Friday, April 18, 2008

Google Earth 4.3: Way Cool!

After spending time last night in Second Life at an ISTE social with 50 other people (avatars), it was nice to get back to the real world this morning to see that Google has made some great updates to Google Earth!
Version 4.3 includes clouds and lighting, so you can actually view the sunrise and it's affect on an area within Google Earth. They have also improved the 3-D building rendering and have now imbeded the Street View images from Google Maps inside GE.
Check out the video here to see all of these cool features.

Thanks to Dean Shareski for posting about this.
You can learn more about it here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I got a Second Life, now I need to get a life!

Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a Second Life workshop at TIES titled, "Get a Second Life!"

For 6 hours, 8 other educators and myself explored the virtual world of Second Life, a multi-player 3-D Virtual world, and had the opportunity to look at resources that may have an application in the classroom. Second Life requires separate software downloaded on your computer, and a fairly robust computer to keep things running smoothly. Given the fact that iMax movies and other simulations make me nauseous, by the end of the day I was feeling a bit woozy!!

Here's the avatar I created. I stopped by the ISTE Island and got the free t-shirt I'm wearing! Several organizations provide freebies when you visit their sites on the grid. I tried to make my avatar appear as close to the real thing as possible. Hard to get patchy grey hair to work very well, but pretty easy to lose a few pounds!!

After getting an orientation on how to move talk, gesture, fly and teleport on the grid, we met at the TIES building in SL. TIES is renting the space from ISTE to explore the possibilities for SL.

Cara Hagen from TIES was our host, and she showed us a PowerPoint presentation from the "real world" in SL. That's me sitting in the front row. Note that a few of the women in our group chose a "furry" avatar, including Elizabeth Parker from Concord elementary!

After a few minutes discussing terminology and practice communicating (either by text or if you have a head phones and microphone, you can actually talk and listen to others) we then started exploring some of the sites that have definite possibilities in education:

  • ISTE Island- A good place to start. Docents are available to lead you around and answer questions. They also have an auditorium, where they host professional development sessions.

  • Literature Alive HQ- Resources for British Literature and an Edgar Allan Poe House. Some of these sites allow you to role play and dress up as the characters from the books.

  • NOAA Meteora and NOAA Okeanos-If you touch the sign for a HUD it will allow you to get an audio orientation of the space. Take a submarine ride, fly in a hurricane or go up in a weather balloon at these very cool interactive spaces.

  • Sistine Chapel Re-Creation on Vassar Island-Vassar is one of many colleges with a presence in SL. This is an opportunity to "fly" up close to the ceiling and view a classic work of art!

  • Virtual Starry Night-This site includes representations of Van Gogh's art work and 3-D recreations, where you can walk around in the painting!

  • Capitol Hill-Recently a House committee meeting took place in both the real world, and SL.

  • Genome Project-One of the many sites that offers a scavenger hunt.

  • The Second Louvre Museum-Includes SL created art work. The evolution of the avatar in the first room on your right is kind of neat!

  • Mexico, Chichen Itza- You can explore both the upper and hidden inner pyramids here.

  • SDSU Second Life Pioneers-San Diego State University's presence in SL includes a Pioneer WebQuest. There is even a "sandbox" where you can practice building things in SL.

  • Ancient Rome, ROMA-A very cool site that allows role playing, though sites like "Caligula's Palace" is definitely Adults only!!

  • International Spaceflight Museum-Includes a "Space Trivia Challenge" and allows you to compare the height of rockets to your avatar.

  • Lighthouse Learning Island-"Educational Technology Resource Guru" Kathy Schrock's space in SL. You can check out the calendar for upcoming professional development events. You can check out her blog for Lighthouse Learning Island here.

  • For more ideas on how Second Life can be used, check out this Wiki.

Later in the day, Cara gave us $20 "Linden dollars" (SL was created by San Francisco based Linden Labs) and sent us to a "Dollar store" at the mall where we could buy different items for our avatar. In one of the rooms of the store, there were items for your avatar, including hair, clothing, and weapons. Standing in the room was a female avatar, wearing provocative goth clothing, spattered in blood.

Currently, Second Life is only open to those over 18. At any one time, there are approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people on the grid. While the site does have community standards, not all of these people are acting in an appropriate manner. This immediately poses a problem in the K-12 environment. Currently, unless you have locked out a site to allow students in, you are not supposed to even let children under 18 view the screen.

There is a teen version of SL for those 13 to 18, but in order for an adult to have a presence in that environment, it requires an extensive background check, and then you are limited to only one location. You can't leave the building, but your students can come to you.

In a virtual world like Second Life, you can allow people to experience things that they couldn't do, in the "real world". My hope is that policies will be created for Second Life that will allow educators to safely use this valuable resource.

If you'd like to try it out, and would like me to guide you, let me know, and I'll set up a time to show you around!

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Schooliness" Part III: Even in an Analog World!

I was planning to write this post today, and then I saw a post from Scott McLeod with a chart showing student learning curiosity and engagement with content. To answer Scott's question about whether technology is to blame for this, I think the answer is NO!

The other day I saw a post on Clay Burrell's blog regarding a webcast he attended from a group called Teachers Teaching Teachers titled, "How to Make YouthTwitter Less Schooly" or something to that affect. Clay has had some interesting posts in the past about "schooliness" or "schoolishness" if you prefer as it relates to student blogging.

It got me to thinking about, whether "schooliness" was a digital/technology issue, or whether it has been around regardless of technology's influence. I see my own two children's experience (admittedly a small sample) similar to McLeod's chart on learning curiosity. They are both naturally inquisitive, and excited about learning, but I have seen this tendency decline as they have progressed to 4th and 2nd grade respectively.

My 2nd grade daughter loves to write. Last year in first grade, she filled up five notebooks with creative writing assignments, and IMHO they were quite impressive! Yesterday, she shared a biography writing assignment she had completed on an extremely compelling subject: me. It was three pages in length, and in all honesty, not her best work. She included little detail, or expressiveness, just the facts, and not entirely in the right order! I thought the subject matter deserved better treatment!

Then, she shared the creative story she had written, "just for fun". It was extremely expressive and full of detail about her fictional character, "Mr. Bob." I decided to inquire as to which of her stories she had enjoyed writing more, the one for school, or the one for fun. While she didn't think she had enjoyed one over the other, she did recognize that the creative story done for fun was the better written of the two.

I think that "schooliness" has been around forever. Student complaints about blogging in class being too much about school are analogous to complaining about writing assignments with paper and pen. Perhaps if we look at making school more authentic, (which technology integration can definitely do) we can increase student interest in learning and make school less "schooly".

Let's start a conversation about how we can make this happen!

Why would I ever Use Twitter?!

Saw a great blog post today on Twitter. I admit that I could have written the first paragraph myself!
I have a Twitter account, and I've "tweeted" a few times regarding what I'm doing, but since I don't follow anyone, and no one is following me, it hasn't become a common habit. This post with it's resources may get me to do more and see the benefits and how it might work in your classrooms.
Do any of you use Twitter?