• ISTE Blogger’s Hut for Educational Blogs

8th August 2008

ISTE Blogger’s Hut for Educational Blogs

Blogbuttons at the Blogger's Hut on ISTE Island

Helloooooo, all. Scott Merrick, here. I’m Scottmerrick Oh in Second Life and I blog frequently at my little Oh! Virtual Learning effort. I’ll be doing some cross-posting when I feel that’s appropriate, but this little introductory post here is mostly to let you know about our blogging resource at ISTE Island, the Blogger’s Hut. Designed to be informative and fun, sorta the way learning should be, it’s there for any and all educational bloggers, not just those of us covering our favorite MUVE. There’s a brief inro to blogs, there are links to videos, and there are now two windows of blogbuttons so that you can go find new blogs for your RSS feed aggregator simply by browsing the blogs that result from clicking the buttons.

Every month, a polling station collects votes for the featured Blog-o-the-month whose RSS feed will be displayed all month in the RSS object, allowing quick scan of subject headers. Clicking on the RSS box will open up the featured blog for your reading enjoyment. This month, it’s Jeff Agamenoni’s “From Mr. A to Mr. Z” and I’m pleased that Jeff (Henny Zimer in SL) is not one of your long-running blogstars, but a relative newcomer to the discipline: That’s the beauty of democratic vote, ya’ll! I love Jeff’s fresh-from-Montana perspectives on teaching and learning and the wonder he shares with us as he discovers new tools for teaching.

Come see me at ISTE Island, where I occasionally docent, along with the dozens of other teacher-volunteers who do so, and by all means vote for your favorite blog for RSS display the month of September: This month we’re choosing between four stellar examples of leading edge thought about teaching and learning. The predictable thing to do, of course, is to list them here, but I’d rather have you visit this SLurl and check them out!

See ya at SLCC!!! Oh, and if you can’t get there, I’ll be streaming some sessions into ISTE Island from Tampa. Either way, I hope to see you there!!

Posted by Scottmerrick Oh (Scott Merrick)

Written by Scott Merrick

posted in Cool Tool, Locations, SLCC, tips, tools, ToRead | 1 Comment

12th June 2008

Spotlight: Virtual Chemistry for Real Students

SpotlightIf you’ve ever seen a floating molecule in Second Life, chances are it was created by Dr. Andrew Lang, a mathematical physicist at Oral Roberts University, otherwise known as Hiro Sheridan in-world. Hiro recently demonstrated working prototypes of several different tools in collaboration with Jean-Claude Bradley, a chemistry professor at Drexel University, known as Horace Moody. The demonstrations included a molecule rezzer that allows a user to name a compound in text chat and watch as it builds itself in front of you atom by atom, and a docking simulator that demonstrates how molecules bond together to form more complex structures.

Molecules in Second Life

Molecule docking simulation. Image courtesy of Eloise Pasteur.

“This shows the docking of one of our molecules in a malarial enzyme,” said Horace, “I collaborated with Rajarshi Guha at Indiana University for the coordinates, and Hiro did the rendering.” The molecules floating in air move together step by step, and students can control and replay the process by using chat commands. “This demonstrates a chemical reaction with all the intermediates shown,” says Hiro, “This is really hard [for students] to see on paper, but easy to show here.”

docking station

Molecule reaction mechanism. Image courtesy of Hiro Sheridan.

Hiro also built a 3D periodical table of the elements, based on a 2D spiral peridoic table created by Professor Theodor Benfey. The 3D table shows approximate relative sizes of the atoms for comparison, color codes each group, and when each atom is clicked, information about its atomic structure, chemical properties, and typical uses spits out from the device. A free copy of the 3D table is available on the ACS island.

3D periodic table of elements

3D periodic table of elements. Image courtesy of Hiro Sheridan.

Hiro and Horace are using these tools to help students prepare for exams or projects, but they use Second Life in other ways as well. Hiro teaches an honors course called Science and the Imagination, and he recently arranged to bring science fiction author Joan Slonczewski into the virtual world for a presentation to the class. “I give my ‘virtual reality in science and science fiction’ lesson in virtual reality, they get a kick out of it,” said Hiro, “That’s the kind of use that I’d like to see more of, really taking advantage of Second Life’s affordances.”

Hiro also built the presentation and HQ areas where the American Chemistry Society holds meetings, and discussed residencies for chemistry faculty available on the island. “Kate Sellar has started an ACS resident chemist program, she offers free land to ACS members to form a community of faculty collaborators and students get to build too as ‘resident helpers’,” he said. In addition to the cafe, Hiro has a number of science related freebies at the ACS HQ as well as a science fiction set at the Second Nature sim.

“As the technology gets better, so will the benefits of Second Life for education. Right now it is still in its early stages but I see it becoming mainstream in about 4 years,” he says, “The things that are possible already are almost unlimited right now, they’re just hard to do for the average educator. But Second Life is ideal for showing students 3D concepts that they just can’t get by looking at a static webpage.”

Be sure to stop by and check out Hiro and Horace’s work at the ACS island!

~Posted by Fleep Tuque

Written by Chris Collins

posted in Locations, Spotlight, tools | 4 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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posted in Bright Idea, how to, tips, tools, videos | 1 Comment

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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posted in avatar, Cool Tool, how to, tips, tools | 2 Comments

9th January 2008

What We Do For Fun

My students always ask me if I go to clubs in SL for fun. Heh. As if I had time to go clubbing! Sir Ken Robinson, in his awesome speech at TED, does a funny little bit about academics dancing off beat at the disco. I don’t see many avatars dancing around in SL, but maybe there is a secret club for all of us? In any case, Sir Robinson’s speech about creativity in schools is wonderful.

So, in addition to watching nerdy great stuff on YouTube, I DO try to have fun with students in SL.How?

We go chair hopping.

What on earth is chair hopping??? Simply stated – it is the BEST way to pick up all sorts of free junk from around the grid. You wear a little HUD ball (0x-DOS HUD – IM me if you want one; they are free). Once you have it on, you tap the center and open your IM history. It shows you where all the chairs are that start with the first letter of your name. So, for me, it will show me all the D chairs. I teleport (using the SLurl in the history), right click, sit on the chair, and get a cool and funky gift. Now, be warned…some gifts stink. But, my assistant, Daliah, SWEARS by this ball. She gathers all sorts of things for Literature Alive! builds. She packages up the good clothing and furniture (the full perm stuff) and adds it to the School Store for students and professors.

The lucky chairs are a free and fun way to travel around the grid with students. If you want to check out all sorts of free stuff AND see some lucky chairs in action (and pick up a HUD), stop by the School Store or IM me. In my free time, I am usually hunting for chairs with Daliah and one or two students!

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posted in tools, videos | 2 Comments

8th January 2008

Sweet Tools in the Virtuasphere

Update:  Just a few tweaks here and there (learning the whole WordPress thing :-)

Desideria Stockton’s (AKA Beth Ritter-Guth)  Hot List

I am not entirely sure that Virtuasphere is a REAL word, but, hopefully, y’all will grant me poetic license. In building the plots for Literature Alive!, Eloise Pasteur has created most of our builds and scripts (how she does it, I have no idea…she is, indeed, a goddess of such things). Even still, we are always on the hunt for cool tools to use. Here is a list of ten tools I love (and where you can get them):

10. Hiro Sheridan’s Molecule Rezzer (IM Hiro Sheridan) -The only reason this is listed as 10th is because I don’t teach chemistry. If I did, it would be #1. Sadly, I know so very little about chemistry, but I know that cutting-edge chemists like Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley (Drexel University) use it for classes.

9. The Pooping Llama (IM Max Chatnoir) – You wouldn’t think that an English teacher would NEED a pooping Llama, but Max’s creation (used to teach Genetics at Genome) was a HUGE asset in building Dante’s Inferno. If you are familiar with the text, you know that many levels are covered in, um, poo.

8. The Media Hub (Eloise Pasteur) – This is a new product in the Eloise line. It is a ONE PRIM (you heard me!) video screen that can hold like 50 .MOV Urls. It is a little bit like the lovely ACHUB screen (Chris Hambly), but it is less prims and works with any texture. Also, it is boat loads cheaper.

7. SlickrView (AKA The Flickr Thingy)  (Eloise Pasteur) – I am fairly certain that The Flickr Thingy isn’t its true name (note:  it is called SlickrView). I know that you click on it, it gives you a prompt, you type in a tag, and WALA!, pictures from Flickr appear. This is really sweet if you are helping students create projects. They can work off of one on your plot. The Googler (NZTech – Available in The School Store, EduIsland II) works just like the Flickr Thingy, but it searches Google instead. Again, students can Google right from SL.

6. Custom Laptops (Neoznet Watts) – These little wonder machines are custom built for faculty. My students can send and receive email from RL; they can go right to the class blog or wiki; and they can access a whole assortment of links. Best part? They can generate notecards from the laptops.

5. The Eloise Holodeck (Eloise Pasteur) – Literature Alive! received a wonderful supprot grant from The Foundation for Rich Content for the Holodeck Project. Eloise created a sweet Holodeck to use for the rezzing of small Literature Alive! projects. This is nice because it means we can go on the road with builds, OR we can pass out builds to people who wish to use them.

4. Salamander SLoog HUD (Wainbrave Bernal) – I love this cool new tool for archiving wicked cool stuff. I wear it all the time, and when I am somewhere worthy of recognition, I simply have to click on the HUD. The directions are really easy and walk you through exactly what to do. It is a great tool for student scavenger hunts, too!

3. The VIT Mind Mapping Tool (IM Butch Dae) – I LOVE THIS TOOL! I have used it many times for research on SL , and my students have used it, too. You simply click on each level to get the information you want or need. It is really simple to use.

2. Puzzle HUDS (Eloise Pasteur) – Eloise creates custom HUDS for various scavenger hunts. My favorite? She has created one for the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. As students find pieces of the text, an albatross appears on their HUDs. At the end, students receive a special key that unlocks a treasure chest with a prize in it.

1. The Spidergram Planner (Eloise Pasteur) – This things is sooooooooooooo cool. It is like a mind map, but I use it to teach outlining for papers. It is colorful and easy to use, and students LOVE it!

There you have it! Eloise’s materials can be purchased directly from her, at her shop, or at the School Store on EduIsland (or the sub station at Drexel).

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posted in courses, tools | 2 Comments

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