[SLED] Lecture: 20 lessons from 20 months in SL

David Richardson david.richardson at hik.se
Fri Nov 2 02:47:27 PDT 2007

Dear All
On 2Nov , 2007, at 10:25 AM, Miller, Peter wrote:

> I love #15 but wonder what it means. Do we get the immersionist vs  
> augmentist debate anywhere (or is that dead now)?

> #15. It is information wrapped in emotion

I'm a language teacher and this is an area that both intrigues and  
excites me. There are bits of language learning which some people take  
in best through the conscious, logical and linear parts of their  
brains, and other bits which have to be experienced sub-consciously.  
I'm dubious about the value of SL in helping with the former, because  
there's too much extraneous and distracting information (both visual  
and auditory) in the environment.

The latter, though … well, this is something we've been needing for  

I've just run a pilot course on our island, called 'Social English for  
Doctoral Students'. The aim was to try to get doctoral students who  
don't have English as their native language to improve their skills in  
performing at conferences - particularly in the all-important  
schmoozing around coffee tables and dinner tables. Scandinavians in  
particular have a tendency to wait for their turn to speak … and it  
never seems to come around! The result is that they tend to miss out  
on invitations to join research teams, etc, because they just didn't  
make an impact outside the presentation room.

SL was a wonderful place for this to be done. We had students from  
Estonia, Norway, Sweden and Italy (difficult enough in itself), and we  
used both SL and a desktop video conferencing system called Marratech (http://www.marratech.com 
) - which has just been bought up by Google.

Marratech is a very 'left-brained' system - excellent audio and video,  
and a very big and clear whiteboard, but students tend to feel very  
exposed when they use it. Some sessions started in Marratech where we,  
for example, introduced the students to useful phrases for breaking  
into someone else' conversation (gently and politely!), and then went  
over to SL to practise this 'for real'. What a difference there was!  
It's something language teachers are very familiar with: students can  
'perform' in theory with ease, but when they have to perform in  
practice, suddenly they're tongue-tied, embarrassed and can't find the  

One of my favourite sessions was when I got to play the arrogant,  
supercilious academic asking questions after a presentation, which  
were designed to rip the poor presenter to shreds (we had other  
teachers playing 'good cops'!). Given the fact that the students were  
physically all over Europe at the time, I'm not sure I could have  
found a better environment than SL to do that in.

Amongst the upcoming uses of our island, by the way, are giving  
teacher trainees practice with difficult classes, and training student  
nurses in their skills in eliciting from patients what's actually  
wrong with them.

We're writing up our experiences this autumn at the moment, and will  
be expanding the study next year when we run a 'normal' course called  
Oral Production (making presentations in English) with, I hope, around  
60 students during the year.

David Richardson
Kalmar, Sweden
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