Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Take a Tour of Second Life-A Literary Tour That Is!

The final quest in our 3D Game Lab module (excluding the extra challenges) asked us to create a notecard tour of Second Life. Notecards allow users to compose informational cards about points of interest in SL. Could be an info update for visitors in a new location, an advertisement for attractions in the area, or anything the creator wants it to be. The great thing about Second Life is that everyone has the capabilities to create! Our assignment asked us to choose a topic (I chose literature, and by extension, literature libraries), do a "Places" search in SL for that topic, explore different destinations that adequately represent our topic, find the 10 that we feel suite our topic best, and landmark each of them. We then had to create a notecard labeling our 10 destinations, describing how they tie in with and represent our topic, and provide a landmark link in the notecard so readers could easily navigate to all the locations. My topic search came up with a diverse variety of places I could visit, and I tried to choose areas that represented either specific literary periods, authors, or those that provided me with a lot of links to books out on the web. That is why I decided to do literature and libraries, because my overall emphasis was to show SLers taking my tour how much content is out there for students and teachers to access.

aaalisonnn's Second Life Literature and Libraries Tour

The SL Globe Theatre
Where better to begin our tour of literature and libraries than with the Bard himself?! This is probably the most historically accurate rendition of Shakespeare's Globe theater that is located in SL, and the Internet in general. The Globe provides SL users with a fantastic way to experience Shakespeare's world without needing a time machine. The theatre is actually a working venue, accomodating Live Shakespearean plays, and other dramatic theatrical performances by the Metaverse Shakespeare Company, as well as other artists. Along with this great way of learning about Shakespearean literature first hand (or Second Life!), this destination provides users with an experience of Elizabethan England, including replica's of Queen Elizabeth I's summer home of Hatfield house (which also provides a discussion forum for SL'ers to talk about the thetrics they've witnessed recently. Truly a grand destination to visit, for those interested in literature!

Pathway to World Literature
This particular destination is a feature of the Cybrary City II's Community Virtual Library, a virtual "cybrary" included in SL for users interested in accessing library privaleges in the SL environment. Inside Cybrary City II, you will find many features that are remeniscent of a college or university campus. Pathway to World Literature provides TONS of different panels including various types of literature from around the world. Just click on the panel, and you're given an option screen to take you to any number of places on the web with links to additional literature resources. Walk around Cybrary City and you might stumble upon the reference desk, a relaxing reading area, or even theCollege of New Rochelle's Mother Irene Gill Library, which includes a walking tour of world art! There are pathways not only to literature here, but also to other literature resources provided by colleges all over the US and Canada.

Principality of Amalfi-1750
Interested in the literature from the Enlightenment? Mezmorized by baroque music? Fascinated by Italian architecture? The Principality of Amalfi is a community designed to emulate the baroque architecture and culture of 18th century Southern Italy. During this age, not only in Italy but in much of Europe, art, music and literature were highly valued. The Enlightenment period was still affecting major cultural centers, Italy included. There was much experimentation and new ideas were being born. Visit the art museum in the palace, or explore the many magnificent houses. There is even a Catholic chapel on the hill! This destination is important on our tour because it depicts one of the most prolific periods of time in which literature was written.

The name of this destination might remind you of a familiar Lewis Carroll character, and it should. Alice is a sort of garden of literature! Rather than being filled with scary Red queens and rabbits running late, Alice provides SLers with a great place to read different pieces of literature, from books, to lectures, to poetry. Walk into the enclosed garden grove and look on the walls: you'll see a variety of books, the pages of which you can turn and read right there! And there are all kinds of genres. There are even pieces by other SLers! I might also mention that there is a playground, and a theatre area. This area is meant to bring out the child and reader in all of us, and the literature on display changes from time to time. A very interesting destination if you're a Carroll fan, and if you're looking to learn more about writing and sharing in SL.

The Origin of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Who doesn't enjoy The Wizard of Oz? Few people know that the novel's author, Frank L. Baum, wrote it sort of as a commentary on capitolism.Yet others have suggested that Baum had religous intention with his novel. This destination focuses on a different interpretation of the novel, which is more philosophically/theologically based. Author Michel Rubatino wrote the book "The Origin of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz" examining Baum's claim that he discovered, rather than originally created, the maps that inspired the land of Oz. A fascinating new way to look at a piece of literature, Rubatino's exploration is provided to SLers, in a fantastically constructed Wizard of Oz inspired landmark. Enter through the passageway to the Emerald City, and view the animated model of "god's Garden of Thought," Perhaps you'll see Oz differently from now on.

Renaissance Island 
This is a great destination for students to learn about the Renaissance time period, and also about literature that came from that time period. In addition to this, if you click the period character (peasant man) you see when you first teleport here, he will provide you with a list of options for the area. One of these is oportunities for students. Teachers can use these resources to come up with assignments or challenges for their students, some of which may include choosing a piece of literature from the Renaissance and building a story in Second Life. This place is a colorful and fascinating model of the Renaissance, and a great place to start thinking about what it would have been like to live and read in the time period! Also, go over to the map and find the Parish music library, a great place to visit to learn about the music of the time. Music is literature, comprehensible by all, no matter the language!


Sci-Fi Expo-Sci-Fi Island Library
Science fiction is a favorite genre of literature for many people. This destination offers a nearly out-of-this-world experience for the sci-fi fan, or anyone interested in learning more about the genre. Click any of the books on the book shelves for links to sci-fi classics, such as works by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others. Included in the library are also many other classics, not necessarily science fiction, so it's a great place to find other book links too. The Sci-Fi Expo also features rooms linking to sci-fi roleplaying locations in SL, as well as a room dislaying all kinds of space ships and time machines. A Trekki's paradise, Sci-Fi Expo celebrates a great genre that is often overlooked in literature studies.

Cybrary City II Public Library
At the Cybrary City II Public Library, SL visitors will find a wide variety of literature genres and books of  interesting subjects. There are free and purchasable books here. On the walls of the building, the Community Virtual Library (also mentioned when you visited the Pathway to World Literature) provides Internet Subject Guides. You can click and be guided to a page where many links and resources are all gathered together in one place!  If you click the laptop near the reference area, you can get a free Info NoteBook from SquirrelTech, so you may have your very own laptop! Walk directly across the way from Cybrary City II PL and visit the State Library of Kansas virtual branch, featuring just as many free book links, Internet Subject Guides, study tables, lounge areas for reading, and information on literature projects happening in Kansas, such as the Kansas Letters to Literature project. This location includes a double-dip for libraries, and lots of resources for SLers!

The Librarium
As soon as one arrives in this destination, one may see just what kind of library this is. The Librarium may seem small, but it contains a great depth and breadth of literature, from Old English manuscripts (which are displayed near the front doors) to a History of Gardening in England (1896). This library also allows SLers to volunteer their time and services to help maintain and run the place. All the books on the shelves are free, and available to take as a copy, and attach to your avatar. You could carry around A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Frankenstein, whatever you choose (and the library has), can be held by you! There is a lovely fountain, and a nice reading area too. Prefer to be out among nature while you're reading? There is a lovely orchard, or grove of trees, out back of the library. The Librarium is affiliated with the Alexandrian Free Libraries. You can find out more about free libraries in SL here, by clicking the display in the orchard, next to the side of the library.

The R.F. Burton Memorial Library
The R.F. Burton Memorial Library of New Babbage is another member of The Alexandrian Free Library. Step inside the green dorrs, past the gargoyles out front, and you'll be met by a blazing fire in the fireplace, a vast pendulum art display,  and shelves upon shelves of books. Click on a book and receive a direct link to that book on the Internet. Walk through to the back corner of the library and read under the giant tree growing indoors! This is a very classic library, and readers can make their bookworm avatars sit in front of the fire and pick up a good read. Across from the library is a lovely botanical garden. This library is a very extensive resource, for readers, or students interested in expanding their reading repertoire!

In creating this tour, I learned more about Second Life than I ever have before this point. It was essentially similar to a research assignment: I had to choose a topic I was interested in, find sources (in my case, places) that supported the topic, and synthesize a type of report of my findings. My tour card became my piece of writing, because I had to tie each location on the tour into the broad topic I had chosen. I tried to explain to users how each one of the destinations I picked could help people come to understand an aspect of literature more deeply, or give them library resources to further their research. Anyone could navigate through this tour, if they knew the basics of Second Life. I could imagine assigning something like this to my English students, to help them become more familiar with a piece of literature, its setting, or characters. If there is not a credible location in Second Life for students to visit, I could even challenge them to plan their own SL rendition of a novel's setting. If they had the SL skills, and were ambitious enough (and we had enough TIME), they could even work as a class (with my help) to create a virtual version of say, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. The Yorkshire moors could come to life, in Second Life!

The greatest thing I have observed in my experience of Second Life is the unlimited potential for creativity. Creativity is one of the most valuable things that students can access, in and out of the classroom. Placing students in a SL environment, and giving them the opportunity to create their own character, explore new places, and contribute to their surroundings could be very powerful in terms of motivation. Of course, if I were going to design an English unit using Second Life, I would use it as an enrichment tool, or grounds for projects, rather than holding class there all the time, because I do think students need to have real face-to-face instruction in order for them to stay on task. The key is planning and structure, and teachers must work ahead of time to ensure that they have created a safe, direct, and user-friendly environment in which students can participate. I would use a 3D Game Lab quest type of assignment system for my students, in conjunction with Second Life, so students would have a clear objective, time frame, and video instruction/support. Using mixed media, combined with in-class activities, could provide a great experience for students who might not have had a very good experience in English courses before. Second Life is fun, but mostly, it's fascinating. I have had a great experience with the module,and I hope to continue investigating and learning!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Second Life Photo Montage!

I've been diligently tromping around SL all evening, and just completed Quests 4 & 5 together, AT THE SAME TIME! I love to dovetail, and killing two birds with one stone has always appealed to me. Ok, so bad bird cliches....

BEFORE: I am so sad because I am so dull
AFTER: Look how awesome I am! Red hair and painty pants!

Second Life allows you to completely, utterly, fantastically, customize your avatar's appearance. As a girl who grew up with hundreds of Barbie dolls, (and Polly pocket dolls, American girl dolls, you name the doll, I probably had it), being able to dress my avatar up and change her appearance was very appealing to me. In games or virtual world settings (especially in The Sims games) I have always enjoyed creating avatars or people who looked like me. In Second Life, if you can dream it, you can be it. I've always wanted to be a wild child, have bright red crazy Ariel mermaid hair, and have tattoos. But since I'm on my way to being a teacher, this type of image isn't really what schools are looking for. My avatar in SL is everything I'd like to be if I could do whatever I wanted with my appearance. Just take a look at the drastic differences between my before and after photos! In the first photo, I am wearing some dress that a dear soul donated to me on my first day in SL. I tried to make myself look like I do now (well, my face at least), and that dress was a desperate attempt to escape the hideous default school girl clothes. In the second photo, my creative appearance. Painter jeans, black t-shirt with neon paint splatters, and a cool blue jacket that I think pulls the whole artist look together! There are also tattoos under my jacket sleeves, but you can't see those :}

When I was finally satisfied with my altered appearance, I teleported back to Dr. Z's (I was editing my appearance at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in SL) so I could grab a tour card and start "'splorin!" That's what my 4 year old cousin calls exploring. I went with the Ancient Civilizations tour, which I found to be very interesting overall. Unfortunately, the last 4 landmark cards, and their locations, did not exist anymore. I was unable to visit the Four Directions World Bazaar, the Minoan Empire, Island of Crete and Aegean beach, Egyptian Empire, and Nubian Empire. Sad day. But I did get to go to a lot of other fascinating places! I started out in the Apollonian Empire, which I found to be very realistic and full of places to run around and sit on, as well as a great representation of artwork and architecture from the time period. This would be a great place to take students if I were doing an ancient Greece literature unit, reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. Kids like to see where what they're reading has taken place! There I am sitting on a cobra throne in the middle of an ampitheater! And of course in a marvelous chariot, preparing to race! However, there was no one around to race me, so that fun was short-lived...

After Apollonia was the Hittite Empire, quite a bit different aesthetically than the previous. It was equally beautiful, and I found a variety of shops to peruse as well. For a powerful, feared empire of people, the Hittites certainly knew how to relax. In the first photo on the left, there I am lounging around in someone's comfortable home.
I left the Hittite Empire to teleport over to my next destination, Museum Island. This place welcomes visitors with opera streaming throughout the immense display of different landmarks and memorable destinations throughout Europe. I spent a lot more time here than I thought I would, just because the world was so well constructed, and the area was easy to navigate because there were nice little direction arrow signs, as well as information signs, all over the place! I saw a huge Greek statue that sort of reminded me of the Statue of Liberty (except it wasn't)....

I saw the Library of Nereus (which I wasn't allowed to fly up and sit on, much to my dismay), and I walked through all of its rooms and crevices. I think that this area is mostly a display for architecture, since there weren't any scrolls in the library itself, but it was still really beautiful. I have always wanted to travel to visit Ancient Europe, but I've never had the time or the money. Exploring these areas in SL made me feel like I was getting to explore those places, without even leaving my house! Anyway, here I am in front of the library.

I stumbled upon the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by accidentally flying into and falling on top of them. This area of the map was gorgeous! I even got to see the Law Code of Hammerabi, which looked more like a log standing on its side, but it was still interesting. People certainly knew about beauty in the ancient world, I wish I could have hanging gardens in my backyard.... but I think my landlord would be opposed. After the gardens, I visited the tomb of an ancient princess Neferteri, which was pretty creepy because it was subterranean and dimly lit, not to mention the minor-keyed opera blaring over the music stream. I just got a quick snapshot with the sarcophagus and was off. Also, you cannot sit on Nefertiri's tomb...

I left the Museum world area for ROMA, a world of roleplaying and re-enactments of Ancient Roman civilization. However, when I arrived via the teleport button, I was dropped into a hodge-podge of vendors and merchants, and had a hard time getting out of the maze of booths and signs, to the actual square. Once there, I recognized a lot of "Romanesqe" landmarks, such as the Colleseum, and gladiator rings, and a beautiful fountain. I also saw a lot of other avatars dressed in traditional Roman fashion, or in gladiator garb. It was turning evening when I arrived, and there were all these owls flying around...I have no idea why, perhaps that's something Roman? I talked to a few of the RPers in this area, and most were just looking to buy clothing or weapon attachments to get into simulating the gladiator fights. One of the individuals I met took me over to show me the ring where the fights happen. He also showed me the lions that are there (maybe for looks), but nonetheless, the lions made the Roman gladiator arena very realistic. Oh hi there lil' lion! 

ROMA was interesting, and even though it contained a lot of confusing mazes of vendor booths, and people asking me for my Lindendollars (like fountains and donation pots, and beggars), I moved on. My next (and what turned out to be final) destination was someplace the tour called "Blues in the Night." And the only way I can think that this location name can be explained is by describing what I came upon when I got there. I was thinking maybe I would arrive in a swanky night club, like somewhere in the 1920s (though that's not such an ancient civilization), because I was thinking about the song "Blues in the Night" written by Harold Arlen, and popularized by such legends as Ella Fitzgerald. However, I was mistaken. First, I was teleported into a vast empty space nowhere near the location point. I looked around and finally found an area nearby, which I noticed was mentioned in the landmark card, called "Delta Point." I have no idea what this area was for, or about, but I came across a lot of scary, obnoxious loud music, and a room called "The Dark Alter." Definitely gave me the "blues in the night" because it was rather terrifying. The tour creator mentioned that a nightclub in this area had parties where SL users could dress up, sometimes in ancient civilization costume, but I obviously missed those party invites. I wandered around, but could find no real information or objective, just more vendors selling random things I had no need for. Perhaps the previous club's location had been removed, which was sort of a travesty, since this was the last functional location in my tour. Note in the photo I am looking around in a very bewildered sort of way, at a puzzling glass building, into which I could not gain entrance.

Ah, the Second Life tours! I enjoyed this one for the most part, but was somewhat disappointed with the final location I tried to explore. However, I do see how tours like these could provide an organized outline for students in SL, especially if they were designed to enrich or correlate with a classroom social studies or literature unit. This tour inspired me to find places that were modeled after notable locations in literature, starting, of course, with the Shakespeare Globe Theater. Students could even create their own tours (like I'll be doing) focused around a certain location or subject, and take their classmates on a virtual world tour! I look forward to creating my own SL tour soon!

Exploring in Second Life

While flitting around in Second Life (and I say this because I flew almost everywhere, so much quicker!), I discovered that I could maneuver very easily if I kept my avatar in the rear-view position. Since I’m used to rear-view gaming POVs, I preferred this option. Since I’ve been in Second Life before, I’m used to all of the controls and different viewing options. I hadn’t really messed with the snapshots before, but I found that the hardest thing to do when taking photos was to get my avatar in the position that I wanted to. Even though the controls are fairly straightforward, sometimes it was hard to get into the perfect pose, so I could get my background and my avatar in the shot. Eventually, I found my signature, interesting photography pose: sitting on top of buildings. There I am in my favorite snapshot, atop the capitol building, with the moon and stars in the sky. Lurvely.

Iowa Island was smaller than I had anticipated, but it was a great place to run around and explore. It was also cool to think about how people from our state, and even school, were the creators. I especially loved the garden, and the lovely gazebo structure, which I “got comfy” and posed in for this picture.

I also met another person tonight while exploring the island. SL user Oliver James was from Canada, and he was exploring SL for a class also, studying social interactions in different platforms. We chatted for a while about school, and became SL friends. We plan to meet again and explore more of SL together!

I definitely feel like the mobility aspect in Second Life is important to get acquainted with. The snapshots also give us a way to document things we see, or memorable places. This could be fun for students who are writing stories based on SL experiences, and want to illustrate them! 

The post for my next quest will follow!

My Second Life

Today I began the 3D Gamelab quests for our Emerging Instructional Technology course. I was a little late on starting (ok, a lot late) because I've been sick for almost all of Thanksgiving break! LAAAAAAAME! But luckily I'm feeling a lot better, and so today I started, and hopefully, I'll finish the quests by tonight (extra badges for me!!).

I've been a member of SecondLife since last year, but when we started our new gaming module in EIT, I created a new account, just so I could try and learn along with the rest of the class. Initially, I liked SecondLife because it is so similar to a video game that I had a lot of incite to use it. In all of my gaming, I enjoy games and simulations that allow a user to explore and discover, rather than to fight or to compete with other players. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a little competition now and then, but I would rather be looking for new areas to discover on my map, or collecting every last blinking gem in Spyro the Dragon. Which I have done, in all 4 Playstation 1 & 2 Spyro games....

My favorite thing about SecondLife is that it provides a vast amount of places and people to discovery and interact with. When I first arrived at Welcome Island, I spent most of my time flying or running around, looking for things I could collect or interact with, and of course, things to pimp out my avatar :) Which eventually you find in SecondLife, because there are TONS of users who are eager to share items with you, be it clothes or landmark tags, which is just so nice! Searching for new places and marking them in my landmarks bar is one of my favorite things to do. I have already found the SecondLife Shakespeare Globe Theatre, and I creep around there from time to time, to see what's happening. You could spend literally days and days exploring in SecondLife, because there is SO much to see. Navigation is very important in this virtual environment, and users have to be organized if they want to keep from getting lost. That is something that I had to get used to, but I value my landmarks very highly now.

As far as using SecondLife in my educational future, I can see it being a great platform for my students to practice their creativity and discovery skills. These skills are extremely valuable in an English and Language Arts classroom, and I want my students to have every opportunity to foster their own creativity. I thought I could use SecondLife and the avatars to help students create their own fictional characters, and their experiences in SecondLife, wherever they might choose to go, might provide great inspiration for their writing. I would especially use this to help students generate topics for fiction workshops. I could also see using SecondLife for research, where students could use their avatars to explore and relive the many re-enactments through history (and literary history) that are out there in SL. What could be better than putting students right in a world with Shakespeare?! I have got to learn more about designing worlds in SL, so I could create my own spaces for students to interact and explore. Check out this video from Second Life Shakespeare Company, from King Lear, Act 3, Scene 7: Gloucester's Castle. PRETTY BOMB! Here's their homepage.

While researching for my final paper on gaming in education (in Professor Gao's course), I came across a series of articles talking about using SecondLife in different areas of education. Hsiao-Gheng Han's article "Second Life, a 3-D Animated Virtual World: An Alternative Platform for (Art) Education." suggests using Second Life to show students galleries of famous and historical art, techniques, and also allows them to see how they too may create and display their own art via SL. The Second Life in Education Wiki is an AMAZING resource, with all kinds of links to resources highlighting the uses of SL in classroom education, as well as ways for teachers and instructors to more greatly understand the medium so they can use it with their students. I have bookmarked the heck out of this wiki....

I must say, I have too much fun in Second Life, gaming for homework, than I should. But it's awesome. And thinking about the potential SL has for inciting motivation in my students to learn things that might otherwise bore them to near death, I get pretty excited. If you'll excuse me, I have some XP to be collecting...