike Philp aka Gwen Gwasi

Event Description:
8th SLanguages Annual Symposium
14-15 November 2015 (Sat/Sun)
Come and join us at SLanguages Annual Symposium, a two day online conference on language learning in virtual worlds held for the 8th time on EduNation in SecondLife.  The two main topics of the conference are machinima (cinematic productions of real-time conversations in virtual environments) on Saturday, 14 Nov 2015 starting at 12pm GMT and language learning games on Sunday, 15 Nov 2015 starting at 9am GMT.
We meet on EduNation in SecondLife, and there are tours to various virtual worlds like OpenSim, Edmondo, Kitely, Minecraft, Unity 3D etc., some of which you may want to attend via our livestream.  Here are the highlights:
– a CAMELOT symposium, an Istanbul University symposium and a Minecraft symposium
– keynotes by Stylianos Mystakidis of OpenEducationEuropa, JayJay Zifanwe of the University of Western Australia, Gord Holden on immersive technology for learning in schools, Nick Zwarts of the TiLA project
– a film festival, fire side chats, games parks, water sports fun, tours and a party with the Cheerleaders
For the provisional program, please click here
http://tinyurl.com/SLanguages2015
It is free to attend and all of the sessions are being streamed and recorded in Adobe Connect. You do not need an avatar to attend, but if you do join us in SecondLife on EduNation, and if it is your first time to do so, we are happy to assist and look forward to meeting you inworld.
Twitter hashtag: #slang15 

MachinEVO: Machinima Screening and Cast Party

I attended the final meeting of the MachinEVO workshop training held on EduNation in SL. The moderators and participants met to share their group machinima projects. I think I was the only one with an individual one. I was timid about sharing mine but at the same time proud of my beginnings. I shared a two and a half minute machinima with the gathering. They way these are shared are to post the YouTube link in the chat box. Then everyone goes to that site to view it separately.

My production is called Adventures with Charlie. It has background music, speech bubbles, transitions for title/credit slides and for the music to fade in and out. There’s no voice for Charlie though. I’d like a male young male voice. I haven’t paid for the “voice morphing” on SL. Instead, I hope my young nephew can read the lines for a recording. Hopefully, I can get that done before the competition next week. I got positive feedback from the workshop participants and moderators nonetheless.

After the screening, we went to a cast party with a live DJ from Berlin. It took place in a virtual castle. It was well attended. There was a magic ball that granted you dance options, so everyone was doing all kinds of dance moves, even my cat avatar. In the spirit of machinima, I filmed the cast party as others did. I saw one posting of a machinima of the party that was beautifully done on our MachinEVO Google Community. If they shared it publicly on YouTube, I repost it here. I have the raw footage and will try to make something of it myself. The cat looked so funny dancing around. I even had him fly around while he was dancing, which was even more hilarious. The flying mode allowed me to capture everyone else at the party. I’ll add some dance photos to this posting soon.

This party was the culmination of a 5-week workshop titled MachinEVO, which is part of the annual offerings by the Electronic Village Online. I like how the moderators of the workshop provided ongoing activities beyond the confines of the 5-week set-up. In true Webhead fashion, their devotion to training educators goes beyond the 100%! They invited us to collaborate on our group projects or create an individual one to submit to a machinima competition at the SLanguages conference on Feb. 28th. It’s the first CAMELOT award for machinima for children’s language learning purposes. I’m honored just to be a part of it all.

TEACHING TIP: Here’s my first original machinima: Adventures with Charlie. It’s geared toward young English language learners. I was thinking of possible uses to teach language such as having the students record their voice for the machinima or add more dialogue. I could add a preview of the vocabulary at the beginning and a quiz at the end. Still shots could be created and uploaded to Pixlr.com for manipulation by the students. That way, they could add dialogue to the still shots in a easy and inexpensive way (no printing of color ink, etc). These could then be shared on a wiki.

P.S. I forgot to mention that this is part of my on-the-job training for my doctoral internship this semesters with let’s talk online, sprl in Brussels, Belgium.

Filming in Second Life to Create Machinima

Meeting of avatars in Second Life
I’m the grey cat avatar.

Photo of MachinEVO moderators providing a training session in SecondLife in EduNation.

This is one of my first film assignments as part of the MachinEVO workshop. I was in a group filming a story about a magician on a ship. It’s a humorous story, so I used some corny  music (Sorry, Gsus) for the sinking ship scene. I was already familiar with the screencasting software, Camtasia Studio. The toughest part for me was trying to maneuver the screen shots in Second Life from a live action shot. I’m at the mid skill range in SecondLife.

My participation in this workshop is part of my on-the-job training for my doctoral internship with let’s talk online in Belgium. Heike Philp is the coordinator of my internship and moderator of the MachinEVO workshop. I just finished five weeks of robust training with her and her co-moderators! We even had a film showing and cast party afterwards. I created a few other machinima during this time that I will share in different posts.

The moderators shared many different resources, tips, and demonstrations. One tip I followed was the use of Jamendo.com for free background music. It offers fee-based and free MP3 downloads. They have a great collection of music. It was easy to register and start using it right away.

Sinking Ship set to electronic guitar version of Titanic:

SecondLife: Advantages and Disadvantages for Education

Profile picture of the author's avatar, Sand Guardian
My avatar, Sand Guardian

The following personal reflection on the educational advantages and disadvantages to SecondLife (SL) are based on a single-user’s online experience. In the era of massive multiplayer role-playing games where participants interact in-world in groups (study hall, computer lab, or arcade) as well as online, the following advantages could increase and the disadvantages could decrease.

Disadvantages to SL include the requirements for high-end technical hardware and a specific skill set that can only be learned within the virtual environment (VE). I advocate for the education of the masses in accordance with Paolo Freire. Because SL requires a certain bandwidth capability and computer graphic cards for participation, this creates a barrier for some students.

Secondly, the skill set to function in SL can only be found in this environment, so there is little opportunity to transfer previous knowledge. Perhaps there are games that have the same functions that would make this possible. SL requires learning by trail and error, which hinges on the motivation and personality of a learner. I’m an adventurer type (global learner), so I don’t mind trying and failing. However, from experience as an educator, not all student have the same will or ease. For instance, an analytical learner would need lots of demonstration videos and the rules prior to logging in. Therefore learning preferences should be considered in VEs.

On the other hand, the advantages for SL and other VEs are tremendous. Some of the benefits include accessibility for persons otherwise unable to participate fully in the real world, the affordances lend themselves to learning various content in authentic environments, and the opportunity to unite people. First, SL provides for the following accessibility requirements: text chat, language translations, audio, written descriptions of venues, and remote controlled avatars. I’m not sure all SL venues provide alternative text for venues and activities, but I did see a lot instructions provided at the locations I visited. For example, at a dance floor, a floating ball provided instructions to click the ball and a menu of dance moves appeared. I’d hope that the JAWS (Job Aid With Speech) screen reader would be able to read it for persons requiring that particular accommodation. I haven’t done any research on the accessibility of SL specifically. I learned from research on accessibility that text within images in MS Word cannot be read by JAWS like the speech bubbles, so I’m unsure if the directions can be read by adaptive technologies like JAWS.

Second, the affordance of trying new skills in a simulated environment, especially if that skill may be a dangerous one in real life, is a great advantage.  In a HealthWorkforce Australia document (Walsh, 2010), the use of VEs was proposed as instrumental for education in dentistry:

“A virtual world which is used at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry exposes students to exercises in diagnosing complicated problems, which in
turn eliminates the use of live patients in a risky environment. Such VW are especially useful during the first half of the curriculum when students are inexperienced in patient
care.” (p. 15)

Third, SL provides unique and varied opportunities for gatherings. For example, the Veterans Administration set up an office where veterans can visit and learn about their benefits in SL. Another example is how IBM uses SL to meet virtually with its administrators worldwide. IBM said this environment was much more appealing than teleconferences between boardrooms. I’m a positive thinker, so I believe the opportunities are endless as long as you have the necessary equipment, VE skill set, and motivation.  For more information, read my previous post on the use of SL for educational purposes.

Note; This is part two in a series on SL.

Use of SecondLife for Educational Purposes

Avatar sitting on a crescent moon
I’m over the moon for SecondLife!

SecondLife (SL) could be used in numerous ways to promote student learning. For example, a quick screencast of an avatar presenting the topic would be a great way to gain the learner’s attention. Perhaps the screencast could serve as an advance organizer with an abstract of the content to be presented related to the past unit content. Last semester, I used SL as a backdrop for creating a mini-introduction to a lesson for the USAonline Student Orientation course. This was a less expensive way to gain attention than the fee-based avatars like SitePal.

Secondly, SL is a great format for second language learning. The multi-modal environment allows for rich language experiences. For example, learners have the text-chat and voice option; they have destinations already set up for social interactions; and instructors can set up student-created projects in a designated sandbox. A unique project that the Electronic Village Online (EVO) workshop participants created in SL were machinimas. These are movies made in SL. They even had an awards show as a culminating event. SL is definitely where movie magic can happen to transform users into a fantasy world with outrageous outfits, superhuman abilities, and all sorts of real and unreal critters.

Lastly, I think the richness of the visual graphics and affordances of the movement allow for some great opportunities for storytelling. It dawned on me when I looked at the photos of me on the moon, that I could use these photos to create a children’s story in ebook format. I’ve taken courses on how to write children’s stories and have several completed ones. However, I don’t know how to illustrate them nor do I have the money to hire someone to do it. I plan to publish one on an app in Google Drive called BookieJar. I think I might try to set-up some photos in SL that go along with my story line. I just need to find out the legal issues of using photos taken in other people’s sims (simulated environments).

I am aware that there is a dark side to SL. As with any open source, multi-user platform, educators need to be vigilant of students in virtual environments. One teacher provided a safe virtual platform by using a sim-on-a-stick. This refers to an educational SL version that can be downloaded to computers without going to the public site.  The teacher built  (or added to an existing sim) a simulated trip to mars for his elementary students. The teacher filmed the in-world and real world experience for the girls. It’s awesome!  View his video to see how the students helped each other and used a how-to guide: external link: http://metatek.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/opensim-mars-simulation.html.

Note: This is the first in a series about SL.