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Spanish Teaching in Second Life

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Spanish with Eugenia I went to a talk about how a teacher got into SL and how she teaches Spanish there. The speaker this time was a charming Mexican lady who has been teaching Spanish in Second Life since 2008. Eugenia has now a new plot in the Chilbo community. There she explained how her classes take place and showed us her different classrooms. She presented the tools she uses in order to teach Spanish to her students. The first thing we learned was that SL became a new means of earning money during an economic crisis, which is a very important fact.

Eugenia told us about all the possibilities there are to teach a class, for example through songs, talks, virtual books, note cards, playing, acting, watching in world films and cultural activities like lectures and exhibitions.Among the many things you can use as tools to teach in SL, we can find parties, field trips, events and communities made to practice what students have learned. For many people learning in SL is much more comfortable because the avatar is the one making mistakes and nobody can see the person behind them. That builds confidence and I think it is great to correct pronunciation. One of the phenomena of SL is that people don't care much about the looks of the avatar, you can come to the class as an animal, or wearing a costume or an evening dress and nobody is going to say anything. People are more tolerant about your looks in SL so you have to be more comfortable there than in RL.You also have screens and whiteboards in SL, they are important when teaching grammar and presenting. You can use slides like in RL. Avatars also have gestures and furniture in SL has animations, so nobody will miss a real face. Eugenia was referring to teachers as being actors as well, in our case avatars are actors too. Students can learn about cultural traditions through buildings. SL has many real world scenarios and many universities have copied their RL buildings in SL. Other tools we can use while teaching in SL are social networks, videos, machinima and websites, music, cultural wikis or blogs. Many sims organize cultural activities, like concerts, plays or exhibitions and change the scenarios according to the time of the year like Spanish Speak. Having a plot or a school in SL does not mean that you have to do everything by yourself. Many things can be bought from designers and builders, like furniture, plants, clothes and so on. Lessons in SL with Eugenia include visiting and using other sims to offer a wide variety of situations in which students will practice their skills. Learning by doing as if you were in the country where the target language is spoken, a clear advantage over Real Life is that you don't have to travel and spare weeks or days to go on a language course and you certainly don't have to pay so much money. The results are comparable to a Real Life course as you will experience all those every day situations in a foreign country via avatar. In fact, Eugenia gave us a few names of sims where students can practice Spanish in every day life situations. She takes her students to the different sims and invites colleagues to talk to them, so they get used to different Spanish accents. When do you have the chance to do that in a RL classroom?

The list of places students will visit according to their level and target are:

  1.  Mexico auténtico
  2.  SL Argentina
  3.  Colombiamor
  4.  Opera Jóven
  5.  Second USPM
  6.  Costa Rica
  7.  Universo Creativo
  8.  Un Hispana
  9.  Creando unidos
  10.  Mi Casa

I know some of the places, so here I am going to give just  an overview of their activities as I am going to write an article about each of these sims soon.

Paza Luna in Spanish Speak.

I am adding this address as it is a Spanish school that offers cultural activities for people who can speak a bit of Spanish and like music as well as exhibitions or lectures. The sim always looks different according to the time of year and the festivities in Mexico. Thanks to great builders you will have an unforgettable immersive experience. Wilson Voight owns the school.

Universidad San Martín de Porres in Machu Picchu

The campus of the huge sim is still being built. The sim also has a museum and various activities like balloon flying and paragliding. You can visit Machu Picchu and spend lots of time discovering village buildings, classrooms, exhibitions and Peruvian nature. Max Ugaz and Amparo Cervantes have been doing a wonderful job with their team.

Mi Casa es su Casa

This is one of my favourite sims as it is a complete town with interactive shops, hotel, restaurant, school, church, mine, market, pharmacy etc. Where all activities are written in note cards ready to use. The sim also has games. Very good for beginners, but it is also a challenge for intermediate to advanced students. Great work Calisto Encinal!

We did not only learn about the advantages of SL teaching. Eugenia told us about the downsides and their solutions too. The main problems of teaching in SL are technical issues, you need a good computer with a good software and a good internet connection. Some countries have problems with broadband. Skype, email and google+ are just a way of helping students when things go wrong in SL. A common problem when you teach in SL can be time zones. Australians are getting up when Europeans are having their evening meal and North Americans their lunch. Another problem is that many people know SL as "a game" and do not take it seriously. True is that education in SL is not well known and its potential is underestimated. As teachers, we should use more new technologies and be open for the future of teaching.  Eugenia's talk


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