Reflections: Session Eight.

In the same vein as the previous post, this post will concentrate on the activities carried out in Session Eight, in order to sum up what we learnt during that session so as to segue into the next post (and allow me to finally catch up with the few weeks of blogging that I missed!).

This session saw us wrap up the section on peer demos, a part of this course that I quite enjoyed because it allowed everyone to share a bit of what they knew about ICT and its usage in educational pedagogy.

The second half of the session saw us venture into the world of Second Life. (SL) I say “venture” because I’ve never experienced it, although I had heard about SL. before our experience in class. Perhaps the impetus to find out what it was about was never really there, largely because of often derisive comments made by other people such as ‘Why don’t you just concentrate on your First Life?’ So I guess another thing I appreciate about this course is how it acts as a somewhat neutral platform to introduce new aspects of the Web to us, which means that we have a bigger ‘basket’ of tools to pick and choose from in our future roles as teachers.

Anyway, we have been tasked with the following assignment, which is to select, embed, and critique an online video on the educational possibilities of SL in our course blog. This is the video that I have selected:

I thought this video was very well-produced, though the narration could’ve been improved on. Nevertheless, it was the content that struck me, because it opened up many more possibilities for SL to be used in the classroom. A few of the topics which were discussed in the video had already been highlighted in class by Dr Tan, namely:

  • the idea of helping to broaden your students’ education by ‘bringing’ your students on visits to places like the Sistine Chapel in a virtual fashion, as the cost involved in physically going there would be prohibitive, and
  • allowing your students to ‘explore’ the places/things that they are studying in class e.g. the inside of a computer so as to literally provide a more holistic perspective to their education.

The educational possibility of SL which the video discussed and which I found most relevant was the idea of role-play and drama in SL. I have been and will be using these two approaches in my teaching, due to my interest in these two approaches, and also because of the nature of my Curriculum Studies subjects – English Literature and English Language.

I’m glad I watched the video because it started me thinking about one possible application of this approach to teaching in schools – one of the complaints students always have is about the accessibility of the text they have to study. YouTube is already able to bridge that gap through the use of user-created videos such as this one on “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen:

After watching the first video on SL embedded above, I started to think: what if SL could take this one step further, and allow students to ‘role-play’ the poem itself? We could recreate the World War I environment in SL, and get students to change the clothing of their avatars to that of World War I soldier uniforms. We could allow students to take part in a mock battle where bullets flew, mortars pounded down on the soldiers, mustard gas was released, etc. It is a scenario that is very much in line with the atmosphere and narrative of the poem, but at the same time, a situation which we definitely would not want to be involved in in real life. SL would thus make it more feasible for us to carry out the above-mentioned simulation as a means of helping the students ‘get into’ the text.

As good as this might sound, I must state a few possible caveats to this: scripting is definitely going to be a problem (it will take me a while to learn how to script in SL, seeing how long it took me to learn rudimentary CSS). Also, who is going to pay for the land to carry out the scripting? I’m not trying to be a naysayer here, but these are possible issues that we must consider at the same time as we think about educational possibilities for students.

Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer in working through problems step by step, and I’m sure these issues can be resolved one step at a time. In any case, SL itself is still developing, still maturing, so we’ll all have time to sort out these kinks as we also evolve in our journey as teachers.

(For my own use in future – links that I found with possible educational value but didn’t manage to add into this post because of time/space constraints:

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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