Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Playing with my Wii

I have to be careful who I say that to, or it might be misinterpreted, but we have just got hold of Nintendo's Wii, and after reading about how wonderful the revolutionary control is, and not really understanding, I finally appreciate just how great it is.



We only have the basic game that came with the console (Wii Sports), but it's a hundred times better than the way the Playstation 2 Eye Toy system works as far as recognition goes. It's great fun, and I'm sure it will be a huge success.



But, what about educational uses? Well, there's nothing out there yet that might tempt me to bring it to the classroom (unlike the PS2), but I like the fact that it's nice and light. Can't understand what makes Stephen Downes say that "Stuff like Wii and mobile computing are much more important" (than Second Life). Mobile computing I can understand, but what has he seen in the Wii to make that statement? Or maybe he's just being controversial? He's not really said much about the matter, but I am intrigued as I respect a lot of what he has written about educational technology. I'll be following this one.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blogs, wikis & podcasts (& Second Life)

I've just finished a video presentation that I was asked to make for a publisher's in-house conference in Mexico next week. It's not great, but I found making it a lot of fun. I must do more of this!







Here is a better quality version (requires Quicktime 7.0): Web 2.0 & Language Learning

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Geordie who woke up speaking with a Jamaican accent

Reading the ELT Gazette last week, I came across an article about a case of foreign accent syndrome.


It was about a woman in the north-east of England who suffered a change of accent after a stroke. The woman's original Geordie (NE England) accent was replaced by a Jamaican one literally overnight.



Of course, this seems quite comical at first, but the woman actually finds it quite unnerving. This is because our accent is so much part of who we are, (our personality, our being) that it must be disturbing to lose it. And not only is her own state of being unsettled, but the people around her (neighbours, family, friends) treat her differently now because of the way she talks.



All this is food for thought surely for language teachers. I have always thought it difficult (if not impossible for some) to adopt the accent of a foreign language, and whenever asked by students about this, tend to tell them that it doesn't matter if they speak with their own accent so long as their pronunciation is clear enough for them to be understood.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Web 2.0 is a rainforest, Web 1.0 a desert

Recently, I've been enthralled by Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You, especially the chapter on gaming. It's something that I've been reading in preparation for next year's TESOL Electronic Village Online (EVO2007), as I'm putting together a proposal and hoping to co-moderate a session on language learning and computer gaming (I've already set up a Yahoo group, edublog and a wiki in anticipation!)



While working on the wiki today, I decided to see if I could find an email address so as to invite Steven Johnson to particpate as a guest speaker (nothing ventured, nothing gained) and came across
his blog, and an interesting post related to an article he wrote about the state of the Web.Both make very interesting reading.



Update: Since I first drafted this post, I've heard back from Steven's representative - he asked if there was any money involved for taking part in the webcast. Of course, there is no budget, as it's all voluntary. I wrote back with the news, and that's the last I've heard.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Waiting for something to blog...

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

E-Society Classification

Spatial-Literacy.org have devised an e-society classification system for the UK, which caught my eye recently, based on a report of the E-Society (PDF).



Now, UK residents can check to see which of the 23 classifications they are in. The classifications are based on "based on levels of awareness of different ICTs; levels of use of ICTs; and their perceived impacts upon human capital formation and the quality of life."



The report makes highly interesting reading and some of the classification defy belief, but are based on real types.


The actual classification terms (below, with notes) are as follows:


GROUP A: THE E-UNENGAGED



The E – unengaged are people who "do not have access to electronic communications or technologies". Included here are people who are "too old, too poor or too poorly educated to be able to access them."



This group is broken down by the report into:



  • Low technologists are people who mainly view the Internet as "an electronic version of a mail order catalogue, and not something that you learn from."
  • Cable suffices represents a group of people with limited interest in electronic technologies but "without the education nor income to become heavily engaged in using them." Many have access to cable television.
  • The Technology as fantasy group are
    mainly "old males, some of whom have an interest in electronic technology and like to read about it, but few of whom use it."
  • Mobile’s the limit have low level computers and Internet usage, but use mobiles a lot. Apparently, this group is mainly female and elderly.
  • The Too old to be bothered "feel that they predate anything to do with electronic technologies."
  • The Elderly marginalised are mainly older people who feel that technology is "moving on at a rate faster than they can keep up with."


GROUP B: THE ‘E – MARGINALISED’ represents those people who either "lack the disposable income to equip themselves with" new technologies them, or who don't have "the training and education needed to understand how to make effective use of them."



Here are the sub-categories:

  • The Net ; What’s that?. This group "are not engaged have very little interest" in most technologies, but are probably interested in owning a mobile phone.
  • Mobile Explorers :- are mainly young people who "have a high level of access to the Internet both at home at work. They enjoy using computers to play games and to watch videos", but not to acquire information.
  • The Cable TV heartland group represents people "for whom technology is an important lifestyle statement..." who "...read a lot about technology in magazines and spend a lot of time on the Internet."

GROUP C: BECOMING ENGAGED are those who generally acquire their ICT experience at work. They include:



  • E-bookers and communicators, who are active users of email and mobile phones, and who download a lot of music, but who do "not make use of the latest technical features of information technology."
  • Peer group adopters are "even more reliant upon email, text messaging and the use of mobiles to participate in peer group activities" and are generally young people with low incomes who live with their parents.




GROUP D: E FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOPPING are interested in the Internet for providing "access to music, games and general entertainment".



  • Small time net shoppers are those people who generally "rely upon the Internet to buy music, books and videos"
  • E for entertainment. This group "access the Internet using broadband" and buy computer games, but they are not very interested in Internet shopping.




GROUP E: E-INDEPENDENTS are those who "take a rational and considered view of electronic communications and technologies"



  • Rational utilitarians use the Internet for shopping and usually are not interested in its use for games or leisure.
  • Committed learners "consists of well educated, urban professionals with a high proportion of middle aged females" who "consider information technology as a natural method of acquiring information".
  • Light users are mainly people who are in late middle age and do not feel the need to keep up with peer groups and are not interested in fashions, but who do have some access to ICTs.




GROUP F: INSTUMENTAL E-USERS are those who use ICTs "because they provide a practical method of saving time or money", and they are generally well off, middle class, and many have children.



  • E for financial management are people who have access to mobiles, email and the Internet through their work, and who are competent users who use ICTs to keep in touch with people mainly for work reasons.
  • On-line apparel purchasers. These people are mainly "well educated young professionals, many of them women, who are confident users of electronic technologies and communications" and who use the Internet at home and mainly for shopping.
  • The E-exploring for fun group uses the computer extensively, buy a lot and are mostly men in their thirties.




GROUP G: E-BUSINESS USERS consists of people who need "to keep in electronic contact with...customers. Many of this group are self employed and make relatively little use of the technology as a leisure activity."




  • Electronic orderers. Many of these users need technology to manage their businesses.




GROUP H: E-EXPERTS make full use of electronic technologies and "prefer on line to inter-personal sources of information and make use of the Internet as an information source...and see leisure time spent on electronic technologies as enhancing their human capital".



  • The E-committed "find it easy to acquire and master new technologies" and "rely on the Internet for information"
  • E - professionals are those people who
    view the Internet, etc "as a indispensable basis of living" and who use ICTs in their professional lives.




Finally, the site allows people in the UK to enter their postcode and to see a general summary of their area, according to the survey results. I posted my parent's postcode and (no surprise here I think) this led to these results. Another reminder of why I left the area I suppose!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Student fined for anonymous comment on his blog

On Saturday there was an article published in el Pais (in Spanish of course)about a student who has been find 400 Euros (200 acording to the electronic edition of the newspaper) because of a comment published on his blog.



Ivan Fresneda wrote about his college, saying that it was incoherent and absurd, complaining about the lack of newspapers in his school, and was extremely critical of the methodology of his Philosophy teacher.



Now Ivan has been taken to court and fined because of threats to the Philosophy teacher that were published in the comments section of this blog post. Although the comments were published anonymously, Ivan has been held responsible because it is his blog, and he should have let the comment be published.



Obviously, this has repercussions for bloggers everywhere, who could potentially be held responsible for comments published anonymously on their blogs, and is also related to the cyber-bullying incident I wrote about recently.



At the very least, we need to ensure that comments on student blogs are moderated before they are published, and now it's not just because of the threat of spam.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogs, kids, parents & teachers & cyber-bullying

According to a recent article on the BBC website, almost a third of kids in the UK now use blogs and social networking websites, "but two thirds of parents do not even know what they are".



We've all heard of the digital divide between technologically rich countries and technologically poor ones, but there are strong indications that there is another digital divide and it's generational. The article goes on to call this gap in technological knowledge between generations "alarming", and indeed it is.



Of course, this is "alarming" because unless adults have a clear picture of what the children are doing online, and take an interest, then they cannot guide them in matters of Internet safety, etc.



Here's anotgher quote from the article: "A tenth of the 11-year-olds who took part in the survey said their parents did not know about the people with whom they communicated online."



Why is this? Is it that they don't take an interest? Or aren't concerned about what their children are doing on the computer? Perhaps they just assume that the kids are "just playing a game", when so many more are turning to real communication (often combined with gaming). I remember hearing some great advice (on an Ed Tech Talk show I'm sure)about how to take an interest in what your children are doing online when they are at home, and to help ensure Internet safety : put the computer in a shared space, and not in the kids' bedroom. That way, you'll see what they are doing, and can also observe and take a greater interest in their online activities.



Of course, the situation isn't helped when the schools the kids go to simply ban these sites and don't offer any guidance either about safe and ethical Internet use when using these tools. I keep hearing stories about the insufficient attitude that most educational establishments have towards helping kids to use these new tools safely and effectively. And ethically too. It comes up frequently during conversations on Ed Tech Talk, and on edublogs, etc. Perhaps the people in charge think that these blogs, websites, and tools are just a passing phase and will shortly go away. When are they going to wake up?



By now, I'm sure that most educators (at least those with their ears open, and the ones who take time to talk to their students) have their own stories about kids and problems online. One of my students (studying English with me 2 x week at the academy) last year was involved in a cyber-bullying incident in her school. She, a fifteen year old found herself written about on a photo blog after falling out with two of her (ex)friends over a boy. Not only did they insult and write cruel comments about the student, but they published pictures of themselves with a knife and said that they should use the knives against her.



Obviously, these comments and blog posts made their way around the school because of the highly interconnectedness of the photo blogging software, and the girl became so seriously hurt by the exposure and pressure that she ended up skipping classes and, eventually, spending a week in hospital with depression. I got to know about this only after the whole incident had blown over, when she returned to my classes (she had been missing my classes too because of what was happening)and told all in one of the most highly absorbing and communicative classes of the whole year.



The most incredible aspect of the whole incident was the reaction of the school. It took a long time for the truth to come out. I think, if I remember rightly, that the girl only ended up telling her parents about what really had happened when she ended up in hospital. She had been acuteley embarrassed about the whole event, and had hoped it would blow over. Of course, the parents went to the school to complain about what the other students had done (with print-outs from the blogs). The school's reaction was to say that it had nothing to do with them; that this was something that was going on outside of school, and that they couldn't get involved, or punish the students who had posted the threats, etc. on their blogs The only thing they agreed to do was to ask the students to remove the offending posts.



As a result this cyber-bullied student was devastated, and feels betrayed and let down by adults and teachers in general, and by the school in particular. The parents decided the best would be for her to change to another school, and this is what has happened. But she feels bitter and has been deeply affected by the experience. I saw a dramatic change in her when she returned to class at the end of the year. Instead of the quite shy, happy, studious and friendly girl that had attended my classes at the beginning of the year, was an embittered, rebelious soul who wanted to end her education as soon as possible, and had lost faith and trust in the people she thought were previously there to keep her safe and to guide her. After hearing her story, I didn't blame her for feeling this way. I just felt sad that the education system had let her down, partly by trying to ignore the changing technological world that we live in, and by refusing to acknowledge a responsibility to help and to educate the young people of today to use this technology safely and wisely.



I just wonder how many more students are going to have to suffer as she did before schools recognise they have to do something other than ban sites such as Myspace. Let's hope for all our sakes it's not many.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Using recorded Skype conversations as assessment tools

I was asked today by Barbara Sawhill to briefly take part in a presentation she's giving with Barbara Ganley on 'Using Skype, Podcasting and Blogging in Foreign Language Teaching'



Sitting here waiting for their Skype call, I decided to prepare myself a little bit and refresh my memory about their work.



As soon as I start looking I'm struck by what I've been missing out on by not blogging much, or taking much notice of the 'edublogosphere' recently. I can't let this happen again, no matter how busy I get.



First, I found a description of the workshop they are giving today:



"Recently, new technologies have distinguished themselves as credible tools that increase students' production and competence in a target language. With this change, a new conversation has begun about the structure of a language class, thinking about moving from a traditional teacher-and-text-centered classroom to a student-centered and possibly even a totally un-centered, textbook-less learning environment. In this workshop, we will explore several new "disruptive technologies" -- blogs, wikis, podcasts, rss feeds and Skype (http://www.skype.com)-- and explore ways these tools can support the objectives of a language curriculum."



This year I've been witness to the efforts that Barbara Sawhill has been making with her Spanish students, as we've been involved in podcast exchanges. Tonight, following links, I've just come across one of the most interesting reflections I've ever seen about using recorded Skype conversations.



Barbara Sawhill talks here, on the Language Lab Unleashed blog, about using recorded Skype calls as assessment tools for language learning.



In particular, she reflects upon students conducting Skype interviews as part of their final projects, and mentions the great value of doing this when students really use these conversations as a form of self-evaluation. She found that many students approached the task trying to produce something they thought Barbara wanted, rather than really reflect upon the conversations they had had. When her students approached the task as more than "just a list of questions that need to be answered", however, as one of Barbara's students (Gigi) did, then something special took place. In the recording, Gig talks to Rita, an EFL teacher in Argentina. She reflects upon the conversation in her blog.



Barbara also mentions the idea of students using these conversations as "snapshots" of what they were able to do at a particular moment, and she hopes some of them at least will be able to listen again in the future, and to be able to assess their progress. This is surely an area that has great potential in language learning.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Networking on the Net with Braz-Tesol

Bee has invited me and other webheads to participate in her presentation 'Networking on the Net', which she is giving at the Braz-Tesol 10th National Convention today,Sunday, July 9th 2006 From 13: 45 -15:15 GMT



She is using a wiki for the organisation of materials, guests, and online places, and people have been encouraged to join in the Skypecast, which is to be hosted and webcast by World Bridges via the Webheads in Action community site.



If this seems like a lot of URLs already, then you ain't seen nothing yet, as the plan is to take participants to Tapped In, Alado & Learning Times too, introducing some of the best tools around for online synchronous participation. It's ambitious, but will be a lot of fun, and a very interesting learning experience for anyone interested in the cutting edge of e-learning (if you pardon the cliche)



Feeling lost? You needn't be. Just start off at Bee's wiki and in the Skypecast and let Bee, the host, guide you.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Webcast Academy

I've not been blogging much lately as I've been too occupied with work and with EFL Bridges and the Webcast Academy that World Bridges have organised to help all of us learn how to use webcasting tools well enough to handle our own live streams, etc.



It's been a lot of fun, but I want to get back to blogging too as I miss it, and I now have more time on my hands.



If anyone is still out there reading this and would like to try their hand at webcasting, then now is your opportunity as the Webcast Academy is looking for its second intake of interns:



Here's what Jeff Lebow, our webcasting guru has to say about it:



We are now accepting applications for the 'Class of 1.2'.
Applicaitons are due by July 16 and the session will begin July 23.
More information is available at:
http://www.webcastacademy.net/Class_1.2_Application

If you have any additional questions, please post them in The Academy Forums
http://www.webcastacademy.net/forum/22




Try it, it's a lot of fun

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Daily English Show

I've been looking at various English videos and videoblogs on sites such as Youtube recently, and have been really impressed by one in particular.



This is the Daily English Show, a video podcast, which is professionally made and put together by Sarah, a teacher in Tokyo, Japan.



Available to view online here at Youtube and at Grouper, you can also put the RSS feed into your podcatcher to download the videos.



It's amazing that she can write, film, edit and upload all of this (almost) every day. Hats off to you, Sarah. How do you manage to do it?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

EFL Bridges World Conversation Club

I've been using Skypecast to hold a conversation club and recording it to upload as a podcast, as part of the EFLBridges site. Jeff at Worldbridges has also set up another EFLBridges site, which should become the centre of operations soon (the other one will be a community site for any students who want a space to write in a blog, and even upload their own podcast). Hopefully, this should develop into something more substantial in the next few weeks.



The first two were last weekend, and were a lot of fun. I'm also using this as a way of learning how to become a webcaster, and I'm enrolled in the Webcast Academy to learn how to do this.



I'm currently editing the audio from last Sunday's show - the recording wasn't great, but it should be passable. I've decided to add a bit of music, and cut out the dead air to make it more interesting to listen to. This, of course, takes time.



The next EFLBridges World Conversation Club Skypecast will be on Sunday morning. I've now established a regular time and am hoping it can build into something special.



Please tell your students of English to download Skype and join in

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Worldbridges!

It's been a year since Worldbridges first kicked off their network of live interactive webcasts, and they are celebrating with a webcastathon.

I first heard about Worldbridges from Elderbob and the Webheads. It's a credit to this fabulous community of practice that they discovered the first day Jeff Lebow started webcasting from the site (there's not much that happens on the Web that isn't picked up early on by the Webheads).

Since then, I've been informed, educated, thrilled, entertained, driven, and encouraged by Worldbridges, and we've seen the site transform into a community of webcasters and committed listeners. On one of the EdTechTalk shows, I was persuaded to join in the fun with a webcast for EFL learners. The first of these was in February 2006, after the ELT podcasting TESOL evo2006 session that Worldbridges kindly helped make a success. EFLBridges hasn't progressed much since then, but I've been inspired recently to dive in and make it a regular event.

One of the reasons for this is through joining the Webcast Academy. Another reason is that it's suddenly become easier to do, with the introduction of Skypecasts.

I'll be trying out this, hosting two EFLBridges skypecasts as part of the Worldbridges anniversary. Please join me , and raise a glass to celebrate the birthday of this great site. Here's looking forward to the next year!

Baldric gets his own blog

I've been spending a lot of time in Second Life, and I know I'll want to write a lot more about my discoveries there.

Rather than let this blog turn into a Second Life blog, I've set up another blog, Baldric's Trousers, and have also been capturing Baldric's explorations and observations on a separate Flickr account.

This way, I can continue to document my experience in SL without it taking over this blog.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Esperanto Centre in Second Life

I must admit that I'd not been doing anything serious in Second Life over the last couple of days. I'd been enjoying the fun that has been centred around Curry Castle, as Adam Curry is talking about SL every day on his podcast, the Daily Source code.



This means that every day there's a gathering of podcasters and podcast listeners around this area, with spontaneous parties breaking out on rooftops in the area. It's been a lot of fun, and I'll soon be posting some photos on Flickr of Monday night's party at the Curry Castle (a virtual Madge Weinstein turned up) when I get a chance. It's also interesting to note how a scramble has begun to build in the area that is completely crazy - within a couple of days, what was a sparsely populated area has seen huge property development as podcasters and others hoping to make it rich living next to a famous neighbour, move in.



But enough of frivolity, as I was hanging out at the Curry Castle again yesterday, just people watching and trying to chat to some podcasters, I was contacted by one of the members of the Second Life Language and Linguistics group, and have now been invited to participate in their forum, Babel, which aims "to advance language learning in multi-user virtual environments". It is also affiliated with SimTeach






Above: A picture of the Esperanto centre (with its own museum) in SL



I will folow this up later at more detail, but I see that one of the posts in the forum is about the possibility of using the Silent Way in Second Life as a possible language learning tool. This is starting to get very interesting.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Second Life Progress Report





I've been spending more time than I'd like to admit exploring Second Life (SL) recently.



I've started joining groups, and even tried to take a class on particle building on Saturday at the Second Life Academy(SLA). IT's not that I am particularly interested in particle building in this virtual world (but, hey! I'll give it a go), but I am interested in observing people teaching within the environment, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so.



All members of the SLA were sent an IM to tell us the time for the class was approaching. A meeting point was established, and as people arrived, introductions took place. This involved not only chit chat, but also checking out other people's profiles, which is one of the best ways to get to know what's going on in SL - especially as people share their 'SL Picks', the places they recommend.



It started getting funny when a real newbie arrived and started crashing into us all - I realised that I've come a long way in a week. Then, a teleport location was established for the group. This was becuase the class was really a field trip, and the culmination of a week-long particle building course. I asked if I should wait until the start of a new course (it starts on Monday), but was told that they didn't mind if I tagged along, and I would see the effects of particle building first, which may be a good thing. I agreed, and hit the teleport button. I don't know what I did worng, or if I went before everyone else, but I ended up in a brown trench, alone, and wondering what to do next. I waited a while and someone else turned up, landing on my head, and then shortly afterwards disappeared.



I decided to fly upwards to see if the others were near, and then explored the area a bit more. I couldn't find anyone so I teleported back to the meeting point. There wasn't anybody there either, so I tried to find my way back to the location of the class. No success.



If I ever get to the point of holding a class in SL, I'll have to take this into consideration.



But, now I'm intrigued, and I think I just may have to check out that course that's starting on Monday.

Friday, April 28, 2006

One blog a second...blogs are more important than sex

I can't remember who told me this first, or where I read this, but it's true. I've just checked it. A search on Google for 'blog' yields 1.590.000.000 entries. If you search on 'sex', you'll get 699.000.000.



From eflgeek comes links to the Economist and two recent articles on blogging: 'It's the links, stupid' and 'Among the audience'.



The first article mentions that "the “blogosphere” is doubling in size every five months" and that one blog is made every second.



It was interesting to see the comment too that "many adolescents consider e-mail passé, and instead are using either instant messaging (IM) or blogging for their communications". That is what I've seen with my students. I recently conducted a survey, and the younger ones (12-16) never use e-mail. Just about all of them use IM, and quite a lot of them have their own blog or photoblog. Perhaps it's that e-mail is associated with the adult world, or the world of work? What is true is that it's just not cool.



In the second article, the Economist identifies that what many people have described as Web 2.0, is leading to a new 'Age of participation'. What is interesting to me about all this is the change in where we get our news from. In my twenties, I relied on newspapers to tell me what was new. Very rarely would I not hear about something first(a new trend, etc) from a newspaper. Then it would usually be picked up by TV if it was considered more mainstream.



Now, it has totally changed. I was blogging and podcasting before I saw either of them mentioned in a newspaper or magazine (the exception is probably Wired), and I was even approached here by a Spanish journalist to talk about blogs in education for an article.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Second Life: Better Life





There are lots of promos and films that people have made from within SL - this is one of the better ones that I've come across.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Videogames for Academics

A recent comment from Elia von Oeyen Tupou led me to the blog, Videogames for Academics, which is full of fascinating insights from Elia's dissertation thesis.



It seems that Elia has spent a lot of time playing WoW (World of Warcraft, and in particular it was very interesting to read the post 'To my WoW friends' about the effect that stopping gaming had upon online friends, etc. It was interesting to note just how much importance some players place on interactions in the game. I'm sure that this is something that will be difficult for non-gamers to understand. I related to it as I used to be serious table gamer, playing a variety of RPGs with friends, when I was a teenager.



During several years, I used to get together to play with friends every Wednesday afternoon (from 15.00-23.00), on Fridays from 18.00-23.00, and every Saturday from 13.00-23.00. Thinking back to this now, that is an awful lot of time spent in imaginary worlds! It strengthened friendship between me and my fellow gamers, and our little group became inseparable. We also gained a reputation at school, and people started talking about "the strange experiments we were doing" together. Eyebrows would also be raised if people overheard our conversations, as we talked about our characters and what they were doing or had done as if they were real. And, of course, my parents and their friends would wonder and worry about the unhealthy amount of time that their son was spending at a table with his friends, rolling dice and consulting rulebooks. Didn't he want to go to discos like other teenagers?



I stopped playing when I went to university, but I can still understand how absorbing RPGs can be.



Elia also links to another interesting article 'Living a Virtual Life' in Game Studies,the international journal of computer game research.



Among other things, this article mentions a survey undertaken about the type of person who becomes involved in this type of game:



"Usually, players had experience with computer games before they came to Ultima Online. More than three-quarters of the participants of our survey had previously played computer role playing games (85 percent) or computer adventure games (67 percent) and more than one-third (39 percent) had played other MMORPGs. Though many players had previous experience with MMORPGs, the number of users playing more than one game at the same time was negligible. Users rarely indulged at the same time in more than one MMORPG. This is understandable given the necessary investment in terms of time."



I have decided to collect all of these links, insights, etc, as well as documenting my own investigation in Second Life , etc. using a wiki: gaming-EFL

Friday, April 21, 2006

Second Life - different views and opinions

I've started doing some digging, looking for information about Second Life, especially in educational settings. Here's what I've found so far:




  • Rockin'in Second Life
  • - from Alan Levine's Cogdogblog was the most interesting find - it seems that there's already quite a buzz and an interest from certain higher educational establishments about SL, and this post shows just how far some educators have gone already towards experimenting with the alternative world offered by this intriguing game. One to definitely keep an eye on aI think. Alan also mentions a plug in that allows for real time speech, which of course is exactly what would be needed to utilisie this game for language learning purposes. I'm going to check out the plug-in and look for more examples of educational use this weekend.
  • Second Life - Creative Commons feature: about the free cultural events that have currently taken place in SL, and how people can become involved.

  • Second Life History wiki
  • : As the title suggests, an attempt to document the history of this virtual world.
  • BBC Collective: negative comments/review from some online gamers

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Second Life - A Booming Fantasy World

Thanks to George Siemens, I came across A Virtual World's Real Dollars in Business Week Online.



Siemens calls it part of one of the most interesting trends at the moment, "the absolute blurring between online and physical spaces" and this is particularly relevant to Second Life. As the article points out, this MMORPG game has captured the attention of some 165,000 people and it continues to grow in popularity. This may seem a lot, but the most popular game, World of Warcraft has more than 6 million players!



As is pointed out, the other interesting feature of Second Life (SL), unlike a lot of other similar games is that it's "a three-dimensional digital world in which players can do just about anything" where players "use software...to create everything from avatar clothes to buildings to games that are played inside the virtual world."



It's this totally user-generated world that makes Second Life such an appealing potential to many, and this "complete decentralization of the creative process" probably makes SL the most Web 2.0 of all of these games.



So, what about its potential for education, and in particular, language learning? For some reason, I assumed that VOIP would be integrated, but, of course, it isn't, which limits the value of SL for language teaching at the moment, although I was told that there are plans to introduce voice chat in the future.



Perhaps it is worth settling in now and earning some virtual money to be able to build a virtual language academy inside SL? The jury's still out, but I'm going to persist until I can see what potential there really is and if it's worth it. At the moment, I've graduated from SL's Initiation walk and am learning the ropes on Help Island, where I've managed to pick up some freebies, and have even made some new friends.



If you want to come and join me, please don't look for me by my real name. Instead, send an SL IM to Baldric Commons. Once I have enough snapshots, I'll upload a Bubbleshare slideshow with commentary.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

MMOG & MMRPG in Education

This article in Innovate, the journal of online education, looks at the educational possibilities of Massively Multiplayer Online Games as learning environments.



Focusing in particular on Quest Atlantis and The Sims Online, two popular MMOGs (sometimes also called Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games), the authors "identify and define nine principles of learning that allow such games to have valuable potential as tools for educators"



The article points out one of the transformation that is taking place in the world of entertainment that is growing in importance: namely that "many of today's students spend more time playing video games than they do watching television, reading books, or watching films"



Reading the article reminded me of Marc Prensky, whose 'Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants' should be compulsory reading for all 21st century educators.



It seems that it could be the right time to take a serious look at the potential for language learning that these games hold - a couple of my younger students are keen players (both of World of Warcraft), and have often asked me odd vocabulary questions at the end of class ("What does 'soul sucker' mean?" was a recent one) that never fail to surprise me.



I also been reading recently the fascinating accounts of adventures and experiences in MMRPGs in the special supplement on this in Wired's April issue, which includes a fabulous account of a chat show host who holds his interview program from within the online world of Halo - every time he holds an interview, his guests have to be protected from potential ambushes from virtual snipers.



Although most of the MMOGs are (just like most video games) violent in nature, there are others appearing that are not, which are probably better bets for education.



Of these, Second Life seems to be the most promising of these MMRPGs for language learning (at least according to the little I have read about the game: "An online society within a 3D world where you can explore, build, socialize, and participate in its economy"), and I have decided to make this one of my next projects, having signed up for an account (free) and downloaded the client to my PC (it's also available for the Mac).



Anyone else out there tempted? Why not join me? It could be that I'm barking up the wrong tree, but at least I'll have some virtual fun finding out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blog-EFL Archives

I haven't been blogging for a while - I don't know why, but I just lost the blogging bug. That and I've had so many other things on my plate, that this site just got cast aside.


It's a shame, though, as there's so much great stuff going on out there - it seems that blogging in EFL/ESL has really caught on, and I'm ready to start exploring again and trying to catch up with what I've been missing out on, and also getting back into blogging with my students.


As if in preparation for this, I've been tidying up my profile and doing some housekeeping. I've decided to hide the long list of archives that appear on the front page: I'm going to stick them out of site on an entry page, and this is it.







Monday, March 20, 2006

Another Bubbleshare presentation

Berta, from Venezuela has shared her first Bubbleshare presentation with us - you can find it on her blog. The subject deals with the role of women in Venezuela, and it would make a great launching pad for students, who may be persuaded to produce something similar.

I would love to find more examples of this kind of audio-visual presentation, as I think it has a lot of possibile uses with students.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I/O Brush for the IWB

The video that shows the I/O brush in use is stunning. I don't think it would be much use in language teaching, but I'd love to have a play with it nonetheless.

There is more information here about this innovative tool.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

EFL Student Webcast instructions

On Saturday 25th February at 14.00GMT, there will be the first EFL Student webcast show at World Bridges



We are hoping for an interesting start to this venture, and already have students interested and due to participate this weekend from Argentina, Hungary, Spain, Taiwan, and (hopefully) other many places in the world. Please help us help students to connect to others interested in improving their English language skills and become more aware of other cultures by connecting and communicating with other English language learners during these webcasts.



Here is a guide for those students who want to take part (the transcript of the slideshow is also included below):







1. Welcome to everyone interested in participating in the webcast taking place at Worldbridges. This is a brief guide telling you how you can best participate in this event. The first thing you should do on if you want to listen to the live show is to go to the World Bridges site (http://www.worldbridges.com) and click on the listen icon.



2. To take an active part while listening, you should join in the chat room. Click on the link to the 'chat room' from the World Bridges home page and then login with your name. You do not need to use a password.



3. You can see the names of the other people in the chat room on the right. Type your text in the yellow box , and press send. You can change the colour of your text, or send a smiley face, etc by clicking on the icon below the yellow box.



4. If you want to take part in the voice chat, then you need to have the free telephony programme called Skype. You can download this at http://www.skype.com. When you have this on your computer, you will need to skype the name 'worldbridges' to participate in the webcast. Before you do this, write a message in the text chat room to say you are ready to participate.
5. Another important thing about participating in the webcast is the equipment you have. You should use headphones and a microphone to participate in the webcast.



6. Please don't use speakers as the small delay between talking and listening creates problems with an echo and makes communication very difficult. So, please use headphones.



7. The last thing you have to remember when you use skype to call in is to switch off the webcast. Again, because of the small delay, you need to stop listening to the live webcast before you use skype to call in. If you don't do this, it will make communication very difficult.



7. so, that's all there is. You can find more information on the World Bridges website. Just look for the section called 'listening guide' and you will find more useful advice. Hope to speak to you online during the webcast, and hope you enjoy it. Have fun.






Photo credits: (published on Flickr with a Creative Commons Attribution license)

baby & headphones by Ted

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bubbleshare - Photos with audio





The photos above were uploaded to Bubbleshare and show shots of my TV playing podcasts via the XBox360, shortly after I got the wifi connection working and figured out how to share files from my PC.



Bubbleshare (currently in beta) allows you to create a slide show from photos, and lets you add an audio commentary too, and upload it to your blog! Thanks to Nick Noakes for putting me onto this one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The IWB vs the computer in the classroom

I'm at the beginning of what promises to be a highly interesting week-long seminar, 'ICT in ELT', organised by the British Council. Those of us who are only virtually attending are participating in the seminar Moodle, posting to forums, chatting together, and watching the streamed videos of the conference presentations, etc.

One of the threads that has appeared in the Moodle forums has been the role of the Interactive White Board.

I suppose I could be considered a fan now, and so I had to respond to one of the particpant's comments that perhaps having a 'computer in the corner' of the classroom was better than an IWB. I thought I should post it here too:

"Let's not forget, however, that the IWB needs the computer in the corner in order to work, so there's no competition in my mind. You turn the data projector (DP) off, and you have that computer in the corner that the learners can use . Turn it on, and you have a very powerful way of displaying and presenting to a group of students. 

At the risk of starting a new thread, I've noticed the start of a wave of IWB-bashing, which I find curious, especially as I think the arguments are missing the point.

Given the option, would you rather have a board or no board in your classroom? And what would you prefer? A blackboard? A whiteboard? A DP display system? Or an IWB?

Having used all of the above, I can say unreservedly that the IWB is better than any other classroom display system, and I would dearly love to have access to one in all of my classrooms, to use with all of my learners. It will come. I'm sure of it.

At the risk of stating the obvious, but for the benefit of those who haven't come across one, the IWB is much better than the blackboard/whiteboard option for dozens of different reasons. Just a few: displaying scanned images, instant access to the Internet and CD-ROMs, a school's intranet, the ability to display large format video, etc.

OK, so what about a DP equipped classroom vs an IWB-equipped one? For the same reasons that Andy mentions above, the IWB room wins. A DP only classroom can only really be used as a presentation tool. Fine for a conference, and some other educational settings, but too teacher-centred for a language classroom.

I think the problem is that some educators have only observed the IWB being used as a presentation tool, and not been present in a truly dynamic classroom setting, with students taking control of the pen, in similar ways to how language teachers have been using a normal board for years. And then you can do fabulous activities (such as word ordering activites) that are simply impossible to do without one. 

I do agree that there are hidden costs attached to switching to the IWB. One of those is technical support. If you have a school full of IWBs, and all your teachers relying upon them for their teaching, then you need to be able to react quickly if a DP bulb goes, or a cable comes loose, etc. 

But pedagogically? There's no argument..."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Helping our Students with International English

I've already posted something about this subject on my podcasting blog, Pod-EFL, but I think it's worth duplicating it here:



An interesting post by Charles Kelly on an ELT Podcasting course forum set off a chain reaction in me.



He wondered about the idea of using student-created podcasts could help student listeners who needed to communicate a lot with English speakers of a particular country. The example he gave was business students, but I think it would also apply to students going to a particular country on holiday.



After reflecting on this, I decided to start a new project to see how this would work in practice, setting up a channel:
English by German Speakers on Gigadial.



I thought it would be cool to start to collect different flavours of international English to give learners of English.



I'm hoping to encourage others to add podcasts (only German speakers speaking English please) to the station, and/or set up similar Gigadial stations for other nationalities. I've started this project by adding this episode of Nicole Simon's Useful Sounds. Can you suggest any more German speakers podcasting in English?



I'd also like to ask people what they think of the project?



Is it something that would appeal to students? I think that it's definitely a way of using podcasts for business English students if nothing else.business students

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Group blogs don't work in education?

Last week I managed to find the time to attend James Farmer's presentation on blogging for the TESOL evo2006 Blogging session. (You'll have to create an account at Learning Times to watch this session, but it's well-worth it)



It was a shame that there were some audio problems, but all-in-all the session was very thought-provoking, but I think it raised more questions than it answered.



James was clear and provocative in his opinions on what a edublog should be and how you should use it, and equally so on how you shouldn't use one, and what it isn't.



For me, I had a problem with his insisting that group blogs (when they are not publications, if I heard him correctly) just don't work.



I disagree and think I have been involved with and seen many group blogging projects in education that do work.


Now don't get me wrong here, I do believe that the true power of blogging, and the ideal, lies in giving the individual the freedom to express him or herself, and that the best way of doing this is to give the student a space which they own and which allows a great degree of personal freedom for them to organise it as they wish and to post about things that really interest them.



However, I'm also convinced that this ideal is not possible in all learning or teaching situations (I'll outline this thinking in a future post), especially in the field of EFL, and I really didn't like seeing James's rules been delivered as edublogging law to a group of educators that have (mainly) just started to embark on their edublogging experience. I suppose my main problem with it was that it did come across as a bit of 'blog expert bullying' rather than an opinion.



I said during the session that I thought there was a strong argument for some teachers starting off in EFL edublogging to begin with a group blog. Again, I'd like to outline why I think this in another post.
Meanwhile, I know there has been a lot of discussion about this at James Farmer's blog, and that James has also written a paper. I read this only briefly when it was published, so I think before I start writing any more about this subject, I need to read all of this...(and see if the arguments can change my mind)...



...to be continued...

...when I find the time...between moderating the ELT Podcasting session...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Social Bookmarking: with del.icio.us

I just finished writing a post to explain to participants of the evo2006 ELT Podcasting group why we have decided to use del.icio.us, and realised that it was probably worth sharing with people here too:



Its use is not as obvious at first, but I find del.icio.us to be such a useful tool. I am going to try here to attempt to write a tailor-made explanation of why we're using this site:



1) Basically, the best way to approach it at first is as an online bookmarks/favourites space. Sign up for an account and you can store all your favourite links here instead of them being tied to your own computer (this is especially useful if you work in different places, or use several different computers)



2) But, this is only part of the story of why this site is so good. It's called 'social bookmarking' software and that gives us a clue to its real strength, especially for educators:



- Del.icio.us uses tags (key words). Saving links with a unique tag (podcasting_elt, for example) means you can share a body of links with a specific group of people.



3) Del.icio.us is perfect for finding out what the latest 'hot' links are - search on a specific tag (try 'podcasting', for example) and you'll find it works as search engine, the difference being that all of the results were selected by (usually savvy) Web users. Once again, perfect for keeping abreast of what's really new on the Web, without having to wade through irrelevant sites picked up by Search Site bots.



4) Finally, del.icio.us offers a way of people not only reading what you are writing, but also what you are reading. Stick a link to your del.icio.us account on your website or weblog, and people can see the interesting things you come across. Do this on a site aimed at students, with a unique tag and you have an easy way of providing them with up-to-date content relevant to their needs.



5) The easiest way to keep track of our http://del.icio.us/tag/podcasting_elt
links is to add the RSS feed of this into a newsreader (also known as an aggregator). This will let you keep track of everything without having to constantly revisit the site to find out what's new. If you don't have an aggregator, try http://www.bloglines.com, which is an online aggregator/news reader.



6) Make things really easy and download a del.icio.us toolbar to your browser : http://del.icio.us/toolbar/ (this is for the Firefox browser)