Sunday, 25 January 2009

Pathfinder Linden Opening the Education Support Faire in Second Life

This was the first presentation at the Education Faire, Pathfinder gave the wiki address as a starting point:

This was not a formal presentation but more a question and answer session, I recorded a few key points

  • Linden Labs are looking at better ways of supporting all but there is a team specifically supporting educators and working on how to proactively support educators better in Second Life - there are likely to be changes around the tickets system and knowledge base.
  • The SLED list continues to be a powerful support group, 5,500 people on the mailing list, the largest of all mailing lists hosted by Linden Lab.

  • The SLED Blog is also now very useful  with added articles etc.

  • Someone asked about the Lindens and Real life educators meeting with each other regularly – Pathfinder considered that to be a useful suggestion

  • Pathfinder mentioned resident run organisations - meeting, products and services that help people become more confident in using Second Life for education.

  • There are 46 or 48 groups at the fair - the idea is that educators meet up and help each other.

  • If you want a Linden to speak at events in world - there is a form on the web page –“Request a speaker"

  • Someone asked how many educators there are in Second Life but although there are thousands of educational establishments in SL, having received the educator’s discount,  it is hard to know exactly how many there are because several educational institutions share some of the islands. It is hard to identify educational plots on the mainland as well, so no-one knows just what percentage of educators are working and collaborating in Second Life.

  • Someone asked about group numbers, saying that 25 is not a big enough number - historically groups are linked to permissions and data packets etc., it is not easy to change it. The Lindens are working on how to improve the groups system. Pathfinder  mentioned subscribe-o-matic as a way of coping, groups use this tool to send messages, which is all many groups actually do.
  • Pathfinder talked about how useful wikis are when it comes to sharing information with a group. Wikis could be used for centralising things: They could link up different educational wikis to improve accessibility for educational resources.    - centralises information on heath care a very focused wiki
  • There was a query from Language Lab about bring education and business together - as a business their path often does not cross educators. Pathfinder said that Language Lab may be invisible to him because it is a business so there is an issue - and it is part of the next level of the support systems - to get all educators recognised as educational.
  • Someone raised the fact they when they search for education they often get SL training show up – there are issues with the language / terminology of education, Second Life education in Second Life and Real life education in Second Life.
It was a very interesting start to the Education Faire, I hope to attend a few more sessions.

2Simple French

Learning French seems fairly easy with "2Simple French". This software has been developed for the non-specialist teacher who has  little French, they will find plenty of support, while the more experienced can work more selectively. 

2simple French is the product of collaboration between language specialists and non-linguist primary teachers, has good interactive features for beginners which are spoken by native speakers.

It contains over 200 varied and engaging activities to reinforce vocabulary and help children use French within the first two years of the QCA scheme of work. 2Simple French has modules of game and activities to encourage French speaking:

  • The family
  • The Classroom
  • Numbers
  • Months of the year
  • Sport and Hobbies
  • Colours
  • Animals
  • The human body
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Weather
  • Pocket Money

Each module has two levels and covers activities which covers learning words, being able to use them in sentences,  paper based activities to encourage writing, everything is supported by the words written in French to aid reading.

The Animals module, as the others, starts with an introduction to the vocabulary, where learners can focus on a close up of a French speaker’s lips, followed by three practice exercises including a pointing exercise and the horse chasing game.

The sentence section covers making sentences, with practice exercises including true or false to check understanding and muddled sentences.

There is also a song about animals, a story for role play, acted out by children speaking French, a cultural awareness section, this one looking at French pets and a place to make up your own written sentences.

2Simple 2 Do It Yourself

2 Do It Yourself or 2DIY is a new piece of software release by 2Simple and launched recently at BETT. I have spent a few days trying it out.  It allows teachers and pupils to use a wide range of Flash templates enabling them to very quickly and easily create their own interactive resources including games, puzzles, and quizzes. Teachers and pupils can use the software to create cross-curricular, personalised resources for the whiteboard or website.  It should be a superb addition to any classroom's software selection.

I am really frustrated at the moment that it does not easily sit in our county learning platform! I am investigating how to keep the files small enough (under 100kb) to put them onto the O L P, I have requested a bigger upload allowance but the support team really don't seem to have a clue what I am asking - also once uploaded some of them do not show.  When I put a support ticket in for that query they asked if it was the same problem :-&  Frustration!! 

When using 2DIY there are plenty of opportunities for making different sorts of fun activities for learning as children or teachers plan, design, create, publish and play. I was able to create activities using my own photographs, timers and sound effects. The software can be used by any age pupils as the games can get very advanced and also extra action scripting can be built in if required!

The sorts of activities that can be created can be for all ages, some examples are
Draw a teddy bear & dress him
Create your own interactive screens such as drag and drop labels to flower parts
Make jigsaw puzzles from your own photographs
Make cloze procedure exercises, sequencing exercises or multi-choice questions
Make picture quizzes 
Make platform games
The files can be saved as html & flash files (SWF)then the games can be shared with friends or others in your school.

So - my conculsion is that it is a wonderful program, great fun and easy to use. I will be far happier about recommending it to our schools once the LP problems are sorted! To find out more visit 2 Simple at and get the evaluation version! 
Try it out :-)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Third Session of the e-safety course

This was a very different course in as much as everyone seems to know each other very well. There was lots of back chatting, including joking and that made the rather miserable content easier to cope with I think.

In this session we got on to dealing with cyberbullying. We had intended to have a group discussion but everyone was so engrossed in the films and on the spot discussion that we never moved to take part in the planned group discussions, they will be for the last session.

I had one video clip that I was not at all sure about showing. It was far worse than anything I imagined existed! I put the clip in and out of the sessions several times over but decided it he end, as it was a trial class, to show it.

Most people reacted in the same manner – we would not show it to parents, but we are glad that we have seen it because we can be prepared if our pupils see it and say anything.
Maybe as teachers we need to know the worst, but do not want to frighten parents, preferring to show that the internet is a hugely advantageous medium for research, communication etc. and playing down the not so comfortable aspects.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Friday 16th January I visited the BETT show in London’s Olympia. It is always exciting and exhausting, today was no exception.


  • I picked up the 2Simple 2DIY which I have been waiting for since I saw a demo before Christmas – will write about it soon
  • I saw and played with SMART Tables – interesting, not sure how much they cost but putting a SMARTBoard flat on a table with a projector pointing down will give a similar effect so my reaction to that will depend largely on price and value for money in comparison with a SMARTBoard.
  • Seeing RM’s 3D projector was intriguing. It works by polarisation and you have to wear glasses to see it but the effect is amazing. We watched a scientific film of molecules changing shape, position, possibly being created (not sure on that one – may not have understood what I was seeing) and had the film had audio so that I could have understood it all clearly it would have been an amazing learning tool.
  • I looked at a fair number of language learning resources. All primary schools it the UK have to implement their language teaching program by 2010 so it is something that crops up in conversation with schools every day. I will write about what I find from the review of these programs later.
  • Looked at the new Go Aces - and found out here is an open source program to make them with :-) Got the new ones being sent on for me to play with!
  • Brought some new SMART maths resources back – have not looked at them yet, but will be useful with the new learning platform!
  • Heard about the SMART bracelet – a USB bracelet worn by pupils to take SMART Board notebooks home for homework and enables the work to be stored back to the stick to bring it back to school. Seems expensive – pupils are paying for the use of the software at home - but may work out useful!
  • I saw, and was very impressed by ipod suites for language learning!
  • I bought Eurotalk Interactive – Learn Spanish Intermediate – for me! To try to continue learning Spanish J

It was a good, but exhausting day, not helped by a power outage at Didcot Parkway – so problems returning home on the train and ended up at a different station to where the car was parked – all good fun!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Second Session e-safety course in Second Life

So late Tuesday night – the second session of the e-safety course is over! It was very enjoyable, again could be better but was definitely improved by the e-mail sent to everyone at the start of the session that gave them the urls of the video clips that we were going to watch during the session. That enabled delegates to instantly pull up You Tube and watch the video clip in their browser outside Second Life if it was not working for them in-world. We had a little discussion, one person is running a very tiny netbook type of computer, the graphics card is just not up to rendering the whole world and the videos, all she got was a flash of what may have been. That delegate started up a big laptop and downloaded Second Life, video worked on that so for the next session she will have access in-world!
Prior to running another course I would ask people to visit and set up video beforehand – this time I did set up voice as far as possible, and got everyone to the training area with a landmark but it was not enough!
I have to give many, many thanks to in-world friend Anna Begonia who recorded loads of photos, video and audio clips so that I have a record of the course. I am thrilled with the result!
The end of the session was a discussion and for that we used the Decks. This is a set of pods, each containing a table with chairs around it that can be sent away from other pods so that discussion can take place without interference between groups with either sound or text chat. Pod 1 goes to 100 mts, pod 2 200 mts etc. It worked like a dream and the delegates enjoyed it. It was something a little different, the first session would have been too soon to introduce it but everyone coped well. What did not work so well was the landmark I gave then – it worked perfectly for me but landed everyone else in the water near the ICT Team spot. I just don’t know how to overcome that one!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

E-safety in Second Life

Well I have run my first ever proper training session in Second Life now. I am reasonably pleased with the way it went, but, as usual, there is room for improvement.  The course was on e-safety and involved, video clips form You Tube, a presentation and discussion. We had a bit of an issue with video which has been pretty flaky tonight and some people could not see it. Some went outside of Second Life and watched them directly from You Tube, but it was not ideal. There was lag and all in all there seemed to be a variety of problems.

The content though seemed to really inspire most of the people attending and we can all appreciate the need to teach the parents! That is what I hoped for” One person, already quite involved in e-safety was pretty astounded at some of the facts, and one had watched a video on e-safety last week but still saw new stuff!

We had a brief discussion at the end about how to may have been improved. Given the video problems the circulation of the urls for the video clips beforehand may have been really good, then people could have watched them and contributed towards discussion during the course. I am going to try that for part two, but it may take away some of the impact! Even though distributing the urls before may have meant there was less impact, better discussion may have improved the content.

I am pretty exhausted – much more so than if I had done it in our training room – but exhilarated at the same time!!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Reflecting on 2008

2008 was a lovely year for me. Family-wise nothing much changed, Andrew came to live at home again, short term apparently but we shall see, Phillip and Vicky announced their wedding plans and Woody started nursery where he almost certainly creates havoc most days J

We did not get away anywhere exotic, but did a lot of work on the house. Andrew’s return meant that we lost the guest room as he took over his old room so we stripped out two rooms that had been fitted for single beds with wardrobes, desk/ television areas etc. and made two new lovely rooms, one  a double bedroom and the other two singles for visiting children. Both new rooms came into full use over the Christmas holiday as we have had a house full.

For me it was the BIG year for Second Life. I joined in 2007 but did not spend enough time in-world to get very interested before the Christmas 2007 holiday so almost all that I have learned and done in their has been this year. Over the Christmas holiday last year I was watching someone making something in the EduNation 11 sandbox, I can’t remember what now, but I asked the person creating how one could put a script into an object. That was a huge turning point for me, suddenly I realised how it was possible to create things and make then interactive in some way. I really have not looked back and though my skills are still pretty poor I have a wonderful time creating things, anything from simple alphabet blocks to huge musical balls that play as you walk through them.  I have been interested in working with images and sound for ages so being able to bring them together in-world was great fun.

In Second Life too I have met a whole new group of friends; it was lovely to meet up with some of them at The London Language Show as well as at ReLive08. I fully intend to go to a conference in Cardiff in spring to meet at least another one J

The first big Second Life event I took part in at all was the SLanguages conference 2007, I was knocked out by the skills, knowledge etc. of the speakers there, the second big event I attended was one that I actually took part in – Burning Life. I did a musical soundscape build that visitors seemed to enjoy. That has gone to Teen Grid now for students there to enjoy. I would have loved to take part in the currently running WinterFaire, but do not have the necessary resources... maybe another year. I have attended loads of smaller events and joined a group of educators who meet regularly on Friday evenings so have learned lots about teaching in Second Life.

·         Last year I was amazed by some of the educational builds in Second Life. I particularly liked the Multiple Intelligences, Giant Testes, Dante’s Inferno and Digital Storytelling builds. The artistry of some of the Burning Life builds such as the amazing music machine was just incredible, there were some weird and wonderful creations in the Second Life 5th Birthday celebrations as well as the beautiful builds in the Wintefaire. 

Currently I am preparing an e-safety course to be presented in Second Life over the next few weeks, this is largely as an experiment but I am really looking forward to it. It would be good to be able to offer viable training courses in Second Life and for it to be an acceptable medium for training within the county. I am sure that will come eventually and I will try to keep improving my SL skills so that I am as ready as can be to take up the challenge when that time does arrive.

Twitter was new to me in 2008 as well. I am not sure when I joined but I think it was early in the year. My network of friends provides me constantly with up to date news, ideas, software to try, wikis and blogs to read, in short it has become my own personal learning network. Micro blogging is easy to keep up with, both the reading and the writing of short statements and ideas is manageable!

A few things I would like to learn in 2009

  •   To create machinima
  • To improve my Second Life building  skills enough to create a model of the Bliss Tweed Mill that is in Chipping Norton
  • Greatly improve my scripting skills. I am still only playing with scripts created by other people, there is plenty of room for improvement!
  • To get more familiar with the educational builds in Second Life. Last year I was amazed by many builds. Already this year I have spend hours in the Macbeth build which that is quite superb, I am sure there are many more that I have not found yet.

There must be loads more – I probably do not even know that they exist yet J


Thursday, 1 January 2009

7 things you probably don’t want to know about me

I have been tagged by Nergiz Kern so now I need to repeat the rules and write seven facts about myself before choosing seven other people to tag :-)

I had no clue about this event that seems to be happening – but have read back several layers and it is interesting to get to know your on-line friends better. Anyone who knows me in real life will already know these things, but most on-line friends will not.

The rules say you have to:
• Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
• Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
• Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
• Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter

So here goes:
1. I live in the UK, have a wonderful, long suffering family who seem to put up with me :-) though I am sure my husband would gladly swap me for a newer model any time!

2. I was teaching in a primary school in about 1995, acting as the school ICT co-ordinator and I won an ICT competition giving me a modem and a free ISP service. The parents’ committee agreed to fund a phone line into my room and immediately started a lottery to pay for it. Having got the internet in my classroom the challenge was to make it useful – and what a challenge – there was little written for children in those days. I set about writing websites based on world religions – about which I know nothing, learned a lot, but have forgotten again – to use in my teaching and they are all old fashioned by today’s standards but still used very widely so I don’t like to take them away! Whilst trying to convince the school of the usefulness of the web :-) there was an earthquake in Turkey, right where one teacher’s son was living and working. She came in sick and worried because she had not heard from him and lots of people had been seriously injured or killed. Mid morning I got a message from Turkey “All communication systems down except the e-mail system. Tell mum I am okay.” There was no question of its usefulness after that. My school began to comprehend the power of the web!

3. With my one phone line we did a huge variety of internet projects, writing stories and poems with other schools, we took part in the Cat in the Hat around the world project, writing diaries etc. in each place he visited and posting photos on the school website (hand coded – no wysiwyg then), we swapped beanie babies with another school, again sharing diaries and photos, loads of e-mail projects, most of the pupils had e-pals – it took up all of my early mornings, breaks and dinner times to keep it going – how did I find the energy? The school website was huge, we made a diary of the school pond, all of the performances, etc. We did all sorts, it was very exciting and spawned loads of conference talks. That was probably the most exciting time of my career.

4. I am pretty much terrified by butterflies – so In Second Life I go near them, stand in the middle of them etc., it has not helped so far I still vacate the room or even the house if one comes in. I don’t mind spiders or wasps though, so I do the spider and wasp bit the rest have to do the butterfly bit :-)

5. I started teaching in secondary school in the mid 70s, teaching music and drama. As I taught drama I was considered both part of the Humanities department and English department. Large scale financial problems across the whole of the UK meant that teachers were not replaced so when an English teacher left I was asked to take over his classes. English was considered more important than drama or music - so a total dyslexic who can hardly string half a dozen words together ended up teaching English! I only lasted for a couple of years there, it was just not me and not fair to the pupils.

6. I always wanted to write. I have written children’s stories, songs, endless ICT things for my job including articles, projects, reports etc., but I depend on friends or colleagues to help with editing. My inability to write coherently drives the people I work with round the bend and makes me very sad. I always thought that if I practised it would improve but it is never going to happen, I don’t have whatever it take to structure words into a sensible, cohesive text. Other people find writing easy, I am continuously amazed by that. I agonise for ages over a sentence, then someone will change it and make it work – simple :-) All I hope for these days is that the recipient of anything I write can actually understand it.

7. I love Egypt – I can actually see us attempting to go there to live at some point in the not too distant future. I say it is too far away from the family and I will settle for anywhere on the continent – but my husband is pretty convinced he wants to retire to Egypt.

So now for my seven tags – I guess people really hate you for this :-)
Pollyglott / Gizmo,( Gizmo keeps her real name hidden)

Graham Mills / Peter Miller,

Dudeney Ge /Gavin Dudeney,

Wonderalica Alturas/ Alicia Barbitta,

Aristotle Smit /Brian Smith

So looking forward to reading all of your posts :-) Wishing you all a very happy 2009!