Friday, September 26, 2008

A Great Webcast Today at Technology Shopping Cart Podcast!

Host Wesley Fryer did a great job of moderating and his tweet out to Twitter alerted me to come into the discussion, which was lively and informative. His blog post minutes after the show was over allowed me to embed the ustream.tv video of it right here for you (and do visit his site to get backchat and links notes!). This is why I love the mashup of Web2.0 tools I've integrated into my personal learning network. I could have missed this, and I've been none the wiser...Enjoy!

Live Broadcasting by Ustream

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Entry Point for Educators!

Here's an email I sent out to my colleagues at University School of Nashville Just a minute ago. Think it'll work? If you wish, feel free to copy it to send to your own school's teachers (substitute your own example, of course), and delete the reference to helping with the resource room. Oh, heck, edit it any way you want!

If you're not in the "oh, god, how silly" camp in conversations about 3Dinternet virtual environments, and you want to investigate Second Life beginning at a safe and informative entry point, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), an 85,000 member organization with well over 3,000 of them using SL, has created a new way to enter the environment, accessible at the webpage at http://secondlifegrid.net/programs/education . I helped a bit with the design of the resources room and I'm very proud of the work ISTE's doing.

Just visit the site, follow the directions, and feel free to Search "Scottmerrick Oh" and offer him (me ;) friendship.

EXAMPLE:
I dropped into ISTE island for a bit just last night and made a new friend, a teacher from New York, who has used two relatively new computer programming tools (Scratch and Storytelling Alice) with her students for years, and I'll be picking her brain as I move toward helping introduce those tools for our K12 students at USN. Whatever your professional interests, SL is a way to extend your learning about them in collaboration with teachers on a global scale.

Here's a screengrab:
Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”--Kurt Vonnegut, from "Cold Turkey"

http://scottmerrick.net

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pics from the woods

See how the brave Merrick men sought out adventure on the wooded ridgetop that backs up against our Nashville neighborhood. We saw spiders, a turtle, a deer, and an amazing "slavewall" that runs over a length of the ridge. Tired from swatting gnats and no-see-ums, we vowed to wait 'til after a couple frosts to make the journey again. Have a great week!



and (a couple days later), after we returned home we showered, but not quickly or thoroughly enough to avoid contracting serious poison ivy. Here's that:

Publish Post

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quest Atlantis is Rich and Promising

I had my first Professional Development session with Bronwyn Stuckey last night, and I'm happy to have begun my work in Quest Atlantis. The impact on my family time is sort of substantial, as balancing work(s) and my personal life is increasingly challenging. Thank goodness my wife is supportive and my son understands that my work is not 8 to 3 only. There's lots going on in our family and I need to be mindful of it always.

That said, I'm extreeeeemely impressed with QA. There is a thick thread of social commitment in my own classroom, underlying all the technology skills and understanding aquisition that it is my charge to inculcate. As I progress through my own initiation into this very nicely composed 3Di world, I can clearly see that the creators of it share my own dedication to kindness, creativity, and sharing, and do so in ways that will support students' initiation into thoughtful, intentional exploration of those themes and more.

I don't believe that anyone but the most entrenched neo-luddite could find any fault at all in this program.

Last night, just prior to the scheduled time I logged into Quest Atlantis via the shortcut the downloaded program's installation had deposited on my desktop. I also fired up Skype, having already added Bronwyn to my Skype contacts. I skyped her, but she informed me that I'd missed a direction and needed to place a call to a different specific number, which I did. It placed me in a free conference call. As we continued along the call, more people joined, as many as 14 others, I believe; and I muted my mic for the most part, relying on the QA text chat interface for asking questions and making comments.

Several of the other attendees hadde, clearly evidenced by the contrast between my stock "n00bie" white shirt and shorts and their own colorful get-ups. One must progress through the introductory quest in the program in order to have one's "avatar machine" unlocked. When it is unlocked, it remains so for only 24 hours, during which time one can experiment with one's look, from skin color, hair style, to shoes and such.

Remember I'd missed the first session. Accordingly, I laid back and listened to the discussion, led by Bron and carried on by several other attendees via voice. Peggy showed up, late (I think she'd missed the same instruction I missed (great minds think alike) and was working on both a Mac and a PC, complicating her experience. The program is cross-platform, obviously, but the Active Worlds based interface is different from the Second Life one we both are so highly familiar with. I kept holding the alt key and the up arrow to try to look closer at things, for example. I'm sure the more I work with it the more comfortable I'll get.

Anyway, I was soon very comfortable with Bron's clear direction and her kind demeanor. The two hours passed quickly, then became three as Peggy and I stayed behind to chat with her. Peggy at one point told her, "All right, I'm bringing 1400 students into here tomorrow, are you ready?" Bron laughed and said "Of course," or words to that effect.

This morning I was up early. I'm going to have to use the early a.m. time to pursue my path here, although the program seems to work fine from my laptop at school. Today I'll test one of the lab machines to make sure it can function well in the lab, and I have to admit I'm a bit concerned about the network resources that will be used if I get all 18 students in a class onworld at the same time. I'll have to 'speriment with that too, with David, our network administrator, so that I don't put undue strain on our network (parks that question for the next training session next week).

I progressed through my first few assignments, seeking out avatar/bots with information and in the process getting more and more facile with the interface, as well as its convention of indicating the North, South, East, and West coordinates in the window's toolbar. I've met the libarian, located the coffeehouse, and at this point I'm meeting mermen underwater and learning about Quest Atlantis' designers' "Learning Engagement Theory," having just speed-read an article published in the June-July 2005 issue of "Education Technology," a professional journal. The article is entitled "Eat your Vegetables and Do Your Homework: A Design-Based Investigation of Enjoyment and Meaning in Learning," by Sasha Barab, Anne Arici, and Craig Jackson from Indiana University. Very interesting stuff, and though it's "preaching to the choir" for me, I'd like to share that article with you. If I can get permission to do so, I'll so do :)

Meanwhile, it's off into a day of teaching and learning with my students. That's the primary business! I do, increasingly, believe that their journey into Quest Atlantis will be a richly rewarding one!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Virtual Teaching and Learning Starts with Quest Atlantis

I'm going to begin journaling my personal experiences with Quest Atlantis here in order that I might pull out perhaps publishable bits for print later on. So stay tuned here (and I may cross-post at Oh! Virtual Learning) for that. This is an exciting time for me and I hope to share it prodigiously.

It's been interesting this past year, learning about and experiencing the powerful way that immersion into a 3 dimensional internet experience (3Di) can lead to engaged learning. Most notably, I think of Peggy Sheehy's powerful presentation at the Second Life Educational Community Conference in Tampa, a gathering about which I've already blogged, and I'd also send you to Fleep Tuque's marvelous roundup at her blog, Fleep's Deep Thoughts. Funny, I use Second Life names and "rl" (real life) names interchangeably. Fleep is Chris Collins "irl" (in real life) and Peggy is Maggie Marat. I noticed in Tampa that folks tended to lean toward addressing one another using avatar names. There's a Masters thesis in there somewhere, ya'll--the whole issue of identity extension into digital realms. Thankfully, I don't have to write it here.

Peggy is THE pioneer in leading young students into immersive learning experiences via 3Di in the Second Life Teen Grid. This is a realm I have never visited, since I've as of yet failed to hook myself into a project, a required criteria for approval for adult entry into the TG. I hope to progress into the TG, and after listening to some of the success stories at the SLEDCC, I have every faith that I will. Meanwhile, I'm beginning my foray into VE with Quest Atlantis. The journey looks promising.

Quest Atlantis is a 3Di environment that has been working with students and teachers on a global scale since 2004. The extensive website that supports the teaching and learning states "Over the last four years, more than 10,000 children on five continents have participated in the project." I was introduced to it years ago and never got around to really digging in, that is until my relatively new friend Jeff Agamenoni, a teacher of special needs middle schoolers in Great Falls, Montana, needled me to investigate it.

Jeff's another story altogether. I met Jeff in Second Life, when he sought me out to add his new blog, "From Mr. A to Mr. Z" to the ISTE Island Blogger's Hut, a facility I maintain for the International Society for Technology in Education in Second Life. His avatar, Henny Zimer (that's "zymer," with a long "y," for those audial learners in the readership). We became friends. We Skype occasionally, twitter back and forth, and generally co-explore new technologies, especially social ones, together. We share a fascination with the new ways technologies are flattening the globe, and I respect his opinions, fresh as they are with the eyes of a newcomer to the field.

First Steps

I visited the QA website. I clicked on the "Educators" tab. I checked out the Professional Development (PD) schedule, and was appalled to see that qualifying for QA participation requires teachers to spend a month learning about the platform. PD sessions run weekly, about 2 hours a week, in the evening. I immediately set about trying to perform the equivalent of "testing out" of the training, sending an email to the website managers stating my prior experience with the 3Di, my various statuses as blogger (SL blog, contributor to the "official" Second Life Education blog), and my newly hatched LLC, MUVErs, dedicated to helping education and the 3Di "play well" together.

I received a prompt and polite response that I had to do the PD.

A little huffy, I thought to myself, well, I don't have time for that. My Google calendar, by the way, is pretty much a nightmare. My lovely wife, Lee Ann, and I have weekly meetings to make sure we're on the same page about our commitments, personal, familial, and professional; and it doesn't help that process much that I have two paying jobs--one as Lower School Technology Coordinator at University School of Nashville and one as "Teacher-in-residence" at the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach--and a start-up company that's currently knee-deep into high stakes negotiations with a large Mid-west America university system to help provide 3Di simulations for online learning. "NO WAY," was my thought.

Then one day last week I was inspired by an online conversation with Jeff to go look at the schedule again. I spent a bit more time at the QA website and complained to him that I'd missed the first in the September training sessions. He encouraged me to register for the rest, saying that he'd missed the first of his sessions but since it was basically introduction to VE, he was sure I could do the same. Here comes the nail in the coffin (perhaps an analogy with undue negative connotations, but such a graphic one I can't help but resort to it). I twittered a question:

Who wants to partner with me in Quest Atlantis training? 2 hours each Wed. Oops, there goes my audience, LOL
I did not expect any reply.

I went about my work irl. In a few minutes, I checked my tweets. The usual suspects had posted random, often helpful and informative thoughts, including this one.

@scottmerrick I do I do I do!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

SLEDCC in Tampa

I've been neglecting my "main" blog lately due to the start of school and my amazing journey with MUVErs and the SLEDCC (Second Life Education Community Conference) in Tampa, Florida. If you're interested in that you can catch up by visiting my Second Life blog, "Oh! Virtual Learning" and the Second Life Education blog, to which I'm a contributor. The latter will be merging into the official Linden Lab blogosphere soon, and we'll see where that goes, but the carnival ride has certainly started.

I'm working on a grant proposal with my dear colleague Jennifer Ufnar at the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach, one that will allow for a full 3 or 4 weeks of Web2.0forUS! sessions next summer, so stay tuned for that. The very successful one week session this past summer left all of us feeling like we needed more time, hence the call for a longer session and the quest for support to facilitate it.

I'm also working on an article with Jennifer Ragan-Fore about the ups and downs of streaming video over the internet. That issues from my experiences in Tampa and should show up in an ISTE newsletter soon. The fantastic new teacher orientation option that Linden Lab is offering via its Education Programs page is terrifically exciting. If you've been sitting back and wondering what all the hubbub about Second Life for education is, this is your chance to dive in, free of charge, to the world of the 3Dinternet. ISTE and Linden Lab are working to make it easy for educators to begin using what is essentially a powerful new way to experience the internet. Think of is as a fun new browser interface. Try it. You'll like it. If you don't get off ISTE Island for weeks you could not be better served than to spend some internet time making new friends from every part of the planet.

If you're an average joe, not a teacher, you are still welcome to enter via the new education pilot point. It's safe, fun, and learning is always a good thing...

Off to work! Have a marvelous day!!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Beloit College Mindset List

This came across my inbox today in the Second Life Education Blog, and as a parent with a child just embarking on her first year of college, it strikes me as the type of undertaking educators at ever stage of the game could stand to make tradition. Here's the quote-out from the listserv:

"Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit's Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are "wired" and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

It is a multicultural, politically correct and "green" generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact. Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990. For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.


1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce "tax revenue increases."
9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
11. All have had a relative--or known about a friend's relative--who died comfortably at home with Hospice..."


The list goes on, through 60 clever and sometimes surprising items. Visit the Beloit College Mindset List website for the complete list, and think about considering your own students in order to create your own list. Great food for thought...