Welcome to Our New Robotics Researchers!

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Welcome to Our New Robotics Researchers! As part of our Year 9 Electives Program, students once again have the opportunity to participate in our Robotics Research Project.  Students use OpenSim to create a 3D object, then use Scratch 4 OpenSim … Continue reading

Holiday Goodies!

graphic myspace at Gickr.com
Make your own animation

> Planet Orbis Project, especially avatar skins, etc…
> Intel Teach Course and PBL
> OpenSim on a USB Stick
> Holistic Education
> Jibe
> Cooking

Our Term 3 holidays will soon come to an end and, although a little more relaxation time would have been nice, I’ll be happy to return to school next week knowing that I’ve had a productive break. 🙂  I’ve been very fortunate to have the time to work on a variety of projects over the holidays and there have also been a couple of surprise inclusions thanks to one of my favourite tools, Twitter!

OpenSim Project
We had an exciting Term 3 with our TechnoSpirit Project and Term 4 will see us introduce Planet Orbis to a group of Year 5 Maths Students.  We’ve had a lot of fun setting up some basic areas on the Planet Orbis sims and developing some extra terrestrial avatars for the students. (That’s right, their avatars will be aliens!)  Students will be using the OpenSim building tools to create their own crop circle patterns as part of their studies in Geometry.  Part of the fun of this project has been developing the narrative to present to the students.  Keep an eye on our Begonia Island Blog for more details of this project.

Intel Teach Elements Course
Towards the end of Term 3, our Director of ICT passed on information about the latest Intel Teach Elements Course.  After looking into it I was interested in pursuing it further not just because of the ICT content but because the new course is based on Project Based Learning.  I thought that I would dread going through the online course during the holidays, however,
I’ve found it easy to work through and a good starting point for learning more about the PBL approach.  Below is an example of what I’ve covered so far, a comparison between Conventional and Project Based Learning.  This task alone was a very enlightening one!

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Cooking
My daughter and I always enjoy time in the kitchen during the holidays.  We tried lots of new recipes, one of which was a delicious chocolate cup cake recipe.  Hayley wrote a blog post about it and, believe me, these were no ordinary cup cakes!  Hayley called her post, My Day with Chocolate Dreams. 🙂

Virtual Worlds & Jibe
An unexpected surprise came when I read a tweet by Kyle Komboy, CEO of ReactionGrid, who invited us to try a new virtual worlds platform, Jibe.  My understanding of this platform is very limited,  however, I was excited to have the opportunity to try accessing a virtual world from within my browser.  Normally, in order to access a virtual world you require some 3D viewer software.  Could this be the future of virtual worlds?  Open your browser, go to a URL and, with a couple of clicks, find yourself transported to another world?  Things that amazed me about the experience were how easy it was to access, the speed and incredible graphics created with Unity 3D software.  Months ago I recall accessing the Jibe test site and was excited to see how far the ReactionGrid team have come with this project in such a short time.  I’ll be following the continued work of the ReactionGrid Team as Jibe will allow us to access worlds from mobile devices as well as embed players on our own sites.  (If I look into my crystal ball, I can see parents accessing our Portal, logging into Jibe and walking through a school Art Exhibition in-world! 🙂 )

mini_jibe_player_reactiongrid_login_cropped

Virtual Worlds & OpenSim on a USB Stick
Another holiday surprise also came in the form of a tweet and was about setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick.  I now have an entire OpenSim grid that can run from my USB Stick without the need for internet access and at no cost!  There are a number of advantages with this type of approach and you can read more about this topic in our Begonia Island Blog Post.  By going through the process of setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick, I was fortunate enough to learn more about Roger Stack, his work at Tasmanian Polytechnic and the Holistic Education Network.  Until now, I wasn’t very familiar with the term “Holistic Education” and was excited to read about something with which I could identify.

Education with a holistic perspective values spiritual literacy.  Spirituality is a state of connectedness to all life, honouring diversity in unity. It is an experience of being, belonging and caring. It is sensitivity and compassion, joy and hope. It is the harmony between the inner life and the outer life. It is the sense of wonder and reverence for the mysteries of the universe and a feeling of the purposefulness of life. It is moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

I’m looking forward to heading back to school next week and to continue the challenges of promoting the use of ICT.  I love the fact that, yet again, Twitter friends have had a positive influence on me as they shared their work, interests and lives.

Special thanks to Clare Rafferty for sharing the easy animated GIF tool used in this post, Gickr.

Jokaydia Unconference May 2010

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I was fortunate enough to attend part of the jokaydia Unconference last weekend.  It was a little tricky as, like so many others, I had to carefully plan the weekend around a number of family commitments.  I could have quite easily attended EVERY session at the unconference as there were a variety of informative, innovative and exciting sessions on offer.  If you are unfamiliar with the term “unconference”, click here for a definition.

For my first session, I went on a ReactionGrid tour and was excited to return to the ImmersED sim created by Kerry Johnson (Pandora Kurrajong).  I had visited the sim on my own and seen Kerry talk about it briefly at ACEC2010.  However, visiting the sim surrounded by other eductaors and having the opportunity to discuss aspects of the sim was a valuable experience for me.

I had been looking forward to attending the Robotics session with the ReactionGrid team and, despite some early technical difficulties, Kyle Gomboy and Chris Hart took us through the exciting possibilities when you combine OpenSim with Robotics and, in particular, free software such as the Microsoft Robotics Studio.  I came into the session under the impression that this was going to be something similar to Scratch 4 OpenSim.  However, I was very wrong!  Microsoft Robotics Studio will even allow you to connect a web cam so that movement of a real life person can be then translated to an in-world avatar! Wow!  There are a number of excellent resources about this topic on the jokaydia Unconference Session Wiki page.  Scroll down to Session 2: ReactionGrid Robotics Studio.

I attended my first jokaydia Unconference in 2009 and decided that perhaps it was time to really push myself “outside my comfort zone” and share the journey so far of our school’s virtual worlds program.  A twitter colleague suggested that I run a session and, although I had given many face-to-face presentations and workshops at my school, I knew that presenting in-world was going to be a “completely different ball game”!  However, I was hoping that sharing our story might inspire other educators who would like to implement a virtual worlds program at their school, but were presented with the challenges that so many of us are faced with when trying to implement change.

I decided to focus on the theme of “Implementing a Virtual Worlds Program in a Traditional School Environment”.  I was hoping the session would be more than just me talking about our school’s project so I tried to keep my slideshow “short and sweet” to leave plenty of time for questions and discussion.  I also prepared some items for a display. Jokay had very kindly scheduled the session in the beautiful Jokaydia Meeting Hall so there was plenty of room for a “Key Words” display and looping slideshow screen featuring screenshots of our OpenSim Project.

Overall, it was a very positive experience and I felt so privileged to be able to share our story with educators from around the world, including many who have been mentors and an inspiration to me.  I’m also very grateful to Jokay, for organising this wonderful virtual worlds event and John Wilson at Onlinevents for recording a number of the unconference sessions.  Being able to watch a recording of my first in-world presentation and critically evaluate it, was a valuable experience for me.  (Note to self: No more “ums” and “you knows”!)  A full list of presentation resources can be found at http://delicious.com/lucybarrow/bgsvirtualworlds

Thank you to Jokay and everyone involved in another highly successful jokaydia Unconference!

Part of the Global Movement at ACEC 2010

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Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to travel to Canberra for the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year in Melbourne but, none-the-less, was excited to attended the final day of ACEC 2010.

It was like the final day was tailor made for me, with wonderful sessions to assist and inspire me.  And, after such a frantic and sometimes frustrating first term, I felt I needed some inspiring! 🙂

I had heard so much about Gary Stager and was keen to see his keynote presentation, You Say You Want a Revolution?
I know that Gary is sometimes controversial and his “straight talking” approach doesn’t appeal to everyone.  However, I was in the right frame of mind for some straight talking and “tough love”, as he put it.  Although Gary was direct in his presentation, I felt it was beautifully balanced with lots of humour.  It was a reminder that, although there are some worrying things occurring in my school and in education in general, I must not give up.  Not wanting to settle for an average 1:1 program but striving to help teachers create an excellent 1:1 program is paramount.

My next session, Virtual Worlds – their roles in learning, teaching and professional development, was with Lindy McKeown who “planted the virtual worlds seed” after her incredible keynote at the VITTA Conference in 2006.  I was truly amazed at what she showed us years ago in Second Life and I continue to be amazed today.  My school is currently in the process of setting up our private grid, Begonia Island, so seeing how Lindy conducted her session entirely from her “Terra Incognita Island” was fascinating.  Lindy was not physically present at the conference but “in-world” with Dr Bron Stuckey directing proceedings in the actual conference room.  We examined the roles of virtual worlds, their potential and explored active or passive forms of learning.  Getting the balance right when it comes to active and passive forms of learning in virtual worlds is important as we prepare to introduce our private grid to our students and staff.

In Virtual Worlds for Education – don’t just imagine the possibilities, experience them, I was excited to meet Kerry Johnson who I had previously met via Twitter.  Kerry has been a real inspiration to me as I have followed her OpenSim journey.  She is as friendly, caring and delightful in person as she is on Twitter!  Six months ago, I knew very little about OpenSim and the work of ReactionGrid, let alone how to actually setup a grid for our school.  Now I am coordinating the development of our private grid and loving the steep learning curve!  I owe a great deal of this progress to incredible educators like Kerry.  I was amazed to hear that Kerry also had very little experience when she started her work to establish the ImmersED grid and I came away with lots of tips and a greater confidence in my abilities.  Thank you Kerry!

My final session for the day was Professional Development and the Web with Steve Collis.  I have followed Steve’s work for years now and find him to be one of the most inspiring, innovative and giving educators I know.  Without fail, he will prepare wonderful resources for every presentation that he conducts, making it possible for people to participate from anywhere in the world.  Steve always speaks with such passion and I found myself with tears in my eyes as he invited Henrietta Miller to speak about how Twitter has inspired her in her role as a primary teacher.  It confirmed for me the need to continue developing my Personal Learning Network and the importance of introducing wonderful online tools such as Twitter to my colleagues.  Something that Steve said will stay with me…

I don’t think of myself as part of a school, but part of a global movement.

I need to stop thinking of myself as the Staff ICT Trainer at an Independent School.  Perhaps that is why I lose faith and feel frustrated when progress is slow or does not occur.  I am part of a global movement in education and that is a wonderful thing!

Of course, there is so much more to a conference than keynotes, presentations and workshops.  Having the opportunity to meet members of my Personal Learning Network is always exciting.  These are people who assist, encourage, share and make me laugh.  I’m not sure if they realise just how far reaching and valuable something as simple as a tweet can be, but it is something that I truly appreciate.

To the conference organisers, presenters and participants – thank you! 🙂