By Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education
I am presently attending the ETAI (English Teachers Association of Israel) “Linking Through Language” conference in Jerusalem. (Click here to see the day two report.) This evening’s opening presentation, sponsored by the British Council, UK, was interesting and had an unexpected element. David Crystal, a renowned linguist, and his wife had prepared a presentation/performance called “Speaking Shakespeare: Fact and Fiction,” described in the program as “a light-hearted romp through Shakespeare.”
The fact that he spoke about different linguistic elements of Shakespeare was expected. The performance of parts of the plays to support points was a little unexpected. However, the really unexpected aspect of the presentation was that Mr. and Mrs. Crystal were also being broadcast, if that is the correct term, on the British Council’s Second Life island. A screen was set up so that we could watch that aspect of the presentation. Therefore, there were two audiences. We, the audience, that was present in the room with the Crystals, saw the presenters in person and “on stage” in Second Life. The Second Life audience saw only the avatars.
I confess that I was fascinated and at the same a bit put off by the Second Life broadcast. I was fascinated at this clever way of sharing this presentation with people who were not able to attend the conference. On the other hand, the Second Life version had a few technical flaws that were distracting. For instance, Mr. Crystal’s avatar’s mouth moved whether he was speaking or whether his wife was speaking. His wife’s mouth never moved. The other distraction was that since parts of the presentation were performance, the live action contained body language and gestures that the Second Life avatars did not project. I know almost nothing about Second Life, so perhaps this was just a limitation in the way that it was set up.
My critique of the set up aside, I was more fascinated than put off by this aspect of the presentation. I was delighted when, during the question and answer session at the end, one of the people viewing/participating via Second Life had a question.
This experience has sparked my interest about Second Life and this use of it. I hope that someone from ETC who is knowledgeable about it can jump in and explain some of the different elements of it and how its strengths can be capitalized on in similar and other situations.
The same presenter is giving a plenary tomorrow about English and the Internet. I may post a report in ETC on that, too, if it sounds like it would be interesting to our audience.