Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Abductive reasoning part 2

I've just re-read my previous post about abductive reasoning, and something has just clicked. Here is a chunk of the original quote:

"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."

I think this is why we love formative feedback and assessment in the arts, and why we hate summative assessment. We find it very difficult to accept that any outcome is fixed and binding. My colleagues and I struggled and failed recently to give summative verbal feedback to our students. We were supposed to be explaining how we had arrived at our mark with regard to the assessment criteria, but within seconds we just had to talk about what might come next, suggesting the many ways in which the learning might progress. We just can't help it, and should we really be fighting our natural creative tendencies when they feel so right?

We may not be able to prove what a learning outcome 'is' or 'must be', but nevertheless we can reason what it 'may be'.

Maybe 'may be' is a far more powerful factor in effective learning than 'is' or 'must be'.

Friday, 21 March 2008


We've been discussing different educational models and frameworks that relate to the sorts of things we are wanting to explore with the Habitat project. The Mayes & Fowler model "Conceptualization - Construction - Application/Dialogue" is one keeps cropping up. Maggi's liquid learning stuff is something I want to think about a lot more. However, as my creative soul is made of Lego bricks, I think we should also consider this Lego model:
Connect, Construct, Contemplate, and Continue.
I also like this Lego version of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Multiple personalities are a good thing.

Following on from my previous post about the dangers of MUVE induced multiple personality disorder, this article in this week’s New Scientist magazine, has put my mind at rest. It seems that ‘normal’ dissociation is actually a good thing. The more multiple you are, the less likely you are to suffer from stress related conditions. This is particularly reassuring for me to hear, as I juggle several, quite distinct, versions of my self as a way of coping with modern life. One of my friends calls me Ian Two-lives, as I spend half my week in Leeds as Tutor Ian, and the other half in Filey as Family Ian. But two is not enough. I also have Cubist, who himself is divided into 3 distinct personalities. There is Cubist Tools Developer, who is currently working on new version of his markerboard, there is Cubist Artist, famous for his ‘holograms’ and then there is Tutor Cubist, who blogs here.
One of my personalities is experiencing some stress at the moment due to externally imposed changes, and I have become aware that I am consciously choosing to be one of the other characters that has no interest in these changes. This does indeed reduce my overall stress levels, and keeps me motivated and optimistic. Anne Peachy’s talk at this morning’s Massive Multi Learner conference covered how Second Life had helped some of the Schome kids to deal with the stress of bullying by allowing them to assume an alternative persona.
With regard to the ethics of role play and character creation, the evidence would suggest that it is unethical to deprive our students of the chance to create a hyper-self.

Massively Multiuser Learner Conference

I have just been watching the stream from the Massively Multiuser Learner conference at Anglia Ruskin. Maggi Savin-Baden’s talk was very interesting. A lot of what she is saying rings true with my experience of managing learning on a design course. Design is inherently problem based, with a focus on brief led work which involves experimentation, reasoning, reflection and evaluation. The concept of liquid learning is one that intrigues me. Everything changes all the time, and a learning model that embraces change, and permits students to be active agents of change is something that I have witnessed and strongly believe in. I wonder if we might draw on some of the Preview project’s research when we are thinking about quest based orientation experiences.
I also sort of took part in Daniel Livingstone’s presentation. He used google docs to provide the virtual delegates (which was just me in this case) with access to his slides and a live chat channel. Unfortunately, the 10 second lag in the video stream made interaction a little tricky – I just about managed hi and bye - but it was nice to have my name up on the screen. I felt a little bit more like I was in the room with the real life delegates. Daniel gave a very good overview of the various MUVEs available for educators, including Wonderland/MPK20.
Anyway, the coffee break has just finished, so back to the stream…

Friday, 14 March 2008

Some Ideas for Habitat island

The island has been ordered, so what are we going to do with it? Some initial ideas:

Make it into our own orientation island experience for our pilot noobs.

Use is to disseminate the project outputs. Just plonk stuff there when we've done it.

Turn it into a virtual art studio, like LeedsMet island for the building bits of the pilots.

Create a 3D version of the openHabitat website, using the nodes approach to locate site content in 3D space. HTML on a prim and llHTTPRequest stuff.

Create the ultimate discussion space for the Philosophy pilot.

Make it into a gallery for the A&D pilot outputs.

Build a quest based environment to test out some of Dave's WoW ideas.

Use it for live dissemination events for the wider community.

Build a cheesy disco.

Build a giant habitat logo

I'll think of some more later.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Stand alone in an open habitat.

Why don't we build a friendly standalone bundle of OpenSim + the SL client? If we could provide the academic community with an ultra basic, but ultra easy, single user virtual world that is very similar to Second Life, then this would give many an initial access route into MUVEs.

The ideal package would consist of two installers, one for Mac, one for Windows. (+Unix?).
The Mac installer would check for, and install Mono & X11 if necessary.
The Windows version would check for, and install .net if necessary.

Both would install the OpenSim server, a customised version of the Second Life client and a launcher application.

Once everything has been installed, the launcher application would run this standalone VW.

The launcher application would start the server. Whilst the island is being prepared, some nice progress bar would display on the screen. When the server has loaded and the island is ready, our tweaked SL client would be automatically launched and the user could log in using any name. As far as the end user is concerned, this is just a regular application that gives them a virtual world to play in.

For the educator, we would be providing an easy to install virtual world.
For their students, we would be providing a regular application that gives them their first taste of a virtual world.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

More pilot plan ideas.

I've transfered this to the shared google doc as well on jiscmuve, if any Habitat people want to jump in and edit.

Primary aim of pilot (from project plan/evaluation framework)

Developing competency in 3D design and collaboration in co-building within MUVEs

Longer term aims (Probably beyond the scope of this pilot. Phase 2 stuff)

Personal development through the exploration of identity and role play.

The development of new knowledge and the consolidation of existing knowledge through the construction of 3D artifacts.

Pilot outcomes:

By the end of this pilot, we will be able to demonstrate:

Evidence of students successfully using an open source MUVE (OpenSim standalone and networked).

Successful collaboration in-world (SL and OpenSim) between art and design students.

DAY 1 Tuesday 6th May H701 11am start

OpenSim standalone induction - Ruth TestUser
- Configure standalone OpenSim on all units, ready for workshop.
Basic navigation - walking, flying
Camera controls - Alt drag.
Basic building - Create, editing (move, scale, rotate, attributes), textures, texture upload, linking, snap to grid, Shift drag duplicate.

Plenty of free time to mess about.
Simple task 1: Build a tower as tall as you can? Stand on it and take a photo.

Recording the workshop - File>Snapshot to Disk. (first one brings up dialogue box - save to desktop. Subsequent calls save pics with sequential filenames. i.e. Snapshot_002.bmp, Snapshot_003.bmp) Create folder on desktop with name of student on it.

After workshop AM session finishes - gather snapshots together.

OpenSim public grid
Configure Macs to run OpenGrid or other public Grid, or possibly local grid if we can get it together.

Log into OpenSim multi-user using pre-set usernames and passwords. (Student's real first names? Ruth Reallastname?)

Meet each other's avatars.
Chat. IM.
Collaborative building.
Working in virtual pairs using in-world chat, build a ?
Fairground ride? (Slide etc)
Art Exhibition - using pictures off the site/web?

DAY 2 Wednesday 7th May H701 11am start
Second Life sign in - Using pre-purchased identities.
Pre-purchased identities have been pre-configured by the project team. (If we buy 20 identities from Linden Lab, we can log in as them before the pilot starts and give them money, sign them up to the LeedsMet and Habitat groups, configure their avatars to sync with the e-portfolio tool and walk them to our preferred induction location).
Second Life induction/Orientation
Appearance - de-noobing
Allocate building plots for practicing building. Upload some of your own work and use that.

Recording the experience
Posting images to the e-portofolio tool.
Tours around SL - in pairs like the Emerge online event.
Task: Visit public locations. Interact with strangers. Record via Postcards to e-portfolio tool.

DAYS 3&4 Thursday 8th May & Friday 9th May
Independent study - let the students do what they want - explore, work on the brief etc. Encourage them to keep recording to the e-portfolio tool.
Be around in-world to keep an eye on things and record events. Conduct interviews?

DAY 5 - Monday 12th May H701 11am start
Catch up on what has been happening.
Look at what has been built.

Intermediate building class.
Take suggestions from the class as to what to build.
Graham and Ian show off what they can build together.
Students watch and then have a go.
Introduce brief/competition/tasks
Build a Shrine to your first year experiences.
Where experiences have been shared, (e.g. you worked on the same project, you went to the same party) this should be reflected in an construction that you build together.

DAY 6 Tuesday 13th May H701 11am start.
Shrine building
Intermediate building support - Responsive to individual needs of learners.
Basic Scripting - llSay script - Making objects say something descriptive.

Setting objects for sale - Copy/Modify permissions. Original/Copy sales.

DAYS 7,8 & 9 , Wed 14th, Thurs 15th, Friday 16th May.
Independent study

DAYS 10 & 11 Monday 19th & Tuesday 20th May H701 11am start.
Project work - supported by Ian and Graham
DAY 12 Wednesday 21st May
Independent study
DAY 13 Thursday 22nd May
Independent study
DAY 14 Friday 23rd May
In world judging of work? Awarding of prize money (Linden Dollars) to winners?

Post pilot - June-ish
Awards ceremony on Habitat/Emerge island.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

How to help absolute beginners who feel under pressure.

Following on from my previous post, I have devised

The David Bowie MUVE Induction.

Stage 1.
(OpenSim standalone)
I am Ruth TestUser,
but that's not important right now, because nobody can see me. Oops. I can't walk properly.

Stage 2.
(OpenSim networked)
I am David Bowie,
but I look like Ruth. But look, so do my friends, Noddy Holder and Gary Glitter. Hahaha. Let's build a giant stage!

Stage 3.
(Second Life pre-paid names)
I am David Student,
Blue jean. A nice white t-shirt and blue jean.
Noddy Student, lets find a shop that sells spangly shoes! No Gary Student, you can't go to that sim, they'll be able to trace you.

Stage 4.
(Second Life full sign-up)
I am Ziggy Stardust,
and I'm going to find out what it feels like to be a GLAM ROCK GOD!
What's that you say Gary? Your own computer's graphics card is a bit slow when running Second Life? Why don't you take it into PC world?

Identity and Ethics

I've just had an interesting meeting about ethical clearance for the art & design pilot. It all seems pretty straight forward, with the pilot considered low-risk. However, when I was asked what the potential risks were with a project like this, I found myself voicing concerns about role play and identity. Creating a character and acting out otherwise impossible roles in a virtual world is a powerful tool for learning at a deep and fundamental level, and as a partly trained life coach (I got some free session when I did a website for a life coach a few years ago), I am a strong believer in the power of imagining and acting out the hyper-real version of yourself in-world. My own role play in Second Life has allowed me to explore my previously under-fulfilled desire to be a proper artist.

However, is hitting new students with the enormity of creating a 'whole new you' too soon counterproductive, and potentially dangerous? What if a student is mentally unstable (as many art students are), and the creation of a virtual version of themselves triggers off a bout of multiple personality disorder? What if looking deep within yourself and piecing bits of your suppressed personality together into a walking, talking avatar is just too difficult. Many of the Second Life inductions that I have conducted in the past have scared my students. Not because of the technical barriers, but because it is just too much, too soon. Whilst they acknowledge the obvious amazingness of Second Life, they feel personally overwhelmed.

One way to tackle this problem is to ease students into their virtual identity gradually.

The first step is to make everybody Ruth TestUser, and give them their own private island to mess up. The issue of identity is delayed until they can at least walk and fly.

The second step (maybe) is to allow them to use their own identities by registering their real names in an OpenSim networked grid. Their avatars can meet and chat, and everyone knows what's what and who's who.

Up to now, I've been working on the assumption that step 3 would be the point when students could handle the whole 'Choose a second name, make up a first name' SL sign up. Now I'm not so sure.

There are a whole load of thing still to take on board when you enter Second Life. Visiting the mainland, talking to strangers, visiting strange and scary places, buying something from a shop. Do we still need to provide identity scaffold for our students at this stage?

One way we could provide this would be to buy a bunch of identities from Linden Lab. I understand that we can purchase whatever last name we want, and register the real first names of our students. So one of our students in the pilot would be called something like Brian Leedsmet. Would this identity half-way house help new users to adjust and acclimatise to Second Life?

I would be disappointed if the participants didn't sign up to Second Life properly and get a proper fantasy self going after the pilot, but by then they would be making an informed decision to sign up and engage. They would be choosing to create their own Ziggy Stardust, with a better sense of the possibilities and the consequences.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Wonderland/Darkstar vrs Second Life

I found a useful blog post about Sun's Darkstar platform and how it fits with Second Life and education: