Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Second location for facilitation - Kamimo Island

At another impromptu meeting with Isa on Monday 26th, we ended up in Arwenna's garden. What an ideal place to bring visitors from overseas to experience a piece of NZ. Arwenna contacted someone called Aklom Haifisch, form Norway for me. Aklom joined us in the garden and we had an interesting discussion about the work she does and related projects.

Educational value of SL: Where else could you have discussions like this with academics and technical experts from not only different parts of NZ, but also the world?

Aklom doesn't teach languages but has done some joint research into SL and improvement of social English. We arranged a meeting for 10.30 Tuesday 27th on Kamimo Island, her base, for her to show me around. That was an interesting experience, and really pushed the concentration and motor skills. For a start, when she wasn't flying, she was on skates! She gave a lot of information, and it was hard to take it all in, especially as someone had sent an IM and I was trying to respond, listen to what Aklom was saying, and keep up.

We visited a number of places, one being a classroom with video and smart board. Lecturers can load up a video, and students can click on the arrow above 'say' at the bottom of the SL window, to watch it. Anyone can hire the classroom for L500 (about $2 - US I assume). You just add the hours you want to the calendar to book and then pay Aklom. Anyone can use the grounds for free, for activities.

There are other buildings with unusual rooms for meetings - the hut by the sea, and the building with the grass roof, which will eventually have a teleport to a room in the sky. There is a secret room too, and a waterfall to negotiate - quite tricky, especially when you get inside and have to find where to land. But it's worth it. The next challenge is getting out again!

This is definitely worth bringing the group to as it is a place that any discipline can use.

Aklom showed me how to activate voice and hearing by going to the Wizard in . I thought I hadn't made it work, until we met up with some of Aklom's friends who were both talking. They had sound waves above their heads. Noone was typing so it was quiet. Then I picked up some sound. I clicked a button near the mic, and then the mic. Immediately there was a shrill feedback. Noone knew where it had come from - I did. I had to own up. They asked me to tone the mic down. Hearing voices changed things. I took me right out of the scene and I became an observer rather than a participant - like watching a cartoon. It might be because my avatar wasn't typing when I said something, so I couldn't identify with it.

Aklom spent over two hours with me, which was really kind. That is what I am finding in SL - a real sense of community.

I had an impromptu but very necessary meeting with Leigh on 28th - when we eventually found each other. I had sent him a land mark (LM) of where I thought I was. I had been there the night before, true, but I had moved away from it and was totally lost.

Mental note: teleport (TP) someone rather than send a LM - at least they end up beside you.

Leigh practised teleporting and sending landmarks with me. I feel confident doing that now.

Mental note: learn how to send offer of friendship so that people are on my contact list. Without that I can't teleport them. Make sure to get the correct spelling of their names too.

To do:

1) email Aklom to check a few details as she is not likely to be there for the facilitation - I will have to be the guide, so will also need to go back and practise finding the various places.

2) IM Jupiter Lusch to confirm time and date of visit.

3) check a possible third place to visit.

4) do some background reading on VLEs and language learning. This article by Petersen looks like an interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making contacts in SecondLife

I decided to go back into SL to try and sort out clothing and that hat - funny how even in a virtual world, appearance is important. Every time I have gone into SL, there is always someone there - mostly someone I have met before. When I went in on Friday 9 November, I 'came across' Arwenna Stardust. I was a bit startled and felt I was trespassing, as I had landed in the building she has been showing us around when I had visited with the course group. We had a good chat once I had worked out how to get the 'chat' working. There are so many things to monitor and move - it makes me think of an airline pilot coming into land. Of couse we got on to the topic of clothes, and she was very kind and gave me quite a few clothes for my inventory. I must look awful for her to give me so many!

Lesson: don't choose a way-out avatar when you first join SL. It just makes life complicated.

Arwenna also invited me to join the Kiwi Educators group and, very importantly, showed me how to place a landmark. This made me feel much more secure - I had a base to come back to if I wandered off and got lost! And I had spot in the sandpit. However, I quickly forgot how to place a landmark.

Mental note: have a play and work it out.

I went along to the 8.00 pm group meeting the following Sunday in Koru. I arrived in the sandpit and there was a red arrow pointing the way for me. I used that and the map to find Koru. When I arrived, there were a few people sitting around on cushions, including Arwenna and Isa Goodman. I walked right in - but am not sure whether I should have waited to be invited.

Mental note: find out about the social etiquette for entering into spaces.

I was invited to sit down but had to be taught how to. Logical when you find out. My avatar was very dramatic and leaped in the air and then sat down with a bump. Embarrassing. Do they all do that?

Mistake: I sat between Arwenna and Isa and couldn't see either of them.

Mental note: Sit opposite next time. Also I can't see my own face - not sure how to. Find out how to.

At that meeting I learnt more about SL from Arwenna and Isa. One useful thing - how to search for groups that could be useful. I found an Online Japanese group and was also given a couple of land marks.

The following weekend, I went to another Kiwi Educators group meeting. I was given a hub for newbies. Still haven't worked my way through all the things in it, but gather it's to help newbies explore. Everyone started to talk about things I didn't really understand and I clicked the teleport button to one of the landmarks I had - couldn't remember how I'd got it.

I teleported to it - before standing up despite being warned - and landed with a bump in a place that reminded me of Venice.

Mental note: stand up before teleporting.

This time, nobody was around and I felt uneasy, so I teleported to the Japanese Online group. Nobody there either but sent an IM to the owner. A few days later, I got an invite notification by email from Jupiter Lusch, the Japanese Online group.

In the meantime, it was decided that seeing as I was interested in finding out more about the potential of SL and language learning, I should do my facilitation for the course in SL. A timeline was set. I had two weeks to find places of interest or potential for language learning/developing intercultural competence, learn how to get myself around, and the basics for communicating and what I needed for facilitating.

When I went into SL on 25 November, I met Toddles and we had a long and interesting talk about languages. He also taught be a few more moves, and we worked out how to type in Japanese. It is just the same as typing in a word document - not complicated at all.

I then visited the office and classroom owned by Jupiter Lusch of the Japanese Online Courses.

We discussed SL and language learning, and then bringing the course group to have a look around. It took a while to work out a suitable time, with the time difference - east coast USA - six hours and one day behind, but eventually arranged a meeting for Monday 3 December, 7.30 NZ time. Jupiter invited me to join the group, and the membership above my head changed. I could see the possibility of using the classroom for meetings with other teachers of Japanese from around the world to brainstorm uses for SL, as well as getting students of Japanese to meet and talk about why they are learning Japanese, experiences in Japan, as well as to meet Japanese speakers.

Mental note: find out how to change the membership over my head, back to Kiwi Educators when back in NZ.

I felt comfortable about teleporting myself and about landmarks.

Mental note: find out how to teleport people.

Friday, November 9, 2007

SecondLife - an earlier post

Having been in Japan for three weeks, it was quite an experience to come back into the course with SecondLife!

But then, was it so different from what I had experienced in Japan? Some of the things I saw were almost surreal in terms of beauty, difference, or eccentricity.

Which of these shots are real life Japan, and which are from SecondLife?

The potential of SL for language learning and teaching has captured my imagination. I need to look into the educational potential. If glove puppets can remove inhibitions for language learning, just think what an avatar can do!

My first visit - and I had to choose my avatar. Not much to choose from. They tell you that you an change it once you get in. But things seemed to happen so quickly that I didn't have time to change. My first location was Orientation Island - good advice from Veronique. I learnt to walk, drive a car, fly and few other things. I'd had enough by the time I had got handed the key to SL - apparenty I had passed all the tests - I hadn't realised. So I left after having a quick walk round Help Island.

The next visit was unexpected. Having logged in to Elluminate, our speaker on SL was unable to join us because, we were later to learn, of some distressing news. So the group decided to go into SL. I was teleported from Help Island, and found myself alone in a field. I eventually found everyone by moving to the dots on the map.

Arwenna Stardust showed us round, but apart from having a good time at the disco and looking around a reconstruction of a concentration camp/prison, I can't remember much. I was probably concentrating too much on how to do things like keeping up with everyone so I wouldn't be left behind, and following the conversation at the same time.

Definitely needed another visit to sort out the clothes and the look. And I had to get rid of that hat.