Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 PEOPLE: EDU: Refugees need language instruction. Could virtual worlds help? Advice from the Yesbutters

Refugees need language instruction.  
Could virtual worlds help?
Virtual worlds can offer immersive instruction in any language.  Can they help with the instruction of large numbers of refugees such as are escaping to Europe this year?  A few suggestions as to how it might be possible.

A comment by Isis Ophelia raised the question

[I am] thinking would it be possible (and how) to use a virtual world to teach German to the thousands of refugees coming these days to Germany. Alone this weekend 10.000 new refugees arrived in Munich. The [German] Government assumes that 800.000 will arrive this year. And I get all concerned, because no nation on this planet would be ready to pull immediately out of the pocket hundreds of new teachers to teach German to the many children and adult refugees. So how to help? Maybe it would be possible to find volunteers and start a project online. I don't know yet how.
I checked with my YesButters and found out why it wouldn't work.  Then I called up Ida Idea--my head brainstormer and got a few ideas.  But catch all that after the break.

Related

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  • (More after the break)
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News and Notes

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    Selby: Can virtual worlds play a role in training a surge of immigrants.   There are several groups doing second language training in Second Life and OpenSim.  
    YesButters: Yes, but bringing all these people into virtual worlds to learn German would mean they would have to spend time learning how to do things in a virtual world before they can start learning German.  It won't work.
    -
    Ida, the idea lady:  There you go again.  You jump on the first idea that you can think of, see that it won't work, and use that to argue that there is no solution.  If the first idea you think of would solve the problem, it would never be a problem.  If the first idea doesn't look good, I look over the resources I have.
    -
    Selby:
    • Existing sims developed specifically for language training.   
    • Methods for vocabulary building and sims for that purpose.
    • Methods and environments for encouraging conversational learning.
    • Video production capabilities for moving instruction to the web.  
    Ida:  If you produce videos, the students don't have to learn a virtual world.
    -
    YesButters: Yes, but there are already instructional videos for languages.
    -
    Ida: And. of course, they can't be improved or made more suitable to the specific objective.  If you people had to live by your wits, you would be long gone.
    -
    Selby:  For fast learning of English, instruction might focus on Basic English. There are only 850 words in that vocabulary.  
    -
    Ida: And that list of words, translated, might suggest a similar limited vocabulary in other languages.  Videos might work better if they were based on the target environment or the environment familiar to the learners.  
    -
    Selby:  Or both.  Environments are easy to make in the virtual world.  The target environments for the most likely languages probably already have been built.  
    -
    Ida:  And even if we don't need to make videos in virtual worlds, we might use virtual worlds as a place where we could find volunteers skilled in the target language.  They would know how to set up for Skype conversations.  The objective is to get the refugees able to carry on effective conversations in the target language.  That takes practice and volunteers from virtual worlds could help provide it.  
    -
    YesButters:  Yes, but it's too complicated.  It won't really work.
    -
    Ida:  Imagine that we set up a German virtual world modeled after the worlds that already exist.   

    Selby: One like these:
    Ida:  It would have builds matching the places where people would go to live or to work. That is where they would need to read and understand signs and need to talk to German speakers about the things around them. 
    -
    Selby:  Signs and objects could give notecards with descriptions in German and several other languages. They could also give 10 second speeches -- the German name, and what they mean or do.  Speeches in German.  There could be a continuing narration, too--talking about the place, telling things a person there would need to know.  
    -
    YesButters:  Yes, but you can't give tests...
    -
    Ida: You couldn't, but a smart person could.  I would give the learners tasks in German.  I know what vocabulary and syntax they need to master.  So I put those things in the task instructions.  The simplest instructions would be something like 
    "Find the Stilson wrench.  It  was dropped in a water bucket.  When you find it, put it on the tool board on the wall."
    Selby:  In a virtual world. learners show they have found the wrench by clicking on it.  That puts it in their inventory.  The tool board has a big sign on it saying "stilson wrench." There are lots of other signs, too, so the learner has to be able to read the signs and recognize the correct name.  The task assignment could be done orally so as to test understanding of spoken language.  
    -
    Ida:  Tests are not important in this context anyway.   This is not about passing a course.  The objective is to teach people to function effectively in a German-speaking world.  The real test is can they do that.  If they can't, they need more practice.

    SelbyYou could use the same arrangement for learning.  There is almost no limit to the number of puzzles you could make up that would fit that pattern.  In the learning part, you could put several people together and have them work together to figure it out.  You could have German-speaking volunteers helping out.  One of the features of virtual worlds is that volunteers can come in from home.  No transportation cost or time.  So it is easier to get volunteers.
    -
    Ida: You could also have an audio speaking German and dropping hints.  

    YesButters: Yes, but you would need a lot of these puzzles.
    -
    Ida: Writing puzzles in German by native German speakers!  That is unskilled labor.  You could hire teenagers to do it.  Or get volunteers from virtual worlds.
    -
    Selby: And if you don't want to take the time to bring the learners into a virtual world you can make videos.  Put up pictures of the scene and let the learners tell the instructor what to do to solve the puzzle.  Or show the pictures on a web page and let the learners respond by clicking on the page.  
    -
    YesButters: Yes, but you might not be making much use of virtual worlds.
    -
    Ida:  It helps to keep track of your goals.  The goal here is to get a lot of people functioning effectively in German, not to find a use for virtual worlds.
    -
    Selby: Ida, I think we better quit while we are ahead.  If we keep on, the Yesbutters will point out that this plan only works for German.  
    -
    Yesbutters: Yes, but now that you mention it.....

    The end.  The living end.

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    News and Notes

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