Wednesday, 24 December 2008

It's Christmas!

How have I missed that particular line of a very well known Christmas song so far this year? What a delightful time of year. After a pretty dreadful autumn weatherwise it is very mild here. I have been cooking and just taken the dogs out for a walk, it will soon be time for visitors to arrive and the celebrations to begin.

As usual, in between times, I am playing around on the computer. I have followed someone else's (thanks Gavin - your words are better than mine) recent blog back to its source and created my own word cloud based on my Twitters from the last seven or eight months.

I think it is easy to see that I don't take my life or work nearly seriously enough :-) Maybe I should put MacBeth in and see what a sensible word cloud looks like!

Hmm - no comment on that :-)

I have suddenly been asked to do several small things in Second Life, and am preparing to run, with a colleague, our very first course in there. It has taken a long time to start to break into the educator's group in-world but it is happening, which I find very exciting!

Ah well - I have nothing really to say, just rambling - so I will give up and wish you all a very merry Christmas and the happiest, best possible 2009.

Monday, 15 December 2008

First Teaching Session in Second Life

Last night was, for me, a very exciting event. It was the very first session that I have done in Second life. It was a demonstration of some new language teaching tools at the request of Anna Begonia. I imagined it was going to be a very small event but actually quite a lot of people turned up, that was more to do with Anna’s persuasiveness than anything that was on offer. J

Having not been even remotely excited about it before the event, training is very “normal life” for me and the preparation for this was no different to anything else I do, but, after the event, which finished at midnight, I was so exhilarated that I could not sleep.

I am not going to beat myself up over a first training event, and on the whole, it was not bad. People enjoyed it and went off with two new items to use in their teaching, but, it could have been better!

I was demonstrating and talking in English, but most people there were Italian and did not speak English. Anna was translating everything I said. I am used to cutting instruction to bare bones, simple steps etc., so we worked well as a pair, however someone’s sound failed. At this point Daffodil stepped in and typed what I was saying in English. So we had a three man presentation. Many, many thanks to both Anna and Daffodil without whose help it would have been disastrous. Of course I should have had everything that I was going to say already prepared as a text, and the text available in a note card – why didn’t I? This I knew but somehow had not associated it with what I was doing, very strange! Anyway I am doing a repeat event soon and that will be greatly improved.

The biggest problem that I found was that people present had rezzed their own prims, not just used mine and when I came to clean up I selected everything, hit the delete key and only about two thirds of the stuff disappeared. I could not clean up what others had made, neither could I return it. So I had to write grovelling apologies to the landowner, put it all in a neat little heap and ask him to get rid of it.

So not an SL virgin teacher any longer, I am delighted at having done it and with lessons that I have learned! It is a pity the audience did not get the best performance possible but we all have to start somewhere.

I have just seen Anna's video clip of the event  :-)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Second Visit to Twinity

In the frequently asked questions section of the Twinity website it says that

"You can explore different locations, meet new people, pimp your avatar and apartment, and generally have fun!"

It seems that you cannot build or script.  I can buy stuff and set up an apartment if I want to but I don't so apart from wandering around there does not seem to be a lot for me to do. That maybe because I don't know anyone here, though I seem to have one friend and that is clever, I had no idea...

It would seem that there is a plan for people to be able to upload artefacts that they have made into Twinity, "we are working on that" but I guess scale etc. could be an issue here and it does not look as if they are working to enable building and scripting.

I walked around virtual Berlin - the advert says to "take a walking tour and see the sights," yes they are pretty and I guess I could learn my way around if I wanted to. I started to investigate several buildings that seemed to have doors, but really they don't. They are external images only, unlike SL, where someone would design and build the whole building down to the tiniest details, all that is missing from the buildings in Twinity - mostly because avatars cannot build I guess!

So doors are not for walking though, bicycles are not for riding, daytime (CET) is daylight and night-time is dark. Avatars are, or can be, fairly realistic.

It is easy to chat to people and listen to the background music that is already set up.

I guess all that is left for me to do is make my apartment :-(

In Twinity at the moment there is not much to capture my attention. In Second Life - where I am happy to spend hours, I have a group of friends, places that I like to spend time and places to investigate. I am delighted to meet up with friends and chat, about life, the world, education etc., but if I am alone, as I frequently am, I can build and pretend to script and still really enjoy myself. I am not too bothered by being there alone as I am occupied. Sometimes, between projects I am looking for inspiration, the next project, then I may get fed up, but as soon as I am hooked on a project idea I enjoy it again. The big difference between the two is the ability to create.

I can't go back in and make an apartment or house or flat, I have a real life one to look after and clean etc., that project just holds no fascination at all, I would put my avatar in it and she would probably never come out. I can't cope with that :-) I will leave her outside and free, then if I visit again I will join her in looking around any new builds.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

First visit to Twinity

I have downloaded and joined Twinity and am trying to visit Berlin. The first thing I can say is that it is incredibly slow! I thought Second Life was slow at times but not nearly as slow as where I am now.  I guess virtual Berlin is made up of very high quality pictures that have to be downloaded. It is taking forever on a very high spec machine. We are talking minutes here to get into the city centre!

Not being able to fly is a bit of a surprise, I am used to it :-) only running, walking and teleporting seems a little strange after all this time.

I have created my avatar and bought a top, that seems to have disappeared with the first teleport and I am back in the standard blue Twinity t shirt again.  Maybe it will turn up in some sort of inventory when I can find it.  I am  still trying to load Berlin at the moment so I can't do anything else. 

After a quick look at the museum, which did not seem to have much in the way of artefacts in it, I visited the 80s club in Almeria, Spain and enjoyed the pop-art Marilyn Monroe images, there was English music playing  - but I guess that is fine :-) 
I can't open the door to get out though - stuck here forever - Help!!

Ah - I have been here about 30 minutes and crashed out twice - well that is familiar at least!

As I enter for the third time I seem to be in a mens'  shop in Berlin, they are talking in German on the radio but there are no people in sight, in fact the whole place seems very deserted!

If I click on the globe to choose somewhere to go it takes ages to load the page, in that time it is loading I can't talk to anyone. I can't talk to someone and say let's go to XXXX, it does not minimise and if you close it to talk it takes ages to load again - strange!

I can buy a flat, but do I need one in a virtual world? My answer is no thanks! I want to build and create. That is to be my next investigation.

The Twinity motto is "Be nice" but after about 12 minutes waiting for a destination to load I do not feel like being nice I feel quite frustrated and have cancelled the teleport deciding I am never going to get there. Well it seems to have slowed beyond being able to do anything at all so giving up for tonight!

A few general comments, I am there at night and it is dark - reasonable - but I can't find a way to make it light so I can't see much of the town, it is not all lit up as it may be in Second Life. I am used to visiting clubs and seeing a huge variety of artefacts,  furniture, club paraphernalia , lights, decks, drinks, bars and dancers, all of these are missing in Twinity. Musical backgrounds are there, and I think videoing scences is easy but I can't find a way of taking a snapshot. I think, at the moment, I have not found much of what Twinity has to offer, I will keep investigating.

More tomorrow :-)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

A coffee with Kyle Mawer

On Sunday 3oth November on EduNation ll in Second Life Nik Peachey  interviewed Kyle Mawer from the British Council to find out about the work he has been doing in the Second Life Teen Grid. 

Kyle talked about the about the new British Council island in the main grid and how it is replicating many of the quests from Teen Grid to give teachers and opportunity of visiting, seeing how it works and planning sessions without having to get into Teen Grid, which is almost impossible. The island should be open in February and may give an opportunity for more people to be involved in the creation of quests and resources without having to jump through the hoops needed to get access to the Teen Grid. I am looking forward to visiting that!

Kyle talked about the use of games to inspire the generation of young people who have grown up as gamers. Most of the work for the pupils is in the form of quests where young people have to listen to a story, follow clues and solve problems. Comic strip pages are used to give instructions, and pupils can often write the answers, thus giving opportunities to listen, write, read and speak in English. The main idea is to build an English speaking community to talk to and support each other whilst learning the language.  Apparently young people enjoy the quests so much one has done one of the quests twenty-five times.

Kyle was asked how long it takes to build a quest, the answer is it is never ending, There are always more levels that can be added, things that can be changed to add interest etc. Robin Hood started out as a simple quest but has built and built. Sections such as the "odd one out" and "What needs doing" cover different aspects of language development, quests are either past, present or future - so they are all dealing with something different languagewise. 

Kyle talked about how he uses games to inspire and gave us access to his wiki:

It was interesting that even though students want access to the main grid . Kyle did not like the idea and prefers it as it is. I would like to see the grids merged but can see all sort of problems that are likely to prevent it from happening any time soon.  The feeling from several in the room is that education not censorship is the way to go, that would be my view! Kyle talked about the challenges of keeping the Teen Grid safe with appropriate content, the teens do not help in that respect, having fun, as teens can do, creating and planting naughty bits around the island – they would not appear to need much help from adults at all :-) He still felt that they would encounter too many inappropriate places and content in the main grid.

This was a very interesting session, I have been to several now about Teen Grid and begin to build quite a reasonable picture of the place I am not allowed!

An unworthy adult :-)

Pictures from an Island

Anyone who knows me well will not have to ask which island – it is my Second Life favourite haunt, where I spend many hours creating bits and pieces, for fun, educational use or whatever. EduNation ll, in the hands of it's owner Dudeney Ge (Gavin Dudeney, Director of  The Consultants-E)  has undergone an update with new buildings, club, disco, seminar rooms and a video streaming system used to entertain everyone before and after this evening’s seminar A Coffee With... more on that one to come.

In the meantime enjoy the photos J

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Creative Tinkering: Interfacing the Real and Virtual Worlds of Museums and Cultural Heritage

Museums and galleries are being developed in Second Life on quite a massive scale. Avatars are actively invited to engage with the artefacts or pictures; they cannot harm them the same way as in real life situations.  The question of how best to engage with them was the study of this exercise. This workshop was an attempt to get avatars to interact with a painting in a museum in Second Life. 

Las Meninas – engaging people in museum environments

"And even our dreams are dreams. Discuss the nature of reality while being placed inside the setting of this painting."

On joining a group in Second Life we were teleported to the stage set, then visted a website that showed us the picture. Delegates chose at this point whether to be either actors or viewers and they were given the role the avatar was to play and also given his bit of secret information to be shared surreptitiously with the rest of the party.   If people did not want to be actors they could be viewers and still interact with the characters. The actors took up their positions on pose balls to create the scene of the painting in a stage set in Second Life and the discussions began.

I certainly picked up some strange “secrets” like when one player said the earth was flat, I thought that was his secret information but what he was trying to convey was that he was living in the 16 Century by demonstrating some beliefs at the time.  I thought the nanny knew something about the queen murdering someone, I thought the body guard was suspicious of the maid and the artist may be plotting to murder the princess while the nanny disliked the job but liked the rewards.  None of those were right! I am not sure what the secrets were but they seemed to revolve round 16 century life or politics in the Spanish Court.  There seemed to be a brief threat at one point of the heretic burning and Spanish Inquisition! Be very afraid!

After the acting session we entered a group discussion about the exercise.

A couple of points for moving this sort of exercise forward were gathered, amongst them were:

  •  The actors should have costumes.  In our case male avatars were asked to play the parts of young ladies and a nanny. The male bodyguard was played by a female so it was very confusing to start with. What I found very confusing was the speech bubble form of chat. I normally use text chat that appears at the bottom of the screen against a name and it is easy to scroll through to see if you have missed anything like that, but as it was set up answers could appear and disappear and be, and were missed.
  •  We thought far more information was needed, none of the actors could tell anyone about who they were or what they were doing there. We were referred to the Wikipedia website above, but to go and read that would have taken far too long out of a twenty minute exercise. On looking for information after the event I thought that the other link above gave a much clearer, quicker description of the painting and issues. If the actors were given a notecard they could have shared more information and we would have learned more about the picture.

In discussion it was felt essential that the learning objectives of the interaction were made clear. We did not know what we were trying to achieve, history, art technique analysis, a “secret” from each character or something different. We felt that we had failed in our task because we did not find out about the painting, the people, who they were, what they were doing etc.

It was felt very strongly that this sort of exercise could be brilliant and would be a useful exercise before actually visiting a gallery or museum because lots of preliminary work could be done before the visit.

One person said that after visiting a SL museum he knew his way around on his first RL visit to the same museum.

An off-shoot idea that people really liked was for museum artefacts or paintings to be chosen by avatar student who could then do tours, descriptions etc. and so give their reasons for why they had grouped  items as they had.  It is another, very different form of interaction but equally as engaging.

This was a very enjoyable session and I felt we all learned a lot about how one may work with students in Second Life from it. As I said at the time, even though we had not really had much luck in the exercise we all wanted to know. and go to find out about the painting so in that way it was still very successful. Probably one of the most useful things we learned was to keep any exercise that we want avatars in-world to do very simple and straightforward.

For more information watch the website or contact Lars Wienke  - Velox Voom in SL.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sloodle at RELive 08 by Daniel Livingstone & Jeremy Kemp

University of West Scotland

SLOODLE (Simulation Linked Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a plug-in that allows integration between the web-based Moodle and Second Life.

The group attending this session used Sloodle to help access an In-world music teaching area involving quizzes, a searchable glossary of music terms, some instruments to take and play, a sandbox where avatars can make and submit a musical instrument and a range of other interactive activities.

What does Sloodle do?

The Sloodle tool itself
• enables users to see each other’s real names and avatar names, who is present on the course and nearby
• Provides appropriate teaching / learning gestures to be used in-world
• Enables a chat facility that saves back to Moodle, and far as I can understand this also accommodates chat with those Moodle users that are not in-world
• Enables the use of the Moodle quiz tool in Second Life
• Enables quiz or challenge results to be saved back to the Moodle mark book
• Enables the use of a drop box for students to submit work
• Enables a voting tools that can be seen both in and out of Second Life
• Enables the teacher to present presentations available in Moodle without having to upload the slides as textures This is available for any SL resident to try, if you want more information or to see it IM me Carolrb Roux in-world and we will see how much I remember :-)
Actually you may be better off IMing Buddy Sprocket in-world, that is Daniel and he will show you what it has to offer!

There is also a case study available on the website

I enjoyed this session, as I don’t use Moodle I am not sure how useful I would find it but if I was teaching in-world I may be inclined towards purchasing a hosted Moodle site to see how much added functionality it really offers. I can create in-world quizzes and can use notecards for web addresses, task instructions or names. I have seen voting tools for sale in-world though have not tried them out. I have more gestures than I am ever likely to use. I can save chat. Students just have to drop whatever they would drop in a drop box into my profile and I would still get it, so I am not sure just how much extra functionality if offers, but, the site was interactive and enjoyable. It can be accessed without tutor available, instructions via the wiki, tasks etc. can all be accessed at any time. For running multiple courses with lots of students I imagine it would be an invaluable resource, if I was in a position to use it I would try!

Action Research Tool - ReLive 08

Leonie Ramondt

Anglia Ruskin University

In this session we were considering the evaluation of sessions taught or carried out in Second Life. Firstly we created and account to log into the site that gives access to an on-line reflective journal.

Once we had done that we worked in groups to plan, rehearse and evaluate work based on two different scenarios. The first scenario was dealing with recruitment and retention and was:

A student survey has indicated that several wheelchair using students have found that a number of facilities have been designed poorly for their use (e.g. toilets are located on the far corner of the top floor behind a series of heavy doors). They have suggested that it might help staff to experience things from their perspective. Design and test a scenario that might help key staff experience what this is like.

The group that I was in did not attempt this one but the group that did it decided that to put the teacher avatar into a bubble would help them to experience difficulties of corners, heavy doors, all sorts of inaccessibility in fact. They were preparing to do this in Second life as we split up at the end of the session.

The second session was dealing with Student Wellbeing and was:

You are exploring whether Second Life is a useful tool for student peer mentoring. In your group, design and test out some simple role plays for peer mentors, in matters such as campus orientation, what to expect from a seminar and the basics of group work.

Two groups worked on this one – one group doing the group work exercise. They formulated an exercise – building a den, where all students had to work collaboratively so had to share permissions to edit each other’s work and allow all parties to take part.

Our group did the campus orientation – after much trial, error and discussion we decided that a treasure hunt activity that taught both orientation and skills would be the best way to approach it.

The last group was working on using Survey monkey to plan their evaluation.

The groups that used the evaluation template in the journal all agreed that they needed their own questions, pertinent to the exercise to make it more useful. It was however a useful journal to use asd an ongoing record.

For evaluation purposes it was felt that if one needed quantitative data then the survey tool may be better, if one wanted qualitative data then a much more precise set of questions was needed.

The group work facility on the journal did not work and all who used it felt that that was an essential requisite for the tool to be useful in the group.

The journal is available on-line at


A Day with John Davitt

This one has been two weeks in the writing and I have loads more to catch up. Not doing very well really :-)

I was lucky enough, a couple of weeks ago, to attend a day led by John Davitt,  described as a “practical visionary” in the field of ICT in education. John talked about how we all learn. The answer is; in a multitude of ways, so he felt that we should be asking children how they want to learn what they need to know saying that we can’t guess. The personalised learning agenda has been an important feature of education here in the UK for a while now, but in a new analysis of personalised learning - reported by the BBC and tweeted a few hours ago by Gavin Dudeney it has been called "Well intentioned waffle" and challenges the idea ending with the line: “Which is why "personalised learning" was more of a symbolic gesture than a real turning point in education policy.” Being a teacher I have no problem with the fact that teachers provide for as many different ways of learning as possible by making the best use of many types of resources, images, video, sound, text and ask for work back from pupils in a huge mixture of different media and allow pupils freedom to develop their own interests and skills as far as can be fitted into the creative curriculum. Also the Learning Platforms that are being introduced across the whole country giving pupils access to their learning resources and education on demand. We are all working towards what we thought was personalised learning - if it not called that, fine - we are doing the best we can to provide what our pupils need when they need it whatever it is called.

The focus for the day was to be on the use of tools for the schools of the future.  John said that there is already a wide range of learning tools available in school but he felt that the web 2.0 tools should simply fit into the pot of resources available for use. Pupils should be able to use whatever works for them to when they want to learn something. The tools need to work around the whole “chessboard” of learning  - so that pupils can, amongst other things,  see,  hear,  talk, show, write, listen, scan, animate, share and record chats. They should be used to develop and enhance creativity.

There is a dilemma between what we have in paper and what we have digitally.  Do we want, or want our students to live in the paper world or digital world? Should we be aiming at being paperless, or do some people need resources that are paper? Are they mutually exclusive?

John’s answer was that so long as they can live powerfully and actively in whichever they choose, or both, then it is fine.

As a warm up John introduced a random name chooser, that was fun and can be found at:

John is a great advocator of using the mobile phone in interesting ways. He says there is a “difference engine” in every pocket. He threw out a few ideas: send a text message abroad and  get a reply, text the teacher 160 characters on any subject and show 10 seconds on sedimentary rock as a film on mobile phone. He reminded us that we should think of activities not technology. To focus on the power of this John introduced his Learning Event Generator, a tool that can generate random curriculum linked activities, an on-line version can be seen at We were all given copies of the software to try out and develop. His newest version was running on his iPhone.  (He also demonstrated a rather wonderful but possible pointless ocarina simulation for the iPhone, that instantly loved and coveted.) 

The delegates were all given a task from the Learning Event Generator and around the room we had videos, pdf files, sound files and animations all created in about 30 minutes in the session.

John showed the group some Flickr tools that I had not seen before -, he used a photograph that he had taken of the group during the morning session and had published on Flickr, to make a magazine cover. Lovely creative use of the mobile phone, web 2.0 tools and a very inspiring task for pupils.

He reminded us to use free tools such as Scratch with its 160,000 current projects that can be downloaded to investigate how they work and improved

He talked about mashing being a new art form and reminded us to use video tools, phones, digital cameras etc. To develop creativity, showing the sheep and Rosie as a reminder of the fun element.

I am sure there was loads more he shared and showed, it was an interesting day and a timely reminder of what my job is all about, it is too easy to get bogged down in things that are not so important and forget it is all about the children.

Much more about John's work can be found on his website at and on Dipity which seems to work well for him but will not for me :-(

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

Today I was training a whole group of teachers in a host school. We were invited to join the staff and children for the two minutes silence. As we entered the hall a very young girl read from 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon, beautifully, it was very moving. Two minutes silence followed the reading. The little reader had her paper with the poem written on it, the paper was visibly shaking as she stood there, out at the front of the hall to lead the whole event. She must have been terrified, but it was just delightful. A rare treat!

Flander's Field ~ John MacCrae

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Earworms Spanish

At the Language Show last week I saw the Earworms language learning program  CDs. Earworms is using a new learning technique that employs music to help people learn a language.

I have been attempting to learn Spanish this year, listening firstly to a set of CDs whilst driving, then a course of lessons with LanguageLab. Since that finished in the summer I have done nothing to either remember what I had learned or progress further. 

When I was at the show , I listened at the stall for a while whilst an Italian CD was playing and thought I could probably learn from it so I bought the set of two Spanish CDs.

Whilst I have been travelling this week I have listened to each of the CDs about five times, I am amazed at how much I recognise, how much I do already know – if only I could remember it at the right time!

It works on phrases, saying the whole phrase in Spanish and English, then breaking it down into smaller sections to practise before building it back into a whole phrase again. I think it is brilliant! It is the smaller linking and joining words that I struggle with more than anything. I know a fair number of nouns, but they are useless unless they can be put into a  sentence. This is helping me do exactly that! There is also a booklet to go with each CD, similarly broken down into parts that can be practised and altered.

The phrases are split into sections, each with a musical track backing it, and the words and phrases are added rhythmically to the backing track. By listening and repeating the phrases and sections of phrases one is meant to acquire a new language, whether it will work for me or not it has certainly helped me already, to remember what I have learned. If it helps me to be able to use it on demand – it will be truly amazing ;-)

To learn more about the programmes follow the link

Okay - I  want CDs three and four now please :-)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A visit to the London Language Show

I had a wonderful time on Sunday when I visited the London Language show. I watched a couple of seminars, both with lots for me to learn, wandered around the stalls to see what is new in languages technology for primary schools and bought a couple of Spanish CDs for myself – I will get a rudimentary knowledge if the language one day! 

It was strange to see people out of context – people I expect to see at the BETT show, and who expect to see me at the BETT show and not a language show, but ICT is being used so much for languages these days there is a huge cross over.

During the day I met up with several Second Life friends whom I have talked with, some quite extensively and some occasionally, over the last year. It was very strange to meet almost strangers, certainly face to face strangers, but at the same time feel that I knew them well enough to sit and chat with - a bit like old friends, where, though time has passed there is plenty to catch up on and enough common ground to make it interesting. In fact I was so relaxed that I could have happily stayed there all day talking over coffee and sandwiches. It was so lovely to meet the real people instead of the avatars that represent them in SL, but strange, in a comical sort of way to watch the mannerisms or hear the voice that I associate with an avatar and not the real person. Someone commented about my hair (in real life it is almost the same mop as in Second Life) and someone mentioned my earrings  - again similar :-)

It was so strange – a few days later it is almost as if it did not happen, did we chat in Real Life or was it just another few moments in Second Life? Can Second Life avatars really become friends – when they live hundreds, possibly thousands of miles apart? Yes I think! I have met and enjoyed being with people in other circumstances I may never have met – a huge unexpected bonus from Second Life membership.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Skrbl in Second Life 2

Well I set it up - so long as I always use the same skrbl board on the web it seems to work okay. If I change boards I have to change the land media url so it is esaier to use the same board. If I go to the My Skrbls I can clear the board I am working on so that it can be re-used. I can save the written-on boards as pictures etc., so they could be uploaded as permaneent textures in SL if needed.  

I can't work out - if you can, how you can edit the text boxes. For someone as poor at typing as me this is essential. You will be able to spot plenty of typos if the picture is big enough :-)

The next test is to get someone in Second Life with me to give it more of a test. As soon as I get the chance I will try it out.

Skrbl in Second Life

I saw a demo last night in SL that enabled users to share a whiteboard, but instead of just writing on it, like Mobwrite, people could draw. It was ideal for brainstorming, note taking etc. I have just had a look at Skrbl and it would seem that there is a widget that one can add to their blog. So this is an experiment! If I can add it to my blog, can I add it to a board in SL?

skrbl now

I believe I have added it to this page :-) Please do launch it and try! Now to see if I can get it going in SL... a different story I am sure, but it may be possible. I will report back!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Scratch for Second Life

During the summer MIT Media Lab’s Eric Rosenbaum released Scratch 4 Second Life. I heard a fair bit about it at the time but never got round to trying it out.  Yesterday a new SL member showed me what he had created with it so I decided to have a really good go and see what it can do.  So now, whilst on leave, I have had a play with it.

Like the educational Scratch program it is snap together blocks so very easy to use. Basically you make choices based on what you want it to do and choose the relevant blocks, e.g. choose a control block based on a touch start, collision, something received or on rez, add motions, looks, sounds etc., to suit your needs and ask it to create the script. This can be pasted into a new script facility in your item to be activated inside Second Life. The two programs run side by side.

I have managed to make a spinning cube art build, see photograph, something that I have been puzzling about for a while, so am actually quite thrilled with that. However I am a bit worried that the script generated is so long and seems rather cumbersome. Other people have said Scratch can produce laggy script, looking at this one I can easily believe that. As I replicated the script I had made about 20 times in 20 objects I fear this could be a problem. Sadly I cannot understand the script enough to be able to build it better myself, though I am still trying.

I am going to use the several scripts that I have created and see how it performs. I am really pleased with the one that I have been puzzling about and it has inspired a new one that I am going to make now.

It is certainly a very good option for people with either no or only rudimentary knowledge of LSL scripting and really good fun!

Music files in Second Life

I have been making Christmas decorations in Second Life and felt quite hampered but the ability to play only 9.8 second sound clips in some of the items. For many, the animations, Christmas lights etc.  9 seconds  is fine but for other pieces - central decorations like the wall or Christmas trees I felt I wanted the whole piece of music.

I have been playing with Psyke’s music script and using it very successfully. I am really quite pleased with it as others had said it was not good. I think it is a matter of getting the clip lengths right in the first place – that is a bit of a long winded job.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A Coffee with Gavin Dudeney

Sunday evening saw the start of a new series of seminar type events on EduNation - A Coffee With...

The first of these was host Nik Peachy interviewing Gavin Dudeney about language teaching in Second Life. 

As I arrived the two men were just getting set up, the audience quickly gathered with a few people who had arrived early coming back. The change of clocks around parts of the globe had confused timings.

Nik introduced Gavin who talked briefly about his work. He was to be talking about language learning / teaching in Second Life. 

Nik asked about how successful langauge learning is in SL and Gavin said that he felt there were problems with trying to learning the basics of a language in Second Life but benefits of actually practising the language once the basics are acquired. He talked anecdotally of his own experiences. After my attempts to learn Spanish I am inclined to agree. I am pretty well convinced that I need to find a real life Spanish class, I can’t converse with anyone in Second Life in Spanish without rapidly resorting to using Babel Fish or an in-world translator to translate for me. That somewhat defeats the object but enables a meaningful conversation. After about nine months of attempting – sort of – to learn Spanish I still have no clue :-)

Nik asked about the use of Moodle, and was it still important with teaching in Second Life. Gavin responded that it is important as a tool to be used alongside Second Life, it facilitates much of the learning process. It is quite possible for people from a variety of places to work together in real time and in-world but each of these sessions ideally should leads to work that can be done either individually or in small groups as follow up, Moodle can help in that process, it can be a store for digital resources and enables a discussion forum so that course participants can communicate with each other asynchronously. 

One of Gavin’s main concerns about language teaching in Second Life is the less than adequate text facility. Voice is well established and is very stable but text facilities still leaves a lot to be desired with note cards being the only really safe means of exchanging written information. To try to overcome this problem he has been developing a whole range of word games which people can use. They are all freely available from Dudeney’s shop on EduNation 11

It was well attended and a very pleasant event, the atmosphere lovely although quiet. The audience is still a little shy. There was text chat asking Gavin various questions but none of the audience spoke.

It was entertaining to listen to and watch - especially to watch Gavin throw his coffee over his shoulder with amazing regularity   :-)

Addendum 1st November - a video clip from the event filmed and poduced by interviewer Nik Peachy


Wow – a long time since I have written an entry! It has been very busy at work and I have been very busy in Second Life – so no spare time :-) Now I am on leave for a week so lots of time to catch up.

I started playing around with sound files for Halloween, and after the success of the Burning Life display built some Halloween themed musical resources along the same lines – walk through, step on etc. So many people who visited my little plot on EduNation enjoyed them they started nagging me to start selling them. 

We had already given up the shop just a few weeks after opening it so there was not much chance. On looking around for somewhere suitable I found that the shops are all small, have a fair number of prims but not much physical space. It just did not seem possible to be able to sell them from a shop as they need to be seen and experienced rather than flat packed with a picture. My search led me to the island of Sadie where Sexxxy Bliss runs a Halloween mall. She was happy for me to have the front lawn – so a new shop was created! 

Sexxxy has only just acquired the sim so the island mall is not well established yet but it promises to be good and to change with the festival. So with Halloween this coming weekend, I am trying to create Christmas stock to replace the Halloween stuff.

I have learned a new technique from in world from an in-world friend, see Tidal Blog on the right!   
After going to Information Island in-world and asking how I could upload animated gifs to be used in-world and told specifically it could not be done, this was a really nice find. I can now upload animated gifs to add to posters to play in-world. I am adding music to them that plays with a touch script and they are proving popular. One prim, action and sound – not bad value, especially if you are trying to add seasonal decorations on a shoestring of prims. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Burning Life part 2

Ah well ... I had intended to keep this up to date with events during the week but failed :-)

I had a wonderful time, made new friends some of whom I intend to keep in touch with, took a load of pictures, a few of which can be seen here and had a look a lots of inspiring builds. The music machine was out of this world - synchronised loops, with extra bells and whistles - it was quite amazing and kept me interested for several hours.  I loved the teacups that reached the sky, the temple that was falling down and out itself together again, the snowcamp... and many more bits I can't think of at the moment.

Lolly's paintings were just wonderful, I am going to go into Second Life in a second or two and add them to the start of this page.

From somewhere I picked up the most beautiful blue flower, a ball gown and lots of other bits. It will take me a week to sort out what I have and what to do with it - but - the inspiration for next year's build is in my mind already. I have a year to get it right then need to hope for a place to put it.

So thanks to all new friends for making it a wonderful experience, and to old friends for the amazing support I feel very lucky and privileged to have been a part of it.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Burning Life 2008 part 1

Wednesday morning I received an e-mail offering me a plot in the Burning Life 2008 Festival in Second Life. I had hoped for one, in fact, thought I would get one enough to have prepared some sections of build ready for use. Unfortunately it was about 6.30 am and I was just leaving home to run a full day's training so could not even get on the land until about 8pm the same day. The next couple of days were a bit hectic, it needed to be finished by Saturday and I have a full time job.

So – now it is Saturday, about two hours from opening and my build is finished. I am satisfied that is ia as good as I can make it.

It is basically a soundscape, an art work of colour, texture and sound. 
The build comprises mainly of a spiral of 3 metres in diameter, richly textured coloured balls that, when walked though, play snippets of music. There is a wide variety of 9 plus second musical clips and most times several are playing together as they are triggered by the collision of the avatar with the ball.  There is a second smaller musical work, a pentatonic platform giving several ostinati and tubes that play notes from the pentatonic scale when walked though.
It is late afternoon in the UK, early morning in Second Life. The Burning Life sims are closed to give the organisers a chance to check everything out before opening to the public at 9 am SLT.
All the information about the festival and how it relates to the real life Burning Man festival can be found here

What I am hoping to do is record some of the builds that I find interesting on the blog. I have had a chance to look around and there are some wonderfully exotic builds to see, it will be interesting to get the response of visitors. 

There is a lovely art build where the real life artist does paintings of scenes inside Second Life, two, at least, builds about pets, one about cats and one about several different pets. There is a huge washing up bowl with cups and saucers piled up toward the sky in a barely balanced column. There are people riding about on slugs, wearing cupcakes, carrying balloons etc, and even before it opens the place was a buzz of excitement, interactivity and friendship.

The whole event promises to be quite exciting and very interesting.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Reality Check

Over the last couple of weeks three events have invaded my psyche, and having come together, had a marked impact on the way I am thinking about life at the moment.

A couple of Saturdays ago my son came home having just arrived at the tail end of a dreadful car accident, where, we found out later a well-known lady from our village had been killed outright and her daughter, a mum of a houseful of teenagers, left very ill in hospital, prognosis not known.

I thought at the time that could easily have been my son, he missed it be a few seconds, daughter and I, husband and I, any other member of my family. The driver was not doing anything wrong, just driving along one of the main roads into the village when a horsebox and Landover crossed a crossroad out of control and ploughed their car through a wall opposite.

The following week at some point I got into the office and chatted to a colleague outside the ladies loo – as you do – when she said “wasn’t that terrible about Joe?” It transpired that a well known head teacher whom I have worked with over the years, took early retirement in July to spend time travelling with his wife, came back at the end of August from a family holiday, was ill, diagnosed on the Tuesday with lung cancer and died on Sunday. The week before the end of term he was with us at another colleague’s retirement and looked a picture of health and was so looking forward to and excited about the future.

Yesterday I was helping the head teacher carry out a self assessment in a special school. She always shows me round when I get there, which is only once or twice a year. I love to see the stuff they are doing, it is always so amazing. She was telling me about new touch screens – and they are good, when one of the teachers said that XXX was using one we should go and see him. We went into a tiny room, a boy of about 15 was strapped into a chair eyes fixed intently on a screen. A butterfly was tracking diagonally across the screen, when it got to the corner it stopped and faded, a fish replaced the butterfly’s starting position. After about twenty seconds the boy managed enough concentration and coordinated movement to dab at the screen to touch the fish which started that tracking across the screen. We watched and encouraged him for a couple of minutes. He knew I was there talking to him, he looked at me several times obviously knowing I was different to the usual group of people around him. He seemed to take pleasure in showing me what he could do, and clearly knew when the games ended because we saw a very different movement to start it again. I felt quite privileged to be there and see his independence and success.

As I said in the first paragraph these things have made an impression on me. Any of my family could have been on that road at that moment – we all travel it, in various combinations of family or alone most days. I am very saddened by these deaths of both people though not particularly close to either, they are the very fabric of the place we live.

I am planning on taking early retirement, in the not too distant future and travelling... oh dear :-)

I have children – who mostly now have children – and they are fit, healthy and able in mind and body, independent people, with grand children on the same path. Whoever we are I am sure that as parents our biggest wish is to see our children grown, happy, settled with a family, knowing the joy that that has already brought to ourselves.
To me, even though it is a wonderful achievement, it seems so sad to see a young man, who should have the world at his feet, strapped in a chair to make sure he stays upright, tracking a butterfly across the screen. I felt and still feel quite humbled.

I am just so lucky, I have a wonderful family, home, friends, freedom to drive to work,in fact virtually anywhere, walk the dogs, be home alone to carry out every day chores, plan my time, my work, courses, resources etc. I can do more or less whatever I want to do any time I want to do it - within normal constraints of being part of a family and working. Two of the people mentioned about have died and the last one will never know this sort of freedom or independence.

It is Saturday and I am not at work, I got up early, spent an hour in Second Life over coffee and toast, started the laundry, chatted to daughter, received a phone call and went off with a friend on a treasure hunt round local village yard sale day :-)

I returned home, did shopping, more laundry, e-mails, added a few words to a wiki, and am cleaning the house between other things. I just cut some lavender flowers to put in a dish in the house, scratched my leg on a log and am bleeding... and the blood running down onto my foot somehow seems proof that I am really here. I am still here at the moment and still in control of my life after the not so gentle reminders of our frailty of life over the last fortnight ...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Digital Storytelling in Second Life

I attended a few sessions from SLCC 2008. the in-world presentations from the conference in Tampa. The Digital Storytelling one particulalry impressed me.

The intro from the programme of events: Good storytelling is a rigorous and rewarding journey for every author who is digging deep into the meaning of their story for themselves and others. As part of a digital storytelling week, classes at Suffern Middle School in Ramapo Central Schools, NY were guided by Bernajean Porter and Peg Sheehy in the task of finding their own visual parallel personal story to unfold while narrating a voice interpretation of Robert Frost’s actual poem, The Road Less Traveled. We wanted them to create more than a literal connection to the Frost poem by stretching to uncover a metaphorical story of their own using the larger theme of struggling with decisions that had had an impact on their lives. Students were introduced to Porter’s Take Six Elements of Good Storytelling to first craft a narrative written storyline, ultimately expressing a clear sensory experience of their own personal story reflecting a choice in their lives, the emotions behind it, and the lesson learned! Creativity, engagement, and deep introspection into sharing something real in their lives gave this project a special glow for everyone! Suffern NY Middle-Schoolers filming in SL (machinimas) share their personal storytelling of Frost's Road-Less-Traveled.

The presentation was very interesting, the speakers clearly passionate about their work with the children. The actual work, inspired by Frost's poem "The road Less Travelled" in Second Life is quite amazing. The build, created as requested by pupils, is based on the story of the death of a young girl, Jenny, due to an eating disorder.

To visit the build go to and teleport from the sign post to Ramapo. This leads to the story Keeper's Garden where you can experience the video, narrations etc., that formed the preliminary work to the project. From the garden there is a teleport sign leading to the Storyteller's World.

Teleporting into the Story teller’s World lands you at the entrance to a school building. You arrive to listen to a young girl crying and newspapers telling of teenage eating disorders and a greeter shouting "Jen needs to gain some weight." Robert Frost is reading his poem in the background. As you enter the building there is frantic whispering in the background and narrations showing the dilemma recognised by other pupils who were concerned but frightened of upsetting Jen by saying anything. In the canteen there is the background sound of pupil at lunch, but the canteen is deserted and questions are asked in each place setting about how to react to an eating disorder.From the main hall area viewers have to decide whether to call help or choose to not say anything. The choice leads to the next scenes.

To wander round it and experience it make shivers run up my spine it is so dramatic. Video clips play in various places such as the toilet block where it is clear that Jen is making herself sick, and whilst friends ask her what is happening she claims to be okay and asks them not to tell.

Newspaper reports float up in random places all round the build forcing you to register the rather sad headlines. Sounds play – whispering, short narrations and an ambulance siren. It is situated in a school and focussed in a canteen, the toilet block and various other school areas.

Outside the school is a graveyard is misty, deserted and utterly depressing, there is a ghostly car, not quite sure of the significance of that but it certainly adds to the atmosphere.

The feelings of anguish, fear, confusion and misery are evident, the emotions portrayed are raw. It is clear that the whole process has bought the story to life for those pupils who were involved in the project. They have told their story in a completely new and different way in this multi-media presentation in a virtual world. The quality of work surpasses “normal” expectations and it is quite thrilling – in a dreadful sort of way. I can only recommend that anyone interested in developing pupils’ literacy skills have a look.

The teacher's wiki is available I would certainly love to join their summer camp - alas that will not be happening!

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Owl and the Pussy-cat - part 2

Well the Owl and the Pussy-cat build in Second Life is complete and students are going to see it for the first time today. That is exciting; unfortunately due to training commitments I will not be there to see their reaction to it.

I have learned a lot. Over the last week I have tried many times to get a podcast playing in-world but failed completely. Last night I tried a media player and “with a little help from my friends” as a well known band once sang about I needed a lot of help from my friends, well one in particular :-) Many thanks once again!

Needless to say I am thrilled with the result – bereft without something now to work on so looking for a new project.

Work – first day back and lots of training – will try to add more later 

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Playing with some Web 2.0 Classroom Tools

I have just spent about an hour looking at a few of the flash tools available at There are lots more templates, these three are the first the inspired me! They are worth investigating for use on a whiteboard. All are editable by pupils or teachers and offer an instant visual representation of what is being done. I imagine some of the templates could be used for almost any subejct and could easily inspire creativity and collaboration.

The Lights Out Template

Click here for full screen version

On the full screen version allow pupils to take the small flame over sections of the picture and start to sketch various bit of what they can see. Once that is complete discuss what they have found as a class. Click several times on the bigger msgnifying glass to increase the size of the flame to show more and more of the image and focus on detail. This could be used in art using pictures to study detail, history using photographs, science using microscope images and geography using something like Googlemaps.

The jigsaw template

Click here for full screen version

Pupils could use this one to develop arguments or discussion points, writing for and against in different coloured jigsaw pieces.
It could be used for sorting, possibly for brainstorming.

The Timeline

Click here for full screen version

Pupils could be encouraged to add any information to a timeline on any subject. They could work collaboratively on decades, for example, as part of a history topic on the 20th Century.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Web 2.0 Tools for Schools

In a week now we have the schools back. Many children will be returning to start to take advantage of their new learning platform (LP) and all of our team’s time will be taken up with training. As we prepare fort he “big” role out, rather than the small number of schools already involved, I am struggling to reconcile the LP costing a vast fortune, with the free tools already available through web 2.0.

The LP will offer a storage area to all pupils, space in one place that is accessible by their teachers, so that is an advantage for educational work. Also it will offer parental access to the data kept by the institution on their offspring. It will give teachers the opportunity to develop on-line courses available to pupils anytime anywhere and interest spaces for whole groups of pupils or teachers interested in one particular event or subject where training resources, web links, wikis, blogs etc. can be created and made available to anyone in the whole wide community.

During the summer though I have spent a fair amount of time looking at, trying out, and using some of the web 2.0 tools available freely on-line. There is a very useful wiki that groups many of these free tools for educational use that I have been working through – and recommend! Groups these tools, many of which are free, under the following headings:
• Presentation Tools
• Collaborative Tools
• Research Tools
• Video Tools
• Slideshow Tools
• Audio Tools
• Image Tools
• Drawing Tools
• Writing Tools
• Music Tools
• Organising Tools
• Quiz and Poll Tools
• Creativity Tools
• File Storage

It is a superb collection, updated regularly, created and maintained by a teacher. Many of the types of tools outlined here are already available to schools through the Learning Platform, but some, for example the podcasting tools, it is easier to use the free ones. Others, such as the shared writing resources, completely functional web spaces and the audio tools are not already available to schools.

The biggest advantage by far is the fact that whatever is created using the free web 2.0 tools is shared by an audience well beyond Oxfordshire schools allowing for much wider collaboration.

Please note this is my view not that of Oxfordshire County Council for whom I work!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

I am involved in a really interesting project in Second Life at the moment. Whilst talking to another educator, Caroline, over the last few weeks, ideas began to surface and get bounced between us. Eventually we came up with an idea, a whole educational build based on Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat nonsense rhyme. We thought it would be a useful resource for her class of adults with special educational needs.

So began, once again, quite a steep learning curve :-)

Caroline has been building “The Runcible Spoon” a huge paddle steamer on which most or all of the build will be situated, and I have been creating content.

Day 1 was mostly preparation work and done outside of Second Life. In SL I have made a scripted puzzle, a bit like a jigsaw but where each piece has a choice of six different images. Touching the pieces will make them scroll through each possible image for the puzzler to choose one of them. When all of the pieces achieve the same orientation a whole picture is made. There are twelve pieces to the puzzle and six different pictures that can be made – so 72 small sections of the six final pictures to be made. To actually create those 72 images takes a while. The original images needs to be gridded up, then each section copied and pasted as a new image. Not a quick process! I also has sketched out a treasure hunt, all the clues needed to be based on pictures again – so another 12 images needed. Finally, to go with them, 12 vocal recordings or the clues being read out, and another 16 vocal recordings ready for the Owl Facts work. Finally in the preparation work I wanted to make 15 images ready for a pelmanism game. Someone in-world had given me a free game to modify so it looked like a serious possibility. This session ended up with something like 100 images and lots of sound files to upload.

An early idea was for the students to be able to carry out very simple level research so we thought that a website of simple owl facts would be a good starting point. This could be played on the web on a prim in Second Life. We also wanted the students to be able to play the poem whenever they wanted to, so thought that a web page with a recording would be fine. We could not add podcast links etc. to this page as you can’t follow links in SL.

I created the pages. Both had embedded sound files so the students who mostly do not have reading skills, or have low level reading skills, could still access the information. When I tried them out in Second Life the web pages could easily be read but… the sound files did not play! So some of one day’s work wasted. However the sound files were made and could be uploaded into SL to be used in-world instead – but how?

Day 2 saw me making textures of all the owl facts. I made prims (primitives – the basic building shapes that can be created in SL) covered with the textures with the sound files embedded and a script to make them play on touch. With the individual facts prims linked the sounds would still play – very pleasing! Even this step did not go easy though. The facts that I had done in purple on the web page (each fact was a different colour to aid finding and reading) did not show up well enough in SL so had to be changed for use in-world. Having done the writing in one colour it is quite hard to change, it is more than just colour replace as the original was anti-aliased, so several different shades of purple :-{

As some of the questions ran more than 9 seconds of speech they had to be recorded in two parts. That meant the written questions had to be in two parts as well, then joined to make them look complete questions but with two touch to play sections Eventually the owl facts came together but so far the poem page was not any use. All good fun!

Also on day 2 I created the treasure hunt. Again with the uncertainly of reading skills this was made up of pictures, note cards each with the written clue and vocal recording on it, obviously this had to be scripted so that when the avatar touches the clue it gives the note card. So many tiny steps to each clue!

Day 3 – thinking again about access to the actual poem. The only sound files that can be played in SL are just over 9 seconds. To create the poem in 9 second sections would not give enough fluency, it would be too disjointed. So far, even though interested, I have not played with a podcast player in Second Life! So - into SL it is with a view to mastering the podcast facilities in-world. Several hours of fiddling left me really frustrated. Help came via Twitter from the sim owner, and podcast tool owner, Dudeney Ge (many thanks Gavin) who was working in Russia at the time, but to no avail. Between us we did not get it going so I will wait now until he gets home to see if he can see a simple reason! I am 99% certain that it will be me doing something wrong – it usually is :-) Meanwhile I am sort of creating the podcast..awaiting permissions and all sorts.

I tried to put the pelmanism game together, half of it worked, then the last 15 tiles gave me the owl image – oops! Help came from Scripting expert Eloise Pasture (thanks El) , but she declared the script I was trying to use “Ugly” and is going to make a new one.

Before this project I had created a pentatonic music maker in-world, it is a set of blue tubes that play their note on collision, so walking through them plays them. They are randomly ordered and there are buttons to start and stop drums, a drone and ostinati as required. To make this part of the Owl and Pussycat project I changed the tubes to tall square towers, and put the image textures on the outside ones to match the poem.

So at the end of day 3 podcasting and pelmanism both on hold – what next?

Retail therapy! I went shopping in-world instead. It is soo much easier shopping in SL than in RL. I managed to find and buy a beautiful peacock, a moving pig, a cat that rolls over and plays with a ball and an owl that appropriately hoots and tells all in range that “I wov u” as part of his hoot. Very corny, great fun…
Addendum - don't go shopping at midnight - you may buy a peacock instead of a turkey :-( I have had to go shopping again to buy the turkey!

The Ship - I have seen the ship, it is a work of art in progress! It is a huge paddle steamer in three floors. The top is the “edge of the sand,” sand, sea and a huge moon with dancing poses and romantic music playing. There is a ball-gown and a tux provided! The bottom floor has the money, honey and five pound note, the middle floor has pictures of the whole poem. It is going to be the most wonderful setting for the whole educational process. The bottom two floors are teaching and research areas where, hopefully, as well as the puzzles, treasure hunt etc., discussions about all of the teaching points raised by the poem can take place. It should be a space to combine structured and unstructured learning including the development of social skills etc..

I am really looking forward to bringing all of it together, and, hopefully creating a quest. Both of us are learning – loads – and making loads of mistakes, and I am sure more will show up as time goes on. If we can get it together, it works, and is useful, we are hoping to be able to offer it to other users. However – it really is a case of the proof of the pudding is it the eating, if it is useless we will learn from the mistakes and try again!

Where to put it – this is the final piece of the puzzle! I am not sure what the answer is yet either… I will keep you posted! Anyone got some water for rent :-)