Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, August 1, 2008

Second Life

I was teleported from Orientation Island by Peggy Sheehy after weeks of stumbling, bumbling about this initial location after one makes an avatar and joins Second Life.

Let's step back to how this rescue was set up. I had made a query on some lists about Second Life and her URL was sent to me, amongst other documents and contacts in addition to Peggy. Peggy's work had been praised by some of the responders including Ryan Bretag, and Madeline Brownstone.
Ryan's response:
There was a conference in 2007 in Second Life that discussed a lot of ideas about SL in Education. I did a lot of research on MUVEs during the early part of my PhD work and I blogged about a lot of it. If you are seriously considering bringing this to your school, you might want to read this article I wrote for the Illinois Computing Educators that was also put on the T&L Blog.
OTHER Documents and Contacts:

1. If Second Life isn't a game, what is it?
2. Second Life Improves Real-life Social Skills
3. Texas State Tech To Deliver Digital Media Program via Second Life
4. Literature Alive!
1. Beth Ritter-Guth
2. Kevin Jarrett
3. Nergiz Kern

Peggy was the one I needed to contact, so I did.

This was Peggy's response to my inquiry asking her for help and leading a workshop at my school during the summer. She was available in between her busy schedule:
Hi Ted-thanks for getting in touch--I love nothing better than acting as MUSE to those interested in braving the Second Life waters--and although they may appear murky at first - come on in - the water's fine! Let's do this - Why not let me know where your avatar is right now (are you still on Orientation Island or have you made it to the mainland?) I will be happy to set up a tour for you and help you get acclimated - but if you can't wait for me, here are some basic suggestions:
1. Get thee to ISTE! Use your map or search tool and find ISte Island - head on over there and most of the avatars you meet will be educators willing to help.
2. Join the group, Educator's Coffeehouse. You do this by again, using the search tool, but be sure you have th GROUP tab selected at the top of the dialogue box. Once you have successfully joined the group, you should see a title over your head that reads, "Real Life teacher" Now you will also receive notices about meetings and events from that group.
3. Send me your avatar name and I will esend friendship and we can then see each other's online status (you will see when I log in and vice versa)
Peggy addressing the newbies.

Needless to say,I had no idea what she was talking about. Oh was I in trouble. I had never felt so helpless. Now the words of another responder to my initial query rang true.SL has a HUGE learning curve and as I stepped onto Orientation Island I realized this immediately. I just stood there as avatars approached me, offered me things, spoke to me and pop up screens cascaded on my screen. After a few minutes of this chaos I simply QUIT SL, poof, I just disappeared, but was unable to appreciate that disappearing image from a SL POV. "Wow, what was that all about." I thought, while safe in my First Life and went to the refrigerator for a much needed real beer.

It was about a week later a couple of days before Peggy was going to visit us and guide us in our initial workshop with Second Life. Using the arrows keys I was able to navigate, and began to feel comfortable. I heard myself laughing and before I knew it three hours had flown by. Still I had no idea what I was doing and I was still on Orientation Island.

On July 30, at 2:15, Peggy Sheehy (far right) walked into my classroom to join me and (counter clockwise) Paul Turtola, Paul Stengel, Stephen Fink, Albert Bouchard to begin our Second Life.

Stephen Fink working with Peggy in background speaking to Paul Turtola, far right, as Paul Stengel, with hat, works his avatar.
So after we got started she gathered us with her at ISTE. We learned teleport and that there was life after Orientation Island. She teleported me, then I teleported the others. We learned how to move, fly, communicate, change our appearance, and in short many of the things we do naturally in First Life. It was magical and exciting. She was patient and responsive to all of our excitement. We teleported to another location and continued our tutorial. We learned about building. Before we knew it, nearly four hours had passed and the building was going to close. If we didn't have a First Life to return to, we may well have been locked in for the night.

Paul Turtola shared his thoughts:
i had a great time in ted's classroom as we learned how to move around the secondlife grid and begin to build objects. peggy is a great resource and is still a teenager at heart which is refreshing to see in such a wonderful teacher. her involvement and enthusiasm in sl was easily apparent and her patience with raucous students (like ted, haha) was impressive. 4 hours flew by and i foresee many more hours spent learning how to use this in my classroom. sl has GREAT possibilities and initially i see it as a very fine design project for literature and writing scholars as they design settings and costumes that go with stories they study. there's even potential for script writing at high levels and the possibility of character development with voice chat and other interactive elements of the game. sl is a very cool tool to engage the kids and allow them to explore the possibilities of flushing out the meaning of what they read and write.
Peggy making a point as Paul Stengel, in hat, and Paul Turtola, back to us listens.

Now it is our time to grow and learn more about what we can do in SL. It will take time. What we learned was that the SL world is a serious one as far as education is concerned. There are two worlds, Second Life and Teen Life. In SL the real world activities of adult life is real and not the place for all students. Teen Life is too restricted. So we need an Education Life that allows for students to interact with others and with valuable resources like NASA, Museums, college classes, and more important learning activities. The reality of SL has to be considered and how we bring our scholars into SL.

Now when I reread her first email to me, it makes sense, whew. Now it is my time to play and learn. I'm jazzed. Thanks, Peggy and others who provided me important information when I needed it.

See you in the World,
Nellen Tennen.


Kevin said...


What a wonderful post describing a wonderful day led by a wonderful person who, you now know, is perhaps more real and genuine than anyone in the metaverse.

I've been reading you for a while on bit.listserv.edtech and when Peggy told me about this opportunity, I told her I knew she would enjoy working with you. Though we have never met, you strike me as the same sort of genuine person, and that would explain why everything was so natural, fun and easy.

Wish I could have been there but duty called (I was elsewhere). If I can be of any assistance whatsoever to you and your colleagues please don't hesitate to ask!

Best, kj

Ms. H said...

A while ago someone mentioned a Second Life webinar. I "attended" yesterday and was exposed to SL for the first time. The program was on exploring literature through SL (I'll paste the blurb below). One of the key points made by the keynote was that SL should be used only when the classroom doesn't suffice. I think that's an important way to look at it.

After the keynote, I attended two sessions. One was analyzing Grapes
of Wrath. While we had a wonderful discussion, the experience was no
different than what can be done in the classroom, with the exception
of floating blocks that held quotes and photographs, something that
can be done with a chalkboard, overhead, or mounted projector. I was underwhelmed.

Then I attended the second session. We went into Dante's Hell--all
levels. Wow! There were activities involving creating Lucifer, a gondola to transport you from level to level, rocks that role-played Virgil and Dante--and responded to you in the chat feature, bloody rivers, ice blocks, haunting music and moaning, photographs that took their influence from Dante, a great deal of research and analysis in
teacher notes. Students can't walk into Dante's Hell via an actual
classroom. This was a use of SL that made sense.

I need to keep exploring and keep an open mind. What made
CyberEnglish so enticing was what it gave that the classroom didn't--a worldwide audience. I just need to figure out if the time investment is worth it; there's a real learning curve with SL. Another point made by the keynote was a reminder to continue to grade those elements that you always grade--writing, analysis, content--not how well a
student creates an avatar or a place.

Here's some info on Literature Alive, which is the dominant area
dealing with literature in SL:

And here's the blurb on the webinar. Yes, it's over but it gives the names of the leaders and the URL of their site:

On August 6th, Alliance Library System, in cooperation with
LearningTimes, will offer a one-day conference exploring the
possibilities of using virtual worlds to teach literature and to
promote its appreciation for people of all ages. The conference,
titled "Stepping into Literature: Bringing New Life to Books through
Virtual Worlds" will be held entirely in the virtual world of Second
Life, allowing participants to attend from any location with a
computer and a broadband internet connection.

"Books have been with us for millenia, from Homer to Beowulf to Harry
Potter" notes John Howard, conference director and Special Projects
Coordinator for Alliance. "Great literature doesn't change, but our
ways of interacting with it do. What possibilities do virtual worlds
offer us in sharing a love of literature? Is there value in building
worlds that previously existed only in print, or in our imaginations?
How can we use 3-D experiences to enhance our experience of
literature?" The conference will not be solely lecture-based,
according to Howard. Instead, participants will take take part in a
virtual book discussion, and take field trips into literature-based
locations that have been created in Second Life. Participants may
find themselves in an Edgar Allen Poe poem, visiting a "secret garden"
or learning about gothic literature in an authentically spooky Gothic
mansion. "They may even fall down a rabbit hole!" notes Howard. The
conference will also feature one or more authors who have used virtual
worlds to create, refine or promote their works. The day will conclude
with a panel discussion including experts from a number of
disciplines, and a social event.

"By doing this conference in Second Life, we can do more than just
talk about ways to promote a love of literature in virtual worlds,"
says Howard. "We can see and interact with some creative and
educational applications in person." Beth Ritter-Gluth/Desideria
Stockton is Second Life will be the keynote speaker and her talk is on
"A Vision for Making Literature Come Alive in Virtual Worlds.". She
is the creator of Literature Alive in Second Life and teaches English
and Women's Studies at Lehigh Carbon Community College in
Schnecksville, PA. She is the creator and director of Literature
Alive! in Second Life, founding co-chair of hte 2007 SL Best Practices
in Education International Conference: Teaching, Learning, and
Research, Co-Founder of the SL Virtual Orphanage and Child Sponsorship
program, and co-founder of Open SLedware.

Mary in NJ