Several issues regarding VW participation and learning are concerning. The first set can be called technical concerns for both facilitators and users. A standard issue is platform difficulty and a steep learning curve if this is a new teaching environment. In addition, there are platform performance and technical disrupters such lag. Other issues center around digital native vs. digital immigrant, non-commercial vs. commercial areas. Skepticism for professional ESL teachers center around possible gung-ho adoptions of lessons, an undefined SL learning curve due to a lack of clear objectives since most of the learning arises from self-determined experiences. Other issues center around confidentiality (recording chat), certified vs. non-certified teachers who have various linguistic backgrounds, reliability, and other collaboration difficulties, plus no apparent dominant standard such as American, British or ‘Globlish.’
Error corrections in VW’s are another minefield. Esl facilitators must think about active vs. passive correction, dealing with typos and missing punctuation, text manipulation, the absence of dynamic text, net and SL lingo which features abbreviated vs. non-abbreviated language.VW students favor pro-text, be anti-voice vs. pro-voice, anti-text, or adopters of both. Also, multiple language levels, needs, learning styles must be factored into the VW activities against the background of sometimes problematic concurrent communication with natives and non-natives. Determining teaching format and ideal group size (1-to-1, small, 5-10, large, 10 +) and set-up of groupings can be a challenge as the VW landscape is a fluid one. Also, when designing VW activities in-world content such as grammar exercises copyright vs. creative commons need to be vetted.
What I learned this week in Turtle Academy was a better understanding of angles and being able to change established codes to create something a bit different regarding color, size, and speed. Really, the most important thing was the understanding about angles. Seeing the angles drawn out after giving a command created a connection between formal knowledge and a personal activity.
However, at this point, I have Scratch, beginnings of HTML, some commands in Java for my Creating in Code for the Lily pad and Turtle Academy. It’s too much at the same time. Every one of these tutorials uses a different format and doing three to four of these programming languages simultaneously creates terrible confusion. While the concepts are the same, the commands seem very different.
So far, Turtle was the best fit for me so far and the most fun. I can see what I am doing and love the Turtle. Papert in his book Mindstorms (p.57) speaks about identification with the Turtle. I even made the same mistakes as the child (on p. 61) with drawing a house and the triangle was inside. This syntonic learning resonates very powerfully because I can see what it is that I am doing. For me, the most difficult part has always been a lack of spacial perception. Once I grasped the principle of how to do a triangle creating the square became easier. I then started looking in Turtle Academy for similar scripts to see if I could spot them. I could. Then I moved on to look Octagon scripts again, it all started to make sense. Manipulating the code showed me instantly what would happen.
The biggest Aha moment came when I read in Papert (p.67) that Euclid defined the characteristic of a circle the constant distance between the point on the circle and a point, the center, that is not itself a part of the circle. I got that immediately!
VW’s strengths as learning platforms for English language teaching and training lie in their multinational, multiethnic, and multilingual set-up. They essentially are a sandbox for highly immersive experiential learning where almost any conceivable educational scenario can be simulated and carried out. In-World students often identify strongly with their alter-ego avatar. Avatars can manipulate and use objects while socially networking in a 3D environment. With an alter ego buffering the self-conscious hurdle of fluency practice participants are more likely to speak to peers and mentors, join and/or form groups to meet like-minded persons, seek out casual conversations and enjoy educative congregating such as coffee house socializing, fire-pit talks or rezzing in to meet new group members for hang-outs.
Generally, participants experience VW’s as less intimidating places which enable both native and non-native interaction with a potential for community building and Virtual World –> Real World (RW) carryover. Particularly favored features are instantaneous virtual traveling (teleporting) to RW locations in SL, the existence of support groups and forums for formal and informal learning, all of which enable L2 language acquisition through experimental experiences.
Exploring new technological resources such as Virtual Worlds and their unique environments new dimensions of the formative process break current space-temporal barriers by opening up the ESL teaching field. The contexts within the Virtual Worlds (VW) requires thoughts about how ESL participants learn, the interaction between participants, teachers and ‘drop-ins’ or visitors. One of the questions I have formed is: How do international ESL learners interact with their peers and their instructors in a VW?
New demands in fluency and real-life response time makes new complex learning approaches appear. Classroom ESL teaching has a synchronous response tied to a physical student presence, participation, and scaffolded testing. Learning, as a social process, improves to the person, interrogates it, situates it in front of the people who surrounds him and about himself, at the same time that it lets the development and the learning of people and organizations. Communication is established, thus, the central act of human life (Cortese, 2004).
VW’s unique delivery of both synchronous and asynchronous learning is the relation of a social and shared perspective. Exploring, sharing and learning in a VW opens up new venues of student network collaborations. Generally, ESL language acquisition cannot be understood without this social and perspective.The questions to be explored with further reading and going VW are: Is there a successful schemata for ESL in VW? If yes, what does it look like>? What is the experience for the students? What is the learning philosophy of the creator of the ESL VW environments?