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.


Adam said...

Ian, this is exactly the sort of cool story I love hearing about as a OpenSim developer. (found your comment via technorati) :)

davy boy said...

Sounds Good Ian,

I've been working on some basic concepts with my peeps here, and we just had our first go with kids on Friday. Lots learned, should be able to post shortly.