754. Learning & Teaching English in The Metaverse / The Mandalorian (with Andy Johnson)

Andy Johnson returns to talk about more “M” words – this time it’s The Metaverse and The Mandalorian. The Metaverse is an immersive and interactive 3D online environment. How can it be used for learning and teaching English? Andy’s new job is with a company that offers English learning in the metaverse, so let’s chat about it. Also, we finally talk about The Mandalorian on LEP after waiting nearly a year! This is probably the last episode of LEP in 2021 – so Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you have a Happy New Year!

Audio version (with a meta-themed introduction and a ramble about December)

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Video Versions (just the conversation with Andy, in two parts)

Find out more about learning English in the metaverse using Fluent Worlds Academy here academy.fluentworlds.com/

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you? How’s December going for you so far? (I’m recording this in December of course, which is why I just said that – it’s the middle of December) How’s December for you? 

It can be a weird month December – it’s pretty much the middle of winter and if you celebrate Christmas then December becomes a bit stressful because the Christmas holiday is coming and you have to make sure you’ve got presents for everyone, and you have to sort out your travel plans and work out how much time you are willing or able to spend with your different family members and it all gets a bit stressful, and of course everyone else is going through the same thing so generally people seem a bit stressed out at this time. If you’re late with your Christmas shopping then that becomes a mad rush and the shops are full of desperate people like in that film with Arnold Shwarzenegger…

plus work commitments seem a bit heavy because everyone’s trying to get things done before the Christmas break and so things get a bit much. 

It’s certainly true here for me, because as you know (because I’ve been banging on about it since the summer) we are moving house and having work done on the new place and that’s making things so much more complicated. 

Actually, I think this might be the last episode of the year, but I am not sure. I have a couple of other ones in the pipeline but time is running out very quickly, so this might be the final episode of Luke’s English Podcast for 2021. 

Merry Christmas everyone – if you celebrate Christmas of course and if you don’t celebrate Christmas I will just say seasons greetings. If you don’t get more podcasts after this until January some time, then you can imagine that I’ve had to pack up all my podcast gear, switched off the internet and moved all our stuff to a new flat, which will probably be full of boxes, and maybe no internet connection, meanwhile I’ll be at my parents place in England (COVID permitting) just doing the usual Christmas things, and the podcast will return in January, probably, but we will see. I might be able to upload more before the new year, but there’s no guaranteeing that. So I will say Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to you now. 

Anyway, let me talk about this episode then. It’s an interview episode and this time Andy Johnson is back on the podcast after a long absence. If you don’t know him because you haven’t heard his episodes, or if you have heard those episodes and your memory is not working to its full capacity – Andy is a friend and former colleague of mine. I won’t say more because we talk about all of that at the start of the conversation. All will become clear as you listen.

The title of this one is something like this: Learning & Teaching English in the Metaverse / The Mandalorian (with Andy Johnson)

So there are two topics here. The Metaverse and The Mandalorian. This is one single audio episode with this introduction but the video version is in two parts – one which is just our chat about the metaverse, and another one which is just our chat about The Mandalorian. 

In this audio version, let’s start with The Metaverse. 

Again, Andy is going to explain this himself, but to be clear The Metaverse (or maybe a metaverse – because there is more than one) is essentially a 3D open world online. A metaphysical space which exists on the internet where people can go and interact and do all sorts of things. It’s a bit like a primitive version of The Matrix from the film The Matrix, but the graphics aren’t as good, yet, and it’s not quite as scary and evil, yet.

As these sorts of open online worlds become more and more sophisticated and as we learn how to use them, we will probably all find ourselves operating within them more and more, for various things – especially for creating virtual workspaces for people working from home or working from different locations but part of a team. Currently we use things like Zoom calls with breakout rooms and screensharing, Microsoft Teams and other platforms. But eventually these shared online spaces will probably become more immersive, opening up so many possibilities for team work which perhaps are more natural and intuitive because they simulate the real world more directly, but with so much more control – we’re talking about 3D environments in which you can move anywhere, manipulate the environment and so on.

These metaverses can seem a little bit scary when you consider the frightening visions of this kind of thing we’ve had from films like The Matrix, but on the other hand they should allow us to work, collaborate and also play together in more productive and enjoyable ways than the current methods we have. Of course, many people are already using them especially for gaming. 

There’s a lot to discuss regarding these sorts of new online spaces, and I say “new” but they’re not really that new – remember Second Life – the immersive 3D online world? And of course there are all the online multiplayer games that people play – including things like GTA online. 

The metaverse has been around for years in various forms. So, there’s a lot to discuss here in terms of what the metaverse is, how it could be used and the philosophical ramifications of it all but what Andy and I are going to focus on in this conversation is how the metaverse could be used as an environment in which to learn and teach English, and what the advantages of that could be.

So that’s the main focus of our chat really. Then after that, we have a chat about the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian. This is quite long overdue on this podcast as I wanted to talk about it in an episode or two at the start of 2021 when The Mandalorian season 2 was first streamed on Disney+ and it was all fresh in people’s minds. Quite a few listeners got in touch to ask me to share my thoughts on it on the podcast – so, finally here we go. There’s about 25 minutes of chat about The Mandalorian, including spoilers for the end of season 2. 

Now, I know that not everyone is a Star Wars fan, which is totally fine of course, so it might not be for all of you, but it’s at the end of this conversation so hopefully the Star Wars fans will be happy to hear us discuss it (quite briefly I must say) and the non-Star Wars fans can feel free just to take it or leave it. In any case, keep listening if you want to hear me talking about The Mandalorian, finally.

We’re nearly ready to start but I think I should also add something about the lexicology of the word “Meta”, since we are talking about The Metaverse here.

I would say that metaverse is something of a portmanteau word because it’s a bit like a new word which has been made by sticking together two other words: meta and universe. 

The verse part is from universe of course, and also have multiverse is a trending word at the moment because of the new Spiderman film and the upcoming Doctor Strange film “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” Multiverse means a system of many interconnected universes or parallel worlds and I think now in phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have many different alternate realities all converging, which should be entertaining and quite confusing as well, potentially. But multiverse is not the word we’re dealing with here – that’s another episode for another time.

So let me just refocus on metaverse. So we know what the -verse part of that means – universe.

But what about meta?

This word (or prefix) is currently being used more than ever.

You probably saw the recent news that Facebook changed its name to Meta. Actually the social network will still be called Facebook as far as I know. The company behind it though, will be called Meta.

So what is the word meta? Is it even a word, or just a prefix? Let’s see.

The word or prefix “meta” comes from Ancient Greek and essentially means “beyond” or “about”. 

There are many uses of the word. In some cases the it’s an adjective – “That’s very meta” and some cases it’s a prefix to a noun, like in metaphysical or metaverse.

Essentially, meta refers to going beyond something or going outside something, and becoming self aware.

In the case of the metaverse, which is a metaphysical online universe, this means going beyond the normal physical limitations of the real world, and entering a world which is somehow outside that reality – a world, like The Matrix, which is free from the limitations of the real world. So that’s an example of when meta means “beyond”.

Sometimes meta means “about”, and for me this is like going outside of something and then looking back at the thing you have transcended and commenting on it, talking about it and so on. 

For example, a film might be described as meta when the the film becomes self-aware and starts commenting the medium of film itself. This is hard to explain. 

Let’s say this – the TV series Friends was not very meta, I think. The characters lived in their world and lived their lives and there was never a sense that they knew they were living in a fictional made up place. But, if at any point the characters in the film started commenting on their world but from an outside view, then that would be meta. For example, if Chandler and Joey started commenting on how their apartment building wasn’t real or that they lived inside a TV show, or if Rachel said something like “I’m a waitress, so how can I afford to live in this nice big apartment in Manhattan??” maybe even looking at the camera while doing it, then that would be quite meta – if the show started to realise it was just a show, and in fact was commenting on that. Then the show would be outside of itself and commenting on itself – self aware.

So that’s meta the adjective, meaning self-referential, or self-aware – the “about” part of that old Greek meaning.

Another example of meta.

In learning English we talk about metacognitive strategies. These are ways of thinking about how you learn, and the way you think about learning. You go outside of your normal learning behaviour, observe it, consider it and think about it, perhaps creating new ways to think about and approach your learning habits. For example, many of the things that Bahar from Iran talked about in her episode of the WISBOLEP competition this year – these were metacognitive strategies. Her first approach to learning English didn’t work, so she actually stepped out of her position, reconsidered her whole approach, and created other ways of thinking and learning, and the results worked well. She applied some metacognitive strategies to her learning of English.

Meta can also be a noun, in gaming especially. People talk about a meta while gaming. I’m not completely sure about this because I’m not really a gamer, but as far as I can tell, a “meta” is the best strategy to use in order to win a game. I’ve even read that it’s an acronym –  the “Most Effective Tactics Available”. That’s a bit specific and only for the L33T gamers out there.

There are also other uses of the word meta, but they’re very specific and relate to things like different mathematical and scientific systems. But I think that’s probably enough about the word or prefix meta at this stage.

Let’s now go back to the metaverse again, and consider how immersive 3D online worlds can help us learn and teach English. That’s the main aim for this conversation. 

You’re probably fully primed for some metaverse and Mandalorian chat now, but of course  there is about 10 minutes of general chat and catching up with Andy before we get into the topic properly. That’s just the way things are done on LEP. This is the way.

OK, so now that you’re prepared for the episode, let’s get started!


Learn English in the metaverse with Fluent Worlds Academy here academy.fluentworlds.com/


Ending

How many M words came up in this episode? 

  • Millenials
  • Marathons
  • Moving
  • Moby
  • Metaverse
  • Multiverse
  • Metaphysical
  • Mandalorian
  • Marvel
  • Matrix

It’s like Andy and I only exist in a parallel universe where everything begins with an M. 

Bonus points for any listeners who can find any other significant M words in this conversation. 

(I found one: metacognitive strategies)

This might be the last episode of LEP in 2021. I’m now moving to the new apartment and the new office, and spending some time in the UK for Christmas. Speak to you in 2022 (unless I manage to squeeze out another episode during the Christmas break)!

Bye bye bye!