VWER Meeting Transcript by Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.vwer.org.
Transcript of the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable
June 7, 2012
Topic: Building in VWs for Educational Purposes
Grizzla: Hi everyone and welcome a special meeting of the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable!
Grizzla: Our topic today is “Building in Virtual Worlds for Educational Purposes.”
Grizzla: Our special guests today are Lizzy Saintlouis, recently retired from Georgia State University, and Frans Charming from the Vesuvius Group. Lizzy now creates toys and other fun things in her SL store, Jellybeans.
Grizzla: People who know them face-to-face, think their real names are Paula Christopher and Jeroen Frans,
Grizzla: and at Georgia Gwinnett College, where I work, people call me Chris Robinson.
Grizzla: A little about these meetings, for any newcomers:
Grizzla: The Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable (VWER) is a forum to educate and brainstorm about virtual worlds issues that are relevant to education.
Grizzla: We meet here each Thursday on the virtual campus of Bowling Green State University, from 11:30 am -12:30 pm SLT.
Grizzla: (SLT = “Second Life Time,” which is the same as U.S. Pacific time).
Grizzla: We’ve met every week since March 2008,
Grizzla: and we welcome a wide variety of educators,
Grizzla: from seasoned veterans to the newly-rezzed,
Grizzla: who bring a *wide variety* of opinions and needs.
Grizzla: This is a public meeting, so we keep and publish a transcript of what is said in local text chat.
Grizzla: Transcripts from all previous meetings are at our website: vwer.org – select the LIBRARY tab at the top.
Grizzla: When we publish the transcript each week, we include photos from members,
Grizzla: so please summon your “inner photographer” today and then post your photos to the VWER group on either Flickr or Koinup.
Grizzla: Follow us on Twitter @VWER
Grizzla: At most weekly meetings, we all sit around a big table and use text chat to discuss the day’s topic.
Grizzla: Sometimes we have special meetings like this one, with an interview in voice chat.
Grizzla: We know that some of you might not be able to hear the audio -
Grizzla: so we have transcribers to capture the essence of the interview and post it into the public chat;
Grizzla: that way, everyone can follow along.
Grizzla: You may all use the local text chat as a back channel, but be aware that the guests and I can’t always keep up with that.
Grizzla: Now, a little about today’s topic, and our special guests.
Grizzla: This is a time of year when many of us put more focus on developing content for our virtual world projects, and perhaps on doing some inworld building,
Grizzla: so I’ve asked two builders whose work I’m familiar with,
Grizzla: to share some of their insights on how to plan an educational build with learning outcomes in mind.
Grizzla: So – Lizzy and Frans – I’d like you each to introduce yourselves, and also tell us a bit about how you got interested in virtual worlds.
Grizzla: Lizzy, we’ll start with you!
Lizzy: i was an instructional designer at georgia state university, charged to explore new media
Lizzy: i discovered SL and and it seemed to offer the best opportunities
Lizzy: because we could build there
Lizzy: Our story got picked up by Associated Press
Lizzy: and that got us awareness in the university
Lizzy: and we got some sims
Lizzy: As budget cuts came, we lost the sims -
Lizzy: Some things we did in SL included student exercises on classroom management with the College of Education
Lizzy: also the college of law to develop machinima
Lizzy: for case studies, as the students did not know how to discuss case studies
Lizzy: Here is a link for the machinima we made: http://webdb.gsu.edu/dmg/mediaplayer/mediaplayer.cfm?file=ets/etsjcp/LawSLtmp/PhysicianHospJointVenture.mov
Lizzy: also there were language learning opportunities
Grizzla: Frans, how about you?
Frans: I studied computer science and got involved in SL in 2005
Frans: I was also interested in game design and using Sl for games
Frans: that’s what attracted me
Frans: I enjoyed building
Frans: I met Rhiannon and we built part of New Orleans in SL and
Frans: we grew the company from there
Frans: we started to work with education
Frans: we built an orientation area
Frans: for kids to play around in
Frans: then we went a bit more commercial but
Frans: have started to move back to education
Frans: and we are currently working with an NSF-funded CATEA project in Georgia – Breakthru – for STEM-subject mentoring in SL
Rhiannon Chatnoir: CATEA is part of Georgia Tech, and the program Frans referred to is called BreakThru, which is an alliance between Georgia Tech and Uni of Georgia as a peer mentoring space for STEM topics
Grizzla: Yes, the Breakthru Project! That’s a great build.
Grizzla: Tell us about how you keep in mind the purpose of a build. Can you give some examples?
Lizzy: we do it like any instructional project
Kali Pizzaro: 23 on the sim
Lizzy: we talk with the instructor
Lizzy: what do they want to do?
Lizzy: then how can we best do it
Lizzy: e.g. the K12 school, the instructor was specific about the setup
Lizzy: the same with the college of law
Lizzy: we had to know how he was going to use it
Lizzy: in that case, the students weren’t in SL
Lizzy: but still it was tricky for us
Lizzy: as we had to do a lot of taping etc
Lizzy: but it was exciting to see the first in-class session with the students and how much it added to the class discussions
Frans: one of the things I try to keep in mind is the group size
Frans: if it is a small mentoring area then it might
Frans: be a bit more secluded
Frans: or if a big class then it might not be as private
Grizzla: what are some of your favorite builds that gave you the best results?
Lizzy: the best thing on Five Points was
Lizzy: the bookstore
Lizzy: it had a bunch of landmarks separated into topics
Lizzy: so if the instructor had a history class
Lizzy: they could get a notecard, description, and landmark
Lizzy: we had them for different subjects
Lizzy: sciences, arts, nursing, languages, etc
Lizzy: that was our most popular area
Grizzla: What are the challenges you have faced?
Lizzy: my biggest challenge was my own limitations on building
Lizzy: i wanted to do better
Lizzy: i needed to find people to help e.g. particularly scripting
Lizzy: i’m strong on building and textures
Lizzy: but the biggest challenge was the scripting
Frans: the biggest challenge for me is understanding the pedagogy
Grizzla: any resources that are good for developing your own skills?
Lizzy: oh yes!
Lizzy: places that offered free classes
Lizzy: Yadni’s junk yard, which has lots of modifiable freebies
Lizzy: i could take things apart and repurpose them
Frans: those are great too
Grizzla: Oh yeah, I’ve learned a LOT by taking other builders’ stuff apart!
Grizzla: And once in awhile, I can even put it back together…
Zotarah Shepherd: Yadni’s rocks
Frans: as i got a lot of education from others too
Frans: i used the SL wiki
Frans: to help me to find out what is coming soon
Grizzla: Many of us in education know what we need to meet our goals but cannot pay an expert to build
Grizzla: what advice can you give to us about when we need to either lower our expectations or hire someone?
Lizzy: like with anything, first make a plan – know what you want and need
Lizzy: start small
Lizzy: that’s the second point
Frans: yeah……also you should consider how important the building is
Frans: If it’s something simple like a classroom, maybe you and the students can build
Frans: But if it is part of a project then make sure you get an expert
Grizzla: one of my faves is the Cuper’s/Cupid’s Cove build in SL – which is a “field trip” to the first English-speaking colony in Canada. A big project like that, takes a big team, lots of different skills.
Lizzy: then you also have to bear in mind
Lizzy: is it going to be used one time only?
Lizzy: in which case you don’t put in so much effort
Lizzy: as opposed to something that is going to be used for a long time where you put in more effort
Frans: yes, if it is going to be there for a long time
Rhiannon Chatnoir: and, if are wanting advanced functionality or interaction with scripting or registration portals, etc.. that goes beyond the scope of most regular building
Grizzla: Has mesh changed how you build?
Frans: not for me
Frans: i am not skilled in it and neither is my team
Frans: it is not actually necessary for us at the moment
Lizzy: about the only things i’ve seen mesh used for
Lizzy: are mesh clothes and avatars
Grizzla: Can you foresee how mesh might be used, might make a difference?
Grizzla: For example, does mesh cause less lag than sculpties do?
Frans: if you need more on your screen then mesh may be a bit more optimised
Frans: so lag might be reduced
Frans: Well lag is an interesting term anyway
Lizzy: I’ve not heard so much about mesh lagging
Frans: if you say an individual pc is slow, we say lag, but so do we say about a server
Sheila Yoshikawa: I’ve noticed some house-builders and furniture designers going in for mesh, or redesigning their houses with mesh, to save some prims
Grizzla; Definitely, there are several possible causes of lag
Tori Landau: I think people need to be educated more about client side lag too
Grizzla: With your teams, tell us about the skills sets for good teams
Lizzy: I found some who were good at sculpties
Lizzy: someone who was a machinima expert
Lizzy: I’m now working with a SL ballet group!
Lizzy: and doing all sorts of animations and scripting
Lizzy: so we don’t have to jump on pose balls
Frans: mmmm yeah i would say you need
Frans: concept design
Frans: a drawing is a great help and it makes the goal clear
Frans: so one of the individual skills is knowing how to do the drawings
Frans: My training is computer science so i can programme well enough but
Frans: one of our students is trained in physics
Frans: and we have a graphic artist so we work as a team
Grizzla: When I visited Breakthru island, I remember something great from the orientation area -
Grizzla: there were rocks with brightly-colored bits and when you click on those, they emit a spray of colored particles
Grizzla: This would help newbies develop their camming skills
Grizzla: was a fun way to teach a difficult skill. What else can you say about designing orientation areas?
Frans: well it is hard, as a wide variety of folk with very different skill-levels can come in Frans: the keys and some folk need to use the forward key so big signs with chunked up walk, etc
Frans: i also made a fantastic looking area
Frans: so folk wanted to come back
Lizzy: we had web pages
Lizzy: quick start areas
Lizzy: how to change clothes etc
Lizzy: and we had a computer lab they could drop in for one on one
Lizzy: or come in with their teacher
Frans: yeah that is important
Frans: training in real life is a lot faster
Frans: and folk are not keen on a lot of text
Lizzy: we used pictures which seemed to help too
Grizzla: navigating SL at first is like learning to drive. A mentor helps
Frans: yeah adding gaming then that is more engaging and folk learn more
Frans: we want to make things more interactive
Frans: while being orientated to SL
Grizzla: Do you use UDL (Universal design for learning)?
Lizzy: I am somewhat familiar
Lizzy: we would help them
Lizzy: e.g. why would you use SL
Lizzy: no point if you just want to lecture!
Riven Homewood: But we are all sitting here in an auditorium — and it’s a good venue for this presentation
Lizzy: so the students could do exploring
Lizzy: if they were blind there was someone who could help interpret
Lizzy: there weren’t many sounds
Lizzy: just e.g. some medical sims
Lizzy: we did our best
Lizzy: but there are limitations in SL
Frans: Frans: yeah so i agree the SL limitations are difficult
Frans: but some of the scripting can get round that
Frans: a blind student was able to have a streamed video and she could still participate
Frans: the guide dog is good for folk and was built to guide around
Frans: so you could say tell me about item
Frans: and the dog would give you an explanation
Frans: so we have tried to incorporate that so anyone with a disability has the options -
Frans: They can choose to show their disability if they want and that we thought about that
Grizzla: Quite awhile back, I visited an SL build with a wheelchair exercise to help build empathy about using a wheelchair
Grizzla: I asked our student assistant to complete the exercise, and let us know what he thought of it as an ed tool
Grizzla: The exercise involved having the avatar “wear” a wheelchair, and figure out how to get up to the second floor of a building.
Grizzla: He admitted that he cheated the exercise by camming to the 2nd floor and teleporting! He found it too frustrating to do otherwise.
Grizzla: So it was an effective learning exercise.
Lizzy: I recall someone at the educational fair
Lizzy: she had a seeing eye dog
Iggy: Lizzy, that ‘s Max the Guide Dog
Zotarah Shepherd: Max the seeing eye dog is great
Lizzy: that could tell her what was around
Frans: yeah that is the same guide dog
Lizzy: that is a shame it was a great project
Frans: and it is a shame as i think the folks are no longer supporting it
Enigma Bombay: Gentle Heron might be a resource for any of those items.
Lizzy: because SL was not my only technology i supported
Grizzla: what sort of feedback did you get?
Lizzy: i relied on statistics
Lizzy: i had sensors in different areas, a count by the hour
Lizzy: what was most popular, what people were not using
Lizzy: and i would go and remodel it
Lizzy: so i got some feedback but not much
Shailey Garfield: We conducted a usability evaluation of Five Points which Lizzy had built and our evaluations indicated that the navigation and wayfinding was so well designed that it was very easy to find one’s way around.
Grizzla: Frans, what about you, in terms of getting feedback?
Frans: Well our building well one of the things i have
Frans: noticed is how they get around and what issues they have
Frans: about how to teleport etc
Frans: even though they have gone to orientation they forget how to do things
Shailey Garfield: Another great design aspect that Lizzy’s Five Points island had was a tree house with three pods and they had been designed in a way that the sound and text chat from one was not communicated to another pod. It was a great spot for break out activities.
Riven Homewood: It’s too bad that LL doesn’t make short videos like that, or contract with somebody to make them
Frans: Yes – and since they don’t, we need to
Sheila Yoshikawa: well they do
Lizzy Saintlouis: If anyone is interested in the sensors I used, see Rabbit Stats – http://www.rabbitstats.com/ – free to educators
Enigma Bombay: I believe LL does make then, or Torley Linden makes them for LL.
Riven Homewood: Yes, but the fact that Frans and others make their own speaks to how effective LL’s current videos are
Rhiannon Chatnoir: did they recently introduce more scripting functionality for sensors?
Frans: we are running our own stats
Grizzla: Do you build areas for small groups with privacy for chat?
Enigma Bombay: The fact that LL cut 30% of their employees a few years ago speaks to LL’s efficacy overall.
Lizzy: we had a lot of meeting spots on 5 points sim
Lizzy: favorite amongst most educators was a tree house
Lizzy: and the 3 levels were separated enough
Lizzy: that they could not hear each other
Frans: yeah we did something similar for our mentoring area plots
Frans: make sure they are on separate plots
Frans: or you can do scripts
Frans: to move folk with the scripts
Frans: it is useful to get a feeling of a sense of privacy
Rhiannon Chatnoir: build up
Grizzla: having distance is key between groups. With small land areas you might not be able to do it at the same Z-axis level, but you could spread them out higher in the sky
Kali Pizzaro: I used voice one time and just got them to mute all the folk the did not want to hear and they were all in the one room
Rhiannon Chatnoir: we did similar for a few clients with less space
Grizzla: Have you used Sketchup?
Frans: well i played with it but i have not used it in any way
Zotarah Shepherd: I like Decka’s meeting room that separates too
Lizzy: i’ve not used it at all
Rhiannon Chatnoir: where there might be a common meeting area below and then more private spaces above in the sky
Iggy: Sketchup made a giant and laggy build…was my students
Frans: i dont have any advice for that
Frans: i am not sure how you use it to reduce the polygons
Frans: it is an important skill so maybe get an expert in
Iggy: issue was the Uni mandated that students create…so we could not hire
Lizzy: I started using Blender right from the beginning
Lizzy: that seems to be the main way of getting the larger builds in
Frans: yeah and learning blender no doubt took many hours
Grizzla: Blender lacks a simple user interface!
Lizzy: Blender is not for the faint of heart
Grizzla: sounds like when you build you employ the same concepts from a brick & mortar build
Frans: FC: i went to the library
Rhiannon Chatnoir: also Ymere
Frans: and found books etc
Zotarah Shepherd: It is sad that so many educators just want to duplicate RL classrooms than take advantage of interactive building only possible in a VW.
Frans: to learn the architecture
Lizzy: and that’s a real good way to do it
Tori Landau: Agree Zotarah
Lizzy: as you can copy and texture it
Frans: yeah we need to look for Architect for building houses
Rhiannon Chatnoir: for space planning
Frans: and we were designing in SL to test
Frans: so tennts could use it even though the camera limits some things
Rhiannon Chatnoir: we also did similar for NYC Dept of Ed, based off of buildings on Governors Island
Frans: ceiling need to be higher
Frans: yeah the camera is above your head
Grizzla: Generally ceilings have to be higher to avoid claustrophobia and help new users.
Frans: even playing games
Frans: can make you feel claustrophobic
Rhiannon Chatnoir: that is something to keep in mind when building smaller enclosed spaces, where camera angles are naturally for most avatars
Frans: yeah the real life building was important for the New York build
Frans: and we bought books and took pictures to get a feel for how it should look
Grizzla: Our time is almost up. Any final tips for our audience?
Birdie Newcomb: Maybe asked before — what about totally blind persons — is there any point in using SL?
Zotarah Shepherd: 23 on the sim
Riven Homewood: and there were about 4 or 5 more here earlier
Frans: FC: the best part is try to enjoy it, plan ahead
Iggy: thanks Zo! Not bad for a summer meeting
Zotarah Shepherd: /me nods
Graham Mills: make a soundscape @birdie
Birdie Newcomb: How to build a soundscape?
Frans: and be imaginative
Graham Mills: different sounds in overlapping areas so they can navigate
Karelia Kondor: I’m planning a build for an island for teaching a variety of languages . if anyone has any ‘models’ ‘tips’ I’d be grateful for them! please IM / befriend!!!
Lizzy: just have a really good idea of what you want to do
Lizzy: go about building it piece by piece.
Iggy: this is a good topic we should repeat annually
Lizzy: Have a support plan AND a backup plan in case it goes offline
Karelia Kondor: (My build will be for 13-18 year olds)
Rhiannon Chatnoir: and there are developers out there, like us, who are there to turn to if do have a broader project or need help
Lizzy: I remember “black wednesdays”
Birdie Newcomb: I remember Black Wednesdays too!
Nimue Vaniva: Can you organize a VWER tour of recommended builds that use SL effectively?
Lizzy: when SL used to be down every week on Wednesdays
Iggy: good idea, Nimue
Riven Homewood: A tour would be fun – with somebody to point out why a building works or doesn’t work
Graham Mills: Radegast maybe as well
Karelia Kondor: I agree Riven.
Rhiannon Chatnoir: using Marco Polo and adding in valid descriptions and titles to all objects that people are having to interact with
Graham Mills: Design for mobile users too
Rhiannon Chatnoir: make sure everything is not named ‘object’
Nimue Vaniva: Put Fort Binchester on the tour.
Karelia Kondor: Could ISTE tours perhaps incorporate this?
Frans: make sure you think of users with various disabilities – blind etc
Rhiannon Chatnoir: incorporate Marco Polo mean?
Frans: or partial sight
Graham Mills: objects that respond to user script iirc
Grizzla: Yes, when LL was creating SL, they did not “need” to keep accessibility in mind but those in education must
Graham Mills: wasn’t it built into Max the Guidedog?
Grizzla: thank you for sharing today! Thanks to our weary transcribers
Karelia Kondor: thank you!
Shailey Garfield: Thanks.
Frans: me i think title to follow
Karelia Kondor: I really enjoy these sessions!
Nimue Vaniva: this was excellent.
Frans: keep an eye on FB
Tori Landau: Thanks to everyone, it’s been very useful and informative.
Riven Homewood: Very interesting presentation – thanks!
Kali Pizzaro: thanks tori
Grizzla:: Applause all around!
Rhiannon Chatnoir: we’re working on a larger storehouse of machinima/screencast help videos for new users as well as additional accessibility text info on those working with alternative devices etc
Blu Heron: I’m happy to hear there is consideration for accessibility amongst educators
Iggy: great session. Let’s see about a VWER tour in the coming year … good builds
Iggy: thanks to Nimue for that suggestion
Zotarah Shepherd: Adorable avatar Lizzy
Lizzy Saintlouis: Thank you so much
Grizzla: Lizzy makes wonderful mesh avies! And a bunch of other cool toys & other stuff.