TLVW, day 4

Wow, that means we’re already at the halfway mark. Not sure how I feel about that.

So Saturday I learned a lot. Our group is really feeling like a group, as one could tell by the way we bantered about before class started. It’s a great bunch of folks, and I’m glad to be in with them. It might be a little hard to tell from this pic, but almost all vestiges of the noob look are gone!

In this pic, we’re actually listening to a presentation about the teen grid. Teaching adults about the teen grid is in some ways problematic, because we’re not allowed to actually see the place (unless we go through the extensive background check, which we probably would’ve had to do last month in order to be ready by this week). Thus there was no way to see what the kids are up to, or even what educators (or, in this case, an educational consultant) are doing. We can only hear about it in secondhand reports. On the other hand, the grid itself works the same way as the main grid, and so as far as the idea of planning for involvement goes, we already have the information we need. I’m in this for college-level applications, so the difference is academic in my case, but I found myself trying to reconcile the idea of the teen grid delivered via reportage with my experiences in the main grid. I’ve come across work by Teen Grid denizens elsewhere in the blogosphere, and in spite of the “physical” similarities to the main grid, it sounds like they’ve got a whole different culture there. I wonder whether and how much that might affect educators trying to work in that environment.

Here’s a slightly off-beat observation. The picture I’ve got above looks like it might have come from the period just before class began, when we were just hanging out and getting ready. In truth, I took this snapshot well over half an hour into class and the aforementioned presentation. Look at what happens spatially (and/or visually) when we don’t have a prescribed seating area! Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It looks like a bunch of folks milling about, but everyone was really engaged – you could tell by the kinds of questions and comments that appeared. Still, such an appearance of chaos might madden some (like me) who find order comforting. It’s a reminder that we (read: I ) always have more stretching we can do when it comes to our comfort zones (although this time it didn’t bother me, as I was not in charge). Thinking on it, it’s more fair to call it “organic” than “chaotic.” We are a class full of good thinkers and hard workers, and that doesn’t change just because we don’t have a classical seating arrangement.

After the presentation, we went into more advanced building. I learned a very valuable lesson about using offsets to display just part of a texture on an object; this can save a lot of money on texture uploads. I ended up working with Shailey and Ebliu on a maze that would help people solve problems with getting voice communication to work. There wasn’t nearly enough time to get it done, but you can see here that we got off to a good start. No, I’m not just sitting around; I just wanted to get to a vantage point so I could see the work better. I also learned how effective the group call feature can be for collaboration – once again I found myself using voice, and it worked well. I guess I’d be more comfortable with it if I had a headset, but I have to admit that voice has some things going for it, especially as part of a collaborative building project. I would have been much less effective if I had to interrupt my hands to type my thoughts out rather than just saying them.

That exercise was really just to get us thinking about how we can use building skills as a pedagogical resource and to get some practical experience doing it, but I found myself compelled to complete the project. I went back this afternoon and mostly finished it up. The project is basically an embodied problem-solving flowchart: Can you hear anything? If yes, go left; if no, go right to Plug in your headphones; can you hear? etc. Each choice points you left for a Yes and right for a No answer, and in the end that required serious planning. I did it on paper first, which took about 20 minutes just to figure out the basic shape of the recursive structure. After that, the build was pretty straightforward. I also learned how to make the equivalent of a one-way glass (or hedge, for the maze) that’s transparent when viewed from one side but opaque (textured) from the other, as each set of choices eventually converges on a successful or unsuccessful outcome. Really, it helps to see the thing. Anyway, it was a nice (and nicely temporary) return to my engineering and computer science days of logic and problem-solving. If this is what digital humanities can be like, I’m definitely in the right field.

Song of the moment: "Follow Me up to Carlow," The Young Dubliners

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