Thursday, October 09, 2008

virtual piranhas

One thing a good interviewer does is keep the interview focused and make sure that all the questions are answered precisely. I'm a lousy interviewer, so what I'm about to show you doesn't really do this. It's what you get when you try to do this stuff after a long week or a long term, in a window of free time late Fri. afternoon.

But Thom Thibeault is my friend, runs the language lab here at SIUC, and is actively using Second Life in his German class; I can see some of his graduate assistants use it as I share the lab some days. They get in their avatars, walk on down the virtual line, and set up language classes for whoever happens to be next in line to take them.

The interview is about what he does and what the possibilities of SL are, and it's worth reading just for the account of the lake with the virtual bridges over it, and the piranhas in it, ready to devour any unfortunate avatar whose partner forgets the difference between "left" and "right" adds context (virtual) to what most of us would recognize as a familiar lower level exercise.

What it's missing is any sign of what the rest of the university thinks of it, including the students. So, at a German Club bake sale, I bought a cupcake and asked. Nobody had been in that particular class, though one guy said it made him nervous; he wasn't comfortable with 3d controls. At the swimming pool, I talked with another German professor, this one 30 but intimidated by iPhones. He gave the other side: as long as there's a teacher in the room, the virtual will not replace the teacher, he said. This is a common rebuttal, and I didn't argue with him, though on hindsight I can think of lots of things Thom can do that I can't.

I'll end it here. Read it for yourself, it's just a blog post.

Leverett, T. (2008, Oct.). Second Life and language learning: an interview with Thom Thibeault.

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