HOT@ ETAI – English Teachers Association of Israel

Lynn ZimmermannBy 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.

One Response

  1. Hi Lynn,

    I’m not an expert, but back in 2007, Anna Veronese and I wrote about Second Life in the blog of the “Noi Media” project because she, Luca Mascaro and I presented SL in a course for vocational school teachers. Luca even had a SL island for his Sketchin firm for some time. Anna’s and my posts are gathered in the Second Life category of the blog, hers signed “Blue Velvet”, mine “almansi”. They are in Italian, but mainly based on – and linked to – material in English. Anna was more enthusiastic than I about SL for education. I also also gathered some bookmarks about it in, but I don’t know how many of these bookmarked pages survive.

    My first Second Life (non) experience was when I was following online Charles and Rebecca Nesson’s CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion course, in Fall 2006 (as an outsider, not for a credit) which also used Second Life: see CyberOne: Teaching and Learning in Mixed Realities. A non experience because back then my Y2K Mac wouldn’t digest the Second Life software. In 2007 I got a laptop that could cope with it.

    And my last experience was when my avatar landed stark naked on the virtual steps in front of the Second Life replica of Harvard’s Berkman Center. As in Niko Donburi’s “Dear Linden” song on the Internet Archive (the original page disappeared):

    Dear Linden, Dear Linden, the most recent update
    so corrupted my textures I must always rebake
    Tomorrow I partner and don’t know what to do
    all my clothing is missing and my custom skin too
    Signed, No Inventory

    No Inventory, No Inventory, we hear what you say
    but at Linden Labs, we like it this way
    We know how to fix it–and probably should
    just keep crossing your fingers and knocking on wood
    Signed, A Linden…

    Even being aware this was just virtual, I found it unpleasant. So I never went back.

    An interesting use of SL was the Humanitarian Life island: e.g. visitors could buy virtual chickens in Linden dollars, then the money, converted, would buy real chickens for a teaching farm in Africa. But as their stops on August 22, 2008, so I don’t know if they kept the island.

    Most businesses mentioned by Anna Veronese in her Noi Media posts have closed their SL versions: the return on investment was good at first when all traditional media were raving about SL, but afterwards, it cost too much to have people manning these SL things 7×24, and the media – and users – got interested in other things. Good old internet-based social networking costs less and is more viral. Maybe SL petered out in great part after the initial hype for the same reason client-based Joost TV did.

    Educational use is different, of course. If a university invested money in SL back in 2007, why not continue to use it for occasions like the conference you describe. But when most participants to the Communia workshop in Istanbul back in April got blocked by the volcano cloud, the organizers used Elluminate, not Second Life to let them participate at distance: the Elluminate java software installs in a few seconds. It would be interesting to know how many educational institutions have created SL islands after 2007.

    And among the problems for educational use of SL, at least back in 2007: the separate adult and children grids, bullying ( see
    No escape from the bullies by researchers at Nottingham University).

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