It was the last session this week and we are knackered! We have both been in Ispwich to deliver the final class, the point of which was to help students learn about the eruption of Vesuvius through ‘experiencing’ the disaster, empathise with disaster victims and  As we were planning to be in the classroom ourselves and we wnate dto spend time with the students reflecting on their own experiences of this course and considering how effectively they feel they have learned and what elements have been most useful or distracting, we decided not to use Open Sim ‘live’ in the classroom. Instead we decided to present an animation filmed in Open Sim of the characters experiencing the eruption. We were at work until after 10 filming this – it was great fun to be being creative again and to explore different ways of using this technology. Basically, we had to storyboard the narrative, write a script, log in all the characters on separate PCs in a computer suite, load up their lines, set up another PC with a camera angle set to catch all the action and linked to camtasia. Then we had to crash around on swivel chairs between the computers activating each character in turn to deliver their lines and move around. I was a rubbish actress because I’m still awful at controlling avatars – they kept missing their positions or blocking other actors (was all terribly Acorn Antiques). We added to this some lighting effects and a soundtrack of rain which sounded pretty like falling pumice and a big explosion. Anyhow it was great fun and we’re really looking forward to doing more of this.

So in class we played the film and stopped it at key stages of the narrative to ask the students what decisions they would make on behalf of their avatar characters to save themselves. Their choices weren’t dictated by status so for example slave avatars had to weight up the desire to escape and the risk of being caught and executed for desertion. Nic as Gaius had also locked up the slaves of the losing team so they couldn’t go anywhere, nor could the winning team’s elite male avatar as the reward of winning turned out to be becoming engaged to Gaius’ daughter, Ione, and thus rather obliged to stay with his new father-in-law. The last shot was an aerial view of the exterior of the model covered in ash in the drak. It was really atmospheric and it really seemed to have an effect on the students. We then led them up through the timeline which was noe converetd into a series of images of plaster casts of the volcano’s victims. Very effective.

Afterwards we collected feedback on the project. The students were clearly very engaged and showed that they had understood the content of the project, had enjoyed the activities and found the environment and learning activities motivating. Afterwards we chatted with Tommy and Helen who were both pleased with the students’ progress. I’ll post up our own reflections later in the year when we’ve had time to recover!


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