Saturday, 28 February 2009

Visit, learning, conference, time passes

Visitors from GFU: 6 (good); Conferences volunteered for: 1 (good - I think); GIS objects created: 4 (v.good); Dawns watched over Educational Informatics Island: 1 (at least)
Gosh, see that is nearly 2 weeks since last blogged. My how time flies when one is dashing around trying to do RL learning, teaching and assessment whilst maintaining one's SL wardrobe at the cutting edge of fashion.
Have been putting almost-finishing touches to Educational Informatics island, and one evening had to collapse exhausted into a hammock to recover a little before rising refreshed to face a new day of shopping. Island (in sky over Infolit iSchool) is for the RL class Inf6011 Educational Informatics. Idea is that each member (there are only 11 of them) will claim a house. In each house is a poster board with a landmark and notecard giver in it. People have to find an educational place in SL, take a pic of it, and also put in a landmark and write a notecard with an educational critique. They will talk about this in a Show and Tell session after Easter.
A few more of them have already been into SL, and the thing kicks of properly next Friday. In the meantime I was able to show it off as the final destination on the tour of Infolit iSchool given to educators from George Fox University, led by Robin. Maggie joined us for this last bit, and people seemed to enjoy it (2 middle photos show visit).

There is a tutor's room, where North (who is doing a session for us) will probably put up a link. Also installed Graham's Story Machine which people liked. Am sort of hoping that one of students will want to get to grips with it and do something interesting, as is embarrassingly long time ago that was given a demo by Graham.

Have drifted into organising committee for Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference being held in March - turned up to one meeting and was struck by lack of Europeans so felt should get involved. Have volunteered to chair one session and also suggested a couple of keynotes, one of which (Jackie) was agreed on, so that introduces a European element at least.

Also have gone to some Educators Coop meetings. With RxTopGun's CSI Austin made mistake of going home and logging in from there. Meant that couldn't see starting video properly, got stuck etc etc so didn't have full experience. Is pity, since is v. cute activity: first you enter a film theatre & see a video showing someone going to a rooftop bar and keeling over dead. Then you go THROUGH the film screen and fall down to the entrance to the building where the crime took place. You tp up to the bar where the woman died and there she is in a dramatic spotlight. Clicking on a board takes you to a website where you get different bits of info and then to have to answer some questions about what happened to her. Should have said earlier that is pharmacy course, so you can see the CSI connection.
Last meeting was more successful as logged in from work. Gadget gave demonstration of kits used in SL labs for a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) course (see picture). Very cool, and Gadget said that some students had commented about SL enabling them understand more through touching the objects they created with the kits.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Triumph and embarrassment

SL demos given: 3 (v. good); Vice Chancellors kowtowed to: 1 (good); Tiki spa & pool combos bought: 1 (good, but bad); Strange pants glitches encountered 1 (v.v.bad)
Demo to VC seemed to go pretty well. Schedule was that colleagues started off with Wimba demo, then he was shepherded off to see student multimedia, during which time I swapped SL onto the big screen. Some mild panic since 1) he zipped through our exhibits faster than expected and 2) I spent some time fiddling with connection to data projector before it and my laptop would consent to collaborate.

However, got it sorted out in time and plus side of him getting ahead was that I had nearly 15 mins in SL rather than expected 5. Maggie, Pancha, Graham and Lulu appeared to say Hi and prove that there is Life in SL. He asked some sensible questions and I managed to get in bit about students not having adequate access in the central labs, so hey ho will have to see whether anything comes of this in long run.

Other 2 SL demos were to new batch of Educational Informatics students on Friday, and as quick prelude to talk given this evening as part of CILASS programme. Was wittering on about Inquiry Based Learning in SL, trotting out rather too many research frameworks for learning & teaching and ruminating on how they applied to SL. However, am getting some thoughts together about disciplinarity and SL and if only could apply self to these thoughts with same enthusiasm as that which is employed in shopping, then sure that great educational leaps forward would be made.
On shopping front, decided to splurge on prefab poolside complex, which have arranged at one end of Educational Informatics village. First picture shows me on the Bubble Chair circle, which have installed in one of the pools. Second picture shows me encountering a student in the CILR at the weekend.

Also have (of course) bought more clothes, but most notable clothing incident was embarrassing one of realising that all textures had disappeared from lower half. This meant that underpants, pants, socks and skin on lower half were not showing, so was just white and featureless. This was actually less embarrassing than if skin had remained, since being totally white and featureless made it less Rude. Eventually discovered that this was happening because I was wearing a red Swallowtail cardigan - picture shows me WITH cardigan (and without lower textures) and WITHOUT cardigan (and thus WITH glitch pants and teal-coloured tights). I retained my skirt for modesty. Have since discovered that have same problem with red Korutsobaki cardigan which is one of my favourites and certainly this didn't used to cause problems. Odd.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Preparing for the VC

Posters uploaded: 5 (good); PPts uploaded: 4 (tedious); No. of hours spent deciding what to wear: 1 (v. bad)
Tomorrow is RL visit of Vice Chancellor to our Dept., so detailed plan drawn up of military precision. He will be shepherded through panoply of learning and research exellence. As Director of Learning and Teaching, ahem, I had v. important task of drawing up catalogue for teaching part of exhibition, ensuring poster boards put in correct position and last but not least will be demo-ing SL. For 5 minutes.
What can one do in 5 minutes in SL?

1) Wait for the room to rez OR
2) Attempt to move from one side of the room to the other and get stuck behind a sofa OR
3) Have a conversation with an academic on the other side of the planet consisting mostly of ";-))" and "lol" OR
4) Try on 16 pairs of shoes and buy one pair by mistake OR
5) Attempt to teleport , suffer aeons of blank screen + irritating line which may or may not be moving, and then hear fatal "ping" which means you are back where you started except now you are frozen & unable to move.

Of course none of this will happen tomorrow. Instead imagine self failing to get beyond "Initializing world" as Head of Dept taps foot and looks at watch.
Or alternatively will all go swimmingly.

Have uploaded some teaching and research stuff that in end was deselected from exhibition (on grounds that we shouldn't be setting VC speed reading test and therefore less was more).
One student kept sending new versions of poster, so seemed never ending task. Also (finally) uploaded remaining "Is SL dangerous" ppts produced by first years - now full set of 6 is in display in main building. Should really blog about these as others might find them interesting.
Contacted a few Friends to ask if they could come along and say "Hi Vice Chancellor I'm X from Y, and gosh it's Z am/pm here" though latter bit will not be v. impressive if they are all from UK. Also considered putting up "Welcome to the VC" banner, but island probably looks too much like a kiddies playground already.

Most importantly spent considerable time deciding what to wear. In end (you will be fascinated to know) opted for favourite skirt from Material Squirrel, with stripey top from SySy and new necklace from Earthstones, plus natty shoes from Maitreya. Hair is style called "Sheila" which is really a bit Big & Fluffy, but apart from having same name as me, looks v. good from back, which is part of me likely to be most on view. NB hair name is, I assume, marketing ploy, in that every hair with a woman's name must be guaranteed sales to people with same name. Wonder if they have done research on this?

Sensible activities

Educational meetings attended: 3 (mostly good); Problems with Voice: 1 (bad); Strange transporations and crashes: several (bad); No. of eminent researchers sitting on lap: 1 (amusing)
As well as seeking out virtual bonsai, bubble chairs and valentine freebies, have manged to fit in some work-related activities. First picture shows AJ's weekly educational discussion, where Pathfinder Linden held forth. This was a week ago, and must confess that remembrance of what he said seems to have leached away.

Passing swiftly to an event that is fresher in the memory, on Monday attended the SL Researchers meeting. Brainwave Bernal was talking about the CLIVE (Center for Learning in Virtual Environments) project, and Salamander, i.e. efforts to tag and record learning objects in SL. In UK most efforts to get academics to upload and share stuff have been pretty unsuccessful, since a) academics are not sharing creatures; b) universities aren't sharing organisations and c) who wants to use other people's stuff anyway? By the time you've hacked it around enough that your students recognise it as relevant to them, you might as well start from scratch.
However, having said that, certainly HAVE used other people's stuff in SL, rather more than in RL. Is this because it is more fun to hack around? Hmmm.

Was attending this and next meeting from home using mobile 3G stick. Stick appeared to be particularly challenged. To start with could scarecly move, then when attempted to sit down was apparently whisked to corner of sim (0,0,0) and Aussie researcher Seeker was sitting on my knee (see picture). Even wierder, SHE evidently saw herself back in the meeting place and was carrying out text chat with people there. Having struggled back, waited for Brainwave to start his presentation. By time he had worked through 3 slides in perfect silence had deduced that he was using Voice and I wasn't hearing it despite having Voice active. Fixed it by logging out and in, but really must stir self to get a proper broadband connection.

After this meeting, whizzed straight over to the Educator's Coop where Metaphor Voom talked about the v. interesting things he was doing. Students select RL adverts which show human bodies, put them on billboards in SL and embed notecards with critique about the ad. Metaphor had prepared a template board with notecard so they only had to master a few SLskills. He felt that they were interacting more with each other's work and we agreed that having them on large boards had an impact. The layout was also newbie-friendly.
At this meeting I spent whole time on a box, since (a tip) in my belagged situation it was easier to sit on a box and move that round by editing it, than to try and walk about. BTW you may have noticed wings, cute eh, but possibly also a bit twee, so will not be wearing them in front of students or indeed the Vice Chancellor.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Blowing bubbles & getting the bird

Demonstrations of SL given to VIPs: 1 (good); Sets of cute tweeting and twitching birds bought: 2 (good); No. of pillars in 7 pillars of information literacy: 7 (good)

Am slowly integrating back into first life at work, though remains bit of a struggle. Was particularly busy on Thursday as our Departmental Advisory Panel (or those of them that could get through the RL snow) were visiting us. I had organised the Teaching & Learning exhibition part of the day, which included some posters about Innovative Modules and student research, some demos of multimedia objects created by students and on the Big Screen, demos of Wimba & SL. Not simultaneously, I should add. Wimba sounds like a SL name, but is online learning package used in distance learning programme.
For SL I did a broom tour of island, then zoomed over to the 7 Pillars build, tp-ed over to Liverpool Uni to see Graham's molecules, then back to highlight some cute bits like Hobbiton. Was able to dispel idea that it's all about people doing fantasy stuff for recreational purposes (though suppose that showing people bees buzzing round flowers in Hobbit home may not give right message ....)
Will be doing abbreviated repeat this week as this Friday Dept. has visit from Vice Chancellor i.e. head honcho in the university. We will be giving tightly timetabled tour of learning stuff and research stuff, so am thinking of asking some Friends to come along to look impressive and interactive at key point. Can actually kill multiple birds by putting up research and teaching posters in SL.
Talking of birds, have bought some v. cute birds from HappyMood, also hung round for ages to get free Bubble Chairs (chairs in the form of giant soap bubbles) from the HappyMood lucky chair. Have formed 14 of these into a little Bubble Chair Circle on a transluscent platform, which looks particularly cute when partially submerged or up in air (see first pic). Inevitably, since was waiting round for lucky chair on a HappyMood rocking horse, also ended up buying one of those. It is Copy, so can make Rocking Chair circle too.

The blog of Sheila Yoshikawa on her adventures in Second Life. This may be very thrilling. Or possibly not.