Holodeck or Builder’s Buddy Challenge

Many dismiss holodecks or Builder’s Buddy scenes (see my previous posts here and here) as tools for learning and teaching languages in Second Life thinking they are only good for role-plays (e.g. restaurant scene to practise ordering food). While I personally don’t like role-plays that much, they have their place in language teaching. However, when we started the Holodeck Challenge two months ago, we asked participants to be creative and literary think out of the box when creating scenes for language teaching and learning. And they did!! I am still amazed  what they have come up with — those who built scenes and participants who were at the final event and contributed with their ideas. The final event took place on Saturday, 28th July 2009.

Here are snapshots of some of the scenes and some ideas that have come up:

1. Mary Roussel’s gardens

Holodeck Challenge Final EventHolodeck Challenge Final Event

Mary added some free educational tools to her beautiful class spaces which can be used to brainstorm and write words collaboratively and to display notecards.

Her teaching idea:

Send students to a furnished building to collect furniture names. Then, they come back and write the words on the board, which can then be used to for further activities.

If I had been taught in such lovely class spaces, I might have liked school more.

2. Mary’s Venezuelan market

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

Teaching ideas:

  • Role-play different tourist/sales-person dialogues (not only for buying/selling souvenirs. Tourist could ask questions about the culture, city, life in Venezuela, etc).
  • Learn/teach the names of the objects in Spanish
  • Talk about Venezuela
  • Talk about markets and customs associated with them in different countries/cultures
  • Talk about traveling, holidays, souvenirs, shopping, etc.
  • Talk about handicraft, art, …

Mary created this Souvenir Market because there seems to be nothing about Venezuela in SL.

All participants loved this scene. It is such a lovely scene that it made me want to stay there longer and explore. It also made me want to say something. I wanted to express my feelings and ask questions about the place and objects. I think this is a very important point in language teaching. If emotions and feelings  are involved, then students do want express them and they will more readily seek and accept help to formulate what they want to say in the target  language.

3. Anna Begonina’s shop scenes

Holodeck Challenge Final Event
Holodeck Challenge Final EventHolodeck Chalenge Final Event

Anna teaches Italian in Second Life and always comes up with creative ideas. She said that although, there are a lot of shops in Second Life, shops and items are mostly named in English even in Italian places. Shops also often move or close so you can never really on using them again when you need them for a class. Also, most items in a shop cost money and are not modifiable. This is why Anna has created two different market/shop scenes in which the objects show typical Italian brands and the names of the objects are in Italian. They are modifiable so that objects can be moved, copied, renamed or retextured (e.g. for teachers who teach other languages).

Teaching ideas:

  • Teach/learn names of the objects in display
  • Practise shopping language and dialogues

4. Anna’s kitchen scene

Link to snapshot with kitchen scene

Teaching ideas:

  • Talking about how to cook pasta
  • Talking about Italian food
  • Learning vocabulary related to kitchen and cooking
  • Moving objects from one table to another (e.g. those that are needed for a certain recipe)

—> Check out Anna’s Italianiamo blog where, I am sure, she will post more ideas

5. Denni’s Dogme garden

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

Dennis has created a garden which can be used as a nice place to sit together and talk about anything that comes up in a language lesson. As it is as a Dome garden, he could obviously not give specific ideas or language points that would be taught there.

One thing that is special about his garden is that the some of the textures that he used (like the walls) are from Real Life, which would well be a starting point for discussions as well as the up-side-down trees, which he wanted to “correct” but we thought he should leave as they are 🙂

6. Carolrb Roux’s garden scenes

Holodeck Challenge Final Event

The first one is intended as a meeting space (above).

Link to snapshot of The Owl and the Pussy Cat garden.

The second one is The Owl and the Pussy Cat garden. It is a beautiful place to explore. There is music, hidden objects in the trees and the garden, a snake ladder game and many other things from the poem. Carol even recited the poem for us as a special treat because some of us didn’t know the poem.

Carol’s reading room with some books in notecard form, notecard giver and dropbox.

This is a nice room to sit together to read and talk about a book. It also makes a nice space for other kinds of meetings and discussions.

Carol also generously helped other participants to build their scenes and troubleshoot them during the two months which this challenge lasted.

Teaching ideas:

I don’t remember whether any were mentioned because I had some technical trouble at this stage but I can imagine the following:

  • Have students explore the garden and think what this could be about
  • If students had to memorize the poem, playing in the garden can help them remember the poem.  They can walk from place to place and recite the lines connected to the objects.
  • It can also be simply a fun activity after having worked with the poem as a kind of bonus or reward.

I’m sure Carol and others have more ideas.

7. Nahiram Yakubu’s flea market street scene

Holodeck Challenge Final Event
Nahiram has created this beautiful flea market scene.

Teaching ideas:

I missed most of this because I had to relog but one idea nahiram mentioned when I was back is the following:

Students take out objects from their inventory and set up there stand or area. Then, they can all walk around and explore the market, ask questions about the objects on sale and haggle over the prices of the objects. If students don’t have enough freebie objects in their inventory, they can either be given different boxes full of objects by the teacher or sent freebie shopping in SL first (depending on the available time). If two students have the same object, it could be interesting because they might have different prices and would have to justify why theirs is more expensive.

Of course, their could be an activity first to learn or review the names of the objects or this could come at the end and only if necessary.

8. Shawn’s maze

Another brilliant idea and very different way of using holodecks for language teaching purposes. Shawn has built this (and other scenes) with the Horizons holodeck.

Teaching idea:

Students work in pairs. One student sits on a chair that automatically lifts them up to a certain hight where they have a good bird’s eye view of the maze. The other student stand in front of the entrance of the maze and waits for instructions. The student on the chair gives directions to the student on the ground and guides him either to certain objects that are distributed in the maze or to the exit.

I can imagine adding extra fun to this activity by having them go to certain objects in the maze to interact with them (e.g. retrieve their content, get a copy) and then find the exit. Several teams could compete with each other using IM voice/text chat so that they wouldn’t be overheard by the other teams.

We have tried this activity with some colleagues and it generated a lot of speaking (giving instructions, clarifying, asking for help, providing help, vocabulary, different tenses and structures).

You can see more snapshots in the SLExperiments flickr pool.

There are some more ideas about how to use holodeck or Builder’s Buddy scenes in language lessons in my previous posts here and here.

We have also created a page in the SLExperiments wiki for the Holodeck scenes and ideas.

The Holodeck Challenge is over but this does not mean we don’t accept more scenes 🙂

I know that others wanted to create scenes but couldn’t do so out of lack of time. Maybe some have time during the summer holidays. If so, we are happy to see more scenes and ideas here or in the wiki.

We will find a place where we will deposit the created scenes and language teachers will be able to grab a copy. Whether the creators will offer them all for free to everybody is up to them. As soon as we have agreed on how to make them available, I will post it here.

If you are interested in Holodecks, you might also want to check out what EUROCALL and CALICO are up to at their HQ in Second Life. You can contact Groovy Winkler or Randall Renoir in SL or join one of their in-world groups for more information.

A big thanks to everybody!!!

—> Link to all blog posts related to holodecks, Builder’s Buddy and language teaching ideas.

23 thoughts on “Holodeck or Builder’s Buddy Challenge

  1. This is a really helpful account which captures the ideas and the ambiance. Many thanks .. and thanks for allowing me to join you. Although unlikely to be able to use SL directly in my own sector, I love to learn about cutting edge technology, and all of the ideas about how to stimulate language learning can be applied elsewhere too. Thanks for leading such friendly, supportive and fun ‘experiments’!

    • Thank you, Helen!

      You and everybody else who participated made this event such an enjoyable one.
      I agree. If you start learning something when you need it, it’s often too late or too stressful. These things take time. Why do you say it is unlikely that you will use it in your sector? If you work with kids or teens, here are other possibilities and many teachers already use virtual worlds successfully with their young learners.

  2. Dear Nergiz,

    I’ve been reading this and enjoying wonderful pictures with great excitement.
    You are one of those educators-webheads who makes wonderful ideas work around the world. It’s my pleasure to thank you and everyone who are with you to have brought these ideas into live. I feel proud to be given the opportunity to join this space and learn from you a lot. I am sorry I can’t share such knowledge with others, but hope to learn more and be in team in the future.

    I am sorry for joining this community too late – it’s my technical problems here.
    With gratitude,

    • Dear Nina,

      Thanks so much for your kind words!
      I have to thank all those talented and creative teachers who built those scenes and my colleagues Carol and Dennis for helping me to organise the challenge. Without them there wouldn’t have been a challenge, or these beautiful scenes to show, write about and most importantly use.

      Nina, you are already in the team. SLExperiments is not for language teachers who know everything about SL (none of us does) but a group and space to learn together and to share what we know.

  3. Dear Nergiz,

    Congratulations to all who presented their scenes in this Holodecks challenge.

    My thanks go to you and to everyone else for their generosity, creativity and willingness to share their new knowledge and excitement.

    And this is perhaps one of the things I have enjoyed most in meeting you, Carol, the Webheads, and colleagues in Second Life.

    I am thrilled to meet people who are so excited and willing to learn – I love everyone’s enthusiasm, curiosity and passion about teaching and learning, whatever the medium.

    Like Nina/Nagora I hope I can contribute something to the group as well in the future

    See you all soon

    Marisa Constantinides/ Marisolde Orellana

    • Thanks Marisa!

      Learning is so much more fun when you can share what you have learned with others.
      We always seek ways to motivate our students but we also need motivation to keep learning. If the SLExperiments group does that, this is reason to be happy.

      And Marisa, you, Nina and others, no matter how much you know, you are already contributing a lot to the group with your participation, encouraging comments and questions. Soon, you will be sharing something you have found out 🙂

      See you

  4. I am sorry that I missed this session. I arrived just at the end, having spent most of the afternoon getting someone to fix the windscreen of my car – which cracked in the heat (in the UK!).

    I think holodecks are an excellent idea for language teaching. At the CALICO/EUROCALL HQs in Second Life we are building up a collection of holodeck scenes that may be useful for language teachers. They all use the Horizons holodeck rezzer. Some of the scenes have been bought off the shelf, but others have been built from scratch by Randall Sadler, my colleague in CALICO (Randall Renoir in Second Life). The CALICO Tower, which can be rezzed at ground level on the CALICO property, is a good example of Randall’s imaginative creations. Instructions on using the Horizons rezzer are posted in a notecard near the CALICO/EUROCALL Welcome pavilion. There is another holodeck rezzer on the roof of the EUROCALL HQ, and a third holodeck rezzer 2000 metres up in the sky above the CALICO property, on the Skydeck.

    We aim to use the Skydeck for creating larger scenarios that can be used for teaching and training. The advantage of locating the Skydeck at this height is that you are unlikely to come across it accidentally, unless you have special wings, and that it is out of earshot from the ground, so that meetings and classes can take place without interruption – as in Randall’s presentation that he gave at the EUROCALL CMC SIG conference in April this year. The Skydeck and the EUROCALL Holodeck on the roof of the HQ can both be accessed via our joint teleport system.

    Feel free to drop in and have a look at what we are doing, and please visit the Resources centre too, where we are building up a free collection of tools and landmarks. I have just completed the landmarks wall in the Resources centre, which consists of screenshots of interesting landmarks in SL and details of their location. There is also a box of landmarks at the foot of the landmarks wall. The Resources centre is 1000 metres high in the sky and accessible via our teleport system. The Welcome pavilion is located in between the CALICO and the EUROCALL properties – here:


    Graham Davies (Groovy Winkler)

    • Thanks Graham!

      I am planning to visit you soon and check out what you have been doing.
      In fact, it would be wonderful if you could show us around during our next SLExperiments meeting on Friday.

  5. Hi Nergiz,

    This is wonderful work! Fabulous.

    May I invite you to show some of this at the show & tell session of Graham on July 8?

    Graham is this ok with you?

    Rgds Heike

    • I agree with Nergiz that there is much more behind holodecks than role playing. This event and especially the people’s teaching ideas and comments show it clearly.

      I am amazed by the authors’ skill and creativity. My congratulations!
      Best to all,

      Pawel /Pawlus Twine

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  7. Dear Nergiz,
    The edu scenes look so nice and interesting. I’d opt for using builder buddy’s script, too. It gives more room for creativity and choice.

    • Thank you, Hamid!

      If you want to see some of the scenes in action, let me know.
      And if you feel like it and need an idea for a summer project, create a scene and share it with us 🙂

  8. I have found the Builder’s Buddy easy to use. It’s not really a holodeck system, however. It’s a packaging tool. I just assembled a few objects I had in my inventory and packaged them in Builder’s Buddy. It took me about an hour and a half to create a small, prefabricated, furnished cabin.

    There are several similar packaging tools, e.g. Rez-Food and Rez-Faux. These tools are mainly used for packaging and selling a set of grouped items. But, of course, they are extremely useful too for packaging and passing on educational builds.

    Holodecks are somewhat different as they are activated from a rezzer, and they require a bit more know-how if you intend building your own scenes. My colleague, Randall Sadler (Randall Renoir) has created some fantastic new holodeck scenes, using the Horizons holodeck system, at the CALICO/EUROCALL HQ. The Tree House is one of my favourites and it’s now accessible on the Skydeck. We welcome ideas for new scenes.


    • Graham,

      Does it really matter what it is called or what its intended use is when it essentially does the same thing?

      The difference that I see between the Builder’s Buddy script and a holodeck system (besides BB being more flexible and free) is that with a holodeck system you have all scenes stored in the system (one container) whereas with the BB script you have one container per scene (but can store them in a folder in your inventory if you want). Am I missing something?

      Randall showed me the new tree house and I like it a lot. It’s beautiful to look at and the hidden treasures are fun to find.


  9. Dear Nergiz,

    I am so sorry I missed the Holodeck challenge, I also wanted to show my scene (created more for a literature rather than for a language class, though), but I got mixed up with the time zones, ehm, ehm, ehm and I arrived way too late.
    I also agree with you that Builder’s Buddy is a easier way to go (and it’s free).
    If you do a repeat of the challenge later on, I’d like to participate 🙂

    • It would have been great to see your scene but you can still show it to us in one of our meetings, Cvetka. Your account of your building adventure was very interesting to read http://cvetka.edublogs.org/2009/07/01/armilla/
      Who knows, we might have a second round of the Holodeck Challenge next year. But as I said in my blog post, the Challenge was only meant to get us excited and started. So, it hasn’t finished really 🙂

      You say that your scene is for literature rather than a language class but I could still imagine using it for the latter. Although, the building itself is, in this case, a solitary tasks (I would find the idea of building such an “interpretation” as a group difficult), it could lead into a written account of the building process or answering the question why it was interpreted that way and even to a discussion and show&tell session at the end. This could work as an optional project work over a longer period of time. Optional, because not all students might want to learn the necessary building skills. Students who don’t want to do it could be given other options like drawing, making a collage, or using other web 2.0 tools. What do you think?

      • Well, Nergiz,

        yes, you could use the scene for a language class. Next year, in the spring, I will teach an advanced language course in which I want to use SL and where we will also read literature. I would like students to see my interpretation of Calvino’s story in SL and maybe ask them to try their hand on other stories themselves.
        As you say, though, I would not want them to begin to build their scenes in SL, but they could still draw them, of course 🙂

  10. Actually, I do think it is important to be consistent with the terminology, and if you are looking for different tools in SL you will find them more easily if you use the right terms. Search for “packaging tool” or “packaging system” and you will find Rez-Foo, Rez-Faux and Builder’s Buddy. Search for “holodeck” and you will find Horizons, HyperCube, etc.

    You are right about the way in which a holodeck system can store all the scenes within the system, from which they can be activated by anyone via the rezzer, but Horizons also allows you to rez and unpack any individual scene outside the rezzer. This makes it a bit more flexible.


  11. I think the annual challenge is a good idea, but in the meantime would it be possible to have a central repository for builds and holodecks that people are prepared to share? In the EUROCALL/CALICO Resources centre we are building up a stock of free items: clothes for newbies, body shapes, skins, furniture, useful landmarks, scripts, textures, gadgets, etc.

    The Resources centre is accessible via the teleporter in the EUROCALL/CALICO Welcome pavillion:


    A reminder too that I continually update Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site, where you will find a growing list of links to information about Second Life:


    Graham Davies (Groovy Winkler)

    • Graham,

      Yes, we want to place all holodeck/BB scenes in a central place, probably Dudeney Ge’s shop because it is easy to find. But we can also add them to the EUROCALL/CALICO repository.

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