Monday, November 19, 2012

Global Learning: Eracism

From flickr.com by:  Andrew Forgrave
For my Emerging Instructional Technologies course we were given the opportunity to become judges for the Eracism global learning project started by Vicki Davis and one of her colleagues.  This project encompasses several schools from around the world participating in a debate using Voice Thread.  Voice Thread is a way to record audio as well as add any textual comments and send them to someone.  The students in the project were either pro or con of the global management of natural resources causes conflict between cultures.  After compiling their research the pro team would give their opening statements followed by the con side.  Within a reasonable amount of time each team would respond to the others' comments. 

Given that some schools are in completly different time zones Voice Thread was a great way to do this so that the arguments could be recorded and the other school could just play the other team's response and respond to their comments right away in order to keep the debate going more like a tradition debate where the other team responds right away.  Through participating in this debate students not only get to learn more about a specific topic that affects everyone around the world, but it gives them a chance to practice their speaking/presentation skills as well as to interact in some way with another culture.  Here the students will get to see views from another perspective other than their own.  The students will also inadvertently learn to be responsible and monitor their own time so that the debate can continue at an efficient rate. 

After experiencing what I have experienced so far I only wish that I could have participated in something like this when I was in school.  I think that the learning would have been so much more richer and meaningful if my classmates and I had been given this opportunity.  In light of this I feel as if when I am a teacher and have had a few years of experience in teaching under my belt I would like to get my students involved in a project like this.  Too many times teachers force too much rote learning and direct instruction on their students and in the end I don't think it really pays off.  If you want your students to really learn and more importantly to have fun learning then a project like this would do you and your students wonders. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Tour through Science and Social Studies in Second Life

After three days of on and off work creating my tour I am finally almost done with it.  Once this post is written and posted I will have finally reached the end of this long and gruesome journey through Second Life.  Okay, maybe gruesome was too harsh of a term to use to describe my let's just say interesting and challenging journey through Second Life.  Yeah, interesting and challenging sounds much better.   Anyways, back to the task at hand.  My tour.  You know these last few sentences got me reminiscing about my Hawkeye Community College Western Civ. teacher that would always get off on different tangents.  He would first recognize that he did this, say, "I digress," and finally get back to his lecture.  Oh, there I go again getting off track.  Bad quality of a teacher if I do say so myself.  Okay, seriously know back to the topic of my tour. 

So, it took me a while to decide what I wanted the topic of my tour to be and somehow I came across all of these locations about science and social studies that seemed really interesting to me.  I also felt like I would have loved to visit these places as student to learn more about these content areas.  As I was looking for places to add to my note card I kept thinking how science and social studies has taken a backseat to other content areas like and math and reading, so I decided to do something about it.  That something was to create a fun tour that teachers can take their students on to learn about different topics within the content areas of science and social studies.  Now, the locations on my tour aren't the only places you can take your students.  If you search hard enough you can find many more viable options that would suit your curricular needs to the "T." 

Below is a copy of my note card with brief descriptions of the site on my tour.  Rather than rewrite the descriptions I copied and pasted them straight from the card down below, so you can either read about the sites here or on my note card if you get the chance.  Also, I have placed SLurls with the descriptions so that you can click on them and be taken to a place where you can teleport to these locations.  However, in order to visit them you need to have a Second Life account.  I hope you enjoy my tour: 

A Tour through Science and Social Studies

Science and social studies have been seriously undercut within the elementary school curriculum.  In light of this I have created a tour through a variety of museums, role plays, and exhibits to promote learning in these two unappreciated curricular areas.  Through this tour students as well as teachers will be able to experience all of the wonders of science and the intrigue of our past. 

1) Cripple Creek
This location is a Sims role play game where anyone who visits will get to experience first hand what it was like to live in the historical wild west in the post-Civil War era in Colorado.  As a teacher you could tour this place and show your students what the U.S. was like at this time. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Colorado%20Territory/100/78/501

2) International Spaceflight Museum
Within this museum there are a variety of exhibits and events that provide information about the history of NASA as well as the science of space and space travel.  Here students will be able to go on a virtual tour of a space museum where in real life they would not be able to. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Spaceport%20Alpha/49/83/24

3) 911 Memorial
911 is a critical moment in American history that deserves respect and remembrance.  Here people are able to pay tribute to those that were lost in this tragic event.  Seeing that this is an important part of our nation's history it is important for students to have a full understanding of how much this event has affected our nation and how it continues to affect us now 11 years later. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/STAGG%20ISLAND/95/162/31

4) Holocaust Memorial Museum
At this museum you will be able to take part in a virtual exhibit that portrays the horrific events at Kristallnacht in 1938.  World War II is one of the most revered wars in world history.  Through this virtual exhibit students will be able to hear audio and witness video recounts of the events that took place at this location at the start of World War II. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/US%20Holocaust%20Museum1/58/37/27

5) Ancient Rome
Much like Cripple Creek this place is a Sims role playing island.  Here you will take on the role of someone who lived in ancient Rome during the reign of Julius Caesar in 46 BC. Within this role play many of the events that take place are are based on real historical events that occurred.  Students will be able to learn about this time and place through the eyes and actions of someone who lived during this time. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ROMA/215/25/22

6) Raymaker Field Studies Centre at Bowness
On this island you are able to learn about geography, geomorphology, and the earth sciences through the exploration of this place.  Included are interactive exhibits and simulations that you can partake in to learn about these various scientific fields.  As a teacher you will be able to use this island to show students how these scientific fields affect our world.  
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bowness/85/140/32

7) INSPIRE SPACE Park
Within this park you are able to explore the wonders of space.  You will get to visit galaxies, fly through the starts, and travel the universe.  What better way for students to learn about space than to explore it for themselves? 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Shinda/32/218/1561

8) Exploratorium
This island is based off of the real Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, California.  Here students will be able to engage in a variety of science experiments.  Some of the featured attractions are:  The Tent of Elucidation, The Illusion Pavilion, and PiHenge Circle.  A variety of scientific experiences can be found here. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Exploratorium/170/192/25

9) The Abyss Observatory
Here is yet another museum  to visit that is dedicated to ocean and technology.  Through this tour students will be able to travel where they couldn't before which is 2,000 meters down into the dark depths of the ocean floor.  Here students will be able to visually explore what they could only just read about before. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Second%20Earth%203/128/128/22

10) Tech Museum of Innovation
Within this museum there are a variety of ever-changing interactive exhibits that students can enjoy and learn from. These exhibits were accomplished through collaboration.  As a teacher you could have students explore these exhibits in preparation of completing their own collaborative project that will ultimately be determined by you.  Collaboration is a key element in any content area and in life.  Learning this skill will be incredibly beneficial to your students' well-being. 
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Tech/197/159/38

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Touring SL isn't as Easy as it Looks

Well, I thought I was going to take this amazing tour of Second Life about disabilities.  I know, it would have been perfect considering I plan on becoming a special education teacher.  Alas, my web browser did not seem to like Second Life and kicked me out at least three times making touring very tiresome and more so very frustrating.  Which was unfortunate.  This was one of the quests that seemed not only the most enjoyable but the most beneficial to my future career as a special education teacher.  I guess I will have to put off a more extensive tour of the disability world for now until I can get to a computer that is much more cooperative with SL.  Until then I will share my thoughts on my brief yet informative tour on the topic of Schizophrenia. 

Now, I know what you might be thinking Schizophrenia is a disorder that occurs with people in their late teens to earlier twenties and you would be right.  So, how could this information be helpful to me as a a teacer?  Well, I'll tell you how.  In the Virtual Hallucination's world you are given the opportunity to step inside the shoes of someone with this disorder and see what it is like to live in their perspective with having to deal with having hallucinations.  As you can see from the picture I was able to see how TVs are known for inducing hallucinations.  People with Schizophrenia often believe that their TV is talking to them when it, of course, isn't.  What these virtual reenactments provide us is a look at a different perspective.  As teachers we need to have the ability to place ourselves in our students' shoes and gain their perspective on things involving what they want to learn, how best they will learn it, etc.  If we don't we won't be able to teach them as well as we could and should. 

In the time to come I hope to share with you more information on disability once I get a chance to really get my tour going.  Hopefully this was a good start for you and I will be bringing you more information about disability so stay tuned.  Until next time and there should be a next time. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Looks are harder to put together than they may seem...

Before Picture
Before you say I didn't make many changes with my avatar let me explain first if you please.  I honestly did not think that changing my appearance would be all that difficult, but it was.  Extremely so.  For some reason I do not think that I was in the right place to make such drastic yet amazing changes to my avatar.  I tried following a tutorial video as best as I could given that it is for a slightly older version of SL, but for the life of me I could not find the same type of appearance changing settings as was displayed in the video.  Nevertheless, I did find the appearance setting on the side bar.  However, with this setting I was only able to manipulate my appearance with items that were already a part of my outfit by taking some things off and by adding on items that I got from my orientation at the Lionheart.  So, all I was able to do was to do at this time was to manipulate my appearacne a little, so my before and after don't look too different form each other.  Don't scorn me too much I beg of you.  Maybe in time I will speak with someone who can direct me how to make better changes because I am so looking forward to making my avatar look so much better than it does now.  Don't worry I won't take any offense to any negative comments about my avatar's let's just say intereting appearance. 

After Picture
Hopefully, that will be the case because the man in the video is right.  Your avatar is a reflection of who you want to be or who you see yourself as.  You can be anybody you want.  The personality that you think reflects you best can be shown through your avatar and nobody can say anything about it.  Once I get a better understanding of how to change things about my avatar through body shape, hair color and length, accessories, etc. I am so going to do so because this was the quest I was looking forward to completing the most and I am bummed that I was unable to make the changes that I wanted to.  After all, this avatar is a reflection of me.  Not some random avatar I had to pick in order to sign up for SL.  So, beware sometime soon I may look a little different than what I look now.  Remember, be on the lookout for some upcoming changes!

So much to learn and so little time!

Quest #3:  Complete!  Yay, I am now halfway there.  Man, as I was going through this orientation into Second Life I couldn't believe how much there was to learn.  I think I could go through the orientation a dozen times and still not be able to be a proficient user of SL.  From what I can see and have experienced I think that SL takes a lot of time and practice to be able to use it well.  Time and practice that I have not quite acquired yet and maybe never will acquire.  But, hopefully I will eventually get the hang of it.  I can only hope. 

As far as I can see the hardest thing about SL, besides having an annoyingly slow computer, is knowing where everything is.  As I was completing some of the activities with the presentation boards I would get lost as to where to find them, especially when they are under the inventory tab.  At this time navigating the inventory is my biggest challenge.  I am not sure as of yet how to copy, wear, move, etc. the things in this area. 

One interesting thing I learned at my orientation was the economic system within SL.  I was surprised to find that they had one.  What interested me the most was that this virtual world operates much like the real world.  If SL every gets their youth version running again this might be something that high school and even college teachers might use with there students.  SL would be a great way for students to learn about living in the real world.  Anyways, I really recommend this orientation to other newbies so that they can get a better understanding of what all is included in SL.  It will make it a lost easier than trying to figure out everything on your own.  Trust me!

Is my avatar slow or is it just my computer?

Okay, so I just completed my second quest of many more to come I'm sure and I am completely frustrated with Second Life.  Honestly, I think from now on I will have to use a different computer.  I couldn't believe how complex a world Second Life is until I tried to use it on my computer.  My computer moves so slow that by the time that  I get to where I want to go I have already passed it and have to return back only to go past what I wanted to visit again.  Ugh, talk about frustrating!  Given that my computer is the source of all of my problems I think that Second Life or SL wouldn't be as frustrating to maneuver.  However, even if I did have a speedier computer I still think that I would still have some difficulty.  Maybe not as much as I am now, but only some. 

As I went about exploring Iowa Island I mainly explored Dr. Z's place due to my lack of mobility within the world.  Don't get me wrong I did explore other aspects of the island and flew a little bit.  Actually, flying seemed to get me where I wanted to go faster because I didn't have to maneuver around all of  the objects.  Ahem, like the twisty and turny stairs in Dr. Z's place (hint hint Dr. Z) and I could just fly right by them.  During this interesting exploration phase I was able to learn how to use some of the controls such as turning the camera angles, sitting, and of course flying around the Campanile.  You know the Campanile is my favorite part at the real UNI campus and I think it will be my favorite part about Iowa Island, too.  It reminds me so much of home.  You can see pictures of my exploration with Dr. Z's place and flying around floating around this blog post. 

Overall, I think this quest would have been better if I had done it with a faster running computer.  No better way to disinterest someone from trying something new than to have them frustrate with the most basic aspects of it because of technical problems.  Right?  Now, on the the next quest. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Second Life? What's wrong with your first life?

Second Life is a virtual world that I have only just heard of.  I have never really been interested in experiencing it.  Mostly, because my computer intelligence is basically slim to none and from what I have seen and heard it looks very complex.  Due to this complexity I have steered clear away from it just to be on the safe side.  After all being safe and not taking risks is the bulk of my personality.  But, when you always stay on the safe side you can really miss out on some great opportunities.  Who knows maybe those things that you fear could very well change your life and you end up discovering something amazing that changes your perspective on something.  Anyways, I decided to take a leap of faith and try out Second Life.  Okay, so I wouldn't call it an intended leap of faith more like an assigned task set by my university professor.  Whatever the reason is I am about to explore a world I have never know before.  Literally, I will be exploring another world.  How crazy, awesome, frightening, intimidating, overwhelming....is that? 

Moving on.  I have just set up my Second Life account and created my avatar.  I have also explored an incredibly small part of the world with my class and university professor as well as a little on my own.  At the moment I am kind of on the fence of how I feel about it.  I like it and I don't all at the same time.  The world to me seems amazing to be able to explore and the fact that there are "real" people from all over the world that you can meet makes it all the more appealing to me.  How better to get to know the real world than to converse with people that live all over the world?  However, from the time that I have spent exploring the world I am utterly confused which is why I am on the fence about liking it.  It is so complex and so detailed that I don't know what I am doing half of the time.  I guess only time will tell whether I get used to the ways things operate in Second Life and learn how to navigate it. 

As for my future use with Second Life I don't think I will be able to apply it to my future classroom.  From what I have read it is only available to people sixteen and older.  Since I want to teach lower elementary special education this won't be a viable option for me.  Then again, even if I did teach students old enough to use this world I really wouldn't know when, how, or where to even use it.  More exploration into the benefits of Second Life and education seem to be warranted at this point.  As well as much more exploration in the world to gage how to effectively and efficiently use it.