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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Out of hibernation

Hatters Island has been on hiatus for a few weeks, while the first few weeks of school played-out. I have been focusing all my energies on getting the school year off to a solid start and now I can turn some of my attention to the development of Hatters Island. Please remember, Second Life is totally new to our High School. In fact, the majority of students and staff know not of its existance. My intention is to have most of the basic necessities in place on the island before we introduce it and roll it out. Here is the plan:

  1. recruite several student builders and scripters through the newly-created Virtual Reality Club at our HS
  2. create student accounts for those builders/scripters
  3. have those few students assist me in building and scripting key areas of the island (see early posts for more on that) to prepare it for 2nd semester (late January) class-wide rollout
  4. possibly test out the island with select classes to identify any possible kinks

This timeline brings me to a very important point. I recieved a grant in the Spring of last year to fund the initial purchase of an island, 12 months of maintenance fees and building and scripting costs. In fact, the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation (the organization which awarded the grants) hosted a reception this week which brought together donors, staff, administrators and local legislative represenatives to showcase past and present grant recipient projects.

That having been said, we have much work to do before the close of this school year; island set-up, classroom use of the island and evaluation of the efficacy of this project. I truly believe this is not only a worth-while endeavor, but also a ground-breaking one while will help our students develop their 21st Century Skills.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Amphitheatre Complete (sans seating though) 3 hours later...

I started laying-out the flat cylinders to approximate where I would "raise" the landscape on the mountainside to create prim-free stools for avatars to sit upon. Nope. Didn't work; I found that I could not raise a small enough section of land. I decided to put seating on the back burner and create a demonstration platform where the "instructor" can demonstrate concepts and also have enough room for students to come on down and participate.

I had rezzed a 30m x 30m x 0.5m platform out of flattened boxes, the default SL prim. I stuck it in the north side of the mountain, jutting out toward the sea. I wanted a rounded "corner" and a railing so that students and class facilitators would not fall off the platform. Here is a pict of construction:

I wanted the platform to be made of stone or wood; an earthy-type feel. I found an awesome texture in my inventory (of about 11,500 items) called "Old Wood". I applied the texture to the platform, but it looked pretty awful (see above). Not only did I have several overlapping prims in the platform (creating an annoying and fasciculating appearance), but the wood grain itself was distorted. I deleted several overlapping and "hidden" prims in the platform that I must have rezzed accidentally and adjusted some of the texture parameters. I also found a few nifty shortcuts to keep the prim count down (15K max per island) which, incidentally, helped the textures meet up nicely:

I then created a railing, textured it with "Peeling Paint", rezzed a rocking chair from my inventory and sat down to relax and watch my 1st Second Life sunset on Hatters Island:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Surveying the Land

Being neither an architect nor a surveyor, this part is pretty challenging. There are nine major areas that I would like to develop on our island. BTW - I really, really dislike having to write "I" this and "I" that. But, my avatar is currently the only one on the island and "I" am by myself (like the Tom Hanks and the volleyball stuck on the deserted island movie) until we get some students in here to help out. Those nine areas (you may look at the mind map previously posted) are:

Teleport Hub
Orientation Area
Student Center
Exhibition Area
Biology Area Kinesiology Area

To help with my spacial awareness, I rezzed nine 30m x 30m floating platforms and placed them roughly above where each of those keys areas could be located:

I first started on a 45-seat amphitheatre. In order to save prims (each 256m x 256m sim such as Hatters Island is allotted a total of 15,000 primatives, the shapes that we use to build, well, everything) I have taken into consideration advice from Kim Anubis (on the Main Grid); terraform and landscape. So before trying to carve out 45 seats in the side of the mountain, I have laid out their approximate positions with thin plywood cylinders:

The trick is ensuring that the seats will be laid out not only so the avatars may have an unobstructed view, but also so that the camera view is not embedded in the seat behind. More on that next post...I need to get back to work...

Email Down

Firstly, I have recieved many well-wishes about this project (thank you!). I have also recieved many questions via email (as in-world IM communication is pretty restrictive among adults in the Teen Grid). Unfortunately, my email has been very spotty (all right, pretty much out) for the past week. Not sure what the problem is, but I pretty much get to read mail and then by the time I sit down to reply, email is down again. I'll reply as soon as it's back up...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

1st day on Hatters Island

Here are some picts and video of Hatters Island:

Here is a plan view (North is on the right):

Elevation viewed from the East:

Elevation from the North:

Elevation from the South:

Elevation from the West:

Video fly-by:

Island tour:

Island views:

These videos were taken with Smart Board Notebook software, not quite machinima quality, but they get the point across...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I've been transformed!

I was just notified by Rowan Linden (Linden Labs) that my avatar, Learnus Constantine has been transformed (transferred) permanently to the Teen Grid. He will be restricted to Hatters Island, unable to teleport to the Teen Mainland or any other island. I feel like Lewis and Clark (or at least one of them)!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ready for transformation...

I just sent an email to Linden Labs requesting that my alt av, Learnus Constantine, be moved (transformed) from the Main Grid to the Teen Grid. As soon as this is done, the next time I log into Second Life, my av will be on Hatters Island.

I have created a mind map (using http://www.bubbl.us/) of the key areas of Hatters Island:

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Well, I have spent the past two or so weeks loading-up my alt av (Learnus Constantine) for the trip to Hatters Island. LC is one of the basic av style that we can choose from. I haven't yet found the time to alter his appearance or clothing; I figured that can be done on Hatters Island once some headway has been made.
Several folks from the SLED (SL Educators) and SLEDT (SL Teen Educators) have been nice enough to donate objects, textures and scripts to LC for the trip. I have even been offered a copy of a anatomical simulation (more on that later). I do appreciate their generosity very much.
I have spent the balance of the time tagging freebie sims on del.icio.us and have started shopping at them , one at a time. About another week or so, an then off to the Teen Grid. I wonder if this is what Christopher Columbus would have felt like with a credit card and QVC?
If anyone out there would like to donate any freebies, I would be much appreciative! Thanks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hatters Island has been delivered!

I just got an email from LL stating that Hatters Island is up. The next time my av logs into SL, he will be permanently teleported to the island. Hmmm. I guess I better start loading-up on those freebies. I'll put out an email to the SLED and SLEDT listservs in the morning requesting (pleading?) for freebies. Wow. This happened a lot faster than I expected!!!


My clearances have been sent to Linden Labs for review. Hatters Island should be processed and delivered in about 10 days. I need to start loading-up my alt av (Learnus Constantine) with freebie clothes, textures, furniture, scripts, etc...for the one-way trip to the Teen Grid. Anyone out there willing to contribute their inventory, I would be grateful! Thanks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I just want hot dog rolls!

I received a request for help from a K-12 teacher over the weekend regarding how to purchase an island on the TG. She seemed a bit overwhelmed at the amount of material and resources out there on SL. I agree. At times I am not sure where to start. It's like going to the grocery store to get a pack of hot dog rolls; there are a myriad of choices to select from.

Here is my step-by-step take on how to get started purchasing an island on the TG for educational purposes...

Go to http://secondlifegrid.net/programs/education.

This site has some good education and SL resources, including the link to order an island with the educators discount: http://specialorders.secondlife.com/

Scroll down to “Island Set Up Fee (Educational/Non-Profit Discount)

Click on the hyperlink.
Pick an island name.
Select Teen Grid from the drop-down menu.
Select an island shape (1-4).
Enter your av name.
Choose your payment cycle.
Enter your institution name.
Enter your entity type.
Enter your tax ID# (ask the accounting folks in your district).
Enter the expected use for your island.
Click “Buy”.
Click “Proceed to Checkout”.
Enter your New Customer Registration Information.

Follow the prompts and await your confirmation email with further directions.

You will be required to provide proof of proper clearances (criminal history, etc...) before your island is processed.

Once proof is received by Linden Labs, then they will send your district an invoice.

Your district then can write out the PO with the exact amount due etc...

Saturday, May 24, 2008


  • I received and read Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life; it is a great book, packed with information and includes a CD with scripts, textures and more. I especially liked the chapter on terraforming and the amount of thought that that goes into good island design
  • The delivery of Hatters Island is pending appropriate background checks
  • Our Virtual Reality Club was approved this week. We will be recruiting before the end of the school year in order to develop an interested cadre before summer break.
  • I created an alt av (Learnus Constantine) who I will load-up with textures, objects, scripts and other freebies for the one-way trip to TSL.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Big Step

Over the course of the past month or so since I last blogged, a few things have happened:
  • I recieved advice from Kim Rufer-Bach/Kim Anubis (The Magicians) regarding choosing an island and basic terraforming (shaping the island to develop hills, valleys, etc...). I ordered a copy of a book she co-authored, Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life, along with Aimee Weber and Richard Platel. The book arrived yesterday and, so far, I have found it to be concise and useful. It covers a wide variety of building and scripting topics. I am considering ordering a few copies for our island "mentors" (see 3rd point below).
  • Our school district accounting folks have communicated with Linden Labs to work out the PO/invoice aspect of an island purchase.

  • We have requested the creation of a new club, the Virtual Reality Club. The goal of this club will be to channel the knowlege and experience of student gamers and programmers into something productive and useful. Why not put their interests and talents to use designing and scripting our new island? These students would also serve as mentors to students and teachers new to TSL. They could really come in handy once our island is up and running in the Fall (hopefully!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Decision time: Open vs. Closed estate

Ok. I think I am getting a handle on closed vs. open islands (estates). Please read the following questions and add your comments so we can all profit from your knowledge. Thanks!

  1. Basically, I think we want to start off our new island in seclusion, restricting our students avs to our island and restricting outside access to our island. I think that we may want to gradually (and on a case-by-case basis, if possible) open-up our island to mainland teens in the future if possible. In short, is it possible to start off with a closed estate and change it to an open estate over time?
  2. Adult teachers are restricted to their island forever and cannot TP to other islands or the TSL Mainland, correct?
  3. Therefore, adult avs cannot travel around and pick-up/shop for furniture, textures, clothes, correct?
  4. So, how do adult avs provide their students with these necessities? Does the adult av have to load up in SL and get transferred to TSL permanently (one-way ticket)?
  5. If so, how do adult avs in SL go through their inventory to check for non-PG content? Is there an easy way?
  6. If we have an open sim then our student avs can visit other open islands as well as the TSL mainland, correct?
  7. If so, then they can obtain freebies or purchase clothes, textures, etc…correct?
  8. Other teen avs can come into our open sim at any time, correct? Adults on our sim will not be able to IM them , only local chat and local voice, correct?
  9. If we start with an open sim, can we use the estate properties to restrict our student avs to the island and not allow them to TP off?
  10. If we start with an open sim, can we use the estate properties to restrict anyone but our student avs from coming to our island?
  11. If #10 and #11 are correct, can we give individual permissions to a select few of our student avs to TP off, or is it all or none?
  12. If #10 and #11 are correct, can we give individual permissions to a select few mainland teen avs to TP onto our island, or is it all or none?

    Please add comments so all can read your replies. Thanks again!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

ELVEN Navigation workshop

There will be a navigation workshop this Saturday in SL from 8am - 10am SLT (11am - 1pm EDT). ELVEN is a group of Educators and Librarians in Virtual ENvironments whose mission is to help educators into SL and assist them to incorporate SL into their RL classrooms.

Date: Saturday, April 19, 2008
Time: 8am - 10am SLT (11am - 1pm EDT)
Location: ELVEN Institute

Open or Closed estate?

Estates (islands) in Teen Second Life (TSL) can either be purchased as "closed" or "open" estates. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Either way, teachers/educators are restricted to the island and are not able to teleport (TP) to any other island or the Mainland. Teachers are also unable to communicate with any avatar (av) on the Main Grid (MG) of SL, which is only open to those 18 years of age or older. This separation between SL and TSL serves to limit adult interactions with teens in the Teen Grid (TG).

Closed estate:

  • student avs restricted to this island
  • no other teen avs allowed to visit or participate in activities on a closed island
  • potentially safer environment, free of outside interference

Open estate:

  • student avs can interact with other teen avs
  • teen avs can visit the island and participate in activities
  • potential for other teen avs to perhaps disrupt classes or learning activities

An open estate allows for much more teen av interaction, exactly why Web 2.0 fits so nicely in with 21st Century Skills that our students should be developing. I think we may purchase an open island and have very tight controls in place, perhaps loosening them in the future.

While poking around to see what other educators are doing in TSL, I came across several resources several months ago. The first is a blog by Peggy Sheehy (Maggie Marat in SL). Ms. Sheehy comes from the Ramapo Central School District in New York (USA). She is one of the foremost TSL educators and developers today and is nationally (if not internationally) recognized for her expertise. She was one of the first educators to set -up an island in TSL and blog about it (http://ramapoislands.edublogs.org/). She does really does a good job of capturing the journey from island concept to reality on her blog.

I had the good fortune to run into her av, Maggie Marat, in SL a few days ago. She readily offered advice and assistance. This is quite common in SL and something that I am most thankful for.

Another good blog is PacificRim Exchange, run by Stan Trevena, Director of Technology for Modesto City Schools in Modesto, California (USA). PacRimX is a collaborative island in TSL where students from Modesto work and share with students from Kyoto Gakuen High School in Japan. This blog is similar to Ms. Sheehy in that it chronicles the project from the get-go. It differs in that some of the posts are very technical (good for pushing us digital immigrants!).

Lastly, there are two wikis from which we can all learn a lot: the Second Life: Educators Working with Teens wiki and the Second Life Education wiki are great resources.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Got the grant!

Well, I received a letter last Monday (3/31/08) that the grant I applied for was approved! The grant money will cover the costs to:

  • purchase an island on the Teen Grid

  • pay monthly maintenance fees for one year

  • set-up accounts for 75 students (three block-scheduled classes)

  • purchase previously built objects (furniture, landscape, etc)

  • purchase books/training equipment

I have done some preliminary planning/layout of the island (more on that later). I got some good advice while sitting-in on a class that Tutti Barbosa held on the island of Abracadabra back in February. The "tour guide", Kim Anubis, owner of The Magicians content development group, shared some wonderful insight concerning island terraforming (island topography) and island planning in general. Abracadabra is a wonderful example of terraforming with emphasis on form and function (and it looks really cool too).

Anyhow...the next step is to meet with:

  • the Director of Education Technology for our District
  • our Principal
  • our Department Chair (who also is our Technology Coach for Classrooms for the Future)

We need to determine the type of island (closed to "outsiders" or open), student use policy, the hardware requirements, as well as many other items. By the way - two out of the three individuals above have created avatars! We are leaning towards meeting in-world to avoid the restraints of a physical meeting.

This is a very exciting time for us, given the push towards acquiring 21st Century Skills!

Proposal to acquire an island

...so, where to get an island? Having been in SL for several months and having participated in several listservs, I discovered that SL is age-restricted to 18+ years old. There is a parallel "grid", called Teen Second Life (TSL) for 13-17 years; most of these islands are built by teens and are for teens. Some of these islands are built by educators for their students. Hmmmm....

After some research, I found that our school district (Hatboro-Horsham School District) has an Educational Foundation that had grant money available. The goals of the Foundation are to enrich the community and provide teacher funding for innovative projects. Hmmm...TSL sounds innovative and very Web 2.0, right? So, with the help of Clowey Greenwood, founder and developer of BIOME Island on the Main Grid (SL), I applied for the grant on January 22, 2008.

So now what?

I created an SL account, created an avatar, wandered around a bit, and got some new (free) threads. What now?

Well, I searched for science and health-related sims throughout SL and explored. I met several avs (avatars) in those fields and joined several groups. Groups within SL are collections of residents with similar interests, such as medicine, teaching, forensics, etc. One such group is ELVEN (Educators and Librarians in Virtual ENvironments). ELVEN is currently developing a series of workshops geared towards educators new to SL and fairly new to SL. Visit the website for more information.

In addition, I started taking building and scripting (programming) classes through New Citizens Inc (NCI). This group specifically assists new Residents with different aspects of SL. Classes are free, held in SL (in-world) and are 24/7.

What to do with all this new-found knowledge? Buy an island and build (kinda like early colonists or settlers)! More on that next...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The many faces of Learnus Maximus

Once on Orientation Island, my avatar (see SL Vocabulary list at right) who I named "Learnus Maximus" learned basic skills such as walking, running and flying (yes, flying). There are multiple ways to move around islands, as well as from island to island. This includes teleporting, just like in Star Trek ("Beam me up Scotty"). Learnus explored various islands and met many educators (K-16) in SL. Along the way, he picked up many "freebie" items, including clothes. Here are some of his outfits:

Learnus and his Chuck's, hanging out on Biome Island

Learnus business casual on Biome Island

Learnus wearing his scrubs in the AMMC Radiology Department

Learnus underwater on NOAA's Okeanos Island

Saturday, April 5, 2008

So, what is Second Life?

It turns out that Second Life (SL) is a MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environment). In every-day language, MUVEs are 3D virtual worlds that exist on server space. Second Life was created in 2003 by Philip Rosedale and his team of Linden Lab employees, based in California.

Essentially, SL is a world built entirely by its Residents (users who inhabit SL). This world consists of a Mainland and many Islands. Each island is about 65,000 sq. m (approximately 16 acres). There are approximately 65,000 islands inhabited by approximately 8 million Residents world-wide. There are approximately 50,000 Residents logged in world-wide at any given time.

Islands (also known as "Sims") may be purchased by individuals, organizations or corporations.

Just as the owners and developers of each island vary, so do their purposes; education, commerce, entertainment, and role-playing sims are just a few examples. The possibilities are limited only by the creativity of the Residents. Here are a few examples:

Spaceport Alpha: International Spaceflight Museum. This sim contains scaled replicas of a variety of spacecraft, including a Space Shuttle, Vehicle Assembly Building and the International Space Station.

Biome Island (Northen Michigan University) is an island dedicated to the life sciences. It features a large microscope with a drop of water that Residents can walk into, learning about various protists.

Genome Island is a sim focusing on the genetics of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. This island houses a replica of Gregor Mendels' Abbey as well as a multitude of interactive laboratory simulations
designed to interest and engage university-level students

Meteora Island - ride a weather balloon, fly into the eye of a hurricane, and stand on the ocean floor and experience a tsunami.

The Ann Myers Medical Center is a sim dedicated to the furtherance of interactive collaborative medical training.

There are many sims in SL which house a variety of venues design for education and meetings:

For Residents interested in creating and leaving their mark in SL, there are a variety of tools they may use to build, as well as tutorials and building classes. In addition to building, Residents may learn to script (program) an SL-specific language, Linden Scripting Language (LSL).

The most proficient of builders and scripters produce landscaped sims such as the one below, produced by The Magicians, a real-world company for hire which builds and scripts within SL:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Background Info

Well, where to begin? I guess at the beginning would make the most sense...

Early September 2007 - We attended a High School inservice at which a peculiar-sounding "thing" is mentioned; it is called "Second Life". The speaker described an environment in which cartoon-type characters called "avatars" are milling around buying, selling and trading clothing and other objects. Sounded a little bit goofy to most of us...

26th of September 2007 - Our Director of Educational Technology sent out an email describing NOAA's Meteora Island in Second Life. It said that users could fly through the eye of a hurricane and take a virtual submarine ride. It sounded interesting, so....

....later that day I pointed my browser to Second Life to check it out. Turned out that I needed to download free software, install it on the computer and was good to go. Once my Second Life account was created, I logged in and arrived at an Orientation Island.