To realise a safe environment for schools to offer non-adult language learners engaging and innovative learning activities and to provide teacher education organisations a managed 3d practicum environment for student teachers the NIFLAR project has opted to extend its Virtual Learning Environment with a 3D world created with Open Simulator.
The OpenSim component of the NIFLAR Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a so-called MegaRegion. It consists of a total of 4 islands or SIMS. On two of these islands environments are being realised that are representative of the cultures of those NILAR partner countries that are involved in the project’s 3D pilots: Spain and the Netherlands. With a view to future exploitation room has been reserved for references to French and Portuguese culture.
Next to geographical features these, so-called country sims have a number of typical features: a welcome space, an urban and rural area and an Events & Exhibition plot hosting objects such as authorable contraptions that refer to specific cultural domains (architecture, politics, history, music, street life, literature etc) on which information can be provided, also on topical events and phenomena.
The country spaces are meant as exploratoria that support a blended learning model for Cultural Knowledge input and related curriculum tasks such as the promotion of noticing and other skills (e.g. telling others about own culture (guided tour), reflecting on own culture, comparing cultures).
The various areas will be enhanced with games and objects with interactive elements to facilitate additional cultural information provision, trigger curiosity, promote student centred scenarios and support playful competition in challenges, Quests and Treasure Hunts.
As NIFLAR’s focus is on the development of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) the third island is reserved for Asterix village. This area is meant to function as a so-called ‘Third Place’, a concept central to pedagogy related to ICC development.
Sim number 4 will be used for special projects. E.g. spaces here can be used by a scene creation tool currently under development that supports pedagogical scenarios involving digital storytelling and interactive fiction.