Sunday, July 31, 2011

NewsChannel5 in Nashville Covers Virtual School

We'll be at the Mayor's First Day Celebration today, Sunday, August 7 to share the developments at MNPS Virtual School. This piece from Nashville NewsChannel5 helps explain our excitement! Yay, Gabby and Barbra. And yay to the rest of the team who's been working so hard for nearly a year to make this happen!

Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm a Slacker (Not Really)

Wow, I can't believe I haven't posted since July 6. This is some kinda record. I just want ya'll to know that I'm not clinging by my fingernails to the edge of the earth since ISTE11. I've just been working like a madman to get our Virtual School off the ground here in Nashville, and it sometimes seems like every day is more packed and (thankfully) more productive than the last. 


Here's where we stand:


We were granted the first official Virtual School number from the State of Tennessee. Our MNPS Virtual School (named by the school board over our own recommendations, but that's how things work in big school systems and it's growing on me) is as of today accepting enrollment requests. We'll have seats for 100 Full-Timers and up to 1000 Part-Timers this year as we begin hiring adjunct teachers to facilitate the Florida Virtual School "Easy Start" content and we search for a district Learning Management System (by committee, of course) to serve it up in. We've been interviewing for adjunct teachers to teach our core courses and looking at other options for our kids, and we truly look forward to making this happen. I promise to be a better blogger soon, but I wanted to share our new banner/logo here, just to note that it's really happening!



We'll be setting up shop in the historic Cohn Adult Learning Center, taking over a tasty wing of the top floor where we'll administrate, consult, collaborate, and facilitate our way into the future. I've been working on the website all week, and though it's not "there" yet it's certainly "getting there." 

For a good rundown from a local perspective, see Nashville City Paper's July 26, 2011 article "Metro Nashville Public Schools prepped to open virtual school" which does a good job of summarizing!

Don't be a stranger!


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Thanks to one and all for ISTE11 in Philadelphia and in Second Life!

Mirrored from the ISTE SIGVE wiki:
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Open Letter from Scott Merrick/ Scottmerrick Oh: Thank you from the depths of my old heart!

On the plane to Nashville, thumb-typing away on my iPad, I finally have time to begin to express my deep gratitude to everyone who participated in the virtual worlds-related sharing at ISTE11, whether you did so as an organizer, a facilitator, a presenter, or a much-appreciated attendee--or all of the above.

This gratitude knows no boundaries and is extended to all of you whether onsite, inworld, or--as was often the case--both. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

This is my first official communication as Grand Poobah Emeritus, after the stirring installation of my dear brother-from-another-mother, Andy Wheelock (aka Spiff Whitfield) as Lowly High Grand Poobah at Monday's SIGVE Birds of a Feather annual SIG meetup. I want to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate several accomplishments:


The SIGVE Virtual Environments Playground

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This year I have to say unequivocally that we suffered from poor placement and, I have to add, poor promotion. The space itself was fabulous, but both its location and our visibility in the signage and in the media were poor at best. Tom illustrate this point, I had to present on a two hour panel workshop in 126a Tuesday from 2:00 to 4:00, and when I realized I needed something from the Playground I sent an otherwise capable colleague for it, with directions to find Andy for help locating it. 20 minutes later he returned empty handed. Clarifying the directions by adding "right next to Registration, take the nearest escalator up," I sent him back with his brother to help him. 10 minutes later the both returned empty handed.That's how ridiculously hard we were to find.

Still, we served as the conference home to a strong core cadre, and we shared 31 absolutely top-notch presentations (with only one no-show, a victim to food poisoning) relating to our theme of learning and teaching in virtual worlds, all over a hectic but generally clockwork-smooth two days. An important aspect to remember this year is that over half of those presentations originated remotely! We heard from Second Life, Unity Jibe, ReactionGrid, NirvanaGrid, Quest Atlantis, World of Warcraft, WiloStar3D, LEGO Universe, Mine Craft, and more.

We can totally rectify the placement issue in San Diego for ISTE11 by prioritizing traffic to the top of our needs, and I even would submit that we can do without the second presentation display if it is a choice between one or the other. Bron suggests that we insist on co-placement with Games and Simulations and I think this make great good sense on a number of levels.

It will be more than interesting to see the data that we were able to gather via the electronic scanners this year. Meanwhile, again, THANK YOU ALL!


Second Life Virtual Environments Playground in the Sky

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Is it possible that even though attendance in the audience in Philadelphia was light compared to past years we had immense success globally through the Second Life (and browser-based ustream iteration) Playground mirror? Absolutely! Our own Jane Wilde/Esme Qunhua, organizer extraordinaire, made things go so well there that we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Want evidence if you were not there? Jane had her Marlboro College grad students create a flickr stream. It’s here: __http://www.flickr.com//groups/iste2011sigve/pool/show/with/5882799941/__ . Put on some dynamic music and watch that slideshow, ya’ll. Thanks to everyone who contributed, too, including Esme’s students (who redesigned my lame first attempt at setting things up into a comfie and welcoming virtual space. Wow. Just wow.

The video that streamed into Second Life and out into the ether of the internet was recorded and archived, and we are looking for volunteers to break it down into sessions from the large (as large as 5 hours) video recordings. Please see Spiff/Andy if you would like to do that, or if you have students you would like to assign to that task. I’ll make sure that you get the footage to work with.

SIGVE Birds of a Feather Session

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Monday early evening I arrived back up to the Playground right at the BOF start after having presented “Ten Tips to Building a Virtual School” with Dr.s Kecia Ray and Kathy Haydn and at that time there were only around a half a dozen stalwarts. I thought, “Well, this will be short and sweet.” As people trickled in, tired from an intense day of networking and learning, I realized that the session had generated a great turnout, with tears more than once and hugs all around. We still adjourned before the full allotted hour but it surely was sweet. Andy shared the news that Bob Vojtek is our upcoming Poobah-in-training and presented me with a service award from ISTE and we shared deeply in community and tribe. From that meeting we determined to achieve better Playground placement in San Diego, to publish the Virtual Education Journal bi-monthly, to have more socials (perhaps in conjunction with the regular Newbie Socials, and to retain our status as Topic Level SIG in order to avoid getting caught up in the protocols Division Level SIGs must deal with.

At that event, Andrew took the reins as Lowly High Grand Poobah and I joined Lisa Linn as Poobah Emeritus. Grand Poobah Bob Vojtek was installed in that position and we are off and running toward San Diego for ISTE2012. In the meantime we have Speaker Sessions to offer and share. Please 
__follow the wiki__ and come join us for those. They are important, interesting, and valuable.

The Black Jacket

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Yes, I was awarded the coveted “Making IT Happen” jacket at the Sunday night opening reception. It’s the male version of the Pink Jacket and I am glad it’s black, although I did tell them I would have been happy with a pink one. This is awarded to a handful of people annually in our organization of 20,000 or so, so it’s a great honor. I’ll tell you now, if I could cut it up and mail pieces of it to all of you who, through your own work and innovation, contributed to the visibility that landed me the actual award, I’d readily do so. Since I can’t, and since it’s actually a really nice satin jacket, I’ll just keep it and wear it for you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

SIG Open House

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Sunday after a hefty and really rewarding SIG Leadership Day, we descended upon the poster session area for our SIG Open House. Andy, Bob and I held down the fort along with several others (Kimberly was everywhere with us all week. Look out, Kim, you may be targeted for more of a leadership role ongoingly :).) Now there’s a punctuation challenge! We generated some extra buzz by setting out __JamParty4Education__application forms. By the way, if you didn’t get your copy for your school, holler to me and I’ll show you how.

SIGVE Machinima Festival 2011

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This was fantastic! To take a load off at the end of a day and to sit with 50 or 60 colleagues of like mind and interests and be treated to our own Marianne Malmstrom, aka Knowclue Kidd, thoughtfully and flawlessly leading us through more than a dozen examples of movies made in Second Life or in other virtual worlds--movies made by K12 students, college students, teachers, professors, or program designers, well, that was a fine trip. Another goodly sized group enjoyed ustreamed video in Second Life for the entire hour and a half. One thing that struck me is that, yes, the usual suspects were there--co-founders of SIGVE, newcomers, all the folks who contribute year-round--but in addition to those good people, there was a plethora of new faces. Is this a key to growing the tribe for the future? I think so. Next year we will be adding a popcorn machine, by hook or by crook. We will make sure we can get proper lumens to the projector first thing by turning off the room lights (without the need to have a half dozen conference tech folks attempt to do so before achieving the goal). We will promote even better, since having all witnessed how fun and engaging it is, we know for sure what we’re sharing. Thanks to Marianne/KC for her tireless work to make this happen, and thanks to Terra/Louise for making it work with the conference planners. Spiff, we’re counting on you and the rest of our Tribe to make it shine even brighter next year! Until then, or until I stumble into you inworld or online or “in real life,” keep the faith, whichever it may be. Life(s) is good.