Sunday, November 4, 2012

Learning North Sami in Second Life

Name of Course: North Sami for beginners (steps 1-2) - Nordsamiska, nybörjarkurs, steg 1-2
15 HP of which about 7 HP spoken language skills - the part for which the tasks in SL were designed

Year/s and Term/s Run:
Year 2009, fall term (1. pilot - only few not well planned visits in the virtual world with some of the students)

Year 2010, spring term (2. pilot - some course activities in SL were announced on the course webpage in advance, the teacher was attending a SL course for foreign language teachers through AVALON-project at the same time, most of the teaching materials were produced during this period)

Year 2010, fall term - here virtual world classes were announced in the welcome letter and technical requirements mentioned in the course curriculum, materials from spring term were used and improved, more materials were created and the models were used on the Spanish beginners course in the spring 2011. Part of a Flexutbildningar project that ended in the summer 2011

Number of Teachers: 1 RL teacher (and 2 virtual teachers of which one virtual voice morphed teacher was used as a virtual "resource person" and the RL teacher had her own personified teacher avatar in the virtual world, both virtual teachers were controlled by the RL teacher), there was also one Sami speaking guest visiting the course every now and then during the first term

Number of Students:
Varied during the course from about 14 to 7 active students.

Any Website/Online Materials:

Synopses for lesson plans and an overview of the course are available online from the AVALON site:

  1. Background to the Course Concept
  2. Overview of the Course 
  3. Requirements and Recommendations
  4. Learning Goals
  5. Story Board 
  6. Reward Models
  7. Technical Initiation
  8. Lesson 1
  9. Lesson 2
  10. Lesson 3
  11. Lesson 4
  12. Lesson 5
  13. Lesson 6
  14. Lesson 7
  15. Lesson 8
  16. Evaluation of Students
  17. Reflections
  18. Adaptations

In the Swedish context lesson plans and all teaching materials are the intellectual property of individual teachers. For this reason we are not prepared to share the teaching objects with any other universities without the consent of the teacher/s who created the materials . Most of the 3D objects were objects created (and therefore also owned) by other avatars in SL and that were given away for free. Since the teachers mostly used free materials owned by others, we cannot give these away to any other projects other than by sharing in SL with actual teachers in e.g. Euroversity project. Many of the teachers, technicians and managers who worked on the North Sami course are still involved in virtual world teaching. 

We also rented the piece of SL land from HUMlab and since the rental contract ended in December 2011, we no longer act as "owners" of the Språkens hus area. This was also partly the meaning of our project, that is, to be able to teach in a virtual world without having to own any land or to rent any space for the courses. Those teachers in the original project team who want to use their own materials such as boards with words now possess the skills to put up their own classrooms, holodecks or other materials in common building areas. This was one of the most important goals when it comes to technical skill required by the teachers, since it was clear to the teacher team already from the beginning, that the project was only running for 1,5 years and after that there would not be any money left to keep up with the maintenance of one's own teaching area or buying new materials. The pedagogical goal was to make the teachers potential SL teachers without having to rely on a third party.

The idea was (and still is) to present a model for a task that can be easily implemented in existing virtual spaces and that could be modified to suit different languages and different language skill training. Our models are of course most suited for training of spoken language skills, pronunciation, and communicative and collaborative skills. We have not used SL for teaching of written language skills, grammar or reading, not as the primary arena. Some grammar practice has been done in SL, some of the tasks in SL also included understanding the written task and some visits were made in SL in order to motivate and stimulate the students to write a descriptive text for the class. Grammar training and training of reading in languages such as North Sami require that the teacher import materials to SL, and therefore this area of language training has not been in focus on the course.