While the technical issues still have a bit of ironing out, I’m very happy to report that the University of South Alabama College of Education’s sim in Second Life, Jaguarland, will be making a return soon. A combination of events came together (too many to get into here) and the decision was made to bring it back. We’ll have, for the most part, the same set-up as before (maybe a bit enhanced since yours truly has–I hope–learned a few things over the past few years in SL).
Personally, I’m looking forward to having the sim-sized machinima set back in the skies over the sim, as well as the space to host larger groups of educators (my areas in Caledon are homesteads, limiting events and meetings to 20 avatars).
The news just happened to coincide with my going to the SITE conference in New Orleans where I met quite a few people who were new to virtual worlds and gaming but really wanted to learn more through the tours, so there’s a whole list of contacts for when the Jaguarland tours get revved up again–it’ll be great to have a big group! (Now if I can just avoid losing people along the way…)
I’ve been quiet for a while now. At work, we’re focused more and more on settling into and finishing off the Sakai migration. I’ve been put on the video team, working on creating videos to be housed on various professors’ online courses. I’ve also been working on quite a bit of accessibility issues–learning more about captioning software programs so that I can train others to use them. It’s been fun learning all this new stuff, but I haven’t forgotten about my passion. Jaguarland may be history but virtual worlds and gaming in education remain close to my heart–I’m just having to explore these options on my own time.
Through last year’s Virtual Worlds–Best Practices in Education conference, I was lucky enough to fall into a group of educators who are fascinated by Quest-Based and Game-Based learning–specifically how to use off the shelf gaming in the classroom. This may seem like a stretch to many–and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t try to bootstrap it onto any course without making sure that it would be a worthwhile tool–but there have been enough people working on this that there’s already quite the collection of quests/lessons that have been directly tied to core curriculum standards. All of this can be found at the WoW in School site.
But even without actually using gaming in a classroom of my own, I’ve found that I’ve gotten some amazing advice/guidance/support from the group I play with in various games and in Second Life. Our main home is on the World of Warcraft Sisters of Elune server. There are two educators guilds on the server. Cognitive Dissonance is the one on the Alliance side and boasts (as of this writing ) over 600 members. Innevitable Betrayal is the Horde guild–it’s smaller and at a lower level but growing quickly as more and more interest gets drummed up. Because of the worldwide nature of the internet, I can log into WoW at almost any time of the day and I’ll be connected with educators who are playing. I can ask questions, not just about the game, but also for advice about specific issues in training/teaching. There are also weekly online meetings using Twitter and Google Hangout on Air to keep everyone connected. Members of the group can be as involved as they want to be.
It Takes a Guild is a video series put on by members of the guild to showcase how various members are using gaming in their classes.
There’s also a Games Mooc starting up again shortly–this is the third iteration of the Mooc and this time the theme is “Apps, AR, and ARGs”.
Think you might be interested in learning more about how to use gaming or virtual/alternative reality in the classroom? You can join in for free and dip your toes in being a part of a guild.
Hope to see you there!
Due to the expansion of interests and grids (from SL into JokaydiaGrid, OSGrid, ReactionGrid, NWG, etc) and online games (i.e. World of Warcraft, Glitch, Disney, Minecraft), the post topics have outgrown the label of ”Second Life.” Therefore, we’ve just launched a new WordPress site–http://southalabamagamingeducators.wordpress.com/ .
Hope you’ll make the hop with us and continue reading!
Filed under: Projects
Welcome to our new site for SAGE–South Alabama Gaming Educators. I’ve been meaning to create a new blog/group since Jaguarland closed. I think that though Second Life may be the primary place that most educators involved in virtual worlds have as their home, there is so much more out there! As for myself, I know I’ve been posting more and more non-SL articles so the topic had outgrown the previous South Alabama Educators in Second Life WordPress site.
So here we are–new site, new name. I’m still mucking around with the theme, so it may end up changing. Have a cool project you’re working on? Give me a poke! I’d love to have guest posts or additional authors contributing to the site. Maybe, just maybe, through showing amazing projects we can change the anti-gaming mindset of at least a few educators.
If you have any gamers at all in your classes, you may not have seen much of them this week. Tuesday, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria went live. The WoW forums were rampant with both kids and adults exclaiming that they were taking off for the next day, some the entire week, just to be the first to level up their new Pandaren characters or “toons.” Pandaria has an oriental theme and the latest class is the monk (think Disney’s Kung Fu Panda, though the original Warcraft pandas predate Disney’s by years). The buildup to the release has been months in the making, including the cinematic trailer to wet the appetites of players and non-players alike.
I didn’t jump in the first night of the release (as I understand it, it was pandamonium–pun intended), but Wednesday night after the #Gamemooc Tweetchat, I was prompted to try out the new Pandaren starter area. Speirling, the Pandaren mage, was born. And, after a few hours, I have to admit–I got choked up by the cinematics and storyline–I was that immersed.
Now, educators might be asking why in the world this is important to their courses. Well, gaming is an everyday part of many students’ lifestyles. It helps to know what’s happening in the gaming community to spark those students’ interests and get them more actively involved in class. (Once you get a gamer talking about his/her favorite game, trust me, they are passionate–the key is to plug into this passion and bridge it into the classroom.)
There’s something else involved here that can be useful to educators, particularly those working with social issues and topics such as multiculturalism. World of Warcraft tends to rely on real world cultural themes to build it’s various races. The Pandaren areas are, as I said, oriental in design. Other races in-game have Celtic, Germanic, African, Caribbean Islander, and Native American as their guiding themes (I’m probably missing a few). It would be interesting (I think) to get students talking about these themes and if they border on being too stereotypical. Do any of the areas make them uncomfortable? If so, why? Or does the immersion, buy-in factor, and in-game mythology/storyline dissolve these issues as the gamer becomes the character? Other questions might include why the gamer chose the race that he/she did or the faction (Alliance vs. Horde). The discussion could then be connected to how we feel and deal with race and cultural issues in the real world and how we identify ourselves. Might be an interesting discussion that prompts many many more.
The past few months have been a mixed bag for the few of us from USA working in SL and other virtual worlds. With the loss of Jaguarland, yours truly had to regroup and decide whether or not to keep up the tours and the groups, etc. Through lurking and semi-participating through various MOOCs hosted by the VWBPE crew and getting an almost nightly dose of “edugamer fiero!” from Cog Dis (the *huge* educators’ guild in World of Warcraft), my belief in using virtual worlds and gaming as learning platforms has been revived.
With that, I’ve created a new home location for anyone in Jag Islanders. Our new “Jag Islander Outpost” is in Oxbridge Village, right near the Oxbridge tutorial. The Oxbridge sandbox is in the same sim (it’s up in the sky, so you’ll need to fly if you don’t have the landmark). We’re also situated right on the water, under Caledon Steam Sky City, the aetheric floating steampunk area. We’re also near the Oxbridge Village town green, where lots of Oxbridge students relax and “meet and greet”. So there are plenty of things to see and do. The building itself has a couple of small group meeting areas. Outside, there is a dock for virtual fishing or if someone wants to explore the waterways of Caledon, there’s a boat rezzer, complete with oar giver. Anyone in the Jag Islander group can set their home to this location too! The slurl to the new location is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Oxbridge%20Village/80/220/26 . A notecard giver just inside the door will provide the landmarks to the Oxbridge tutorial, sandbox, etc.
The new Jag Islander Outpost
View from the Outpost dock
(underbelly of Steam SkyCity as well as the A-Maze-ing Steampunk Castle in the distance)
To kick off the latest round of tours, we’ll be heading to the Arkansas State University sims this week. ASU has five sims, much of which house their efforts in virtual heritage preservation of the small Arkansas towns and architecture of the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. Their latest addition is parts of the small town of Dyess, AR, including a replica of the childhood home of country legend Johnny Cash. We’ll meet at the new Jag Islander Outpost (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Oxbridge%20Village/80/220/26) on Thursday, August 23rd at 6 pm central (4pm slt) and head out to the ASU Heritage sims. Hope to see you inworld!
Virtual replica of Johnny Cash’s childhood home–Dyess, AR
Southern Tenant Farmers Museum
We may have lost Jaguarland but I’m still doing tours! (Actually now, I have the chance to branch out of SL, so don’t be surprised if you see tours of Inworldz, World of Warcraft, Cloud Party, or JokaydiaGrid coming up!)
This Thursday’s tour has a Fourth of July theme–even though it’s on the fifth–kind of a “Freedom isn’t Free” with respect to those who have sacrificed so that we can have the day off on July 4th and picnic/bbq/shoot fireworks/etc.
Our new jumping off point is Aether Education and Virtual Travel in Caledon (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Caledon/190/141/23). The cool thing about jumping off from this spot is that it’s situated in one of the great places to roam and explore in SL–and, there’s plenty of pre-built tours inside the building, so if you want to explore other places (both academic or non), there’s a good deal of notecards available to point you in the right direction.
But back to this week’s tour–we’ll be heading to the virtual Mount Rushmore first, followed by a visit to the U. S. Veterans’ Center at Patriot Island and we’ll finish up at T2′s PTSD Experience. We’ll leave at 6pm central (4 pm slt).
Sometimes we can hop around rather quickly so make sure you’ve done a tutorial and know the basics of Second Life before jumping in on a tour!.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. Over the past few weeks, on a personal level I’ve had a world of new opportunities opening up within the virtual environment and MMORPGs that I’ve been off exploring on one level or another. Some of these have, amazingly enough, pulled in my previous life as a theatre geek (I was asked to do a presentation on Basic Storyboarding). Others are totally new to me (gamification theory)–but I’ve taken to it like a duck to water (pardon the overused analogy there).
In the midst of all of this expansion, we lost Jaguarland. I knew it was coming. With Linden Labs doubling the price on educational and non-profits, it was a lot of money being thrown at something that, quite honestly, our profs never seemed to quite get the hang of. As difficult as it was to dismantle Jaguarland (it’s been a daily part of my life for 3 years!), I’m grateful to the Deans of the College of Education and to Dr. Dempsey for allowing it to live (albeit virtually) for as long as it did. I learned a lot taking care of that sim–terraforming, setting up parcels, creating machinima skyboxes, troubleshooting, cleaning up after griefings, leading tours–the list goes on and on.
Where to go from here? We’re working on taking parts of the Jaguarland builds to JokaydiaGrid. I’ve rented an area there called Aether Isle where the Mobile Bay Lighthouse and some of the cottages from the Jag Guardian Village will be appearing shortly. JokaydiaGrid, while it’s not as famous as Second Life, it runs on the same basic code and is only $25/month (as opposed to Second Life’s $295) for a full sim. It’s also education-focused and is one of the growing grids being used by educators who are looking for a place to play with virtual worlds and experiment without a huge amount of expenses. Once we get the sim fully set up, I’ll be doing a tour there–I’ll announce it when the time comes.
I was recently helping a faculty member migrate her course from eCollege to Sakai. and, because I didn’t want to make things too hard on her when it came time to move her course to a new site for the next semester, I decided to use Lessons. This might not seem like a big deal, but I’ve never been a big fan of Lessons and have tried to avoid it at all costs in my own sites.
The main reason I’ve not been a fan of Lessons is because it is sometimes difficult to manage students’ navigation through a course when they have to bounce between the fourth content section of a module to a Forum Topic, then back to the fifth content section of the mode and next to an Assignment.
However, in setting up this course, which had multiple forum topics and assignments in each module, I got an idea. I knew that I could link directly to those forum topics and assignments using the Sakai Entity Link button in the Rich Text Editor, which is great for getting them to those other places, but it wasn’t so good for getting them back. I then remembered that when you use the Sakai Entity Link button, it gives you the URL for the Forum topic or Assignment.
I also remembered that when you “upload or link to a file in Resources” to create a content section in Lessons, it just creates a link on the page that would open in a new window. And what is worse, the link text is just the filename of the file. However, when you “upload or link to a file” or “Link to new or existing URL resource on server,” it embeds that file in the content section page itself.
For instance, if I have a PDF file I wanted to present as a content section, when I choose the upload or link to a file in Resources option, the page would be nothing but a link that students would then click to open, and it would open in a new window.
This is functional, yes, but not very elegant. However, if I chose the “upload or link to a file” option, the PDF would appear directly on the content section page.
Much better! And since the ”Link to new or existing URL resource on server” option embeds in this same way, since I can get the URL for the Forum topic or Assignment they need to get to, I can embed it as the next page in the Module. Even better still!
To do this, I needed to be able to use the Sakai Entity Link button without interfering with my content section creation in Lessons, so I right-clicked on Resources and chose to have it open in a new tab. I then went to that tab and created a new HTML page (Note: This was just to get a Rich-Text Editor I could work with that was separate from Lessons). I clicked the Sakai Entity Link button and chose the appropriate Forum topic. I then copied the URL from the box and returned to the tab with Lessons. I created a new content section, chose the ”Link to new or existing URL resource on server” option, and pasted the URL from the Sakai Entity Link into the box.
Therefore, when the students hit the Next button on the previous page, it takes them to the proper Forum topic directly inside of Lessons. They can then hit the Next button on that page and proceed to the next content section.
Clean. Elegant. And actually quite easy.