Is Holodeck editing a future language teacher competence?

Hi all,
Really regret not being able to attend Graham's session on Holodecks. Dennis's comment on his time investments worries me a bit, considering his dedication and long-time involvement with 3D and language education.
Reason being that I am proposing to the NIFLAR project management to also include Holodecks as a strategic part of our VLE: it seems an interesting tool to support collaborative tasks and promote ownership with end users.
Not having any practical experience myself with this type of 3D authoring tool yet, I put the question (to the VWLL community) whether [...] it is educationally efficient to actually expect student language teachers (one of the NIFLAR target groups) to invest time in acquiring the technical skills needed to productively use this tool (e.g. for designing a setting for a particular task for their pupils).
Thankfully Nergiz Kern joined the discussion commenting that […] ’I have started collecting some ideas of how holodecks could be used in language learning and teaching. I have also demonstrated to several teachers how to build scenes with the Builder's Buddy script and everybody learned the basics very quickly. The rest is practice!’
Nick Peachey’s contribution included […] ‘I think it is realistic. Many already have the skills'.
Could we have your thoughts on this again? Considering the evidence presented at the ‘grande finale’ of the Holodeck Challenge at Slexperiments there must be quite a few colleagues who can report personal experiences by now.

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Hi Ton,

Thank you for raising this topic.

Am I right in understanding that to create a holodeck is as challenging as building in Second Life but that to use the technology for language learning actually simplifies this for the teachers?

Isn't this the idea to use holodecks to 'not lose the learners' on the way to suitable areas for roleplay?

Who has had experience in building a holodeck?

Rgds Heike
I am not a big fan of holdecks, although I am definitely open to persuasion.
I can see their value as temporary/portable builds but I think the amount of time an effort that is required to create a high quality scene is not worth the effort.
I imagine teachers might want to have access to a number of scenes (classroom, discussion space, garden, etc) but I think these could just be tools in an inventory and teachers don't really need to know how to create scenes.
I think there is so much high quality content already available in SL that I don't see why someone would want to make less successful imitations :-)
I think it would be much better to spend the time on effective SL teaching skills instead :-)

If you see holodecks primarily as portable class space or role-play scene, I can partly agree with Pete. It is possible to go to places in SL to do role-plays and you can buy ready-made scenes for holodecks created by professional builders.

But there are many reasons why the above is often not good enough. Sometimes, it is not about the perfect, professional-looking build. There are very good reasons why teachers might want to be able to build their own scenes as stated by Antonella here or in my blog posts.

However, I don't think you need to have a complete module on building holodecks in a teacher training course. An introductory session would be enough to show some examples, discuss how they are/can be used and then offer a mini-workshop where they can create a very simple scene. This can all be done in a 90 minute session or two 60-minute sessions. Those teachers who feel like it can then continue practising and building in their own time.

Pete says: "I think it would be much better to spend the time on effective SL teaching skills instead :-)"

Right, and part of these SL skills could be "how to teach effectively with holodeck/Builder's Buddy scenes". It's like in RL teacher training. You have (at least experimental sessions) on how to teach with Drama, Suggestopedia, Silent Way, Web 2.0 tools and maybe soon also virtual worlds :-)

Yes, but I'm still not at all clear what the "good reasons" are. I can see that holodeck scenes are something that some people might find useful from time to time, but I would hardly consider it a core skill.

I think that there are far more immediate needs when it comes to enabling teachers to adapt to teaching in virtual worlds - I'm thinking here of more basic class management skills and approach/methodology.

But I think the most important thing is to encourage teachers to start by thinking about what it is they want to do and then find the best way to do it. Introducing building, scripting and holodecks can lead teachers to become more materials driven, to create materials / objects and then try to find ways they can be used in teaching.
I think you have to know the environment that you work in, in order to be able to make informed decisions about the best way to do something. In a RL school, you would also check out what kind of equipment they have and find out what they are good for if you don't know already. Otherwise, you will not be able to use the most appropriate tool OR methodology in your classes and unnecessarily limit the type of activities you could do, unless, of course, you want to do Dogme style lessons.

Pete, I don't think we disagree about the importance of methodology in SL teacher training. In my previous message, I said holodecks should NOT occupy a whole module (so not a core skill) but they should be mentioned because they are one of the tools that can be used for quite a variety of reasons which I have mentioned in my blog posts (there is a new one, by the way, an interview with Graham Davies where he explains why he is interested in holodecks and why EUROCALL/CALICO have been investing in them).

@Ton, maybe because there has been going on so much around holodecks lately, you had the impression that it might be a major skill for teachers to have. The reason why I have started to works with holodecks is because it was part of the MUVEnation course. At the same time, other educators in SL got interested and started their on little projects and I was invited. Finally, when I demonstrated what you can do with holodecks or the BB script, the SLExperiments group members got interested so we had this challenge. It was a lot of fun, we have learned a lot of new skills and got new ideas. But we will eventually move on and find new challenges :)
@ Pete This does not in any way diminish the importance that we place in methodology.

So, according to James' categories, I would say holodecks are a can-have or nice-to-have and a "good-to-know-about" :-)
In answer as to whether "..it is educationally efficient to actually expect student language teachers (one of the NIFLAR target groups) to invest time in acquiring the technical skills needed to productively use this tool (e.g. for designing a setting for a particular task for their pupils)..," I would say that it's a great idea. Someone is going to have to create these environments one day; who better than young, imaginative, and digitally skilled workforce to do such essential scenery prep work? Throughout history artists, archaelogists, architects, and of course educators have always needed the support of their trainees in order to get through some of the heavy work. Besides, I would be more than willing to pay for a package of 100 useful (and easily-rezzed) holodeck scenes if anyone out there is selling.
So far I have not bothered to learn how to create a new holodeck scenario from scratch. I have, however, bought several for the holodeck on the EUROCALL HQ roof, and I have learned how to use the Builder's Buddy packaging tool - which is a bit like a holodeck but much simpler to use and probably adequate for most language teachers' needs..

Randall Sadler (Randall Renoir in SL), my CALICO colleague, is an expert in building holodeck scenarios. He has recently made public a wonderful castle (Castle Renoir), which uses the Horizons holodeck system . You can find it here:


Try the Tree House too!

Actually a holodeck will be part of what we are creating in WP4. It is more technically named as "publishing process" because contents from different sources will be incorporated.

A first prototype is ready and we are planning to test them in classes later in September.
Dear Klaus,
This is good news! Would love to know more and see it work. Will contact you after EuroCALL conference.
Cheers Ton
Hi, here short machinima of the features of the holodeck we did for the AVALON project, as we have presented for the team today.

We will post an hands-on session for all who want to check it out for themselves soon. (First priority is to do the mid-project report :-)

Gary agreed, we might do this as a break-out session on our meeting in Vienna as well.

It works, it is very easy to use and very useful for teachers :-)
Creating holodeck scenarios for specific language teaching/learning situations is a topic that we have discussed with some teachers who are members of the EUROCALL/CALICO Virtual Worlds SIG. We would not expect most teachers to master the art of creating a holodeck scenario, but we would expect them to understand what a holodeck is and how they might use it - and here we still have a lot of awareness raising to do for the majority of language teachers. Just a reminder where you can find the EUROCALL/CALICO VW SIG Ning: http://virtualworldssig.ning.com

New members welcomed!

Hi Graham, what we intend to do is to integrate the holodeck with the LMS. If teacher & students show up to class "everything is already there".

Everything else is tentative. The teacher has the option to modify the scenario (e.g. adding an additional chair). There is also the option for a teacher to switch the scenario "in world", e.g. if he/she decides to change the subject, based on a pre-defined pools of stored scenarios.

In addition to put stuff into the holodeck is pretty streight forward. It can be mastered by those teachers interested in creating scenarious. If not - the idea is to offer a basic set of scenarious which might be enhanced by content creators.

This is also why we "re-invented" the wheel and did our own version of holodeck for the AVALON project. We want a piece of software which is usable by educators and is usable in the context of classes. It needs to save time (not save - doesn't cost any time) and is very simple to use.


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