Thursday, May 31, 2012

Discovering New Skills

Last night was an interesting experience for me. Let's think about that statement for a moment... Isn't everything interesting right now in SL? The answer is a resounding "YES!" because it all seems so new to me. While I was talking to Gibsonstratman in the Classroom in the classroom last night, I happened to mention the Money Tree on VAI. I encouraged him to go look for it because you can get free money from the tree but only within the first 30 days as a newbie. We teleported down and gosh darn it, I couldn't find it. So annoying! Gibsonstratman had to leave but since I was determined to find it, I continued to look. While on VAI, I saw all kinds of structures and equipment like swings, slides, and boats. I hadn't paid any attention to those before but since I'm braver now, I tried them out. So, the swing really swings and Tis really looks like she's swinging. I put her in a boat and she started rowing - fascinating! At one point, she rowed into a bridge. I thought she would go through it but no, she continued rowing - and hitting her head on the bridge. I turned her around and toured her around the island in the boat. What fun! After I took her out of the boat, the script said that if I no longer needed the boat, it would disappear in one minute. I was intrigued when I considered the script that accompanies that object. Now, I don't want to just try building, I want to learn some scripting.

By the way, while I was rowing around the island, I found the Money Tree! I would never have found it just walking around. I had to be in the boat. Another thought occurred to me... is it possible the Tree is moved from time to time? The area I found it in was really only visible from the water. Curious...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Little Help from My Friends

Tonight I decided I wanted to try building something - anything! I didn't want to work on it in the classroom because, I figured I would need a little space.  I flew up, up, up and landed on a platform I thought was the zoo. It turned out to be Technotooltim's platform and he was making these wonderful pillars. I had made a box with a picture in it but nothing like I was seeing on his platform. He taught me to spin boxes until they sort of  resembled the nice twists he had. It was an interesting exercise to try and follow his direction based on what he saw me do and what I was describing on my "build" menu. Between that, Barbarathelibrarian's share of jeans, a trip to the free store for clothes, it was a very satisfying day... that is, once Esme bailed me out of the jam I was in with all of those boxes...

Changing an Identity

Tuesday was an optional class night and since I wanted to meet other students and I needed the practice in the topics being discussed, I decided to attend. One of Esme's topics was that of clothing. I'm fashion challenged in the RW and while I know learning how to manipulate clothing is part of this whole avatar thing, I did not look forward to the challenge of clothing selection. Also, I'm not daring with clothes so there was no way poor Tis would be either. When I first started working with Tis, I selected a few items and quickly reverted back to what I would be comfortable wearing - black shirt and capris. I daringly selected the color purple for her pants and that's as far as my creativity could go.

On class night, Esme was dressed in beautiful gown. As I listened to her discussion on clothing our avatars, I watched the graceful flow of her dress. Could I get something like that for Tis or would I feel self conscious putting her in that? Esme referred us to a clothing store where I experimented with a few outfits. A lovely, formal black dress was available and since I love the simplicity of black, I dressed Tis in that. I turned her around and, whoa! A little low cut there! That won't do - I'm not about to let her be seen like this. Let's see what else there is... A conservative dress later and we're ready to rejoin the group.

This brings me to Esme's second topic for the night - our virtual identity - and Jane's bullet point on her "Quest for Virtual Identity" page. What virtual identity characteristics would you want to present to your students? Professional? Playful? Warm? Sexy? (Honestly this is debated!) Tall? Athletic? I'm not presenting to students right now but I know it would be conservative - which is how I've chosen to stay (for now) with my classmates. Over the years, especially when I was younger, I wanted to be someone other than myself (i.e. prettier, smarter, more outgoing).  Here was my opportunity to make Tis into something I wanted to be. Yet, there she is, pretty much like me... conservatively dressed, reserved, and tall (or at least she seems that way to me). I realized something in seeing her. I'm comfortable with her being as she is.  There is one change, though... her hair. I wanted long hair in the worst way, when I was a kid. Braids and pony tails looked like such fun. Esme shared long hair with me. Tis has lost it a few times when changing outfits but I always find it again and return it to her.

I discussed some of these ideas with a co-worker and he asked me an interesting question. Would your avatar be an extension of you if you didn't know these people and you weren't in a class. Would you be completely different if no one knew who you were? Hmmm... I don't know. I'll need to think about that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Personality Extension

My conversation with my son about VWs continued over the next few days. As I was catching up on forums in the Moodle before going into SL, my son sat down with me and asked if he could see it. Well, gee, I never had one of my kids express that much interest in my work or classes so of course, I agreed. I was a little self conscious as I logged in and attempted to maneuver TisGirl around. My son is so adept and I felt clumsy and awkward. Still, he was a patient observer and made a few helpful suggestions.

I showed him some of the other areas of Marlboro Island such as that zoo in the sky. Somehow, and I can't remember how, I teleported TisGirl to a beginner area for newbies. As we were taking in our new surroundings, we were confronted by a tiny avatar - some kind of greeter? As I less than deftly moved TisGirl away, my son said "Wait, he talked to you." What?! I generally "blow past" strangers who talk to me on the street in unknown towns, so of course, I was doing the same in SL. "A little anti-social, are we?" my son remarked mildly. Whoops... That was unkind of me. The little man had said "hi" and was asking if I was new. Surely, I could give him the courtesy of a response. Was my son "schooling" me on proper etiquette? As it turned out, the little man gave me a nice tip: always be sure to organize my inventory as it will be too hard to deal with later. I thanked him and after chatting about exploring the area, I moved TisGirl on.

Lesson learned - it's o.k. to respond. I already knew that from the travel guide Jane posted but when confronted "in the moment," old habits and a shyer personality overrode the tips listed in the guide.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who Will Lead?

Unsurprisingly in this connected world, all of my children have spent hours interacting with all sorts of media - computers, game consoles, iDevices of one kind or another. My youngest has spent the most time interacting with virtual worlds such as Gears of War and Halo. As a parent, I worried about how much time was spent in front of a screen. That fear was somewhat mitigated by a rather interesting development. He acquired an interest in history and an amazing ability to remember historical information - thank you, "Medieval Total War." Hmmm... I may need to rethink.

He came home from college tonight and at dinner, I told him about my class. I described SL and my novice efforts in the virtual world. He gave me a big smile, "That's Awesome!" he said. I told him I had "leveled up." Unlike me, he immediately connected with what I had just said... a big hand shoots up and it's a high five for Mom.

The discussion turned to a more serious note as we discussed why educators would be interested in VW. He talked about the game play as an exercise in collaboration and strategy (in addition to the fun!). One of his games puts him in random groups and he and his teammates work as a team to accomplish their goal (i.e. take over territory). Like any VW or RW, there are strategies for achievement. I couldn't help thinking their strategies and collaborative work were like any group project in a the physical sense.

In years past, teachers have led the way. We have found the books, opened the doors, created opportunities - it's what we do but in this, the concept of gaming as a valid teaching tool, it appears to be a case of "and a child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)." He was busy learning while I was busy thinking he was playing. I can accept that but I still want him to get outside now and then. I am a mom, after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My First Encounter

As I open SL, I see I'm still bald... Darn, I thought the hair would just come back on its own, although Esme said it wouldn't. While I'm struggling with my lack of style in picking out another hairstyle (why can't I find the original one?), I notice another avatar (technotooltim) - quick, look him up in the handy dandy "Worthy Questions" doc. Yes! He's one of ours - logically, who else would he be? He approaches TisGirl and as I'm watching, the word "Hi" appears. Oh dear, another challenge...consult the "how to" section which indicates the "chat" button. You'd think I would have seen that before.  Fortunately, technotooltim is patient and waits for me to figure it out. He offers some tips: using the scroll wheel on the mouse to view words to blurred to read and the location of other assignments. He also shows me where other parts of Marlboro Island are. I have to fly to get to them. This is so cool... uh, I should probably concentrate on TisGirl's landing skills. She just fell into a bunch of rocks. Not to worry, though. She's shockingly resilient!

Overall, an excellent adventure. My first encounter with another avatar has been very positive. This was more fun than I expected!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eureka! Marlboro Island

After being absent from SL for a few days, I've rejoined TisGirl in her quest to find Marlboro Island. The reality is that this isn't much of a quest since Jane sent me an invitation. Once I teleported there, I experimented with all sorts of cool assignments. I realize these are meant to help me acquire some skills that I need to help acclimate TisGirl to her environment. So far I've learned to fly, after hitting the sides of hoop several times. What part of "ascend" did I not get? I tried on a hat (losing my hair in the process), sent an IM and a request for a friend, and experienced a sunrise and sunset. It was a full day. No time for Dublin, though. It's a beautiful day in the physical world and it's time to be outside in it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Holding at Arm's Length

" move ahead toward the degree you could take MAT616 Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds." With those words from Marlboro, I was signed up for something I had always chosen to avoid. While I revel in  many technological tools, I was never interested in virtual worlds. I include Facebook/Pinterest in this avoidance - anything that (I feel) expects me to reveal what I'm doing or explain where I am was something I held at arm's length. In the virtual world, as opposed to Facebook, it would be more that I didn't want to be put in the position of carrying on conversations with strangers or going places where I didn't feel I was in control. I'm not sure why I consider the virtual world as an "out of control" scenario. If I analyze this too deeply, it might be considered a topic worthy of psychotherapy! Suffice it to say, the virtual world seems scary and indeed, creepy, as some of the members of our class have already stated.

Ever diligent and feeling somewhat intrepid, I chose to soldier forth. I made my account in Second Life (without waiting for the oh, so helpful instructions), downloaded the viewer, and proceeded to spend an hour attempting to make an account. Does the word "infuriated" mean anything to anyone? [Note to self: do not make accounts or try new programs on an empty stomach.] Once the account was finally created, I began working on making my avatar (TisGirl) move, sit, the usual stuff. I walked around in a museum with questionable content on the wall (oh, my word!). Time to take a break. I made my avatar sit on a wall and beat a hasty retreat.

On my second venture into SL, I found TisGirl still sitting on the wall where I left her. Her environs were not the same as when I left, even though she was still sitting on the wall (wonder why that happened?) I was soon joined by another avatar, wearing only a thong. That's it! Another hasty retreat and a quick adjustment to the profile to reflect "General" preferences. So much to learn... I'm a long way from making anything along the lines of "Grandma's Birthday Party." My respect for the author grows.