Friday, 29 February 2008

Possible Workshop stages using OpenSim and Second Life.

Here are some ideas about possible workshop stages using the various configurations of OpenSim and Second Life. I'm not sure if the timescale of the first pilot will permit all of these stages to be tested. Some of the stages might be more relevant to an extended pilot in phase 2.

OpenSim standalone - induction and individual building. Privacy. Simplicity. Reduced anxiety. Personal virtual studio space/work space.

OpenSim local network - collaborative building. Blended collaboration. Group privacy. Locally shared virtual studio/workshop.

OpenSim public grid - individual and collaborative building in limited public view. Tasks and structured activities. Open virtual studio/workshop.

Second Life - sign up - Identity, barriers, commercial service issues, technical issues - frequent problems with sign-up not working from within institutions due to reuse of same IP addresses confusing LL security safeguards.

Second Life - Induction - Orientation island. Habitat orientation for creators. Distributing funds to noobs (for texture uploading and avatar dressing).

Second Life - Identity - appearance - Creative personal expression. Don't look like a Noob.

Second Life - Familiarisation, socialisation, tours. Recording the experience. SL2Flickr. BlogHUD. HUD. Sleeds/e-portfolio tool.

Second Life - Individual and collaborative building in full public view. Public virtual studio/workshop. Subject specific - creation of art and design artifacts. Aesthetic judgement a factor in evaluating success of outputs. Building skills required. Good art/Bad art? Good design/bad design?

Second Life - Exhibiting work. Duplication and distribution. Selling work. Virtual worlds as an additional platform for creative outputs.

Second Life - Visualising knowledge in 3D. Cementing knowledge through building. Developing new understanding through building. Non-subject specific. Building skills required. Learning contained in the process of building/attempt to build. Artifacts provide evidence of learning. Aesthetics not criteria for evaluation of success. Art & design competence not important. Link with personal and professional development planning/documents. Link with constructivist learning theories and constructionist pedagogy.

Second Life - Sustaining engagement - why carry on? Wider benefits of learning through virtual environments and tools. Benefits for Real Life learning and creative development. Accelerated learning? Accelerated creative development? Simulation production processes. More efficient active learning and creative development through less restricted production. (lower costs and less support needed than conventional workshops and studios = more active learning possible is a shorter time scale). MUVEs as tools for simulating and accelerating creative practice.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

OpenSim sketchbook

I love OpenSim. It's provided me with a Second Life sketchbook that I can use on the train. No network hassles or costs. Just my own, personal island to try things out without anyone bothering me.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Island arrangement

This is what I meant in terms of how we might move our LeedsMet Islands about (and add a new one on)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Dedicated Standalone OpenSim terminals

It's all clicking into place. We have a stack of old eMacs that have been replaced by posh new iMacs. We had planned to move them into the studios for internet access, but we can't afford to install new networks sockets or airport cards. However, the standalone version of OpenSim doesn't need network access, so I can configure each of these machines as dedicated OpenSim units. They might struggle a bit with their crappy graphics cards, but it's worth a go. I'll do a test soon.

Standalone vrs Grid

I've just been reading Dave Cormier's blog:
And I'm wondering whether even the mini-local grid that I had planned is a good idea. It would be nice if the students could interact with each other for the initial induction but, then again, maybe stripping things right back to single stand-alone users might help calm things down. I really want to emphasise the building aspect of MUVEs in the first bit of the induction, and other avies wandering past and making rude comments might just be too much of a distraction.
This will mean installing 20 standalone versions of OpenSim on my Macs, which will mean 20 mono + X11 + OpenSim installations, but our Mac support staff are great, and so I can't see any major problems.
I might crack on with this next week.

OpenSim on a Mac

I finally got OpenSim running properly on my Mac. I'd been plagued by a gdiplus startup problem crashing the sim when I tried to create an object. It turns out that mono alone is not enough to replicate .Net. X11 also needs to be installed to make the gdiplus library work properly.
All I have to do now is to work out how to plug my laptop into a network socket in my teaching room and serve my sim to the class, and the job's a good 'un.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

The World of Robots 2

I couldn't resist googling this, and found another blog entry referring to the same book:

Plus this scan of the relevant pages:

and a comment that leads to the true identity of 'Maid-without-tears':

Now there's an avatar appearance waiting to be created.

The World of Robots

I found a book I bought 30 years ago from the Squirrel (?) book club at Junior School. It's a Piccolo Explorer Book called 'Exploring the World of Robots'. It's full of great visions of the future, such as the un-PC 'Maid without tears' robot servant, and other fantastic metal mickies.
After spending the last 2 days working from home, the following quote from this book caught my eye:

"One day people may not go out to work at all. They will work from home, using television and robots."

I'm starting to feel an urge to build and script a robot in Second Life. 'Tutor without tears?'.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Art & Design Pilot

I've been thinking about the Art & Design pilot. We need a pretty firm plan before the meeting in March, so I'll start to try and pin things down here.
I think that my plan to offer the pilot to all 120 first year students is a little over ambitious. We would want to use the data from all of our activities, which would mean getting all 120 to sign something saying this is O.K. That in itself would be a nightmare. Instead, I think that I will hand pick 20 suitable students from the first year and work more intensively with them over the 3 week time-slot.
I'd like to start the inductions with OpenSim still, as I think it will be the easiest intro for the students. I will need to get going on the installation of this to see if there are any potential problems. This will mean approaching our computing services team, which always fills me with dread, not because they are particularly unreasonable, but their vast knowledge of networks and security concerns are a bit intimidating. Some info from Dave C would be helpful before I approach them. I'm guessing that I would need to install .Net and the OpenSim server on a spare PC and plug it in somewhere.
In terms of what I would like to do with the students, I'm still attracted to the 3D learning agreement/contextual overview idea. The students would be able to take their 2D artwork in-world and add some text and join it all up in some way. I might have a go at doing something along these lines with the educational theories that I am trying to get my head around at the moment.
Current rough plan:
Week 1
OpenSim inductions
Learning tasks/activities in OpenSim.
Get students to think about identity.
Record activities.

Week 2
Second Life sign-up and Habitat island orientation.
Sending postcards to our e-portfolio tool
Building on LeedsMet/Habitat.
Main-land tours.
Introduce brief - the 3D learning agreement.

Week 3
Second Life building the 3D learning agreement.
Deadline on the Friday.
Capture data and record work.

Week 4
Analysis starts.

June 5th - Arts Festival and degree shows at Leeds Met. Display and Award prizes to winner of best 3D learning agreement.

Habitat HQ

I've built the Habitat logo in SL and made it into a building.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Educational models

I was looking through the Schome site:
and I found some info about various educational models. The ones below each ring true in some way with our version of art education.
Autonomous education
Experiential learning
The KPM approach
Multigrade schools
Problem base learning
Reggio Emilia

This last link contained a particularly relevant chunk:
"The school environment is designed so that every part has its own purpose and identity and spaces encourage communication through interaction. The piazza (communal areas) and atelier (art studios) are considered the core of the schools."

Communal areas and art studios? Sounds familiar.

What might be

A colleague just sent this to me. I've not had chance to absorb it properly, but it the bit about 'Abductive reasoning' seems like it might an interesting concept to chuck into the MUVE mix.

Inductive, Deductive, and Abductive Thinking

Traditional firms utilize and reward the use of two kinds of logic. The first, inductive, entails proving through observation that something actually works. The second, deductive, involves proving – through reasoning from principles – that something must be. [...] Any other form of reasoning or arguing outside these two is discouraged and, at the extreme, exterminated. The challenge is always, ‘Can you prove that?’ And to prove something in a reliable fashion means using rigorous inductive or deductive logic.

Designers also use and value inductive and deductive reasoning. Designers induce patterns through the close study of users and deduce answers through the application of design theories. However, designers value highly a third type of logic: abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning, as described by Darden professor Jeanne Liedtka, embraces the logic of what might be. Designers may not be able to prove that something ‘is’ or ‘must be,’ but they nevertheless reason that it ’may be.’ This style of thinking is critical to the creative process.

Martin explains abductive reasoning with the example of the Aeron chair, which Malcolm Gladwell also uses in Blink. The Aeron would never had happened if it weren’t for abductive thinking, as inductive as well as deductive thinking spoke against it.

1 Robert L. Martin, ‘Creativity That Goes Deep,’ BusinessWeek.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Kid Grid

Having given up trying to get the OpenSim server working on a Mac (I think I need to recompile libopenjpeg from source or something), I fired up the wife's PC and downloaded the pre-configured standalone version of OpenSim from:

I discovered that I needed to download and install the .Net framework and disable Norton Internet Security, but apart from that, is was pretty easy to get up and running. Freed from the requirement to sign up and be 18 or over, I decided that it might be interesting to do a bit of UIDM stage 1 with the kids. I plonked my 9 year old down and showing him how to walk, move the camera and build a plywood box - the sort of ultra-stripped down, ultra easy introduction to a MUVE that I have in mind for the A&D pilot. Within minutes he had worked out how to build a giant shiny ball in the sky, and my 5 year old was crying because he wanted a go. After several minutes of delicate negotiations (shouting), the 5 year old was in control of the mouse. I was amazed how he naturally copied what his brother had been doing without any assistance, right clicking on the ground and selecting 'Create' from the pie chart. He would struggle to read that word, but he knew where it was in the pie chart and made the connection with what it did. This is the same kid that told me he was rubbish at computers the other day.

After insisting on walking into the sea, he proceeded to build and manipulate several objects (underwater), working out for himself the different types of prim that can be selected from the edit pallet. After another tantrum, big brother was bob the builder again. I showed him how to upload one of his pictures and apply it to a box, and then went off to make dinner. When I came back, he had built a 'house' with a roof and supporting structural elements, and had covered most of the rest of the island with trees.

What can we learn from this?
Building is easy, and is a powerful motivator. It should come first, or very early in the familiarisation process.
Social learning (observing and imitating) should be enabled and encouraged in a blended learning environment.
If a five year old can learn a MUVE with minimal assistance, a degree level student can learn a MUVE with minimal assistance. The workshops should not be over-designed, or tutor dominated.
New users, like kids, need time to play without Dads, tutors or anyone else (real or virtual) looking over their shoulders. In the pilot, maybe a standalone version of OpenSim happens first, followed by the local networked version of OpenSim, followed by Second Life.

Friday, 1 February 2008

That sinking feeling.

How would you feel if your workplace was demolished without warning because you forgot to remind your finance department to pay the rent?
My workplace, or LeedsMet's original Second Life island, went offline last night. I wasn't too worried initially. Sims go down all the time. Then, when I was laying in bed, I had a sinking feeling as I worked out that it must be about a year since we bought the sim, and didn't we just pay for one year? Bugger.
After some frantic emails to Finance, and some very impressive emergency responses from my colleagues, a plan of action was hatched. Then, this afternoon, LeedsMet floated back up from the bottom of the virtual sea, all on its own.
Still not sure what happened. I'm going to make sure I sort out the rent next week though.