How we Teach
Lessons at Avatar Languages are always one-to-one. This allows a great deal of flexibility with our classes and ensures that our teaching is focused on what the student wants and needs.
Our lessons make full use of the wealth of resources available on the internet. We use professionally prepared online materials such as English-to-Go and we help students research and create their own work online. You can see some of what our students have produced on the Student Work page.
We combine the Dogme ELT (Dogme language teaching) methods with the use of web 2.0 tools. The pedagogy focuses on the language produced by the students in class, which is used as a basis for the lesson. This ensures that the lesson focuses on what the student most needs at that time.
The Dogme approach prefers to use real materials rather than textbooks. And with Dogme 2.0 the authentic materials are from the internet and the real activities are used to ensure that the lessons are relevant and engaging.
Find out about how to use Dogme 2.0 in language lessons.
Avatar Languages is entirely online and we use a variety of online tools to allow the student and teacher to work together. A shared workspace allows both the student and teacher to see what the other is doing: writing, editing or moving objects. Our online classrooms are very easy to use, because we use ordinary programs, such as Google Docs, Skype and an online whiteboard.
Watch this audio presentation (click on the green arrow) to see how Second Life, Google Docs, Whiteboards and Skype can be used for language education.
Google Docs offers online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that allow simultaneous collaboration. Several users can work on the same document at the same time and also see any changes made by the others.
Google Docs can be used to collaboratively correct a student's piece of work or it can be used to share a pre-prepared text. The teacher can highlight text as it is read aloud by the student using a colour code eg red for pronunciation, green for grammar, blue for spelling and yellow for use of vocabulary.
Find out about how to use Google Docs in language lessons.
Voice and Text chat
Instant messengers such as Skype, MSN, Yahoo and Google Talk are widely used in e-education. These tools offer excellent call quality and the flexibility of text and file sharing which is hard to beat for a basic communication between students and teacher. Calls can be easily recorded, so students can make an audio copy of their lessons.
Online whiteboards allow teachers and students to share the same workspace to draw, write and move items around. They are especially good for working with images and texts in a free and flexible way. They are also useful for easily matching words with meanings or images that represent those meanings. Whiteboards are different from Google Docs because the surface is not ordered into lines, paragraphs and pages.
Dabbleboard is a browser-based whiteboard and offers a simple 2D surface that can be shared between the teacher and the student.
Virtual worlds such as Second Life make language learning a much more social experience. They are very versatile and can be used for formal teaching as well as informal, independent learning.
Second Life and other virtual worlds allow students to use a foreign language in a social space with other learners and native speakers. Language learners can communicate using a voice system or with text chat. This means that students can now talk with native speakers around the world, just as if we were in the same room.
There are many virtual worlds besides Second Life such as There, Twinity and Entropia Universe. There are also browser-based 3D virtual environments that are easier to access than client-based virtual worlds. Exit Reality, Hangout.net and 3dxplorer.com are examples.
There are different ways to use a virtual world such as Second Life.
- Public Spaces:
- Educators can take students to public spaces. This allows a more social experience, which is especially appropriate for language learning. Lessons can also be context based; for example a student can prepare and give a guided tour of a tourist location (London, Barcelona, Krakow etc) in Second Life. You can see these and other locations on our Free Practice page.
- Private Spaces:
- Educators can have their own land to teach on. This allows greater control over what happens and who is present. It allows the educator to have specific themes, activities and content.
- Public and Private Combination:
- Teleporting (moving) between locations only takes a couple of seconds, so lessons can easily move between public and private spaces.
Avatar Languages focuses on using public spaces in virtual worlds to take advantage of the diverse contexts available and of the potential for social interaction.
Find out about how to use virtual worlds in language lessons.
We have also adapted Bernie Dodge's WebQuest to Second Life. This approach is an inquiry based activity where students gain information from researching both on the internet and interviewing people in Second Life. An article in the Australian publication The Knowledge Tree explains more about using Second Life for WebQuests. You may also listen to this article as a podcast.
Google Street View
Google Maps is more than just an online map service - it also allows you to see what a place looks like as if you were actually standing in the street. This is excellent for language lessons because a student can now virtually visit a place either in class or for homework. Some possible activities with Google Maps Street View.
- Give Directions:
- Students can give directions to go from A to B on the map. The students can then guide the teacher to another place (or vice versa) using the Street View function.
- Tour Guides:
- Students can role-play a tour guide and show others or the teacher around the city using the Street View function. Alternatively they can describe a favorite place.
- Discover Cities:
- Google Maps can be combined with other online websites to do real-life tasks such as seeing what a property's neighborhood is like. In this case an online estate agent provides descriptions of the properties. The students can then visit the location in Street View and describe it, give their opinions about it or role-play the property's buyer or seller.
Find out about how to use Google Street View in language lessons.
View Larger Map
Click on the above photo of Piccadilly Circus and use your mouse to explore London.
We encourage students to create their own material - for example, a presentation, an audio or a text. Some texts can be added to Wikipedia to increase the content of the online encyclopedia.
Clearly there are not many opportunities to do this with the normal English version of Wikipedia which is extremely complete. However there is another version of Wikipedia with a simplified English - and this is where students can often find they can add their knowledge.
Adding texts to Wikipedia is extremely motivating and the students are always very proud of their contribution. It also gives students recognition for expertise they may have in a certain area and allows them to feel part of a community of Wikipedia contributors.
Find out about how to use Wikipedia in language lessons.
Twitter can be used in language learning to help students focus on writing in a concise and accurate way. Learners can read what others are writing and also participate in twitter conversations.
Find out about how to use Twitter in language lessons.
Personal Learning Environments
At Avatar Languages we have brought these tools together to enable Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) for our students. A PLE brings together a collection of online tools to allow students to manage the learning process and its content in order to achieve their own goals.
A PLE is different from a Virtual Learning Environment, because the focus is on the student rather than the educator.
Language Teaching 2.0 Guide
Our free online guide shows you how to use web 2.0 tools in your language lessons. It includes practical suggestions of how to start teaching with virtual worlds, twitter, Wikipedia, and other applications. Start teaching with web 2.0…