Keep Calm & Carry On

June 20, 2011

This week could have ended in a disaster but after a successful lesson in Second Life I started to feel that things were not as bad as I thought.  My dependence on the internet really hit home last week.  I suffered with no connection for a week due to ‘technical difficulties in the area’.  Every time I phoned my supplier they advised that the problem would be sorted very shortly but very shortly turned into what seemed like an eternity and I slowly felt that the online course was falling on its face.   I thought that it would just be a small glitch but when it was still not working by Friday I started to really panic as the SL meeting had been planned for Saturday morning.  Fortunately my family helped out and they were able to find me a quiet place with internet connection(and some strong coffee) in order to conduct the lesson.  I realise that I can’t fully depend on my internet connection and always need to consider what to do if the connection fails.  Luckily during this time I was able to use the free internet in the University library however, if I was not at Uni it could have been very costly using internet cafes and I don’t really want to intrude on anyone to borrow their internet.  I managed to inform my students that I was having trouble with my home connection just in case they needed  prompt responses to questions.  Thankfully the students did not require any quick advice during this time.  I suppose this inconvenience really made me consider how much I rely on the internet as I felt like I was coming down from a technological dependence and realised how much I was addicted to social networking online, never mind my whole Master’s degree depending on it too.

Before meeting the students in second life I spent time planning a lesson and put a poster on the course blog to advertise the session and to provide students with some information of what was required for the lesson.  The poster as well as the one-on-one induction session made sure that the students were fully prepared for the meeting in SL and I believe that this was necessary to make sure that the meeting would run as smoothly as possible.   I have to say, I was a little nervous as to how the session would work but this was short-lived, because when the lesson started everything seemed to flow really well.    I came prepared with discussion questions and made sure that there was a warm up and cool down activity.  I feel that the students made the lesson such a success as they were really enthusiastic and comfortable in sharing their points of view and expressing themselves.  The questions and topics chosen provided the needed spark to engage students in meaningful conversation. Each student was willing to provide their own opinion which added to the other students contribution,  whereby a range of views were provided resulting in construction of knowledge together.  I did not really teach and instead I became a facilitator and manager of the discussion.  I decided to use a more learner-centred approach  where the students could practice their English and use it to share their own experiences and knowledge to interact with other students in a way that was personal and meaningful to them.  I really felt that students were very involved in the discussion and I was inspired by their contributions.  At the end of the session the students were extremely grateful for the experience and expressed enjoyment and positivity with the lesson.  They thought that it was very relaxed and different to more conventional lessons.

Students produced some great blog posts this week and it seems that they are becoming more comfortable writing the posts and have started to add images and provide hyperlinks.  This is really encouraging.  At the same time, however, interaction between the students and the initial excitement to meet each other has reduced.  Although students are not interacting as much as I would like to see on their blogs I think that the gathering in SL really injected some much-needed energy and provided a platform for students to interact synchronously in a supportive environment.  It is uncertain what will happen each week and I need to understand that certain things are out of my control will occur and instead of becoming stressed I will have to remain calm and carry on.

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