Grid-wide Holiday Fun…

PBS Teachers have organized what appears to be a scavenger hunt on Second Life™.  The intro reads,

Need a stress breaker or are you stuck in the house due to all the white stuff everywhere? Log in to Second Life and play the Happy Holiday Hunt with PBS Teachers!

Clues will be posted via Twitter, so you just need to follow PBSTeachers.  Set up an account on Twitter, if you you do not already have one, login, and then go to http://twitter.com/pbsteachers and click [Follow].  Yesterday’s clue was, “Remember the Alamo! More details about this clue at: http://tinyurl.com/8kesdd.”  Today’s is, “This is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space.http://tinyurl.com/9nk4mz.”

You can participate in the game by following these instructions:

  1. Following http://twitter.com/PBSTeachers for Grid-wide clues
  2. Joining PBS Teachers Connect in SecondLife Group in-world
  3. Joining PBS Teachers online at www.pbs.org/teachers
  4. Uploading your SecondLife Grid snapshots and related PBS resources on PBS Teachers in Second Life Ning (http://pbsteachersinsl.ning.com/)

Learn more about PBSTeachers’ Holiday Hunt at their Ning site at:

http://pbsteachersinsl.ning.com/

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Come Along Inside…

People are starting to show up — that is, avatars are starting to gather.

Last night was interesting — and you know what the old Chinese wise man said.  It was a new experience for me, to present to an audience of Avatars in Second Life, and I want to thank Lisa Perez and the AASLISTE SIGMS learning community for the invitation.

The challenges were many for me, as a person who is not exactly at home in the virtual realms.  First of all, the participants were avatars, appropriately dressed and polite (no giant yellow ducks), but puppets none the less.  Now multiply any discomfort by a million when you consider that most of the people who are driving the avatars in front of me were actually out-of-body, experiencing the event from many different angles.  I wondered earlier this morning if it would help to reflect this element of the experience by having ghosts of the avatars appear in varying degrees of transparency.  Although I would have had a more accurate sense of the environment I was speaking into, the spook factor put that thought out of my mind in a nanosecond.

A large part of the event was to be handled as discussion, which was also challenging to me.  The few folks we got on with voice worked out well, I thought, and was especially pleased to have Peggy Sheehy expand on a new blog she is authoring for the teachers in her school.  I do not know how many people were sitting around me, but I found the chat to be advancing to fast to gain any usefulness from it.

Of course, none of this was bad or in any way a barrier to the potentials of virtual environments as learning places.  The communication is different.  It is multidimensional.  The are avenues of dialog that I haven’t even explored yet.  I want to do this again, and with this experience behind me, I have a better sense of how to structure things.

A floating & Interactive Concept Map

For instance, I spent a better part of yesterday morning (and the day before) re-acquainting myself with Linden Scripting Language, a fairly accessible programming language that you can use to design function into the objects you have built.  I’ve found it useful lately, to include concept maps in my online handouts, as I am coming to depend much less on presentation software in my face-to-face presentations.  I wanted to take that to Second Life, but rather than a static graphical arrangement of signs, I needed it to build as I presented the ideas.  To the left, you can see what it looked like during a trial-run on ISTE Island earlier in the day.

It started with the image of Ms. Coolbeans surrounded by small dots.  As I approached each of the concepts, I could click the appropriate dot, and it would expand into the box or cylinder for “Web 2.0,” “Finding Nodes,” “Sticky Content,” etc.  Once expanded, participants could click the boxes to launch a web page, which aggregated related web sites out of my Delicious account.

I had also figured out how to have each expansion of a box advance the slides in the middle (Ms. Coolbeans being the initial slide).    But I neglected to protect the buttons that came with the free script that I hacked.  So people kept advancing the slides on me, and I eventually ignored them and relied solely on my magnetic voice.  No wonder I didn’t sleep well last night.

You have to get swept up into the vortex of this thing to access the content.  Not terribly practical to me, but it turns content into a place, and I think that this has potential.

The best thing I could have done was to have folks break out into logical groups, and Lisa Perez and I discussed the possibilities before people started showing up.  There really weren’t the facilities available to do that, making me wish I had acted on an impulse I’d had earlier in the day.  The picture to the right is something that I took several months ago on ISTE Island.  I do not remember the event or even the topic.  But I do remember how the presenter was able to turn his content into place, that avatars/agents had to actually go to.

My wish is to take the eight-legged concept map, and turn it into a building with eight wings.  At the end of each wing would be a room where people could meet and talk about blogs, wikis, and microblogging; or techniques for growing your PLN; or tools for mining the conversation.  If I’d had this, then I could have sent groups of avatars to the various wings to share what they know and what they want to learn.  There could be slides, signs, and perhaps even dynamically aggregated blog postings related to the topic.

I’d like to build a PLN Pavilion.  Does anyone know where there might be some space for this?

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Learning 2.008 Pre-Conference

Picture of Panel in Second LifeJust had a wonder time being a panelist for the first Second Life? pre-conference event for the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai (Sept 18-20).  This was also my first experience in a speaking roll on Second Life, and it wasn’t half bad.  In the picture, moving from left to right, they are Chris Smith (Bangkok), Myself (Raleigh), Jeff Utecht (Bangkok), CogDog Alan Levine (Denver I think he said), and David Gann (Shanghai).

It was great fun with a lot of conversation about RSS, tags, social networks, and new learning.  I’m even more excited about the upcoming Shanghai event than before.

An Hour In-World

The site of the Pre-Conference Events [click to enlarge]
I’m just back up to my office from breakfast, and rolling around in my head the experience I just had in Second Life™ with Chris (Shambles) Smith. Tomorrow will be the first Learning 2.008 pre-conference session in SL. Basically, it will be a panel discussion with two of the conference’s invited speakers, myself (Suriawang Dapto) and Alan Levine (CDB Barkley — or something dog-like), moderated by Chris and David Gran, Shanghai American School Art Teacher.

I’d stepped in world and teleported over to the site of the event, on International Schools Island — and I suddently found myself completely black (except for my flowing gray hair). I was completely at a loss as to why or how to fix it. Searching through my menus, I found nothing about rebooting my avatar. No matter what cloths I put on, it didn’t help. I would have been happy donning some dreadlocks, except that I didn’t look so much like a Rastafarian than some Hindu devil.

Anyway, just as I was about to give up, I saw the tell-tell signs of another person on the island. Flying over, I found Chris Smith, who I suspect is responsible for fitting the place out. He immediately averted his eyes, until he realized that I was not naked, just completely black. So we tried several things, even taking off all of the clothes that my inventory indicated I was wearing. Fortunately there were some bushes near by. Nothing helped.

So Chris then took me back to orientation island to seek out help from one of the guides. I have to confess that my memories of Orientation Island (the starting place for all Second Life residents) are not all pleasant. Learning to walk in a straight line was a special challenge for me, and I kept falling off the cliff.

Anyway, there were several very knowledgeable helpers there, if also rather scantily clad — and they tried everything, to no avail. My rather scruffy gray jacket would appear for a moment, and then turn to black again. They finally gave up and sent me to Help Island.

I’d never been there before, and wasn’t sure that Chris hadn’t slipped me the wrong landmark when I arrived. But he suddenly materialized beside me, and suggested that I just ask out loud if anyone knew why I was completely black. I hesitated more because no one was speaking English (mostly languages I didn’t even recognize) than bashfulness. But finally I asked the question, mentioning that I was from New Zealand, which accounted for the accent. They didn’t buy that one. But immediately, someone walked up and asked, “Are you using two monitors?”

I nodded my head and said, “Yes!” into my microphone.

“Is Second Life running in the secondary monitor?”

Again, I nodded my head and said, “Yes!”

Then he explained that there was something in the programming of SL that prevents the textures of clothes and skin textures from rezing when the window is in a secondary monitor. I moved the window back over to my laptop monitor and then rebaked my textures. That did tickle a bit.

Finally, back to my same old self. Now that I’m back at home, typing into my blog, I’m thinking that this is similar to conversations that my children have all the time, where they have a problem or a goal, and go someplace virtual miles away, to find someone who can help them.

I still don’t know why folks want to dress so flamboyantly in Second Life. Glad Brenda wasn’t looking over my shoulder.

Hope to see you at the Learning 2.008 Preconference event at 9:00 east coase time on August 31 (tomorrow). Interestingly Chris’ wife called him to dinner at the same time that Brenda called me down to breakfast. You see, Chris lives in Thailand.

29 Days to Shanghai

I’m trying to focus on getting ready for tomorrow’s address for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools convocation.  But taking a quick glance at my e-mail, I just had to pass this one along — a video produced by my friend Carrot Revolution author, David Gran, an art teacher at the Shanghai American School.  It’s entertaining and always eye-opening to see what a Photoshop master can accomplish, such as making David Jakes look good on the cover of Vogue Magazine.

Click here to watch videoIt’s worth noting that the conference is only 29 days away and will certainly be a mega-watched event.

Yes we try and make the Learning 2.008 Educational Technology conference a little different each year. We don’t just talk about changing the ways we teach and learn, we try and model it as well.

I have to confess a bit of unease at this eagerness to stir things up, especially when conference organizer and Thinking Stick author, Jeff Utecht continues, “We don’t always succeed but it’s about taking risks and pushing ourselves as educators.” It is about pushing ourselves, and it’s what disruption is about — a willingness to re-think, re-act, and re-learn.

Being an international conference presents challenges.  Being in Shanghai presents challenges.  For instance, it becomes more difficult for schools to release teachers for extended on-site time, when they’re traveling up to 12,000 miles.  To address this, Shambles man, Chris Smith is building a site on International School Island in Second Life.  Scheduled appearances there include:

Each event will take place at 06:00 SL time (09:00 East Coast, 06:00 Pacific, 14:00 UK, 20:00 Bangkok, and 21:00 Hong Kong).