Friday, 27 February 2009

School improvement

I had one of the most surprising and pleasing experiences in my career yesterday. A few months ago a school called me in to carry out a whole school audit of their ICT equipment. It was a tiny school and very needy having only old computers, no peripheral devices such as cameras, visualisers, whiteboards, projectors, foundation stage toys etc. I worked for a day with the teacher doing the ICT coordinator role. We audited all existing kit, decided what was good and worth keeping and what was rubbish. Together we formulated a list of what was needed for basic ICT curriculum coverage, then a wish list of extra, exciting things that would enhance the curriculum in school. It was going to be a lot of money's worth and once I had written the report I did not see anyone in the school for several months. I carry out audits fairly frequently and schools mostly buy the essentials, often with difficulties, then forget the audit.

I went back into the same school yesterday to plan the next stage of school development.

The new head who had initially called me in was not a confident ICT user but once her new kit arrived was on a steep learning curve. She told me how the children to whom she was teaching French, were writing their own profiles, in French, using PowerPoint and how they had worked out between them how to get their own photographs from their new digital cameras into the slides. I asked whether they had any microphones and the headteacher said yes - they had bought everything on my list - £29,000 worth!
She asked why and when I mentioned taping narrations in French and her eyes lit up, she had not thought about that so was waiting to get back to that class to try it out.

They were thrilled to see all of the creative work that had been enabled by the new kit, how much freedom for use of ICT in all subjects the laptop trolley had opened up, how much the foundation stage children loved playing with bee-bots, toys etc. The teachers were confidently using the interactive whiteboards to enhance their teaching and were all having a wonderful time.

Monday, 23 February 2009

A busy time in Second Life

Well – quite a busy few days in Second Life! Sunday we had a tour of the British Council Teen Grid Island. The island has been replicated in the main grid so that educators who may want to work on Teen Grid with their children can visit without undergoing the CRB checks necessary before one can enter Teen Grid. It may also be used for teacher training etc later.

As you land on the island there is a meeting point near to the information point. where information is offered via a podcast at the podcast point or in comic book form.

There is a village based on the Welsh village portmeirion, with a shop, bank, hotel, post office etc. where various scenarios can  be carried out as role play, visit  to see various clips.

The White Cliffs of Dover are very attractive but do not go too near the edge and cause a landslide. If you go down onto the beach though, you can search for fossils and bird’s nests whilst running the risk of rocks landing on top of you at any second.

There is a mystery mansion, where an ARG, alternate reality game is being developed over time. The other areas consist mainly of quests or social areas where visitors can meet and socialise.

You can take a tour of the area riding on Nessy, the Loch Ness Monster which is rather wonderful, and you can take part in a quest to free Maid Marian in Sherwood Forest. Listen to the audio file : 

The island is very attractive and offers lots of activity for teens, teachers will enjoy it just as much!

Also we had the final panel discussion – hear the audio clip 

To round up the whole course we had a 24 hour party :-)

See the pictures and video clips by following the links above.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Second Life Blackboard

Suddenly there is a huge concentration on teaching tools in Second Life once again. This is linked to the work of the EVO and VW2009 course where people are seriously looking at the teaching tools available. Many avatars are coming to EduNationII to get those made available here and to try them out ready for their own teaching sessions.

I have been having a little look at a couple of new ones which is something I have not done for ages. On my teaching I have been using a You Tube player, presentation board and a notecard giver but there are loads more to consider. With all of the tools available it depends on whether they are easy enough to make use of and fit your needs, just exactly like real life. I can't imagine using a tool just for novelty value and I think that is exactly what the next one is :-)

Today I picked up board called the Blackboard it actually offers a choice of three different coloured chalks and writes, following your mouse movements in the chosen colour. It works, but I can't use it easily, it depends on mouse control to write and my mouse writing is far too big to make the board useful.
It is fun though :-)

Chalkboard SL Tool

Thursday night I was lucky enough to be informed by in-world friend Graham Mills, real life Peter Miller about an Educational Tools session being run by Salahzar Stenvaag. I attended the session and saw a demonstration of his chalkboard tool.

This is a board that anyone can write on, several people at the same time, though lines can only be 50 charachters long but it can also it can read notecards and those can be any length as it wraps words. See the photographs for both lines and notecards. One a notecard is loaded it can be edited on the board.

It is very easy to use and will be a very useful tool for using when teaching in-world.

If you were teaching languages for instance you may use something like the Vocab-u-Matic to introduce new words, but writing phrases using the new words could be done on the chalkboard. Reading material could be posted in a notecard, students could write their responses to something on a notecard for them to be displayed to all. It seems to be a very easy to use, useful Second Life tool.

There is a video clip where you can see it working

You can get it in Second Life

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Touring EduNation

Twice over the weekend I have been fortunate enough to take visitors from the EVO VWll 2009 course in Second Life on a tour of EduNation ll, one of the three islands own by The Consultants-E.

It was almost inevitable that as I was getting ready and putting things out that I needed SL Voice told me it had caused an error and closed. Thinking this was on my computer I closed everything and restarted the computer, later I learned that it was in SL! Everyone had to relog at least once, and I had to a few minutes into the session – so not a brilliant start! Actually this served me right becasue I had been saying how secure voice is in Second Life to Dennis the night before :-)

However once we really got going everyone enjoyed looking at the free resources made available by EduNation owner Gavin Dudeney, many of these resources were demonstrated at the teaching tools sessions. We visited the seminar space where “A Coffee with…” sessions are held, delegates had the opportunity to sign up for them and were given the web address to catch up with those they had missed.  They thought the video booths where new avatars can go and learn new skills such as editing one’s appearance, taking photographs, teleporting, setting up voice, dealing with one’s inventory and building were very useful, several people intend coming back and visitng. They were slightly worried that they were only there for this weekend.

After seeing them many came back to take advantage of the relaxation places, the beach and beach bar, plus all of the canoes during the weekend.  We visited the club and danced to Noel Gallagher – some danced their way out to the classroom area where the Slexperiments group meet and beyond – we had to go back to the club to stop them dancing :-)

Visitors especially liked the amphitheatre where we stopped to watch Robbie Dingo’s “Watch the World” and those who wished to signed up for the two forthcoming conferences Wireless SL and Slanguages 2009.

We had visitors from all around the world, one person had come in at 4am in her time to attend – that is well beyond the call of duty by anyone’s standards – glad you enjoyed it Sunshine :-)

Probably the bit people enjoyed most was the 15 minutes we spent on the decks solving riddles in groups, a few minutes of fun as a demonstration to a wonderful teaching space where group discussions can take place. This was a highlight of both sessions.

I had planned what I thought would take an hour, but due to the fact that everyone was new to SL, we had a few techie problems to start with, the first one was far longer! The second session was fine tuned and did not take much more than the hour, but delegates took the opportunity of spending a further couple of hours in the sandbox trying out many of the new tools. We had Vocab-u-matics, Brain boards, Word Grids, presenters and at least one Treasure Hud spread around the sandbox.

I really enjoyed the sessions and believe that many of the delegates did too! Several people are looking for spots in EduNation where they can teach now – one is even doing a session for her University today – go for it Avieli – Good Luck!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

End of E-safety Session Tour

We finished the e-safety course in Second Life Tuesday night with a tour of some of the places we thought our new SL members may enjoy.

A tour may sound easy but many of the avatars with us are new to Second life, they are getting expert at teleporting to where we are meeting, voice and video controls and camera controls but we have done very little on flying :-)

We visited 6 well known places:

1. - The Second Life Louvre - and every bit as interesting as the real one.

2. yes they really stage SL Shakespeare plays here! Welcome to the SL Globe Theatre, the most historically accurate replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the Internet, made into a working theatre for live Shakespearean performances in the metaverse. Walk or zoom around to explore and take photos! Be sure to grab a playbill for showtimes! Please visit for more info.

3. head due north to find a long building housing the tapestry. You enter a virtual display of one of the most amazing cultural artefacts from the end of the eleventh century. The Bayeux Tapestry, which is in fact embroidery, depicts the story of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and was composed soon after these events took place. It disappeared from history until 1417, and then again until 1724. After near-misses with destruction in the French Revolution, and successful avoidance of being carried off to Germany after having survived D-Day bombings, the Tapestry remains an awesome example of exquisite craftsmanship. Perhaps not in the way gold illuminated manuscripts or later English embroidery is exquisite – its colours, fabrics, figures are rough and occasionally cartoonish. But it should be considered one of the cultural and artistic wonders of the world. It is digitally displayed to you here in a way the real embroidery has not been for over 1600 years, if ever, around the inside of a long room.

You see the digital Tapestry in about life size, if your avatar is a standard height. First-time visitors to the embroidery in Bayeux often experience a tinge of disappointment at its ‘small’ scale, as do viewers having queued to see the Mona Lisa. However, the beauty of the technology allows you to zoom and view much larger than you can do in real life. The embroidery method used is known for its ability to create quite a relief effect, which is no more visible than on colour plates. However, it is a recreation which we hope will do a very good job of transporting you to Bayeux and from there back to the Norman Conquest, the lands of England and Normandy and that fateful day on the battlefield of Hastings which changed British history forever.

Chairs have been provided, so that you might sit and use your camera rather than walking.

4. Read the texts in this Customs House for information about how the sim is run. Welcome to ROMA: Check out our blog for sim and roleplay info: . In Roma - one of the group dressed in a toga, one rode a chariot we looked around, saw the Christian eating lions etc.

5. The International Space station - we visited space in a rocket, met and talked to a vampire family... and were given garlic necklaces :-) Most of us visited at least some of the planets – this is one to go back to when you have time to explore!

6. Macbeth - experiencing ghosts, riding a huge bird, the moor and the maze, we spent a long time there. The Macbeth wiki is probably the best starting point for this build

So the last session, nothing to do with e-safety at all but very successful and the group decided that they want to meet monthly to catch up, keep up, see new places etc.

Delegates were willing to offer comments towards the article that we are using to advertise this course to teachers across the county, we are hoping that as it is no cost to the school, done out of school time in the comfort of their own home, is a very sociable experience as well as being useful content, that more Oxfordshire teachers will be willing to take it up and try it out.

Comments from teachers who took part:

From Nonella - Each session, I was activated (my controller logged in to Second Life) and I chose a comfy bean bag to sit on for the duration of the course. There were fantastic opportunities to chat with other avatars about the course content, view videos and PowerPoint presentations. One of the really unique features to taking a course in Second Life was the ability to facilitate small group work. At points during the course we were sent away to another level in the sky to work collaboratively on a task before feeding back to the rest of the group. We didn’t hear other groups and they didn’t hear us – something difficult to do in Cricket Road I believe!

From Aristotle: My experience was extremely positive. Having attended many courses in real life over the years, and having also attended many meetings and other events using technologies such as video conferencing and instant messaging, I can honestly say that Second Life is an extremely effective mechanism for use in training.

The course consisted of PowerPoint presentations, content delivery by speaker, watching videos and also discussion, both as a whole group and in small groups. In the latter, the discussion documents were edited and shared by all the people taking part.

I am grateful to Carol for the opportunity to take part in this course for two reasons. Firstly, it has been a most valuable opportunity to use Second Life for a serious educational purpose. In that, it has been extremely successful. Secondly because I have greatly improved my knowledge and understanding of e‑safety as a result of attending the presentations, videos and discussions with colleagues that the course involved – and this is despite my already fairly complete knowledge of the subject. In my opinion this shows the value of Second Life as a serious medium in which to undertake educational business.

From Just Monday

I found the e-safety course a real eye opener. We all think that we are net aware, but the course highlighted the amount of potential unsafe areas and practices that children could find themselves participating in. Even the most innocent of sites seem to be open to cyber bullying, inappropriate material and abuse of personal data.

The seminars were delivered through the virtual world “2nd Life”. I had no previous experience of this environment but quickly became comfortable with the basics of moving around and communicating with the other delegates. The delivery through the use of power points, video clips and discussions worked well. I also liked the way you could post thoughts without interrupting the main flow of the discussion. The content was in some ways quite disturbing but very relevant and will enable me to present “Internet Safety” workshops for parents.

There are more feedback articles etc., once the report is published in Ox-on-line I will post the url here.

Thanks to everyone who took part, I really enjoyed it and learned so much from it, to Nick, colleague and support trainer for aiding and abetting, to Anna Begonia ( SL name) fro filming and photos and to Gavin Dudeney who makes the facilities on EduNation available to us for for educational purposes.