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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.