Nic

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Well, whilst Shelley is away in the States for three weeks it’s up to me to maintain the project blog. All efforts continue to be focused on developing the model. The architectural skin is now pretty much in place within 3ds Max and I am working to resolve some unexpected issues when importing it into Second Life. Work is also continuing to develop the textures maps which will contain the wall decoration and collection of images.

Thanks to a tip from Drew at KVL I made contact with Silvana and Luis from Beta Technologies (BT) who I am hoping will be able to advise us on the feasibility of our ideas for using bot technology – they may even be able to help us implement them within the virtual model. I have arranged a meeting in Second Life for the end of next week for a preliminary discussion.

The other important thing to document this week is that I ran a one-off workshop for staff of the University of Bristol on the current use and potential of virtual worlds within Higher Education. That event is relevant to our project because it made sense to design the workshop with a large amount of hands-on activity thus presenting a golden opportunity to conduct some preliminary research into the issues of managing a class in Second Life.

The approach was to take the participants through several carefully thought out activities and gather data through observation and a focus group style discussion afterwards (which doubled as a staff development session for the participants). The activities included a basic navigation task, a discussion activity that involved self-organisation into pairs then fours then sixes, a guided tour of the Crystal Palace island and a tour of other places in Second Life of educational interest which they were often able to explore more freely.

Several initial questions were answered, For example, it is possible for a group of participants new to Second Life to become competent enough with minimal training in using the Second Life software to effectively engage with a range of learning activities in a single session. I also identified many important practicalities of managing a class that are taken into a Second Life environment, e.g. in Second Life, beyond a range of 10 metres, a presenter’s text or voice instructions cannot be heard so instructions must be given in the real world and some other mechanism found if participants are not in the same real world room as the presenter. It was also interesting to gain insight into how the participants felt about interacting with each other in the virtual world and how their individual personalities and acceptable behaviour changed. This will all have bearing on how learning activities should be designed later in the project.

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