SurReal Language Quests I have been working on a way to take advantage of the unique benefits of Second Life as an educational

environment while maintaining the best of what both real life education and education 2.0 have to offer. The resulting approach is a task-based “SurReal” quest that draws on Second Life, web 2.0 tools and conventional use of the internet. Example: Travel Podcast Let’s consider an example SurReal Quest: the student has the task of creating a travel podcast for a location that exists both in real life and in Second Life, such as London, Berlin, Moscow, Krakow, Venice or many tourist destinations. The student is directed by initial guidelines and then assisted throughout the project by the teacher, as is the case with web quests and virtual quests. The quest can be done individually or in a team – either way it will be a social process. These initial guidelines serve to set the goals and to outline the research methods, the process and the timeline. Clearly they should be closer to a map and compass than fixed tracks and a timetable. The process starts with planning, researching and structuring the content; continues with drafting and editing; and it concludes with recording and uploading the podcast. Throughout this process there are opportunities to take small detours to clarify points of language usage and practice specific language skills, according to the student’s areas of weakness and goals with language learning. The research phase allows the student to use a varied array of sources: • official websites, such as tourism boards, publishers (eg Lonely Planet) and travel sites • blogs, podcasts and forums for more informal sources • posts on forums and real-time interviews with Second Life residents of the destination • this information is available in a variety of media, including text, audio and video Role of Second Life in SurReal Quest Second Life plays its most important role during the research phase, as this is where the student can go to the Second Life equivalent of the real life destination and have real-time conversations with real people about the real location (or even about the Second Life location). I have included below a picture of Second Life Krakow with an insert of the real Rynek Glowny (market square). Although not all visitors to the Second Life location will be familiar with the real life place, it won’t take long for the student to find someone who either lives there in real life or has first hand knowledge of it. This process of looking for people with relevant information and interviewing them helps the student to develop real life speaking skills.

Combination of Advantages Since the aim of this new approach is to take advantage of the benefits of real life, second life and education 2.0 techniques, what, then, are the benefits of each? • Advantages of Real Life Teaching – Rich Information Base o Real Life teaching allows access to a vast wealth of information. This is especially true when using the web, but is also true of offline resources, such as well-stocked libraries, television and radio. o The diversity in style, function and formality of the sources likewise provides a wide range of language to work with. o This information can be in many multimedia formats: text, audio and video. • Advantages of Second Life Teaching – Active and Social Communication o Virtual worlds such as Second Life open up possibilities for incorporating real communication practice with actual people in real-time. o Communications skills specific to Second Life can also be practiced. In the same way that we are communicating differently with email than we used to with letters, there appear to be different communication patterns when talking in virtual words such as Second Life. As the web becomes more 3D and more based in virtual worlds, this change may well become more significant in society and the workplace. • Advantages of Education 2.0 – Reflects Web 2.0 o Web 2.0 is becoming more integrated into everyday life for much of the world. It seems we can even talk about Lifestyle 2.0 now! Either way, Education 2.0 is becoming a reflection of the need to educate for those of us having a Lifestyle 2.0, incorporating podcasts, blogs, wikis and networking sites such as Facebook into our communication habits. Education 2.0 is therefore a more social process with students learning in a non-linear manner through networking and social interaction. o Education 2.0 allows for a more exploratory process that enables the student to determine the focus, content, approach and pace of the learning. This helps the education to be more relevant to the learner, both in terms of skills being developed and interest being maintained. Key Difference It is the combination of Second Life and other learning/e-learning approaches that sets this method apart. Through incorporating the best of these tools, the SurReal Quest draws on the advantages of each tool or environment to create an approach for digital native learners. Of course, in theory it would be possible to do something similar without Second Life, perhaps using chat rooms and asking around for residents of a certain city. But with Second Life there are two important differences… • The practicality of accessing people globally through impromptu meetings • The social acceptability of simply starting a conversation with total strangers in the middle of a (Second Life) plaza. If we can combine the above ways of teaching, then we are able to facilitate an education that is appropriate to our students’ way of living and learning. This approach should therefore result in being more… • student focused, with their learning needs, hopes and desires being the driving force behind lessons • flexible (through distance learning), with students learning at a pace and at times that suit their needs • integrating the 3 Ws – real, relevant and web-based o real language, in real life situations, with real teachers, producing real work o relevant to everyday life, especially for the net generation o web-based and using a virtual platform In fact this approach will be most suited to digital native (or net generation) learners, who (according to Guiloff & Farcas – see other posts in this blog) are looking for… • Interaction: students interact with real people in real-time through Second Life

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Exploration: the nature of a quest involves the student exploring both the content and the appropriate language usage Relevance: students are able to choose which quest to undertake and determine the path within the quest according to their interests and personal goals Multimedia: active, proactive, interactive research methods are combined with text, audio and video resources Engagement: the combination of greater interaction, exploration, relevance and multimedia sources keeps the student more engaged in the learning

In everyday life we naturally operate in a variety of contexts, online, offline, synchronous, asynchronous, collating and analyzing data and actively engaging with information sources etc. It is therefore appropriate to draw on both real and virtual learning tools to produce an approach that reflects real life. SurReal Quests do this using Second Life, real life and education 2.0. www.avatarlanguages.com/blog

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