Monday, January 26, 2009

Module 1 - Section 3 - Activity 8

Tree planting on MUVEnation island

For this activity we were asked to create a tree. It was a challenge, indeed. We were suppossed to experience this task in order to develop not only creativity but to master the apprenticeship model, provide peer to peer learning support, enjoy ludic learning and share informal learning.

  • To further develop building and scripting skills and methods via a creative project
  • 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 inworld

My group (Group 3) was asked to build one or more of the following types of tree here:
  • realistic tree
  • surrealistic tree
  • typographic tree
  • tree of life
  • family tree
  • naughty tree
  • musical tree
  • people tree
  • tree for sale
  • fruit of knowledge tree
  • tree into toe won’t go
  • tree of oblivion
  • tree from hell
  • symbol tree
  • science fiction tree love tree
  • snakes and ladders tree
  • monkey puzzle tree idolatree trees a crowd
  • geometree
  • repositree
  • poetree
Although it was not planned that way at the beginning, I created another tree that was not included in the list. I created a Christmas tree, because it was more related to my own RL. Then, I created a realistic tree. Therefore, I can divide my tree building experience into two parts:

Part I. A Christmas tree

At the beginning, I thought that building a tree would be 'a piece of cake'. So, I decided to work on the travel guide first and do this task later. However, as soon as we started with the travel guide, I realized I was wrong. Designing our Creation of Content tour was a total challenge and demanded more time than expected, so my tree had to wait until January.

Trying to accomplish with two assignments at the same time and enjoying the RL Christmas holidays, I built a Christmas tree in the second station of our travel tour path. Its main objective is to show all different shapes we have available in the Object Editor, object features, scripts use, and elements needed for a fun activity in the second station.

I am very proud of that tree. It was made with 16 colorful, lighted and different-shaped rotating prims. If you see it inworld at midnight, it will look like this one in the snapshot.

Part II. A realistic tree

When we came back from Christmas vacations, we realized that several of our travel guide prims had been moved, deleted, or returned. So, I was afraid of using so many prims in my tree. Well, I built this one you see here in the snapshot below.

I first created a cilynder, which would be the trunk. I added it a texture and stretched it. Then, for the leaves, I created a box, stretched it, twisted and hollowed it. I added it a texture, a real tree color and a rotating script. Once this object was ready, I duplicated it several times, creating about 7 or 8 prims. I added these new objects to the trunk. If you see it inworld you will see a rotating tree.

I' ve seen so beautiful trees built, so I'm not very pleased with mine. I still think I could do something better and more productive. So, I will continue trying until I can feel really comfortable or I decide to give up, ha ha :-))


Module 1 - Section 3 - Activity 7

Activity 7 - Multiple hands, Multiple voices: a co-writing experiment about Orientation islands in Second Life: analysis, evaluation and guiding principles for successful design of orientation islands

Background and aims

The aim of this activity is to produce an occasional paper from the results of Activity 7 'Coming into land'. In this activity, 20 participants from Group 3 explored four orientation islands in order to reflect about the learning experience of new users on these islands and to identify a set of guiding principles for their successful design.

This work has been analysed by Margarita Pérez and presented at Online Educa Berlin 2008. It attracted much audience interest and especially that of Jean Miller (aka Jean Linden), who works as the German Marketing Manager (consumers, educators, enterprises) for Linden Labs.

The reasons for her interest in this work were:

  • Linden Labs is looking for better ways to improve new users experience.
  • LL has quantitative data about new user experiences, but little qualitative data that can help them better understand user behaviour during their first steps in Second Life
  • LL has started a collaboration with ISTE for the design of the New Educators Pathway. But they are aware of the present limitations of the orientation island, and would like to improve or to create another kind of introductory experience for educators.

Very little has been written about guidelines for orientation island design, and thus our work has a potential for positive impact within the Second Life educational community.

Considering this interest, and as a continuation of our work together, we propose to co-write an occasional paper with recommendations for successful design of orientation islands. Naturally this process can be extended to the elaboration of at least two or three research papers. But we need to start with an easier co-writing exercise, and then move progressively towards more complex forms of writing that exist in longer publication cycles such as peer reviewed research papers. So this first attempt is also an exercise for us, to see how good we are at organising and managing the collective production of knowledge.

To cooperate in the MUVEnation wiki and co-write an occasional paper with the title 'Orientation islands in Second Life: analysis, evaluation and guiding principles for successful design of orientation islands'


This work will be publish here soon.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Module 1 - Section 3 - Activity 6

Building a Travel Guide


1. To collect, describe and comment on a number of tools that are suitable for teaching and learning in Second Life based upon a chosen theme
2. To design an experience-based, interactive and playful activity for a teacher to discover to discover these tools in Second Life, such as creating a tour guide

My reflections:

To do this task, we were first provided with a list of areas we might work with. These areas were:

  • Delivery of learning material
  • Communication and interaction
  • Cooperation
  • Creation of content
  • Individualisation of learning paths
  • Assessment, feedback and tracking
  • Self-organisation and group-organisation
  • Reflection and meta cognition

We also had to show our availability to work in groups. So, I did. I chose Creation of Content and decided to work with Cvetka, Narci, PeterGeorge, SusNy, and Alpha. Like Cvetka, I had an idea of 'content' in mind. Language teachers usually have to manage this term when planning and designing classes, courses or programs; however, I was not sure about its actual meaning in SL.

It was not easy at the beginning. Cvetka and I had many doubts about how and where to start. We met inworld and explored different places and tools. We did a great job together. We found many interesting tools, but not all of them were appropriate for our Creation of Content task, so we focused on building tools primarily.

Then, other members joined the group. It was very exciting. It would be the first time we would do a group task inworld. It sounded as a real challenge, and it actually was. We were all from different countries and have different time zones. It was hard to plan inworld meeting, then, we organized our work and keep a fluent and good communication, we exchanged our email addresses and created a Google document, so we could store all the information tere. Then, we organized the information and all team members added the different tools and information that might be useful for our project.

Inworld we designed a circle path with 6 stations. We were not clear about the number of stations at the beginning. We had planned to work on 4 main areas: building, textures, scripting and animations. After several discussions by email, the Google Doc and inworld, we decided to create the following:

Station No. 1 Welcome station: Here we provide a welcome message to our visitors and give a notecard with an overview about our travel guide and the landmark.

Station No. 2 Building: This station is aimed to guide the visitor to a building experience. The main building tool is Object Editor, but there are other ones available found by Cvetka and me.

Station: 3: Textures and Media. This is SusNy's place. It has a laptop and a screen to show how to use media and textures to create and deliver content. It also contains an object that allows to navigate and visit SusNy's blog.

Station 4: Scripting. This is a very interesting station designed by Alpha and Narci. It provides many tools to create content by using scripts and animations. It is quite interactive.

Station 5: Media and animations. This station was designed by PeterGeorge. It is a fantastic music house which offers several opportunities for the visitor to try by him/herself many different ways to teach music through the use of content media and animations.

Station 6: More tools and resources. This is the last station, here we provide many interesting Web links to further readings, resources, RL and SL tools that may be helpful to create content.

We finally included a circled rug as a playground area in the center of the circuit , so visitors could have the opportunity to practice with the different tools provided during the tour.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Module 1 - Section 2 - Activity 10

Fashion Show

Hi dear all:

During the last weeks we have been working and playing with our avatars. It's been a very interesting experience. I've been changing my avatar's skins, and now, I'm not afraid of becoming a bald man because I already learnt how to save my avatars.

As a closing for Section 2, a fashion show was designed. We would have to show how much control we had on our avatar (s). the event was held at Emerge last Sunday, Dec. 9. It was the first time I participated in a fashion show. I had to go on the catwalk and show two outfits at a minimun. I was there early trying on different outfits I had chosen before, and I felt fine and secure. But, when the public started to arrive, I became more and more nervous. I guess that's the way it is in RL. Steven played some music to us and the show started. My heart was beating. All ladies were in the changing room and we were paying attention to Paz Lorenz who organized us. It was so exciting, especially when it was my turn.

I had decided to show two outfits, an elegant and sexy red dress and a gorgeous wedding dress. But, unfortunately, since we were many participants we could only show one outfit. Nevertheless, at the end of the show, I changed my red dress by the second outfit, the wedding dress. Tere Short asked me who had designed that dress and I told her that it was an Angel Sanchez's design. Angel is a very famous Venezuelan designer. Since I couldn't passed again by the catwalk to take a snapshot, I came back last night and took the pics I wanted.

After the show, we got relaxed and danced for a while. We really had fun together. I want to take advantage of this space to congratulate Paz and Steven, as well as the organizing team for such a wonderful event. It was a total success! Congrats and thanks!

Here you can see some snapshots. Enjoy them!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Module 1 - Section 2 - Activity 9

Curating our digital selves

Hi dear all!

During this week we were asked to take some close-up snapshots from our friends and create a mini-exhibition. It took me some time to decide how I was going to design my gallery. I didn't have any idea. I first started trying with prim, colors, shapes; then, I decided to create walls and the decoration; and finally, I uploaded images (textures) to be shown. Since I was not sure about the total number of snapshots I was going to use and I didn't plan my work in advance, I spent all the money I had. So, I'm broken now. I couldn´t upload all my friends' snapshots, but in this slideshow you will have an idea of what I included in my exhibition. Enjoy the show! You are cordially invited to visit my gallery in Muvenation; here is the landmark:

Evelyn Michalski's Gallery, Muvenation (122, 130, 300)



Module 1 - Section 2 - Activity 8

All about My Avatar: Evelyn Michalski

Evelyn Izquierdo interviews Evelyn Michalski
Dec 3, 2008

EI: Hi, Evelyn! Thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview.

EM: Thank you. I'm glad to tell you about my SL experiences.

EI: When was Evelyn Michalski born?

EM: Evelyn Michalski was born on August 9, 2008. That means I'm only four months old, LOL.

EI: How did you choose your SL first and family names?

EM: Well, I decided to keep my RL name because I love it and because I didn't want to lose my own identity. I think Evelyn is a beautiful name; besides, having a different name made feel strange.

Regarding my family name, I had to choose from a long list of last names. It was fun. I chose Michalski because it sounded like Russian or Polish. It seemed to be nice and elegant. At the beginning, I even forgot my last name, but after some months, it has become part of me.

EI: How would you describe Evelyn Michalski?

EM: Well, Evelyn Michalski is a young woman, between 24 or 28 years old, with long black hair and a beautiful smile. She has a sexy walking style and loves using poses. She usually wears black hair and purple eyes; but, lately, she has discovered how exciting is having a new look everyday. She is being trying new skins, new makeup and new outfits. Look at here:

EI: Is this your first avatar? Tell me about your first moments in SL.

EM: As all new SL avatars, I was naked. I had to decide about her size, height, weight and face's features. I took me some time to edit her appearance and design some outfits for her, but I really enjoyed it. To that moment, I didn´t know how to save a skin or buy a new one. One day, while editing my avatar's appearance I made a mistake and I lost all the work I had been doing. My avatar suddenly became an ugly, fat and bald man. I tried once and again and I couldn´t change his physical appearance, so I went shopping and bought another skin. This new skin was pretty much what I was looking for. I made so changes to her and that is the second avatar you have seen.

EI: How do you feel when editing your avatar? What effects do you want to produce on others?

EI: Interesting question. More than thinking about the effects I might produce on others, I try to find something that makes me feel well. Evelyn Michalski has been an inspiration to me. She always feel comfortable with her appearance. And if she doesn't, she inmediately changes it. In RL, for example, you cannot change your appearance in seconds, except under surgery; but I think we must feel confident and happy with the way we look like, anf if we don´t, well, find the way to do so.

EI: Do you have any relatives in SL? Do you have other avatars?

EM: No, not yet, unfortunately. But I do have many friends, most of them are Webheads. I'm learning how to control my feelings when I don't like the skin, and I would like to try with a new avatar.

EI: What does Evelyn Michalski do in SL?

EM: Uhmmm, I don't know yet. She looks like an excutive but it seems to me that she is unemployed. Two months ago, she was trained to be a Spanish teacher in SL. She might be teaching in Ciudad Bonita soon, or she might find a job as an English teacher as well. She loves exploring lands and making new friends. She also likes building, but she needs more practice.

EI: What do you do in RL?

EM: I'm an English teacher. I work at the School of Education of Universidad Central de Venezuela. I love ICT and using Web tools in my classes. I discovered they are excellent media to learn the target language.

EI: Well, Evelyn, thank you very much for letting us know more about you.

EM: It was a pleasure! You are always welcome!

Module 1 - Section 2 - Activity 7

The Professional Avatar

Hi dear all:

In Activity 7, we were asked to answer the following (provocative) questions related to the 'professional' avatar:


  • Do you think avatar appearance is an important aspect of educational activities that are being undertaken in Second Life?

No, necessarily. Perhaps, if you are working with newbies, the appearance might have some influence on them, but once the learner knows the SL environment, he or she can easily understand the difference; what really matter is if you are prepared or not to teach in SL.

  • What does appearance say about us in a teaching situation in Second Life - to what degree is it the same as real-life?

I think RL and SL teaching situations are very different. In SL you need to master several abilities you never put into practice within a traditional RL classroom. It is also different from teaching online. SL demands a lot from the teacher; he or she must know how to deal with all the technical aspects, besides having the competence to be a teacher. I mean, he or she must have been trained in the pedagogical aspects and must know the subject or course content. As a SL teacher you have to design a lesson plan and follow it, but controlling at the same time all what students are doing too (ie. voice, chat, audio, movements, etc).

The avatar's appearance might be important or not depending on your class objectives. In RL, a teacher should be careful with what he or she wears. Something that doesn't follow the standard rule might be a distracting factor for the entire class.

  • What is a appropriate professional avatar appearance for education?

Well, almost all teachers have the same physical appearance all over the world. I mean, we have standard rules on what a teacher should or shouldn´t wear, or how he or she should look like. The main aspects concerning to the avatar might be those related to behaviour instead of appearance. Some teachers are more formal than others and they would probably like to show a similar look in SL. Or, on the contrary, someone who is always tired of being dressy in RL would probably have a less formal appearance in SL. It is simply a personal style matter. With a 'professional' or 'non-professional' appearance, teachers must inspire respect and confidence, since they are an example to follow; that is something you get in return if you are a professional teacher, if you treat the others with respect, if you know the subject matter, if you prepare your class, if you listen to others and respect their ideas, etc. Of course, if you choose something very 'strange' as an avatar or something that is not 'allowed' in RL, your students might be probably observing you, instead of paying attention to class. That's a risk. It also happens in RL.

  • Does your avatar have a professional appearance for educational contexts? Yes, no? Why?

Well, it depends on what we understand for professional appearance. But, well, yes, I think she has a standard 'professional' style.

  • Is there any appearance you would never use to teach in Second Life and why?

Yes, I would never teach being naked, or I wouldn't like to teach with a devil appearance.

  • The ability to change avatar appearance could be described as an affordance of Second Life. How can the ability to alter avatar appearance be used as a teaching tool?

As a language teacher, I think the ability of changing or alter an avatar is really important, since it is an excellent resource for a warming up activity, follow up tasks, homeworks, etc. It is very useful to practice specific language skills, indeed. I think SL, in general, has many advantages for online language teachers and learners.

This is me as Vivi

You may add your comments below. They are very welcome!

See you inworld,


Module 1 Section 2, Activity 6: Almost Famous

As part of Module 1- Section 2, we were also asked to alter our avatar's skin to create a famous person. I chose Abraham Lincoln. I spent several hours to get an avatar as close as possible. Unfortunately, I had some trouble with the beard and eyebrows, which I couldn't make darker. I tried several times, and this is what I got.

While I was in a store buying some men's clothing, a woman arrived. I said hello to her although I was really uncomfortable. I had to let her know that I was not a man, and why I looked like Abraham Lincoln. She told me that I had done a good job with my avatar, which made me feel proud of myself.

What do you think about the results? Your comments are welcome!

Evelyn Michalski

Monday, December 1, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 8

Micro lesson for an Induction Session

In this activity Evelyn Michalshi (Evelyn Izquierdo) and Tamara Ashton (Jennifer Verschoor) have worked together to create a mini-lesson on:

Getting Around: Taking a Closer Look
Landmark: NMC Orientation 213, 105, 27

Objectives: At the end of this module, participants will be able to:
  • Use the computer keyboard to focus, zoom and pan
  • Use the camera control feature to focus, zoom and pan
  • Get around and take a closer look at things by using camera controls
  • Be able to stay in one spot and quickly view something from different angles

1- Find an object that interests you and inspect it closely from all angles. Also pan around the environment and around yourself.
2- Play hide and seek with another friend using only camera controls to search for the other person without moving your avatar.

Previous knowledge: None

Materials: Item Location Camera Control View > Camera Controls, panels, images uploaded (textures) and pasted in prims, snapshots with camera controls, images with arrows.


  • Step 1: Focusing. Hold down the Alt key to activate Focus Mode. Did you see your cursor change to a magnifying glass while Alt was held down? While continuing to hold down the key, click on anything - an object, the landscape or a person. Notice how the view centers after you click? Even when the object or person moves, your camera will stay with it until it is out of range.
  • Step 2: Zooming. While holding down the Alt key, press the UpArrow key on your keyboard to zoom in and DownArrow key to zoom out.
  • Step 3: Horizontal panning. As you continue to hold down the Alt key, press the RightArrow key or LeftArrow key to pan right or left. This is a great way to go around your subject. You can also pan using your mouse. While holding down the Alt key, drag your mouse around. Did you see that you can zoom by moving the mouse forward or back and you can pan by moving your mouse left or right?

Play 'Hide and Seek':

Play 'hide and seek' with another friend using only camera controls to search for the other person without moving your avatar. By the end of this mission you will be able to pan in all directions and angles.

Further Practice

  • Step 1: Vertical panning. Hold down the Alt and Ctrl keys together then click on something. Now press the UpArrow key or DownArrow key to pan up or down. You can also press the E or C keys to pan up or down. This time the distance from your avatar remains constant but you can pan in all directions using the arrow keys. Try this now: Using your mouse, make sure you hold down the Alt and Ctrl keys together, then click on something and drag your mouse around.
  • Step 2: Pan landscape. Hold down the Alt, Ctrl and Shift keys all together and drag your mouse. Did you notice that as you move the mouse, the camera slides across the landscape as if you are dragging the ground around?
  • Step 3: 360 degrees around yourself. To get a quick look around your avatar try this:
    With the Alt key pressed down, click on your avatar. While continuing to hold the Alt key down use the arrow keys to spin around your avatar. This is a great way to see what your avatar looks like from the front.
  • Step 4: Camera Controls. There is one more way to access your camera controls in Second Life. Under View menu select the option Camera Controls. View > Camera Controls
    You will see two circles and a bar in between appear at the bottom of your screen.
    The left circle rotates the camera.
    The middle bar zooms in and out.
    The right circle moves the camera left, right, up and down.

We will be soon advising you about our hours available for orientation.


Evelyn Michalski

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 7

Coming in to land - Do's and Don'ts
Hi dear all:

During this week, we were asked to select two orientation spaces from the list below to be analyzed:

  • Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability (135, 124, 23)
  • RL Student Orientation Area, Campus (172, 90, 24)
  • NMC Orientation (107, 114, 39), and
  • Orientation Stations, Dore (32, 99)
I visited the four orientation spaces, but I chose Virtual Ability and NMC Orientation to make my main comments here.

Orientation partly interactive, Virtual Ability

The first space I visited was Virtual Ability. I was delighted with that space. I think it provides the necessary guidance to make a 'just born' SL avatar happy and confident. The arrows, images and explanations are very important for a newbie. A person who is entering in-world for the first time needs to be treated as as young child. All information you can give him/her will be appreciated and this space takes that child by his/her hand teaching him/her the whole process to control and learn from his/her avatar and his/her environment, step by step. I also liked the calm and peaceful environment provided by this space, the games incorporated, and rewards when tasks are well done.

In Virtual Ability, I met Pecos Kid. He is one of VA mentors. He asked me about the orientation space and my experience there. We enjoyed chatting for a while. He taught me how to climb a tree, something I've never done in RL. It was exciting. I took several snapshots during my visit. I really enjoyed it.

NMC Orientation

Regarding NMC Orientation, it seems to be more sofisticated, more serious, more elegant perhaps. It provides another interesting orientation space for newbies. I think students can feel comfortable, and they will be able to learn a lot. However, I think this space demands a higher competency level than Virtual Ability, and more attention. But, well, it depends on the learner's maturity or learning style.

In NMC, I met my friend Tamara Ashton (Jennifer Verschoor in RL) and we explored the orientation island together. We checked, step by step, all what we were supposed to know according to the training received with Languagelab, until we got to a video station. We got distracted there. I saw San Francisco's trolley, which made me remind my visit to that city. That was our first distractor, then we walked around and passed over the Golden Gate bridge. We completely forgot the other stations and we never came back to complete the steps, but we have come several times to plan our micro-class. The fact of not finishing the circuit indicates that something wrong is happening. Perhaps, it is too long, or it has some distractors on the way to make the SL learner get some rest. I'm not clear about the purpose of this specific design. I really liked it, but it would be advisable to have someone around who provides some help or guidance. We have never found anybody there.

Tamara Ashton on the left

The other two spaces, Dore and Campus seemed too simple to me. I don't think they provide enough information to the learner. On the contrary, the learner can get lost and feel frustrated. There is no place to go, nothing interesting to see, except for shopping. I found a MVN mentor in Campus, she asked my opinion about the space. We had a very short chat and said goodbye. In Dore, I found a stranger who seemed to a mentor. Tamara Ashton (Jennifer) and me were put off. I don't know why. We couldn't come back. Wow, I'm happy not to be a newbie. I would have felt very bad and I would probably never come back to SL.

In sum, orientation spaces should be:

1. Goal oriented and well guided. Arrows, images and explanations should be clear and enough in order to lead the learner step by step to reach the goal (s).
2. Interactive. It should offer many opportunities for the learner to interact with the environment.
3. Task-based and well graded. Activities must have a purpose and must go from simpler to more complex.
4. Encouraging. It should incorporate games and provide positive feedback when tasks are well done.
5. Pleasant. The learner should feel comfortable to develop SL abilities under a relaxing and peaceful environment.
6. A learning facilitator. It should provide some help if needed. There must be a mentor or helper ready to give a hand to those who need it.
7. Friendly. It should encourage learners to come back for more practice or just to check some tasks.
8. Fun. It should include funny activities for learners to enjoy while exploring and discovering the SL new world.

Orientation spaces should NOT:

1. Provide only written instructions. They should have enough images, pictures or sounds to guide the learner to reach the goals set.
2. Hide signals or simply not show any kind of learning path.
3. Provide too short explanations or descriptions.
4. Be dark spaces or desolated. They must be built by specialists in graphic design, architects or people who know about online space management.
5. Leave the learner by his/her own. Some kind of help must be offered.
6. Provide negative feedback.
7. Be static.
8. Be boring.

I'm not sure whether a SL orientation space should have a linear path or not, what I do think is that all orientation spaces should provide different possibilities for all different learning styles.

Well, that’s all folks.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 2

The story of my first steps in Second Life
Hi dear friends:

This is the story about my first steps in Second Life (SL).
I created my account in SL two years ago, but I never could go inworld because of technical limitations. I had heard about SL from Webheads in Action, from Gavin Dudeney (Consultants-e), from Graham Stanley (British Council-Spain) and from my colleagues and friends Dafne González (USB) and Miguel Mendoza (UCV). They all talked to me about how wonderful this virtual world was. I really wanted to try it. I was curious about it, but my computer crashed every time I tried. Fortunately this year, in a new computer, I could sucessfully download the program and it run perfectly. I created a new avatar with a new name, because I had forgotten the one I had created two years before, and this exciting experience started. So, let me introduce you Evelyn Michalski, my avatar in SL.

My First Avatar

My first hours in SL were very exciting. I really enjoyed editing my avatar's appearance, changing her look, learning how to walk, chatting to others and learning how to use all those buttons and menu options. It was a complete new world for me; I was exploring and discovering as a little kid. I had heard about SL and seen some snapshots, but it is not the same being inworld and learn how to control yourself. For example, I didn't know how to see myself, just when editing my avatar's appearance; I didn't know how to use the camera controls; flying and softly landing, not crashing on the floor. Oops, it really hurt :-)). I usually found people around, but I was afraid of offering or accepting friendship because I didn't know who they were; and, I didn´t know how to use the maps or a TP, among other things.
By September 2008, I joined a group of trainees who would be part of the new Spanish teaching staff of Our mentors, Daf Smirnov and Anna Begonia introduced us to the SL fascinating world. They offered a four-week training in which we would learn and develop different abilities to use the SL tools and how to teach Spanish as a second language. It was fun and interesting at the same time. I was exploring new tools and discovering a world that demanded a great effort from me when developing a class. I had to take into account all what my avatar did, and at the same time, observing what the others were doing (the trainees simulated being students) and following a lesson plan.
It was not easy at the beginning. I was a total newbie, but in every session we developed new abilities and I felt more confident. Besides, some friends of mine were also trainees and we had fun together. By the way, they are also taking this Muvenation course: Nelba Quintana and Jennifer Verschoor, both from Argentina. We are all Webheads like Dafne, Sus, Nergiz, Teresa, Moira, Serpil and Alicia.
Teaching in RL is totally different from teaching in SL. In SL you need to develop other abilities you almost never use in a classroom, for example: controlling the audio, listening and speaking by using the appropriate volume, walking in the right direction, using note cards, transfering landmarks, using the maps and camera controls, teletransporting or sending a TP, communicate with others by IM or local chat, creating objetcts or prims, adding or modifying scripts, flying, etc. In RL, you just give your class following a lesson plan, but in SL you have to develop your class and, simultanously, you have to be aware of/and control all the technical aspects. Here you will see some snapshots taken by Daf during our first and second weeks.

Learning how to walk

Learning how to fly

Learning how to create objects, manipulate prims and scripts

My/our first task in the training was designing a mini-lesson. I would play the role of the teacher and the other participants would simulate to be students. At the end of the class, we would provide feedback to one another. My first class was about 'Dimensions and Genre'.

In our second week, our task was to design another class, but this time we should show our SL abilities developed until that moment. It was an experience even more challenging than the class before. My second mini-class was about 'Professions':

During the week, trying to make some changes to the appearance of my avatar I had my first accident in SL. The feeling was terrible. Yes, I had never felt something like that. I don't know how but I suddenly became a bald man. I was athletic but short and my face's features were totally different. Oh no!!! Desperated trying to change her (or his) appearance, it become worse and worse. Well, I inmediately decided to go shopping and buy a new skin for my avatar. What a relief! At that time, I didn't know how to keep my avatar's skin. I'm so sorry because I really liked her. But well, I was born again. I changed some features to the new avatar and voilà. Here is Evelyn Michalski now.

Fortunately, I could solve that situation before my third and last mini class. The third class was a team teaching experience. What an interesting experience, indeed! It was more challenging and demanding this time, at this level we had to a) manage all SL tools, b) design a lesson plan with a partner, and c) perform the class within the Languagelab Sim. I worked with Magaly Rodríguez (Maga Randt in SL), a teacher who works at Universidad Simón Bolívar. We did a great job together, in spite of the stress of being under evaluation. It was my first team teaching experience in SL. I was too nervous, we had to exchange roles (teacher and assistant) during the class while performing and showing our SL tool management abilities. What a challenge! Our class was about 'Hotel Reservations'. It was a total success! :-)

Maga Randt is on the right with the shiny shoes

I would like to take advantage of this post to express my gratitude to for such a great opportunity, for the excellent Spanish training program, and for assigning Daf as our mentor. She did an excellent, awesome and wonderful job.

Well, this is the story of my first steps in SL only with Languagelab. I have also visited other Sims, other islands and many interesting places. I promise to continue the story and bring a slideshow soon.

Evelyn Michaslki

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Module 1 - Section 1 - Activity 1


Learning online has been a great experience to me. At the beginning of 2005, I didn’t know anything about Internet, just sending and receiving emails and Web searching once in a while. After taking a six-week, hands-on workshop called Becoming a Webhead, from January 15 to February 28, everything changed. It had been the best experience as a learner that I’ve ever had. The workshop was based on how to use Web tools and how to incorporate them into the language classrooms. We had a Yahoo Group where all of us sent our introductions and started communicating with people from all over the world. It was fascinating, but at the same time it was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to deal with such a bunch of emails every single day. When I opened my inbox I had more than 105 new messages!!!! Oh, Gosh!!!! Fortunately, our e-tutors taught us how to use the daily-digest email option and how to find the information in the Yahoo group. We learned about several topics: blogs, wikis, blended learning, Flickr, etc. It was amazing how we could create and cooperate altogether. We explored every new tool by ourselves and created different new accounts. At the beginning we felt like babies, but today I realized how much I’ve learned. For example, three years ago I didn’t know what a Wiki was, and now you can even see what my own students have learned. Have a look me here.

By using Web tools I’ve understood that success depends on the purpose and objectives of our project. Technologies are not good or bad by themselves, we make them effective or not. We need to choose the ones that are appropriate to our context, to our students’ needs and to the tech facilities available. I discovered that Wikis are excellent tools for cooperative learning.
They have a great potential for students to engage in activities outside the classroom. Wikis promote creativity, are easy to use and can be edited. Widgets, images, videos, podcasts and photos can be uploaded and messages can be posted. Wikis are excellent for large classes; and, you can work with them from inside or outside the university classrooms.

Do I see myself as a pioneer? Do I think I am more innovative than others at the UCV? Do I think the UCV is lagging behind?

Yes, I consider myself as a pioneer. I am the only language teacher in my department who uses Web 2.0 tools to teach English (Yahoo Groups, Google docs, Moodle, Blogs, Wikis, WiZiQ, Skype, etc) at the Education School of the UCV -the largest and oldest university of my country. At least, and as far as I know, I'm the only one who shares her work. There are other teachers who also work with technology but are working in other areas.

I'm not going to blame my co-workers if they don't work with technologies, it wouldn’t be fair. We have very strong tech limitations, especially in our department where we only have one computer for 18 teachers. Our school has about 4,700 students delivered in 5 regions and we don't have more than 50 computers available for them. So, if students are required to do online activities they have to work from home (if they have Internet access) or from cyber-cafes. I do almost all my online work from home.

I’ve been working with ICT since 2005 after joining Webheads in Action. Since then, I haven’t stopped incorporating the new technologies into my English classes and now all of them are blended. They are now a great success! I’m currently doing research in blended learning and recently won an international contest to attend the WorldCALL 2008, held in Fukuoka - Japan.

I don’t think I am more innovative than others, perhaps more persistent than others, I don't know really. There are many teachers in my school working in the ICT area; in fact, many of them have done an excellent job by their own effort. However, I think my university is lagging behind because the university policies go too slow in comparison with the teachers’ will and the society’s needs. Most ICT projects developed are carried out more as individual initiatives than institutional policies. The university as an institution is currently outlining the legal framework to design the distance education programs that involve the use of the new information and communication technologies. Meanwhile, teachers are organizing ourselves in our schools, training ourselves and our students with the few tech facilities we have available. But, we definitively need a stronger support from our authorities.

It's all for now.
Thanks for reading me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Welcome to My MUVEnation Experience!

Hi dear friends!

Welcome to My MUVEnation Experience! This blog will be used to share my/our thoughts, ideas and learning experiences in Multi-Users Virtual Environments (MUVEs), especially with MUVEnation.

MUVEnation is an European project co-funded by the European Commission under the 2007 Lifelong Learning programme, under the Comenius - School education sub-programme. The project seeks to develop a European peer learning program for teacher training for the use of “Active learning with Multi-Users Virtual Environments to increase pupils’ motivation and participation in education”.

The main objective of the programme is to develop in-service and future teachers’ competencies and skills so they can contribute by their innovative practice to bring solutions at their scale to increase learners motivation and participation in key fields of common interest in Europe such as the participation of girls in mathematics, science and technology; boys and literacy; the participation in education of children and young adults with disabilities; the combat against dropouts; the cross-fertilisation between informal and formal learning environments; and the smooth and successful transition between school and work.

Therefore the project’s specific objectives are:

  1. To develop inductive-deductive learning experiences, methodologies, materials and tools that will support the ‘intellectual scaffolding’ needed to integrate MUVEs into the classroom by exploring the nexus between ICT, learning and motivation, and application of active learning methodologies (e.g. Buzz groups, affinity groups, solution or critic groups, ‘teach-write-discuss’, critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and integrated projects);
  2. To implement technological solutions allowing enhanced online social interaction for the peer learning community of teachers;
  3. To set up a peer learning community of teachers in order to carry out the following activities:
  • To identify and analyse training needs of in-service European educators who are running, or wish to run, educational projects in MUVEs in K-12 and middle and upper secondary education;
  • To collect and document good practices illustrating the use of active learning methodologies with MUVEs to increase pupils motivation and participation in education;
  • To design pedagogical patterns that give a solution for identified pedagogical problems in regard to pupils motivation and education in these new environments;
  • To guarantee the wide dissemination of the project’s deliverables amongst European Higher Education institutions, teachers’ training centres, teachers’ training and teachers’ networks and/or professional communities.

I'm really pleased to be part of such an important project along with talented and well prepared colleagues from all over the world.

For further information you may visit

Portions taken from MUVEnation