Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Journey into Second Life Quest 7 and 8: Virtual Tours

Although this is the end of my exercise, I don’t see it as the end of my time in Second Life. The more I visit and explore the more I can see a great deal of potential for communication, engagement, and education. With more time and experience I hope that I can incorporate all of these elements into my future classrooms. Some of which might just meet exclusively in second Life someday, something to think over.
Abbots Space Port
In my last installment for this particular exercise I scouted out some locations inside of Second Life that all centered on a central theme and then created a tour of them for anyone else interested in the same theme to follow. So I picked the coolest possible theme and explored until I found some really detailed and committed locations to explore it, Science Fiction. In my searches I tried to find a wide variety of items, some super educational, some kind of informative but engaging visually, and some that are just guilty pleasures from the heart of a Sci-Fi fan boy. Below you will find a listing of the name of the locations, a little bit of detail about what to expect, and a URL that will get you there. No the caveat there is that you will have to be a part of the Second Life universe to visit and interact. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Sci Fi Exploration and Education Tour

This is a tour card that explores simulation and education opportunities within the subject of Science Fiction. All of the locations have some kind of science fiction theme, some more recognizable than others, and provides an interesting look at the imagination and application of the theme in second life.
~Virtual D

This is a themed area that allows users to interact with some futuristic and fantastic objects. In this space port make sure you spend some time skydiving on the 4th floor of the main building, test you skill at landing in the target and don’t forget your parachute. When you’re done take a trip on a Di Vinci inspired airship design around the island.
Inspire is a well-designed bit of space with some floating techno lighted dance floors. Upon entering travel straight up and look through one of the viewfinders and it will allow you to see everything in the area. It is very cool but a little tricky because it needs access to your view controls to show what it wants. Overall if you like techno music and are looking for a place to mingle and dance this is a place to check out and see.
A great place to star when you teleport here is to walk straight ahead and take the tour. A history of space flight is lined up and displayed throughout this area. The tour helps you to see exactly what is available in the area and it will highlight some of the items you pass in the bottom left corner. See Cape Canaveral, Mercury 7 Park, and of course the gift shop for souvenirs. Make sure to ride all the way around to where you started then turn around and check out the virtual planetarium. Great location to visit for those interested in space.

Now at first glance this is little more than a pitch for a company working in nanotechnology. However I placed it here for its solar system tour. Upon arriving leave the building and walk towards the object that looks like red circles in chicken wire, on the other side if the solar system tour. Along the walk for this tour there are displays with information about each of the pieces that make up our solar system.  Turn off the volume though, a company pitch is running throughout

Another location at spaceport alpha was very well done and I felt deserved its own link here.  With the earth below you walk around the space station learning about things like low earth orbit and the Hubble telescope. Make sure you teleport to the various planet by selecting them to learn about when we visited as well as information about the planets structure. Be careful not to fall off, but if you do the parachute you picked up earlier will come in handy bringing you safe and sound back to the main spaceport alpha area. After falling out of space check out the various rockets and other NASA related information. There’s a lot to see and learn for every space enthusiast. As I mentioned before take the tour first to get the lay of the land before you get to far along so you don't miss anything.

So I haven’t found out exactly what is going on in this area yet but it is all about futuristic flashy lights and pictures so I was all in from the get go. Upon arrival you teleport in right next to a mono-wheel rez sign, click on it to get some super cool transportation or walk along a little further and get a scooter to ride and check everything out.  Stop by the game room, vend out some snacks while you inside then make your way passed the elephants to the outdoors. Now outside it's a cross between science fiction and well to quite honest i don't know what. If you go further west or north you will run into....Ireland. No joke, this is one crazy place. Visit the flashy light and pics then stop by and say hi to Meg, she built Ireland.

This next section is a complete and total fan boy experience for me, a Star Wars themed sim. No beware you are required to be dressed appropriately to visit this area. If you go in dressed like anything that would not belong in a star wars movie such as jeans, sweatshirts, Hayden Christensen, and then you will be expelled, rest easy though it will not cost very much as the outfits that will get you by are completely free. The landing area is full of for pay items as well but free Jedi robes or commoner garb is available. Now this is a little more advanced as far as the sims I have seen. They take their rules very seriously so before going too far get the free clothes and get an observer tag, and put it on. This will allow you free walk around privileges to see what’s going on. It is a little complicated but worth it in the visuals and to watch the interactions between everyone. Shop and explore, very cool for the Star Wars fan.

Need a break from your Second Life explorations, stop by and catch a movie. This location is a great throw back to the 50 era dinner and sci fi mix. You start out on the flying platform with the theatre next to the concession stand, get some pop and popcorn then head around back to the movie. You can choose from sci fi and horror clips in the theatre screen. Careful when you get to the back, there is open air and you could fall all the way down to the ground. Not to worry we still have a parachute and even if you don't the ground in SL is much softer than the real world. On the ground below there is a teleport area to get back to the drive in and some shops a carousel and some homes for sale.

This is a launching pad (get it, sci fi, launching pad.......) for exploring the various simulations in Second Life. There are gateways to other locations in the sci fi/fantasy SL universe; it has everything from a Harry Potter to Star Trek and Wars. Before you go hopping off somewhere else take a few minutes to explore what this expo has to offer. By far the best experience here is up top, you can fly to space in your choice of space craft to a space station. Once there you can space walk or move up into the flight control area and move the station to orbit around additional planets. The trip back to earth is equally fun through the escape pod. Take a break from space travel and get your free scuba gear and go the opposite direction, not that we need scuba but hey, free is free. When your underwater make sure to interact with the marlin, he give you a landmark for an underwater shop with some neat freebies.

I am Such a Nerd
My last stop on this exploration is another fully immersive simulation. Gain the inner sci fi fan could not resist a Star Trek themed simulation opportunity. This is a little more involved and should be attempted once you have a pretty good feel for changing your appearance, attaching objects and interacting with your environment. This is by far the best sim I have found in the science fiction areas. You can transport to a space station or down to a colony on the planet. It has everything, so if you are a fan this will be a very interesting experience. If you’re not, take a peek just to see how detailed it is, then teleport on out for the next adventure.

I hope everyone ejoys visiting the site I suggested. If you have any additional please let me know what I missed. I woulk like nothing more than to add to my list for further exploration. Safe Travels to all in SL.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Journey into Second Life: Making My Own Clothes

I have been trying out some new things in SL and found out how to incorporate my Photoshop skills into my avatars appearance. Below are just a few things I put together, nothing to fancy just playing around. I see thta a lot of people do this and then try to sell their creations to others inside of SL. A cool idea, and somehting that I could proably get into, but way to time consuming. I made just a couple shirts and then a pair of pants, and aside from the copyright issues I might face in the future I was pleased with the results.

At 2-8 this year it's hard to stay a fan

My ghost buster shirt with pants, belt, and knee pads included.

Anyone else creating their own wardrobe in Second Life? Any pointers on how to edit your shoes or advanced objects for them to hold? I think the opportunity to truly customize your avatar to your liking is very unique and offers a greater connection to them and thus to the game itself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Journey in Second Life Part 5: Taking a Tour

Within Second Life there are so many locations to visit but where to start and what to expect? Taking advise from those who have previously explored the SL depths is not a bad place to start. That is exactly what I did here, I followed an Ancient Civilizations Tour that had been previously created adnd left for others to follow. Below are pictures from my tour.

visiting the Goliath, ROMA

Museum Island

Hittite Empire, and a swing
Apollonian Empire

Overall these places are really slick. Well themed and as realistic graphics and decorations. A very intresting visit to SL tonight.
Where are your favorite hangouts in SL? Where do you spend your time when you visit? Let me know, maybe I'll see you there sometime.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Journey in Second Life Part 4: Changing My Appearance

Here is how I looked to start
No Sleeves
As my journey continues into second life I constantly encounter individuals who have designed a pretty unique looking avatar. I began to wonder how might I also change the way I look and what are my options. Although you can spend money to get fancy clothes I think to start off with I will create some of my own. It is also possible to change your avatar entirely to either a human, robot, animal, or other type of vehicle. Personally I found this a little goofy but I tried it out anyway to see if I truly looked better as a virtual human, or a virtual machine. Below are some of the looks I tried for, again all on my own. As you will see quickly a designer I am not and your options for this are limited, at least as far as I have found they are.

I tried out a few looks including a sleeveless and jeans ensamble. A nice looking short and t-shirt combination (Thanks for the shirt Dr. Z). Last but not least I tried on some artifical intelegence.
IT Rules!!

Overall the controls were a little confusing and they were a little slow on the response. You can go into the appearance settings and change not only the outfit but things like facial hair, body shape, leg length, how many muscles you want, and much more. Overall they seem to do the job and allow for a very customized representation.
Dancing Machine..literally
So what do you think? I know a designer I am not, but in my defense it take an awful lot of time and the controls are a little "jinky" at best. For you second-lifers let me know what you are wearing, better yet show me a pic of your avatar. How are you customizing your look in the virtual world?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Journey in Second Life Part 3: Lionheart Orientation Island

So my latest exploration had led me to the hallowed halls of Lionheart Orientation Island (if you would like to visit, and you have a SL character click the link). It was a nice place to further my knowlege about SL. Things I learned:
Vintage DK in SL
  1. All about opening packages in SL (Three different Ways....Who Knew you could do more than wear the big boxes on your person)
  2. Setting a Land mark (Essentially a bookmark) to save a location in SL for return later. (World >Landmark this place).
  3. Some dude has an arcade in his basement...and there's a vintage Donkey Kong machine you can play.
  4. You have to be Age Verified (over 18) to get into club passion. There looking for bouncers and singers by the way, if anyone is interested. 
  5. If you fly around the city the music changes from techno, to rock, to Electric Avenue by Eddie Grant. "You got to rock down to.....Electric Avenue...And then we take you higher....." Too cool.
Overall this is a great launching pad for getting used to SL and the nuances therin. I like it so far, it's unique.
So my questions here are to the SL veterans. Can you actually get a job in SL? Has anyone been hired? Whats it like? I am curious how all of this works. 
Nice Pear

Need a Job

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Journey in Secondlife Part 2: Iowa Island

So I visited a new location today in Second Life, Iowa Island. Getting to know Second Life a little better, at least how to move around. Flying and trampoline are the best ways of locomotion I have found so far. Took some pictures of my latest trip.

I was flying...then falling

Sitting on the fountain water

So there is is a few pics of my last trip to Second Life. So far the one thinkg I have not done a lot of is interacting. Now that I am more comfortable moving around and with the environment I think that would be a good next step.
Zombie Meltdown was cool...lost to the boss fight but now I'm packing heat
What is your favorite mode of transportation in Second Life? Where do you have the most fun in Second Life?

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Journey in Secondlife Part 1: Getting Started

I am a very big fan of technology, however I have always been a little resistant to social media, virtual simulations, and MMORPG's (I know "What else is there on the Internet?"). I have very little time in the real world to spare, much less engaging a make believe one. So over time I have caved on the whole social media thing, and it was better than I thought, but I have still held out on the other two. Well I am going to be trying out the virtual world in an upcoming assignment in my Emerging Instructional Technologies class so I thought this would be a great opportunity to blog about the experience from a virtual newbie perspective.

What is Second Life? Check the video Below.

I have to say that I created an account on Second Life about a year ago just to try it out and see what people had been talking about. Starting out in second life was relatively easy, installation, update, then boom your in. Now I had messed around a little when I created my account before, enough to have an Avatar already set up, so I started off on Help Island without having to do any of these steps. First off don't teleport off of Help Island until you have walked through all of the help topics, just some advice for the beginner. I found the most exciting term I could, in this case "teleport" looked good, what's the worst that could happen, and like a true man I moved on without following all of the instructions. It didn't hinder me too much, basic movements and the like were not to hard. I immediately hear and see many people interacting and making noises. Not speaking, not moaning so much, just a clucking into a slight screaming like noise, and it was irritating. Not a great start to my virtual experience but I moved away, found out how to teleport elsewhere and tried out a few things.

The end of the road....but I have a killer Zebra Skinned jacket.
After about 25 minutes of exploring I have some takeaways from my first in-depth virtual experience:
  1. You can create your own wardrobe which was pretty cool. I would not have been able to figure this out on my own though. I watched a walk through video that showed where the options were and from there it was not to difficult. I ended up with a zebra skinned jacket and a clear conscience in doing so. Sweet!
  2. I apparently found the end of the world, at least the area I was in (see image above).
  3. You can fly by Pressing the E key. Very Cool!
  4. If you fly over the water then stop flying it drops you into a sort of limbo of nothing-ness and gives error messages about completing your travel time. Oops.
  5. There is no filter for any conversations that are going on. I walked on a few that would make a sailor blush. 
Overall my first real foray into the land virtual was OK. I can see the appeal to meeting others in the virtual world, it's big, colorful, and similar to that of a game. I will keep trying things out and see where it goes.
Has anyone used second life before? What was your first time like? How do you like it now?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Swampy Needs a Shower? The Perfect Game to Pass the Time.

So I am currently blogging to you from the great state of Florida, just outside of Orlando in Kissamee after a very long day of Shamu and his dolphin friends drenching us poor fools in the front row of their shows (my kids insisted on getting wet and it seemed like a good idea at the time). This comes on the heels of multiple day visits to the Disney resorts so my gaming time has been limited to what I can find for my iPad. I was able to locate a great little game called Where’s My Water? (Video overview of Where's My Water) In this game you simply have to dig a tunnel to get the water from the pipes to Swampy he can take a shower. You have to avoid polluted water, ricochet the water from one side to the other, and water down the ducks you find. All the while trying to get the water to Swampy as quickly as possible, he is very impatient.

So as I'm playing along for the required hour, which turned into 3 1/2 which I could relate directly to my submersion into the "Creative Flow" that I had recently read about on Mark McGuinness Blog, Wishful Thinking: Creative Coaching and Training. In his post he discusses the idea of "Flow" as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in which a person becomes completely absorbed in what they are doing to the point of finding peak performance, and true satisfaction. Outlined in the idea are nine characteristics to identify whether or not your are in the "Flow" of what you are doing. So as I reflected on my immersion into Swampy's world I tried to see if I had met any of those characteristics as listed below and to see if I was truly in the "Flow" of things:
  1. There are clear goals every step of the way
    I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I needed to avoid, and how to play along to achieve the goals set forth.
  2. There is immediate feedback to your actions.
    Swampy let's you know if you are not doing well or if you get the "bad" water into his tub. Very immediate and obvious feedback.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills
    It was easy at first but as you progress more and more obstacles get in your way. The puzzles get a little harder and you have to be a little creative in your water directing solutions.
  4. Action and awareness are merged
    I don't know on this one. I may not have been as fully vested as this characteristic implies but I was certainly involved in the game play.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness
    No on this one, maybe moments of no distractions but I don't focus 100% on games. I have learned to stay at least a little aware of my surrounding in case the sudden questions comes my way from others.
  6. There is no worry of failure
    This I think I was down for, I wasn't worried about failing really. I could redo any level along the way and play them out until the problem was resolved. 
  7. Self-consciousness disappears
    No worries on this one. I did not at one time feel self-conscious while helping Swampy.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted
    See above line (1 hr turned into 3 1/2)
  9. The activity becomes ‘autotelic’ – meaning it is an end in itself
    I am not sure on this one, how about maybe?
So there it is, 7 out of a possible 9. Was i in the "Flow"? Maybe. Was it an enjoyable learning experience? Definitely. I play a few games here and there and for the most part when I find one I like I become pretty focused. Trying to figure out the ins and outs. Learning how to do the things needed and then perfecting upon them (or at least try to perfect them) along the way. This is a similar pattern to how I approach many of the teaching and learning experiences that I find myself in. So does this mean gaming has helped in my learning and teaching, or does it mean that learning and teaching has helped in my gaming? Maybe a little of both.

So as you read this and other postings thinks about how gaming could effect your learning abilities? Do you see some similar traits while gaming that you can also associate with learning/teaching? Have you eer been in the "Flow"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs paved the way for the world to flatten out

So in a garage, circa 1976 ish a young man (who at one time thumbed his nose at real work to go backpacking through Europe on psychedelics) created one of the elements that has helped the world become flat, the personal computer. The personal computer, once looked upon only for games, would evolve to become the power flattener that it is today. A pioneer that some hold in regard with the likes of Edison, Graham Bell, and other innovators of our world. As with many others his innovation will continue to evolve and allow the continued flattening of our world. I thought it timely to point out the contributions of Mr. Jobs upon his passing, as I think this may not have been anywhere in his mind when he was tinkering around in his garage in the id seventies, but it's interesting to note what ended up happening because of it.
With that in mind what other innovators or inventions are now used in the flattening of our world that you think may not have realized the magnitude of their innovation/invention? Think it over and post what you come up with. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

I saw the world go flat and didn't even notice......

Currently I am taking a course at the University of Northern Iowa, Emerging Instructional Technologies, and we have been talking about the concept of a Flat Classroom. For those of you reading who may not be in the same class the idea of a flat classroom is one that through connectivity and technology can exist with students from all areas of the world. Students from India can work with students in the United States on projects because the barriers that once prevented this from happening have been removed due to technology. For additional information on the flat classroom click here Flat classroom Project for a more in-depth look. The concept of flattening that is going on in the world was articulated by Thomas Friedman, see his in depth discussion on flattening here The World is Flat.

Friedman identifies ten items that he calls flatteners, or things that have happened to bring down thee barriers of distance and accessibility for the people of the world. During this video and reading up on this flat concept I realized that I was a part of, or merely a cog in the wheel of a part of, flattening. I had a front row seat to some of his observations and I did not even know it.

From 2003 until 2009 I was employed by a company called Pindar in the Cedar Rapids area. OK in reality it was called many things during that time but for consistency in the story we will call it Pindar. Pindar was the ad design and prepress division of YellowBook USA. The same YellowBook USA that once a year delivers a phone book to your doorstep that you can use for a beverage coaster, paperweight, or in some rare cases to locate local business and personal addresses and phone numbers although I hear this internet thing does the same thing without the hassle of physically turning pages. While working there a couple things happened that, at the time, didn't mean all that much. First off in 2003 when I started the company had just started to send work to the UK (Pindar was based in the UK) for the artists to complete the ads. Later on the company began sending more work overseas. Eventually the majority of the work was being sent out to be completed, Bangalore, The Philippines, and areas of Peru. At the time it was happening I never fully grasped the idea that was underlying, the world was getting flat. According to Friedman "Offshoring: Running with the Gazelles, Eating with Lions" is one of the flatteners that he describes. The fact that during the dot-com era everyone was laying the groundwork for connectivity, and that these countries that were once so far were now only a click away.

I was watching it all go down and I never truly grasped what was happening. I never looked at it in the way Friedman explains. I wonder in all of my time so far, what else did I miss? Anyone else see this happen but not see it happen in a similar way? I hope I'm not the only one, I always thought I was fairly perceptive.

Monday, October 3, 2011

High School Exit Exams in 21st century Iowa

So it is the eve of the state of Iowa's Gov. Terry Bransted to announce the details of his plans for educational reform. None of the details have been officially delivered, however there have been some reports prognosticating the details of this "blueprint" for the future of education in Iowa. So as I was reading some of these items I got to thinking about some of the recent "hot" topics on education including  cuts in preschool funding, see "Iowa House approves preschool funding cut, scholarships" story for more details on that, and the newly formed science and technology council (see "Branstad names members to science, technology council" for some background)just to name a few. After tomorrow I am sure that many of the details will provide for much debate from everyone, however I wanted to get the jump on one of the items that was mentioned, high school exit exams. Now it should be noted that there is no guarantee that this will even make it's way into the final plan, and I have no prior knowledge of any kind in relation to this, but the idea got me thinking, is this the 21st century student should be leaving high school? Another standardized test?

As a student in educational technology the idea of exit exams is a little discouraging. The thought of additional  testing dose not fit with the changing landscape of technology and education, nor does it fit with the knowledge and skills students will need for today's jobs or post secondary schooling. Some of the questions that came to mind about this topic:
  • Will these tests really help the students, and show what they have learned?
  • Will the teachers teach to the test, and will what they teach be valuable outside of that?
  • What 21st century skills will be included, and how will they test for those?
These questions all came  up and got me thinking about a topic in my recent studies. In "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change The Way The World Learns" the author, Clayton Christensen, point out that schools today are not designed for today's student. They are designed for a mass produced student with a set of skills that can be taught to a large group of similarly skilled individuals at the same time. The future of education he points out, and I would agree with, is though customized learning. Maybe students will need more than just the core competencies to succeed post high school.

So I am curious, what does everyone think on this? Dose the idea of exit exams meet the needs of today's students? If exit exams were to be used could they test for the needs of the 21st century student? If so how would they look? If not what could be done instead?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sharing Resources

I think that my favorite sites to visit are the ones that have links. Not just any links but links to the things that make me smarter and happier. Links that show me the latest and greatest apps for my iPad, pathways to blogs that show people who are innovating in education with technology, doors that tell me who to sit or start in my fantasy football league for the best chance of winning. All of this great information shares a common trait, someone shared them with me. Not all directly to just me but it feels like it since I'm the only one at my computer when I take a look at them. Nicely wrapped up and delivered for my viewing edification. So this post is an effort to repay the favor, I would like to share some of my favorite links with everyone out there. Oh and yes they are especially for you. 

So there are a few of mine, please visit and enjoy. No I have to ask everyone out there, what are some of yours?
Share any site that you would recommend for edtech or just a really cool site to visit with us (PG-13 is the rating here please).