Gather. Town in language instruction
In 2020, many colleges started using on-line video systems such as Zoom and Teams. These systems however are not necessarily good systems for language instruction. Instructors became aware of their shortcomings from the beginning. For example, an instructor cannot easily monitor multiple breakout rooms.
In the business sector, many systems to recreate office environment virtually such as Remo, Tandem, oVice, Sococo, and Gather Town. They recreate physical layout of real office so that workers feel they are in familiar space. Their avatars or photos can move around, approach bosses for conversation, conduct meetings in closed space, have lunch together with colleagues.
Among them, Gather.Town appears to be useful in language instruction. It is available free for groups smaller than twenty five people and there is no time restriction. The user interface reminds old Nintendo games. Participants create their avatars that can move around in the room. When avatars get close, video communication turns on. Private rooms can be set up for communication in small groups. An instructor can easily monitor what students do.
The following two YouTube videos provide nice introduction to Gather.Town.
Intro to Gather (Official Introduction by Gather)
How to Use Gather.Town (YouTube)
Five templates that can be used in language instruction have been generated and shared. For first-time users should sign up in Gather.town from the URL below. You will be prompted to create an avatar by choosing facial features and clothing. You may choose to skip the tutorial if you want.
You can directly go to spaces using URL. Use the templates as if they are model rooms. If you like any of them and want to use them yourself, contact me. There is a way to transfer templates to you.
1. Self introduction and pair work
This is an on-line version of a classroom activity for self introduction commonly conducted at the beginning of a semester. Students are instructed to sit on chairs starting number one. They only see and talk to a partner in the same pair. They introduce to each other. Upon instructor's signal, students at blue chairs move to the next spot clockwise and repeat the activity. The instructor can listen to students by moving around in numbered cells at the bottom of the screen. The instructor can make announcements for the entire group from the podium.
The template for pair work has the same structure.
2. Group work
This is a template for group work with three to four people. Students are instructed to go in rooms and work among them. An instructor can monitor group's activities from numbered cells. They can share their PC screens within their own groups.
3. Conversation tables
Conversation hour is a common extra curricular activity in language programs. This is a template for conversations tables in Gather.Town. Its structure is essentially the same as the one for group work.
4. Poster session
This is a template for poster presentation. It is a good activity to learn about what classmates have been working on. It is also a useful activity to encourage interactions among students in different levels.
In addition to above templates, game activities using information gap can be implemented in Gather. Online office hours can easily be conducted in Gather.Town.
I thank Prof. Randy Sadler of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for introducing me to Gather.Town.
Contact: Kazumi Hatasa