Exploration of Croquelandia: a Virtual World for Learning Spanish Pragmatics

CROQUELANDIA – WHAT IS IT?

from Julian Lombardi’s blog - http://jlombardi.blogspot.com/2007/11/croquelandia.html

“The University of Minnesota Croquet team led by Julie Sykes and Liz Wendland has developed a Croquet-based collaborative simulation of visiting another culture and using another language. It was developed as part of a grant to use Croquet as a teaching tool for Spanish Language Pragmatics. The simulation provides learners with a place to gain knowledge and practice language skills in a safe and non-threatening environment. Within this simulation they call Croquelandia, learners are able to collaborate with other learners or even native language speakers within the context of the world. The video trailer was filmed entirely on location in Croquelandia and edited by one of the multi-talented undergrad programmers at the U of M.”

CONVERSATION WITH JULIE SYKES

On November 11, 2008 I met Julie Sykes virtually in iChat to talk about Croquelandia. Here is a summary of some of the questions and answers from our conversation.

Q: What are the features of Croquelandia?

A: Realism of Second Life plus MMOG (massively multi-player online game) aspect; ten quests (half focusing on requests, half on apologies); audio and text chat.

Q: How did you incorporate the use of Croquelandia in your Spanish classes?

A: It was built into the curriculum; replaced a traditional web quest.

Q: How much time did students spend playing Croquelandia?

A: 1-17 hours over the semester, depending on the individual student.

Q: You’ve been recording data in Croquelandia as part of your dissertation research; what exactly are you looking at?

A: Learner behavior in the environment; learner outcomes (metapragmatic and discourse abilities).

Q: Biggest challenges and rewards you’ve faced in doing this project?

A: Challenges: huge time investment; also, undertaking such a project is impossible by yourself. Rewards: student response has been great.

Q: What would you improve in Croquelandia?

A: Make quests more difficult; add more functions besides just requests and apologies; integrate voice recognition instead of just multiple choice text response; have learner-created content; make the environment more complex in general.

Q: What would you tell someone looking to create their own Croquelandia-esque environment?

A: Find a good programming team that’s interested in educational technology; play more games (Julie is working her way up in World of Warcraft); think like a game designer. Duke University is a leading institution in this area.

PLAYING CROQUELANDIA

Julie Sykes gave me access to Croquelandia in order to explore the environment. Here is a rundown of the game play.

× Choose from two modules: requests and apologies. There are several quests in each module.

× To move your avatar, use the arrow keys.

× To travel to other areas in Croquelandia, click the car. A map will come up. There are four locations: the plaza, the market, your family’s house and Professor Sanchez’s office.

× To talk to people, click their avatars and they’ll begin to speak. Julie recorded native speaker unscripted discourse for use in Croquelandia. In order to hear them talk, you have to be at a close enough distance.

× Items are planted throughout the environment; hold your mouse over them, and if a pair of eyeglasses pops up, you can click them and read them. These include: quest prompts, notes on Spanish pragmatics and culture.

× To begin a quest, find the right notecard or object. You won’t be able to respond to other avatars until you have begun a quest. Then, you will only be able to respond to those avatars that are a part of your quest.

× When you begin a quest, a notecard pops up that tells you what you need to do – who to find and talk to.

× Example quest: you need your book to study for an exam, but you lent it to Maria. When you talk to her, you found out that she lent it to Pablo. When you talk to Pablo, he says that he doesn’t have it. Finally, you have to talk to your professor to see if you can borrow his book.

× To check your quest progress, click on the star. A menu will appear showing the quests and your progress.

× When you click on an avatar that is part of your quest, they will start speaking. A transcript of their utterance appears beneath the main screen.

× After the avatar is done talking, a window will come up with response choices. The response possibilities are grammatically correct but pragmatically different.

× The outcome of the conversation depends on your responses. To get a different outcome, you can reset your quest in the quest menu.

× As you complete a quest, notes appear on the screen after you finish each step. They comment on others’ attitudes towards your interaction as well as instructions on what to do next. At the end of the quest, an assignment prompt is given (e.g., write a letter to a friend talking about your experience in the market, and give him/her advice on what to do in such a situation).

× In order to complete a quest successfully, you must choose the responses necessary to accomplish your goal.

WEB RESOURCES

University of Minnesota Croquet Project

Background on the Croquelandia team and project; includes trailers

http://croquet.umn.edu/

Croquelandia: Helping Learners Develop Authentic Intercultural Communication Skills in a Synthetic World

Presentation at the Educause Educational Learning Initiative (ELI) 2008 Conference by Julie Sykes, Liz Wendland and Peter Moore from the University of Minnesota

http://croquet.umn.edu/pdfs/eli_croquelandia.pdf

Croquelandia: The Next Best Thing to Being There”

University of Minnesota article by Cristina Lopez

http://dmc.umn.edu/projects/sykes/

Julie M. Sykes’ Blog

http://www.jmsykes.net/

Notes on Croquelandia

Entry from Carly Born’s (Carleton College) blog

http://connect.educause.edu/blog/cborn/croquelandia/46057

The Croquet Consortium

Information on the Croquet open source software development environment

http://www.opencroquet.org/index.php/Main_Page