Exploring Second Life as a Venue for Peer-Teaching: A Case from Teacher Education

Exploring Second Life as a Venue for Peer-Teaching: A Case from Teacher Education

Karen Lybeck (Minnesota State University, USA), Dana Bruhn (Century College, USA) and Solen Feyissa (University of Minnesota, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1933-3.ch015

Abstract

Online teacher preparation courses have become a popular way to offer professional development for both pre- and in-service teachers. This move has not only provided greater access to professional development, but it has also afforded learners with more non-formal learning experiences. Moving online, however, has largely replaced an important, traditionally non-formal component of the learning experience, namely peer-teaching, with more formal, less authentic student presentations. In order to explore a possible solution to this problem, 25 Teaching-English-as-a-Second-Language (TESL) students were trained to conduct peer-teaching activities in Second Life virtual world. The suggestions and implications given in previous Second Life research guided the implementation of these activities in the hopes that an informed design would overcome problems previously documented by other educational users of Second Life. Despite this, the authors were not able to overcome previous difficulties, and did not find Second Life to be useful as a tool for peer-teaching in online teacher-development courses. Virtual reality, however, has promise for facilitating teacher development; thus, further investigation is needed to find an appropriate virtual venue for this purpose.
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Setting The Stage

Synchronous online courses at this institution often utilize Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro (after this Adobe Connect) conferencing software for their meeting space. Adobe Connect allows a number of individuals to gather in a two-dimensional room where everyone can use webcams, microphones, and/or text chat to communicate. There are spaces for projecting PowerPoint slides, sharing documents, and utilizing a whiteboard, as well as the ability to form small groups, each with their own meeting room. The state-school system, of which this institution is a part, was in the process of creating its own Second-Life virtual island at the time of the study. Only students, faculty, and staff from the state system are allowed to enter the island, and the central IT office provides support for utilizing their pre-built venues, which we were minimally allowed to redesign and equip to meet our peer-teaching needs targeted toward teachers of both adult and K-12 students (see Figure 1 and 2).

Figure 1.

Adult and young adult learning space. This figure illustrates the learning space designed for an adult student group.

Figure 2.

Young student classroom. This figure illustrates the classroom designed for a young student group.

There were two course sections of students who participated in this study, the majority of whom were seeking ESL licensure. A face-to-face section during fall 2009 (the pilot group) provided the context in which the technical elements of the project were tested. An online section—spring 2010—(the experimental group) were asked to consider SL as part of the course’s learning space and to perform at least half of their peer-teaching activities there. Seventeen students in the pilot class and 10 students in the experimental class participated. Two students were enrolled in both classes, making 25 the total number of respondents.

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