Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quality of eLearning & Ancient Roma

I was introduced to Inge Qunhua, a danish teacher who lives in Jylland. I was told she owns an island that deals with eLearning genre. Her college uses SL in educational purposes. I need to get known with her better! Bracken (teacher as well) said earlier she could show me Inge's island some day if Inge happens to be offline. It would be really great!

We discussed about the heterogenic of the students. We agreed that in the future when there could me even more students and resources enough, it would be nice idea to sort the students into some groups established by their level of the skills. At least different level of classes could be arranged because the level of the students might be not so easy to test in advance - not at least by the students themselves. I referred to the language test tool ( which has been created by EU-funds.

Some leisure after serious talking. We decided to teleport ourselves in Rome with Violet1, Bracken and Inge. Teleporting just could not work at the time. Occasianally it is like that when the servers of the Linden Lab are operating with high speed when the SL is full crowded. This malfunction is called a lag > lagging. There can be over 50.000 avatars online at the same time when there were "only" 30.000 in the last May when I was more online last time. Reasearches tells that there will be over 25 % addition to the amount of new avatar in each month. No wonder some areas are really laggy. Of course it depends much on the capacity of the computers of the people all over the world. > See more about the figures

After some problems we succeeded to tp ourselves in Rome. It is sort of roleplaying area where are some rules (but no authorities) and the inhabitants have a dress code. They can wear togas and other ancient clothes and participate in the theatrical plays and circus. As an observer one can move around of course, but one might be ejected if interfears too much the plays going on.

The buildings and sceneries have been created in the good taste and the tools that can be used are also as they were in the ancient Rome. I was interested in the laundry building where were some animated interactive tools that created quite a deep immersive athmosphere around me. The owner of the laundry told that ancien romans used urea to clean clothes! One of the big collaborative projects is to build a roman ship with a group of vounteers. Nice area with lots of details and activities!

There was quite silent in Rome during our visit so I wandered all over. I noticed a banner for volunteer gladiators in circus. Maybe I should try that also! It cannot be wounded badly in virtual worlds and the effects to real life cannot be fatal..or can they (regarding the extremely terrible things happend just recently 7.11.2007 in the high school of Jokela, Finland.). > See more about the issue

Well, Violet1 was really keen on the horces controlled by avatars. She wanted to get one too, so they left while I preferred to stay in rome when they tped to the stalls. I walked into the building called "Latrinae" which seemed to be sort of water closet :).

There were posters where from I got to known that free citizens of Rome used to meet themselves at the latrinaes while making some other things. On top of every seats there were animation balls for different movements (lol), for example meditating. What a wonderful place SL is!

Second Life meets reality

Discussed with my SL friend, Violet1, about spending time in SL. She missed her class in ESL virtual school and was of course sad about it. She works for classrunner and Giovanni, the principal of the ESL school, had to be a substitude of Violet1.

Ethics and moral in virtual worlds reflect the same values of living and behaving as in real world. The situation could be relatively same if one missed his/her duties in RL. In anyway the students of ESL school do pay a small amount of linden dollars for the classes.

I wondered why Violet1 moved to Sweden instead of staying in Philippines, which is a paradise in my opinion as it's climate and nature. Violet1 told that it is nice for travelling for a week or two, but not safe at all to live in there. There is a lot of violence and white collar people are mostly highly corrupted. So one can do almost nothing because of the fear to get busted or kidnapped or even raped. So we got our conlusion taht despite all the darkness in the Autumn in the nordic countries Sweden is a really big contrast regarding it's social security system and peacefull attitude of the inhabitants and easy way of living in safe societies. Violet1 added that she thinks there is no such a place called a paradise.

Violet1 and Bracken (a teacher) were planning the Xmas parties in ESL school and discussed about the decorations when I teleported myself to the school. Violet1 has been creating 3D snowman with SL's efficient building tools. I noticed that mr Snowman missed a hat and a carrot nose, so Violet1 started to create those ideas immediately.

Before arrived in ESL school I had been shopping some new clothes and other items to change my outfit. I wanted to try rock-look so I had changed black clothes on and wore a guitar. I had gotten also some free animations called rockstar and so on. So they were surprised because of my recently changed habitus.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Language Learning in ESL school & Arts

I was introduced to English as a Second Language virtual school in SL and it's staff by my new friend Violet1 Meili. Giovanni Tweak (italian principal of the school), Bracken Homewood (official ESL teacher), Inge Qunhua (official ESL teacher) and Violet1 (classrunner, mentor) were my guides.

Classes are not free for students but the first class is always free of charge so that one could see and hear how does it work, is it efficient, worth for money spent. Classes are taxed by an hour. Text classes cost 500 L$ and voice classes cost 1000 L$ per an hour (270 L$ = 1 USD).

After discussed with the principal I got a possibility to be present in a text class and he said if I liked it I should contact with him or the classrunners to join in the Help Team of the Drive Through ESL School. As a volunteer for four hours per week I could participate in all the classes for free. It sounded quite good: I had got no money at all :). So the possibility fascinates me truely. I will think about it for sure.

First lesson, vocabulary, nationalities and addresses (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss). Seikatsu Koba was as teacher. I thought first she was he and called her Mr Koba :). She introduced as a venezualan teacher who lives in the U.S. She seemed to be very nice person, patient and very well skilled as a teacher. In the class there were 4 students but one more arrived late with no excuses: a French-Canadian, Spanish, Polish, Ukranian and me, Finnish. Everyone could write English quite Good and therefore Mrs Seikatsu changed subject to the idioms.

Time passed rapidly and students chatted quite fluently on many different issues so the main goal might had forgotten from time to time. I did not hold my horses either but noticed that it was not so nice to the teacher who had prepared to the class and we just chatted what so ever. Well Mrs tried to restrict the discussion first and suggested that we wouldn't must use the short exprerssions such as "idk" (I don't know) nor uncapitalized nationalities or names. Class ended after 45 minutes and Mrs Koba let us discuss freely from then on.

Afterwards I contacted Mrs Koba by SL Instant Messenger and told about my remarks. She was not offended because of how the lesson ran and how the students acted. Inher opinion teachers must respect (adult) students will and she felt that free discussion was that students wanted. I told her I enjoyed her class and got a pretty good image about virtual learning.

It is not as easy to teach virtually, but I think the environment itself is very motivating. Every student has their own learning goals so the learning assesments are not so easy to set in advance. It would be best if the virtual teachers were experienced, well prepared allthough flexible. Also the expectations of the students might vary a lot and in the class everything might happen because of the nature of virtual life and different goals of students.

Some notes:
- MS = for a single woman who may have been married or who is not all that young to be a Miss
- a SCAPEGOAT = someone who is blamed for everything; a custom for people to write down all the things they had done wrong, they would all pin it to a goat and chase it out of the village.
- IDIOM - is an expression (i.e., term or phrase) whose meaning cannot be deduced from the literal definitions and the arrangement of its parts, but refers instead to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use. In linguistics, idioms are widely assumed to be figures of speech that contradict the principle of compositionality; however, some debate has recently arisen on this subject.
- FILL OUT = to complete something, for example a form
- FILL IN = to complete parts of that form

Later I met Violet1, Bracken and Monkicat (ESL teacher) who invited me as a partner in a virtual tour around the most interesting places in SL. We decided that each of us would pick a place after others and would send a teleport offer to each other. The first place was Virtual Starry Night -gallery - a tribut of the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Some of the motives of the paintings were redesigned as three dimensional artistic works so that the visitors could actually walk in or through the "painting". I must say that was a really good way to make the idea of the paintings more conrete and in an entertainment way.

The second place was a virtual redesign of Sistine's Chapel that is of course very famous by it's respectful artists (ie. frescos of Michelangelo and tapistries of Rafael)The virtual chapel was meant to be like it's real version in much as possible. The amount of every single detail was almost uncountable and there were lots of information about the paintings, the chapel and the redesigning project itself.

The 3rd and last place in our tour was Paris 1900 - some districts of an old Paris including Tour de Eiffel and Moulin Rouge -theatre.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Orientation as a Noobie & 1st Contact

I visitited Second Life's website and red about the tutorials of Second Life (SL) virtual world. From there I found an article concerning about real life Swedish Institute that had established some islands in SL. The goals are to present Swedish culture and travelling to all the visitors of the place. There was a website of the Swedish Institute's where one could start orientation into SL platform.

I registrated myself in the SL by the Swedish Institutes website and then downloaded the client software of SL as an interface. After installation I logged in the SL and started my orientation as an avatar. name is not my real world name (Xxxx Xxxx) anymore but Aino Kanto. I am a slim female, blonde, smart of course. An avatar that looks pretty much like a human being. Well, I think I could try how it is to be a frog or a dragon.. (It is possible to change your outfit pretty pretty much if you only dare).

In the orientation island I red the instructions of SL basics and practised them, such as moving an avatar (walk, run, fly, teleportating), changing the outlook or outfit (clothes, shape etc.) and communicating with other avatars (chat, instant messaging, conference chat).

After learning about the principes of SL I walked over the bridge in to an another island of Swedish Institute and met a female avatar Violet1 Meili (my first contact in SL). She was looking the Swedish language class that should be started in the auditorium of the Institute. Because her question about the location and the class itself interested me as well I decided to help her...but first I needed to solve out how to help. I just simply started to chat with her and soon we were looking the class together.

There were not so many other avatars in the island but we asked if they knew about the class. After Violet1 noticed I can write swedish she got very interested in me. I told about Finland and a bit about my work and about my goals in SL. She told me something about her second life also and after some time something about her first life too.

Violet1 told me that in real life she is originally chinese but she had lived several years in Philippines but moved to Sweden where she studies for swedish language. She needed to practice expecially her written language so she was happy to meet me. So after while we added each other as friends.

We just could not find the Swedish class! At least we got the vital information from the website of the Swedish Institute: the class had started already some hours ago...and it was the last of all four lessons :(. So we had missed them all...what a pity!

Well, instead of participating Swedish class Violet1 wanted to show me her job in SL. She works as a classrunner (that is somehow similar to a mentor) in the Drive Through English as a Second Language SL School. She even gets some money for helping other avatars in the school. So she did "teleport" me to the school in SL and I introduced me to her collegues, teachers and even the principal of the virtual school. What a nice start in SL regarding my goals!

After some time Violet1 was really nice and helped me to find some new clothes for noobies (= newbies, new beings). There are several stores in SL where one can buy clothes and other objects for free or only for less than 10 L$ per item. She even gave me my first linden dollar so that I could buy a collection of different skins. The packet was meant only for less than 30 days old avatars.

I really think I was lucky to meet such a nice and helpful avatar as Violet1 is! :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Introduction: Virtual World of the Second Life

Virtual World of the Second Life
Second Life (SL) is a realistic (but also fantastic) three dimensional online digital virtual world. All of the shapes and the constructions are imagined and created by its residents called avatars.

The constructions can be animated as the waves move in the seashore and the trees drops their leaves, or snow falls down on the ground. The doors and windows of the buildings can be opened and also the avatars itself can be animated when dancing, riding, flying...or scuba diving among many other activities. Usually every corner of the SL is free for wandering. Although some areas or buildings can be locked preventing most of avatars to get in.

The land or even islands can be bought and modify by its residents who can build what so ever in their own land or plant trees and flowers. Only the imagination will prevent users to do what ever they would want to do.

Money and getting some of it in SL
There is an own currency in SL world for buying items and services allthough one can sign in for free. There are special stores for new avatars with items for free, so you can start your modern new life with no money at all.

Moving from place to place (included teleportation system) is for free and you can access inside most of the buildings without any payment also. Some of the products have been made with lots of efforts from their creators for example animations and scripted tools for several purposes. The creators of thes items might not give them for free. So you might neet to get money for buying them. If you just need any.

After some days of living you might notice that some avatars have really sophisticated style of clothing, beautiful flexible hair and skin with nice make-up. They have found some neaty stores that sell those items for avatars that can afford of their luxurous living style. Or they can buy their own land or even an island and build there a nice villa or buy it as ready made. They might have some hobbies like scuba diving or skating or sky diving and need all the tools for their hobbies. Maybe they have produced some items and need to sell them but do not have time enough to sell, so they might hire another avatar to do the hard job. They might tip a good musician who sings or plays intstruments in the live concerts in SL. These were examples where money is needed. If you do not need those items or that kind of living then you just do not need money.

The rate of currency: 270 Linden dollars (L$) = 1 US dollar. Linden dollars can be bought by credit card (of course: SL is originally american sytem). Or you can get hired as a dancer in a club, as a teacher in a school, as a guard in a zoo, or a pimp in the alleys of a place called Amsterdam (yes, that business one can also do...aren't there real people behind every avatar), or a photographer (you can take snapshots by SL tools or even buy a studio for in world photo editing), or a translator (there are over 200 nationalities as users in SL).

As you see Second Life reflects quite much the first life's possibilities as its professions. Actually in SL one can do almost anything that might be done also in real world...and lots of more. Of course you cannot use your every real senses, but you can write and use audio chat and watch multimedia presentations with real world impacts also.

Avatars & Roleplaying in SL
SL:n asukkaita (roolihahmoja) kutsutaan avatareiksi (avatar). Jokaista avataria ohjaa reaalimaailmassa ihminen, joka voi muuttaa avatarin visuaalista muotoa ja ulkonäköä hyvin yksityiskohtaisesti. Avatar voidaan muotoilla esim. mieheksi tai naiseksi, lapseksi tai vanhukseksi tai joksikin eläimeksi tai fantasiahahmoksi. Avatarit voivat kommunikoida keskenään ja tehdä yhteistyötä. Heidän kesken voi jakaa myös oikeuksia toisten omistamiin alueisiin ja esineisiin.

Rules in SL

There are some rules in SL that are basicly same as rules in real life also. SL reflects ethical and moral living and behaving in the real societies: SL is as good or bad as its users. SL is just a realistic tool where one must behave respecting other users. Harrasment and other missbehaving can be reported to the moderators and avatars can be banned from the partiicular areas where missbehaving conducted or totally from SL world in some period. If someone has several accounts (prepaid avatars) all of them will be banned if needed.

Among the basic rules and service conditions that need to be agreed before starting to use SL, there are many areas where can be rules that can be modified by the avatars using the areas, ie. groups with different goals. There are lots of areas where avatars can have a role (role playing) and act as his/her role should act depending on his/her rank or status of profession in the role playing area. An avatar can wear clothes typical of the time (for example medieval or space) and can behave and chat as it is told in the rules or agreed with other roleplayers. Again: there is only a limit in our imagination.

Communication & other interaction in SL
Avatars can communicate with each others using the real time chat tool and the texts can be seen by other avatars nearby. If you need to chat in privacy you can always use SL Instant Messaging tool. Or you can start a private conference chat with several avatars. In the recent versions of SL client they have added the possibility to use real voice also as a communicating tool.

Chatting with text only is not so fat way to have a conversation but you can think before write. For speeding up changing the ideas users usually make short words or do not use capitalized letters inthe names or nationalities at all. For example lol = laugh on loud, brb = I will be right back, afk = away from keyboard, idk = I don't know, lm = landmark, tp = teleport, im = instant message, im me = send an instant message to me. These are the same shortened words that are used in similar real time chat forums all over the internet although there might be some diferencies and specialities depending onthe nationality.

Groups can be created also for contacting avatars and sending them notecards and of course for collaborative purposes.

Moving around in SL
Avatar can be moved with arrow keys of the keyboard or with a mouse. It can walk, run and fly. With special items attached an avatar can also swim, dive, skate, ski etc. There is also a special way to be transported from a place to another in a second. It is called teleport > teleporting (TP). There are also vehicles if you want to make some fun driving a formula one car or helicopter or just the ordinary ancient horce wagons. If you do not afford on an UFO, you can build one by yourself and add scripts into it so it can really move.

Video Bar: Second Life in Education


Video Bar | Introduction to Second Life