Jan 03

Virtual World & Language Teaching session

In October 2008, I mentioned I would moderate an EVO sessions with other online colleagues (Dennis, Graham and Nick). Now, it is sign-up time. Follow this link for a description of the session and a sign-up link. The session starts on 12 January 2009 together with 17 other very interesting sessions

I’m looking very much  forward to it. 

Jan 01

Building a tree

 muvenation logoTeachers teaching in Second Life might need to have at least some building and skripting skills (to design learning space, create or manipulate tools, etc.). In order to further develop these skill, we are asked to build a tree. Other objectives of this activity are:

  • to cooperate in a community project
  • to experience and develop master-apprenticeship model and other forms of peer to peer support
  • to explore informal learning opportunities in-world

My building and scripting skills are still very basic and although I haven’t needed more sophisticated skills for my lessons so far, I do want to improve them. 

My tree

I tweeted about this assignment on Twitter in the hope to find others to help me brainstorm what kind of tree to build. Carol Rainbow replied and had some good suggestions. In the end, I decided to make an ice tree fitting the season 🙂 What I knew from the beginning is that I wanted to make my tree do something and not just a tree to be looked at. Again, because of the season and because of the ice tree, I decided it should recite a snow poem. It would be the first time for me to create the necessary sound files to upload to Second Life.

I started building some crystals for “leaves” and was looking for a tree trunk that I could use. I wanted to change the texture to something that looked icy. Then, Carol joined me and she found a leafless, snow-covered tree in her inventory which was luckily modifiable and transferrable. I made several copies in different sizes of my crystal and attached them to the branches of the tree. I also added a snow emitter so that it snows.
Blue singing tree
Meanwhile, I had given up on finding a good snow poem and decided it should be a winter song instead but I didn’t know how to overcome the 10-second limit (sound files uploaded to SL need to be under 10 seconds). I don’t have the rights to stream sound on the MUVEnation sim. Carol made my day by telling me about Psyke’s Music script that connects 9-second long sound files to a continuous sound. I was thrilled not only because this solved my song problem but also because this would be extremely useful for creating objects for my language lessons. I found a free version of my song, a very popular German song about a snow flake, Schneeflöckchen.

The only drawback that the script has is that all the sound files need to be exactly 9 seconds long. I’m sure there is an easy (automatic) way of splitting a longer sound file into 9-second bits but I haven’t worked much with sound files, yet so that this took me ages. I uploaded my six 9-second sound files and dragged them onto my tree together with the script. Carol also showed me what to do to have the cursor turn into a hand indicating that this object does something when clicked on (write “Touch to play music” into the description field of the object in edit mode). So, now, I had an ice tree that snowed and played a song when clicked on 🙂 Thank you for all your help, Carol!

Some days later, I felt like I didn’t really build a tree and wanted to create a second version from scratch. I used the same ice crystal and coloured them. The script is the same, too.
Ice Tree
My main problem when building is that aligning objects takes me incredibly long although I use camera control to look at my object from all angles and zoom in on my objects. I know I can use the grid but that wouldn’t help with objects like my tree. Whenever I added a crystal and thought it was positioned correctly on a branch and I looked at it from another angle, I saw that it was not where it should be at all. Another issue with this tree is that the number of prims I used is very high, which is something that good builders always try to avoid. Therefore, I am looking forward to the master builder session on the MUVEnation island which will take place soon.

My trees and all the other trees built for this activity are located on the MUVEnation island (temporarily). 


Jan 01

7 facts about me

I’d been reading about “7 things” and “7 memes” on Twitter but hadn’t followed any of the links. Now that I’ve been tagged, too, by Cristina Costa, I’ve followed back some of the links to find out what this was all about. It’s a kind of “getting to know people in my network better game” or “give people a chance to talk about themselves” 🙂 Here are the rules:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

So, here I go:

  1. Besides for one year as a photography apprentice in 1987, I’ve never had a boss. I’ve been self-employed since I was 22. My first business was a digital imaging business that I co-founded, with a photo studio and lots of the latest digital technology like Barco monitors, High-End scanners, graphic tablets and several Macs. I was very good with Photoshop. Unfortunately, I don’t have Photoshop anymore and would have to learn how to use the latest version all over again.
  2. I love outdoor photography. So, when I was travelling or on weekends, you could see me with a huge photo backpack with my Pentax 645, several lenses and tripod often crawling on the ground trying to “shoot” some butterflies, spiders or other bugs 🙂 I’ve given away my Pentax as it was quite an expensive hobby having the role films developed, etc. I am planning to buy a new equipment but this time something smaller and more practical and of course digital.
  3. In 2002, I read an ad in an online newspaper that an organisation was looking for volunteer teachers to teach Afghan refugee women in a border city in Pakistan. I’m a bit adventurous and really did want to talk with refugees from Afghanistan to learn first hand about what had been really going on in Afghanistan (I’m extremely sceptical of the media and official government news). So, I immediately replied and was accepted as English teacher. To my dismay, I got terribly ill in the first week I was there and I had to return home. The good thing was I could fly back first class and had a one-day stopover in Dubai. 
  4. Three years ago, I went to Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah. I made the decision to reduce communication with the “outside” world to a minimum because for once I wanted to concentrate on one thing and wanted a real break from “normal life”. I used my mobile phone only to let my people know I was safe. I didn’t watch TV and I didn’t search for an Internet café. I didn’t take a single camera with me as I wanted to experience everything first hand and not through a lens. It was the most amazing three weeks of my life and I haven’t been quite the same person after that. I could have stayed there for the rest of my life 🙂 Well, a couple of weeks longer 😉 And they did have Pizza Hut right across the street…
  5. A short one: I dislike shopping for clothes or food but I could camp all night in an Apple Store 🙂
  6. My first experience with a computer was with an Amiga. It had to be booted from a floppy disc. Right! But it did already have a desktop with icons for folders, trash can, etc. so I didn’t have to learn any command lines. This was in 1992 when some of you probably were already computer and Internet veterans. I remember I would accidentally hit the return key when practising writing in a word processor and wouldn’t know how to go back. But I’ve learned it, didn’t I? 😉
  7. I once gave part of a Sunday sermon in a Protestant church in Germany. This was quite daring for both sides and, as you can imagine, not everybody approved of it but the congregation liked it.

So, who am I going to tag now? Minhaaj, Frank, Carol Rainbow, Seth Dickens, Margarita Perez, Andreas Auwärter, Nelba Quintana.

All the best for 2009.