Friday, 21 May 2010

South Shields Community BSF Build

South Shields Community schools have created a model their new school build in Second Life so that the teachers and pupils can experience the school before it is even built. There is a school close by that is did something similar and the teachers who were involved with the build felt they had already been there :-)

“It is quite strange that you know your way round before you get there” Graham Firecaster said in
one night just before I visited! “You don’t have to think in 3d,” which is a problem I have, “you can just experience it!”  Graham did not know of Second Life, he saw the cad/cam model videos and realised he wanted their pupils to experience the build before the whole things was built. He started to investigate the possibilities offered by using a virtual world and so they started out  in Second Life. Graham is now taking a whole school lead in it.

The head and deputy head are pushing a project in TeenGrid where the school build will be taken eventually ready for the pupils to build the furniture, make interactive projects etc. That island is already ordered! What a lovely refreshing attitude from UK education - Yay!

This morning I have visited the build and walked around. I love the huge expanses of glass surrounded workspace, one can only hope their wireless network will be enough to empower the student to make full use of the learning opportunities afforded by the space!

Gone are the corridors of old school days, instead there are square areas with rooms built off them where there is room for pupils to move comfortably around. There seem to be some large teaching areas, with smaller group areas around them but whole swathes of self study space where, I am sure, individuals and groups of students can work in whichever ways they want to when they have the opportunities to do so. Where solid walls they are coloured with rich but soft, gentle colours that should be soothing and inspiring, they lead to each of the four branches out from the main structure.

Toilets, lifts, staircases, cupboards, offices, the dining hall, fire escapes, gym and more are all there – one can wander around and work out where everything is and how to get around without ever having seen the plans of the actual build. Disabled visitors and pupils will be able to plot their routes around, the facilities really do look to be inclusive.  Students can start to understand the layout and main navigation routes before they go there.

This is inspired use of Second Life for a purely practical demonstration of what a new school will be like.

The only thing that would improve the school for me is some signage helping me to understand the use are various places. I can’t, for example, work out where the music area is. I thought I had found it – a large rehearsal room, but could not find practice rooms – so think I must be wrong :-(

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Museum of Natural History Vienna

I visited the Vienna Natural History Museum in Second Life and was met outside by a huge dinosaur skeleton and an unbelievably large King Kong. The noises are quite horrifying, it sounds like one of them is eating something and I did not like to think of what it may be!

The building is impressive and rather beautifully constructed having the most lovely ceiling in the downstairs museum area.

There is a rather inspiring Greek room which is interesting.

There is a sort of fresco / cave paining gallery which shows the woolly mammoth, deers, camels  and more...

Most impressive by far is the collection of Bryn Oh sculptures on the top floor. There are very typical of Bryn’s work, all of the creatures have moving part and sounds added but they are inspired by insets etc – hence the natural history museum to show them off. A visit to this area really needs sound enabled, these creatures all have sound similar to radio interference and the overall effect from them together is really strange.
To read more and see many close up photographs of these insects see 

The museum will host meetings, discussions, exhibitions, events and education events, it is a shared place for Europeans and Friends.

The slurl is:

The overall effect is strange, it is atmospheric, different, unusual and quite weird but I like it.

Visiting one or two new builds in SL - The Cave

The SLED list inspired me with information about a build called “The Cave”. I spent hours with my daughter studying The Cave alongside other allegories when she was studying philosophy at A level a few years ago. It is a very simple but effective build and so true to the story. I really enjoyed seeing it and recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy.

The notecard at the entrance to the cave says:

Just Imagine...

You and your friends and family and fellow citizens have spent your entire life chained together with your heads facing front and your eyes watching an inner cave wall. Unknown to you there are real people and animals behind you near the opening of the cave, near a fire, and they alone are free to cast shadows over your heads onto that inner cave wall. Your entire life is spent inside the cave thinking the shadows before you were, in fact, all there was to see and know. However, one day you escape from your chains and leave the cave.
On your way out you cannot believe that there was a fire used to cast shadows. But you do get out and then you really can’t believe what you see. At first your eyes are blinded by the sun but then you come to see the real world is so much more robust, more detailed and more beautiful than you ever imagined inside the cave. Now that you know how things really are you feel you must tell your family and friends and fellow citizens. Returning to the cave you try to convince the poor souls who remain that they’ve lived a lie in the shadows their whole lives, but of course they don’t believe you...

To participate:
            Inside the cave, you will find benches made of rock. 
            There are balls on each of these benches that mark places for you to sit.
            Right-click with your mouse on one of these balls, and choose "Sit".
            You will then be facing the shadows on the wall...
            When you are ready to leave, click "Stand Up" to release yourself from the chains.

Then, reflect on these questions...
            Could you ever go back and live in the cave?  Why or why not?
            Why won't the others believe you if you try to convince them of the truth?
            In what ways might Plato's allegory be relevant to life in today's society?
            In what ways might Plato's allegory apply to your own life's experience?

Jack G. Musselman
St. Edward's University

The Slurl for the build is

To find out more visit:

Plato's Allegory of the Cave can be found in Book VII of Plato's Republic (514a-520a) 

The links offered there to explain the significance of The Cave in differnt contexts is:

1. Cave in Plato's own text (Republic VII 514a-520a)

2. Cave and the Matrix

3. Cave and education

4. Cave and financial markets

5. Cave and lawyers at work

6. Cave and public policy

7. Cave and science fiction

8. Cave and the war in Iraq

9. Cave as claymation

10. Cave and philosophy

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Second Life Teachmeet 2010

May 7th 2010 - the first ever Second Life 'Vital' Teachmeet event took place in the theatre on the Learn 4 Life island.

At midnight we were still partying:-) It was a fun night, very experimental and, in my opinion pretty successful.

Leading up to the event all of the preparations had been easy but inevitably about 7.45 as a larger group than expected started to gather on the island a few problems occurred. Suddenly and without warning one of the party was totally ruthed, another could not see anything except water and steam, a couple did not have sound then as we started we had a black avatar and anyone who has seen that knows it is not fun for the person it happens to. So a few minutes were spent solving these problems but we were still online for an 8pm start.

The few minutes lost to sorting those problems meant that even though I tried to set up the twitterfall and the fruit machine to give presentation order neither worked in-world and I had no time left to sort those problems. But... who needs a fruit machine and twitterfall? We carried on without!

There were five presentations, all made in the theatre, we did not go to the sandbox, where at least one of the presos, a sound workshop, should have been. The reason that we did not move out was because it took us a few minutes to round up the delegates and get them in the main presentation area we did not want to risk losing them again.

During the session we managed to play videos full screen for all to see, play multiple presentations and talk – pretty much what we would have been doing in any room in real life but also we were able to do a workshop on sound – making animals speak – not easy in the physical world teachmeet – one up for SL :-)

What did we learn?

•    There is lots more work for me or with colleagues Nic Byron and Eyebeams Electricteeth  to do to try to get the fruit machine and twitterfall working – these were not things we thought of until the last minute so as they did not instantly work we gave up so as not to impede the whole event.
•    Eyebeams (aka Leon Cych) used his iphone to time the event – we need an in-world timer, again we never thought of that! However on the point of timing any teachmeet visitor know the role of the camel;  he worked well and was used to very good effect, not only during the meeting but also at the party :-)
•    One good decision made on the night was not to move to the sandbox for a session, I think we would have lost too many people and also many people wandered in and out as we were where we had advertised the event for the duration of it.
•    I had planned to do a virtual visit – for the same reasons as the last point they are not really viable and we did not do that session, I will re-plan that as a session for the next event.

So is it viable?

You will all soon be able to judge for yourself.  Two people videoed the whole event and Eyebeams will release footage very soon, I will add the url here when it is available. I really enjoyed it, the people there enjoyed it, I asked one or two if it had been worth attending and they thought it had. We can do the same in-world as in the physical world and more but as all things in Second Life or any virtual world there is a leap of faith and some orientation work needed before one can benefit. For some that may be a step too far but I would recommend trying it!

Sadly I was too involved to even think about sitting back and taking photographs  or twittering :-)

Post script - just received an e-mail from Osnacantab who took loads of photos, see .

Added on Sunday - Leon's video of Cyber 360's presentation at the event .

Also - remembered when looking at the video - tell people who want help with their presentation upload etc to ask early :-) No last minute rush.