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This section is for educators and researchers who are interested in the MyChina Village project.

MyChina Village Virtual Chinese Immersion Camp 2009

Overview

CASLS, with partners Avant Assessment, Centric, and Soochow University's Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language program, held the MyChina Village Virtual Chinese Immersion Camp 2009 at MyChina Village in Second Life. This was a stand-alone camp with everything done in the virtual world.

Structure and Participants

The camp met two hours Monday though Friday between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. U.S. Pacific Daylight Time between August 3rd, 2009 and August 28th, 2009. The camp participants included a counselor, sixteen facilitators (Soochow University students) and seven learners with Intermediate-level proficiency as identified by the Standards-based Measurement of Proficiency (STAMP). The seven learners participated from different parts of the United States.

Goals and Objectives

The camp had three objectives:

  1. To facilitate participants' involvement in and ownership of MyChina Village
  2. To experiment different settings and approaches based on feedback from participants
  3. To help learners move toward Advanced-level

Curriculum and Beliefs

The camp curriculum was designed based on the following beliefs:

  1. Curriculum should tap into the unique nature of virtual world: user-driven, global, creative, and suited for participatory-learning.
  2. Curriculum should not be fixed. Curriculum is something that evolves as a counselor learns about participants, where they are now and where they can be.
  3. Curriculum is about learning and not teaching.

The camp consisted of two parts. As an entire group, participants explored different environmental issues throughout the camp. In one group project, participants competed in a contest to turn MyChina Village into a sustainable city. The winning team's ideas became part of the Village. (See the Watch section for photos.) The second part was individual activities where each learner performed language tasks with their assigned facilitator to achieve their own goals. Learners monitored their progress with self and peer evaluations.

Activities Conducted

The camp organizers adjusted the camp curriculum almost every day based on the camp counselor observations and participant feedback. Descriptions of the activities conducted each day are available here.

Camp Outcomes

Just like any other innovation project, the MyChina Village project encountered many challenges. It took the project team multiple shifts until we finally decided to hold the MyChina Village Virtual Chinese Immersion Camp 2009. We had no template to work from and few predecessors to learn from.

Despite all the obstacles, the camp was a huge success. Participants stayed throughout the camp. Because participation was free, that means participants stayed because they wanted to. Friday Open House did not yield new users, but more importantly we saw the existing user community become close-knit. In fact, the camp alumni have continued to meet by organizing weekly language exchange events. We did not anticipate major language gain with a month-long camp. To our surprise, some participants rated one sub-level higher (e.g., from "Intermediate-mid" to "Intermediate-High") in the STAMP speaking section compared to their pre-camp score.

Your Resource

We have learned many lessons that we are eager to share with language educators. If you are thinking about using Second Life for language education, we would be happy to provide you with consultation. (See the Connect section for contact information.)

Copyright © 2009 Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS)