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!