When class ended (Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds) last Spring I assumed that was it for the blog… hadn’t even thought of it til now. Esme’s firing up a new TLinVW class and I recalled what an adventure it was starting out in this brave new world and so, I begged her to let me come play. Thoughts have a way of following one to another and I remembered our class blogs. After re-reading posts from classmates and Esme it seemed natural to reflect on the time that’s passed. It was challenging to transition from being a member of a small, supportive community to a more independent existence in SL. I had become very comfortable spending my time on the 250M platform over the MCGC Sandbox. I spent hours there on my little plot – creating things in my handome workshop. with flowers and shrubs proliferating the perimeter – most of which came as standard issue in my inventory, although I did shop for a few essential foundation plants. When class ended I felt completely uprooted – no pun intended, and foundered without a plan for a few weeks. One thing certain was that I would remain a virtual resident in SL – the place had me enthralled. I didn’t really consider remaining homeless – thoughts of building things and learning to build better things was foremost on my mind. I wanted to be able to leave stuff laying about in-process.. to find it waiting for me when next I returned. Without a clear picture in mind I started hunting for an abode. Some days I imagined just a cave or grotto to call home, other days a house on a hill. Good fortune led me to an excellent locale where I’ve learned to be more independent in SL while having multudinous opportunities to engage with the small, active, eco-minded community I live in. I’m still building and leaving stuff about.. my second life is good.
I was feeling very envious of the lucky 18,000 (Esme’s count) conference attendees until it dawned on me that I, too, could *attend* in SL and experience some of the revitalizing energy that is always a part of such a heady convergence.
Skip ahead two weeks.. for the opening ceremony at NECC ’08 in SL. I’m listening to a band called One Horse Shy playing to an adoring SL crowd. The band was great and the streaming sound wasn’t too bad. The excitement surrounding the event was palpable. (I danced a little, myself – hehe)
The following day was Esme’s presentation at NECC; a group effort called SLedupotential at 8:30am SLT, in a halodeck on ISTE island. I think six of us from class were attempting to participate – myself, Bigpickb, Tiernan, Pamet, Iris, Ebliu – forgive me if I left someone out. It was chaotic in that there were so many avatars and the streaming sound was difficult to locate for us newbs. We helped each other out.
We managed to somehow get into Esme’s tour group for one of the breakout sessions and visited Camp Darfur, Paris 1910, Starry Night and other locales – I’m a bit fuzzy – should have been taking notes! I had a lovely carousel ride in Paris and danced a bit in the Moulin Rouge.
Later in the day Esme helped me find my way to a building class down on the beach with an SL expert builder where we built a lamp, from a torus, I believe. I’m looking a little lost as usual… I was in the “..state of dissonance or feeling of unease resulting from an experience” phase of the project. It was great fun to watch the lamps popping out with a variety of styles and textures.
There was a general atmosphere of convivialty on the beach that day, culminating in a group picture.
Can you find Waldo ..er I mean Esme? Right in the heart of things .. as usual
The conference concluded on Wednesday in SL with a keynote speech in the Amphitheatre. I attended but was unable to get sound after the first few minutes. There were helpful posters providing the correct settings but after hearing the initial speakers the streaming sound did not work for me.
The event was impressive nonetheless, with quite a buzz in the crowd and Local Chat. Seating was limited, so many avatars lined the periphery. There was one point when everyone starting typing the the name of the state they were connecting from in the Local Chat – that was very cool. I was able to view the projections on the screens and immediately recognized a quality ISTE presentation in progress.
NECC ’08 in Second Life rocked !!
I haven’t been able to focus my efforts for the last couple of weeks in SL and it’s feels like I’m just treading water. I’m looking for something to blame it on, besides myself… A rundown of my recent activities doesn’t turn up anything very productive. I spent a week and a half doing support tickets because I wasn’t able to set up a credit card account. SL support said the credit card company was blocking the account but Bank of America said otherwise. Eventually, it sorted itself out and I had 6,400+ L$ to spend. Thus began my unfocused demise. I’ve shopped myself silly. I hate shopping in real life. In SL I can lose HOURS happily browsing. Have I manged to learn anything useful from all this time frivolously spent? Yes. When you buy something that says No Copy it doesn’t -just- mean that you can not make additional copies. It means if you rez it from your inventory and fail to Take it back into inventory, deleting it instead.. it’s gone. My beautiful magic crystal staff is now a memory. I didn’t even get so far as to figure out what it was supposed to do. I still have the notecard that came with it, but no staff. Perhaps, it was never meant to be mine. I remember the night I bought it – it was my first purchase and my first foray down Wizard Alley. It was in the wee hours, me the only creature stirring. I saw it pictured on an ad board and with my heavy purse jangling at my side, figuratively, I felt I had to have it. I surmised that just as in RL they were sure to make the buying part very easy and so, I should just go for it. I clicked on Buy and a little blue window opened asking me to confirm. I clicked, and up popped an error message. Hmm. I opened my inventory, still of managable size at the time, and didn’t see anything new. I wondered if I should try again, if I’d already been charged for it.. what to do? I sat on a toadstool to ponder the situation. Soon, an elf appeared at the spot where I had found my staff. Seconds went by with me hunched forlornly on the toadstool and the elf seeming to peer this way and that. After a bit Nebby, the elf, apologized for bothering me and asked if I had tried to purchase a magic staff. I was elated! Yes! I told my sad tale and explained, probably unnecessarily, that I was a noob. Nebby was kind and told me the purchase amount had been returned to me and if I still wanted the staff I should try again and he/she(?) would wait to make sure I succeeded this time. I felt so grateful for this kindness. Soon I had my staff and was merrily on my way. As usual, after an adventure I returned to my SL home in order to process what just went on. ‘Home’ is the ‘student center’ that Verbena so kindly provided – sometimes I think she did it purely for my benefit as I am the only avatar I’ve ever run into there and am starting to feel quite possessive of it. (I’ve even installed a dance ball on the second floor) Anyhow, back on the comfy front porch I rezzed my staff and strutted this way and that, looking quite formidable. I could have continued pretending to be a great wizard for hours but Susan was getting very sleepy and decided to call it a night. In a slightly befuddled frame of mind someone, I believe it was all Susan’s fault, deleted the staff instead of choosing to Take it back into inventory. It wasn’t til later that we learned the difference between Copy and No Copy. An important lesson.
I was working in the sandbox one evening when Marlboro College was having an Open House for prospective students in SL. Esme encouraged me to carry on and feel free to mingle with any of the guests that might happen by. I think, at the time, I was still in the throes of building/rebuilding my ‘opus’ – the planter. After putting on the finishing touches I moved it up to the roof of the coffeehouse -thank you so much, Verbena for the coffeehouse. It’s my home away from home -I usually tuck into a funky egg chair before logging out each night.
Glimpsing over the edge, down to the sandbox (yps’ing), I noticed Esme chatting with an avatar in long dark robes. It looked like a priest from across the distance. Being nosey paid off because I figured out that I could use the zoom on my camera controls to ‘check it out’ without being anywhere in their vicinity, cool. I pulled up his profile, which was part of this week’s assignment, and saw that he belonged to several different religious organizations. I was so intrigued. Being such a noob I hadn’t even considered that ‘the church’ would have a presence in SL. When I asked Esme, later, she confirmed that there are several organized religions (and probably several that aren’t..) with groups active in SL. Politicians, too, have infiltrated SL I am told.
A bit later I decided to fly down and say hello. He was alone and had spent some time looking around the sandbox at the debris we’ve been creating ; } He wore gorgeous priestly vestments. We chatted for a few minutes and I mentioned that I had only been in SL for a couple of weeks. He replied that he’d been in SL for three days. I blurted out, “Geez, you’ve sure joined a lot groups for just being here three days.” Quickly following up with, “Our assignment this week is to learn to read avatars’ profiles.” He said he was learning the same. We parted ways shortly after.
It was one of those moments when I realize that SL is so much bigger than the sandbox. That avatar evidently had L$ to spend (the nice threads) and connections (all the groups), implying there was a purposeful design behind his SL existence. Pondering our brief exchange later, I wished I’d asked him if he was a virtual missionary or just a fellow traveler.
But the soul of no body knows
Where the parson goes, where does the parson go?
Name that tune.
We have an assignment to attend an educational event in SL. This sounds very exciting and since I desperately want to learn to build things I know just what I’m after. I find that, just like in RL, I feel very brave and adventurous during the planning stages… pull up the handy Search utility and tap in Building for the criteria and select Events for the category. Hmm, many more returns than I was expecting. How to choose the one that’s ‘right for me’? I notice the third one down in the list – Building a Planter, and my heart flip-flops. Perfect. I click on the event listing and a new screen opens with more detail about the event… I’m looking for something that doesn’t require a lot of experience : ) Well, it doesn’t say it’s for ‘rank beginners’ -there is something there about experience with textures -which I don’t have.. but it does say everyone is welcome, and I’m still feeling brave and adventurous. The next thing I notice is that class starts in five minutes. Holy cow, it’s going to take me that long to figure out where I’m going and which end is up when I land. No time for the jitters. I click on Teleport and whoosh…
Immediately, my RL self is in a cold sweat. In SL I stagger this way and that, looking for clues to help orient me. Is there a keyboard combo somewhere for standing serenely while turning *only* my head to take in the new surroundings? I’m sure that’s probably a costly AO but I’m strictly freeloading at this point -and looking the part. I remember that the mini-map is my friend and pull it up to look for green dots. But I’m petrified of green dots. They’re there, very close by – oh, crap, am I ready for this? Glib avatars, oozing with confidence that I do not feel, slide onto pink cushioned bar stools spaced about 5 meters apart in rows. They text greetings to each other. Oh man, they all know each other. Well, if I’m lucky they’ll just ignore me. I’m lucky. I perch in the back row, thankful to have landed on the stool and facing the right direction.
The instructor introduces herself, her exchanges in the local chat window are shouted, to extend the range of the local chat,
“Ashlynn Enoch shouts: Hi Eruditus”.
There’s alot of other stuff happening, too. I touch an ivy ball overhead to register for the class and receive the supplies for class – they magically appear in my Inventory. In addition to the class chatter there are ads being displayed in the local chat window, which I find a bit disconcerting. I don’t need any distractons right now.
[17:55] B01 @ SLIP – Independant Learning Center: VACANT
[17:55] B01 @ SLIP – Independant Learning Center: L$50 per week [min 2 weeks (L$100), max 10 weeks (L$500) ]
The instructor begins giving building instructions via the local chat, there is no voice. Actually, someone else gives instructions for the instructor. Initially, I thought the instructor might wander around checking progress but she stayed seated in front of the class. Why move around when you have your camera controls?
[18:01] Ashlynn’s helper shouts: Please open chat history so if you miss something you can refer to it. To do this either click history or control H.
[18:02] Ashlynn’s helper shouts: Please if you have a question shout it out so all may hear it. Thanks =)
[18:02] Ashlynn’s helper shouts: Create or rez a box.
I’m including excerpts from the chat for those who haven’t taken a class yet. We follow the instructions to rez a cube, change the size, hollow it out, etc. I’m bravely soldiering on, yup.. okay, got that. Well, I come to a screeching halt when we get to the ‘something about experience with textures which I don’t have’ part. I’m supposed to apply a texture to two sides of a cube but I keep getting all six sides. I tell myself to breathe, it’ll be okay. I use my camera view to look around furtively for someone else whose planter is at a standstill. Yes, there’s one over there, so I”m not alone. At the same time, while my camera is zooming around, I notice two bald spots on the back of my head. Crap, must be leftover from our ‘altering appearances’ exercise in class Saturday. I forgot to restore myself afterwards. Thank you for sitting in the back row I tell myself.
Bringing me back from that mortifying discovery, the instructor shouts, “anyone have questions?” No one makes a peep. The cat’s got my tongue. I realize I’m probably not going to have a successful outcome here. So, how to salvage the situation? I use my camera tools to move my view around and take snapshots of a planter that’s looking really good. I figure I’ll copy and save the chat history so that I can work out the kinks back at the sandbox – our sandbox, my safe haven. Class comes to an end. I schlup my half-built planter into my inventory while the other students are admiring their finished products. The instructor offers a notecard with the building instructions, which I gratefully accept. I read in the chat that the other ‘non-finisher’ had to go deal with a RL crisis during class and that’s why her planter was not complete. I’ll have to remember that one for another time I tell myself. I tap a quick Bye into the chat window and teleport home to the sandbox.
I’m on a journey through SL to learn about Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds. This blog will serve as a repository for my thoughts and experiences. I come a bit late to this medium – the blog; as class is already in its third week. For my future self I’ll create a structure that I can lean on to maintain some semblance of order in my ramblings. SL has me reeling and I’ve barely scratched the surface. The header image on the blog is a picture of me taken at the bottom of a fish pond at the Biome. That pretty well sums up how I’m feeling.. I have such a low-level view of something so large and diverse all around me.
Our instructor, Esme Qunhua, led us through our first attempt to use voice in class. There was a great deal of gnashing and crashing sounds from several of the mics. Some folks weren’t able to get their mics working and at least one classmate didn’t have voice capability yet. Esme was very supportive throughout the process. We chose to use text for the remainder of the class session. I think my mic works but I haven’t had anyone to test it out on yet. I’m guessing the volume will need to be tweaked. Also, I need to practice using the little button on the screen that turns mic sound on and off – to avoid sharing unnecessary sounds with the class. It’s so not polite to snigger when your classmate’s avatar malfunctions and looks like it’s breakdancing on a barstool – this one’s for you, Bigpickb. But there I was guffawing – hopefully with the mic off.
We visited four learning stations created by our instructor, Esme. Each area offered information and exercises for changing our appearance in SL. We saved our current image before beginning the makeovers. We practiced modifying practically every physical feature imaginable, as well as changing clothes. Two days later, while taking a class on building planters I disovered, much to my chagrin, that I had two bald spots on the back of my head – took a little too much hair off during the exercise, apparently. After class I high-tailed it back to the Marlboro Sandbox – my safe place, and grew back my hair.
We went on a field trip to the Biome, home to Northern Michigan University’s Learning Center, where we were greeted by Clowey Greenwood – Biome Evolution Director. Our class had the privilege of meeting with Clowey and she generously shared her experiences around teaching in SL. We had time to tour the Biome after class – there was a great deal to see. I will definitely return another day for a liesurely visit:
Upon our return to Marlboro, Esme led us through a live Likert scale exercise. There was a construct with five areas, each representing a Likert item; Strongly Agree/Somewhat Agree, etc. Esme would make a statement and we would navigate our avatars to the item we felt resonated closest with our response to the statement. There was some silliness on my part, of missing the statements – thinking they were part of the general chat going on, so I was late to the gate a couple of times. The local chat can be quite lively and sorting out conversations is an artform in itself. Esme’s statements were crafted to learn about our feelings with regard to different aspects of our SL experience, so far …presumably to help inform our conclusions – Esme used the last phrase at some point awhile back and I liked it, so I just threw it in.
I think we must have exhausted her by the time class was over. So much handholding required at this point.