Monday, 23 November 2009

Second Life is on the way out...

Well, so says the BBC. According to this article at the BBC News Magazine website, Second Life is on the way out: What happened to Second Life?

The author of the article, Lauren Hansen writes:

"Not long ago Second Life was everywhere, with businesses opening branches and bands playing gigs in this virtual world. Today you'd be forgiven for asking if it's still going."

Read the feedback section on the above page and it's clear that the News Magazine's readers have mixed views.

There is no mention of education in the article, but some of the contributors in the feedback section do mention the value of SL in teaching and learning. I wrote a comment to the BBC website in the feedback section, indicating how useful SL is in education, especially in language teaching and learning, but it has not been published - not yet anyway (23 November 2009). The BBC article is very biased and highlights the ignorance of the writer, Lauren Hansen, who is obviously interested only in the business aspects of SL and could not be bothered to do further research. Maybe she should take a look at Module 1.5, Section 14.2.1, which is all about language learning and teaching in SL. And I am sure she would be impressed by the EUROCALL/CALICO HQ in SL.

Apart from education, I wonder if Lauren Hansen is aware of the excellent work being done by organisations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) in SL. The ACS holds regular support meetings for cancer patients, who can give voice to their anxieties in their anonymous avatar guises and seek the support and advice of other cancer patients. I was once invited to talk about my own experiences as a cancer patient to an ACS support meeting in SL at Hope Haven. It was a rewarding and very moving experience.

What do you think?

BTW, this topic is also being discussed in the EUROCALL/CALICO Virtual Worlds Ning, and it has featured in Twitter too.

Graham Davies (Groovy Winkler in SL)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Fall of the Berlin Wall - 20 years on

The Fall of the Berlin Wall - 20 years on

I crossed the border into East Germany on three occasions:

1. In 1963 when I was a student in Hamburg. The West German government organised heavily subsidised trips to Berlin for foreign students. The Wall had been there for just two years. There were memorials all along the Wall to people who had been shot trying to flee to the West. We were allowed to cross into East Berlin on foot via Checkpoint Charlie.

2. In 1976 when I was a lecturer at Ealing College. I spent a month on a course for teachers of German at the then Karl-Marx University in Leipzig. I had a room in a flat with an East German family. It was a very good course and improved my German considerably. I travelled around a bit, visiting Dresden, Naumburg, Jena, Bitterfeld, Halle and Colditz Castle. Life was pretty grim in East Germany at that time.

3. I walked through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin again on Sunday, 12 November. This is quite a story. There had been lots of reports on TV about the demonstrations in the East Germany, and the atmosphere in both East and West was very tense. We all wondered if the Russian tanks were about to move in. But the outcome was not what we expected. As I was driving home from Ealing College on 9 November I heard an announcement on the radio that the Berlin Wall had been opened and that citizens from East Berlin were being allowed to cross into West Berlin. I was gobsmacked, as I was about to head for Berlin the following morning, 10 November, to visit three of my students who were spending part of their year abroad at the Freie Universit├Ąt in West Berlin, to give a guest lecture at the Humboldt University in East Berlin and to go to a conference on ICT and language learning and teaching in Rostock. This has all been planned weeks ahead, and I had no idea that I would be an eye-witness to the most momentous event I have ever experienced in my life. My full report is here:

What a week!

Now we have a whole generation of kids who have grown up and have never experienced the division of Germany. This excellent video on YouTube reminds us of what the border looked like:

"Eingemauert!" Die innerdeutsche Grenze

If you have the Second Life viewer installed on your computer you can experience the Wall in 3D. The 3D simulation, complete with an accomanying exhibition, can be found here:

Graham Davies