Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Oxfordshire schools seem to have developed much more of an interest in Wordle http://www.wordle.net/ in the last few weeks - it has taken ages to take off!

This site may help to inpsire ideas!18 interesting ways to use Wordle in the classroom

Or this

Ideas for using it in the classroom

One suggestion is one that we have used with adults - looking at the words generated by a report, but done with a children's book may stimulate lots of discussion!

See the following - Excecutive Summary: Safer Children in a Digital World: the report of the Byron Review
Wordle: Executive Summary

and the synopsis of Alice in Wonderland

Wordle: Alice in Wonderland - Synopsis

Photography Course in Second Life

Hmm – lots of fun :-) I had the good fortune to attend the second session of a photography course offered by avatar Corwin Carllion, real life Nick Noakes. Nick showed lots of very interesting photographs taken in-world by Torley Linden http://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/ and discussed how some of the images were created.

I spent a little time after and downloaded all of Torley Linden’s Windlight sets, unfortunately the instructions did not work, it has changed, but the amazing range of effects available once they are installed has inspired my first set of artistic photographs.

Nick also mentioned a website that gives a list of “cool” places for photography and machinima! http://www.koinup.com/sims/in-second-life/coolest/. Needless to say I am having a wonderful time experimenting when I have spare time, see the results: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24572238@N02/

My favourite image is the top palm tree - it is the best one I have taken :-) Still lots to learn – but I am enjoying playing. Roll on the next session!

More thoughts on running e-safety courses in Second Life

It has been the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference over this last weekend so I have had many opportunities to listen to inspiring talks about what and how educators use Second Life for teaching. I have also been following a thread on SLED about whether old world tools (PowerPoint) are worth using or not – all very interesting and far too demanding of far too little time J

We took a booth in the VWBPE to advertise the e-safety course and chatted to lots of people about the need for training. This is an area of interest that is growing.

Re the Powerpoint discussion in the SLED list – I recently ran a course in Second Life and used a presentation as a prompt for myself – something to hang my planned timetable onto, plot all of the video clips into, telling anyone interested in watching the slides when group discussions are taking place – it works for me - so apparently what I do is not worth doing in SL? Okay – one person’s view, but the consensus of my student’s thoughts is that my e-safety work is good and useful. As time goes on I may be able to improve it and not use PowerPoint but for me it was a start and useful prop.

The internet and social networking sites have the potential to make hugely valuable additions to the lives of today’s young people, providing vast quantities of useful information and an amazing number of opportunities for virtual social interactions. We need to empower parents and young people with resources and understanding that help put them in control of their digital experiences so that they are safe and can benefit from the experiences. We, as educators need to prepare young people to deal with any undesirable side effects from their digital encounters and for that reason education of both young people and their parents and carers is essential.

Running e-safety courses in SL may be unimaginative use of Second Life, but it enables lots of people to take part in a course, in their own time, at home with children around, playing or in bed, no baby sitters needed, no petrol, no travel costs etc.. It brings people from a wide geographical area together with no thought or worry about time wasted travelling, the four one and a half hour sessions are all either social, getting to know each other sharing thoughts, ideas views etc. or learning!

The delegates from the last course are all now interested in learning more about Second Life, many have returned to the monthly meets ups since. I really think that if I had required more from delegates, made the course all singing and dancing and expected avatars to be able to take part in them I may have frightened many of them off in the first week.

I have confidence that what I am offering is useful and reasonably successful when presented in Second Life, I guess time will tell!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Coffee With Leon Cych

I have just listened to an interview on EduNation ll – A coffee with Leon Cych, the fifth similar event, where a guest is interviewed by Nik Peachy.

Nik asked Leon about Holodeck Project, Leon mentioned both Holodecks and the Paradise blanket and reiterating the aims of the project. He talked about how these technologies can facilitate community engagement in learning and asks how can we bind them into our use of virtual worlds to improve education.

He talked about the role of virtual worlds in the future of education and discussed the need for sound Digital Literacy among educators and students and how that is not being understood and adopted by the world of education.

Leon likes the idea of linking different virtual worlds through the stargate type of portals, especially Second Life with OpenSim, and mentioned how easy OpenSim can be used and how cheap that is compared with Second Life especially in the current economic climate.

Gavin mentioned the low level of technology skills that he sees in teachers and asked could Leon see that improving? Leon’s answer was that schools need to consider what we are educating student’s for and why are we educating them. People are doing things because they have to –time for reflecting on that and subsequent change could be coming.

Leon mentioned EduSim – in use with Whiteboards, and referenced Rich White’s work in the states. He mentioned Google Sketch Up and how that can be used in OpenSim to build. Nik asked whether this was just going to take it out of the hands of the pupils and in the hands of the teachers, Leon did not think that was happening.  Leon mentioned the Google factory resources – they are available in Metaplace already. I can see Metaplace being important to primary education, but already know that one person may disagree!

Leon is filming language teachers using web 2.0 and is gathering video clips together for a Moodle site that people will be able to visit and study. It will be ready by summer (June).  Nik asked him if he had any experiences of language teachers using Second Life in language teaching. Leon replied that it takes so long in this country to embed any new practice, teachers have only just got Web 2.0 bound into their courses etc. SL has not arrived yet.

When asked about Prensky’s change of idea about digital natives he said that he liked the idea of the “digital pioneer. “

Leon said that students can be advanced users of technology but naive users of technology whereas teachers have all of the life skills and so many extras that they bring to their teaching, though their ICT skills may not be as advanced as their students.

Leon told a story about the use of Twitter when he asked an academic to give him an obscure term, he fed it into Google and got nothing but fed it into Twitter and got conversations that could be joined.

Leon mentioned Pivot and said that he thinks more open source resources will be developed and bound in to virtual worlds.

A very interesting hour with lots to think about - thanks to all involved :-)

Saturday, 14 March 2009


I visited Metaplace for the first time last night. It is not a downloadable program like many virtual worlds but appears to be built on Flash so is easily available through a browser. I got in, made and avatar, walked up a pathway to my house and watched a video clip and chatted in local chat. That took just a few seconds then I started to look around for something else to do. As a starting point I was allocated 30 friend invites – enough for a class of children, and 100 gold, not sure yet what that may buy!

The aim of Metaplace is for users to be able to design their own tiny virtual worlds that can be shared with many users so I can see the possibility of these tiny worlds being created by schools and their pupils if it turns out to be possible to make a useful tiny world for teaching, creating and socializing.

I started building at the simple level and thoroughly enjoyed creating a fantasy world. I was amazed when people came and visited me – even though I thought I was hidden away in building mode J So I chatted to a couple of explorers, bought a puppy – examined the whole range of virtual goods available from lampposts to wonderful buildings, animals, clothes, spaceships etc. and made my first little world. I was surprised to see that I could associate actions with objects, so they can play a video, play a sound, open a web page, act as a teleporter, say phrases in chat or move around the world. I have not had time yet to explore the advanced building capabilities; I guess that is where one can create their own objects, the next step!

It has to be said that this does not compare visually with Second Life or World of Warcraft – but has so much scope for creativity it is likely to make an impact on education.

Children could use this to make and explore models and simulations, problem solving etc. I could see loads of potential!

Having tried building I started exploring – that is when my little world fell apart – already there is adult content J  However – that is not the end of the world, I can make space so that they are invite only! Enough said! Sign up – have a play!!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Holodeck Project

The Holodeck Project

Last night was the first meeting of the Holodeck project being led by Leon Cych aka Eyebeams Electricteeth in Second Life.

Unfortunately I was late getting in having to download the new browser and having, just at that moment, dreadful bandwidth.

We spent the session exploring what a holodeck is and what it does. We looked at two, one that opens rooms such as The hotel lobby, a movie theatre, a night club, a bust station, a conference hall, a hideaway, an aquarium, and asylum or a barnyard around you and the other, a Paradise blanket, that transports you to the room you choose. It selection of available rooms are: a café, deep sea, Japan, a club, a diner, a grave yard, a castle, a camp, classroom, hotel, pool, paradise, dungeon, classroom, grotto amongst many others!

The huge advantage of a holodeck is that you can have as many different teaching situations as you could possible imagine, more or less on demand. It takes just a few seconds to clear away one scene and open another. The prim count is only for the scene that is open at the time.

For more about the project read Leon’s blog http://eduspaces.net/leoncych/weblog/563316.html

I am  not sure yet what format the project is going to take but hopefully it will lead to something useful.