Esme, our fearless leader, was at a conference last weekend (about which she probably owes us a blog post 😉 ), so we held that class session yesterday. Two major things in yesterday’s experience.
First, I’m mad at myself because I didn’t get any pics of the Second Louvre, which was among a few spots we toured in class. I’ve been to Paris in FL (though not for many years), and it made the appropriate impression. But it was not until I’d visited Paris 1900 and now the Second Louvre in SL that I realized why France is such a cultural center. I’m not much of an art buff, but this museum was too cool. It was the sculptures that particularly caught me (so much so that I forgot to take freakin’ pictures!). If you’ve been around in SL even a little, you know that good prim-work is the cornerstone of any quality 3D work, and there are some lovely examples at the Louvre. They range from FL-looking pieces (“traditional”-style sculptures) to shimmery, animated, or simply outlandish things that are only possible in a virtual world. I was captivated.
To take a moment and look at this from an educational perspective, just think of what SL museum tours might do for the imaginations of children and young people who are looking for artistic inspiration. Think of how this can augment the notions of art appreciation and art history!
Can you tell the Second Louvre was my favorite part of yesterday’s tour?
So anyway…the second part of class was a presentation by Giannina Rossini on Sloodle, the mashup of the Moodle course management system and Second Life. Basically, adding the Sloodle module to your Moodle installation allows you to use SL to enhance your online course by giving you and your students access to various parts of the Moodle while in SL. This includes chat (the chat can be conducted with those both in and out of SL at the same time), posting to your Moodle blog from in-world, access to glossaries, and more. Pretty nifty, and growing in capability all the time.
A good question was brought up, but there wasn’t time to address it (though I suspect we will in our own Moodle discussions this week): why was Sloodle created? The creators themselves have their answers, some of which are on the website. But the question underneath that is, I believe, “why would we use it?” And my answer is: I’m not sure we would, at least not all of us. It might have been a good tool for this TLVW course, for example, since it’s being conducted completely via Moodle and Second Life. At this point in the course, however, I think of the blogs we’ve created: some of us use the Moodle blog tool, which can be enhanced with Sloodle. Some of us, however, chose WordPress or Blogger blogs, which are – as blogging tools – much more dynamic. If we’d been using Sloodle from word one, these options might not have been available, and I for one would have enjoyed blogging much less. (Let me quickly add that compatibility with major blogging tools is probably on the horizon, since the BlogHUD system already allows blogging to various platforms from in-world.)
The bigger consideration, though, is for teachers who are not using SL as a major component of their classroom or course, even with a major Moodle component. I’m thinking now of the back-end issues, really, since every effort has been made – rather successfully, I think – to make Sloodle easy to use for teachers and students. Unfortunately, unlike BlogHUD (or even SL, to an extent), it’s not a tool you can just pick up and use. It’s a third-party add-on module for your Moodle installation, and for many educators (like me) that means a long heart-to-heart with your sysadmin, IT division, or computer science department. The natural reticence such folks often display when someone wants to add yet another something to the Frankensteinian monster that is the school’s or department’s server comes from the fact that – even if the tool is a plug-and-play module – after the work of the installation, the thing needs to be kept up-to-date (remember that “growing in capability all the time” I mentioned earlier?), and it needs to be integrated from a systems point of view with the rest of the tools on the network (strange incompatibilities pop up for no reason at all, like on my PC, where Thunderbird won’t auto-update if Logitech’s QuickCam software is running). It is what they get paid the big bucks for (!), but is the return (in classroom terms) on the investment (in IT energy and time) worth it? That is, of course, up to each individual. But it’s a serious question.
I did get a pic to share, by the way, which leads to the last thing I have to say about yesterday’s class. This comes from the moment when we are gathering for the Sloodle discussion; Rossini is perched on the orange box, and the rest of us are milling about on the ground. And there’s not a newbie-looking avatar among us! You don’t have to have prim hair or blingy accessories or store-bought tuxedos to transcend that “just out of Orientation Island” lack of style. Everyone here has created their own look, and whether it’s simple or complex, it’s not the cookie-cutter, factory standard. Compare the looks in this pic with those of our first or second meeting, and you’ll see how far we’ve come. Am I too obsessed with appearance? I dunno; how many SL fashion blogs are there out there? Check them out and judge me later. But these are people, not dolls, and in a 3D, visual, digital world, one of the ways to make that most clear is to have an individual look – something at which we’ve all succeeded.
It makes me warm and tingly inside.
Song of the moment: "Telephone Call from Istanbul," Tom Waits
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