I have just returned from Spain, where I contributed to a two-day conference on virtual worlds at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), 16-17 December 2011. The conference was organised under the auspices of the CAMILLE Project in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the Polytechnic University of Valencia within the framework of EUROCALL’s programme of regional events, in collaboration with the Inter-University Institute of Applied Modern Languages, supported by the Vice President for Research at the UPV Ministry of Science and Innovation, with sponsorship by Macmillan ELT.
There were five invited guest speakers: Randall Sadler, Luisa Panichi, Heike Philp, Kristi Jauregi, and myself. The main target audience was local secondary school teachers of English, but a number of research students were also in attendance. Each day of the conference was divided into two parts: presentations by the guest speakers in the morning and hands-on workshops in the afternoon.
This was a remarkable event in three different ways. Firstly, the size of the audience was impressive: around 75 participants. Secondly, it was the first time that I have been able to work in Real Life with such a distinguished a group of experts in the use of virtual worlds in language learning and teaching. Thirdly, this is the first occasion on which I have experienced such a large number of participants in hands-on workshops. The computer lab that was provided for the workshops comprised 50 high-end PCs with excellent graphics cards and a fast connection to the Internet. This meant that, with 75 participants in attendance, some people had to share a computer, but everybody was able to join Second Life and learn the basics. The hands-on workshops were led in turn by one of the guest speakers, with the others circulating amongst the participants and troubleshooting where necessary. We experienced surprisingly few technical hiccups, and Second Life behaved itself very well – with very little lag, even when the participants were gathered together on a shopping spree in the boutique holodeck on EduNation I Island.
I wish to offer my personal congratulations to the UPV team who organised this event, especially Ana Gimeno and Rafael Seiz Ortiz, who took care of all our needs, including transporting us to the excellent tapas restaurants in Valencia!