Dec 11

Communication breakdown

muvenation logoIn one of the meetings in SL that I regularly attend, there was a partial communication breakdown that let to a lot of confusion, misunderstandings and even hurt feelings the latter of which I wasn’t even aware of during the meeting.

As far as I can reconstruct what happened after looking through the chatlog and talking to the participants, the following seemed to have been some of the reasons for the communication breakdown:

  1. Some participants used voice some text
  2. Some of those using voice missed what was being written in text
  3. Some participants were not aware of the fact that the normal chat range is 19 m and what there actual distance to the others was. 
  4. Participants might have been confused about the roles and the agenda (Who is leading the session? What is the agenda?)

Because of number 2 and 3, some participants thought they or what they were saying was being ignored by the others.

Communication in SL, especially with larger groups, different members participating in the meetings, changing roles and agenda can be a challenge. Besides the issues mentioned above,

  • information overload,
  • non-linear discourse and
  • lack of body language

can cause disruption of a conversation.

Coincidentally, one of the new activities for section 3 is about collecting tools and building a guide for them (HUD, interactive book, bot, …) using the playfulness approach. Among the themes suggested is also one about tools for Communication and interaction. I’ve already been thinking of looking for ways of how to make group discussions more effective after having attended several (chaotic and ineffective) discussion with larger groups. Now, seeing what negative effects such communication breakdown can have on the rapport of a group, I want to look for tools and procedures that can help make such group conversations more pleasant and effective.

If anyone reading this knows of such tools or procedures in Second Life, I’d be more than happy if you left a comment and let me know. 


One tool I can already add to my list and can recommend to everybody in SL is 

  1. A chat range indicator (included in the Sloddle and Mysti tool) that shows a list of avatars within the chat range so that the speaker knows who can hear them.


Procedure’s that can help

  1. Explicitly mentioning/showing

a) who the moderator of the current meeting is

b) what the agenda is and in which order they topics will be dealt with.

(to be continued)

Nov 27

Second Life residents: Creative people

 muvenation logoIn activity 9 of this section, we were given a list of tasks to choose from. It is still about identity and appearance. I chose to interview a strange avatar and take pictures of them for a temporary in-world exhibition. I wasn’t sure whether it was about a “strange looking” avatar or a stranger to me, so I found two avatars who are both 🙂 Well, not any more.

Blogging about this task is not a requirement but I found what my interviewees had to say so interesting that I asked them for permission to post it on my blog to share this with all of you. I didn’t want to summarize the conversations as I think most of what was said is relevant and I couldn’t possibly say it better than my interviewees. I also didn’t want to take things out of their context. However, I highlighted the bits that are directly related to my assignment and the questions if you want to read only those bits. 

Interview with Schmilsson Nielsson


Click to read the conversation:

Interview with Exosius Woolley

Click to read the conversation:

Many thanks to Exosius Woolley and Schmilsson Nilsson for granting me these interviews and giving me permission to publish them on my blog. 

Update 2 Dec 2008

The exhibition

Originally, we were told to build a square prim and put a picture of the avatar on one side and a picture of the text on the other. This wouldn’t work with my two interviews, long texts and many pictures. We were then told that we could be creative. So, I build these frames. On the left and right are the chatlogs of the interviews. When clicked, they give the link to the original Google document in case that zooming in to the text and reading it in-world is too difficult. The two frames in the middle contain the pictures. To be able to show several pictures without making them too small or taking up too much exhibition space, I used a picture changer script. Finally, I made an “information cone” with a hovering text that tells visitors whose work this is, gives them instructions and hands out a notecard with a description of the process and a link to my blog post.

Texture: Normally, I like simple patterns or plain colours. But on the day that I created my exhibit, I was in a playful mood 🙂

Building is not yet something that I do very well in SL so building this relatively simple exhibit took me disproportionally long.
MUVEnation Exhibition

Nov 26

All about my avatar: Daffodil Fargis

 muvenation logoNo, I’m not obsesses with my avatar 🙂 If you are wondering why I am writing so much about my avatar and her appearance it’s because section 2 in module 1 of the MUVEnation course is all about appearance and identity. In activiy 9, we are asked to tell about our avatar’s history, motivations, characteristics, main activities and what effects we’d like to produce with our appearance. So, here i go:

My rezday is 28 August 2007. Nergiz signed up for SL and created me because she was curious about how educators were using it. I have to say I looked horrible at the beginning because Nergiz was determined not to spend any money on my looks and outfit. She didn’t know how to make clothes for me, either. I had to walk around like one of those newbies for quite some time. I was so ashamed of myself. I could feel that Nergiz wasn’t very impressed by SL at the beginning and she didn’t feel any relation to me. I am glad she didn’t know how to make snapshots at that time so there are no pictures of my pitiful state.

Then, finally, she met some generous people who gave her some free items for me, clothes, headscarves and even a new shape and skin. Now I looked a bit nicer and could even change my outfit now and then.
SL Daffodil in Central Park Dreamland 29 July 2008_001
My looks were more coherent and I resembled Nergiz a bit and she started to like me. We made some more friends and socialised. I quite liked that but Nergiz’ motivation was to find out how to teach languages here. So, we went on a search for educators and educational places. It wasn’t easy but slowly we were getting more connected.

Nergiz and I learned a lot during these days, weeks and months. She found more friends who gave her more freebie clothing for me and then she “earned” her first Linden dollars and we went shopping for the first time. It wasn’t easy to find something modest so she bought me a traditional Turkish outfit and even a Kimono (for free). Well, it wasn’t our style but it did fit in SL. 
Dressing up
Dressing up
After a while, we learned how we could modify some of the outfit we had found and I think i look quite all right now. Nergiz wants me to look similar to her, dress modestly and look friendly. She also wants me not to look too serious but also not too flippant. She doesn’t like formal outfit in RL and thinks it creates distance, which she doesn’t want between our students, colleagues and ourselves.

By now, we had met colleagues of Nergiz’ and formed a group for language teachers. Since then, we’ve been meeting every Friday. I even got my own classroom and house, which makes me feel more like a real SL resident.

We do socialize quite a bit in Second Life and have made many new friends. Finally, last summer, we felt ready to offer our first English course. It was so much work and we were excited but it was also a lot of fun, too. We and our students liked it a lot. I am happy because Nergiz has decided to keep me and continue teaching in SL and she can relate much more to me by now. That’s why she has filled in my profile and told people who we are with links to her Real Life activities.
Daffodil at her desk

Nov 25

What makes an Avatar look professional?

muvenation logoIn activity 7 of the current MUVenation session, we are asked to reflect on an consider our and our students’ perceptions of appearance in Second Life teaching settings. I answered some of the questions in my previous post as a reaction to a forum discussion but will address some of the questions given in this activity.

Do you think avatar appearance is an important aspect of educational activities that are being undertaken in Second Life? What is a appropriate professional avatar appearance for education? 

A lot depends on the nature of the course. Appearance in an art or design course, will matter more than in a language or philosophy course, I assume. But even in courses where appearance is not the focus, out of the ordinary outfit or avatar shapes might not be appropriate. They might be simply distracting, seen as immoral, not serious looking enough, too serious looking or unfitting in an educational setting. Reasons for seeing a certain appearance as unfitting can be related to different cultural norms, religious believes or expectations about and knowledge of Virtual Worlds (game? serious?). In general, I would say that extremes in whatever direction should be avoided both by teachers and students and more so at the beginning of a course or with participants who are new to Second Life.
Does your avatar have a professional appearance for educational contexts? Yes, no? Why? 

Dressing up

Again, what professional is depends on the kind of educational context. As a free-lance language teacher working in-company as well as doing private tutoring, I am very flexible regarding my outfit and usually wear more casual clothes, which is seen as appropriately professional where I taught/teach. This is also the way I dress in Second Life. Although, in SL I often tend to look more formal and often wear dresses which I almost never do in RL. This has partly to do with my not being able to find the kind of appropriate clothes that I am looking for.
Is there any appearance you would never use to teach in Second Life and why? 
Yes, I would not appear in anything that reveals (too much) skin. This is based on my religious believes but also on what is considered inappropriate for teachers in Germany as well as Turkey. I would also not appear as a very unusual avatar (animal, robot, etc) if it is not part of the lesson, in order not to become the centre of attention as the teacher.

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? 

Looking at it from a language teaching/learning perspective, being able to change the avatar’s appearance is a wonderful “tool” for role-play activities to make avatars feel and look more real and thus help to find into one’s role. I can imagine many activities like “describing an avatar to practise colours, shapes, and other adjectives and descriptive language”, “showing one’s favourite outfit and telling why – similar to “show and tell” activities at schools”, etc. I could even imagine to have a session about “What is an appropriate outfit for a student/teacher in SL/RL” kind of discussion like I am writing here about. I would have such a session at the beginning of a course to find out what expectations students have and might try to dress accordingly within my own limits and comfort-zone.

Nov 23

Can dragons be professionals?

muvenation logo

A discussion about identity and trust in Second Life has come up in the MUVEnation forum. Is it OK to ask for an avatar’s Real Life name? Is it important to know who is behind an avatar in an educational setting? Can I have a professional relationship with an avatar without knowing their real identity? Can I discuss educational topics with a  dragon? Shouldn’t professionals look professional?

My avatar is I

Personally, I very much identify with my avatar. My avatar’s name is a translation of my Real Life name, my profile is full of information and links leading to my Real Life identity and activities, which are, by the way, the same as in my Second Life. For me Second Life is part of my Real Life professionally and socially. But I respect when this is not the case for others or when people have different avatars, one for their social life in SL and a professional one. (added 12 Dec 2008: This might even make sense if you have many friends in SL and don’t want to be bombarded with IMs during meetings or classes).

SL etiquette

I have to agree with Anna, who says in the forum  that in general it is rather rude or impolite to ask an avatar what their Real Life name is. I would not even do that normally in a professional setting if it wasn’t necessary for our work or communication. I can understand people not wanting to be identified because you never know what people can do when they have your Real name. After all, there are people with good and bad intentions everywhere. This does not mean that they are not trustworthy. I would compare asking for a person’s RL name in SL to asking somebody in RL how much they earn or their political affiliation. You just don’t normally do that in many cultures.

In the English course I gave in Second Life, I worked with my students for six weeks, but I never felt the need to ask them for their Real Life names. Some even created e-mail addresses and signed up for Moodle with their avatar’s names.  Only two students wanted to have their printable certificates with their RL name. Does that mean I didn’t know my students or their needs and personalities or  didn’t trust them? No, it doesn’t. People always present themselves the way they want whether this is in RL or SL. And we figure out who they are as much as we can by interacting with them. Do we know in RL who somebody really is? We might know one or several facets of that person but usually not all. This does not mean we cannot work together professionally or be good friends.

It is, of course, a different issue when you are participants of a course, like MUVEnation, were the whole purpose is learning about Virtual Worlds and helping each other create our avatars or in a course where students will be graded in RL for their work in SL. Then, there is a need to know who is behind an avatar.

How important is looks for professionals in SL?

I think we attach too much importance to looks in RL instead of looking at what this person has to say. I hope that SL will help us overcome this “judging by appearance” and to listen more to the person. In SL, there might be many reasons why people dress in unexpected ways. It might be another part of their personality which they do not show in RL; it might also be simply playfulness (like dressing a doll) or an experiment to see how people will react to name a few reasons.
SL Daffodil Fargis Webquest presentation 9 August 2008_006

Picture: These are all educators attending a presentation about Webquests.

Nov 22

MUVEnation concert ;)

It’s weekend, and I have done all my homework and as  Anna said today, “we are still on holiday”. So, I headed into Second Life and found some MUVEnation participants (Morgan, Anna, Alpha) and a former student of mine to join me in playing the drums on Boracay island. I had tried it before but it is not so much fun alone and it sounds better, too, when several drums are played together. It’s addictive! 🙂

I love the sound of drums and even took a short course once. In Second Life, you can become a master player instantaneously 😉

I’ve tried to record the sound but couldn’t do so unfortunately. Anna and Jaime have recorded it on video. I’m curious to see them and if they publish it, I will embed them here. For now, enjoy the pictures and visit Boracay if you want to play the drums yourself.

Nov 21

Sloodle: Second Life + Moodle

Since I had heard of Sloodle for the first time at SLanguages2008, I had wanted to learn more about it and integrate it with my Moodle® (an open-source Learning Management System). It is very interesting for me because I used Moodle for my Second Life English course last summer.

Some weeks ago, I came across a message by Daniel Livingston in an e-mail list about Virtual Worlds saying that he had created a self-paced tutorial exercise taught in Moodle and in Second Life to learn about Sloodle’s features.

I went through the tutorial, which I can highly recommend, and learned about all the features of Sloodle version 0.3. The tutorial was fun, although it would have been even more fun to test chatting and some other tasks with a partner or a group (which Daniel recommends). I new about the chatting and blooging features but I was positively surprised to find out that there is much more that Sloodle makes possible. Here is a list from a Sloodle cheatsheet:

• Web-intercom. A chat-room that brings Moodle chatroom and Second Life chats

together. Students can participate in chats in Second Life using the accessible

Moodle chatroom. Discussions can be archived securely in a Moodle database.

• Registration booth. Identity management for Second Life and Moodle. Link students’

avatars to their Moodle user accounts.

• Quiz tool and 3D Drop Box. Assess in Second Life – grade in Moodle. Set quizzes

or 3D modelling tasks in an engaging 3D environment. Review grades quickly and

easily in the standard Moodle gradebook.

• Choice tool. Allow students to vote (and see results) in Second Life as well as in


• Multi-function SLOODLE Toolbar. Enhances the Second Life user interface. Use a

range of classroom gestures, quickly get a list of the Moodle user names of the

avatars around or write notes directly into to your Moodle blog from Second Life.

• Presenter (in development). Quickly author Second Life presentations of slides and/

or web-pages on Moodle. Present in Second Life without having go through lengthy

processes to convert or upload images.

• … and more. More tools are being prototyped on a regular basis.

So, yesterday, I went ahead and finally upgraded my Moodle website and installed the Sloodle module. Then, I went in-world and bought the latest version of the in-world Sloodle tool set and the toolbar HUD (heads up display). Configuration was easier than I thought. As a test, I sent two blog posts from SL directly to the Moodle blog.

Now, I am looking forward to learning more about it’s uses and using it in my next Moodle+Second Life course.

Update, 24 Nov 2008

The free Moodle host Ninehub has Sloodle installed. You can sign up for free to start a course right away. The host supports itself with adds that are shown at the bottom of the pages as far as I can see.

Update, 15 May 2009

Another free Moodle host that has Sloodle already installed and this one is without ads!!!

Nov 20

Animation override

Actually, I’ve been in Second Life for over a year now but I’ve never cared much about my duck walk in SL or any other fancy animated behaviour. I’ve changed my appearance, bought loads of free clothes but … I know, of course, that the duck walk is a give-away of a newbie and it does look funny. So, some time ago, I searched for female walk animations but most of what is available for free or linden dollars is not the kind of walk I have in mind. Why on earth should any woman want to walk like that? 

But now I am interested in animations in general. Today, I have spent the morning with buying and testing animation override (AO) HUDs (heads-up display) or scripts. Most of them come with prepackeged collections of animations. But if you don’t know how to add or delete some of the animations, you are stuck with some very weird ones. I’ve tried several different ones. Some are menu-driven, some have (annoying) buttons that appear on your screen and some are controlled through commands in chat. I didn’t like any of them except one that can be added to the MystiTool set. I haven’t set it up, yet but it sounds like the best solution if it also gives me the freedom to exchange or delete the animations that come with it.

Meanwhile, I simply added an animation override script to a bracelet that I usually wear and just added one female walk animation for now. It’s not really a normal walk but the best I have been able to find so far. So, no more duck walk 🙂

Nov 17

MUVEnation – Ideas for newbie orientation

Micro learning activities

After having looked at and compared different orientation islands and stations, we have to devise our own activities for one module based on the Global Kids Curriculum. I have chosen the Level 1 module Taking a Closer Look. By the end of this module, they should have learned (mission’s powers):

  • Using the computer keyboard to focus, zoom and pan
  • Using the camera control feature to focus, zoom and pan

The activity should

  • Allows the development of the mission’s powers (see above)
  • Is engaging, playful
  • Complies with the list of principles for an effective design of an orientation session.

I have decided to create activities for this module because I have seen in several tutorials that camera controls are one of the most important and most-used features of Second Life. I can only agree with this from my own experience and that of my students. As some MUVEnation participants have pointed out when comparing orientation stations, this should even be one of the very first skills that are taught because seeing the screens and pictureboards used to explain SL features require this skills the way the are set up.

I have come up with some ideas to practise zooming and panning. Due to time constraints, I will not be able to fully develop all the steps and create picture boards with the necessary instructions. I will also abstain from describing the instructions I would give.

My ideas

First of all, flying would not be allowed for any of the following activities.

After looking at a pictureboard with instructions on how to zoom to get a closer look, they have to stand on the hot spot and zoom in on an object, picture or board with a text and either read or describe it.
MUVEnation week 1 act 7/5

How long does it take until a newbie learns how to see their own face? Here, they will be instructed on how to do that and then have to practise it and take a portait snapshot of themselves.
Daffodil at home

To practise zooming in on a moving object or avatar, they will be instructed to ALT+click on that object or an avatar and follow where it is going and describe what they are seeing or take snapshots and post to flickr. This is best done in an area where there are walls or hills to prevent seeing the moving avatar directly.
MUVEnation week 1 act 7/4

The hot spot marks the area where a box is hidden underground. Avatars would be told that there is a box. Using camera controls or keyboard shortcuts (which would be shown and explained first on a board) the avatar has to pan to find the box and retrieve its content as proof of completion. If they already have the skills to take snapshots, they will be asked to wear the item they have found as proof and take a snapshot of themselves and post it to Flickr.
MUVEnation week 1 act 7/1

Now, they would be instructed to pan upwards until they find the box in the air. Find what is on top of the box and, depending on the skills they already have, either take a copy of the item and wear it, take a snapshot or both.
MUVEnation week 1 act 7/3

Happy to hear your thoughts.

If any of the MUVEnation newbies wants to test these ideas, let me know.

Update 18 November 2008

Two other question we were asked to addres are:

How was the work with the GKCx?

The GKCx is very comprehensive but I had to read through the modules carefully several times to understand the steps. It was too detailed for me. It’s a lot of text.

What challenges do you foresee?

These activities are very easy to set up and even mobile. Where ever we have the right to rez objects, we can quickly set up the hot spot, boxes and pictureboards. Teachers with minimum experience in building can set it up easly. There is no need for scripting knowledge. For newbies: hand coordination? Mixing up and forgetting when to use which shortcut. But learning and practisng this is the whole purpose of the activity.


Nov 13

MUVEnation – Evalutation of Orientation Stations in Second Life

muvenation logo
Most orientation stations in Second Life are “traditional” – picture boards with screenshots and text explanations. They might look time-efficient but they don’t offer any interactivity so that new users can immediately try out what they are reading. I believe in learning by doing in order for new information to really become practical knowledge. This is why I have looked at two orientation stations that have a different more interactive and playful approach.

Orientation Station Campus

This is a very small orientation station set in a forest. On arrival, the avatar has to click on the sign attached to a tree to receive a notecard with instructions and some initial tips. Avatars can practise the most basic skills like camera and movement control, flying, manipulationg objects, using the pie menu, offering friendship, using IM, teleporting and buying. In order to learn these skills, avatars have to complete small tasks like “count the fish in the pond by using camera controls” “use build tools to move pieces in place (to build a totem), “teleport to a location, buy a freebie, come back and unpack it”.

The skills that are practised are essential and well-chosen and the tasks are fun, especially when done with a partner or a small team. I did some of the tasks with a colleague of mine who still considers herself a newbie. We laughed a lot while doing some of the tasks but she was often confused and didn’t understand the instructions. Even I was confused at times what we were supposed to.

We both concluded that it is not so much an orientation station but rather a further pracice station where students can be sent to after having learned the basics at an orientation station station. It is not appropriate for complete newbies because it doesn’t explain or show “how to” do things but rather “what to do”. So, students are either expected to find out “how to” by trial and error, which can be a good learning experience, especially if done in a team, but also frustrating if there is nobody to help when students get stuck. I assume that originally there was someone to guide students in doing these tasks.


Orientation Center Virtual Ability

This is a very friendly-looking Orientation Centre build for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to help them learn SL skills. It offers comprehensive step-by-step tutorials which are presented in a very clear way, with additional tips in a different colour. The path is highlighted by large blue arrows drawn on the ground. No way you can get lost here.

At the beginning, the information is presented on signs like on most other islands but very friendly looking signs.

Then, the stations become more interactive and task-based. Avatars read how to do something and can immediately practise it by doing fun tasks:

Practise buying and item: T-shirts and other freebies that can be bought for free

Practise using camera controls: Finding, zooming in and clicking on butterflies. Visual and auditory confirmation.

Practise buying clothes and changing appearance: a house full of freebies for a good start into an avatar’s new Second Life

At the end of the tour, you can click on a mail box to receive a feedback form. This shows they want to keep in touch, serve the community and improve things. Having said that, it seems to be outdated.

There is a Mentor Park, where you can touch a bell to request assistance:

You are making a call to ask for assistance from the SecondAbility Mentors. These are experienced residents here to help new SL residents. Do you want to call a SecondAbility mentor? (call/cancel)

There is a separate area for advanced tutorials.

Some extra points:
– Congratulations and a shower of stars when managed flying
– Mac specific notes (first O. island that I see this).
– A balloon tour of the island

Besides offering clear instructions and congratulating one now and then, it is such a lovely place that I was happy to stay there and try out everything even though my intention wasn’t learning anymore. And as we know, a good atmosphere and nice surroundings can lower the affective filter which is very important for learning to take place.

In general

Both places I have visited were empty except for one friend who I had asked to come along and another MUVEnation participant, doing her homework. Therefore, it is a good idea to go with at least one other person to the Orientation Islands. Besides being more fun, students can immediately practise skills like sending IMs or invitations to teleport.