• Copy this post to your colleagues :)

25th September 2008

Copy this post to your colleagues :)

Crossposted from scottmerrick.net and Oh!VirtualLearning:

Here’s an email I sent out to my colleagues at University School of Nashville Just a minute ago. Think it’ll work? If you wish, feel free to copy it to send to your own school’s teachers (substitute your own example, of course, and delete the reference to helping with the resource room. Oh, heck, edit it any way you want!).

If you’re not in the “oh, god, how silly” camp in conversations about 3Dinternet virtual environments, and you want to investigate Second Life beginning at a safe and informative entry point, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), an 85,000 member organization with well over 3,000 of them using SL, has created a new way to enter the environment, accessible at the webpage at http://secondlifegrid.net/programs/education . I helped a very little bit with the design of the resources room and I’m very proud of the work ISTE’s doing.

Just visit the site, follow the directions, and feel free to Search “Scottmerrick Oh” and offer him (me 😉 friendship.

I dropped into ISTE island for a bit just last night and made a new friend, a teacher from New York, who has used two relatively new computer programming tools (Scratch and Storytelling Alice) with her students for years, and I’ll be picking her brain as I move toward helping introduce those tools for our K12 students at USN. Whatever your professional interests, SL is a way to extend your learning about them in collaboration with teachers on a global scale.

Here’s a screengrab:
Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”–Kurt Vonnegut, from “Cold Turkey”


Written by Scott Merrick

posted in how to, Locations, PD Opportunity, resources | 0 Comments

4th June 2008

Susi Spicoli’s Beginner’s Guide to Good Machinima

Bright IdeasSo what is machinima? Machinima is a film filmed in an interactive computer generated environment without the use of professional 3D animation software. Basically, a film filmed in a computer game or virtual world. Machinima started out on First Person Shooters and MMORPGs. Now, more people are using virtual worlds like Second life to create machinima because you can pretty much do whatever you want on Second Life, which is great for filming.

Now, what is good machinima? I (Susi Spicoli) myself have made quite a lot of machinima, and I’m going to share with you some tips and techniques on how to make a simple, but decent, machinima. Making long, very good machinima is a very complicated process, really not that different in many (but not all) aspects from making a “real” movie, but you can still make good simple machinima with not much effort and time.

So, first off you’ll need a script. This should have info on what the overall story is, but then also where the scene is and of course what an actor or narrator is saying, in subtitles or voice. Next up comes the filming. You’ll need filming software for this. For PC, a lot of people use Fraps and for Mac users (which is pretty much all I am using now) I would recommend SnapProX or Screen Capture.

Ok, now you have filming software you need to actually film it. If your filming a Story machinima then you’ll need actors. Often you can just ask some friends to help out. You’ll also need a decent set for filming. I sometimes build custom ones for the more complicated things, or I ask friends if I can use their scene (make sure you’ll give them credit in the film at least).

The rest is pretty much up to you in terms of filming but you will need to adjust your filming style to suit what type of machinima you’re filming, a storyline machinima, a commercial machinima or a machinima promoting something etc.

Here are some tips on how to avoid making your shots during filming look completely amateurish:

  • Don’t repeat the same type of shots over and over again. For example, don’t zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out etc.
  • Try not to confuse the people watching the machinima. Don’t randomly film someone else when someone is talking. Best is to think about what you want to accomplish (that’s what the script is for) and pick the right filming angle for that.
  • In making machinima, the one huge advantage is that it’s totally easy to film things that are very difficult and expensive to do in “real” film.  So-called dolly shots, crane shots, steady cam (the spooky angles you see in Shining), all that is child’s play in a machinima.  But as they say “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.  So if you don’t know what you are doing conceptually, your film still won’t be very good. 

Finally comes the editing.  Often this is where you really determine whether it’s going to be a good or bad machinima.  The raw footage is the basis, and you have to have some decent scenes, but you can even with bad footage improve the story a lot by what you do in the editing phase. Here you can use (I just know the mac programs), iMovie on the low end (but you can actually do a lot with it) and Final Cut Pro/Studio for the high end (and I really mean high end, big budget cinema movies are edited with this tool). Again, in editing, having these great tools, that are so much more powerful than what real film makers used to have, still doesn’t mean you’ll make a great movie. You still have to think, write, plan, work hard.

I am thinking to perhaps open a film school, with professional partners, in Second Life.  So people can learn about the concepts and practice.

Until then, if you want to come to see what others have done, bring your friends and come to my “machinima gallery”, in Ochreous.  Twenty different machinima makers all have their own invidual cinema there and can watch their movies there, or you come to one of my machinima screenings in my drive-in/fly-in movie theatre.

If you want to see a few examples of machinima, here are some of the ones I did:

A music machinima, for the launch of a RL CD by Fabrice Collette
A documentary, commissioned by the NMC about a SL sculpture exhibition  (including my own music)
or, in general, about my activities .
And, finally, my office is here.

*Written by Susi Spicoli and posted by Intellagirl Tully

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12th May 2008

Watch My Lips

One of the more surreal aspects of Second Life is having a vivid voice chat conversation with a character where their mouth never moves. For years, avatars at There.com have had lip sync or at least, mouth movement, to audio.

Well, my Second Life talking friends, you can have that too with the Second Life Lipsync Viewer. This is a set of files you download and replace in your original Second Life application (see the bottom of the docs page and the Readme that comes with the download).

Now your lips move with the volume of your voice! Here is a brief test (it did not work with my dog avatar, so I had to play a human)


If you like this, vote for it to be rolled into the regular viewer.

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21st April 2008

How to optimize the latest viewers for older hardware (Hint- they will be even faster than the old ones!)

In response to all the conversation recently about educators and WindLight, Linden Lab be holding the second inworld informational session with Pastrami Linden. Pastrami will discuss:
“How to optimize the latest viewers for older hardware (Hint- they will be even faster than the old ones!)”

ISTE will host this session on Thursday April 24th at 3:00 pm Pacific/SL time at the ISTE Beach/Campfire Area http://slurl.com/secondlife/ISTE%20Island/213/150/22

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Torley Linden posted a Graphics Preferences Guide video tutorial here: http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/04/11/tip-of-the-week-30-graphics-preferences-guide/ to *show what just about each and every option does*.

This will be a text chat session. Bring your questions!

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20th April 2008

Planning a Space in Second Life Part II: Digging into Design

While most educators have had the opportunity to design learning experiences ranging from lesson plans to syllabi, most of us has never been asked to design a school, a campus, or even a classroom. We’re used to making the best of the spaces assigned to us. Designing a learning space in Second Life may be our first opportunity to create exactly the space we’d always dreamed of in which to engage students but the choices can be overwhelming. In Part I we walked through some information gathering questions. Now, it’s time to put that info into action but don’t touch that “Build” button yet. There’s still lots to do!

You’ve probably already gathered the troops and asked them what kind of projects they’re interested in engaging in on your island. The next step is to envision what form those learning experiences will take. You may find that the initial impulse will be to create familiar spaces: amphitheaters, lecture halls, PowerPoint presentation screens but these are all easily purchased. Use your talent to dream up spaces and tools that more specifically fit your goals.

But before you can design, you and your troops need to know what’s possible. Your learning community should get together and try out the following:

– Take a tour: Ask each member of your learning community to find one place in Second Life that they like. Share the landmark with the rest of the team and include notes about design, utility, tools etc in the space that others should take note of and try out. Remember to include spaces that aren’t intended for education. There’s a lot to be learned from themeparks, beaches, dance clubs, and even shopping malls.

– Get crafty: The Second Life Building tools allow you to create just about anything you can imagine. However, not knowing how to build like an expert shouldn’t limit what you want to create. Try doing some sketches, gathering some images from the net, and even taking photographs around campus.

– Play!: Knowing what’s possible can greatly influence what your imagination comes up with. If you have an island invite your learning community (and them only) to come and create anything and everything they want. Let them play, experiment, and learn how things work in Second Life. Then, perhaps after a couple of weeks, wipe your space clean and get serious. Allowing your team to experiment without the pressure of it being public or official will help everyone feel less inhibited and more creative.

If you’ve built an education space in Second Life how did you begin your designs?

Next time we’ll start talking about melding pedagogy and place! Tune in for Part III.

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17th April 2008

How to Plan a Space in Second Life…Part 1

So you’ve convinced your administration that creating a home in Second Life is a good idea. Faculty, staff, and students are excited. Maybe you’ve even purchased an island.

Now what?

As part one of a series of how-to articles here on the SL-Ed blog,  we’re hoping to help you answer this burning question and perhaps learn from the insights of those who have virtually trail blazed before you.

Though you may have spent months investigating Second Life, done presentation after presentation to get campus buy-in, the purchase or rental of a piece of land may only be the beginning of your journey. In the past few years I’ve been to many campuses who are right at this point. Lots of enthusiastic people not quite sure where to start. It’s a super exciting step but one that can be fraught with politics and more decisions than you can shake a stick at.  In my opinion, the best place to start is with a list of questions. Whether you’re part of a committee of planners or one lone soul in charge of creating a space, I think these questions help make basic decisions. They might seem a bit obvious but bare with me.

1. Who is going to use the space?: Some campuses have the fortunate problem of having many faculty who are excited to begin experimenting in Second Life. A shared, campus-wide island may be the first time that instructors and staff from different departments may have been expected to share a resource. On most campuses, funding and spaces are assigned to specific departments so sharing might be a new concept. But don’t think of it as a hurdle. Think of it as an exciting opportunity for inter-disciplinary collaboration. Make a list of all the folks who are eager to use the space.  Ask them to define what they’d like to accomplish but be sure to let them know that you’re not asking because you want to evaluate their plans (that will just stifle their creativity), instead, be sure that they understand that you’re just trying to allocate resources.

2. Who needs to know about the space? What rules do they need you to follow?: Most campuses have a marketing department or some kind of brand management body (in K-12s it’s often the school board or a superintendent). They usually have a set of rules about how the name, logo, and brand of the school can be presented. It’s best to know this up front (even better to know this before you purchase and name the island). It’s best not to ignore these kinds of influential groups on campus just in case they have requests about official use of campus branding.

3. What’s the purpose of the space?:  Form really should follow function. Is your space intended for recruitment of future students? Purely class-related activities? A student hang-out for distance learners? Perhaps you have a combination of motivations for the space. Having a list early on will help you decide on features and design. For example, a space intended purely for recruitment might need to be a detailed recreation of the campus for tours etc. However, to accomplish the same purpose you might choose to create areas that reflect the attitude and values of the school rather than the physical architecture. Also remember that there may be conflicting purposes depending on who you ask and you may need to create a plan that will appease all involved with one space.

4. What’s the time line and budget?:  Given infinite time and resources we’d all have perfect spaces but this is almost never the case. Inevitibly, a semester is about to begin, budgets are tight, and expectations are high.  If you have a larger budget but shorter time, you might consider hiring out the more complicated bits of the development. If budget is low but you have a bit more time, consider teaching students and faculty to build their own spaces so they’ll have an increased sense of ownership. If both time and budget are at a minimum, which so often seems to be the case, develop a plan that will happen over time. After all, the space doesn’t have to be finished all at once. Create a list of priorities first and do what you can when you can.

5. What do you want people to do in the space? How do you want them to feel when they’re there?: Most of the best qualities of Second Life center around socializing, people doing things together, having fun. Fun spaces encourage people to feel fun. Serious spaces encourage…well, you get the point. Be sure to match your plans, not just to activities, but also to tone/mood.

If you’ve been through the planning process are there other questions that helped guide you? Leave them in the comments!

Tune in soon for Part II: Digging Into Design 

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17th April 2008

Windlight Information Sessions Tomorrow!

In response to all the conversation recently about educators and WindLight, Linden Lab will be holding a few inworld informational sessions with Pastrami Linden. Pastrami will discuss:
“How to optimize the latest viewers for older hardware (Hint- they will be even faster than the old ones!)”

New Media Consortium will host the first session, Friday, April 18th, 3 pm Pacific time at the Muriel Cooper Coliseum on NMC Conference Center island.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Torley Linden posted a Graphics Preferences Guide video tutorial here: http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/04/11/tip-of-the-week-30-graphics-preferences-guide/ to *show what just about each and every option does*.

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9th January 2008

What’s Your Favorite, Secret, Make Me Look Like a SL Super Hero Menu Item?

With all these great new education posts on this über great new blog site, for some reason I decided to aim for something more nuts and bolts to blurt out.

As much as I love the environment of Second Life, the software interface of the client makes me want to tear out my hair and scream, and send someone a pile of Donald Norman and Edward Tufte books. But that’s another blog post.

Although I’ve been in SL for almost 2 years this March, there are still a whole bunch of things in those menus I have no clue what they do. For example, today I was stumped because I was seeing a red tint on every texture that was a video screen… only on my Mac. It was only via some replies on the SL Educators list (they always come through), I noticed I had inadvertently checked Beacons Always On under the View menu.

Oh sure, I know exactly what that is. Yep. Beacons.

But eventually, with practice, poking around, or more likely, someone else telling, you begin to know a few subtle things you can do via the menus that can elevate your SL Intelligence Quotient (well at least among the general populace), and next thing you know, when you tell someone else, they are thinking, “Wow, this CDB Barkley character knows his stuff.”

So here’s two of my favorites. But before I spill the beans, I’m hoping readers will add theirs in via comments. I know you know more than me.

Both of these require activating the Debug and Client menus, the goodie box of menu obscurity. You do this via the four fingered combo – ctrl-alt-shift-d (ctrl-option-shift-d for macs). Just knowing this elevates your interface stature.

The first has to do with taking pictures in Second Life. Of all the things I do, photography is my most favorite! I love the parallels to RL photography (again another blog post). I save 99% of mine to my disk, and like most avatars, I started by using File -> Take Snapshot (or Cmd-Shift-S). The downside is your avatar makes that goofy camera animation and you generate that shutter sound to everyone around you:


and that sounds just says subtly… “noob”. I was doing this at a performance, and my thoughtful and immensely knowledgeable college Ravenelle Zugzwang gave me this tip.

Under the Client menu, activate the option Quiet Snapshots to Disk.


And now, when you want to take a photo, use File -> Snapshot to Disk (or Ctrl-~). Aha! No more silly two armed salutes, no more disturbing the peace with shutter noise. You can take photos and no one but you knows it (But hey, don’t go peeking in private places, ok? Be nice).

And secret menu tip number 2 deals with the annoying slumping over of your avatar when you are not doing anything in SL. This happens all the time in presentations, I’ve seen both speakers and attendees droop over because they are either riveted listeners or they left the computer to make a milkshake or water the plants. But I also needed it for some of our live video streaming, and I need my cameraperson avatar to stay standing awake for an hour.

So here’s how to keep your avatar from slumping and going AFK (unless you do so explicitly). It’s a triple buried menu item. Go to Client -> Character -> Character Tests and make sure Go Away/AFK When Idle is unchecked.


Never slump again. (That tip too came from Rav.)

So tell us- what’s your best secret menu trick? I want to know!

Alan Levine / CDB Barkley

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