Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GPS - What Got You Flying This Month

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
What Gets You Flying?
I am privileged to have hosted Paul Cornies’ Green Pen Society this month and to have been given the opportunity to choose the topic, What gets you flying when you feel you want to write?

Paul started the writers’ society this year over at quoteflections.

This month's responses have been wonderful and I appreciate the frankness the contributors possess in rationalising their reasons for writing.

Here are some extracts from contributions:

    Blogging allows me to continue both formal and informal learning by working out and reformulating ideas that I have heard at school, questions from my students, read in blogs or the periodicals I read on regular basis (such as the Financial Times), and even analyze and come up with my own theories on what is going on in those areas in which I am interested.
    Virginia Yonkers

    What empowers me? In the old days before blogging I liked to write in a journal. I wrote stories and poems but I was not nearly as prolific as now. Now I am writing for an audience and most importantly for myself; it's fun and enriching most of the time.
    Paul Cornies

    The blog is a place I come to reflect, and even rave about things that have been floating around in my head. Very productive – you should try it. I believe that many ideas which would normally have no outlet are developed in blog posts. Seriously.
    Tania Sheko

    Ideas, feelings and stories that lie idly in my mind rise to the surface and glide when I write about them. Tangled thought-threads, perhaps diffuse and disparate, become less so and move more freely and succinctly when I do this.
    Ken Allan

    I blog so that those who want to be part of class and can't PHYSICALLY come into class can be part of what we are doing. I blog some of what we are doing, some of what we are discussing, any class newsletters and anything else that allows our community to be connected.
    Jody Hayes

    It’s learning how writing sometimes seems to flow, how words bubble up, how they flow up and back down to the ground beneath your feet, it’s learning how writing makes things possible and how words can make your mind feel more expansive and alive.
    Joanna Young

    What I write in my journal consistently is that I want my words to inspire the reader. I want them to come away from what I write feeling better about themselves and the world around them. I want my words to cultivate and plant seeds that will grow crops useful to this universe. I want them to open new windows of possibility and to raise provocative questions.
    Kathy Stilwell

    I was and am exploring the fun and features of the world wide web. I want to understand how it works, and what it can be used for. I write to save my ideas, play with avatar makers, learn to post pictures and videos. I enjoy hearing from people around the world and batting ideas around with them.
    Susan Ens Funk

I give my sincere thanks to this month’s GPS contributors and special thanks to Paul Cornies for permitting this to happen on my blog.

A Green Pen Society contribution

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Session in Snapshots – Networking and Learning

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Arriving at the Workshop
I had intended that the post Connected World in Second Life would be my last in the series on Second Life (SL)
this month. Well, I just have to squeeze in another.

Opens New Window Southern GeorgiaBeing a new ISTE member and an avid enthusiast for learning,
I happened to touch down on ISTE Island yesterday and met up with friend and fellow educator, Louise Borgnine.

She was assisting with the first of a series of intermediate sessions for educators in SL facilitated by
Southern Georgia.

The objective was to learn how to do things that will enhance teaching presentations in SL. The venue was over at Brahma.

Being new to all of what is SL, and in much need of the associated skills, I accepted Louise’s advice to teleport to the workshop.

Southern Facilitating the Workshop
The number of attendees was impressive. I must say that I found the facilitators extremely helpful. When I got stuck (and I did!) there was no end of assistance ready at hand. That’s what good keen educators are like I guess. Always ready to help a willing learner.

Something else impressed me, and that was how wonderful it was to arrive at a distant venue, be attending a session with people from different countries, and be greeted with the customary formalities without having to shift out of my ergonomic chair.

Workshop ParticipantsKallan, wearing his ISTE student badge

There were other features that made me feel welcome. It was a participatory session. I was recognised by the facilitator by name, and he acknowledged me being there more than once. That was something special for one who is so new to SL and feeling a bit anonymous.

TuxedoThen there were the facilitators, among them docent Tuxedo, who was kind and helpful. She was especially helpful when I dropped my laptop and got left behind. Tuxedo helped me pick it all up, and got me started again and following Southern’s instructions.

This was no ordinary workshop, yet it had the presence and feel of a real life workshop.

I learnt a lot. I even got some session notes to take away, as well as a free digital TV presentation screen, which I managed to get working.

“What’s with SL?” I hear my readers say. What’s possessed Blogger in Middle-earth to let himself be led astray by all this virtual reality stuff?
I read some comments
to that effect on a post only a day or so ago.

Southern GeorgiaNo. I don’t think I’m being led astray here. It is the reality of virtual conferencing – no less contrived than video conferencing, with a lot more freedom to move about and participate.

We had a participatory session at the end when Southern rallied us to flex our new-learnt skills in a game of look and see
– an active finish to a rigourous session in using the camera facility in SL.

A transparent dice box, suspended in mid virtual space, rolled the dice for us to observe and call. It wasn’t easy, for we had to navigate our cameras in which ever direction was called, to declare the numbers on the dice. It was fun – as much fun as I have had at many well run training sessions in real life.

The Transparent Dice Box
Next day, I dropped into the ISTE Conference Centre to be greeted yet again with a welcoming smile, this time from docent Mo Hax. He was kind enough to chat and pass on to me his useful site on SL.

These people are volunteers. They are trained educators and they are teaching their hearts out in SL. I might just drop in on another session some time soon. What do you reckon?

related posts - > ( 6 ) ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Friday, September 25, 2009

Elearner Motivation and Support

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
New Window to SLURL
Learner motivation differs in each learner according to circumstance. Yet a common factor shared by many elearners, of all ages, is their isolation.

This year, I feel privileged to have a daughter who is studying in her first year of a BA course in Fine Art at AUT. I’m equally as fortunate to also watch her younger sister pilot her way through her first examinable year at High School.

The role of the parent

My daughters are capable learners, but I’m always aware of the roles my wife and I play in providing necessary support with their study.

As parents and supervisors, we are appreciative spectators, sounding boards, mentors, fund managers and sometimes even punch-pillows, for we love our daughters dearly.

Hannah is hostelling in Auckland; her family lives in Wellington. The presence of the Internet and reliable mobile phone reception permit a free flow of communication which we take advantage of every day. Despite the 500 kilometres between us, these digital links can close the distance, effectively at times to within a few centimetres.

Motivation and support

While adult learners often have a maturity that permits a greater focus on engagement, some can find it just as difficult to knuckle down to study as do teenagers. Elearners need support, and not only from their learning resources or their teachers.

A solo mother can find her motivation for learning academic skills dulled through the importance of her necessary child-care responsibilities.

A mother, who has a partner who may be less committed to her study, can meet similar snags to her motivation.

In much the same way as the younger learner needs support from parents or caregivers, a learner who is in a relationship needs support from his or her partner.

The eteacher may well be aware of circumstances where an elearner’s home lacks necessary study support. But what can a teacher do about such a situation so that there is benefit to the learner?

Teacher-caregiver support

Relationships between the teacher and the learner's caregiver can play an important part in assisting home support. Caregivers are not always aware of the needs of the learner.
For instance, aspects such as the need for access to a computer and other study requisites may not be understood.

Communication between teacher and caregiver can often help solve learner difficulties. But
sometimes it is as demanding for the teacher to engage the supervisor as it is to engage the learner.

How on earth do eteachers go about tackling this challenging task?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

I have three announcements about things that will be happening in the blogosphere next month. The first is an appeal to all bloggers to contribute to Blog Action Day 2009.


“Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web.”

This year’s Blog Action Day is on 15th October, the issue being Climate Change.

Bloggers are encouraged to write about climate change in the context of how it relates to the topic of their blog. To help you start thinking, hop across to the Blog Action Day site where there is listed a few ideas about how you might connect climate change to things you might write about on your blog.

Please contribute to this worthy cause by registering your intended post title at
and publishing your blog post.


George Siemens, Jay Cross and Tony Karrer have recently announced the first ever LearnTrends 2009 Innovation Awards. The intention is to attract nominations from all parts of the globe.

“These awards are designed to recognize the products, projects and companies that represent interesting innovations in the use of technology for Corporate / Workplace Learning and Performance.”

The deadline is 30 October. To apply for an award you must complete the Submission Form.

If you wish to find out more, leave a comment on Tony Karrer’s site, or drop him an email at


My third announcement is to do with Blogger in Middle-earth's nomination for the Blog-o-the-Month award, sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

The announcement and polling place is at ISTE Island's Blogger's Hut in Second Life.

So fly across to Blogger’s Hut on ISTE Island now, and register your support for this blog. If you need to register with Second Life first, the registration is easy. I recommend it.

Blogger in Middle-earth has the blue square on the polling board.
Pick up your avatar and teleport to Blogger’s Hut.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Connected World in Second Life

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you allA Dancing Night Out Maka, Huntress and Kallan enjoying a night out dancing

This is the last of a series of September posts summarising some of what I’ve learnt while looking around Second Life (SL).

Exploring SL from the elearning perspective, there is a range of features that facilitate communication, making it an accessible networking tool.

Here are the features I’ve found most useful during the 3 weeks I have been exploring in SL:

Local chat and voice

Local Chat This feature provides synchronous text or voice communication. In local text chat, selecting the range of communication provides a means of control over the ‘loudness’ of the chat.

Normal chat can be ‘heard’ within a virtual range of 20 m from the participant’s avatar. A whisper cuts the range to 10 m, whereas a shout extends it to 100 m (SL).

Instant Message (IM)

Instant Messaging provides a direct means to communicate across SL between two avatars. This is useful if there's a need for close communication between two avatars when in company. It has global range in SL and permits avatars to chat asychronously if need be.

Avatar profile

Avatar Profile
There are often delays in chat when avatars meet for the first time. This is mainly due to the customary practice of mutual avatar profile checking during an initial conversation.

There are sections or tabs in the avatar profile where useful information can be put by the avatar’s owner.

Since most of this added content is viewable by others, it pays to give careful thought to what’s entered that is viewable by the 'public'. It can be helpful to those you meet and save a lot of misunderstanding.

Drop-box transfer between inventories

Each avatar has its own Inventory – an accumulated ordered series of virtual commodities. These can be images (Textures), text files (Notecards) and sound files (Sounds) or more particularly .wav files and other items such as scripted objects that have specific functions in SL.

Drop-box on Profile
A simple click-and-drag from the inventory of the giver to the drop-box of the recipient permits a copy of the item to be transferred across SL.

Media Browser

Media Browser
A built in browser provides ready access to the Internet direct from SL. As well, the Media Browser can be set so that the browser on the user's PC opens by default. I found this a useful function as it permitted a separate browser window to be opened on the screen giving greater flexibility of use.

Ratings in SL

On 15 September 2009, Linden Lab successfully separated the "adult content" from the general grid. This is a welcome move, for business people and educators using SL, towards a safer and pleasanter environment. It is also a good move for the reputation of Second Life.

( 7 ) < - related posts - > ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ka kite anō - Catchya later

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deeper Than Any Sea – A Second Life Adventure

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

My love of fantasy has taken me deeper into Second life (SL) than I’d imagined. The distinction between reality and fantasy becomes more diffuse with every minute I spend in these regions. Coming back to RL (real life) is a bit like walking out to a daylit street from an exciting and gripping movie. It puts a new perspective on reality.

The effect that SL has on the mind can be powerful if the imagination is energised. For a few minutes after logging off, I wonder if real life isn’t all virtual too. It makes me think again about what some people say about violent virtual games and the effect they may have on the real life behaviour of some people.

But like every other thought stimulation, SL is just another influence. Persona and personality are two entirely different things.

Real adventure

A recent sojourn into SL found me a delightful companion, Zylle (zill).

Like me, she is new to SL but she has a little more experience and that is useful. We share our interests and our fascination for SL in conversation, while we show each other around islands that we'd discovered in the short time since we were rezzed.

part of Kalepa

The other night we took off to the volcanic island of Kalepa, one of Zylle’s favourite spots. It is an enchanting place with lots to explore, including a sail in a gondola and a journey on a huge enchanted feather.

On our second visit to the island, she took me on the Da Vinci Gardens Indiana Jones Adventure.

Here we entered the lobby, close to the entrance to the tomb of the Pharaoh where the Sarcophagus and treasure chamber lay.

Among the rich assemblage of Egyptian statues, treasure chests and ornate accoutrements, were opportunities to actively participate in snake charming, or try a spot of belly dancing, supervised by the resident genie-of-the-lamp.

Kallan watching Zylle belly dancing

Our quest for the treasure chest was fraught with unimaginable peril.

Zylle had to teleporte me to safety from the deathly pit of cobras and avatar-eating spiders at least twice. I wasn’t at my ease in those circumstances and had to keep saying to myself, “this is SL!”

We found the treasure chest eventually, but unfortunately neither of us could lift any of the treasure it contained. Getting back out to the sunny sands of Kalepa meant retracing our steps! I was relieved to get out.

While looking around outside, we spotted Felixx, the developer of Kalepa! We identified him by his name tag as the owner of all that we had seen in Kalepa.

We approached him, and after brief introductions, he kindly showed us around. Felixx teleported us to his customer service depot where we had a chat and shared a few of our interests.

Felixx meeting Kallan and Zylle

I think he was taken with our interest in his work. He gave us the link to a recent video made in Kalepa, starring Alissa Moreno, singing and accompanying herself on piano.

I got the impression time was running short for Felixx. He had lots to get on with, yet he continued to show us around.

When Zylle explained that we’d been to Sunken Atlantis, he asked, “Did you take a ride on the sea-horses?” We hadn’t.

So off we went, teleport-fashion, to ride the sea-horses in the “slumbering green”.

Kallan and Zylle on the sea-horse chariot

Felixx took a snapshot of us as we rode into the depths, and bid us farewell. This journey was amazing, for it revealed the true beauty of Felixx’s animations.

He explained that he first got into building in SL when he'd been out of work for some months, during which time he taught himself the ropes, while building his amazing fantasy land.

He told us that, as a student, he'd studied Biochemistry. He had a PhD in Genetics. I could see where his love for detail in nature came from.

A shipwreck, a lost treasure chest and a visit from a giant octopus set the scene for much adventure.

The next evening, we were in Hawaii and met Pawn who had been newly rezzed. As dutiful avatars, we helped him with some of the basic skills in SL, and a few more tricks, not that I knew much! Swimming underwater with the dolphins was a great introduction to having fun with animation in SL.

Zylle and Pawn swimming with the dolphins

But Kalepa is obviously the place to go for ‘real’ adventure. So off we went, only to meet Felixx, once again! He so much wanted to demonstrate what he could do to entertain us and had us fascinated as he scripted the crocodiles to fight with each another.

Zylle and Kallan look on as Felixx scripts the crocodiles

Isn’t Zylle’s hair wonderful? She decided she needed a complete change after losing her hair while playing chess with Pawn earlier.

Felixx’s power with scripting allowed him to work magic with the Sarcophagus of the Pharaoh.

Kallan, Pawn and Zylle watch as Felixx scripts the Sarcophagus

Later, we decided to take up Felixx’s earlier advice to visit Mars! We’d spent too much time on the seahorses the evening before to enter the underwater spaceship that takes us to Mars from Sunken Atlantis.

It was count down . . . - 3, - 2, - 1, - 0 . . . “We have lift off!”

The journey was somewhat rocky. But with me in the controls, what would you expect? When we landed, we decided it was better that Zylle took the controls on the Mars buggy! Did you know that’s there’s water on Mars? And all sorts of fantasy plant life?

And mushrooms! Or are they Marsrooms?
For Jaba the Hut?

Zylle got us safely to the observation tower, where we took a drink from the bar, relaxed a bit and enjoyed the view.

Throughout the adventure, at the back of my mind I was making mental notes on the potential Second Life had in providing a platform for elearning. Its networking potential, for me, is implicit.

In a flight of fantasy, one need not wonder if even romance is possible in Second Life.

post editor Zylle
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