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Gretchen Regehr, Lulee Sutuan and Preston Gales
Overview | Instructional Objective | Learners | Context of Use | Motivation | Avatars and Roles | Objects and
Locations | Goal | Play by Play | References
The village of Gao Kou Kou Seigi in rural Niger (map of Niger) has barely been touched by
modern civilization. Gao Kou Kou Seigi (translated as the Tall Gao Tree Over the Hill) is on
the edge of the Sahara desert, approximately 100 km north of Niamey, the Capital city. The
only access to technology in the village is a radio. There is no electricity, no running water,
very little use of money and hardly any wild life. It is a very harsh existence, yet it is a
vibrant village, filled with people who in spite of their many hardships and constant struggle
with subsistance living, are warm, happy, generous and friendly.
Using the simulation and interactive possibilities in Second Life, learners will have the
opportunity to experience many elements of life in this rural village in order to familiarize
themselves with the culture, language, animals, housing, food and inhabitants of a typical rural
village in Niger.
The "Village Life in Rural Niger" simulation will address the following instructional objectives:
After having completed all of the learning activities in the simulation, learners will be able to
1. Learners will be able to state 3-5 facts about village life in Niger
2. Learners will be able to interact with local inhabitants using a few common greetings
and other key words.
3. Learners will be able to demonstrate your understanding of traditions around sharing
meals with Nigeriens.
4. Learners will be able to demonstrate gestures both appropriate and inappropriate in this
The primary audience for this simulation is adult, English-speaking volunteers who will be
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going to Niger in a volunteer, humanitarian capacity. They are not likely to be familiar with the
local language, cultural traditions or lifestyle, and need to acquire a basic understanding and
knowledge in these areas in order to be well received upon arrival in the village.
Context of Use
Unfortunately, some organizations send volunteers into situations and lifestyles that are
extremely different from their own with very little preparation. Pre-arrival learning
opportunities or education which might lessen the culture shock on the part of the volunteer,
and improve the first impression that the volunteer makes when arriving in the village can go a
long ways towards making the overall experience successful from both the volunteer's
perspective, as well as that of the local culture. Knowing how to say "hello" or "thank you",
being familiar with appropriate and inappropriate gestures, and understanding the importance
of observance of customs around eating and sharing meals can make a considerable
difference in preparing the volunteer for a very positive first few days.
This simulation is intended for volunteers who will be going to live in Niger, and who have not
previously been to Niger or West Africa. It is designed for those who have not experienced a
first-hand look at subsistence living in a West African village, so that they can be better
prepared for real life arrival, and reception by the local culture by having developed the
knowledge of the environment, an understanding of some of the most basic cultural traditions,
and learned some basic communication skills.
Participants in the simulation will experience elements of local culture including familiarization
with local greetings, avoidance of inappropriate gestures or behaviors, and customs and norms
around meal preparation and sharing.
This MUVE simulation will be designed based on Malone’s intrinsic motivation theory (Malone,
1987). We intend to intrigue learners’ intrinsic motivation to learn by finding learning sources
and rewards through their own exercise. We will build an environment that would challenge
learners’ curiosity and fantasy. Moreover, from the first second they step into African Village,
we will give each learner the power to take control over where they go, what they practice and
when they move on when they they have gained what they need.
Our design is also being guided by Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory that emphasizes building an
environment in which learners can become involved in the activities that attract them so much
that they are willing to do it for its own sake. In this case, the learners are motivated, knowing
that this opportunity is a critical one before being in Niger in order to gain and practice skills
that are unlikely to be available elsewhere prior to in-country training. The idea that flow is a
balance between anxiety and skill can be demonstrated in this simulation in the learning
activity of the gestures that will be gained and learned (described in detail in the play-by-play).
The learners will be provided with a variety of gestures, both appropriate and inappropriate.
The learning is straighforward, however the culminating assessment with the chief provides an
opportunity to be able to act on the knowledge gained, and possibly choose the wrong
gestures, representing failure in the assessment. This activity demonstrates Csikszentmihalyi’s
explanation of flow as a "merging of action and awareness" as an exciting, although potentially
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Using Roger Caillois’ scheme, the game falls in Mimicry class where alternative realities are
created to make learners feel as though they are more than what they actually are through
fantasy, pretense, and disguise. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)
Avatars and Roles
The avatars will be acting as themselves and will be wearing their own clothes. They will have
the point of view of a freshly arrived volunteer who will be spending an extended period of time
in a rural Niger village.
The learners will acquire scripts in order to practice and learn local gestures, and will have the
opportunity to utilize voice chat, will gather notecards and can listen to scripted objects which
will pronounce words in the local language, Zarma.
Objects and Locations
This simulation requires that the learner is in Second Life and is teleported to the Village Life in
Rural Niger location. The area is dry, with sparse grass and basic huts. This simulation will
require a headset and sound capability as well as chat. Objects that the learners will interact
with and see are:
• Welcome sign-When first arriving in the village, the learner will be able to click on the
sign to collect the first notecard listing the objectives and goal of the simulation.
• School House and cutout of teacher -Here the learner will interact with teacher,
represented by a scripted "flat avatar" who will respond with a greeting and offer a
notecard with information on local village life and facts on Niger.
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• School House Chalk Board and Sound Objects-This chalk board lists key words and
greetings in the local language Zarma. By clicking on the scripted objects next to the
board, the learner can hear the proper pronunciation of these words.
• Cutout of school children-This image provides a folder with gestures that can be
saved. Additionally, there is a notecard in it explaining the gestures and their
appropriate or inappropriate use.
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• Cutout of Village women-The learner can click on the cutout of village women to
collect a notecard that explains food preparation and meal sharing traditions.
• Mortar and Pestle-The learner should click on this object to learn more about
preparing millet, a staple in the Nigerien diet.
• Photo wall-Behind the well, the learner can observe a series of photos that loop
repeatedly illustrating various elements of village life.
• Photo wall-a second photo wall highlights animals of the region. The learner can click
on the object for more information. Additionally, a notecard can be collected here with
further detail on local wildlife.
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• Concession door-The learner should collect the notecard from the door of the
concession before procedding to the final activity of interacting with the chief.
Additionally, the learners will interact with a live avatar representing the village chief. The chief
will interact with the learners and assess their learning with a very basic rubric.
The goal of this simulation is simply to provide the learners with the basic knowledge of
customs, norms, gestures and words that allow a visitor to be well received in the village. The
learners need to go to each simulation area to gather all of the information that they need to
meet with the village chief to demonstrate some of their new knowledge and skills.
Play by Play
The simulation should last approximately 30 minutes. The learners will teleport to the entry of
the village. They will first come across a sign welcoming them to the village of Gao Kou Kou
Seigi in rural Niger. The sign is scripted to provide learners with the first notecard listing the
objectives and goal of the simulation.
• Additionally, learners can click to see a map of Niger.
• Next to the sign is a board. The learners should click on this board to see a rotating
photo display of village scenes.
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The notecard will provide the following information:
2. The objectives for participants in this simulation
3. A description of what is to take place
Welcome to the village of Gao Kou Kou Seigi in rural Niger. Gao Kou Kou Seigi
(translated as the Tall Gao Tree Over the Hill) is on the edge of the Sahara desert,
approximately 100 km north of Niamey, the Capital city. The only access to
technology in the village is a radio. There is no electricity, no running water, very
little use of money and hardly any wild life. It is a very harsh existence, yet it is a
vibrant village, filled with people who in spite of their many hardships and constant
struggle with subsistance living, are warm, happy, generous and friendly.
As a newly arrived visitor in Gao Kou Kou Seigi, it is important to understand the
local context, some of the cultural traditions, including gestures, commonly used
phrases and societal mores in order to be well received in the village and to begin to
establish a relationship of mutual respect. Respect for tradition, local custom and
civil behavior are all valued.
At the end of this simulation you will:
1. be able to state 3-5 facts about village life in Niger
2. be able to interact with local inhabitants using a few common greetings and other key
3. be able to demonstrate your understanding of traditions around sharing meals with
4. be able to identify and demonstrate gestures both appropriate and inappropriate in this
You will be asked to complete 3 activities that will support you in learning about in this
simulation. Once these are complete you will be meeting with the village chief. You need to
complete all of the activities and gather the information in each area in order to be prepared to
meet with the village chief.
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The activities are in the following 3 areas:
1. Meeting the School Teacher
2. Interacting with Local Children
3. Learning about Meals with the village women
In each case you will collect informative notecards from the cutout figures at each of these
activity areas. Additionally, you should click on objects around you to learn more about life in
the village. Once you have completed the activities in all of the interaction areas, you will go to
meet with the village chief to demonstrate your skills and understanding in these areas.
To begin the 3 learning activities-proceed to the school teacher at the school, the school
children inside the school or to the women preparing meals. The learners can complete the
three simulation activities in any order, but all three must be completed before meeting with the
ACTIVITY 1: Meeting the School Teacher - Life in the Village and Learning a Few
• The learner will proceed to the School House. The local school house is always a good
place to visit first for several reasons. Often the local teacher will be a French or
English speaker who has studied in the capital and has been exposed to people from
other cultures and may therefore be a good first point of contact.
• The school teacher is scripted to welcome the learner with the following message
"Hello, I am the village school teacher. Welcome to our school."
• The teacher also offers a notecard with background on Niger and rural village life.
• While at the school, the learner should click on the board to a listing of a few important
words, their english translation and their phonetic pronunciation.
• The learner should click on the object next to each phrase. The object is scripted to
provide an audio pronunciation of the word.
1. Background on Niger and on rural village life.
• The main ethnic groups are the Hausa, the Kanuri, the Songhai or Zarma, the Fulani ,
and the Taureg.
• The majority of the population is rural and lives in the southern regions.
• There is a significant migration of seasonal labor to Ghana, Nigeria, and Chad.
o This migration is referred to there as "exode".
• About 80% of the population is Muslim; most of the rest practice animism, or traditional
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o There is a small Christian minority in the cities and larger towns.
• The country's official language is French, but several indigenous languages, as well as
Arabic, are spoken.
o Most of the population speaks at least 2 languages fluently.
ACTIVITY 2: Interacting with local children - learning appropriate and
• The learner will proceed inside the School House where local children would be.
• The learner clicks on the cutout of local schoolchildren and gets a folder that can be
saved which includes several gestures. Additionally, the folder includes a notecard
explaining the appropriate and inappropriate use of the gestures. The learner should
keep the notecard and add the gestures to their inventory. The learner should click on
each of the new gestures in order to practice and be familiar with them.
There are several important gestures and hand movements that visitors to Niger
should be familiar with prior to arriving in the country.
1. Only the right hand is used to greet, shake hands and eat food. It is considered
impolite to use the left hand for any of these gestures. The left hand is used for
2. When shaking hands with Nigeriens, it is customary to touch your right hand to
your chest after shaking hands.
• If you are a male, do not be offended if the women do not shake your hand, and do not
press for them to do so. In most villages, women will not touch someone she does not
know very well, especially a male.
3. Greetings are very important in this culture so be prepared for a long greeting.
The more important the person you are greeting, the longer the greeting should be.
• A typical greeting may include:
o Mate Ni Go? (Matay Nee Go) How are you?
Appropriate response - A ga Boori gumo (Ah ga boaree goomo) very
o Mate Ni Baani? (Matay Nee Banee) How is your health?
Appropriate response - Baani Samay Wala (Banee suumeye walla) the
body is good
o Mate Ni Almayalo Kulu? (Matay Nee Almiyalo Kulu) How is your whole family?
Appropriate response - A ga Boori gumo (Ah ga boaree goomo) very
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o Mate Ni Gabi? (Matay Nee Gabee) How is your strength?
Gabi go no(Gabee go no) the strength is there
4. When counting to five, the hand should not extend all 5 fingers-this is considered
to be a very vulgar gesture. Instead, when indicating the number 5, all five fingers
should be touching and bunched together.
ACTIVITY 3: Meeting the Village Women - Meal Customs
• The learner will go to the well area where the women are preparing to food.
• In this area, the learner will see images of the village women using pounding millet
seeds into flour using a mortar and pestle.
• The learner should click on the cutout of the women to collect a note card with
• The learner should click on the mortar to collect a notecard with more detailed
information about preparing millet, a staple in the Nigerien diet.
Meals are an important part of Nigerien society. Typically, men and women are
segregated during meal times with the men eating together in a communal area and
the women and children eating behind the walls of a family concession wall. Women
spend most of their day preparing the meals. The women rise early and begin
preparing the first meal of the day ad are working on it until it is ready at mid day.
Very shortly after, the women begin to prepare for the evening meal.
Mortar and pestle notecard details:
The staple food of Niger is millet. There are miles of fields surrounding each village
where the families grow their crops during the rainy season which is generally from
June to September. If the rains are good, the villagers will sometimes grow peanuts
as well. The women will sometimes collect leaves from wild plants to make sauce
to go with the millet.
Millet is prepared by pounding the seeds into flour, combining it with water and
boiling it. The end product is something like mashed pototoes, but thicker.
FINAL ACTIVITY : Meeting the chief and testing your skills
• Now that the learner has gathered information in all of the simulation areas, the learner
should proceed to meeting with the chief. The chief is almost always located at the
biggest family concession (walled group of huts) because he often has the most wives
and the largest family.
• Because this is a training situation for incoming volunteers for this program, skills will be
informally assessed here prior to the learners going to in-country trainings and posting.
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• This interaction and assessment will be handled by the chief, who is a live avatar,
prepared to take each of the learners through this final step.
• Learners should click on the concession door to collect the notecard prior to engaging
the village chief.
Concession Door Notecard Detail:
Congratulations on going through all of the simulation activities. You are now
prepared to meet the village chief. You are asked to do the following:
1. Greet the chief in Zarma
2. Give the appropriate hand gesture
3. Sit down and eat with the chief (the villagers will always ask you to eat and you
should always say yes as it is considered rude to decline).
The Chief will be using a simple rubric for assessing the skills-see below:
3 2 1
Questions about All questions were All questions were
All questions were
village life- answered not answered
answered but with
including meal completely with completed or
sharing good detail. correctly.
All areas of the
gestures were At least one area of At least two areas
of the gestures
addressed and the gestures was
Gestures handled with a high were not
not addressed or addressed or were
degree of was incorrect.
All of the words Most of the words Few of the words
were correctly were correctly were correctly
translated. translated. translated.
All of the words Most of the words Few of the words
were pronounced were pronounced were pronounced
well. well. well.
v3 Image (Firm). (2007). A beginner's guide to second life. Las Vegas, Nev:
Thompson, J., Berbank-Green, B., & Cusworth, N. (2007). Game design course
principles, practice, and techniques--the ultimate guide for the aspiring game
designer. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
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