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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wide Open Teaching (and how you can join in!)



For those who follow me on Twitter, you'll see that I'm quite enamored with OpenSim (we're using ReactionGrid and they are great!)

OpenSim is still in Alpha testing but has many things that I just love about it including how easy it is to use, learn, and how excited the kids get using it.  Learning how to teach in this environment is something that is getting there for me - so the pundits can look at Digiteen Island to see some of the beginnings of what I know how to do - but the whole process of learning has been great for all of us!

Right now, we're working and planning for the Awards Show on ReactionGrid Monday for NetGenEd.  We posted a press release about it last week to give a way for those in the media to attend.  Although the release says "invitation only" -- this is your INVITATION.  Everyone is invited.  The reason we had to say invitation only is that to make this work, we have to spread out the avatars on the sims -- harnessing 3-5 sims, depending on how many register.

So, we've got registration booths going up on the F.L.A.T.S. (Flat Learning Area for Teaching & Sharing) and the Cool Cat ScratchPost (not called sandbox for obvious reasons!) 

You'll need to get on ReactionGrid and go there and register.  We're also verifying the people who are coming to make sure they are legit. We can remove certain avatars and not allow them on our sims, and we're doing our best to keep the griefers at bay.

It is going to be quite challenging to make this happen on Monday as OpenSim still doesn't have Voicechat like Second Life.  It is a bear on the backend to make it work for Kyle and Robin Gomboy and Chris Hart from ReactionGrid -- using Skype, streaming servers and so much more - they are using their expertise used to host virtual educational experiences on Second Life to make it happen in OpenSim.  Right now, with OpenSim in it's infancy it is very very hard.

You're invited.  All educators are invited.  If you in industry and want to come, you can come as well.  It is WIDE OPEN - but we do ask that you register at our booths -- which will come up today.  If you want to

The students have been mentoring those who come in and have signed up to be a part of the show.

Here are the links:
  • OpenSim Guide developed for the project
  • Sign Up Form for Mentoring - This goes straight to me, if you want to participate and have questions about OpenSim -- can arrange for students to give you a "tour" even if you cannot come to the Awards Show. 
  • Video ScreenCast tutorials my students developed to help you get started. 
  • Mentoring Times - These are some times we have students on the grid to help you.
If there is interest, I can take some of you on a tour of digiteen island and share how I teach with smartobjects.  There are a LOT Of things I've learned about teaching in here - but the definitive experts in this area are still Peggy Sheehy and Beth Ritter-Guth - I'm still a newbie.

It is funny - often my days in OpenSim make me want to pick up the computer and throw it out the window.  It is an evolution in teaching and requires a lot of class discussions about Gridizenship. (Like the time a student built invisible walls and we couldn't figure out the problem -- or the trick chair that shot the BBC reporter into outerspace -- or when the boy closed me in the building I was working in {fortunately I teleported out to the landmark and he didn't know how to do it yet!})

It is not there yet, but this method of teaching is coming.  It can be fun.

So, this is your chance -- truly I NEVER would have made it in Second Life if some mentors hadn't given me one on one lessons.  We have 3 more days of mentoring left and the kids are here for you.

Additionally, they are creating in-world monuments to the projects that we've done with FCP (Flat Classroom Projects) and I'm adding links and such to help people know how to sign up or start their own projects.  They are creating the sign up booths, the Google forms to run the engines. They're even working on avatars for presenters.  This is really a student-run project with some heavy-hitting geekiness that will happen over the weekend to make it possible.

You have to register so we can distribute the sims across several grids -- stream in video -- stream in sound and make this whole thing happen.  It is a huge 100% volunteer effort from everyone involved to see if we can help this platform of OpenSim work.  To prove it can be done and also to encourage the use of more affordable platforms for doing virtual worlds.

Seeing Chris Dede from Harvard talk about RiverCity in San Antonio at NECC 2008 completely convinced me of the merits of using this tool.  He mentioned the evolution of more introverted kids into amazing leaders as the external was stripped off by taking the kids into virtual worlds. It intrigued me-- now I've seen it.  He mentioned how they learned more about the scientific method as that was the purpose of the area - and how they proved and improvement in learning. 

I wish I had a great model to share for teaching -- there are some wonderful things I've learned and I do have some methods that I'll use a lot better next year.  So, really, I'm a NVT (newbie virtual teacher) -- but would love some other Newbies to come along with me.

So, if you are willing to get stuck in walls, ejected into outerspace, fall in cracks in the ground, run into people, and generally just mess up while learning -- come on along.  You'll be able to say you got in on the ground floor.  Is this tool there yet?  No.  Will there be - YES!

Join us!

OpenSim can be installed on local servers at the school and is a working OpenSource software version of Second Life.  It doesn't have the full functionality but it is improved daily.
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