Two weeks ago ABC News On Campus dropped by my office to shoot a quick segment about my Working in Virtual Worlds course. Of course the interview began with questions about avatar dating, funny avatars, and virtual relationships in Second Life and i was worried that i had been baited into a sensationalized virtual world piece. After the initial questions however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the interview focused on the use of SL as a learning environment. Click here to watch the clip.
Its official, my Working in Virtual Worlds course has been selected by the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation to host their first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant in a virtual world. My students and I are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation. Service learning has been a consistent theme in my Working in Virtual Worlds course and I’m proud to say the service learning component has been student driven. The official press release with details of the grant can be viewed here.
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation has announced that the University of Texas will hold the first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) grant program for an online virtual world project that serves the community and contributes to student learning. This competition will seek to find the most innovative way for students to serve the community online in the virtual world Second Life.
I have a book chapter describing the Service Learning projects my students have completed in Second Life titled, Virtual Worlds: New Spaces for Service Learning that will published in In Service Learning: Linking Library Education and Practice The book is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2009.
In the meantime, if you want to see what i think is the best example of a service learning project completed in Second Life thus far, please visit the Alley Flats located on Educators Coop 1. The Alley Flats project was completed by Leslie Jarmon’s (Bluewave Ogee) students in the Fall of 2007.
So Hurricane Ike looks it will be hitting Texas pretty hard. I have several students that will be affected by IKE especially those from the Houston and Galveston areas. We decided to board up our condos on the Educators Coop island…I think doing this gave them a chance to express their concern for their families and friends and to feel a little closer to home
Today’s readings were excerpts from T.L. Taylor’s Play between Worlds and Castronova’s Synthetic worlds. As usual my students loved reading Play Between Worlds and it seemed like they wanted to read a little more of it. I think they really connect when they read about virtual friendships extending into “real” relationships. Many of them had experienced that before. T.L. also seems to expose preconceptions about gender that many students have. Many seemed surprised to find out that T.L. is a women.
In my course i require student’s to have voice capabilities for a few reasons. First, i have a difficult time typing for 1 1/2 hours and anyone who has chatted with me in SL or any active readers of this blog know how frequently i have typos. Second, I want my students to be able to communicate effectively with their project clients which means they need to able to switch between voice and text chat seamlessly. Last semester was the first time i required voice capabilities and students ran into some unforeseen obstacles.
During class time we switch between text and voice chat pretty quickly. Usually I’ll start the class with voice as i introduce the readings or explain the format of the day. WHile I talk students usually ask questions or type comments into the text chat. I usually answer in voice unless i need to give a url or slrul. The discussions usually begin with me asking an open ended question and the first couple of students responding with voice. As they respond other students will use chat to add their comments or reactions. At this point I usually type a question into the chat window to keep the discussion going. What i typically see is that students will respond in text up until something either needs to be clarified or a student wants to tell a story. I also find it easy to type quotes from the readings into the chat window where i can then ask for reactions.
An entertaining but insightful chat exchange about Text Chat vs. Voice from the students of INF 315e
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: and yeah I’d rather chat than use voice chat
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: why
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: Just seems weird
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: voice seems easier
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: It is
[2008/09/11 9:47] VT: i like chatting better too
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: but it’s a little awkward
[2008/09/11 9:47] VM: i agree voice chat kinda weirds me out
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: i suppose you’re right
[2008/09/11 9:47] OF: I say like a lot when im describing stories so thats why i dont wanna use voice, but i had to cause typing is too tedius when telling stories
[2008/09/11 9:47] FW: like how we haven’t even been voice chatting now
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: Exactly
[2008/09/11 9:47] TB: because you speak without getting any feedback like nonverbal cues
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: You can’t tell if the person is being annoyed by your or left his computer as to real life
[2008/09/11 9:48] OF: lol
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: So you don’t know how to really talk
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: just my opinion
[2008/09/11 9:48] SS: you cant tell when people are joking in chat
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: I think joe left his computer
[2008/09/11 9:48] OF: lmfao
[2008/09/11 9:48] BW: so who is going to break the awkward silence now then?
[2008/09/11 9:48] You: ok, these are all good things to blog about : )
[2008/09/11 9:49] DP: You can tell when people are joknig in chat
My students began logging into Second Life on Tuesday night and most of them have spent between 1-2 hours in SL. In class today (Thursday) i asked them to use one word to describe their experience so far. They came up with interesting words that reinforce the work I’ve done on the Second Life learning curve, particularly in regards to the user experience.
As a caveat, I wanted my students to have a true first time experience so i had them log in to SL on their own and they started at orientation Island. For this particular course since one of our goals is to evaluate virtual worlds as a work platform it is important for me to have the students experience what an average user experiences when they first join Second Life. They need to understand why virtual worlds and SL in particular have such a low retention rate for first time users. If this class wasn’t an information studies course I would not have them go through (dis)orientation, instead I would have them start at NMC and I would be there to immeadiatly teleport them to my class island (Similar to the way we setup the Girlstart 4 day Teen SL camp)
Why are these words important? First we need to acknowledge that the common perception around the SLED community that students will naturally (as in digital native…) love Second Life is a myth. This is my six semester teaching undergrads in Second Life and i can tell you that most students are disappointed with SL and they expect much more from SL than what is there. Students explained that the words “boring”, “empty”, “ugly” referred to the graphics, the “feel” of SL, and low polygon count of the world when compared to online games they have played. A few of them laughed at the “stretched-out” textures that were plaster all over the virtual world. Seriously, these students are not impressed by the graphics of Second Life in the same kind of ways that educators are. One student said, Sl looks a little better than Runscape but nowhere near early Everquest.
This part is for Linden Lab… It’s been a few years now that I’ve been tracking the user experience of students and they are still saying the same things about the interface and client…Listen to these words – “frustrating”, “tedious”, “awkward”, “complicated”. The students were describing how difficult it is to leave orientation island and to understand the metaphors of an inventory, islands, welcome area, orientation area, base hair and prim hair, walking “into” the water..etc…
Some of the positive things the students mentioned were “advanced”, “friendly”, “malleable”, and “addicting”. The students were amazed at the amount of user-generated content in SL and that people they met in SL were overall friendly and would give them things. They felt the ability to edit their appearance to be addicting and many spent way more time on that than they thought. Intrestingly, the students all the way back to Fall 2006 said they same things about their avatars and avatar customization became a key component in the design of a roleplay activity designed for an English course (picture below, paper here)
Now for the last word…”Porn”…not much to say except to acknowledge that SL has a lot of porn and that as educators we need to prepare students to the likely possibility that at some point they will encounter porn in Second Life.
At the end of the semester I will ask students to again describe SL in one word and I will report the words back on the o’l blog. It’ll be interesting to see if/how they change.
The semester has begun and i have 20 new students with an additional 13 on the wait-list for my Working in Virtual Worlds course. As their first assignment i had them all create a one-minute video introducing themselves to the class. They had to use pictures, a soundtrack, a voiceover and post the final video on youtube. The class started last Thursday so they had all weekend to work on it, the project was due yesterday (tuesday). 18 out of 19 students completed the project without a problem, one student “forgot” and another student posted the file wrong on youtube. All in all i think the assignment was a success and we had a great time watching all of the videos in class.
In my course I emphasize the importance of the narrative and storytelling. This intro assignment is their first attempt at telling a story and using digital media to help them express their identity. When i first announced the assignment the students were intimidated by the task, but once I broke it down into the core parts, 8 pictures, a theme song, a title, and a voiceover they quickly understood that creating a short movie/slideshow is actually not that hard. As you will see, many of them had fun with it. Next week they will be using Second Life to tell a story in their virtual condos, they have to setup their SL accounts between now and our next class (Thursday) and they will have a full week to decorate the condos.
Here are a few of my students…
I also made a one-minute intro video for the class,
This morning (7/10/08) at 10am CST I brought my students at the University of Texas at Austin into Lively for a class session. We met in Lively for a little over an hour. During that time we built a room for the Educators Coop and taught each other how to use various tools such as embed URLS into objects, embed youtube movies into objects, and change the music stream in the room. We had a pretty good time playing with the default animations such as body slam and punch. Overall as a class we found it easy to use though very limiting since we couldn’t create our content. After a few minutes we had added just about every type of object into the room and there was little to do after that. We had a lot of fun discovering and i think my students enjoyed seeing me in a position where i was asking them for advice about building and navigating in a virtual world
We did visit the Linden lab room built by Pathfinder but there were way too many people there and we experienced a lot of lag. I choose a pig avatar and as you can see my students picked a variety of other types of avatars. It will be interesting to see what Lively becomes. I’m most excited by the browser-based client and the ability to embed rooms into web pages..especially facebook.
The room we made is here http://www.lively.com/dr?rid=6257502609839847777 ….
Tonight the students in my Working in Virtual class will present a panel in SL about their experiences learning in Second Life. The panel will begin with a short introduction and description of their projects. We will then break into groups for student led tours of their builds. Following the tours the students will participate in a Q/A session with the audience to discuss their experience in SL as learners. My students created three areas, a Quidditch arena, a Wellness Center, and a replica of an Austin bar and grill called Cain Ables. The students used half an island to build their projects and while they didn’t need the space they did need the prims… Below are pictures of their builds and an invitation to attend their event.
You are invited to attend a special Panel session “SL The Student
Experience” to be held on Wednesday July 9 at 5:30PM at the Educators
Coop 1. In this session students enrolled in the undergraduate summer
course Working in Virtual Worlds taught by Joe Sanchez aka North Lamar
at the University of Texas at Austin will discuss the student
experience of learning in Second Life. The Event will feature samples
of student work and a Q/A session with the students and instructor.
This will be an opportunity to hear from the students’ point of view
of the highs and lows, challenges and opportunities of using Second
Life in a university course. Projects include a playable Quidditch
game, a reproduction of Cane and Abels (real life bar and grill), and
a wellness center.
When: Wednesday, July 9, 5:30PM (SLT)
Where: The Educators Coop 1 http://slurl.com/secondlife/Educators%20Coop%201/51/55/22
Overflow Location: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Educators%20Coop%202/247/24/30
** This event is free and open to the public; – Sponsored by students
of INF315e **
In about 6 minutes I will be part of a Panel in Second Life | Storytelling in virtual environments. These are a few sample projects I will be using. Better late than never : )
An example of an Intro movie each student of mine makes in my SINS course. This is their first assignment in the course and it is due at the end of the first week of class. Each intro (autobiography) must be less than 70 seconds
A digitalstory telling project about online dating created by a student in Fall 2006 course
The is a video about peer-to-peer file sharing a student of mine made in my Spring 2007 SINS course. The video is currently being used by as a training aid in an Academic Library workshop.
This is a short video about the DMCA fro a student in my Spring 06 SINS Course (Social Issues in a Networked Society). In this video she interviews Georgia Harper, the copyright and fair-use scholar of higher ed right up there with Siva Vaidahyanathan and Lessig. This video lacks the amount of reflection I would have liked but i think she makes up for it with her attention to detail.
My students have posted their machinima projects on youtube to complete their work for the semester. These videos were completed within a two week window between the date of their event and their final exam. For more info about the projects and my course Working in Virtual worlds click here
Carnival to raise money for Wheelies
This group of students held a carnival to raise money for Wheelies (see post below). This three person team raised about $100 USD and created a fun event that people are still talking about
Second Life IDol
Second Life IDol was an event held to support the Music Academy Online . The students had 6 singers compete in two rounds with audience votes deciding on a winner. The student team built the stage, arranged for contestants, built a voting machine, and advertised all over SL. They filled the sim 15 minutes before the event started…
The Speed dating team was able to get 2 reporters to their event, I’m not sure how they did it (or why for that matter) but I was pretty impressed with their turnout. They even went as far as sending letters to e-harmony and Match.com for sponsorship. This group had a string of bad luck hit them at the last minute as they lost their first location to a sim crash and then their backup location due to a sim sale… I’m glad they had bonded as team because it really helped them to over the last minute obstacles.
What is interesting about the Amazing Race is the difference between my students ability to navigate their avatars compared to the (in)ability of the people attending their event in Sl to navigate their avatars. My students tested their obstacle course with members of our class and they all completed the course within four minutes. Many of the people who showed up to the event had a difficult time completing the course at all and those who finished took between 15-20 minutes. As you can see in the video, the students literally run through the course while attendees walk, bump into things, and fall of the course……
Tuesday night from 6-8SLT a group of students in my class will be hosting thier final project; Second Life Idol at the Music Academy Online in SL. They have 8 contestants, all Real Life singers who perform in Second Life lined up and ready to go. The event will be three rounds with audience voting to determine the winners. a 5000L prizer and an iTunes gift card will be given to the winner. During the event donations will be taken for the Relay for Life. Last Thursday the event was featured on the Music Academy Live weekly broadcast on SLCN.TV. A clip of the show is below.