Friday, 28 May 2010

Informal learning

I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while now...

I remember reading about informal learning during my training, and not really grasping the concept; I'd find it difficult to envisage the shape it would take, especially.
I'm now listening to an interview (well, listening and watching...attending) in Second Life and it finally prompted me to come here and express my thoughts and feelings...Because it is in Second life (SL) that I've finally understood the value and the concept of informal language learning.

In SL there are informal learning programs (yes...bordering on oxymoron, I know!); for example, Virtlantis holds tea-time sessions from Monday to Friday where you can speak in English and there are no preset topics. There's also a "teach me -teach you" program where people interested in learning and/or practising other languages can pair up with someone interested in their language (for example: I'd like to practise my German and a German speaker would like to learn English or Spanish -then we can pair up).

But SL offers cultural and linguistic informal learning opportunities with no previous organisation as well ,and that's one of the things I love the most about it. I visited a Japanese tea house and spent about two hours speaking in English with a geisha apprentice; during the conversation I learned some Japanese words...I wanted to thank her in her own language and so I asked, then I started using it -she also named the different stages in her learning in Japanese and explained what they consisted in. I saved the chat log and now can consult it if I don't remember. All the words came up out of curiosity...just like when I meet one of my seconda lingua group mates: he's Italian and so we speak in Italian but when I don't know how to say something I ask (first I guess!! If he understands sometimes I let it be some other times I want to know and ask). Italianiamo is the project we both belong to and where we met, and it's also a space for informal learning. Our coordinator is a teacher, but the activities involve creating and filming a story in SL in Italian. Group members are both native speakers and non-native speakers with an intermediate level of proficiency as the threshold. We discuss plot, characters, scenery, create the dialogs....all in Italian.

I love all these opportunities -what I notice after reading my own post here is that informal learning seems to require a high degree of involvement, you need to take an active role (or at least that's the way I'm doing it). I could probably count the number of times I've said "I asked" and get quite a high number!!!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


I'm reading about Edupunk and it's very interesting..."Introducing Edupunk" by Leslie Madsen Brooks and "The Glass Bees" post by Reverend on May 25,2008 at bavatuesdays.

J.L. De Diego's column continues to interest me like the first day. His Sunday piece touches on old-school teachers in Argentina after his memory of a mentor that passed away earlier this year.

And here's a quote related to what I'm reading:

"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the "practice of freedom", the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." (Jane Thompson following up on Paulo Freire)

In the teaching of English, it's easy to forget the wider educational process, or so it seems to me...sometimes, if we're not teaching at school but at language schools or having private students, it is all too easy to leave bullying and integration and segregation issues aside or undealt with. I think of myself as an educator first and a teacher of English then. Raising awareness in our students as to the socio-cultural forces shaping their lives and cultures and helping them to become active agents in the process is very important to me.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A month in Second Life

Certainly a lot is taking place...I've been trained to start teaching online at Myngle (I already love the idea and the atmosphere) and I've been learning more about Second Life and how to make things there. Sometimes silly things come to mind: I wanted to make a ring and necklace the other day; I managed to make objects that resembled them...and then I wanted to wear them.

But how? There was no opening in the necklace and the ring and fingers are very small to aim well in order to slide the ring into the finger. Later that same day I took a class on nanoprims and we made jewellery. I got lost somewhere so I only finished some rings, a diamond, a ruby, and an unadorned necklace.

Last night I wanted to finish my work -when the necklace was done it hit me: another teacher had said it's not really 3D but 2D can place items through your body. Voilà!!! I fitted the necklace (now attached to a diamond) and of course sent copies to some friends.

We're still working on the machinima project in italianiamo -we had a dress rehearsal/impro last week and it was fun! It was in Alice in Wonderland.

Just to show the variety...Alice in Wonderland's lands hosts the WDT group and on 15th a new exhibition opened in one of the caves. My!!! Very raw, very appealing and shocking! "The Dark side of the Avatar" is not an easy exhibition -it goes deep into the artists soul to search for their "internal monster". I saw it unfinished just the day before it opened and then yesterday and it was so different!! My word for it is RAW.

I'm still amazed at how much there is available in SL...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Many lives

Here's a preview of a PicLit I made last month (you can click and see the full text version and the site, which is very nice).

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at

And just like with PicLits, and as it was in January and February...busy days learning. I joined Second Life in order to attend the IATEFL LT-SIG's Pre Conference event (PCE) and I'm addicted to it now! Or curious, mesmerized, full of glee...I used to think places like SL were designed for you to spend money and gossip. It turns out there's a lot you can do socially and educationally, too.

Some female friends have told me that they had uncomfortable experiences with male users, but fortunately it wasn't my case (probably because I joined for a specific event attended by people with similar interests to mine). So far I've joined a Medieval role-play (I'm not a villager yet so I think I might use the character for my journey Journal blog for a while...the poor lady travelled from Aquitaine to Artstonia all by herself!!!

I'm now learning to build and create things (apart from the tutorials available I've met really nice people who've explained to me lots of useful things for my SL. My belt had rotated and today I finally managed to place it back in its proper position (if you think it's silly...have a go at it!).

I've also joined italianiamo , a group to practise Italian through drama: we discussed characters and a plot line first, and last time we started trying out costumes and getting props ready. Then our coordinator will make a machinima (a sort of mini-film) but we still need to work on the dialogues. I get to be Medusa; here's a tentative look:

The plot requires her to have a magic snake egg (we're hoping to manage to turn her hair into snakes...), so I thought that was a perfect opportunity for me to try out what I'd learned (even with keyboard shortcuts!). Here's an egg from scratch:

And some others I edited
There's so much to do and so much to learn!! I'd love to create choreographies for avatars in SL...but it'll come in good time; in the meantime I continue teaching, meeting my friends in Plurk, meeting great people every week, exploring, learning...(origami's a bit neglected, true...).

I love teaching, and I love the way I'm teaching now -seeing my 7-year-old learner progress with such enthusiasm is exhilarating.

I'm also taking care of the Cross-cultural ELT Ning (we make a good team), soon to be Cross-cultural LT, as not all the teachers teach English (some don't even teach a language). But we all want to connect and share with other cultures, and we'd like to give our students that opportunity as well. Fantastic people there too.

In RL -or life away from the screen...good things are happening too. But my head is spinning and buzzing with all the new ideas and excitement that life is at the moment...I'll be able to reflect and analyze later.

For now I just enjoy it :-)