Monday, 15 December 2008

Professional Avatar

  • To analyse teacher perceptions about avatar appearance and professional teacher identities in Second Life
  • To consider student perceptions of appearance in Second Life teaching settings

After looking at all the listed resources and reading the posts in the forum, here are my thoughts on the following :

* Do you think avatar appearance is an important aspect of educational activities that are being undertaken in Second Life?
Context, context context. SL begs out for that response because it is virtual. In the classroom, the real life physical presence demands by its nature that the educator be aware of the surroundings, context, culture and present himself/herself appropriately to the audience. Why should SL be different in a teaching/learning environment?
* What does appearance say about us in a teaching situation in Second Life - to what degree is it the same as real-life?
There are teaching situations which I will not accept in RL, so it is therefore normal that they will certainly not be present for my avatar in SL. This also applies to appearance.
* What is an appropriate professional avatar appearance for education?
Context-dependant again :-) The teaching context in real life imposes a certain 'appearance' which is linked to the teaching/business environment and the cultural context.
* Does your avatar have a professional appearance for educational contexts? Yes, no? Why?
No, as I don't teach in SL but if I did, my avatar is appropriate as it is today. It is after all, an exaggerated form of myself I suppose.
* Is there any appearance you would never use to teach in Second Life and why? I would never use highly provocative, low-cut and sexy attire as a female avatar. I don't in teaching contexts in RL so why would I do this in SL, apart from a specific role-play.
* The ability to change avatar appearance could be described as an affordance of Second Life. How can the ability to alter avatar appearance be used as a teaching tool?
Very easily - in role plays, scenarios, you name it. I think this is a very strong point for SL and teaching in SL. It's easy and quick, once learners have gone through the basics.

Fashion Show

Mod 1, Sec 2, Act 10

"Lastly, after the event, you should write a review of the event. You could focus on the fashion, and the different tendencies, or think about identity and appearance, or look at it from a social point of view."

One of my first experiences in SL was to dance. I remember distinctly the day! It was a Sunday afternoon and I was boogying in front of my screen as my avatar went through the paces. Graham Stanley then gave me more files (he obviously recognised the disco-kid in me) and I just went wild trying them all out.

My passion for this in SL has not changed today! I thoroughly enjoyed dancing at the Fashion Show, just as if I was dancing in a disco. I've tried to capture the movement in the snapshots here.

In my workplace, real fashion shows often take place and the most spectacular and interesting moments are 'off-catwalk' rather than 'on-catwalk'. So I decided to focus on the socialising, the informal settings, the different groupings and conversations going on during the event as the 'model' avatars waited to be called upon to present their outfit or they just looked on. In SL, I could'nt see them doing their hair and putting on the make-up though :-(

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Micro-Learning Induction Session

For this particular activity, I found it initially hard to keep to the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple) for an induction activity, despite having the instructions below :


* To design an induction activity for new users to Second Life based on a set of identified competencies from the extended Global Kids Curriculum (GKDx)
* The GDKx is available here on the Simteach wiki

Have a look at GKCx, Level 1, Modules 1-4:
# Select a mission that you would like to develop from one of these modules.
# Imagine an educational activity or resource that takes into consideration the following aspects:

* Allows the development of the mission's powers
* Is engaging, playful
* Complies with the list of principles for an effective design of an orientation session.

The modules listed are:

* Avatar: Appearance
* Getting around: Walking and Flying
* Getting around: Taking a closer look
* Communicating: Chat

After a lot of thought and hesitation, I decided to create another avatar to help me 'feel' and experience the frustration of the newcomer to SL again.

Once I did that, I knew which area I wanted to work in : Appearance. This is the first thing that most people want to change, improve and customise. So, I based the micro-lesson on Level 1 Module Avatar: Appearance.

My own frustrations: I personally get frustrated, bored and 'blocked' with too many written instructions and explanations. They hinder rather than help. As 3D virtual environments are exactly that - visual and aural - I believe that a video tutorial is the best resource to use for a pre-induction session. It can be played again and again without the learner having to be in SL. Once they feel confident, they can go in-world and play.

Based on these principles : KISS and virtual/aural, here is the developed micro-lesson. The target audience is language learners :

Overview : Now that you have your avatar, you may want to change its appearance. Let's do exactly that and at the same time, revise adjectives, together with comparatives and superlatives to describe a person's appearance. Time to play!


By the end of this activity,
- You will be able to change your avatar's physical appearance using My Inventory, the pie menue.
- You will be able to change your avatar's clothes.
- You will be able to customise and switch the appearance of your avatar using My Inventory.

Before entering SL, watch this video and take notes if necessary. Watch it as often as you want.

Once you feel comfortable with the video content, enter SL, go to a sandbox where you can experiment (example: Warmouth 26.223.96 (PG) ) and follow the instructions below.

Mission :

When you opened your SL account, you chose an existing avatar with a set of clothes. I chose Online Gamer and male gender.

First, you're going to change the look of this avatar but not the clothes.

Physical Appearance

1. Make it shorter
2. Make it fatter
3. Change it's gender (male to female or female to male)

Saving your Avatar Shape

You can save multiple shapes and change them whenever you like.
To save a new shape:
1. Choose the Save As button below the sliders. A window will appear with a default name New Shape.
2. Double-click on New Shape and rename it with a name you'll remember! You will then be able to find it in your Inventory easily.

Eyes are saved as separate from both Shapes and Skins. Use the Save As button and give your eyes a great name!

Now, let's play a bit more with the eyes, mouth, skin to do the following

4. Make it older
5. Make it younger

Now, click 'Randomise' to see what happens. Continue to click, just for fun. Does the avatar appear stranger, more attractive?

As you change the avatar, save it so that we can all see your results in our group meeting later this week in SL.

Here are the physical transitions of my Online Gamer avatar.


As seen in the video tutorial, change your clothing, the colours and the textures. Once you are satisfied with your clothes, save the outfit or outfits.

Save your look first

To save your current (or basic) look do the following:

  • Right-click your Avatar and choose "Appearance";
  • Choose "Make Outfit";
  • Give the outfit a folder name that you'll remember in the field provided at the top of the "Make Outfit" window;
  • Check all the parts of your appearance that you want to save to the folder (to save your complete avatar, check all available items)
  • Click Save.

See you in the next session with your own transitions :-)

Fin :-)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

All about my avatar

Post in your blog a self interview with title 'All about my avatar: SL Name FamilyName" where you explain the history of your avatar(s), motivations, characteristics, main activities. Also describe the rhetoric behind your avatar: how did you build your avatar in relation of the effects you'd like to produce? Don't forget to mention your profile!

When I signed up for my account in 2006, it was pretty mind-boggling to decide on a name. Then I found the perfect fit - Busy Link! This still 'fits' me and my style of life!

When I first entered SL, I didn't really care about my avatar's appearance. I was more concerned about the basics - moving, following the others, following the instructions, getting to where I should be!

Then I played with my appearance. I love colours and this was important to me at the time and still is. I suppose I have not really changed my basic avatar's appearance a lot but I like it! Many 'experienced' Slers often say I should change my appearance in order not to appear as a 'newbie' but as I hate that term, I tend to like my avatar even more :-) That says a lot about me already ;-)

Gavin Dudeney was my first 'link' into SL in 2006 and when I got my first freebie T-shirt from Edunation, it was a horrible white colour but I was very happy to have it as without having to help Nicky and Gavin with their presentation for Global Learn Day X, I would not have been 'born' so soon. So, I like keeping that T-shirt (although now coloured green) as a 'thank you' to educators such as Gavin and Nicky and team who pioneered into SL and held their first conference there later in 2007. There weren't many attendees but the following year, there certainly were!

The purpose of being in SL will often illustrate the time spent (and required) in customising one's appearance. I chose what I would call a neutral appearance so I can move into different virtual environments without having to constantly change my appearance. The inventory is great to have the 'quick-change outfit' if necessary but I have rarely found this necessary to-date due to the basic one I chose.

I was very happy the other day when another avatar (very smart indeed) told me that my appearance was great - that convinced me to stay with my 'basics' :-) I might one day play with my facial features ..... if time is willing :-)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Coming in to land - Activity 7

The objective of Activity 7 is " to raise awareness of the different options available to new users of MUVES (in this case Second Life) when learning about the environment and how to use it, and to develop an understanding of the different approaches currently available in SL."

Although I've been in and out of SL for a long time, I'm by no means an expert despite being put in Group 3 (What is an expert? I've been saying I'll go down to Group 2 since the beginning!) and so I decided to look around all four, rather than the required two :

* Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability (135, 124, 23)
* RL Student Orientation Area, Campus (172, 90, 24)
* NMC Orientation (107, 114, 39)
* Orientation Stations, Dore (32, 99)

Many comments have already been made about each of the four stations in the forum so, in order not to be repetitive, I'm going to give a brief overview here.

* NMC Orientation (107, 114, 39)

I particularly liked the posters with information clearly stated, the arrows on the ground and the free resources. This is a place one could come back to again and again for information.

I met nobody on the first visit but on the second visit, I met a pornographic sex queen and this is exactly what puts learners off virtual worlds. I took a lovely picture for prosperity... and then deleted it.

There are a lot of resources available on the island. However, each time I used a video, I was logged out of SL.

Camera Tutorial from NMC

I really didn't know what the train was supposed to do and hopped on and off at the other end. Did I miss something?

* Orientation Stations, Dore (32, 99)

Orientation Stations, Dore was the second to be visited.

I didn't like this very much. I found the colours of dark brown and grey rather depressing. Again I met nobody and found it rather staid to just read posters. I didn't have to be in SL for that. In one room to practise moving an object, there was no ball to move!

* RL Student Orientation Area, Campus (172, 90, 24)

I loved the colours, sounds, builds and general 'lightness' of the RL Student Orientation Island
but really don't think that a newcomer to SL would be 'happy' there. The area was very restricted and very quickly, an avatar is locked in (or out) by fences which is not a nice feeling at all. The avatar can very quickly stray into the sandbox area without knowing it. Again, there was nobody to chat with or to get help from.

* Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability (135, 124, 23)

This island was full of posters to read ... and read ... and read ...What I did like was the star-like confetti which fell from the sky when I landed after my flying activity.

To conclude, I would suggest that a place looking like RL Student Orientation with the learning resources of NMC would be rather exciting for a newcomer to SL :-)

Tip : Generate your slurl here

Reflection : My first hours

For the second activity, we have been asked to :

Please share here your stories about your first hours of life in Second Life. Reflect on your experience: How would you describe your first steps? What were the technical issues, if any? What did you feel about the avatar you chose? What was orientation island like? Could you find help as needed? Where did you go? Did you speak to other avatars? What would improve the experience, if anything? What previous knowledge and skills helped you?

My first steps were not steps but rather fumbling, bumbling, embarrassing moments until I discovered the 'fly' feature and I escaped! The problem was, I didn't know where I was flying to! However, it was sheer bliss to fly and put a distance between myself (yes, 'me' although I was sitting at my desk in front of a pc screen), the avatars popping up everywhere in the orientation island and the distinct feeling of not knowing what on earth I was doing.

My free spirit, or fear of bumbling along further, took me to a weird place with avatars in black leather and carrying whips! I was on skype and pinged a colleague to get me out of there! It never once occurred to me to quit the programme. So I got my first teleporting experience.

Once I was on 'safe' land again, I got tense again as a big muscled avatar ran past and bumped me. 'It' didn't talk but just stood there I really felt uncomfortable. Then 'it' chatted with me and was in fact a colleague. We met up with some others and I discovered the dance feature and just went wild with this. My colleague passed me some more music and I couldn't stop! I loved it! However, when I should have moved on with the others, I couldn't as I didn't know how to stop dancing so I looked rather dumb!

As for my appearance, I didn't really worry about it and in fact, don't now. The orientation island was confusing for me and nobody really helped me, hence my need to escape it. Having experience of working online helped me to just dive in and try as the technology didn't frighten me. The environment in itself was the strangest thing for me. In fact, it still is.

Once I got over the initial buzz of this new play area, I wondered how it could be used for and with learners. I still am.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Story Telling

To begin my MUVEnation story, I'm going to respond to the following sections :

A. I am your friend. I don’t work in education. You are talking to me about the idea that we all learn from each other, in all kinds of contexts, and that this can often be richer than more formal classroom based learning. I am sceptical. Tell me about an informal learning experience you have had online in which collaboration was involved, show me a concrete example to help me to see what you mean.

Well, dear friend, I know you could never understand why I sat in front of a screen which wasn't showing "Eastenders" or "Coronation Street" at the time. You didn't know anything about computers and didn't want to know but I did want to know all those years ago although I knew nothing about them at the time. I just felt I had to be in on the party that had already begun years before I even got to the venue! So I jumped in, blindfolded! Learning was really steep at the beginning as I was on my own and at times didn't understand the terminology whether it was in English or Chinese! But I loved discovering and feeling that 'YES' when I could solve a problem.

Internet, search engines and mass computer use and bandwidth now have helped me in what was my personal and lone struggle. All I have to do now is ask someone online for help or search forums and I've got the solution to the problem and I help others too.

I'm definitely still learning as we all are in today's technology driven society but the good thing is that you, dear friend, have literally just got your first computer, a laptop! It took me years to get a laptop :-( But of course, in the meantime, it's all become easier and concerning laptops, a lot cheaper! This is today's life - Internet, quick access to information and online sharing ... and being mobile! It's strange that you've had a cell phone for two years, isn't it?

I could tell you many stories of online collaboration but one which you may appreciate is when I had real problems with my desktop (yes, they still exist in 2008) and I was tearing my eyes out as I had a meeting to go to. I searched all my online contacts and we had a conference call and then I shared my desktop with them and they walked me through the problem in voice chat to the solution. As a consequence, my face-to-face meeting was a success.

I am normally 'visible' in one chat tool or another and people will just ping me for translations of difficult texts. I do likewise for technology related issues. I was recently pinged to help set up an online conference in America in which an online colleague was presenting and they wanted to have a trial run. We did it and the online conference went marvellously. Oh by, the way, I still don't watch "Coronation Street" on the television nor the computer but my students gave me some wicked links for TV serials so you can watch them on your laptop if you want, just ping me and I'll show you how. Also, when you're ready to open that email inbox now that you've got your own email, let me know and we'll set up a blog for your family. Multiply is my favourite.

B. We all explore new technologies, some grab our attention more than others, some seem revolutionary, others simply bore us. Tell us about that new tool, or set of tools, you have just discovered that really excites you, talk about the potential it has to change your work. What do you want to do with it?

I love discovering new tools. If someone out there wants to offer me this as a full-time paid job - I accept! Discovering new tools is one thing, using them appropriately and fully is another and this all requires time. When your working environment does not provide that 'learning/training' time (which mine doesn't), it is very difficult. Hence, I tend towards what I call the 'dirty quick click' solution type tools. To better organise myself as I am in front of the screen, I've used Protopage, Pageflakes, Netvibes, Webwag, iGoogle but have only just discovered the Firefox add-on Speed Dial for my pc (from Opera) and I love it for this course. Each page has 9 boxes and you can make different pages and within each box you can add several urls. Each box is a view of the active web page. I'm a very visual person and this does the trick for me, rather than a text list of urls. It's also very fast.

Another one is Flowgram. Again, being visual, this is down my street. You can tell a story with a flow of information and each image is live and the reader can branch out at any point within your story to find out more in depth and come back to the main story as the flowgram pauses automatically when you hit a link. These can be embedded into your website, blog or wiki easily or sent by email to others.

Working synchronlously online with globally distributed corporate employees, I am always looking out for new and good web conferencing tools and Openhuddle is a favourite but still in beta.

Coveritlive is a tool I discovered in January and it's great but my work doesn't really call for this but it's excellent for live blogging.

C. Do you see yourself as a pioneer? Do you think you are more innovative than others in your organisation? Do you think your organisation is lagging behind? Tell us how you feel about this?

I wouldn't consider myself as a pioneer at all but as someone who is not afraid of diving into a deep sea. Within the organisations I work in, I have been and am definitely more innovative concerning technology enhanced learning and use than others but I am now seeing slight personal innovations from others as opposed to institutional innovations. A bit like the friend and her laptop in Section 1. These organisations are definitely lagging behind in both terms of equipment and mindset. How do I feel about this? Frustrated all the time and more and more resigned to the fact that things will not/cannot move 'fast' in huge old institutions. However, and there is always hope - I do see more progress. Albeit small and very slow, it's there, so again, like the dear friend with the laptop in Section 1. In my freelance work, I can put all the wonderful tools to good use.

Especially created MUVEnation course blog

To meet the pre-course requirements, I have decided to create a blog specifically for the course rather than use one of my existing blogs.

So, it's totally bare at the moment but will get busy later!