Teaching Speaking in Second Life

For me, one of the main blocks to really developing online language learning courses has been the inability to supply real communicative speaking practice. VOIP software like Skype has certainly pushed the bounds of what is possible, as has the development of more effective web based video conferencing platforms, but in my opinion the biggest step towards making this possible has been the developments made in virtual worlds like There.com and Second Life which not only enable the use of voice, but can also help students to develop an understanding gesture and spatial relationships while speaking.

For anyone interested in giving it a try, here are four basic tutorial videos to help you get started with how voice works in Second Life and how you can use it for pair and group work.

Setting up voice
This video shows you how to activate the voice client and make sure that the quality of your sound is good. It also shows you how to select the correct input and output devices for sound in case you are having any problems.

Using the active speaker window
This video shows you how to find and use the active speaker window. This enables you to find out who is within 'voice range' of you, as well as enabling you to balance out the volume of the voices around you and even to mute other speakers if you just want to listen in to one person.

Using 'IM Call' for pair and group work
If you have large groups of students all in close proximity to each other, running activities like pair or group work can be chaotic as everyone hears what everyone else is saying. This video shows you how to use the 'IM Call' feature to put the students into pairs or groups, so that they only hear the people they are working with. Then you as the teacher can move between the groups monitoring, without having to hear the whole class all at once.

Balancing out relative volumes
Second Life has a lot of different sound sources, such as the ambient sound of trees and water around you, the sounds of gestures, background music, media players and th voices of people speaking. This video shows you how to balance out the sounds and turn off the ones you don't want to hear.

I would be really interested to hear comments from anyone who has used Video conferencing and or Second Life. Which do you prefer?

If you are new to or haven't tried Second Life yet, then I hope you find these videos useful and they encourage you to try it out. The videos were originally commissioned by The Consultants-E and are part of an introductory course for teachers they deliver on Edunation Island II and are used with their kind consent.