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Oh dear, it’s been a while.

I’m back at Oakzilla treehouse, getting the space ready for some social interaction. For starters, I’m going to host informal, free English conversation sessions in the treehouse and see how that goes. I’ve been out of SL for a few months for various reasons…but it’s *really* cold now and the metaverse looks more attractive when the north wind doth blow….I also fell out of love with SL’s quirks (read: annoyances), but am feeling hardy again in the face of the lag issue and those inexplicable crashes. For the time being at least.

This one was actually quite funny – my avatar lost all her clothes (except shoes and bling) and turned black. For three days.

Recently I’ve also made a couple of friends (at last!) thanks to my knitting obsession and love of electronic music.

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Back to Picklefish

After a very hectic summer and a large dash of lazyitis, Wheeler is back in SL and getting the treehouse back in order. Or rather, just getting the treehouse back….the rental was two days overdue (I was overseas), and I came home to find my furnishings returned to Inventory and the landowner wondering where her rent was. Luckily no other takers wanted the treehouse, so it’s mine again and I’ve learnt a useful lesson in not letting things slip! I’m now refurnishing the space and looking forward to visitors….I also have a lot of tidying up of Inventory to keep me busy!

…..so after an hour of housekeeping and visiting a couple of sims (nothing of note to report), I returned home to Oakzilla. Minus most of my hair. The SL gremlins are at work….

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Visit to Yarnation

When I’m not teaching, writing courses, or zooming around SL, one of my hobbies is knitting, which I started about eight years ago. I am a member of Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com , an online community (think Facebook for knitters, only better) and today the Second Lifers (a Ravelry group) held their first in-world meeting of RL knitters.

The venue was Yarnation http://slurl.com/secondlife/Woodsong/160/101/22 , a beautifully crafted woodland cabin designed and owned by Thely Anansi. The room includes a pinboard where visitors can upload photos of their knitting projects, a photo gallery of designs and yarns, and a scripted spinning wheel to sit at. The atmosphere is very calming and I had a great time chatting (in text) to Thely and the other knitters who popped by.

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Oakzilla Treehouse is still looking very basic. The owner of Picklefish, Mossflower Schumann, kindly removed some of the furnishings at my request, so now there is more space inside to add a presentation board and other tools. I have purchased a large corner sofa, and a beautifully sculpted teaset (designed by Robin Sojourner Wood), which offers many varieties of tea to thirsty visitors.

This object sums up what I like and loathe about SL. The creativity and attention to detail is second to none, and the teaset looks divine. Interacting with it is a different matter. The user clicks on the teatray, the teapot steams realistically, the cups fill up. Then the user must go to Inventory to ‘wear’ a cup and saucer given by the teaset. And then click the teatray again to choose the variety of tea from a popup menu. I think there is still a long way to go before SL delivers the kind of simple interactivity we have all come to expect of our technology, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy looking at lovely sculpted accessories like this!

In other news, Wheeler has undergone a slight change of appearance. One respect in which SL beats RL hands down is that the more time you spend here, the better you look. 

I seem to have deviated off on a “teapots and haircut” line of enquiry. I hope to have something more relevant to my teaching quest to blog of next time…..

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Tools continued

I have spent another evening sifting through educational tools in my expanding SL Inventory. I installed a ‘Wheeler Weatherwax is online/offline’ lantern close to the Teleport spot on my treehouse terrace, to show visitors my status. This was created by one AngryBeth Shortbread, and has the added feature of sending the owner an automated IM reminder every 60 minutes to take a break….here’s Wheeler admiring her handiwork (yep, she made the pole).

 

Another success has been the Picture Board (creator Cienna Rand). I have “hung” this one on the wall (or rather, trunk) of my lounge area. Of all the whiteboards and presentation boards I’ve been testing out, this is by far the simplest. A simple Ctrl+drag command allows you to show image files direct from Inventory (i.e. no adding to Content folders in Edit mode required, and no HUD control). It’s a very basic tool, but with a bit of creativity could be used to show a huge variety of materials. An overlay highlighter/pointer tool would add a bit of interactivity to the proceedings as well. 

I also played around with the FreeView flatscreen TV (by CrystalShard Foo). This one has its own dedicated webpage at  http://www.slguide.com/help/ and can only be operated by the parcel owner (rather than us lowly tenants) to stream audio/video. 

Hats off to the above mentioned designers, and others of their ilk, for their great ideas and for distributing these creations for FREE around the education communities within SL. 

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Treehousekeeping

Over the last few months I have accumulated a huge pile of educational gadgetry for use in-world. So I’ve spent the past few evenings trying out various teaching tools in my new home. These include a large presentations screen with HUD control (an excellent tool, but much too large for home use!), a whiteboard (likewise too large, and a bit complicated to use) and various gadgets to keep track of who is talking, raising hands, notecard leavers etc.

Some of the gadgets were more applicable to my humble setting. I successfully scripted a web browser gadget (which looks like a PC) to load chosen URLs in the SL Media Browser when someone clicks it, so I’m feeling pleased with myself about that! And I’ve also been playing with a simple resizeable picture viewer, which can be loaded with your images, screenshots etc, so very useful to share data, exercises, charts etc with students. I actually think the treehouse could be a nice informal venue for hosting one-to-one and small groups, so from now on I will design the space with that in mind. 

And finally, my first tree visitor, Sylvian Nightfire, paid me a call. He brought along a standing lamp he had designed and gave it to me as a treehouse-warming present! Here we are looking rather shifty:

 

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A home in Second Life

Wheeler Weatherwax\'s new home

Wheeler Weatherwax is now the proud tenant of a treehouse.

I have been browsing the ‘Land’ listings in SL for somewhere to call home for a while, without success. A lot of rentals I came across were on very dull sims (in my opinion) or had complex covenants (rental agreements) or limited privacy. Sometimes the plot seemed ideal, until I flew up above the buildings and saw some of the xxx-rated activity going on around. So I thought that finding something on a “nature” sim would be a better option.

The treehouse I’m renting is on Picklefish Island, which isn’t exactly a nature sim, but does have some quirky builds and lots of silliness which is fun.

 Hippo burgers for all

It’s also a small community. I think the treehouse is an ideal first rental; the interior is very basic, so I can add my own designs, and I’m up away from the neighbours, so can keep the faux pas to a minimum while I improve my SL skills!

I plan to use the treehouse as an informal meeting point for friends (when I get some), and as a testing ground for simple design builds. I don’t know yet whether I’d use the treehouse as a teaching base, although it could easily be one. 

Now that I have somewhere to put things, I can get busy building!

Visitors welcome!

The location is http://slurl.com/secondlife/Picklefish%20Island/136/139/53

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One of my plans on finishing the “Second Life for Teachers” course was to explore further how educators are using SL for language teaching. In real life I need to improve my German, so I did a search for “German language course”. A number of Volkshochschule (adult education centres in Germany) popped up, as well as some others. I picked one at random, called Babel Language School.

The sim was one of those parcels of land with uneven ground – difficult to navigate, and where it’s easy to get stuck in corners or behind buildings (if you’re a relative newbie like myself). The buildings were pretty ugly builds, mostly like cages.

The Notecard said:

Get better to express yourself – learn a second language (or a third or fourth …) Spend some of your playing time at Second Life (sl) to learn a new language! Two times a week a lesson in your real new language at a price at L$ 500 a week. 

I had a look around one of the classrooms. On the walls were large boards with screenshots of pages from New Headway, a well-known EFL coursebook. Is this allowed, I wondered….

The image on the board behind WW is copied from a coursebook

I sent an instant message (IM) to the sim owner, enquiring about German classes. I will blog the outcome later.

 

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Web 2.0 and ASDs

Just read this interesting article from Nature magazine: Scientific discourse 2.0 which is a good read for anyone in need of inspiration on the world of possibility within Second Life. It came to my attention on the blog of Milton Broom, SL avatar of a UK academic exploring the benefit of VLEs for academic teaching and more specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

This is a topic close to my heart, as I have a nine-year-old daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning autism). Too young yet for Second Life, of course, but it’s encouraging to know that the intense social experience of SL (“without the complex linguistic and socio-behavioural processing necessary for face-to-face conversations”, as Milton Broom explains) is proving a successful means of communicating for those on the autism spectrum, who lack the ability to decode or understand many of the complex aspects of human interaction.

One of the things I love about Second Life is that we all have to learn from scratch how to communicate and interact there, as it is so different from real world communication. A lot of newbies (and not-so-newbies!) feel lonely and confused by a lack of these skills. In a sense, we’re in the same situation as those on the autism spectrum, having to *learn* what others may take for granted. I’m really no psychologist, but this area interests me hugely, so I will be blogging more on the subject in future.

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Welcome!

Welcome to Wheeler Weatherwax’s Second Life blog, something she’s been meaning to do for a very long time! Wheeler will be posting her exploits here, and this is bound to involve stories of getting stuck in embarrassing animations, knocking into other avatars, and accidentally deleting huge builds by mistake….

As well as the gaffs, I’m hoping to keep a record of my own learning experiences in Second Life. My primary interest in Second Life is educational. Are educators seriously starting to use virtual learning environments (VLEs) with their students? How to orient your learners in such an unstable, complex and frustrating world as Second Life? And are there really any benefits in terms of learning outcomes?

Wheeler Weatherwax was born in October 2007, since when she has learnt how to control herself (that took about two months of trial and error), buy and part with Linden dollars, and gradually get accustomed to using in-world Voice to speak with other avatars.

The final catalyst to getting this blog started was a two-week training course “Second Life for Teachers”, run by The Consultants-e , which I have just completed. I am now teaching myself some basic building skills, and trying to think of creative ways to address the challenge of taking my teaching into Second Life.

This is a pic of my ‘mindmap’, the final course task, with my plans for Second Life in floating text above each sphere.

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