Saturday, March 08, 2008

Web 2.0 Language Learning: Virtual Worlds, Social Networks, Mashup Assessments

Can you really learn a language in a virtual world or using Web 2.0 applications? Yes, if.... Success has to do with how the learning experience is designed, and how and where learning objectives and outcomes are defined, and how they are assessed. Developing good instructional strategies for learning languages via Web 2.0 apps will provide answers to the following quesitons, and more: What makes some Second Life language experiences effective? What makes having a virtual mentor effective? Which easy-to-use mashups can be used to develop vocabulary? How can mashups and instant messaging be use to develop learning communities? How can skills be assessed using scripted role-play games and virtual worlds?

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/language-mashups.mp3

Web 2.0 applications offer enormous promise to people who want to learn or perfect languages. The virtual worlds of Second Life and There.com, the general social networks of facebook and myspace, and the specific needs-tailored networks built around language acquisition and practice succeed in encouraging individuals to interact in a new language and to feel a sense of affiliation and bonding.

In addition, virtual worlds and social networks can be very attractively designed places. It's easy to spend hours in a virtual world or social network, and never feel any of the pain one might normally associate with monotonous drills with an interactive CD-ROM, a set of tapes, or seat time in a language lab.


Learning Objectives.
What do you want to learn? What do you hope to take away from a virtual world experience where people interact in a different language? It is very important to identify the learning goals.

Learning Objective-based Instructional Activities.
In learning a language, the learning objectives may have clearly definable outcomes. For example, a learner may want to include increase her medical vocabulary. In that case, the instructional activities should be developed around the objective (and not the other way around).

Meaningful Interaction.
Once the learning objectives have been established it is easier to develop virtual worlds and interactions that help achieve objectives. For example, the individual who wants to expand her medical vocabulary may participate in a virtual world that simulates a medical clinic or a home health care situation. The interactions would be in the target language, and the virtual world could have mouse-overs to tag the items with the name and pronunciation.


Self-Assessment.
One of the gaps in virtual worlds and virtual learning is the fact that it is hard to tell what kind of learning has taken place. Self-assessment that ties in with learning goals would be very effective. At the same time, if the goal of the student is to be able to pass the TOEFL or another standardized test, it might be very useful to be able ask questions in a virtual world and review comprehension and vocabulary, and then to follow up with a practice test.

Mashup Assessments.
Integrating Web applications to create language tests is not as far-fetched as it sounds. For example, an application could pull images tagged in Flickr, integrate a Spanish dictionary, and incorporate Instant Messaging and students could identify the name of the image.

One could even integrate a Meebo (http://www.meebo.com) widget which integrates several text messaging programs. Thus, individuals could also participate via cell phone in lively, informal language assessments.

Further, this is an excellent way to develop a learning community built on people who have
- shared interests
- similar goals
- aligned competency levels
- complementary learning styles

Results-based Tutoring.
Many companies have emerged that offer language tutoring using collaborative, real-time software as well as virtual worlds. This is a very exciting possibility, particularly if the learner clearly sets out objectives and the tutors stay focused on determining the best ways to achieve the objective.

New Online Services Offer Web 2.0 Language Instruction

http://www.livemocha.com: provides social networks, language lessons, tutoring.
Question - What is the quality of the instructional material? How does one identify the outcomes assessments?

http://www.palabea.net: focus on social networking and informal tutoring networks
Question: Can interest groups be tagged around desired outcomes?

http://www.italki.com: A social network that encourages developing a learning community. It is focused around creating networks of people with similar goals and objectives. The core focus is Chinese.
Question: Would the focus need to be primarily in spoken Chinese? Would the calligraphy present a problem?

http://www.soziety.com/LanguageExchange.do
- Language Learning via Skype

http://www.voxswap.com
/: Social Network for Learning Languages

http://www.friendsabroad.com
: FriendsAbroad.com

http://www.bilingualinstitute.com

An overview of Excellence in College Teaching and Learning.

A link to purchase your own copy.Excellence in College Teaching and Learning: Classroom and Online Instruction

Don't miss this article, which provides information useful for creating innovative math mashups and web applications: http://elearnqueen.blogspot.com/2008/03/innovative-math-mashups-for-education.html

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