Hello Old Friend

Posted January 30th, 2014 by wonko

After discussion, it was decided to host the first term of our Year 8 Digital Technologies in our MOO (Multi-user Object Oriented learning environment).

There are so many aspects of “digital citizenship” that see so completely and natively at home in a virtual world that the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

Our MOO has been running, uninterrupted since September 9, 2001, with students first making their way on 14th of that month – a calm safe place to learn just when the world changed so fundamentally.

MOO architecture is based around “room” objects, connected via “exit” objects, embellished with smart objects. Traditionally, using simple menu-based interfaces, kids make.

Knowing a lot about the language underneath, making areas is much faster if it is scripted.

notepad

With some simple scripting build commands, a whole new suburb is born, ready for kids to build from

houseareas

So nice to see stuff happen so fast, will be interesting to see how our 8’s cope with a constructivist, constructionist mentality. Lots still to plan, should be fun.

It’s all in the Details

Posted January 14th, 2013 by wonko

Given some skill, their own space and a little time it is wonderful to see year 9 boys so engrossed in an activity (to the point that none of us heard the bell, working on into our morning tea).2012burbsBuilding in the ‘Burbs

The brief was simple: Make something that looks like something, keep the scale avatar-size and make it as detailed as you have time for.2012details

The results were, well, quite wonderful as you can see. Some went the conventional “follow the neighbour” which is quite natural in a free-form activity – creativity coalesces between near neighbours and they are surprised when you point it out to them because they are sure they are being creative and not derivative.2012treehouse

Some lovely ideas expressed, including the practicalities of access, movement and texture. It will be interesting to see how this activity changes with a pair of classes, driven by different teachers next time.

Marking Your Territory

Posted November 17th, 2012 by wonko

Teaching basic building skills in an OpenSim is fairly straight forward, I have found the kids take to it fairly fast but few think through a quality build first time. Pride in workmanship comes after mastery of the tools I am hoping.

The activity was simple and open-ended – on a designated section of the continent make a slab 10m x 10m x 20cm, nestle it into the ground slightly to become your building “plot”.territory

Object creation, scaling and movement skills followed texturing, exploration of other object properties and then a simple brief: make something that looks like something. the only caveat was that it needed to be on their plot, and to scale.buildings

They took to the task with great enthusiasm, exploring the way you construct more complex things from primitives, scaling, rotating, moving with greater and greater precision that comes with experience.vehicle

In the end they were inviting their iMates over to have a look, all fairly hoopy. We have, in the next journey into this world, to tie this world activity to the activity happening in MUD and MOO and then look objectively at the whole “amount of activity required to create a unit of believable detail”, but for now, play is a good thing.

I, Avatar

Posted November 15th, 2012 by wonko

We are exploring virtual words with my year 9 students and it is a rich and varied experience, well, that is the plan at least. The worlds are textiverse (a custom MUD for them to edit), a browserverse (terraMOO, a hybrid world) and an Opensim (full 3d world called terraceLIFE).girls

Today we ventured into terraceLIFE and explored the notion of “avatar” – the brief for the first half of the lesson was simple enough – get your avatar to look like you.

What could possibly go wrong? Year 9 boys, in an opensim, where the default avatar is RUTH, a buxom female.avatars

After some initial explanation, they took to creating a virtual presence fairly well – it is interesting to talk to them about how they see themselves – shorter than they really are, heavier than they really are, bigger nose etc. I guess it is a tall ask to do body-image stuff with year 9 boys, given the hormone storm they are currently weathering but, you know, they handled it pretty well.vpeople

Very happy with the performance of the opensim also – 30 kids at once, all doing wonderfully interesting things, worked a charm. Next session we will explore building techniques with a simple construction project, then we will get complex and go for a collaborative building project (there will be tears before bedtime there I suspect).

I have a chunk of terrain for them to play on, will let them mark their territory and see how it goes – the only real rule here is “don’t be a dick” – it will be interesting to see how they cope.

Story Tainting

Posted October 14th, 2012 by wonko

My year 9 ICTE students have begun exploring the “Virtual Worlds” unit and we are set for some good (geeky) times as they will use a Textiverse (ICTEMMO), a Browserverse (terraMOO) and a 3D Opensim (terraceLIFE) to express non-linear narrative.

tree

The focus of this unit is storytelling, actually – the worlds merely the delivery vehicle (but don’t tell the kids, right), although each pre-suppose very different skills, offer vastly different perceptions and appeal to different levels of geek.

I tried something (they were keen and had NO IDEA what I had planned for them – that sort of  “on edge excitement” is useful sometimes) involving story tree generations.

I wrote a program to randomly pick people and set about dividing the class into random pairs (under the guise of “people have to form productive partnerships, regardless of whether they would choose to” or some such tripe) and then tainted their story – let me explain:

We fired up Inspiration (a mind-mapping software title, insert your fav, it does not matter – one pooter per pair), I got them to type a story seed as their first bubble: either

  1. “Timmy fell down the well” for one class or
  2. “You regain consciousness as the airlock hisses closed behind you and the oxygen levels return to normal” for the other.

I then preceded to explain how to spread the bubble map based on possible scenarios and decisions-different outcomes, spinning stereotype story arcs just to illustrate how a story tree might work. I then deleted all but the “seed”, left that on screen while the groups then spun their stories.

I apologised profusely for tainting their story, by exploring aspects of the narrative live in front of them. I begged them to think how the story would go from their own imagination, pleaded for them to think originally, then let them at it.

The instructions were clear – make it interesting, make it make sense, talk, confer – VERY quietly so as to not influence the group beside you … go!

After 15-20 of the most interesting minutes in class this week (wow were they absorbed) they were required to upload their story trees to Moodle (so they sort of “commit” to their work) and then we looked at structure/content.

Interesting how many of them took the seed as a “starting point” for their story (neither of which make particularly good opening scenarios, unless in flashback). “Delete everything that is not original” I said – I don’t want to read someone elses story, just what YOU have come up with … not a lot left. Well, not entirely true, some argued passionately the fact that they had re-worked the story from Halo, or LOTR or whatever so that made it original, some actually did use their own imaginations but most lost lots of their trees.

So what?

Original story telling is HARD, because there has been so much story telling in the past. It is a tall ask, cold, to try and invent a good, coherent, engaging story without plunging into stereotype and popularist tripe – doubly so when readers can choose their own pathway through it (I love non-linear narrative for this very reason – no 2 readers get the same experience).

Students suggested (spontaneously) that a plan of attack would have been much better than merely launching into the narrative – give those kids a prize as they worked out, for themselves, the purpose of the lesson.