Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting Ready for the Reaction Grid

I have been spending my vacation prepping for 4th graders at Lowell School and their first visit to the virtual world called the Reaction Grid. I have strengthened my friendships with teachers from Michigan, etc. who have already brought students in to work. It is very much like Second Life, but focusing heavily on elementary education. Since our classes are larger than can be accommodated by the grid, students will be sharing avatars unlike the middle school students who have their own avatars on our Second Life Teen island. This means that students will learn how to collaborate more closely, be resilient when there are technical issues, and be creative with the tools within the grid. We will use the same tools that the middle school kids use, but will expect a different level of sophistication at this grade level. (See videos below)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Wonderland in the Desert

Since it's really only sweater weather here in Phoenix, I thought it might be fun for the students to build virtual snowmen today. They also got free skates so they could skate while building, but none of them really noticed all the WORK they were doing while they were having FUN!! As always, the kids took snapshots and then sent them to me via their epal accounts. (See videos below)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Early December Building

We ran into a couple of snags this week when both classes ended up losing an entire class period due to bus evacuation drills. We get less than two hours a week, so this didn't help. Some students had to start over on the tables because they did not clone the prims, or they cloned them and then moved them to the side which makes it difficult to align them again. Getting a bird's eye view helps line things up with the grid on the workspace, but kids are only using a touch pad and it is more difficult to build without a mouse. Things too far out of alignment do not get the full 10L for the day's building. A few curricular projects began this week too. (See videos below)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning to Texture Specific Faces of a Prim

We continued our basic prim work by learning how to select specific faces of a prim for texturing. If you are building a house, you certainly don't want the inside of the house to look like the outside so you can put bricks, stone, or siding on the outer face of the wall, and wallpaper or plaster on the inner face. Students will create a window that fits into the hollow space and texture it with one of the many glass textures they have available from the Lowell Depot. (See video below)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Login, Chat, Create, Stretch, Hollow, Rotate, Texture & Snap Pic

I got to meet this group last week when they were working on Gimp, but today I had the great fun of seeing yet another group of kids as they took their first steps in Second Life. Looking at their faces as they login and see their virtual selves is something not to be missed. This group got right to work learning to do everything in the post title. Oh, they also learned to retrieve their passwords from their epal accounts :) (See video below)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clone, Align, Taper, and Twist

Students today concentrated on cloning prims by using the shift/click/pull method. They learned about twist and taper, and making sure their prims were linked so multiple pieces can be moved as a single unit. Two days later, these students learned how to hollow, rotate, stretch, and name their objects. (See videos below)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Students Take Over

This week Amy and Carla volunteered to teach the new students how to use Gimp to create their name in BLING for their Second Life t-shirts. I stood back and tried not to butt in too much :) I remember wanting to help my friends so much in school only to have my teacher tell me, "Miss Spack! I am the teacher, not you! Go back to your seat!" (big sigh of defeat and I didn't decide to become a teacher until I was well past college age and I gave a presentation on The Print Shop at the Milwaukee Educational Computing Association) I want our students to think teaching is a great thing to do, so I make sure they get chances to help each other without doing the work for the other students. Amy and Carla had help from several of the boys who decided to come back for another trimester also. It's great to see them cooperating and being there for each other. (See video below)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween on PESD Island

As a treat for good work, I brought out some costumes I was able to bring over from the Second Life main grid. I have created special carts for selling special objects like flowers and teddy bears. I also got a dance ball from when Mrs. Rodriguez at Edison came over to the Teen Grid. Learning how to buy, and unpack and wear costumes is a fairly complex skill so only the students who have done all the work were able to wear costumes and dance. (See video below)

Trimester 1 Coming to an End

Our first trimester is coming quickly to a close and some of the projects haven't gotten very far. I have a better idea of how long things take now and will have the curricular projects start earlier in the next trimester. We will have a new group of students so we will have to begin again with using Gimp and beginning prim practice. (See video below)

Friday, October 23, 2009


Although I was just going to observe today, I did sneak down and explain where twist could be found on the object menu. When I do something like that, I usually just find one student I think can move ahead and teach it to them. Then we follow the "each one, teach one" method. (See videos below)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome Edison Students!

Today a new group of students entered Second Life as part of the Edison School contingent. Since we are focusing quite a bit on the STEM initiative on PESD Island, they are all wearing a simple uniform of faded jeans and a school t-shirt. We just don't have enough time with this group to do the custom shirts as it is just a small part of a larger technology elective that includes important basic skills such as keyboarding, etc. We are hoping that given a taste of both Gimp and Second Life, some of these students will choose to accept an invitation back for another trimester which is geared to the building aspects of Second Life. Today they learned how to login, they did the basic tutorial, learned how to use the camera and take a snapshot of their "first look." Their homebase is the drum circle area of Edison Music Park, the home of their teacher, Mrs. Pamela Rodriguez. (See video below)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

John Kain Comes to Class

John Kain is my counterpart at the district. We used to be in Instructional Technology together along with colleague Linda Cooper. IT no longer exists, Linda gets to sleep late and do what she wants, but John is in the Professional Development Dept. while I am now attached to General Studies. Today John went to Lowell and interviewed two of the students during their advanced computer class. Classroom teacher/Media Specialist Ginger Baron was in the classroom but I was sitting at my desk at the district office with two computers logged in to do some Screenr videos. (See video below)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Screencasts from Today's Work

My most sincere thanks to Chris Smith (aka Shambles Guru in Second Life). Chris told us about a screencasting tool called Screenr last night at ISTE and I love it! This is the power of networking via Second Life because Chris lives in Thailand! I would never be able to meet him or many of the others who are now part of my learning community because of time, distance, or cost, but Second Life makes it possible! (In 2016, Screenr was no longer available but we could at least download projects from previous years) (See videos below)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meet the Class

Students were required to write a blog entry this week telling what they have been learning in Second Life. I know it's a lot of text in one entry but I really didn't want to break it up because it reflects where the whole class is at this point in our work. For these beginner activities I awarded Linden based on word count divided by 10 and also awarded Linden for building the living rooms based on prim count.

Hi my name is Diana G, I am thirteen years old, and I am in the eighth grade. I am not that really into sports except in baseball and football. When I am bored I like to hear music and read. I also like to watch TV. I have learned so much in these classes that I have had with Ms. Baron and Ms. Strehlow in Second Life. For example I now know how to build any kind of furniture in Second Life such as sofas, tables, houses, and also other furniture. Once I accidently built my sofa into the ground. I also learned how to take pictures of my work while I am doing it. In Second Life we got to communicate with our friends and, not just talking about anything we had to talk about what we learned in class and how we did in class. Doing this got me Linden or money for my character in Second Life. I used this money to buy textures for my furniture. What was pretty cool is that I got to share my textures with my friends. I got all my furniture textures at the Lowell Depot. There was a lot to choose from. Another way I earned Linden was answering questions that Ms. Strehlow asked, and when I shared my opinion with her and with others. In Second Life we were able to fly, walk around, and also run. I think that was weird but cool. This would help me in my job or to get a job because if I wanted to become a construction worker or an architect that would build houses, tables, and other kind of furniture I would know how to build any kinds of things in a computer and they would be my models. This class was very helpful and very exciting.

Hi, I am Myron and I control the avatar Myron Mistwalker in Second Life. In real life, I attend Lowell Elementary in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy some sports. My favorite football team is the New England Patriots. I also enjoy reading a little bit and playing outside on the weekends. I used to want to be an architect when I grow up, but now I would like to be an oncologist. If I were to change my mind in the near future back to becoming an architect, then Second Life would give me some skills that I could take with me to that career choice. So far in Second Life I have learned how to use different geometric shapes to create different objects. I have learned how to do some interior design. I know how to match up colors. I know how to shape things on a computer, in a three dimensional environment. This year Second life has been different. There are more kids in the class, and we have to write blogs on our PESD island accounts on ning.com. I don’t enjoy writing these blogs because I don’t like writing and I want to spend more time in Second Life. I must write these blogs though, because people want to know what exactly we are doing in Second Life, and what we are learning from this program. Second Life is not a game. It is a very advanced program and it should be treated as such. It has taught me many things. Using Second Life I personally have learned to be more responsible. I have deadlines that I have to meet. I need to know how to spend my money wisely. When I get older I will need these skills in real life when I am in school. I will need to know how to reach deadlines and I will need to know how to spend my money wisely.

Hi, I’m Nick. I have an avatar named “Nik Neximus.” An avatar is the player/character in Second Life. We have this assignment that we are working on right now, which is a “floor plan.” This floor plan is literally a floor plan. This is different from all other assignments I had before because you have to build a kitchen in the kitchen. The floor plan says to build a table and four chairs and we had to build a stove and sink. In the living room we have to build two chairs and one big sofa and a table in the middle. I also put a plasma screen TV in the wall and had a big window on the side of the living room. In the bathroom I had to build a tub and toilet and a sink too. It’s a lot of fun, because it’s like creating your dream home. You can make it look like you want it to look. I had to learn how to use measurements and learn how to build beds, walls, floor, and a roof to scale. You start out with a simple 3-D shape like a cube, sphere, or pyramid and shape it to look like the wanted form. You can also gain money know as Linden by working and doing what you are suppose to. You can also lose Linden if you mess around and you are not in task. You can give money to other players or buy supplies that would help you in assignments you are doing. You can share some of the supplies with other people some other ones you can’t.

Hi. My name is Jesus R. and I’m in Second Life. My avatar name is Jesus Runner. What I have learned in Second Life is how to create objects and how we need to have the same length or it doesn’t come out the same size. This makes me think like people that work making things like tables and other objects. In the world it takes money to move forward in your life and in Second Life it’s helping me know how people spend their money. In life we have to work to get money and that’s what we are doing in Second Life. Everyday we have an assignment. Every time we come to the library we have to finish and by the end of the day get Linden. I think Second Life is trying to have us think what we do with our money. I am building a little table and a couch and made a floor. I spend my money on carpet and on fabric. 

Hi, I’m Omar G. I have an avatar and my name is “Ohmar Orsini.” I have learned how to make lots of cool new items, for example I know how to build a bed, TV, drawers, counters, speakers, and I’ve learned how to make stuff hollow. I also learned how to communicate with my peers better than I used to. I built a speaker and I used a cube and made it hollow and then I got and other cube and made it to the right measurements and then I put it in side the hollow cube and I made a speaker. I got the supplies because I bought them from the Lowell Depot. The Lowell Depot is a store where you can buy lots of great textures, woods, windows, and much more. Most of the materials that you can buy cost 10 Linden. The materials you buy in the Lowell Depot are for your building uses, so when you make a wall you can change the texture into a better look. Yes, you can share items with other players or you can sell it to them. You report your work on Ning.com. The Ning is just like Twitter or MySpace because you get to talk to other people that have avatars. You also get to upload photos that you took while you play Second Life. You can upload your own pictures but they need to be appropriate. Adding people is quite simple. You just need to look for them and then send them a friend request or they can send you one. You design your own page but you really don’t get any points when you fix your page up. You communicate by typing on the “typing bar” on Second Life.

Hi. My name is Francisko Madrigal. I learned how to use Second Life and learned how to share objects with people. I am learning how to build a house with my partners. This program can help me learn about architecture. I learned how to communicate with other people. I got my supplies by buying them at Lowell Depot. Lowell is a place where you could buy things for your house like windows, carpets and doors. I share materials with my partners and most of my classmates. I report my work by taking pictures or talking to Ms. Strehlow. I communicate by chat messages and instant messages. When I barely came in I was confused and didn’t know what to do and I was behind on my work. Then I got help from Ms. Strehlow and that’s how I know how to build things like sofas , tables, walls and windows. 

Hello, my name is Salvador Badger, I am an 8th grader at Lowell. I like rap music including Tupac Shakur as well as classic rock bands like the Beatles. The sports I like are basketball, football, baseball and soccer. I enjoy watching Sportcenter and other sports shows and games on television. In Second Life I have learned how to make furniture as well as a room and I am learning how to build many different objects using nothing but regular three dimensional shapes. This could help me in the real world because I now have an idea on how houses and furniture as well as other objects are really built. What I have learned in Second Life may definitely help me if I become a sculptor or a building designer as in Second Life we built a room, couch, chair, table, floor, rug, wall and lamp. In Second Life to get money which is called Linden, you have to do what is assigned to you which a lot of the time was building so you have to work for your Linden like you have to work for your money in the real world. I got my supplies by simply clicking where it says build and using the 3D shapes but you can also buy your supplies at the Lowell Depot which sells supplies. You report your work by taking pictures of what you built and sending it to your teacher by e-mail as we sent our work through epals. Last but not least you communicate by talking through a headsets’ microphone or send someone an instant message using the chat bar.

My name is Alexis Adored and I am an eighth grader at Lowell School. I like to play videogames, listen to music and play basketball. What I have learned through Second Life is how to construct and create buildings and houses. I have built a house by using geometric shapes and putting them together to make them look like I want them to look. These experiences will help me in life because I am learning techniques to become an architect and interior designer. Every few days Ms. Strehlow gives us an assignment and if we complete it she gives us Linden dollars. If you don’t you don’t get paid. You can use Linden to buy clothing and buy building materials. We can share materials with friends. We report our work by taking pictures of our work while we are working. We communicate by sending instant messages. 

I’m Teddy Canucci from the Second Life program. I am in the eighth grade at Lowell School. What I have learned and what I am going to learn in the Second Life program was how to make a living room. This living room contains a couch, a chair, a carpet, a floor and a wall. We also learned how to make exact width, length, and height measurements. In the program we have an assignment that we have to do or make to get paid money that will let us, the workers, be able to buy carpeting and wood textures at the Lowell Depot where we buy different textures to place on our creations and to use for our future projects. After we have completed our project we take snapshots of it in order to show our work, our progress, and to get some Linden money. What I am learning right now is how to create a house using a floor plan to guide me and my workmates to build a house fit for four people. From basic shapes such as spheres and cubes we widen and flatten them to form the shape of an object we are building. To communicate to my workmates we have to type out what we want to say. This is not easy. You have to be exact with what you say or they might misunderstand. You can share your materials by giving some to someone. You can also sell objects and materials too. Then we add textures to them to create a room or an object to make it look like it can be a real man made object. This can help me prepare for the future to be able to build at exact measurements without making too many mistakes. If I was building a house for example, it will allow me to visualize what a plan would look like and be able to put everything in its place without making guesses. If I work for a company that builds houses I already have prior knowledge to use to make the house or object and some people do not have the knowledge that I have now so I might be able to use it when I get older and I am looking for work to do to get money. Some of the people that are using the Second Life program are in college or high school and I already know this, not as a master, but I have learned quite a bit of information to take from this. 

Hello my name is Junior Jupiter. In Second Life, I have learned many things. I have learned how to build things out of 3D prims which are basic shapes. Since the last time that I wrote, I have learned how to work as a team with my partner in building a house. Sometimes, I buy building supplies, but other times my partner buys them. We are working as a team to build a house. He is building part of the house and I am building another. This would help me in the real world if I wanted to be an architect. This program is very much like real life in a way that there are real objects with actual sizes. I learned how to put prims to fit together without overlapping so that the finished product looks good and fits together properly. I earn money by recording my work by taking snapshots. With the money I could buy whatever it is that I want to buy, whether it be clothing or building supplies. In Second Life, I have built walls, a couch, a bed, a coffee table, and two seats. I built the couch from cubes, semi circles, and semi cylinders. I built the bed from cubes and a semi cylinder. The walls are cubes that have been flattened, hollowed, and stretched out. I bought all my supplies from a store called the Lowell Depot. It is a hardware store on an island in Second Life. In order to get Linden, I have to take snapshots or pictures and send them to my email address. I spend my money by buying supplies. There is no other way that I can spend my money in something that is useful. I share materials with my partner so that we can build the house with same textures so we don’t spend double the money for the same thing. I report my work by sending the snapshots to my email address and Ms. Strehlow checks them. Ms. Strehlow is our Second Life teacher. In Second Life, I communicate by instant messaging other people.

Hello my name is Christian Viper. I like to play football, soccer, and basketball. My goal is to play high school football. Here in advanced computers I have learned how to make beds, couches, houses, tables, and walls from scratch in Second Life. We were taught how it feels to be an architect creating a building and to read floor plans. Ms. Strehlow and Mrs. Baron have taught me how to use Gimp to make a name or word look cool and make it look all glittery. We have started to build a scale model with the floor plans laid out. We have learned to put texture on the objects we build. In Second Life I learned that you can change how you look, from your hair to your shoes you can change just about anything. When we take snapshots of what we are building we get Linden. Linden is money in Second Life. In Second Life you can fly into the sky and call your friends if you and they have a headset on with a microphone. You can go to the Lowell Depot and buy wood textures, glass textures, carpet textures and regular textures. We each have an email account on a website called epals.com. We are also on ning.com where we can post comments and send messages to each other. In Second Life Ms. Strehlow is the head of our Second Life Island and can get in with us any time. When we barely started we started out building a living room set. We built it with a plain cube to start with and we started shaping it into what we wanted. We clicked on a tab on the bottom of the screen that said build and we picked the cube shape or the others that are there. We earn Linden by taking snapshots of what we make. We spend Linden by buying supplies and buying stuff from other people. Yes you may share stuff because sometimes you need what other people don’t. You report your work by sending progress of what you are doing to your epals.com email. We communicate by clicking on the communicate tabs at the bottom of the screen. 

I want to introduce myself. My name is Denise R, and I’m in Mrs. Kellerman’s home room. She is a very nice teacher to me and so are Mrs. Baron and Ms. Strehlow because they all help me with what I need help with and when I’m in trouble or in danger. I love playing volleyball, basketball. I’m a nice person if you would like to be my friend then you can. In advanced class I have been learning about making furniture and just building things like some people do. I have also learned in Second Life that you can earn Linden money for making the furniture. I have learned that in this activity you can make good friends by communicating and chatting to them and just being nice to them. You can learn how to make furniture in the future by practicing this activity. It also helps you because when you buy furniture for your house you will have to know where to put your furniture and how it will be organized in your very own place. I have learned in this activity that you can have your very own freedom by building furniture, communicating, and just exploring. When you are on this activity you have to take pictures and send them to Ms. Strehlow. This activity also helps me because when you do 3-D shapes you would have to make the shape even on all the sides. If you want to get Linden then you would have to make more furniture and you would have to be careful of what you do in order to get it. One way you can spend your Linden is you can go to Lowell Depot and buy fabrics and stuff. The materials you need for this activity is the size, shape, color, fabric and many other things in order to make your furniture and earn Linden. Last but not least I enjoy being in this activity because it kind of gives me a fresh start because as I get older and get my own place I will already know what to do because of this Second Life activity. I’m going to say this out of my very own words, I think that this will be great for anybody because it will help them in things they don’t even know about yet but they will know in the future, when people go to their house they will be amazed and like wow how did you learn how to make furniture and fabrics, the person that owns the house will probably say I learned how to make furniture and fabrics by practicing on this Second Life activity. And then the other person will be jealous and would want to copy or just does a little like the other person. 

Hello. My name is Jonathan Frostbite and in the real world I like to play video games, play sports like basketball, baseball and football. I also like listening to music from famous artists like Linkin Park, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Michael Jackson and L’il Wayne. In Second Life I have learned how to build homes and furniture for me and other people. In the real world this could help me by learning how to build homes, make furniture and how to put different textures on chairs, couches, and beds. In the Second Life program I built a wall with a seashell texture and I bought a window at a store like place called Lowell Depot were you could buy different textures, windows, rugs for your floor, bed, chairs, and couches. I built the chairs, walls, and a bed for me by clicking a 3-D object like a square, rectangle, sphere and a pyramid. We communicate by talking into our headset with a microphone or we could send them an instant message just like MySpace, Twitter, and Face book. In real life my important goal is to finish school, high school, and college to get a degree in dentistry so I could be a professional dentist.

Hello, my name is Damian Ashmoot and I am a user in Second Life. I like to play football and my favorite football team is the Jacksonville Jaguars. I want to play quarter back. My favorite football player is Brett Favre. I like to watch movies. I am a big fan of action and comedy movies. I like some animated movies. My favorite movie is Super Bad. I like to listen to rock. I listen to most types of rock. In advanced computers we have learned how to build things in Second Life .We also learned some computers skills in Second Life. I learned how to make couches, walls and chairs. We make these objects by clicking build and putting it in the size we want it to be. We also learned how to color and put textures on the objects we create. We learned how to use Gimp. In Gimp we wrote our name and made it a different color. We added glitter in the middle of the letter. We also put shine on our name. We got our customized name on our shirts in Second Life. In Second Life we can buy equipment by getting Linden. We get Linden by taking pictures or posting comments or information on Epals. When we get Linden we can go to the Lowell Depot and buy carpet, glass, wood, and tiles. Once we buy equipment we can share with a friend. They can give you something then you can give them something. So far I have shared with Claudio and Teddy. We also can chat with friends. We can talk in private or in public.

Hi. My name is Claudio Lamplight. I have learned how to share a place with some of my friends and their names are Francisko Madrigal and Jesus Panache. I have learned how to share my material like fabric, window, and carpet texture and create things like a sofa, chair and the walls. This can probably be a good source for helping me to be an architect. I can probably build stuff for kids and make some type of gym equipment and things like that. I have also learned how to communicate with other people by using instant messaging. It lets me contact my friends easier. Second Life has changed my relationship with my friends and I have made new friends. In order for us to buy material we need to get Linden and that’s like money. We get it buy working on stuff and getting photos taken and sending them to the Ning. I think each picture is worth about ten Linden and we buy our stuff at Lowell Depot. 

Hello. My name is Mikael Gearz and here in advanced computers I have learned in Second Life to make couches and matching chairs to go along with it. I also learned to earn money called Linden, and to take pictures and send them to our teachers so they can look at them. We have received email accounts for us to use. Now we are building houses that we have to make the furniture that goes with the design on the floor and make it 3-D. We can chat on Second Life and we can fly. We can change our clothes and hair. With the Linden money we can buy carpets and more. They have a Lowell Depot for that type of substance. We have shirts that say our name on them. We had to design them and then the teacher would put our names on the shirt. Second like is not a game but it has game similarities like the graphics and how we can fly and change our hair and clothes. When we build things we can zoom in to get a better look at what were building so we can build it just right.

Hi, my name is Evert Moonwall. I attend Lowell School in Phoenix, Arizona. There are lots of things that I have learned in Second Life. I have learned how to make my avatar. An avatar is a person in which you create many things by your skill and talents. I have also learned how to create things and share them in Second Life. I’m learning how to make a little house. By learning how to build things and how to focus better on my constructing skills, Second Life can really help me on my future. There are many techniques that can be learned in Second Life. Every time that I get in Second Life we always get an assignment that is required by the instructor. And when we complete the assignment and we do what is followed we get something called “Linden.” Linden is something like money. Linden can be used to buy things or use it for any use. We recently had an assignment in which we had to build sort of a house. We are in groups of three trying to build a house. I’m still not finished with my assignment but when I’m done I hope that Ms.Strehlow would be happy with what we have worked on. Sometimes we have to take pictures and we have to send it to our Ning. Everybody has a Ning that has been giving to us. In our Ning we have to check it because we sometimes get messages that we have to respond back to the instructor. Second Life has really been a great thing. You learn many things that you wouldn’t expect in Second Life. It has really helped me in many ways. 

Hi! My name is Aymee Verwood and I’m a student in the state of Arizona. In real life I enjoy playing volleyball and listening to music. The music that I like is mostly pop or R&B. An important goal that I have in my real life is that I want to be a journalist, maybe on the Arizona Republic. What I have learned in Second Life is a lot of helpful and wonderful things that will help me in the future. Maybe I will use this program in high school or in my job and I will already know the program. I have learned how to build and create my own furniture, making sure they are all equal size in length and also in width. The objects also have to be linked together and how you do that is by clicking on one of them and pushing the shift key and then pressing the ctrl key plus the L and they will all be linked together! Linking will help you by making sure that the objects all have the same type of texture and this will make it look nice. Another thing that I learned is how to take a snapshot, and by taking a snapshot that will earn you more Lindens. Linden is a type of money that we use in Second Life.

My name is Karla Panache. I’m a student in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy listening to music. I listen to everything but mostly R&B and pop. I like watching movies, especially scary movies. My goals in life are to finish school and to get a good job. I really want to be a crime scene investigator. What I have learned in advanced computers that will help me in the real world is how to build furniture in Second Life. By learning how to build my own furniture I now know what it would be like to be a designer, for example you would want to know what size you want your furniture, and what shape. You also have to make sure that the pieces are all lined up together. I learned how to link all the pieces of the furniture, so the pieces are all together when you want to move them. We use Linden. Linden is like money, only we use it in Second Life. You have to complete your tasks in order to get Linden. You can spend your Linden on things you need to finish your living room space. You communicate by just chatting on Second Life. These are all the things I’ve learned in advanced computers. 

My name is Rocio Mendle. I’ve been working in this class for the first trimester. The thing I most like in life is sports except football. The goal I have now is to finish my schooling. In Advanced Computers I have learned to build things in Second Life that can relate to the real world in becoming an architect. In Second Life I became an architect even though I don’t want to be one when I grow up. I really want to be a cosmetologist when I grow up. In Second Life I built a sofa, a chair to go with the sofa, even pillows for the two sofas plus a rug, floor, and wall. I’ve built all kind of things there. I almost built a whole room. How did I build it? There was this button that said build and I clicked on it. You can choose any shape you want your sofa to be. So I clicked on a cube. I stretched it out and rotated it till I got it the way I wanted it to look. Then I did the same to the other parts of the sofa. Then I went on like that to the rest of the furniture. After I was finished, I would take a snapshot of what I built and send it to my epals account. When you build stuff you will get Linden which is money for what you build. If you want to spend your money on texture or buy anything else for your furniture you just go to Lowell Depot and select the box of textures you want. Select buy and the program will automatically send it to you. If you want to share your texture you just click on the texture he/she wants then drag it to that person and then he/she will have it saved to their inventory. In Second Life we can communicate with each other, have fun, and be friends with each other. Being in the class is so much fun even though things are challenging for us. 

My avatar name in Second Life is Nestor Jestyr. I am an 8th grader who currently attends at Lowell School. My favorite music is rock or hardcore, and screamo. The sport of my life is soccer. I hope to get into law or business in my future. I have learned on Second Life how to type better and much faster. On Second Life I had no idea how to make anything, but now I have learned how to make realistic items out of shapes such as cubes into sofas, beds, walls and other realistic items. I have built floors, rug, carpet and coffee tables. I have built it with the shapes given in the program such as cubes, spheres, or cylinders and much more. The way to get my Linden is to post blogs on how I am doing on Second Life and taking “snapshots” or pictures while I work. I spend the Linden on items our teacher/instructor builds or supplies for us to make our work a bit easier. We could and can share our materials. We report our work by going on Ning.com and blogging about our work. We communicate by typing on the computer and onto the “typing part” of the Second Life program. I’m now learning how to be creative instead of having the same fabrics for the same old sofa textures. This could help me in the real world by knowing how to use the computer. It can help me by typing faster, and making advanced files. It can also help me by knowing how to use programs that will help me if I get into business, insurance, law, etc. In Second Life I have an assignment to build a house. My partners and I have to build walls, doors, sofas, beds, and other real life needs to live in a house. My partners and I just started and are getting along pretty good.

Hello my name is Gerardo C. In Second Life my avatar name is Gerardo Capelo. In real life I like to play football, basketball, and soccer. I’m 13 years old and I go to Lowell School. I learned in Second Life how to make furniture out of shapes. This will help me in the future most in constructing things in the real world. If I get a job building I will need to make it out of simple shapes like squares, rectangles, ovals, and spheres. In Second Life I have built a furniture showroom. I built it out of squares and rectangles. I had to get the supplies at the Lowell Depot. Each box of supplies cost 10L. To get Linden you need to take pictures of your work. We communicate by instant messaging. I spent my Linden on my carpet, floor tile, and glass textures. I shared my supplies with my partners Christian and Nestor. I report my work by taking pictures and sending them to my Epals account. Epals is a little like MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. We email our friends on Epals. Our first assignment was to do our name in Gimp. When we finish making our shirt we put them on our avatar. An avatar is a player that you are.

Hello my name is Jesus Panache. I like to play video games. My goal for me when I grow up is to be a lawyer and once I’m a lawyer I want to be a judge. What I have learned is multiple skills in Second Life. Some of the skills that I have learned are the ability to move the computer around. I now can use the computer and be able to manipulate the tabs at the bottom of the screen. I have an account on the Ning on the web so it has helped my web skills it has helped my web skills because it is like MySpace. This could help me in the real world because some of these skills could help me be an architect because of all the constructing that I have done in this class. Every class I have a different assignment so it’s a class with grades and everything. In this class you get Linden by doing your work or your assignment. Ms. Strehlow is our guest teacher and she is the one that determines how much Linden we get for the type of work we do. Linden is what we call money in Second Life. We spend our Linden on textures that we use on the objects that we build. We report our work by sending pictures of our work to our epals account. These are the many things we do in Second Life.

Hi, my avatar name is Jorge Rodas. I go to Lowell School in Phoenix. I have learned in Second Life to build furniture and our own rooms. I am learning to make a house in Second Life. It could help me in the real world by being a sculptor for my career because now I know how to build things. If you want to build a piece of furniture you have to left click on your mouse and go to build and you choose your sphere or a 3-D shape you like. You stretch your 3-D figure till you like the size. Then you can connect your shapes by linking them. To get money you have to work for your money like the real world. You communicate by a microphone or a chat bar on the bottom of your screen. There is a Lowell Depot on Second Life’s land. It sells wallpaper, carpet, and glass. Your avatar can fly in air. You can customize your avatar in Second Life. Mostly we have an assignment for Ms. Strehlow and if we accomplish our work we get Linden money.

My name is Paulo Aquila. I learned a lot in Second Life. At first you have to go to Gimp and make your name for your t-shirt using Bling. Then I learned how to build and work on projects. I was building a table and received Lindens. Each time I built more furniture, I received more Lindens. In Second Life you can fly and drive cars but you have to build them first. There are some apartments and you buy them and live in them. You paint them and then put items in the apartments like an Xbox360 and more. After I built a table, I built a lamp. There is a store called Lowell Depot and they sell textures and carpets. The money that we used is called Lindens. I don’t have that much Lindens. It is cool you have to take pictures in Second Life. I took my picture when I was flying.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Living Room Project

Next week everyone will be transitioning from the living room solo project to the house building small group exercise. Most of the work in this class is done "at your own speed," but I also want to keep them challenged. By now, each student has learned enough to be a valuable team member even if they can't do everything themselves. This will be a good chance for them to understand what skills and talents they can bring to the table. This coming week they will be doing some reflective writing about the experience so far and I will certainly get those posted as soon as I have the final copies.

The students who were in Advanced Computers during the last trimester of 08-09 will move from their house building project to a project of their own devising that directly relates to one or more of their other content areas. Those of you who "know" Second Life will probably nod knowingly when I tell you that one student mentioned building a pyramid. (One of the basic shapes is already a pyramid) I asked if they were studying ancient Egypt and he said no. This project must be something they are going to be studying this year, so it will require much more of a "connection."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We've Got Our Bling On!

The students are now wearing their special "bling" t-shirts. The first assignment was not done in Second Life, it was done using the open source software called "Gimp." Students learned how to use many of the paint and effect tools by creating their name in bling which was then applied to a black t-shirt template used in Second Life. Today we continued the sofa and matching chair problem with a new twist. The students will create a vignette that looks like a furniture showroom. They will add a few accessories such as tables, lamps, wall decor, and rugs. Although this is a solo assignment, students confer with each other regarding the new skills they are honing. Once they each have a good skill level, they will be able to more easily collaborate on upcoming challenges. These photos were taken by students and sent to their epal accounts for storage. (See video below)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beginning to Build

Since most of us who are using virtual worlds in which to teach are sort of making it up as we go along, I decided that although I did want my newbies to see the island as a blank canvas, I would borrow an idea I had seen on the main grid. Some of the land available for educators to rent has been subdivided into smaller parcels divided by narrow waterways. As you can see in the video, I have done that. After briefly experimenting with prims, I gave my newbies their first problem. They were to build a sofa and matching chair with no formal directions. Thus, it was a problem they needed to solve and as you can see, they did not come to identical solutions.
The boys who were with me during the last trimester of the 2008-2009 school year were given the task of working in pairs to build a furnished house based on a floor plan. Again, I gave no formal directions so they could approach this collaborative problem any way they saw fit. They had to build from scratch unless they had an item they built last trimester in their inventory. I answer questions as they come up, but do not interfere with the process.

We have some very unfortunate crashing issues despite searching out the best versions of Second Life to run on the various computers. We are even running an old but grid enabled version from flash drives on our oldest desktops, but as in all things, we will deal with it. Today we dealt with a fire drill. How do you say, “C’est la vie” in Spanish? (See video below)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Return to PESD Island

Hi! My name is Nick and I’m an 8th grader at Lowell Elementary. Last year I was fortunate to learn about Second Life, and actually be a part of it. In this virtual reality world, I learned techniques that will help me in my future life. One of our assignments was to remodel a room. I had to learn how to use measurements and learn how to build beds, walls, floors, and a roof. You start out with a simple 3-D shape like a cube, sphere, or pyramids and shape it to look like the wanted form. You can also build vehicles, planes, motorcycles and more too. You even design how your avatar looks. In addition, you interact with other players throughout the game. You can work together and build something jointly or you can work separately. The presentations we did to show our work could be used for games, jobs, or school. This is a great educational adventure!

Hi, my name is Roberto. Last year, I had the opportunity to try Second Life. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. I'm now in high school, though. In Second Life, you build just about anything, make friends, and just try something new. Luckily, my class had Ms. Strehlow to help us out! Without her, I don't think we could've done something like this at all! Like I said, in Second Life, you can build just about anything. In my year, we were assigned into groups. My group was the mall/apartments. At first, I was a bit clueless as to how to build something. Then, with the help of Ms. Strehlow, I could build a basic apartment. I was happy when I finally built that apartment. It was thanks to me that I was able to provide every SL member in my class somewhere to keep their stuff. Another project was building a piece of furniture. I decided on a bed. It took me many tries before I made the bed I still have in my inventory today [By the way, you can buy it for 15 Linden!]. While taking SL, I found out that I wasn't always the perfect one to build things [for example, one of my SL Friends built a flat screen TV!]. But I always tried my best. You should try Second Life. It was one of the most amazing things I've done in my life!

I’m Myron and I really liked using Second Life. Even though the work we did was kind of hard, I enjoyed using the program and I can honestly say that I have learned a lot from it. Second Life has taught me how to be creative and how to build different objects. It has also helped me with my computer skills. It taught me how to work with others, to get things done, and how to share my ideas with others. I built objects by sizing different 3-D shapes and joining them together to create one object. To create more than one of the same shape, I used the shift copy technique. With Second Life, we used many different and unique shapes that were creative but also useful. As we finished our work we were given Linden which is the money of Second Life. We used our Linden to buy many fun virtual toys, but this was only if we finished our work. This taught me to be responsible in order to meet my deadlines. Second life was an exciting, cutting-edge experience and I was happy to be a part of this program that taught me how to be creative and learn architectural skills while having fun at the same time.

My name is Junior and Second Life taught me how to build objects that I didn’t know I could build. It was complicated but I managed to keep up with our instructor's help. Our instructor taught us how to create regular objects that were made up of basic 3-D shapes and form them into buildings. She also taught us how to put different textures on the shapes. We could also bend the objects and make different shapes from regular 3-D shapes. The objects that we built were objects that we could use in everyday life. For example we built an amusement park with rides and landscaping. Another group of students built a castle area, apartment buildings, and a shopping mall area. As we built different buildings and took snapshots of our work we earned Linden which is money in Second Life. Second Life was an advanced computer program and it was very much like real life. It was really fun to fly around in the virtual world and build things. Second Life was a cutting edge program. In the program we also learned how to communicate via chat instead of just talking to each other in real life. We had to chat/write our ideas to each other; otherwise we couldn’t make a building. We had the opportunity to use this program last year and we are fortunate to be able to use it again this year.

Hello! My name is Omar and I am an 8th grader at Lowell School. I already have taken Second Life which is a virtual reality world. Second Life is like reality because when you work and do all that you are asked to do you get rewarded with more opportunities and you receive additional privileges. And just like in real life you are rewarded with money which is called lindens. You get to work with other people and help them out by telling them how to do the tasks. In the real world you have to work with other people so it prepares you for this. When you are working you are already use to working with other people. This virtual game prepares you for the real world because you learn how to use measurement and how to communicate with other people and work with them. In this world you get to remodel your own space and put anything you want and in your space as long as it is appropriate. In an assignment your have to remodel your room so get to improve the measurements to make walls floors and lots of accessories to make your room look cool. So come and join the fun in this virtual world!

My name is Alexis and I am an eighth grade student at Lowell school. Last year I was fortunate to be in this class and learn how to measure and how to build things like a castle, an amusement park, a mall, and an apartment. Designing an apartment made me get creative. You can build vehicles and planes and ride around which isn’t really necessary because you can fly. You can also interact with other players in the virtual world. In this virtual world I learned techniques that will help me for life. This is a fun and educational game.

My name is Adrian. Last year Second Life taught me how to build objects that were not only useful but also practical. We made chairs, amusement rides, added landscape and other objects that my friends who were avatars used. I learned communication with messages by typing what I want to say and by speaking. I spoke to my friends next to me. When I finished an assignment I received Linden which was money. I would like to earn more Lindens this year and I can do that by being more responsible for my actions. This year I will complete my objectives. I can help myself by helping others and doing what I am supposed to do. Also if I ever have to do a job I might want to work my best.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Taking a look back...

These student screen captures give a fairly good overview of the past trimester. Students came back from Spring Break and we just plunged right in with our deserted island and made it our own one prim at a time. This work supports the latest STEM initiative (science, technology, engineering & math) and also the new NETS student standards in technology. Check out a job application for engineering these days and you will see that they want people who are self-starters who can collaborate with others. Those are just some of the 21st Century skills Phoenix Elementary students have learned during this brief time on PESD Island.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Unexpected Vacation

At the end of a school year, elective and special classes get interrupted for all kinds of reasons. Kids go on field trips, have to perform at assemblies, or...a school may just get closed down due to Swine Flu! Our kids got an unexpected weeklong vacation from school while the health department made sure everything got wiped down with disinfectant. This week was followed directly by the long Memorial Day Weekend so there wasn't much left to do but party when the kids came back. I provided all sorts of party supplies, a dance area and vehicles which could be used in the raceway. One teacher arranged to borrow her kids at a different time so they could meet kids from one of the other schools which was fun.

Here are some thoughts from a few of the students participating in this pilot project:

Hi, My name is Sammie Steamer. I am a Second Life user from Lowell School. What I like about Second Life is that you can almost build anything that you want. What I also like is that you can work with others from different schools or from the same school! I like when it comes down to working with others that you can learn many different things and have fun. I like that we get our own rooms and we get to pick what we want in our room and edit how we want it. I like building things for my room. That's fun to do for me. Second life is just like real life but in the computer. I like that you can change clothing and have different hair and shoes etc. I learned some math by building things with the numbers that you have to use. You also learn how to work with other people on Second Life. I think that working on Second Life is a good educational world and at the same time it is very fun. You should try it and find out.

My name is Vann Vyper. I’m in 7th grade and I go to Edison School. I am 14 years of age. My experience in Second Life was absolutely amazing. I could not get enough of it. There was so much to do. We had some set backs, like not having enough time. It took a long time to make my plane. It is a Japanese Mig. I plan to go to college and graduate. I don’t know what I want to do yet.

Hello, my name is Silvano Serenity and I attend Edison Elementary. What I like to do is use the internet and play sports. On Teen Island I learned a lot of different shapes and what they look like if they are hollow.
To build a plane was an easy process, just stretching ovals. When I grow up, I want to be in the Navy and fly planes. I also want to attend college so in case I get hurt I have a back up plan.

My name is Adreean Arrowmint and I go to Kenilworth School. This has been a learning experience for my friends and I. It's fun to build my own home and to be able to hang out with my friends and play games. There is a large Scrabble game which I played with my teacher. There are also chess tables and hangman games. I would like to continue this during the summer because it would be great to interact with friends as well as learn to build all sorts of things on a day to day basis during the summer. I would have fun making cars, playing on the ferris wheel, and dancing crazy. Being able to take the flash drive home over the summer will help me keep busy instead of goofing off or being bored, plus I would rather be doing something educational.

My name is Filiberto Firehawk and I am a student at Kenilworth. It is the last day of school and I really want to keep on working on Second Life during the summer. Here are some reasons why I want to continue it. I learned some computer skills for example my typing skills have increased. I learned what a flash drive is. I learned how to talk in a chat room. I need to continue because I need to finish my room. It will give me something to do during the summer break. Most of my friends are in it and I can chat with them over the summer. Second Life is really cool and fun and lots of other kids and teens agree with me. This may take a bite out of your summer but you can choose the hours we log on.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Who Has the Top Design?

Today most of the class worked in the mall area which we are calling Lowell Center until someone comes up with a different name. I had an assignment in a notecard giver and the students had to follow the directions for Who Has the Top Design. They had to create a prim floor, ceiling, and three walls, so there was a lot of shift copying and rotation to be done. When you watch the video, you will see an entire building disappear. Not a single student mentioned it but were so into what they were doing that they just kept on working. You have to love that kind of engagement!

A Day at the Museum

Things are starting to take shape at the Museum. We just don't have enough time to do everything we want with this project. This pullout class was going to compare visually in 3D the WWII era, Vietnam, and Iraq. They could have done music and art from the period, but chose uniforms, airplanes, and construct a timeline. Uniforms proved to be too time consuming and difficult. Hover text scripts could easily be used for each event, so I taught Ms. Rodriguez how to use the hover text script and she in turn taught the boys working in her room. It took a bit longer for them to catch on. I keep forgetting that I know adults who have never done any programming and so for young teens, these kids rock! You have to love their fleet of aircraft!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Journey of Louiz Longfall

Hello, my name is Louiz Longfall and I am in Mrs. Baron's advanced computer elective. When we started Second Life, we filled out a survey about our interests. Castles was something that I had interest in so Ms. Strehlow assigned me the job of chief architect. The castle reflects the medieval days. There were six assigned to work on the castle. We first built the floors then added the walls. We used bricks because bricks were used in the original castles. We then added the 2nd floor and built ladders to connect the two floors. We created the walls on the 2nd floor and added another platform so it could be longer on top. We tried to use plants that were common in Europe. As we completed parts of our castle some of our workers were reassigned to different areas in Second Life. I think the castle was difficult to build but it was the most fun. As the chief architect I had to give directions to students so they could build the ladder, put the textures on the walls, and on the floor. This experience will help me in my future because this is something that was new for me and now I know how to work with other people.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lowell Students Build Bridges

The other day I decided to dredge a river gorge that would bisect the island. In an effort to give some students an extra chance to earn Linden dollars (points), I had them work on a footbridge problem that had to span the gorge. They could not just build a flat plank and the most successful remain on the island and acquired the most points. They could work with a partner if they wanted to.

More Kenilworth Newbies

Today we had technical difficulties with computers that worked fine previously. One of our specialists had to change the display settings to 32 bit color which prevented the students from getting logged in and they really had just a brief time to be inworld. Next time they will have more time to get acclimated. The virtual world environment is not unknown to this gaming generation but I need to add more constraints initially until the students understand this is not completely playtime. Having worked in instructional technology for over 20 years, I understand the impulse to look at every computer as a source of amusement, which is fine (because I do the same thing), but the students need to understand that what they learn through play is also connected to so much more. (See video below)

Edison Group - The Museum Starts to Take Shape

Today more students worked on specific items for the Museum they are building. There is a timeline of events for which students will learn more about scripting prim objects. They will use a Hover Text script and learn how to edit it for content and color. A few girls tried using Vint's skirtmaker and my tutorial. I have to admit that skirts are not easy but if they are going to tackle historic uniforms, they will have to master this skill. Students are not just making the super easy "system clothing." They will be using Gimp and the avatar templates. (See video below)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Am in Total Awe of These Kids!

Everytime I go into the kids' hard drive folders to see what new pictures they have taken documenting their work on the island, I am in awe. These students are gaining a much better sense of spatial reasoning by manipulating three-dimensional shapes in a virtual environment and that gives them a better sense of their own physical world. They are creating buildings from scratch with no patterns or formal blueprints. They "see" what they want to build in their heads and just go for it. They consult with their team members and whatever is happening is evolving from their process. If you walked into the room, no one would even notice you because they are so engaged in the process. (See video below)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Trees, Apartments, and Rides, Oh My!

Students in all three Lowell groups continue to make progress with the planning and building of the apartment complex and mall, the castle and forest, and the amusement park. Ramps were erected near the apartments, towers and intricate ramps with railings have appeared in the castle, and a ferris wheel now has one set of seats. Students are experts now at taking screenshots and saving them giving us a wonderful visual record of the process. Collaborative and organizational skills are improving as the students work together to create various sections of each build.

I am in awe as I watch the level of engagement. I spent my time moving around the media center watching the kids work so my avatar fell asleep. The kids thought that was funny enough to document. (See video below)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

RL & SL (Real Life and Second Life)

Three groups of students are now working on the island. The 27 advanced computer students at Lowell have had the most avatar time and have had time to work in their chosen groups. The smaller groups at Kenilworth and Edison have just begun to work in world, but work easily with their avatars. None of the students needed to learn how to walk, jump, fly, or chat. They multitask easily, switching from the Second Life browser to do screenshots and paste them into PowerPoints. The Edison students practiced some tutorial and math tasks. They will be working on a performance piece that integrates the cultures of WWII society, the Vietnam War era, and the 9-11 Iraq period. Students will compare and contrast in a 3D virtual setting the music, art, heroes, inventions, advertising, and more. (See videos below)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kenilworth Students: First Look

Today a few more students from Kenilworth came on board. The Kenilworth students will be located on the building platform until we get a better idea of what they will be doing. The first day I had 3 students and was going to have them teach this group but they were attending our gifted program so I had to orient this group. The interesting thing about this is that I did it all sitting at my desk in the district office location and the kids were in the computer lab of their school! Their computer teacher Ms. Gillam was in the room with them as well as my team member Mr. Kain. Both Ms. Gillam and Mr. Kain have spent time with me training in Second Life and are interested in this virtual learning environment. I foresee many more such situations where students are not necessarily in the same physical space as their teachers for various reasons. (See videos below)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our First Student Screenshots

Today the students took some screenshots and created a PowerPoint for storage of their island pictures. The students finished their Gimp Bling T-shirt files and next class they will be wearing clothing of their own design. Students also had to decide in which of the areas they will work. Students rank ordered special areas and the final choices were a castle area, a modern apartment building and shopping mall, and an amusement park. The engineering skills they will have to cultivate just building a roller coaster are incredible. The classes go by so quickly that we will not be able to do a fraction of what we really want to do, but since this is our first foray into this, we are just happy doing the exploratory work.(See video below)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hey! We All Look Alike!

Disclaimer: I did not know the internal mike was picking up my voice! Yikes! Today the advanced computer students at Lowell Elementary got their avatars and a taste of what it will be like on an empty island. They had some orientation watching me do a few things prior to class and along with what they already knew of other virtual environments, easily walked, jumped, and flew. We weren't sure how many avatars we could get in at one time due to bandwidth limitations but we did get everyone in. We are running the software off of flash drives and that seems to work fairly well. I wish the video would have worked (most of it was ruined) but it was a pretty wild first day. The kids played around with making prims, and many not only added textures, but used the hollow, twist, and other tools to modify the basic shapes. Students acquired points for how much they experimented with their prims. Points will translate into Linden dollars earned. (See video below)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now I Know How Robinson Crusoe Felt

Since there was no commerce on the Teen Grid, I was continuing the transfer of items to my alternate avatar Ginger Trafalgar so when she had to move to the Teen Grid she was loaded with as much stuff as possible. (Both Bernajean and Maggie gave me this advice and I was seriously taking it to heart) I then get a message from Linden Lab that Ginger's account had already been transferred to the Teen Grid. Aarrrggghhh!!!

She's not ready yet! So I called Jay back and asked if as long as I was logged in could Ginger continue "packing for her trip." She said that was fine but the next time she logged in, she would have to go to PESD Island. Whew! That gave me a couple of hours yet. I had already given her a ton of textures kids could use for building, quite a few historical costumes, giant prims, sculpties, and plants, but there was so much more to give her. 

I knew that was it. Nothing more I could give her, nothing more I could do. I took a deep breath, logged back in following the directions given me in case I could not log back in and the video below shows the rest. Ginger is now as alone as Robinson Crusoe. She has so much to share with students and can't wait to see what kind of spaces they develop with 15,000 prims to use! We are off on what I hope is the adventure of a lifetime for these kids. Now I just have to figure out how to get them in! (See video below)

Friday, January 9, 2009

It started with NPR...

On 8/22/2007 I was driving to work at the Phoenix Elementary School District #1 office and listening to NPR. A marketing company called Crayon was apparently using a virtual reality environment to hold meetings instead of flying their employees to one location or doing conference calls. The only avatars I knew about were on Yahoo instant messenger but as an instructional technology specialist I immediately figured out that if you could hold meetings in a virtual world, you could also hold classes. I felt a bit "out of touch" because this was the first I had heard of Second Life and I used to be the one who told everyone else about the latest thing. I guess I had some catching up to do.

I mentioned the story to one of my team and he had heard it also but he had actually created an avatar and explored a bit. When I had a chance I visited the Second Life web site and I began the registration process. Several hours later (not quite, but if you have ever done this you know this might be the most time consuming part)I was Norma Underwood. After downloading the software I logged in and was very single-minded as I arrived in Second Life. I had to laugh because I was standing in a group of other new avatars and the female ones all looked exactly alike. Yes, I started out as Ruth, the vague looking brunette with the purple shirt. As an art teacher and designer, I was not very happy with the look but my mind was set and I was determined to find Crayonville. I had never worked an avatar before but I saw the arrows and figured that was worth a try and now I was walking away from the group.

I saw a search bar so I typed in Crayonville and voila! Ok, now what. Ooooooo! Teleport! "Beam me up Scottie!" What fun for someone who has been a Star Trek geek since Captain Kirk was at the helm. Whoosh! (gotta love the sound) and I was in Crayonville. (Yes, I completely didn't catch the fact that I had landed in Orientation Island and bypassed the whole newbie training.) I was alone in Crayonville so I took the time to make a few adjustments to my avatar. I tried to make it look a bit more like myself and had no problems using the sliders. I figured out a different outfit and then explored the land of Crayon which included a movie theatre and a 50's style diner. I was in awe of the possibilities in this wonderous world that existed in pixels. If avatars could meet in a movie theatre, wouldn't students enjoy that also?

I flew around a bit (how cool is flying?) and ended up in an open area where there were other avatars. I watched as they pointed and things would appear like magic. I had landed in a building sandbox. I also discovered that I was in a land of giants! They were all so tall, and thin, and well dressed, and attractive. I, on the other hand, trying to look like myself, looked like a hobbit! Arrgghhh! But this was where I made a truly remarkable discovery. Everyone was ready to help me. I was taken under the wing of a designer from the east coast who was wearing a snowman head and driving a go kart. He asked if I would like a ride and my improv training from Comedysportz always was to say yes, so soon I was on a maniacal ride which ended at the bottom of a body of water. Mr. Snowman was no Mario Andretti.

He was very helpful however and sent me to a Freebie Warehouse where I purchased tons of stuff for zero Linden dollars. You could be totally poor and still get lots of things in Second Life. Ah, if only that worked in the real world. I stayed up way too late that night opening up packages in the sandbox and trying on new skins and shapes to improve my look. I went to bed exhausted and excited by my adventure. The following day my boss showed me an article in Master Teacher magazine that talked about students becoming addicted to a virtual world called...Second Life. He thought I should explore this. Ha! I told him that I had about 6 hours of experience and that I thought there were real educational opportunities there. Wow, not only am I finding this cool but I have a boss who wants me to figure it all out! Woo Hoo! Oh sure, neither one of us knew how addicting this was going to be, but when something has educational potential, you are trying to figure out how you can use it to motivate kids. If they are getting addicted to this on their own, then let's tap into that proclivity and toss some content at them!

I spent my first two weeks in the sandbox. I spent most of my time doing some basic building and then someone mentioned classes. Oooooo! I spent the next few weeks attending as many classes as possible. I got something from everyone I met; be it advice, a gadget, a technique, or object. I decided that I was going to do some serious hanging out inworld and sprung for a premiere account and also got myself some Lindens. Lindens are the inworld currency and the exchange rate is about 240 Linden to the dollar. I got $75 worth and all of a sudden, I was RICH!!! LOL I rented a shop on Book Island for a book I wrote and was promptly introduced to someone from the UK who became my mentor for the next several months. He knew so much and taught me quite a bit. We went to scripting classes and after I learned how to make clothes, we opened up a T-Shirt shop.

For a while I had 4 shops going in various locations. I had a book shop, the shirt shop, an art shop, and one for gowns I designed under the Norma Underwood label. I rented a house and built a comedy club skybox. I created tutorials and started teaching a comedy class and a Gimp class for GQ headquarters. I built an educational skybox above my comedy club and decided I would use it to train teachers in my district if they were interested. With the help of Teeple Linden, I created a class of teacher training avatars and trained two groups of 20 teachers during our 2008 summer tech boot camp.

It was around that time that I found out about ISTE island and started meeting the fabulous teachers who had been doing for years what I only imagined was possible! One morning I was ready for their tour and something happened and it was going to have to be cancelled. I offered to take the small group to my skybox and show them the things on which I had been working. After that, more people came to see the skybox and asking if they could bring others to see it. I was thrilled. I let the shops go, dismantled the comedy club so I could use the prims and worked hard to make the place educator friendly. I met ScubaChris (Chris Johnson) and joined the Second Life AZTEA group and got a chance to show him the skybox. I met him and several of the members in real life at a Web 2.0 conference which was very cool too. I got enough courage to ask if I could have a tiny presence on the AZTEA space on ISTE Island2 and before I knew it, Chris had built this great skybox which was twice as big as the one I had and graciously said I could use it. Chris Johnson rocks!!

Now our district had an excellent area right above AZTEA on ISTE and I got a chance to bring our cabinet members inworld. One of the things I had heard from several teachers I'd met was that admins only thought of Second Life as frivolous with fairies flying around with wings, etc. I decided it was imperative to have this first experience be one that would not leave them with that impression. I put all the avatars into businesswear. I created four women's dress suits that could be tinted for many looks and provided them free for all new teachers so they could have a professional wardrobe. I also recreated as many real life items and textures as possible so they would have the familiarity of the visuals. I had our district internet policy as one of the presentations. Photos of the district offices were on the walls. I did not scare them off! Whew! (See video below)

After that I spent a lot of time working on activities students could do to show teachers how Second Life could be used with Middle School Students. I got a chance to hear Bernajean Porter and Peggy Sheehy speak and realized I was still playing catch up but their programs were great examples of what was already wonderful work being done by young students. That was going to be my dream, to work with kids on the teen grid but I didn't know how to go about it other than prepare lessons and add to the skybox. I was at a school one day giving a survey to teachers and I made a remark to the principal that if we had some money, an island on the teen grid would be a great place for the older students. She looked at me and said, "I trust you. If you think it's a good idea, then let's start the purchase order!"

I was in shock. Wasn't I supposed to have to grovel at someone's feet for something like that? Well I immediately told my new boss who was already a Second Life afficienado what was said and she said, "Let's do it!" Was I in an alternate universe? Did I really just have two people tell me we could do this? I was not going to question anything but we never heard back from our original fax telling Linden Labs that we were indeed background checked and wanted to work on the teen grid. I let it slide mainly because I was more concerned with my daughter possibly leaving the nursing home after a very bad accident that left her bedridden for quite a long time. So, I dropped the ball on the island till after our Winter break.

I lit a fire under myself and made sure we got the purchase order going for the island. I waited impatiently for 3 days while our dear secretary Jennie stayed on top of getting the PO#. Finally I was able to fill out the online application and get a confirmation of the order. Our IT guys wanted to make sure students could not browse to inappropriate websites within the Second Life browser. Bernajean Porter talked to me inworld and said she was pretty sure they couldn't and was kind enough to call Peggy Sheehy and give her my number so we would have her input. Armed with the information that we could control those permissions, our IT guys were happy to know this was not going to be a problem. So now it is my job to wait for the invoice and thank Bernajean and Peggy for their generosity. Time is so precious to all of us and they gave me theirs in order to help. I am so grateful to everyone who got me to this point in Second Life. It is an "each one; teach one" global community of learners and teachers. How can we not use this to give our children that same spirit of collaboration and giving?