Thursday, 31 December 2009

Approaching New Year 2010

Well time again to wish everyone the very happiest of years in 2010 – in fact as we enter a new decade best wishes for the whole ten years!!

So – how has this year been for you? Looking back over 2009 it has been an interesting year for me – a few highlights and lowlights…
  • Immediately after Christmas I ran the first e-safety course in Second Life with colleague Nick. This was the realisation of a year-long dream so I was very pleased!
  • I enjoyed a sneaky visit to IATEFL in spring to meet Daf and Cristina with whom I had Spanish lessons in Second Life – at least that was the plan, but in reality I met many more Second Lifers including Graham, Kyle, Shiv, Dennis, Nicky, Nik, Iffaf and more but I can’t remember who they were now.
  • May brought new girlfriend for Andy, she is French, delightful and he is over there visiting now until into the New Year.
  • May also brought the SLanguages conference where I ran a workshop. That was among the first I did in Second Life and I learned a lot. I then set up a plot of land where I hoped to continue to run similar workshops but realised on the first one that none group members can’t create on the land. Oops – fail :-(
  • In July we had a family wedding, Phill and Vicky got married and Woody spent a month telling everyone he was getting married, when questioned he said “Yes, Mummy, daddy and me!” It was a very happy day all round, spoiled a little by the episode of swine flu that broke out in the local school meaning several local families were not able to attend. The firework display that should have been did not happen because even though the insurance was quite expensive the estate still did not want it to take place, they had too many ripening crops.
  • A bit of a sad July – a court case – it took its toll on the family but we are glad it is over now. The wedding, half way through was a welcome interlude even though we hoped the case would be over the week before.
  • After the court case we had a lovely five day holiday in Ibiza – totally unexpected but it seemed a good idea at the time and it was raining nonstop here :-)
  • On the work front most of the team’s time is still devoted to the roll out of the Learning Platform leaving little space for other more usual work. A colleague retired in the summer leaving the smaller team struggling to keep up.
  • Autumn brought disastrous planned holiday in Tunisia where I got bitten, infected and ended up in hospital until the night before I was due to fly home but even then had a bag full of injections to get me home and two further weeks off work :-( Previously unheard of!
  • In Tunisia I read on Facebook that we have a new baby arriving in the family next June :-) that is something to look forwards to.
  • Throughout the whole year I have run, with a colleague, five e-safety courses in Second Life. After a doubtful start part of my performance management for the coming six months to increase take up ;-) strange how the world works! Having just read last Christmas’ blog posting where I had just started doing my first bit of teaching in SL I now feel like an old hand.
  • Autumn brought the slightly sad news that EduNation is being split up – as I have been based there more or less since I joined Second Life that means the end of an era for me.
  • On the back of the e-safety work in Second Life I was asked to do presentations at several conferences. Having been off the conference circuit for a while that was an interesting development and very enjoyable
  • We have had a couple of funerals – I think this is an age thing – there seem to come a time when funerals are more common that weddings and christenings…
  •  I have made lovely new friends in Second Life who are now nagging me to pay a flying, sneaky visit to IATEFL again – this one is not really likely to happen, at least not so easily if at all.
  • It is now just after Christmas and the firework display that did not get let off at the wedding made an entertaining Christmas day evening display for our whole family and large group of house guests!

So – did I keep my new year’s resolutions from 2008 :-) I don’t think so – I did different things, technology changes too quickly! Looking back I kept two and failed on two.

I did get hooked on my Samsung N10 – a netbook which I can use to access the web anywhere with a dongle and so tiny and light it is easy to carry around in my handbag :-)

I have recently played with Chroma Key a video technique, I enjoyed that but have stripped the necessary “bits” from my computer as they argue too much with other things that I use all of the time.

I was fairly happy with my Burning Life and SL Birthday builds in Second Life and involvement with the Education Faire but plan to do none of them next year – I think I need to do something different.

I was pleased with my Christmas Carousel – a new SL build for Christmas that was quite complicated for something that looks so simple.

What do I want to achieve next year?

Who knows… but I will when I see it :-)
  •  First off I need to learn how to use my new car radio system that plays the iPod through it and has blue tooth built in.
  •   Next I want to get used to my new iPhone, that is due on the 14th January - Yay :-)
  •  Improve worklife balance – I have been doing that for three years and it is much improved.
  • Continue to improve my building skills in Second Life.
So that takes me up to half way through January – beyond that it could be anything … ;-)

Finally – thanks for reading, Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR :-)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A Visit to Patron



Last night I spent about two hours looking around Patron, the art gallery of SL artist Eliza Wierwight. It is a lovely, showcase build comprising of a beautifully landscaped sim with gardens, flowers, waterfalls, light ornaments, a soundscape and secret rooms as well as the designer class main art gallery. The gallery is quite different to others as it is furnished as a home may be. The furniture is high quality, lovely and arranged so that one may really enjoy just sitting and appreciating the art work. There is also a columned round room with a mural along the walls as well as a sort of garden room soundscape which I videoed.

There are more photographs uploaded to Flickr

Patron is a place to relax as much as an art Gallery or Emporium. To describe it better here are Eiza's own words:

"Creating Patron and both curating or creating it's contents is my personal vision. The art and creations by others than myself here fall under a stringent criteria. In as much as Patron is so strongly a reflection of myself, my home, the Patron Inhouse guest Artists and Creators are people that I have huge respect for firstly as people but also incredible talent in their chosen fields. People I consider an extended family. A fairly gifted family at that..." ~smiles softly~

"No doubt about it, I call myself a 'texture whore' with some immediate affection. I love superb textures and I have worked hard to avail only the best via my creations to my potential customers. Some textures you will find here are totally exclusive to Patron. Many I now create, I also create with textures by some of my very talented and generous friends who have passed on samples of their artistry for my musing and use in both the Gallery & Emporium items. When a focus texture is by another Second Life artist you find them credited in the description lines of Patron creations. Others are high end purchases and often strictly contracted before sale to myself. I am also vigilant about not using textures or creation components that have not been acquired ethically. Artisans that make the textures that colour and enrich our SL world deserve respect. My designs would be nothing without them.

I invite you to make yourself at home here as much as is your leisure too, irrespective of whether you purchase here or not. Patron continues to evolve daily and though parts may be the vanguard of Patron style you can expect it to evolve constantly. Also while here please traverse the SIM tunnel to my friend Cuwynne Deerhunter's Patron Wilds adjacent, could be Heaven on earth. A genuine pleasure to share a SIM with such mastery.

In 1966 Italian illustrator Vittorio Accornero was commissioned by a prestigious House of Design to create a very special piece for the Princess Grace of Monaco. My mother who had a distinctive love of both the beautiful & unique in turn acquired the same piece. As a young child I recall studying the detail, the color, searching out the hidden dragonflies and bees in the profusion of flowers that adorned this specific creation . Today the feel of the silk fabric on my skin remains reminiscent of the special occasion I was entrusted to handle it. I even muse the perfume my mother wore when I see the vibrancy of the textures that compelled me to create this softly whimsical & elegant sculptural piece. Much to my immediate pleasure that these creations also include exclusive focus textures by Cuwynne Deerhunter and detailing textures by Stephen Venkman. The legacy lives on ....

The only thing I was unable to do, was to create a singular version. So I offer two interpretations with slight variations, complimenting choice of the backgrounds in Ivory or Noir."

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A visit to Arcachon in Second Life


Arcachon, a seaside resort in the south of France has been replicated as a build in Second Life. I visted with a Cyber - a SL avatar but Real life person who knows the area very well and she was amazed at how true to life the whole build is. Marisolde soon joined us there and took a motobike ride around the whole island.

There is a huge sand dune along one coastal area where one can walk down into the pine forest on the edge of the beach and get battered by falling giant pine cones :-) The lighthouse is there to protect the ships in the narrow waterway.

It is very pretty in parts but has a picnic area complete with jukebox and trailer park etc., which reflects the real life trailer park complete with washing line full of undies :-)That area is streaming a film - apparently a very famous French film that I just did not know or appreciate.

The animals in the pine forests are lovely, there is an arena where bulls are ridden, but not killed that has a rodeo type of bull in it.

From Wikipedia:
The course Landaise is an ancient form of bullfighting held in oval or rectangular arenas covered in sand, that does not involve any bloodshed. Experienced cows generally from the age of 2 and up to 14 years old are used instead of bulls. They are athletic animals selected from the same breed as the bulls used for the Spanish Corridas. 

This form of bullfighting is a traditional game of bull dodging and leaping. One needs courage, composure and agility to participate in this dangerous sport. The men and women most often have a few bruises, deep gashes and broken bones in various states of mending to nurse throughout the season, while the cows return without any harm to their luxurious grasslands.

There is a working mill, a corn growing patch being watered by a windmill, a beautiful farm house with sunflowers outside the door and gendarmes keeping control over the whole area.

Also on the island is a fishing competition - needless to say I failed miserable and was told ow rubbish I am at fishing!

A delightful place to visit, one can take a balloon ride, a motorbike ride or a pedallo around the whole island but it is texture rich and quite hard on the graphics card ;-) For more photographs visit

To visit teh area in Second Life follow the slurl:, as you land in the area you are in the town square where currently there is a nativity scene and lovely outdoor Christmas tree. The whole build is very well done, it is a lovely place to visit!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Second Visit to the Crossworlds Gallery

I visited Lynto Land to the Crossworlds Gallery again, this time with Dennis and Gizmo. We went to a snail colony where one can ride snails, ants or bees – a quirky but amazing build where the unexpected happened and I ended up hanging from the foot of a bee :-) It is situated below the main crossworlds gallery at floor level and makes good use of particles with the rain making the grass and flowers grow. The idea behind Lynto Land seems to be to put business people in touch with each other – but it is an interesting place to visit even if you are not interested in the business aspect.

For photographs visit:

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Chroma Key Video Update

Right :-) Chroma Key update ! When James – my mentor for this project - (thanks James ) saw the completed video he told me that the different transitions were to accommodate the different coloured blue or green paper and that it was not a light issue! Back to the drawing board.
I remade the video clip having tried all of the available transitions, interestingly enough with each one I had to restart WMM to get it to play but I am still having issues with a set of codecs that wants to be on my computer against my wishes – a little battle for me to win there!
I found one that made the transition between blue screen and Second Life look much better but the sound, though the two videos have exactly the same level, fades itself out on the beginning of the second clip and I can’t overcome that.
Very soon the same video, but with a better merging of the two will be available here. Thinking about how long it took me to upload it last night though it still could be a couple of hours!

PS - I know my avatar looks as if she is speaking at the wrong end of the clip but I am not changing it :-)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Playing with the Chroma Key Video Technique

I watched Kevin McLaughlin at the Teach meet /Ed Tech round up do a demonstration of green screen video work on an Apple laptop. To see the clip visit , it is on the 7th video of the set.

Blue screen, chroma-key or green screen is something I have often wondered about and always meant to investigate but just never got round to. It is very easy on the Apple, one has to go into the Advanced settings on iMovie and select Chroma-Key /Green screen or something similar! I promptly tweeted that I wanted an Apple to experiment with when James Ashton tweeted back that I could do it with a PC and he would write a blog giving instruction. Amazingly he then apologised for it taking so long – the instructions were in place that same night :-) Many thanks to James!! I followed the instructions in his blog post instructions and downloaded the plug in needed. I thought I was all set up!

At work the following Monday I set up a blue screen on the Smartboard,  that seemed to be an easy answer for primary schools. Sadly the royal blue was washed out by the projector light, so was I! That was a non-starter. Fail number one!

Next I covered a board with royal blue poster paper, that seemed perfect. I asked a colleague to record me with a Flip cam. My idea was that I would introduce my avatar and stand by her in Second Life. I did my bit of speech and took the camera back, I had instructed my colleague not to go off the blue paper with the recording but those instructions were not enough, he videoed me close up so that there was no room left to superimpose me on anything else, it was all my head and shoulders with a bit of blue around the edges. Failed a second time.

I took the blue poster paper home and stuck it along wardrobes before asking my husband to record me. This felt like a sure winner, was so sure it would work I dug out an old digital camcorder as it is a much better resolution than the Flip Cam. Fail number three – I have no firewire port to download it from DV tape any more :-(

So now I am waiting / working at home waiting for the TV Aerial man to come and fix the aerial before Christmas. Dare I ask him to accompany me to the bedroom to video me once again using the Flip Cam? Not sure even I am that brave! So on hold again.

This must be the only blog post ever that is being written over weeks!
During the time span between all these failures – over a week now – I have been wondering about how I would use it in class.

First thoughts -
• documentaries – children reporting findings from around the world in a geography project being set against film from that country,
• maybe story telling where their story is set in a forest, retelling the story of Jonah and the Whale against a crashing sea, but it would take a lot of work to film the background scenes for the story unless they were stock footage
• making adverts – setting themselves in a dream house of on a desert island but again it would depend on the stock footage available
• children reporting on news items with video in the background – especially good if they could use the real footage from the BBC news and project themselves as newscasters
• in all cases a single picture could be used as the background but I not sure whether that is an advantage or just a difficult way of doing it, I would need to work with children to establish that.

I am definitely lacking imagination this morning, I can’t think of any more.

I am beginning to think that for primary school Chroma Key may be a non-starter taking too much work for too little result but for secondary pupils I guess it would be a very different story, especially for those pupils doing media exam work.

So – back to the Flip cam, my son took footage of real life me, I exported it exported from Flip, tried to import into Windows Movie Maker – oh dear Data Execution Prevention kicked in. The program closed, I read the details, learned that I can switch DEP off, tried - but -  WMM can’t run without it. Eventually I put the clip onto external hard drive, took to another computer with licence for a video convertor…. This is getting silly!

In the meantime I have taken footage of my avatar in Second Life using Fraps. Even that did not go as smoothly as I expected, control Alt-Ctrl & F1 which usually switches off the user interface refused to play… but we all know there is more than one way to skin a cat!

I think finally I have two videos, one of my avatar in Second Life and one of me against a blue screen in real life. Can I merge the two?

I think at that point I should stop listing problems, but the conculusion of another three hours of downloading codecs, updating codecs and trying out various formats left me with a pretty poor video clip where my real self left a faded out avatar, there was nothing like enough light in the room to enable the blending of the images properly.  Still I experienced  a huge sense of achievement. I really don't like techie stuff getting the better of me but not at all convinced this is for the average primary school :-)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Embedding Games

More and more sites are making games and video clips embeddable which is good for all of us in education. If the games are only for computer clubs, wet playtimes or homework fun, even non curricular games often develop thinking skills and can help to develop a logial approach to problem solving.

Our Learning Platform has an embedding code capability and there are a whole range of games being made available for teachers to tap into. There are puzzles, strategy and curricular games.

Where sites make the embed code available just copy the code  and look for the greater than and less than markers in the learning platform interest space pages, <>  click on them and paste the code into the offered space.
To spot the embeddable code look for the following sort of structure:

The BBC Bitesize KS2 site has made all of its curricular games embeddable Play games, embed them in blogs etc!

Play Games at AddictingGames

For embedding video clips check out Teacher Tube, or, Your Tube and look for the code:

Also teachers who feel inspired, and have time, can make their own embedable games from flash templates at or

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Crossworlds Gallery First Visit

With the length of time I have been in Second Life and the places I have seen it gets harder to find new inspiring places to visit, but a friend took me to the Crossworlds Gallery last night and I was totally knocked out by the craftsmanship displayed there. Soon two more friends joined us and we investigated several floors with more to go!

There is a set of modelled animals, a unicorn / rabbit type of creature called the rabbicorn, a Mouse drawn Owl, a seahorse called The Sea and the Sky and a gazelle/ spider type of creature called a Gazellnid where, once you find a hidden button a poem is read in chat. The poem is split between the models. A musical box plays in all three as well – it is quite wonderful. For more information see

There is a celebration of love in the Nectar Room where one can make a declaration of love, dance to celebrate their love and quite possibly more! There is a poem written by Aurakyo Insoo called Love is the Answer which gives its name to the whole build. It is interesting, and I imagine, a huge success around St Valentine’s Day. I have very mixed feelings about bits like the broken Heart – bound in barbed wire and the sense that one is standing in a pool of blood. Is love really this bloody? However – regardless of my feelings it is beautiful craftsman ship and art does not have to make me feel good!

One whole gallery is made up on interactive pictures where you can change the image that is in the frame, sometimes the colours and sometime the whole thing. These are kaleidoscope type of images – again wonderful craftsmanship.
The top floor is just amazing. When you visit set your environment settings to night and wander around. These are sculptures that you can stand in and they change around you. I have tried creating this sort of art, successfully as far as it went, but not as good as this!

I returned for a short while today and called another friend to see it. I will spend considerably more time there over the next few weeks. To visit follow the link:

For more photographs visit