2017: an EEExtraordinary Year

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It is time for me to celebrate the conclusion of an absolutely extraordinary year and my first birthday on virtual worlds.

Exactly one year ago I shyly joined my first EVO class on Second Life. It was not my first EVO class, neither was it my first day on that virtual world – I just revived my old avatar. However, the first time I entered SL does not count here, as I got in, shed a glance, did not understand where I was, got scared and exited! (I later learned that the fashionable way to put it is “You know, the steep learning curve!”)

The three EEE in the title stand for EVO, Edmodo and Education at large.

EVO is the acronym for Electronic Village Online, that is, a collection of highly professional MOOCs for teachers (generally teachers of English, but other subjects are welcome) from all over the world, sponsored by TESOL. The 2018 edition is starting these very days and I warmly encourage all EFL/ESL teachers who happen to be reading me to join. I first did 5 years ago, and the experience changed my life! I attended Shelly Terrell’s course about Digital eTextbook and was such an enthusiastic student that she invited me to assist her during the following two editions. This, in turn, led me to train Italian teachers in face-to-face sessions.

Even when the EVO MOOCs are not life-changing experiences, they provide the opportunity to get to know interesting professionals from all over the world. The beneficial results of these friendships/partnerships very often trickle down to students, so to speak.

Today enrolments have opened – go ahead and plunge in!

The second E stands for Edmodo, the Californian organization that provides digital classes to some 70 million users all over the world. It does not do only that: it is also a professional network, and a highly valuable one, as it keeps teachers in touch with literally thousands other teachers from a wide number of countries. 2017 brought me the opportunity to go to California for EdmodoCon (their annual conference) and present about my activities in Italy. A memorable experience, to say the least.

The third E brings me back to the first one, as virtual worlds have opened up…. literally a universe to me. I was lucky to meet the right people (SL names: Carol Rainbow, Wynshel Heir, Gwen Gwasi, Hazel Zapedski, Doris Molero, Letty Pienaar, An Novak, Randall Sadler, Erlina Azure, Osna, Jens…), who trained me until I reached an acceptable degree of autonomy but also gave me their precious friendship.

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I then discovered a world of educational conferences, courses and events! The first was VWBPE (Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education) 2017, organized by the Rockcliffe University Consortium, followed by the activites organized by a group called Whole Brain Health. I went exploring virtual libraries with a real librarian called Valibrarian Gregg – and this is how I discovered that there are multiple words beyond Second Life, digital non-proprietary grids created through a free software called Opensim.

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Italy is unique among nations, as it has an official grid that was created years ago by a Ministry of Education reasearch organization called INDIRE. The official grid is closed to the general public but open to teachers and safe for children. Hundreds of teachers have been (and are being) trained to use the great potential of virtual worlds in education.

2018 will be my first year as an active teacher with real students in the virtual worlds: my brand-new school region on the Opensim grid called Craft-world is ready to open. Wish me well!

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