Sunday, November 30, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 2

The story of my first steps in Second Life
Hi dear friends:

This is the story about my first steps in Second Life (SL).
I created my account in SL two years ago, but I never could go inworld because of technical limitations. I had heard about SL from Webheads in Action, from Gavin Dudeney (Consultants-e), from Graham Stanley (British Council-Spain) and from my colleagues and friends Dafne González (USB) and Miguel Mendoza (UCV). They all talked to me about how wonderful this virtual world was. I really wanted to try it. I was curious about it, but my computer crashed every time I tried. Fortunately this year, in a new computer, I could sucessfully download the program and it run perfectly. I created a new avatar with a new name, because I had forgotten the one I had created two years before, and this exciting experience started. So, let me introduce you Evelyn Michalski, my avatar in SL.

My First Avatar

My first hours in SL were very exciting. I really enjoyed editing my avatar's appearance, changing her look, learning how to walk, chatting to others and learning how to use all those buttons and menu options. It was a complete new world for me; I was exploring and discovering as a little kid. I had heard about SL and seen some snapshots, but it is not the same being inworld and learn how to control yourself. For example, I didn't know how to see myself, just when editing my avatar's appearance; I didn't know how to use the camera controls; flying and softly landing, not crashing on the floor. Oops, it really hurt :-)). I usually found people around, but I was afraid of offering or accepting friendship because I didn't know who they were; and, I didn´t know how to use the maps or a TP, among other things.
By September 2008, I joined a group of trainees who would be part of the new Spanish teaching staff of Our mentors, Daf Smirnov and Anna Begonia introduced us to the SL fascinating world. They offered a four-week training in which we would learn and develop different abilities to use the SL tools and how to teach Spanish as a second language. It was fun and interesting at the same time. I was exploring new tools and discovering a world that demanded a great effort from me when developing a class. I had to take into account all what my avatar did, and at the same time, observing what the others were doing (the trainees simulated being students) and following a lesson plan.
It was not easy at the beginning. I was a total newbie, but in every session we developed new abilities and I felt more confident. Besides, some friends of mine were also trainees and we had fun together. By the way, they are also taking this Muvenation course: Nelba Quintana and Jennifer Verschoor, both from Argentina. We are all Webheads like Dafne, Sus, Nergiz, Teresa, Moira, Serpil and Alicia.
Teaching in RL is totally different from teaching in SL. In SL you need to develop other abilities you almost never use in a classroom, for example: controlling the audio, listening and speaking by using the appropriate volume, walking in the right direction, using note cards, transfering landmarks, using the maps and camera controls, teletransporting or sending a TP, communicate with others by IM or local chat, creating objetcts or prims, adding or modifying scripts, flying, etc. In RL, you just give your class following a lesson plan, but in SL you have to develop your class and, simultanously, you have to be aware of/and control all the technical aspects. Here you will see some snapshots taken by Daf during our first and second weeks.

Learning how to walk

Learning how to fly

Learning how to create objects, manipulate prims and scripts

My/our first task in the training was designing a mini-lesson. I would play the role of the teacher and the other participants would simulate to be students. At the end of the class, we would provide feedback to one another. My first class was about 'Dimensions and Genre'.

In our second week, our task was to design another class, but this time we should show our SL abilities developed until that moment. It was an experience even more challenging than the class before. My second mini-class was about 'Professions':

During the week, trying to make some changes to the appearance of my avatar I had my first accident in SL. The feeling was terrible. Yes, I had never felt something like that. I don't know how but I suddenly became a bald man. I was athletic but short and my face's features were totally different. Oh no!!! Desperated trying to change her (or his) appearance, it become worse and worse. Well, I inmediately decided to go shopping and buy a new skin for my avatar. What a relief! At that time, I didn't know how to keep my avatar's skin. I'm so sorry because I really liked her. But well, I was born again. I changed some features to the new avatar and voilà. Here is Evelyn Michalski now.

Fortunately, I could solve that situation before my third and last mini class. The third class was a team teaching experience. What an interesting experience, indeed! It was more challenging and demanding this time, at this level we had to a) manage all SL tools, b) design a lesson plan with a partner, and c) perform the class within the Languagelab Sim. I worked with Magaly Rodríguez (Maga Randt in SL), a teacher who works at Universidad Simón Bolívar. We did a great job together, in spite of the stress of being under evaluation. It was my first team teaching experience in SL. I was too nervous, we had to exchange roles (teacher and assistant) during the class while performing and showing our SL tool management abilities. What a challenge! Our class was about 'Hotel Reservations'. It was a total success! :-)

Maga Randt is on the right with the shiny shoes

I would like to take advantage of this post to express my gratitude to for such a great opportunity, for the excellent Spanish training program, and for assigning Daf as our mentor. She did an excellent, awesome and wonderful job.

Well, this is the story of my first steps in SL only with Languagelab. I have also visited other Sims, other islands and many interesting places. I promise to continue the story and bring a slideshow soon.

Evelyn Michaslki

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 1


Learning online has been a great experience to me. At the beginning of 2005, I didn’t know anything about Internet, just sending and receiving emails and Web searching once in a while. After taking a six-week, hands-on workshop called Becoming a Webhead, from January 15 to February 28, everything changed. It had been the best experience as a learner that I’ve ever had. The workshop was based on how to use Web tools and how to incorporate them into the language classrooms. We had a Yahoo Group where all of us sent our introductions and started communicating with people from all over the world. It was fascinating, but at the same time it was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to deal with such a bunch of emails every single day. When I opened my inbox I had more than 105 new messages!!!! Oh, Gosh!!!! Fortunately, our e-tutors taught us how to use the daily-digest email option and how to find the information in the Yahoo group. We learned about several topics: blogs, wikis, blended learning, Flickr, etc. It was amazing how we could create and cooperate altogether. We explored every new tool by ourselves and created different new accounts. At the beginning we felt like babies, but today I realized how much I’ve learned. For example, three years ago I didn’t know what a Wiki was, and now you can even see what my own students have learned. Have a look me here.

By using Web tools I’ve understood that success depends on the purpose and objectives of our project. Technologies are not good or bad by themselves, we make them effective or not. We need to choose the ones that are appropriate to our context, to our students’ needs and to the tech facilities available. I discovered that Wikis are excellent tools for cooperative learning.
They have a great potential for students to engage in activities outside the classroom. Wikis promote creativity, are easy to use and can be edited. Widgets, images, videos, podcasts and photos can be uploaded and messages can be posted. Wikis are excellent for large classes; and, you can work with them from inside or outside the university classrooms.

Do I see myself as a pioneer? Do I think I am more innovative than others at the UCV? Do I think the UCV is lagging behind?

Yes, I consider myself as a pioneer. I am the only language teacher in my department who uses Web 2.0 tools to teach English (Yahoo Groups, Google docs, Moodle, Blogs, Wikis, WiZiQ, Skype, etc) at the Education School of the UCV -the largest and oldest university of my country. At least, and as far as I know, I'm the only one who shares her work. There are other teachers who also work with technology but are working in other areas.

I'm not going to blame my co-workers if they don't work with technologies, it wouldn’t be fair. We have very strong tech limitations, especially in our department where we only have one computer for 18 teachers. Our school has about 4,700 students delivered in 5 regions and we don't have more than 50 computers available for them. So, if students are required to do online activities they have to work from home (if they have Internet access) or from cyber-cafes. I do almost all my online work from home.

I’ve been working with ICT since 2005 after joining Webheads in Action. Since then, I haven’t stopped incorporating the new technologies into my English classes and now all of them are blended. They are now a great success! I’m currently doing research in blended learning and recently won an international contest to attend the WorldCALL 2008, held in Fukuoka - Japan.

I don’t think I am more innovative than others, perhaps more persistent than others, I don't know really. There are many teachers in my school working in the ICT area; in fact, many of them have done an excellent job by their own effort. However, I think my university is lagging behind because the university policies go too slow in comparison with the teachers’ will and the society’s needs. Most ICT projects developed are carried out more as individual initiatives than institutional policies. The university as an institution is currently outlining the legal framework to design the distance education programs that involve the use of the new information and communication technologies. Meanwhile, teachers are organizing ourselves in our schools, training ourselves and our students with the few tech facilities we have available. But, we definitively need a stronger support from our authorities.

It's all for now.
Thanks for reading me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Welcome to My MUVEnation Experience!

Hi dear friends!

Welcome to My MUVEnation Experience! This blog will be used to share my/our thoughts, ideas and learning experiences in Multi-Users Virtual Environments (MUVEs), especially with MUVEnation.

MUVEnation is an European project co-funded by the European Commission under the 2007 Lifelong Learning programme, under the Comenius - School education sub-programme. The project seeks to develop a European peer learning program for teacher training for the use of “Active learning with Multi-Users Virtual Environments to increase pupils’ motivation and participation in education”.

The main objective of the programme is to develop in-service and future teachers’ competencies and skills so they can contribute by their innovative practice to bring solutions at their scale to increase learners motivation and participation in key fields of common interest in Europe such as the participation of girls in mathematics, science and technology; boys and literacy; the participation in education of children and young adults with disabilities; the combat against dropouts; the cross-fertilisation between informal and formal learning environments; and the smooth and successful transition between school and work.

Therefore the project’s specific objectives are:

  1. To develop inductive-deductive learning experiences, methodologies, materials and tools that will support the ‘intellectual scaffolding’ needed to integrate MUVEs into the classroom by exploring the nexus between ICT, learning and motivation, and application of active learning methodologies (e.g. Buzz groups, affinity groups, solution or critic groups, ‘teach-write-discuss’, critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and integrated projects);
  2. To implement technological solutions allowing enhanced online social interaction for the peer learning community of teachers;
  3. To set up a peer learning community of teachers in order to carry out the following activities:
  • To identify and analyse training needs of in-service European educators who are running, or wish to run, educational projects in MUVEs in K-12 and middle and upper secondary education;
  • To collect and document good practices illustrating the use of active learning methodologies with MUVEs to increase pupils motivation and participation in education;
  • To design pedagogical patterns that give a solution for identified pedagogical problems in regard to pupils motivation and education in these new environments;
  • To guarantee the wide dissemination of the project’s deliverables amongst European Higher Education institutions, teachers’ training centres, teachers’ training and teachers’ networks and/or professional communities.

I'm really pleased to be part of such an important project along with talented and well prepared colleagues from all over the world.

For further information you may visit

Portions taken from MUVEnation