Weebit Offcourse

Nudge gently.

Posts Tagged ‘education

Video Vocab, Looma, and a new virtual world

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I have recently learned about a small non-profit that is working to deliver ICT support to rural educators in Nepal.

Looma lady 1
Nepali educators learning about the Looma.

That’s right, Information & Communication Technology in the villages and classrooms of the Himalayas.

VillageTech Solutions have designed Looma, a standalone audio-visual device that

  • is self-powered (solar-rechargeable batter)
  • is operated with a wireless “wand”
  • has a built-in audio system
  • comes loaded with CC-Licensed content (games, videos, songs, etc.)

The device projects the “desktop” onto a wall and comes with a hand-held mouse (the “wand”) to navigate. The prototype has been field tested and now they are looking for volunteers to help search for—and evaluate—content that can be loaded into the drive. (Most classrooms in rural Nepal have no electricity, much less an Internet connection.)

I would write a bit more; but, I am up to my elbows producing some educational content…gotta go. Holler at “azwaldo” at gmail dot com, anytime.

real world knowledge via virtual world content

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One of my earliest design gigs in virtual worlds was the development of a HUD* used by students learning the Chinese language. After four or five years, that design is still in use. The image below is from the Chinese Island simulation.

* Heads Up Display – an interactive display with buttons and text that mediates their interaction with the virtual environment.

Snapshot_001

News stand at Chinese Island. (Click for full size image.)
Note the blue dialog prompt, and the HUD in upper and left perimeters.

Early next year, a group of Monash University students will enter the virtual world of SecondLife™ to experience a variety of simulations; a restaurant, an airport, a medical clinic and a train station. Later, they will actually travel to Italy for a program of study, abroad.

The virtual environment in which they will immerse themselves is modeled on the neighborhood in Italy where they will be staying. The simulations are designed to prepare them for their visit. They will study maps, use currency, become familiar with local fixtures…like signs.

Snapshot_002

Avatar, virtual workshop, and assorted educational objects.

In support of the Italian Studies project, I am developing interactive objects—mainly the scripts—to provide a number of interactions. Students can open a “wallet” at the “ATM” and withdraw virtual currency, then visit a coffee shop and…maybe purchase a cappucino. On touching some of the things they see (think “mouse click”), the name of that object appears as text in Italian and they hear an audio-stream pronunciation of the term.

They will be required to buy tickets, read a public transit schedule, and complete many other tasks during their lessons.

My mother and I did something similar before our visit to New York City. After opening Google Earth and “roaming” the virtual streets around our hotel to prepare for our trip, we were able to navigate that neighborhood as though we had been there before.

So, thanks Mom…for helping field test this sort of technology.

Written by azwaldo

December 9, 2013 at 1:25 am

looks like it’s my deal

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The new LEA project has reached its first critical juncture. Documents are there, pared, and shared; notecard invitations to group collaboration passed about liberally; tools for communicating on site have been deployed. Land is claimed, and

Snapshot_008

…a few rough sketches now dot the landscape or hang in mid-air, waiting for what comes next: the one question which must be answered before much else happens…

What is our objective?

At the beginning of each year as a science teacher I evaluated my classroom curriculum, rearranged topics and re-prioritized lessons; I shuffled the deck. Often a science department, district committee, or state board would hand down a new set of curriculum guidelines. This usually meant simply identifying what items in the new list I was already addressing.

Nothing to see here, folks; move along.

But then, every few years,  the federal government, scientific and—let’s face it—corporate communities decide to crumple up the old list, toss it in a basket, and start from scratch. With the release of new science education standards in April, the National Academies of Science have endorsed a new deal.

They’ve called for a new deck.

I have typically been pleased to see the changes in focus, the new language for science learning that comes with new national standards or guidelines. This round is no exception.

It is worth mention that these new standards are not a mandate, are not supported by all states. Many states will never recognize their merit, and others will take years to implement through adoption and articulation. With science education curriculum guidelines, there actually is no such thing as a national standard. That is just what some of us call them, out of convenience.

I also know that where the rubber hits the road is in each teacher, department, or curriculum committee’s interpretation of such standards. Every lesson is one person’s spin on what was prescribed. This applies to content providers, too. Folks who make textbooks, for example, are jumping on these standards like they are putting out a fire. I have seen it. And, different users interpret standards differently.

This also applies to the design of The Virtual Cell. Where we go with this new compass we have been given is up to us. What we do with the full region granted for this demonstration follows from our own interpretation of those same standards.

Snapshot_007Empty simulator, ripe for noodling.
Anyone for a game of 52 pick-up?

The discussion has begun regarding how to address standards, how to provide support for classroom instruction that is targeted and effective yet still wide-ranging in its application. After all, “if it doesn’t address my state’s guidelines, I cannot use it”.

Yet, one size will never fit all. While chatting at a recent conference exhibit of an activity for new users, one educator observed that there should be more notecards (with instructions). I had heard this same comment once already, just before the event. Later, the next day, another visitor observed “there are too many notecards.” I just heard that very same comment again, for the very same design, yesterday.

They are all correct, of course. There are too many notecards, and…we need more notecards. It should be black; and, it really should be white. You just have to “remember who your audience is.”

To emphasize a point and begin making the case for a particular design approach, I must mangle a maxim:

You can please all of the people with some of the content.
You can please some of the people with all of the content.
But, you can never please all of the people with all of the content.

With three months to build an interactive, standards-based, highly engaging and interesting activity—with three months to make upwards of three to five hundred lesser decisions (best guess, conservatively)—with three months to organize a collaborative team willing to offer their work free of charge in the interest of helping to further demonstrate that virtual worlds really do have a place in the classroom…this issue needs to be resolved quickly.

A number of performance indicators in the new standards are obviously ripe for a virtual world experience teaching about the cell. And, it is just as obvious that one could quickly bite off more than one can chew, if you look at the list. With three months to build, the question becomes “What might we achieve?”

But, to digress for a moment, what we might achieve depends on who is pitching in…even if only offering 2¢. For this project to reach its potential, if the build even begins to approach what I try to imagine, any number of experienced—dare I say, expert—content creators will have played their hand.

So far,

So, to table the “standards” conversation for a moment, I’ll ask an even more practical question. It looks like it’s my deal

Who’s in?

Written by azwaldo

August 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm

post-conference hash

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The new Spicy Vanilla group was granted a 24 x 24 meter plot in the Poster Session region for the recent education conference in which to display the Basic Skills Gauntlet (BSG).There was also a live presentation; but, let’s not talk about that.

BSG_VWBPE_PosterPlot

Poster Plot granted for display of Basic Skills Gauntlet

The BSG project has gained momentum and the activity seemed more than a mouthful for conference goers; so, a smaller bite-size version was wedged into the 576 square meters. The configuration and components were chosen by selecting several modules that are in working order. (One attendee asked an insightful question: What do [you] consider to the basic skills? Skills addressed in the demo version at the conference included use of Inventory, Ctrl-Alt zoom and pan, and familiarity with sit targets.)

SV_BSG_VWBPE_PosterSession_007
Aerial view of BSG exhibit. Does that look like a game to you?

During much of the conference the BSG site—and the entire poster region—seemed quiet. This worked out, as there were plenty of bugs to chase down. At times, a brief flurry of visitors would leave evidence of folks having jumped in with both feet.

BSG_VWBPE_07
BSG Scoreboard with multiple scores displayed; a sign that visitors were having a go. Cooper Macbeth, seen in list here, had high score for the event.  (The “10:64” entry, midway in list, puzzled me for hours until I realized my User Reset button – added just days before – was carving into the scores list in a bad way.)

Near the end of the final day, a number of visitors tried the activity and hung around to offer feedback, ask questions, and just chat about the conference in general.

BSG_VWBPE_1
Several visitors to the poster region, hanging around to yammer. User in the foreground has just completed the activity (evidence: colorful particles fluttering around her).

A happy little project was born of the event, itself. On day two of the conference, I noticed my own lack of consistency in describing the activity to visitors. There was also the fact that I was not hanging ’round 24/7. Wanting to provide a user with an effective tour—introduce the activity and some of the principles addressed—I decided to cobble together a widget that does the job, automatically.

BSG_VWBPE_003
New widget: Guided Tour Chairs

And the Guided Tour Chair was rezzed. ESCape camera control, then sit, and the object moves camera position and focus while loading a narration via sound file. Also whittled away at a HUD version of this interaction. There seems to be more flexibility for designing instruction with the HUD, but it also requires more of the user; get it, find it, and wear it, as opposed to the simple sit-n-learn.

A project-site-specific version of the Guided Tour Chairs Site Preview HUD can be found by following this link with this SLURL. And, if you are curious and the tour chairs just don’t do it…

Holler anytime.

Written by azwaldo

July 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm

The Basic Skills Gauntlet

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 SpicVanill announces its first collaborative design project with SV1.0 – Basic Skills Gauntlet.

Educators often ask new users to surf the grid soon after registration. With no practice in world, how can we expect them to fully experience a virtual space? Without assessing their mastery of ways to interact and navigate, how confident are we that new users actually focus on lesson content?

orientation island
“orientation island” image by Flickr user glycerine517

What if they could play a game right after orientation…a game that requires the use of various controls and client-viewer features? Such an activity—a kind of newbie obstacle course—could reinforce basic skills such as ctrl-alt-camming and object inspection. Such a game could be a preliminary task for entering an immersive space, or serve as an exit exam following standard orientation.

If designed well, this activity could:

  • engage and entertain, prompting users to return again and again
  • reinforce the use of various elements of the viewer in an interesting way
  • record user achievement and report progress to the instructor
  • be bundled for easy installation, or export and upload to OpenSimulator
  • provide a template to be customized in any theme, fit in any sim
First sketch of Basic Skills Gauntlet
First sketch of Basic Skills Gauntlet with first station
or “module” in the middle…a sit-target experience.

What elements of the client viewer are used most by new users? What skills are most difficult to master? What do new users struggle with in their first sessions? How do you create a challenge or obstacle to make a user exercise those skills?

IF YOU have worked with groups of new users, PLEASE help by completing this short survey.

All SecondLife™ builders and educators are invited to join this new collaborative team. Meet some dedicated educators, participate in a new experiment in collaboration, see what instructional designers need from an activity.

The group’s mission is two-fold;

  1. Facilitate the collaborative design of high quality, interactive educational content.

  2. Share the design principles and techniques that are learned in the process.

Contact Weebit Offcourse or Azwaldo Villota in SecondLife™

…or join the  SpicVanill group in world to receive notifications about this design and announcements for upcoming projects.

Written by azwaldo

June 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm

more than meets the eye

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I like being surprised by virtual world designs, and it happened just few moments ago.

I returned to peek under the hood of an educational sim, one only recently discovered (first clue here). I roamed around and flew up-up-up, ctrl-alt-zooming into spaces here and there; right-click-more-more inspecting random objects…all an attempt to reveal the plan, to discover more of the story.

Then I came upon a teleportal door.

image of virtual world avatar standing next to door labeled "men's dressing room"

Teleportal in Alice’s Boutique leads to….

Its location is devoted to avatar appearance, providing freebie clothing to new users. To my surprise, the familiar Anywhere Door led to a skybox hundreds of meters overhead, and…

… an elegant solution to a common problem (“How do you give users privacy for changing clothes?”)

...private dressing area for men; masculine and refined. Makes me wonder about the ladies' room...

…a private-skybox dressing area for men; masculine and refined. (Makes me curious about the ladies’ room.)

This is where the surprise sunk in. You see, I had found the skybox during an earlier flight around the sim.  I must have cammed right through the Anywhere Doors, because the space seemed disconnected, empty, and somehow incomplete; a room with no clear purpose, no obvious context. Bold-headed, I thought “this is just an unfinished sketch” and “too much is going on here.”

Discovering the elaborate build—one that is taking shape under the eye of a single, motivated educator—was a pleasant surprise in itself. Discovering that the host has an eye for interactive, user-centric design was the best surprise of all.

I reckon  I will be writing more about this space; and, until l I get my head around it a bit more, I have put off naming it here.

(If you just have to know…here is your own teleportal.)

Written by azwaldo

March 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

grokking subQuan

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I happened upon Cooper Macbeth, a SecondLife™ rezident whose passion both for education and virtual worlds is evident. Previously acquainted, we both attended a presentation and chatted briefly afterwards.

Later that same day, he posted a question about camera controls in a scripting group, a group that I watch. I have some experience with the issue he described; so, a quick reply engaged us in discussion and we were soon chatting in his Sushi Bar.

Image of virtual world sushi restaurant

Cooper Macbeth’s Sushi Bar, a custom venue for instruction

The Sushi Bar (SLurl) is a pleasantly appealing, interactive, educational stage that facilitates instruction. Cooper designed and built this elaborate classroom to deliver a specific—yet subtle—lesson in mathematics.

subQuan (sub’-kwän; from Latin subitas quantitas) is the ability to perceive at a glance a quantity much larger than seven by organizing the items into rows, columns, and containers
— from DreamRealizations Wiki

As interesting as the subQuan principle was, I found myself focused on Coop’s design. As VW instructional designs go, it is exemplary. Cooper and partner Ute Frenburg have been developing the presentation and its VW component for years. That is a long time in the metaverse.

SubQuan-1
SecondLife™ rezident Cooper Macbeth presenting SubQuan to a group

The space employs scripted control of each user’s camera to focus attention on particular spots, illustrating lesson content in a fluid sequence during his live demonstrations. His current challenge is to further refine the user’s experience by smoothing camera transitions from one view to another.

I don’t know if my feedback helped; but, I certainly learned something new. (Love it when that happens.)

In showing me where he needed scripted camera controls, Cooper Macbeth was demonstrating his subQuan presentation. However, in sharing his project, he demonstrated a sophistication in design that surpasses much of the educational content that I have seen.

He showed me, once again, how thoroughly VWs can augment our reality.

Written by azwaldo

March 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm