Hi All, there has been an interesting debate going on on Gavin Dudeney's blog about tools like 2nd Life and there value for language learning: http://slife.dudeney.com/?p=446 and I guess it is important for us to offer our rebuttals of such viewpoints here. So, I'd be interested in hearing views in favour of the use of 2nd Life.


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I've already added comments to Gavin's blog. I am still enthralled by SL - but mainly as a casual language learner who simply enjoys visiting sims where languages other than English are spoken. I used to teach German at degree level, but I retired from teaching in 1993. Now I use SL for meeting people, keeping up my German, French and Spanish, and running introductory training courses (which pays very well, incidentally). I also help manage the joint EUROCALL/CALICO HQ on EduNation III.

Personally, I rarely experience the technical hitches described by some of the contributors to Gavin's blog. We have a wifi network of three computers at home, each of which has at least 2GB of RAM, and each running at 2GHz. Our broadband connection is stable, running at a maximum speed of 4Mbps. My wife Sally (Flopsy Bookmite) and I (Groovy Winkler) are online in SL for around 3-4 hours per day between us. I use Win XP and Win 7, and Sally uses Win XP. We jumped over Win Vista – deliberately (it's a pig).

We may experience one or two major drop-outs per week - usually Linden Lab's fault - and there are the usual daily problems of lag in crowded sims, but otherwise we have no complaints. I have the advantage of being very experienced in ICT - dating back to 1976, in fact - and I am therefore able to keep our network and three computers in peak condition, clearing caches, defragging and, of course, blocking spyware, adware and other stuff that slows down or messes up computers.

Last year I ran a training course for newbies at EUROCALL 2009 in Spain. We had 14 people in one computer lab, all logged into SL at once. We had a stable connection and no technical hitches. Last week I ran training courses at University College London for staff of the SOAS/UCL Languages of the Wider World project. Again, no hitches. The equipment was stable and we had a good, fast Internet connection. The only occasions on which I have experienced major hitches have been in universities where the technicians have refused to unblock ports and make the local firewalls perceive SL as friendly. I have experienced such problems on just three occasions. This year I am running a training course at EUROCALL 2010 at the University of Bordeaux. Fingers crossed!

I accept Gavin's view that it is not easy for educators to get into SL and set up learning situations. It's a long learning curve both for teachers and learners, but I think it's worth it in the end. It takes most people at least 10 hours to learn how to drive a car, but few people complain - because it's worth the effort. Of course, it is much easier and quicker to get into Twitter and Facebook. I am a member of both and I accept that they may offer potential for learning, but in comparison with SL they are not very rich environments. I use both of them mainly for socialising and keeping in touch with family and friends. The current generation is too impatient: if they can't learn something in 15 minutes then they don't want to know.

I have just revised my SL training materials to take into account the recent changes to Viewer 2 - i.e. Version 2.1.0 (non-beta). There were more changes than Linden Lab led me to believe in their release notes, but I think I have covered the important ones. Feedback on my materials is welcomed. They can be found here, in Section 14.2.1 (i) of Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site:


My wife Sally and I both like Viewer 2. Sally entered SL this time last year as a newbie and as a rather apprehensive computer user in general. She has picked up all she needs to know about Viewer 2 very quickly.

Finally, where is SL on the Gartner Hype Cycle graph? The Times Higher (20 August 2009) showed a graph indicating that virtual worlds were about to plunge into the "trough of disillusionment”:


Maybe Gavin’s blog reflects this, one year on. Personally, I think we are already on the “slope of enlightenment” and will soon reach the “plateau of productivity”. Oh dear, I have just given you a clue about what I plan to say in my EUROCALL 2010 keynote, "Where have we been, we are we now, and where are we going?"

Thanks for your helpful perspective Graham.

I just wanted to add that I use a Mac at home and have had no significant problems with 2nd Life on this now quite old Mac laptop. However, I do have problems with it at work on my even older PC, particularly when it comes to Viewer 2.0.

I can't help but agree with Graham that I see Twitter and Facebook as limited in their uses for language learning and I would suggest that these tools are what I would see as more of the same with an emphasis on written text. I think that 2nd Life offers a great opportunities, particularly for those who are going to find it very difficult to ever visit a country where a language that they are learning is spoken on a regular basis. I've just been on the tour of Arcachon and enjoyed hearing and trying to use my very rusty French in a place where you feel encouraged to speak the language because of Gallic-ness of the island.

I look forward to other views.


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