Tuesday 17 June 2008

Teaching Speaking in Second Life

For me, one of the main blocks to really developing online language learning courses has been the inability to supply real communicative speaking practice. VOIP software like Skype has certainly pushed the bounds of what is possible, as has the development of more effective web based video conferencing platforms, but in my opinion the biggest step towards making this possible has been the developments made in virtual worlds like There.com and Second Life which not only enable the use of voice, but can also help students to develop an understanding gesture and spatial relationships while speaking.

For anyone interested in giving it a try, here are four basic tutorial videos to help you get started with how voice works in Second Life and how you can use it for pair and group work.

Setting up voice
This video shows you how to activate the voice client and make sure that the quality of your sound is good. It also shows you how to select the correct input and output devices for sound in case you are having any problems.

Using the active speaker window
This video shows you how to find and use the active speaker window. This enables you to find out who is within 'voice range' of you, as well as enabling you to balance out the volume of the voices around you and even to mute other speakers if you just want to listen in to one person.

Using 'IM Call' for pair and group work
If you have large groups of students all in close proximity to each other, running activities like pair or group work can be chaotic as everyone hears what everyone else is saying. This video shows you how to use the 'IM Call' feature to put the students into pairs or groups, so that they only hear the people they are working with. Then you as the teacher can move between the groups monitoring, without having to hear the whole class all at once.

Balancing out relative volumes
Second Life has a lot of different sound sources, such as the ambient sound of trees and water around you, the sounds of gestures, background music, media players and th voices of people speaking. This video shows you how to balance out the sounds and turn off the ones you don't want to hear.

I would be really interested to hear comments from anyone who has used Video conferencing and or Second Life. Which do you prefer?

If you are new to or haven't tried Second Life yet, then I hope you find these videos useful and they encourage you to try it out. The videos were originally commissioned by The Consultants-E and are part of an introductory course for teachers they deliver on Edunation Island II and are used with their kind consent.

Nik Peachey

My other postings on Second Life and virtual worlds
Visit my YouTube Channel to watch more of my videos


johnnie said...

The machinima community has taken to using Second Life as a conference environment recently, both for Zarathustra Studios' Talk The Machinima Talk and for the regular premieres at The Machiniplex.

Not everybody likes Second Life, as a general game/platform, but nobody can deny that the audio quality and reliability that we get is far superior to Skype conference chats (which we were using previously).

I have to be honest and say that There hasn't impressed me at all so far - but then again, I haven't given it as much of my time as I have Second Life.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Johnnie,

I really like the idea of doing machinima project with students in Second Life. I'm not so bothered about the 'production standards' though as I'd be mainly interested in the quality of the students' interaction.

One of the main disadvantages I can see for machinima is the lack of lipsynching, which makes close up / expressive 'acting' really difficult. That's one of the reasons I like the idea of using Moviestorm as it overcomes those kinds of problems, though it becomes a different tool then educationally speaking.

Anyway, the Zarathustra talk sounds pretty interesting and I might try to get along. I liked you Machiniplex site too, though a lot of the content seems very 'dark'. The Wizard of OS one was very well crafted though as were many of the others.

Good luck with your projects.

Nik Peachey

johnnie said...

Please do come along to the next Z-Studios talk if you can make it - you'd be very welcome.

Lip-syncing in SL is a tricky proposition, but far from impossible. If you're interested in exploring it further, let me know and I can put you in touch with a couple of experts.

The Machiniplex is not my site, so I can't claim any credit for it. It's run and organised by the deadly trio of Ricky Grove, Ingrid Moon and Jason Choi. The films that are featured are a prime-cuts choice of the very best of current experimental and narrative machinima.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Johnnie,

I'd love to get into machinima more when I have a bit more time. I got an animation for my avatar which makes him wave his hands around when I speak, which adds a bit of realism and helps people tell who it is that's speaking. I really like the idea of those hats that have the face scanners on, which then link up to an avatars face to recreate your expressions, but I guess that's a while off for Second Life yet. I think there is still so much educational potential for machinima, especially for EF language development.

Hope to catch up with you at the Z-studio talk, but this month is looking a bit chaotic (don't they all). Fingers crossed.



johnnie said...

Yeah, my month is looking very similar :-)

Well, hope to see you there if you manage to make the time - some other month if not. My SL avatar name is Johnnie Innis.

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