Monday, November 26, 2007

Web 2.0 for EFL Teachers

I'm currently in Caracas, Venezuela, where I'm the facilitator of this seminar: Web 2.0 for EFL Teachers: Podcasts, Blogs, Wikis, Virtual Worlds and Digital Games. The seminar has been organised by the British Council & AVEALMEC, a relatively new CALL Association for teachers in Venezuela.

We have started a ning and over 40 people have joined, although only 27 of these people will be at the f2f seminar. Today, day 1, we'll be looking at social software, blogging, RSS & tagging, and some of the teachers will be presenting a few of their blogging projects they have been involved in.

It's great to see so much enthusiasm and expertise here in Venezuela and can't wait to get to know everyone better and find out what they have been doing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Education@Edunation - Second Life Teaching Tools

I'm now getting excited about the new initiative that the Consultants-E are launching in two weeks: a new series of monthly events, Education@Edunation, which I've been asked to help co-ordinate. The first one, which unfortunately I won't be able to attend (I'll be on a plane coming back from Venezuela) looks like a very promising launch to what I'm sure will be a very popular event in Second Life:

Title: SL Teaching Tools

Time: Saturday 1st December, 08.00-09.00 (SL time)17.00-18.00 (UTC)

Place: Edunation III Conference Crossover Space (EduNation III 202, 27, 21)

Details: Dudeney Ge will be be giving an introduction to some of the tools available for teaching in Second Life (free gift for teachers included!)

This first event will be followed by others, approximately once a month, so it should be a great way to meet interesting people and find out about Second Life educational initiatives, etc. Here's the details:

Education@Edunation is a series of free monthly talks, workshops and discussions on education in-and-outside of Second Life, organised by the Consultants-E (

Meet fellow educators and trainers at Edunation III for sessions dealing with:

· Teaching Tools

· Teacher Training

· Gaming & Education

· Materials Design

· Language Education

and many more...from seminars to pecha kucha sessions


The events will take place in the Seminar Area of EduNation III, one of the Consultants-E sims in Second Life. You can find the island using the Search facility in Second Life, or by following this URL:

You can also go directly to EduNation III- 202, 27, 21

Maximum 100 particpants (click the sign on Edunation III to register)

Each event has a limit of 100 participants, so you are encouraged to sign up early to avoid disappointment. You can sign up for the event in-world by clicking the sign on Edunation III or by sending an email to . Please make sure you include the name of the speaker/event you wish to attend. If sign-ups exceed 100, we will put people on a waiting list and they will be moved into the participant list as and when spaces become available.

Hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Webheads in Second Life Monday Tours (again)

Tomorrow from 20.00-22.00 GMT (Monday 29th October) we'll be meeting at the Webheads HQ @ Edunation for another Monday night SL Webheads tour. This time it'll be a visit to some Second Life quests followed by a discussion of how something similar may be exploited for language learning.

Using Second Life as a platform for games is becoming more popular, with the recent 'CSI' and 'I am Legion' game launches. How feasible is it to do something similar (albeit on a smaller, less ambitious scale) for language learning?

So much for being able to keep up a weekly Webheads tour / meeting in Second Life - workload has meant it is impossible, but hopefully a once monthly meet is possible for me to organise.

So, after being contacted about this by by Seth Dickens, who is bringing along some colleagues tomorrow, we've decided to restart the tours / discussions tomorrow.

What's the theme this time? Rather than explore more real life cities (by no means exhausted, however, and I'm sure we'll return to this), I thought it would be interesting to explore some of Second Life's quests and treasure hunts, which offer engaging possibilities for anyone hoping to do something similar for language learning.

It's also something that I have researched for the Second Life Teen Grid project I am involved in, and recently revisted the quests on a tour to give some of the other people involved in the project an idea of what we were aiming for.

Hope to see some of you there tomorrow!

Second Wind for Second Life?

Second Life (SL) seems to be back in the news, thanks to the TV programme CSI:New York, which has featured the virtual world in some episodes and also launched a Second Life game based on the show (see video below). As there are competitions to solve crimes and track down murderers by finding clues and filing reports, it could be interesting to English language learners (I've only just joined in so I'm not sure how valuable it is yet).

(above - the CSI SL game also has its own SL viewer and simplified SL orientation to help players with the interface and the game. More photos here)

This transmedia storytelling (thanks to Ewan McIntosh for the link) seems to be something we'll be seeing a lot more of, and Second Life is an attractive option because it is cheaper to build a game using this platform than starting from scratch. It also takes advantage of its existing user base. Could this prove to be a second wind for SL, now that the hype / criticism cycle of the virtual world has slowed down.

Another example of this happening is the game that has been made in Second Life to coincide with the launch of the film I am Legion, which looks like a Hollywood version of the film 28 Weeks Later. The Second Life game is "a multiplayer first person shooter / RPG" game, and so is probably not as valuable as CSI is for language learning possibilities.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Webheads @ Edunation - 1st October 2007

Yesterday's Monday night meeting of the Webheads in Second Life was supposed to be an introduction to the new Webheads HQ @ Edunation III.

Eveything was set for 20.00GMT - I was waiting there for people to arrive when the region started logging out (this 'rolling restart' to regions happens occasionally when servers are reset etc.) . I was teleported to another sim and couldn't find my way back for another twenty minutes! Finally, I managed to get back to Edunation, but not to the Webheads HQ, which remained inaccessible for the rest of the evening.

Not able to proceed as planned, as people started to arrive, we sat back in the comfy bean bags and chatted, watched a Teachers TV podcast and then Dudeney G demonstrated the fabulous new Flickr in SL tool that he has been developing.

How does it work? Well, you can type a tag and then when you touch the too it displays an image from Flickr that has been tagged with this word. We all got carried away trying it out and much fun was had by all.

Find out more by watching the Voicethread slide show (below) and by reading the chat transcript below.

You can also go and check out the Webheads HQ @ Edunation, where hopefully we'll soon have a copy of the tool that you can play with.

Come and join us there next Monday evening from 20.00GMT...


SusNy Foss: Hi Baldric
SusNy Foss: Edunation 3 can take up to 60 people
Dudeney Ge: Graham - can you hear us now?
SusNy Foss: Hi Graham can you hear us?
Kita Coage: i'v lost sound ....
SusNy Foss: People who wish to use the space for teaching would be added to the Consultants-E group
Kita Coage: back
SusNy Foss: Now we can just lean back and enjoy :-)
Dudeney Ge: Video quality in SL is pretty good, I think
SusNy Foss: Any smart way to see TV screen just in front of my eyes?
SusNy Foss: Cam controls of course, but not fast enough
Dudeney Ge: So put mouse pointer over screen, then Alt + left mouse button + move mouse forward
SusNy Foss: Hmmm - got a trackball style mousie, not working that way
Dudeney Ge shouts: People outside the glass! Come in!!!!!
Pedro Lustre: hi all
Dudeney Ge: Click the loudpseaker (bottom right) to get all seven audio volume controls
Kita Coage: hi Pedro - long time ... :)
Norse Writer: hi thre
Dudeney Ge: Hi Pedro
SusNy Foss: Hi Pedro, welcome
Dudeney Ge: EduNation III has sunk into the ocean, so we're just relaxing instead
You: aha...that's better
Pedro Lustre is Offline
Dudeney Ge: So, Graham, did you have any plans for the new space?
You: good question, Gavin
You: I was going to ask people what they thought should be there tonight
You: what do people think?
You: Sus, what do you think we need to put in the Webheads space?
SusNy Foss: teachersTV look good
SusNy Foss: I'm hypnotized
Dudeney Ge: I had a little idea for a writing class in SL
You: lol
You: really?
Norse Writer: me too Susny
Norse Writer: :)
Dudeney Ge: We're nearly finished designing a Flickr browser that will take a keyword and then go to FLickr and bring back pictures and display them on a screen, one every x second... I thought it might make a fun activity
SusNy Foss: Well, well - as everyone could build there, either there will be a huge amount of useful stuff crowded all over, or chaos
Dudeney Ge: If somebody wanted to do some creative writing - or similar
Dudeney Ge: Chaos might be fun :-)
You: it uses tags to find the pictures I presume?
SusNy Foss: sounds like an interesting engine
Dudeney Ge: Yes, so you can type 'Barcelona' and it will go and get an image tagged with Barcelona
Norse Writer: The flickr idea sound great....
You: sounds like a lot of fun
Dudeney Ge: We've got a basic model working
SusNy Foss: Could you show this now?
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to Barcelona
Norse Writer: btw. where can i get some more info/learn about how to interface web and SL?
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to Paris
Norse Writer: cool
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to baldric
You: seems to work well already Gavin
SusNy Foss: Norse, I've got a SLTweet HUD so I can write on my Twitter form in world
SusNy Foss: I sort of like it
Dudeney Ge: It only does one at a time - I want it to do automatic every x seconds - but it's getting there
Osnacantab Nesterov is Online
Dudeney Ge: Yes, twittering from here is good
You: lol that's funny...looks a little like onme of our cats
Norse Writer: Realy SusNy - i must learn more about that....
Dudeney Ge: You can try it by typing /1 tag and then clicking the screen
SusNy Foss: Where can I see the Flickr screen
Helter Alexandre is Offline
SusNy Foss: Got it
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Norse Writer to Oslo
Flickr Browser whispers: I don't know what kind of picture to show you.
Type '/1 sometag' to tell me what tag to search for on flickr and I'll remember it.
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Norse Writer to Oslo
Dudeney Ge: It'll fall over if everyone does it at the same time :-)
SLTweets Hud v0.78: SLTweets HUD Plus v0.78
SLTweets Hud v0.78: Hello Baldric, ready to Tweet?
SLTweets Hud v0.78: Say '/123 help' for help
SusNy Foss: / secondlife
Norse Writer: he he
Dudeney Ge: There's Oslo, apparently
Flickr Browser whispers: I don't know what kind of picture to show you.
Type '/1 sometag' to tell me what tag to search for on flickr and I'll remember it.
Dudeney Ge: So it's /1 tag
Dudeney Ge: Then left-click to get a pictire
Norse Writer: it is
Flickr Browser whispers: I don't know what kind of picture to show you.
Type '/1 sometag' to tell me what tag to search for on flickr and I'll remember it.
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for SusNy Foss to secondlife
Dudeney Ge: Check the blue floatingtext above it to see if it's fdoing anything at the moment
floor: Please use the laptop keyboard to change slides.
Dudeney Ge: I think it's running slowly due to SL - worked a lot quicker earlier
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to webheads
SusNy Foss: sometimes it would make sense to move away from the group environment and watch one screen only
Norse Writer: Well, SusNy if you could show me to some info about the web interface sometime I would appreciate it
Dudeney Ge: Yep - that can be done by parcelling up the new place if needed
SLTweets Hud v0.78: Contacting server...
Dudeney Ge: So different media can be done in different spaces
Norse Writer: cool
SLTweets Hud v0.78: Your tweet has been posted on Twitter.Com.
Dudeney Ge: The only trouble is you can't parcel floors - only flat space
SusNy Foss: I also heard about a device for Could you place screen in the ceiling so we could lie flat down on the ground (or a mattress)
Dudeney Ge: The screens can go anywhere you like
SusNy Foss: oops - forget about first part of that sentence
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to beer
Dudeney Ge: Hmmmm.... results can be .... unpredictable!
Dudeney Ge: Yay! Beer!
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to edunation
SusNy Foss: Fruitbars!
Dudeney Ge: You need to click the screen now Baldric
Dudeney Ge: And wait a little
You: ok now I get it
Bee Kerouac is Online
Kita Coage is Online
Dudeney Ge: First you set the tag, then click the screen
Dudeney Ge: It needs a bit of reining
Dudeney Ge: refining
You: what about explicit content - I mean if you don't want that? Can you set it to only retrieve PG photos?
Dudeney Ge: I'm also working on something that grabs a screenshot of a webpage dynamically and displays it on a screen
Dudeney Ge: No - I'd have to investigate, Baldric - not sure if FLickr divides things up like that
Dudeney Ge: The FLickr API is a little complicated
You: I think you can turn on a parental or safe search button
Dudeney Ge: Ah, ok - so it must be in the API as well - I'll take a look
SusNy Foss: hmmm, explicit content - does that mean brutal violence?
Bee Kerouac is Offline
Dudeney Ge: Amongst other things, presumably :-)
You: here comes dennis
Flickr Browser whispers: I don't know what kind of picture to show you.
Type '/1 sometag' to tell me what tag to search for on flickr and I'll remember it.
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for SusNy Foss to newborn
You: hi Dennis
Dudeney Ge: Hi Dennis
floor: Please use the laptop keyboard to change slides.
You: come down here and join us
SusNy Foss: Dennis haning around!
Osnacantab Nesterov: Hi, everyone. SL has been down for me.
SusNy Foss: hanging
You: we've had problems too
Bee Kerouac is Online
SusNy Foss: which keys could be used to change slides?
Dudeney Ge: Keys? As in keyboard keys?
SusNy Foss: is there a "laptop keybard " somewhere
Dudeney Ge: At the moment you just click the screen to get a new one
SusNy Foss: That's what the Fkickr screen whispers to me
Dudeney Ge: I think that's the PPT screen behind it you're clicking Sus
SusNy Foss: OHh I see
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to osnacantab
SusNy Foss: multiple screen challenged
Dudeney Ge: That photo doesn't look like Dennis at all!
You: here comes bee
Dudeney Ge: Hey Bee!
SusNy Foss: Hello Bee
Bee Kerouac: ouch
You: hi more space left here
Bee Kerouac: hi there
SusNy Foss: have a beanbag seat
You: come and take a seat
Osnacantab Nesterov: Hey. How did my photo get there?
SusNy Foss: lol
SusNy Foss: you myst have tagged it on Flickr
SusNy Foss: with osnacantab
Osnacantab Nesterov: I did.
You: lol...I put your tag in
Osnacantab Nesterov: Harlech Beach!
You: I like this a lot Gavin
SusNy Foss: This is a Flickr show machine that is tag driven
Dudeney Ge: It's quite good, isn't it?
SusNy Foss: love it
Dudeney Ge: Lots of possiblities
You: bee, this tool Gavin's developing displays tagged flickr photos
Bee Kerouac: looks interesting
SusNy Foss: is there a script
Bee Kerouac: how do you do it?
Dudeney Ge: I'm working with EP to get it working perfectly - she's a genius
Dudeney Ge: Yes. it's a script that links into the Flickr API
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to octopus
SusNy Foss: Is that a script that you're going to make available or sell
Dudeney Ge: Free, when it's finished
SusNy Foss: sounds perfect
Dudeney Ge: One tries :-)
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to baldric
Osnacantab Nesterov: How does this marvellous free motive work on the Internet?
Bee Kerouac: too much lag here
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to beeconch
Dudeney Ge: I love the whole Baldric = cat thing
Dudeney Ge: You're lagging?
You: just tagged one of bees photos
Able Thursday is Offline
Bee Kerouac: lagging behind...definitely
Dudeney Ge: I've only got 1.2% packet loss
You: I suppose if there's no image it shows the black screen Gavin?
Dudeney Ge: I'm getting 57 FPS - is anyone else lagging hugely?
Dudeney Ge: Yep
Bee Kerouac: almost 3rds red here
You: I'm not lagging
Bee Kerouac: how do you project the photos from Flickr here?
Osnacantab Nesterov: I'm seeing 4 black tyres.
Norse Writer: im not lagging right now
Bee Kerouac: can I project mine?
SusNy Foss: apparently no problem here
Dudeney Ge: The screen queries the Flickr API then sets the parcel media texture to the image, Bee
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to hss07
Bee Kerouac: greek to me but understand API somewhat
Dudeney Ge: Bee - type
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to tag
Dudeney Ge: and then left-click the screen
Bee Kerouac: oh this is the summer school
Dudeney Ge: type /1 tag
Bee Kerouac: in january
Dudeney Ge: e.g. /1 Barcelona
SusNy Foss: yes, you're right
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for SusNy Foss to Copenhagen
You: it works really well with special tags
Dudeney Ge: Yes, it does
floor: Please use the laptop keyboard to change slides.
Bee Kerouac: 1/ozzie
Dudeney Ge: I'm going to try to get it to set a diferent media texture for each avatar - so we could have one with communal browsing and one that only you see what's on it
Bee Kerouac: how do Ihange the tags?
Dudeney Ge: So one screen would serve each avatar the picture of their choice - on the same screen
Dudeney Ge: Bee type /1 tag
Dudeney Ge: e.g. /1 Barcelona
SusNy Foss: very useful feature indeed
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to ozzie
Norse Writer: yeah, a realy nice feature.
Dudeney Ge: Then left-click the screen to get an image
Dudeney Ge: You have to wait about five seconds or so after you left-click the screen while it gets the image and displays it
Bee Kerouac: oopsz..this is not mine
SusNy Foss: others might use same tag Bee
Dudeney Ge: Must be a cat called ozzie
SusNy Foss: yes :-) cute
Flickr Browser whispers: I don't know what kind of picture to show you.
Type '/1 sometag' to tell me what tag to search for on flickr and I'll remember it.
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to babi
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Kita Coage to kulkanin
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to farruca
Dudeney Ge: Anyway, it's one new tool we're working on for some fun. When it's finished I'll dsitribute copies
Bee Kerouac: lol
SusNy Foss: Please do
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to gavindudeney
Dudeney Ge: Nothing :-(
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to London Bus
Dudeney Ge: Hmmm......
Bee Kerouac: roling restarts
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for SusNy Foss to Farum
Dudeney Ge: People need a lesson in good tagging!
SusNy Foss: tag literacy
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Baldric Commons to dudeney
Dudeney Ge: Still, I think it might have a few creative uses
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to mairinque
SusNy Foss: this is near my home!
SusNy Foss: our local lake
Dudeney Ge: I think you're confusing the poor thing!
Dudeney Ge: Nice!
Bee Kerouac: lol
You: ha ha...we're getting carried away
Dudeney Ge: I think one that could serve individual avatars would be good too
SusNy Foss: I think I would call this a good evening
Bee Kerouac: what did you do beforehand?
SusNy Foss: and back leaned
Dudeney Ge: Chatted, watched some Teachers TV, wondered where EduNation III had gone!
Bee Kerouac: look
Norse Writer: :)
You: we were wiaitng to get into the Webheads HQ bee...but never made it out of these comfy seats
SusNy Foss: smalltalked a bit about rolling restart and lost horizons
Dudeney Ge: And islands underwater
Bee Kerouac: right
Dudeney Ge: They say sims come up 'some hours after the rolling restart finishes'
Dudeney Ge: So I guess EduNation III will be back tomorrow
SusNy Foss: has anyone reconstructed Atlantis
Osnacantab Nesterov: Do you all prefer typing to talking?
You: funnt though...the other two islands also restarted but they are up now
Dudeney Ge: I quite like typing
You: me too
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to mairinque
Bee Kerouac: ah sushi is there
Dudeney Ge: I have someone sitting near me watching TV
Dudeney Ge: So voice can be annoying
Dudeney Ge: Sushi!
Osnacantab Nesterov: I didn't realise sound was on!!
Bee Kerouac: anyone wants to buy a puppy called sushi?
Bee Kerouac: a giant schanuzer
Chris Eggplant is Offline
Dudeney Ge: Not really - the cat would;t be too happy
Bee Kerouac: schnauzer
Dudeney Ge: Dennis - do you hear voice ok?
Bee Kerouac: I do
Bee Kerouac: can hear you laughing
Bee Kerouac: this would be a wonderful device for my keynote
Bee Kerouac: beautiful
floor: Please use the laptop keyboard to change slides.
Chris Eggplant is Online
Bee Kerouac: can you have a slideshow on this?
Dudeney Ge: Bee - we're working on a slideshow mode now
Dudeney Ge: So it will do a tag and display an image every x seconds
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Norse Writer to Flaam
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to nola2007
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Kita Coage to kulkanin
Ladyjane Plympton is Offline
Bee Kerouac: how do you call this device?
Osnacantab Nesterov: Who?
Dudeney Ge: It's a prototype of a Flickr Browser
Dudeney Ge: But it hasn't got a name yet
Dudeney Ge: Maybe SLickr!
SusNy Foss: Dennis, can you hear us
SusNy Foss: SLickr
Bee Kerouac: good name
Osnacantab Nesterov: No. I can hear you fine....My wife just came in and reminded me we are leaving early for Berlin.
Bee Kerouac: dennis travels all the time !
You: Dennis is presenting SL in Berlin, isn't that right?
Osnacantab Nesterov: 3 hours by train.
SusNy Foss: so does Bee
Dudeney Ge: Are you talking about SL, Dennis?
You: Dogme in SL...very impressive
Dudeney Ge: Nice!
SusNy Foss: for which audience Dennis?
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to Berlin
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Bee Kerouac to natureincircles
Bee Kerouac: I cannot see them
Nobody Fugazi is Online
Flickr Browser: Setting the tag for Dudeney Ge to golden gate
Bee Kerouac: lots of echo here
Bee Kerouac: thank you for sharing it with us
Howie Yoshikawa: ok, good night
Bee Kerouac: gnight
You: goodnight everyone
Dudeney Ge: Goodnight!
You: good luck in berlin dennis
Dudeney Ge is Offline
Osnacantab Nesterov is Offline
SusNy Foss: Pajama party!
Kita Coage: nice meeting with you again :) hope to see you soon again

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is there a demand for studying English in Second Life?

In Japan, 30% of those surveyed by Goo Research’s online monitor group would like to. Or at least that's what was said in April this year (I've only just seen this now) - I wonder, if you asked the same people now, would the answer be any different? How many of those people have tried to study English in Second Life? And, Perhaps the answer would have been different if they had used a different verb instead of study - learn or practise, for example.

It's amazing what you find by chance...

I came across the What Japan Thinks survey ("Are you interested in studying English in Second Life?") while trying to find out the source of an extremely annoying error message* that keeps nagging my avatar (see below). Needless to say, I got sidetracked and now find myself blogging about the survey instead of finding the solution to my Second Life problem.

Learning a language in Second Life

This topic was discussed extensively at the 2007 Second Life Languages Seminar, and I recommend anyone interested in the subject to listen to the recordings, which are still available at Edunation (where the seminar was held)

From what I gathered, I think most people agreed the idea of supplementing (i.e. using it for blended learning) is the most probable use of Second Life.

The British Council Second Life project (which I'm involved in), for example, will be using this virtual world as a way of having contact with people the organisation does not normally reach (as well as exisiting customers) , and offering extra resources, events, etc. for learners to supplement face-to-face classes. You can read more about this at my avatar's blog (not much there at the moment, but I'll be posting more frequently from now on).

The Second-Life-only company , however, will be offering courses there (they are still in beta at the moment) , and they have started offering a variety of 'formal, informal and social' ways of learning English. I had the opportunity to take a tour of the islands this summer and was most impressed with the amount of thought and work that has gone into the company and methodology. They also have some very bright minds working on the project, which should show favourable results.

There are also other people that have been using Second Life for teaching language classes, and have gone through some interesting changes in the way their facilities are being used as a result. The English Village is the one that springs to mind, who have changed the way they conduct classes, from imitating sit-down-real-life classes through holodecks and (the latest I've seen) pirate role-playing games.

One thing is certain - I'm certain that we're going to see and hear a lot more about language learning in Second Life over the next year or so.

* The annoying message is one that informs me "Online Monitor: Time's Up, Baldric Commons - you need a break from the computer..." when I've been in Second Life for over 30 minutes. I can't seem to find what device is causing this message to be displayed - if anyone can help, please let me know and I'll buy you a virtual beer...

Webheads Tour Second Life #2



For anyone out there interested in meeting up in Second Life on Mondays, I thought it would be interesting to continue the tour of Real Cities we started last week.

We only got to visit two, and there are lots more that we can take a look at.

As the best part of last week's tour was having a guide speak us through it in Wonderful Denmark, I thought I could attempt to do something similar in..

* Barcelona
* Liverpool

and if anyone comes along who'd like to give a tour of another destination, please let us know. Here are some of the other cities I proposed visiting last week...

* Moscow
* Amsterdam
* Lisbon
* Brussels
* Dublin


Second Life has its fair share of Real Life cities that people have
created. Why build a recreation of a Real Life city in a virtual world
where what you build is confined only by your imagination? Do these
places attract native speakers from these countries and people
interested in learning the language associated with the cities? What
can you learn about culture from visiting these places?

Join us for the discussion tour and find out the answer to these
questions and more.

DATE/TIME : Monday, September 10, 2007 at 20:00:00 UTC time: =

MEETING PLACE: Meet at the Webheads hut at Edunation :

CONTACT: IM Baldric Commons for a teleport link if you're late

NOTE: If you activate the Second Life Voice Client before you come, you will get more out of this experience: In Second Life, go to Edit ->Preferences->Voice Chat and click on the box 'Enable Voice Chat' __._,_.___

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Webheads Tour #1 of Second Life: Real Life Cities in Second Life

The idea behind this tour was to visit a number of cities in Second Life that have been based on their Real Life counterparts. There are lots of these and they are mainly European cities for some reason, so we decided to visit a number of them:

In the usual Webheads fashion, it didn't turn out as planned, but what did happen was very educational ("inspiring, even" was a comment I received from one of the participants)

The general idea I had in mind was for us to visit these places and try and find out the answer to some of these questions:
  • why do people choose to recreate Real Life places in in a virtual world where what you build is confined only by your imagination?
  • Do these places attract native speakers from these countries?
  • Are these places interesting visits for learning the language associated with the cities?
  • What can you learn about culture from visiting these places?
I was surprised at the turnout, and after briefly assembling at the Webheads beach hut in Edunation, I handed out a landmark and we headed off to Venice Island.

This place is not unique - you can go to another sim called Venice , but here the feel is quite artificial and the buildings are mostly boxes. It's so obviously a quick build by somebody out to try and make money - the lack of love and care comes through and (because of this?) whenever I have been there there's never been anyone around nor a gondola in sight.

There are gondolas at Venezia, another Venice build in Second Life, and here the buildings and atmosphere is better. Far more love and care has gone into this sim and there's distinct lack of tacky publicity (which you can find all over the last Venice build).

I suggest that a field trip to all three, followed by a discussion might make an interesting discussion activity for learners in Second Life, especially if you ask learners to take photos and write up their opinion in a blog afterwards.

After ten minutes I think we were all tired of wandering around aimlessly in Venice, and disappointed at finding a lack of Italians (there had been groups of Italians the last time I visited, I wanted to tell everyone - perhaps they've moved on to a better place?)

Sus then suggested we visit Wonderful Denmark, and she IMd some friends and arranged a guided tour of the sim. This tour ended up being so absorbing that we didn't make it to any of the other cities...

Our guide was fabulous and used a combination of the Second Life voice client and relayed text (not everyone had voice installed) to talk us through the different spaces of the sim, based on a typical Danish town from a popular Danish TV series. It was obvious that unlike the Venice sim, this is a real community of people working together to create something special - there were no shortage of people here, and signs of life everywhere we went : a healthy mix of commercial, cultural and leisure spaces that is obviously being used by many. A great example of virtual tourism and it woul also be a fabulous place for anyone interested in learning Danish to head for.

I have included the (partial) transcript of our tour below so you can get an idea of the experience, but I highly recommend you go and take the tour yourself.

More photos can be found here


You: we can go to Edunation now Vance...
Webhead Link: will you t/p me?
Papallona Flow: Ok
Red Seesaw: ok
You: I'll tp you vance
Webhead Link: thanks
Webhead Link: I'm so lazy
Charles3D Raymaker: great carpet
Charles3D Raymaker: and wall :)
You: hi evertyone
Kati Voss: Hello Baldric
Wlodek Barbosa: Hi
Gwen Gwasi: hi
SusNy Foss: Hello everyone :-)
Kati Voss: Thanks for inviting us on the grand tour
Gwen Gwasi: yes, thank a lot
You: thanks for coming!
You: I didn't think so many would come!
Gwen Gwasi: :-)
SusNy Foss: Good to be among webheads friends, old and new
You: I thought it would be nice to take a tour of some of the RL cities in SL
Charles3D Raymaker: well an interesting topic
SusNy Foss: There are some Danish cities as well, mostly polulated by Danes speaking Danish
You: to do some exploring and to see if they are a magnet for culture/language
SusNy Foss: (I'm a Dane in Denmark)
Gwen Gwasi: yes, I dont recommend Frankfurt Main City
Gwen Gwasi: but Barcelona is nice
You: excellent sus - we can visit one of those too if you like
You: are we going to use text or can we use voice too?
SusNy Foss: the Swedish culture institute is more international
SusNy Foss: I would need to install the new version to get voice, sorry
Webhead Link: what do we have to do to use voice?
You: that's ok
Webhead Link: it seems to have just happened before
You: we'll stick to text
Gwen Gwasi: yes, need a new version here too
You: however, tell me something
Gwen Gwasi: but I can change computers
Gwen Gwasi: and on the other one it works already
Gwen Gwasi: good voip
You: if I speak and you don't have the voice client installed does that mean you can't hear me?
Gwen Gwasi: 20min and you stop hearing the other person
You: let me try it
Webhead Link: it worked on this computer before
Webhead Link: how do you get it going?
Kati Voss: yes
Babaluna Cuddihy: sorry voice is not working on my pce - i am afraid
Kati Voss: I can hear you
Gwen Gwasi: so I change pc
You: ok, not to worry
You: well, we can use a combination of text and voice
SusNy Foss: I'm installing new version for audio in another PC now
SusNy Foss: takes some time to get ready
Charles3D Raymaker: no problem
Connecting to in-world Voice Chat...
SusNy Foss: but go ahead and speak :-)
You: if anyone wants to set voice, you need to go to Edit->PReferences.>Voice Chat
You: and then click on 'Enable Voice Chat'
Misha Writer: oops - headphones on then!
You: Shall we start with our first city?
SusNy Foss: ok
You: I suggest we head off to Venice
You: to see if we can find anyone speaking Italian
Kati Voss: :)
Gwen Gwasi: Venice sounds nice
You: I'll give everyone a landmark
Gwen Gwasi is Online
Misha Writer: a bit watery
Wlodek Barbosa accepted your inventory offer.
Charles3D Raymaker: great
Webhead Link accepted your inventory offer.
Charles3D Raymaker: hehe soggy venice
Kati Voss accepted your inventory offer.
Charles3D Raymaker accepted your inventory offer.
SusNy Foss accepted your inventory offer.
Misha Writer accepted your inventory offer.
Gwen Gwasi accepted your inventory offer.
Babaluna Cuddihy accepted your inventory offer.
You: if we make each other friends too, that should mean we don't lose each other
You: ok, shall we go?
Gwen Gwasi: yes
Koen Antonioni: right
You: see you all in Venice
Kati Voss: I'm ready
Koen Antonioni accepted your inventory offer.
Kati Voss declined your inventory offer.
You: open the landmark and teleport there
You: IM me if you get lost
Connecting to in-world Voice Chat...
Gwen Gwasi: SusNy you need to move
Gwen Gwasi: otherwise we stand on top of you
Koen Antonioni: Buona sera
Gwen Gwasi: buona sera
Kati Voss: ciao
Misha Writer: wondered why I was so high up
You: here we are...
You: buona sera
Egmont Sperber: hi
You: let's take a look around and then meet here in say 5 minutes?
Kati Voss: ok
You: hi egmont
Koen Antonioni: can we have voice here?
Gwen Gwasi: che bella la vita a Venice
Gwen Gwasi: per un baccione
You: I think I want to take a gondola ride
Webhead Link: how did you manage that
Misha Writer: can we all get in?
Webhead Link: I did a sail thing and just flopped on it
You: right click vance
Webhead Link: here comes another
Webhead Link: I did, and chose sail
You: it's not going anywhere though
You: misha, I didn't know you cared
You: lol
Misha Writer: yes, close, isn't it
Misha Writer: I'm being offered Venice 1 or 2
SusNy Foss: Baldric, I have made an appointment with some Danes - we can meet now - I AM sailing!
You: you got it to work sus - well done!

Kati Voss: wow, pretty nice bridge
SusNy Foss: Oh Kati, how romantic!
Kati Voss: where are you from, Sus?
Indigo Mougin is Online
Misha Writer: can you rt click & sit?
You: sorry
Koen Antonioni: same here
You: not much language activity going on here
Koen Antonioni: good to see you started blogging again
You: yes, I'm happy too - want to keep it up- I'll write this up later
Jamesinparis Picnic is Online
Papallona Flow is Offline
Koen Antonioni: I dived into this ARG bizz too, interesting stuff
Jamesinparis Picnic: hi
Koen Antonioni: hello
Jamesinparis Picnic: hi do you have mike's active or are we just text chatting?
Jamesinparis Picnic: hi everyone
Charles3D Raymaker: hi James
Red Seesaw: hi
Koen Antonioni: yes I would be interested to try the voice functionaliy
Red Seesaw: oh a gondola
You: Hi Red
Jamesinparis Picnic: hi sorry i'm late... I had to update the program
Red Seesaw: hi
Head Teacher is Online
Charles3D Raymaker: well voice works sometimes, sort of :)
You: Sus has suggested going to a representative Danish city
Jamesinparis Picnic: fine with me
You: there are friends of hers there now
Koen Antonioni: Ok, let's
Jamesinparis Picnic: i might well get lost... how do we travel?
Charles3D Raymaker: this sim seems pretty popular, is it mostly our party?
Babaluna Cuddihy: do you think those cities would attract people in sl to learn another language?
Jamesinparis Picnic: ok we just click on the slurl right???
You: yes James
Charles3D Raymaker: where are we going next?
Jamesinparis Picnic: ok I'm going I think
You: then that should open the map and we tp over
You: shall we go?

Charles3D Raymaker: great thank you
You: if anyone gets lost, ask for a tp
You: see you over there
Pach Voom: SusNy : go to the cityhall, it's on my right
Pine Greenwood: sikke en trængsel
Josephine Planer: ja det må man sige. nu lagger det lidt
Pine Greenwood: det lakker mod enden
You: hi
Josephine Planer: haha
Webhead Link: party time
Ane Rhode: Det er bare dig som gør det Jose..
Ane Rhode: Har du vidst altid gjort...
Josephine Planer: hvad gør jeg??
Ane Rhode: Du står stille...
Ane Rhode: LOL
Josephine Planer: står ikke stille, jeg danser
SusNy Foss: we're about 8 people I think
You: hi sus
niels Mizser: ok
Charles3D Raymaker: ty gwen :)
Gwen Gwasi: hi Charles
Charles3D Raymaker: hi there
Jamesinparis Picnic: hi everyone
Jamesinparis Picnic: i'm back again
SusNy Foss: oh - what a crowd!
Matilda Little: ja hade 1 expresso men veek
Gwen Gwasi: you are my neighbour right
niels Mizser: jeg körer dansk og så oversätter us
niels Mizser: sus
Gwen Gwasi: ah, dont speak Danish
Unik Mayo: nå oki ellers sødt af dig
Kati Voss: me neither...
Charles3D Raymaker: neighbor? where?
SusNy Foss: ok - Niels will speak Danish I I'll translate!
Charles3D Raymaker: beside you now
Matilda Little: :)
You: excellent
Pach Voom: OK susnu du siger hvornår vi starter
Gwen Gwasi: who knows danish?
SusNy Foss: Can we start now?
Pach Voom: here we got the cityghall
Jamesinparis Picnic: it's great I hear lots of danish in my headphones...
Pach Voom: its not a house from RL
SusNy Foss: I don't have audio tonight
Jamesinparis Picnic: someone helped me to find you and explained that the town was based on a tv series
Liv Cioc: hva så diz
Free Radar HUD v1.1 by Crystal Gadgets
Gwen Gwasi: ah, I want to hear too
Gwen Gwasi: will change PC now
Liv Cioc: hvad går du og laver?
Pach Voom: every house has a funktion, you can go into eatch building and se things
Gunnar Randt: hehe
Dizzy Larsson: Hejsa JM
Pach Voom: we go down Westergade (weststreet)
Gunnar Randt: hej på er
Dizzy Larsson: Jamen suser lidt rundt
Matilda Little: whos talking everyone ?
Liv Cioc: heeeej john ;-))
SusNy Foss: Follow Mr. Voom :-)
Johnmartin Larsson: Hejsa alle
You: sounds great
Unik Mayo: heyyyy JM
SusNy Foss: he's a local
Pach Voom: Just follow Niels all the time
Pach Voom: This is Hithouse wuitch was very populare in the 1960's in Copenhagen
Jamesinparis Picnic: lets go with him
Pach Voom: you are welcome to go inside
SusNy Foss: Hit house was a dance place
niels Mizser: picture is from famos danish bands
SusNy Foss: great!

You: I think the voice has been turned off in here, is that right?
Gwen Gwasi: no music
SusNy Foss: I never made it by then, but some older friends came to Hit House
niels Mizser: yes no voice
Pach Voom: No not tonight, but sometimes
Kati Voss: I can hear the music
Charles3D Raymaker: your music player is at the bottom of your screen gwan
Gwen Gwasi: ah, music alright
Charles3D Raymaker: gwen
Gwen Gwasi: nice music
Gwen Gwasi: yes Charles
niels Mizser: ok we leve hit house
Charles3D Raymaker: great club
Misha Writer is Offline
Pach Voom: you can all come outside
Connecting to in-world Voice Chat...
Misha Writer is Online
Cobalt Motors - 59' Kaddy Kruiser: Anti-Theft system activated. Enjoy your flight.
SusNy Foss: Many Danes meet here, right Niels and Pach?
Gwen Gwasi is Offline
niels Mizser: waiting for the last one
Gwen Gwasi is Online
Pach Voom: Yes there are more than 500 members of this town¨
Pach Voom: moestly danes
You: do you find anyone here trying to learn Danish?
Gwen Gwasi: ah, I can finally hear now
niels Mizser: this is the waitingroom
niels Mizser: with old danish signs
SusNy Foss: This is kind of Virtual Roskilde famous from a TV show almost like Upstairs and Downstairs
niels Mizser: famos tuborg to
Gwen Gwasi: hi Vance, shame you cant hear
Webhead Link: why not i wonder
Gwen Gwasi: update the software
Webhead Link: I hear sl sound
You: that's odd vance - you had voice on Saturday
niels Mizser: korsbäk has the longest railway about 100 yard

Gwen Gwasi: a train that cant drive
Gwen Gwasi: never mind
SusNy Foss: Korsbaek has everything you would need!
Jamesinparis Picnic: it's a hundred years old?.
niels Mizser: this town is typical 1930-1945
Misha Writer: was that the train puffing?
niels Mizser: the tv serie
Charles3D Raymaker: around the left I think here
SusNy Foss: I am sitting in tge train!
SusNy Foss: my wings are poking outside the window
Charles3D Raymaker: oh I heard someone clearing their throat! Voice :)
Koen Antonioni: that is in the gestures menu, trying things out actually
niels Mizser: we walk to the littel townplace
Charles3D Raymaker: ah ok
Babaluna Cuddihy: well what interests me is -do you think those replic placesa atttrac people more then other sl places?
Babaluna Cuddihy: or to start learning its language
Charles3D Raymaker: more than fantasy places you mean?
Babaluna Cuddihy: y
niels Mizser: here we ha some buldings from tv serie
niels Mizser: it is very likli danmark
SusNy Foss: It is very much how we think Denmark was back then
Babaluna Cuddihy: yes its lovely!
Charles3D Raymaker: it is charming
Jamesinparis Picnic: niel is explaining the economic structure
SusNy Foss: our nostalgic sense
Jamesinparis Picnic: the stores here are real stores in denmark
Gwen Gwasi: hey this is even 3 D sound
Gwen Gwasi: wow
Babaluna Cuddihy: i just wonder as it seams all those real live place to be empty
Gwen Gwasi: when I turn my head, it fades too
SusNy Foss: my grandfather was born here, and my grandson :-)
Gwen Gwasi: not only distance
You: do you get sponsorship from the companies?
Gwen Gwasi: impressive
Jamesinparis Picnic: a company that makes beds... about 12 companies
Jamesinparis Picnic: in all
niels Mizser: we can say this part is the historik part of the city
Webhead Link is Offline
Jamesinparis Picnic: and they use real money as well as lindens
SusNy Foss: Niels, who sponsored this, do you know?
Door: SusNy Foss is at the door.
Gwen Gwasi: ah, a church
Koen Antonioni: this is interactive audio I assume: triggered by our presence?
Helter Alexandre is Online
Jamesinparis Picnic: pach explained that there are real tombstones outside... that are in memory of real people
You: hi Helter, welcome to Denmark
You: we are in the middle of a city tour
Jamesinparis Picnic: sus is here..
SusNy Foss: I was working on my other PC, sorry
You: susny - love the way your name is pronounced!
Jamesinparis Picnic: susny is Danish... so Pach is saying that she can tell us about the island

Jamesinparis Picnic: it gives us historical perspective about how people used to live in the 30s
SusNy Foss: Yes
SusNy Foss: because this is modeled over a TV serial in 24 chapters called Matador (Monopoly)
SusNy Foss: it was turned in the 70's but shown again just recently on national TV
Connecting to in-world Voice Chat...
Gwen Gwasi is Online
Helter Alexandre is Online
Misha Writer is Online
Unik Mayo: okey så du var heldig
Kati Voss: lagging big time though
Connecting to in-world Voice Chat...
Gwen Gwasi: hi
Babaluna Cuddihy: is it mostly commercial area or also residential -anybody knows?
Jamesinparis Picnic: a unino like a trade union?
Doctor Asp: most shops in Wonderful Denmark are owned by RL compagnies
Jamesinparis Picnic: we're heading into the harbour area now...
Babaluna Cuddihy: ah kk-- ty
Doctor Asp: btw - I am the manager of Wonderful Denmark :-)
Gwen Gwasi: you dont seem to be hearing me anymore
Charles3D Raymaker: it is actually unusual to see so many real world products for sale in SL
Babaluna Cuddihy: congratulation -y did a wonderful job
Doctor Asp: feel free to ask any questions you might have
Jamesinparis Picnic: the 12 real life companies of them is here
Gwen Gwasi: thanks again
Jamesinparis Picnic: doctor asp is the owner of the iland i believe
Doctor Asp: JYSK, 1902 and Krifa are all RL compagnies
Misha Writer: Thanks Pach, a v interesting tour
Charles3D Raymaker: yes thank you very much, a wonderful site
SusNy Foss: And they are sponsors?
Doctor Asp: we also have a TV compagny and a travel agency

Doctor Asp: no - they are customers
Gwen Gwasi: so this is the end of the tour
Gwen Gwasi: right?
SusNy Foss: Interesting
niels Mizser: we come to the tv company later
Head Teacher: thanks everyone. I really enjoyed this - really interesting
Gwen Gwasi: me too
Doctor Asp: they rent a shop here on a monthly basis to promote there RL activities
Head Teacher is Offline
niels Mizser: ok
Gwen Gwasi: ever so great
Kati Voss: yes, thank you all
Jamesinparis Picnic: they even have a tv station
Babaluna Cuddihy: are y promoting it in rl to make the join sl -Doctor asp?
Jamesinparis Picnic: let's go to the harbor...
SusNy Foss: ask me for eventual translation :-)
niels Mizser: this is at typical danish haburg
Jamesinparis Picnic: a typical danish harbor
Jamesinparis Picnic: why is it typical? the fishing boat?
Jamesinparis Picnic: Fisheauktion is where the catch is sold?
Jamesinparis Picnic: auction?
SusNy Foss: yes

Falk Bergman is Online
SusNy Foss: and there's a smokery chimney
Kati Voss is Offline
Jamesinparis Picnic: bbc world journalists do this too of course
Jamesinparis Picnic: so this is a real danish station with a presence here
You: this is the latest from the BBC World Service
Gwen Gwasi is Online
niels Mizser: in this faktory you can se some of the things from ouer builders
Gwen Gwasi: my voice doent work anymore
Gwen Gwasi: shame
Jamesinparis Picnic: this factory makes things for sl people

Doctor Asp: note that the brown signs actually are in english :-)
SusNy Foss: rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrI have never seen so many corners of Korsbaek before
Jamesinparis Picnic: korsbaek is fascinating
SusNy Foss: This is a great place for learning!
Second Life: Items coming in too fast, automatic preview disabled for 10 seconds.
Misha Writer: most of your visitors are English speakers?
Pach Voom: It sure is
SusNy Foss: I already have a hoge horse now I also have a cow!
Gwen Gwasi: hi
Babaluna Cuddihy: are ther danish courses as well here?
Gwen Gwasi: voice crashed
Jamesinparis Picnic: the bikes are often available in Denmark sl
Gwen Gwasi: must reboot
Gwen Gwasi is Offline
Jamesinparis Picnic: you pay a deposit but it's returned when you return the bike
Babaluna Cuddihy: oh clever system
Babaluna Cuddihy: saves off the litter
Jamesinparis Picnic: bikes are available like that in all the cities in denmark
Jamesinparis Picnic: and there are lots of bike paths so it's not too iffy
CJ Tomorrow: Fulgte der ikke en bjørneskinshue med
Jamesinparis Picnic: i'm wondering if the webheads are going to move on soon or not
CJ Tomorrow: er skin også nyt?
Gwen Gwasi is Online

Burgess & Sons standing double bass: Beginning playback...
Burgess & Sons standing double bass: Playback Halted...
You: thankyou so much for the tour
Charles3D Raymaker: yes, thank you, it was wonderful
Doctor Asp: you are welcome back anytime
Doctor Asp: remember to create a Landmark
Wlodek Barbosa: Thank you! This place is GREAT!
Burgess & Sons Grand Piano (Goldberg Edition): Beginning playback...
Burgess & Sons Grand Piano (Goldberg Edition): Playback Halted...
Misha Writer: well I'm playing this double bass but I can't hear any music . . .
Doctor Asp: glad you like it
Doctor Asp: luckely:)
You: yes it is...
Doctor Asp: hehe
Misha Writer: who's singing?
Misha Writer: is it Niels?
Pedro Lustre is Online
Misha Writer: or is it Pach??
niels Mizser: thank to you to
Doctor Asp: i think its playback
SL:Tenor Steel-Pan (RED): Touch to Change Pattern
niels Mizser: yes we like to do that
You: thanks a lot for the tour
Jamesinparis Picnic: thank you and Niels for this great tour!
You: got to go - bye everyone
Doctor Asp: look for the groupname WD Byguide
Pach Voom: your all welcome
Gwen Gwasi: thanks a lot Pach

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Interactive Whiteboard - white elephant or teacher's pet?

The Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) is a technology that promises to truly transform the classroom and yet is seen as a threat or a waste of money by many teachers. Their views range from luddite, regarding the introduction of any teaching technology as unnecessarily contaminating the classroom to the (more reasonable) preoccupation that this tool will lead to a overly teacher-focused environment and a group of learners passively sitting dazzled by the bells and whistles used by the sage on the stage.

It doesn't have to be that way though. In this post, I will reflect upon the recent discussion on the Dogme (teaching unplugged) list about the pros and cons of IWBs, and put forward the view that the key to a successful IWB implementation is in the training, something which seems to be missing when many organisations unpack and install these shiny new toys.

  • A good workman never blames his tools

Before I continue, let's stop and take a look at the tool itself. There are many different types of IWBs, but features are similar (consult the Wikipedia entry on Interactive Whiteboards for further details).

The market leaders at the moment are Promethean, Smart and Mimio. These manufacturers make IWBs which have similar features (but with some important distinctions) but it is important to note that the software used by each company is not compatible. Thus, the first important decision to make before buying is which one to choose.

Smart technologies seems to have been around the longest and is very common in the USA, and this is why many people still call IWBs Smartboards, but this is the equivalent to calling a vacuum cleaner a Hoover.

Promethean appears to have gained more ground recently and is very popular in the UK and Australia. The British Council (my employer - I should declare now that I have a bias for Promethean boards because they are the ones I have used the most), for example, is installing ACTIVBoards in many of their teaching centres around the world.

Mimio seems to have become popular of late because they offer the possibility of turning regular whiteboards into IWBs, thus being a lower cost solution. I have no direct experience of the Mimio system, but I do know colleagues who have tried it and were not that impressed.

Apart from the hardware, careful attention should be paid to the software, how it works and how it is supported. This is the key to IWB functionality and makes the big difference between using an IWB or a data projector (beamer) and a standard whiteboard. Most IWB software works like a combination between a graphics package and presentation software (e.g. Powerpoint). Certainly, teachers who have used graphics software before have a much easier time than those who haven't.

What differences are there between software? Much is down to look and feel, but, for example, you can write on a smartboard with your finger, but need a special pen to write on a Promethean ACTIVboard.

Software support is important too: Promethean, for example, offers online training and accreditation and a user site, Promethean Planet, whose forums (where teachers share resources, tips and ideas) are second to none. An important reason why the British Council chose the Promethean IWB system was because the licence includes the ability to install the software on their home computers (so they can plan from home) and a free student version (view only) which means they can review flipcharts (what the Promethean IWB created materials are called) at home.

  • Interactive White Elephant
The discussion on the Dogme (teaching unplugged) list began when Scott Thornbury appealed to its members for "ammunition" after calling the IWB an 'interactive white elephant' during a conference in Brazil.

It wasn't the first time that the subject of IWBs had appeared in the Dogme list. Previously, in April 2007, Alan Pulverness had mentioned that there was a tendency for "the technology to
produce a more frontal style of teaching, and consequently fewer opportunities for genuine interaction."

I think this is true if teachers are let loose without any training on how to use the IWB effectively. One of the ironic things about the IWB is that although it resembles a tool that is familiar to all teachers, it requires a sea change in methodology if it is to be used optimally in the classroom. Of course, you can use it in the same way as any other (black or white) board (i.e. by walking into class and writing on it without any prior preparation), but this is akin to using a truck to drive to the corner shop for groceries and coming back home with a bottle of milk and a tin of baked beans.

Strangely enough, writing on an IWB during class time takes longer than on a regular whiteboard, and you'll probably not be able to fit as much on the board. And as for those teachers who are used to sectioning a board with part for class agenda and space for vocabulary? This is a waste of space and time on the IWB, especially as you have unlimited number of pages to flip back and forth through whenever you want. And there's no need to make students wait while you write something from a coursebook on the board - you should have done that before the students even entered the room. Breaking old teacher habits that have no place and make no sense when using this tool is as important as experimenting with new ways of using it.

It should come as no surprise that training and practice are the keys to using the IWB effectively. The interactive whiteboard is not cheap technology, but this is one of the hidden costs. Another is a need for increased technical support in situ, but as far as learner impact is concerned, the sure way to drive a stake through the heart of an IWB project is to try to cut costs in training. But, because it looks like a reglular board, there is a temptation for organisations to hand teachers a pen and let them get on with it. This results in the learners losing out.

Back to the Dogme discussion . Browsing the other posts written by members of the Dogme list about IWBs, it becomes clear that some of these teachers have had as much experience of and interest in using an interactive whiteboard as Paolo Freire had of playing with a Nintendo Gameboy. Then there are others that have formed opinions based on observing sales reps. giving ten minute demonstrations of the technology at conferences. The negative "seems to be used for presenting grammar mcnuggets" view is hardly surprising given the kind of ELT publisher materials available I suppose. Only one or two of these people seem to have based their opinions on actual teacher observation (albeit cursory observation, i.e. saw a teacher through a window...). And most interestingly, those of us who have actually used an IWB were positive about the potential.

  • Conclusions

So, what was the result of all this debate? I'm pleased to say that some of the Dogme die-hards have been prompted to take another look at the technology. And if we can persuade organisations to invest more in training teachers how to use the interactive whiteboard well, then this will do a great favour to teachers and learners who find themselves having to use it. Will all teachers have to use one in the future? Who knows? I have started to see "experience in using an IWB" appearing in some of the job advertisements for teachers, and I think we will see more of this in the future. So long as the potential of this fabulous tool is not wasted by misuse and methodological abuse.

Note: Please feel free to contact me for IWB training offers

Further Reading / References

Follow the Dogme discussions on using the IWB in a learner-centred way here

Schmid, E. Cutrim : Investigating the Use of Interactive Whiteboard Technology in the English Language Classroom through the Lens of a Critical Theory of Technology

Using the Interactive White Board in EFL - a blog I started in 2005. I've been encouraged by this experience to started posting here again

Promethean/Mirandanet project report on interactive whiteboard use worldwide :