Using a Complex Technology in a Language Course: Examining Second Life in Terms of Participation

Using a Complex Technology in a Language Course: Examining Second Life in Terms of Participation

Airong Wang (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1282-1.ch016

Abstract

In this chapter, how the complex technology of Second Life affects participation in an English course is investigated. With the aim of exploring gender issues, the special affordance of Second Life, i.e. voice-morphing together with sound-isolated parcels, was used. The data set consists of about 33 hours of audio recordings and chat logs of 8,315 words. The results show that in audio10.8% of the course time deals with technological challenges, while in chat 69.2% of the words contribute to technology. Three challenges interfering with participation were identified: software complexity, unreliable functionality of Second Life, and hardware and connectivity issues. To deal with these problems, pedagogical facilitators, technological facilitators, and Second Life -experienced peers made a significant contribution. Based on the results, this chapter analyzes whether Second Life can be widely used in language education, how affordances of it can be learned and taught, and scenarios where Second Life can and cannot be used.
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Background

It has been suggested that technology adoption depends on the complexity of a technology set against the perceived advantages the technology may bring (Rogers, 2003; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003). A technology that is easy to understand and to use is adopted more rapidly than a technology that requires ‘new skills and understandings’ (Rogers, 2003, p. 16). Nonetheless, a complex technology may be acceptable when its use is associated with many perceived advantages. According to Nielsen’s (1993) model of system acceptability, some attributes concerning the practical acceptability of a system are important, namely: usefulness, cost, compatibility, and reliability. Usefulness refers to whether the system can do what it is needed and whether it has a high usability: easy to learn, efficient to use, easy to remember its functions for users, few errors made by users when they use it, and users feel subjectively pleased. Compatibility mainly addresses whether a system is compatible with other existing systems, and reliability concerns whether a system is reliable. As these three attributes constitute the basic criteria for evaluating a technology, they will be used to analyze participation in SL in the course under investigation.

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