Thursday, August 28, 2008

East and West Office/Condo Teleport Boards

Hooray! Just a few days later, and we have a functioning teleport board, that lists the names of spaces that are already occupied- so great thanks to DharmaPuppy Pink Lady for jumping in feet first and learning how to script by building items the island needs to do it- what a win win! :)

This makes it easier for all of you to come in and find a space to use - choose a numbered space, verify it is indeed the one you want, and then let DharmaPuppy PinkLady or me, MonicaMarlo Martinek know via a note card or IM in Second Life that you've found your new virtual office.

What exciting pixels! (A discussion of why they're more than pixels with human effort involved some other time...) We can't wait to promote the availability of this space to interested faculty and staff this fall. We've got a short list of tasks to complete to get the island ready for it's next stage of technical development- Regulus and I will be meeting to generate our timeline and project plan as a structure to seek a developer with.... stay tuned for a busy and exciting fall term here on OR Community Colleges Island.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free Virtual Office Space!

Our project has received funding to develop forward with professional assistance, yay! For the rest of the summer and some of Fall term though, we've got temporary structures on the island- one of these is an office tower, that we invite you as Oregon Community College faculty or staff to come in and claim a spot to set up your own virtual space in Second Life.

A few guidelines:

-Some of the tower spaces are already busy being used, and it should be obvious by objects being present in the space when you get there. We're creating a system that will check each space out by the week, but until this gets completed, we're going by the honor system. If you are curious about which space you may use in the tower, please IM or send a note card to me, MonicaMarlo Martinek- I'm happy to assist!

-Please keep your prim use amount to about 150 prims. What's a prim you ask? Prims are primitive objects, the shapes that make everything in Second Life. A single item, like a chair or table, can have multiple prims. You can right click on an item and see how many prims it takes to make the item by the number of objects it lists from the general tab. Admittedly, 150 prims isn't very much, but we have an island limit of 15,000 and want to be sure everyone who wants to participate can.

-Island structures will be going away at some point during fall term to make way for version one of our island design plans. We will give you two weeks notice once this date is announced, and you won't lose any of your items when this happens, but they may be returned to your inventory all at once.

Keep in mind as you explore with us on Oregon Community Colleges island that we're all learning together- for example- I take the greatest care to assure experiments conducted on the island will have minimal impact, but as a space for pioneer exploration, it's difficult to give guarantees that all will be stable from day to day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Come Make Machinima!

I've taken a floor of our condo tower which is still pretty empty and made it all white, and set it's primitive shapes or prims to full bright, meaning they are fully lit no matter what the state of the lighting in the environment. I did this so that we now have a "Machinima Studio" - It's kind of like an enormous Hollywood lot stage, where sets can be popped up and filmed in at will. In the space in the tower there is a sign that you can click and get a notecard of a list of Machinima resources in Second Life and on the web- and a place at Alt+Zoom studios that you can get a free camera to start too! Be sure to read the Alt-Zoom manifesto, and thank BuhBuhCuh Fairchild if you see him wandering the Metaverse for enabling us all with a great tool. :)

Machinima are animations that are made using the Second Life environment and a virtual video camera to record scenes, just like making a real movie but a lot easier and less expensive-and it's a great way to use some of Second Life's abilities for expressing visualizations without having to deal with the complexities of an entire group's direct participation.

Are you an Oregon Community College instructor who would like to try producing a short piece of Machinima to explain something you find your students have trouble getting because it's such an "abstract concept"? If you can imagine a way to visually represent your ideas to express them more clearly for your learners, chances are, we can put our heads together and render our collective imaginations. Bring your ideas to our meetings on Wednesdays, or drop me an email, or notecard in Second Life so we can discuss what it would take!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Presence and Loneliness

It's funny, really. I never get lonely when I am Googling information, or digging through podcasts up on iTunes U, but sometimes when I am on the island by myself doing work as I am this afternoon, I find it feels, well.. pretty empty. I'm assuming this is tied to my sense of embodiment through an avatar, and the expectation that if I am present in a space it would be a very rare thing to be alone had I not sought isolation out. I don't necessarily expect anyone to be on our island yet- we've only been "open" to the public for a few days, and have done no promotions, events or marketing outside of the core exploration team.

So, strangely, I find a moment of childhood comfort in pixels this afternoon. I grew up west Hawaii- in my neighborhood, there were no children within walking distance of me, so many times my playmates as a kid were my stuffed animals and pets. Copping a squat for a few minutes of contemplation on DharmaPuppy's tie-died bear(which she'll be showing us all how to make in an upcoming Wednesday afternoon workshop, by the way)I'm realizing that the affordance of shared space communication offered by Second Life feels like it's quickly becoming something I expect, rather than find novel.

Hmmmm. What kinds of connections exist between my not wanting to be alone here, and humans peferring to learn from each other?

Ok, I think the bear's tie dye has worn off, and I can get back to work now! :)

What a busy week!

Yes indeed, a busy week! It started out with taking over stewardship of the island as owner, which gives me flexible control to do things like create a sandbox for us, and assign media URL's to subdivided parcels on the island. It also gives me build control to jump in and explore just what it might take to build out a space, say, for allied health or the medical lab tech program- both in need of distributed education models to help with capacity building requirements. We've got no choice as a state, it seems there's a dire shortage of healthcare professionals in our future, and not enough space to train everyone necessary in existing programs around the state.

So, I spent a bit of time this weekend looking at what value these spaces can have for health careeducation, and came across a TON of information- the best synopsis I found at - which is a wealth of links to articles, movies, locations in Second Life, all aimed to educate about healthcare topics. In all this searching through the sites of others, in the spirit of sketching ideas out in 3-d to save them, I popped up a few floors in the tower on our island, and created with about six hours and twelve dollars of purchased prims, a space for an example clinical practice simulation, and an example medical lab tech simulation space as well. No, they aren't fancy or interactive yet, but I hope they serve to show that building in Second Life isn't the difficult part of creating immersive simulations to teach- the greater challenge will be in writing the narratives that engage and challenge students enough to want to embody a necessary role to become part of the story, rather than just watching it - keeping them engaged long enough to learn through what one of my heroes 'Squi-dawg' ;) calls "seductive failure".

Another valuable tidbit was found with the Apple Ed community at -
According to Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) there are six critical components for creating a situated learning environment- apprenticeship; collaboration; reflection; coaching; multiple practice; articulation of learning skills. All of these components are present in VICSR with a learning environment that is contextually rich and highly realistic using high quality audio, graphic images and content based on real life situations."

Important components to design toward as we go forward to imagine what kind of scripted experience within a virtual clinic in Second Life can impart the core competencies we need our future health care workforce to critically understand.

Personally? I hope to channel some 'Dan-tastic!™ inspiration' along the way, and maybe even gain some Sterling advice, as I plan to mine the wealth of creative genius that is in my pack of g8m4 friends heads for ideas on compelling narrative in a virtual space. After all, they've been playing simulation games of one form or another since childhood, and now all engage in MMO's.

...AND I need to invite the nurses and lab techs to an afternoon at Ground Kontrol.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Buggy Today

Here it is Sunday, and I'd like to get a chunk of island work done, but Second Life has been acting strange since last night. Its times like this when I wonder is it our island? Is it all of Second Life? Luckily, the human network there is pretty responsive- a ping out in a couple of directions to friends on separate server instances validate that indeed, Second Life is acting buggy today.

Ah well, sometimes the world makes us slow down and take a break, even when we don't want to. I got a good amount of my task list chipped at yesterday, including better info signage, path markers, the sandbox and it's temporary pop-up 2.5D "Cafe", where each community college has their own table. It's a neat thing to see all of our diverse logos clustered and represented standing together in physical form. I know, I'm a little bit of a sap. Hey, I've never hidden my Oregonian pride! :)

Terraforming changes have happened, a Island zones are better marked with explanation signs, and I am hunting some options for pre-fab buildings to meet our immediate needs for Fall on the exchange and in world instead of doing any actual building today. It takes a lot of patience practice for me to do the same monotonous task twice, so anything maintenance, I prefer to do at a time when the grid is being a bit more stable, even if there are never any guarantees.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Island as a 3D Sketch

While we were in Yachats for the OCCDLA summer retreat, Paula Ascher of CGCC(Ruby Sol) said something that stuck with me about the state of our island. It's like we began with our plans in 2D on paper, first by writing them down, and then doing some preliminary rough mapping graphically. Now between here and knowing what our island build out will truly be, we've been loosely using the space as a sketching sandbox.

We're developing both our vision of what we're doing here as a group, and also our team abilities to define what it is within Second Life at the same time- but there does have to be some point where we say enough is enough, and move forward toward a more cohesive island plan. I think in our collective vision we can all feel how this space can represent Oregon well, but it's difficult for any of us to express exactly what that is sometimes.

Donna Swanson (DharmaPuppy PinkLady) of PCC and I are spending a lot of time 'after hours' on the island to really bring the current island plan as forward as we can in "sketch" fashion now, and using signs on the island to express what our plans are. It's important to us that if you want to get involved, you feel welcome in doing so. It's also important with so many people's wishes being represented here that we be highly communicative about its development phases.. that way you know what's going on, and how you can participate if you want to. (I know so far I keep saying I will go back and blog after the fact, but that hasn't happened much, so for now, I'm trying a phase of blogging as I go... )

Do you have ideas how our group process in island development is going, perhaps you have ideas of how to aid the effort? Please come to our island planning meeting on Wednesdays at 2 PM, we meet around the fire pit in the Cascades.

More Communication Needed

Well, I face a challenge today with such open permissions levels on the island. Because we're all allowed in the current setup to terraform or change the lay of the land, even though I've asked for any major changes to be cleared through the group, we all respond to different levels of what is or isn't OK I think.

Even when a participant is well meaning, when so many cooks are in the kitchen at once and we all add a little salt, well, pretty soon the broth is inedible to everyone. I think I need more information on how to guide democratized spaces through the wisdom of the group, but I am challenged today by the idea that for some people, understanding a limitation toward greater goals can be void from a person's world view, and this is why limitations though not necessarily desirable, do seem to be necessary if I'm not going to spend my Second Life repairing well intended mistakes that change the lay of the land and make it lack functions for the majority of the group.

So my obvious solution is to create permissions levels for group members, and have people outside the admin group come through the same group participation process as everyone else, otherwise I get some group members upset at others for making unintended changes. I try to recognize my own irritation at these changes and neutralize it, knowing that change is just a challenge, but never seems to end up as bad over the long run... I'm making those groups today, but not necessarily happy to have to do it.

In a perfect world, no is understood, agreed upon, and actually means no to everyone participating. Thank goodness we've established one fact- Second Life and our interaction with it, imperfect. :)