Monthly Archives: September 2007


Back from lunch… Diane Carr presenting on learning in online worlds, and considering how this may inform teaching in Second Life. Project blog here. Diane has a recent article on machinima and education now online at Futurelab. Martin Oliver started with discussion on how communities are not always friendly places – there can be very hostile communities, and presented an example from Second Life forums. Their project is in relatively early stages, but will be exploring World of Warcraft and Second Life, and will work with students as researchers in a range of virtual worlds.

Me? I’ll be talking shortly about the Sloodle project, and outlining some of the progress. Such as the current work towards migrating the project to a new host (not yet open for business) and re-invigorating the in-world presence with a virtual learning and information center.

Then Paul Hollins will lead a closing discussion and is threating to throw in a few incendiary devices… should be fun!


Today I’m attending the Joint Eduserv/JISC CETIS Second Life in Education Meeting.

Andy Powell gave a presentation through Second Life t-shirts. Each slide featured his avatar with a new t-shirt slogan. Very inventive, amusing and some great slogans. I hope he makes the t-shirts available in world later. Watch the eFoundations blog to see if he posts them online – in Second Life or elsewhere. (My favourite t-shirt I’ve seen in SL so far was Wandering Yaffle’s which had ‘Just Pretend’ on the front… and ‘I’m real’ on the rear.)

Lawrie Phipps, who is heading the JISC Users and Innovation programme (see here for the funding call, one week left to get your bid in!) outlined existing JISC activity in Second Life. No currently funded projects explicitly using Second Life, though some have presences there. EMERGE in particular has developed a number of educational communities, and now has an island in Second Life. He was also able to clarify that JANET (the UK education backbone) has no policy or rules against Second Life use. As an aside, JANET also allows Skype as long as it is set up not to run as a super-node – a common misconception with UK university admins. With luck I’ll be able to get Skype access once more at work…

Hugh Denard of Kings College London, outlined his project expanding the Theatron project into Second Life – building recreations of European theatres in Second Life, and finding new ways for presenting and accessing digital assets. He mentioned as an aside the languagelab, a huge virtual city built in Second Life – covering 15 sims! – with a range of interactive classrooms. These include a murder mystery scenario. Must take a closer look some time.

Some of Hugh’s issues include the difficulty of presenting 1:1 scale models in a virtual world where average avatar height is around 7 foot tall, and where cameras float above the back of the avatars head. He also mentioned that for their project they are building models externally in Maya or similar then uploading to SL using one of the many importing tools available. The project progress in Second Life looks great – including a historically significant modular set design that reconstructs itself in different forms continually.

Next, Ken Kahn from Oxford University presented “Modelling4All: Intersecting computer modelling, Web 2,0, and Second Life”. This project is trying to make computer modelling accessible to all, down to high-school level students – developing the tools and the communities for supporting this. Their work involves web and 3D tools, making Second Life just a smaller portion of this project. Other technologies they are inspired by include Flickr and MIT’s Scratch. I think he has set a tough challenge for his project in trying to build technologies for creating complex distributed models in Second Life in something like a drag-and-drop manner.

After lunch, Diane Carr and Martin Oliver on “Learning in Second Life: convention, context and methods”, then my turn.


A currently popular learning theory is connectivism, a very Web 2.0 friendly theory with emphasis on the power of connections and learning through networks and communities. Bill Kerr has previously critiqued connectivism (see here for a collection of these posts).

Via Seb Schmoller’s blog, I have discovered that Donald Knuth (eminent computer scientist, author of the seminal ‘The Art of Computer Programming’, and creator of the TeX typesetting language – which he created simply so that he could use it for his own books!) might be considered an advocate of dis-connectivism

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Physics for games

I’m currently preparing for this year’s Interactive Physical Modelling class – a blend of maths (a bit of geometry, quite a bit with vectors), physics (some classical mechanics) and C++ programming. Luckily the physics is taught by a colleague who’s much more qualified and capable in that area than I am.

I think I’ll try and take Peter Norvig’s comments at ALT-C (see Tale of Two Keynotes, below) to heart and see to what degree I can cut down on the lectures and use tutorials instead. After all, there is already a full set of notes, and students can read – can’t they? And as Peter pointed out, with some of the world’s best experts posting podcasts and videos of their lectures online, why should I subject my students to lectures from me? I’ll have to also monitor this carefully as whether or not students will read or download and listen/watch is another question.

But meantime, I need to drastically build up my resource bank. Some first finds:

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Why don't you?

Received a flyer for the upcoming Futurelab conference ‘Why Don’t You…? Supporting innovative approaches in education’. Well, not so much a flyer, as a box. You can fold along the creases, and insert the tabs and make a decorative box out of the flyer. Nice.

Also nice is the programme which includes a set of workshops, with one on programming with Scratch for children aged 8+, and the talks – with an interesting sounding keynote ‘Inventive Play: technology-enhanced learning and gaming tools that enable community engagement and communication’ presented by Liz Goodman of SMARTlab.

As I’ll be at MoodleMoot UK the week before, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it to this too. Shame.

ALT-C: A tale of two keynotes

(Keynotes viewable on Elluminate from the conference website.)

Enjoyed Peter Norvig’s keynote today. Questioned why lectures didn’t die out with the printing press (after all, students can read books can’t they?). Very strongly in favour of tuition instead of lecturing. Some interesting similarities and differences with Dylan Williams’ earlier keynote, although on the surface they were both very different keynotes coming from very different perspectives – Dylan looking at ways to improve traditional classroom teaching, Peter suggesting ways of replacing it.

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Alt-C 2007 pt. 2

Sitting in the 2nd of two paper presentations on blogging.

The first was ‘Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in higher education’
Lucinda Kerawalla, et. al. (ALT-C 2007 Research Proceedings pp169-178). Part of this detailed earlier work which recorded resistance by students to the use of blogs for education. Not insurmountable, but they emphasized the need to be able to justify and explain the use of blogs to students you expect to use them. Also to be clear with yourself how you want the students to use blogs, and which features do you want them to be using. Consider – is it for discussion within a class, or open to the public. Are there any reasons why you might not want open commenting? Follow up work looking at students who continued blogging after the class completed was also detailed.

The second is ‘Postgraduate blogs: beyond the ordinary research journal’, by Rebecca Ferguson, Gill Clough, Anesa Hosein. (ALT-C 2007 Research Proceedings 179-189). This highlighted the advantages that using blogs instead of traditional research journals can bring. Creating a more active community of research students, with better communication is perhaps the basic advantage. Other than time-consumption, few draw-backs were identified.

I previously posted the link for the papers, go check em out.