Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

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Filtering by Tag: Teen Second Life

ACEC Presentation: 3D Virtual Worlds, One School's Journey

This is my post for a conference presentation at the ACEC conference in Melbourne, starting at 10.30am Melbourne time on the 7th April. If there is a video stream you can watch it here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/technology-in-education-show

Below you will find the 'main bits', an embedded chat system for use during the session, a link to an 'etherpad' where you can add your own links and other insights, and hopefully even a video transmission of the presentation itself.


Explore the links in this post, text chat with attendees & virtual attendees.

Leave a comment on this blog post giving your perspective or story, or introducing yourself.

Connect with me! Subscribe to my blog using the link in the right margin, or send me a twitter message to @steve_collis, or come visit my school: http://scil.nsw.edu.au/pd/ Also I am running a free online seminar myself in a few days. Please email me at scollis then the @ sign, then nbcs.nsw.edu.au to get an invite.

Click here and add to the resources contributed by others related to this presentation: http://ietherpad.com/virtualworlds

Go to www.secondlife.com and get yourself an account, download the Second Life program, and log in and explore!

Explore an "Open Sim" virtual world: Go to http://reactiongrid.com/Register.aspx and get an account, then follow the instructions at http://reactiongrid.com/Support/LoggingIn.aspx to connect.

  1. Get your own 3D island for use with your students! How? For an Open Sim world, click here http://reactiongrid.com/Contact.aspx and inquire. For a Second Life island click here and read: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Educators_in_Teen_Second_Life#Closed_Estate and join the two Mailing Lists mentioned there. Contact me and I will give you pointers on how to get started. Or the easiest idea: click here to learn about Quest Atlantis http://atlantis.crlt.indiana.edu/ which is particularly suitable if you want to try something easier (completely set up FOR you) first of all! Oh, also new news, check out http://jokaydia.com/ - Jo Kay has launched a virtual world available for educators and for students.


Structure of Presentation and Resources:


How we started: ghastly 3 months setting it up (December to February!), establish leadership group, 'charter' (download here), text chat logger, student-driven, student owned.


  • hree different types of use: (see http://www.youtube.com/lestep)


  • 1) broa

    d promotion of creativity / collaboration / programming and design skills   

    2) a space of celebration of student work via: internet radio station, poster displays, virtual art gallery, etc  

    3) specific activities focussing on particular skills, especially discussion and discrete items of knowledge, via text chatting & "Poinkeys Pods", but also some maths skills.


      1. If you tweet during this presentation, use the hash tag "#acecvws" in your tweet to include it in the chat system below:

        Practical Examples of 3D Virtual Environments for Learning in High School

        Eight weeks after our students first entered our 3D virtual world, called 'Booralie', I can now say we have a suite of learning activities to showcase. We use 'Second Life' software to run this environment.

        In this video I show a wide range of examples of how students are learning in this space, both in student-directed ways (developing high-order skills such as creativity, collaboration and project-management) but also in structured, teacher-directed ways. 

        I show activities we've run that are specific to Maths, Visual Arts, Music, and Languages, but also plenty of activities that are generic and transferable across different subject areas and ages - especially discussion based activities that rely on text chatting.

        Every single one of the activities meets my two golden criteria of being low effort (for the teacher) but high impact (for the students). We've avoided the sort of activity whereby you spend hours recreacting the city of Paris or Ancient Rome for the students for one fabulous lesson. Instead we ask 'what are the inbuilt potentials in the rules of this world? Text chat quizzes are a good example. The Poinkey's Pods speed dating discussion tool is another classic. These ideas harness the potentials of the environment for learning with very little prep time.

        This video is the culmination of an extraordinarily busy term. It has been the ride of my life, utterly exhilarating. It has been bliss learning new teaching skills.

        Picture me in the first few lessons with my Year 8 French class trying to manage them all in the virtual world... figuring out how to get them to the same place on the island, working out what instructions work well and which work poorly. I hit the jackpot when we opened up the disco and I realised that students feel under pressure if just asked to 'chat in French', but will gibber away blissfully while on a virtual dance floor. 

        Then there is our virtual radio station, virtual art gallery, the upcoming customisable maths maze, our virtual bookstore, and so on and so on.

        I finish in the video remarking that this sort of environment is obviously not the be all and end all. It is simply a teaching tool, or learning space, that deserves inclusion in a teacher's repetoire. Students relate naturally to this sort of virtual environment. They're hyper-engaged by it. Many students spend many hours in similar environments outside school time.

        I strongly argue that there doesn't have to be anything light-weight about activities in a virtual world. Activities in a physical classroom can be light-weight, or intense and productive. The same goes for a virtual space.

        I welcome comments or questions. Leave a comment on this post or tweet me at www.twitter.com/steve_collis . To hear from me in future - subscribe on the right hand side of this page with your email address, and you'll receive future posts in your inbox.

        Setting up a School Internet Radio Station

        Well, I am in the best mood ever!

        With very little fiddling around, I've set up an internet radio station for my school.

        Once set up, you simply upload some MP3 sound files, and people who tune into the radio station hear them broadcast live.

        Tune in

        To listen in, go to http://shoutcast.com/directory/search_results.jsp?searchCrit=simple&s=Booralie and click 'Tune In!' (At the time of publishing this post, most the of the content has been made by me. The station is only a few hours old. In a few days we'll have student content, and I'll blog again about it).

        In our case, we then nominate our radio station as the media stream to play in our 3D virtual world (which we call 'Booralie Island', using the Second Life program. Our students and teacher use this space in parrallel with the physical space of the classroom. It is early days, but a strong community has sprung up).

        Week 4_002

         [here a student has a created a huge version of the periodic table]

         Anyway, back to the radio station...

        - drama students broadcasting entertaining radio plays
        - music students recording their compositions
        - students of ANY subject, ANY age recording entertaining educational recordings.
        - English students speaking from the perspective of a character in the text they're studying, or giving a book review.
        - recorded debates
        - health and diet tips from students studying nutrition
        - students read their creative writing or poetry
        - history students retell historical events in a dramatic mode!
        - study tips, pretend advertisements, and so on!

        Students create MP3 files with a headset (cheap headsets work fine, by the way) and free 'Audacity' software available here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

        The way I did it:

        1. Set up an internet server that will run your station for you. Go to http://shoutcast.setnine.com/ and decide how many people you want to be able to listen to the station at the same time, and at what quality. I think you want at least 'Bit Rate: 64 Kbps' but any higher than costs more with little increase in quality. We selected 25 listeners maximum. Click on what you want and then you'll have to pay by PayPal or credit card. I paid on credit card and will claim the money back from school.

        THE COST FOR MY OPTIONS - $37.50 US per month (or about 60 Australian Dollars)

        Setnine options

        2. Once setnine.com has set you up (it took them 3 days for me), you'll be emailed a username and password. You log into the website when you want, and upload your audio files. You can create playlists and set them to play on a loop in a certain order, or you can even 'DJ', using the software WINAMP, to run your station live.

        To listen to our radio station, click here and then click on "Tune In!"

        It won't be hard to maintain and run the station. I'll get a pool of audio files from various teachers, or even direct from inspired students. I simply upload them to the website, and the radio server does the rest!

        Update on our Teen Second Life estate

        Here's how things have been going...

        Before Christmas we placed an order for a Private Estate in Teen Second Life, which is a 3D virtual world that users themselves create and build.

        The order came through a few weeks ago, with me set up as the estate owner. From that point only I could access our virtual estate! Since then we've transferred about 5 of my colleagues who showed interest last year. In a few more days we'll transfer another 20 or so who've shown interest in the new year.

        We still have to set up a system to allow the creation of student accounts. I'm waiting on Linden Lab to get that set up for me at the moment.

        In the meantime, I've been terraforming our estate, ready for its first inhabitants!

        I've set it up as an island covered with forest. There's only one small building... as if we're settlers in a new land.

        Today I've spent some time creating special surprises for students (& teachers). I want to create a lot more before our settlers arrive.

        Click on the images below to make them open in their full size in a new window:

        A view of the island. Hmmm the mountains look a bit ridiculous and pointy, don't they?

        Secret cavern more_002

        This looks like just water... but...
        Secret cavern more_004

        even though under the water looks normal too... there is a hidden cavern under this sand!
        Secret cavern more_005

        So how to you get in? Well there's a hidden entrance to be found...
        Secret cavern more_006

        And after following a long, windy passage you get to the cavern under the sea...
        Secret cavern more_007

        So, next I thought I'd try something more ambitious - a much bigger hidden cavern in the middle of a mountain. As you can see, to create these hidden caverns you have to dig a ditch in the landscape and then cover it up with a ceiling... you then disguise the ceiling to look like the landscape.

        Here I've just added the first parts of the ceiling over two huge, steep arms that I've extended from the mountain.
        Second Life Building a Grotto_002

        A few minutes later...

        Second Life Building a Grotto_001

        And now we jump to the final version... I had huge troubles disguising both the ceiling and the front covering. I ended up shoving trees everywhere! This will have to do for now, oh well!

        Secret cavern more_001

        Finally, I've noticed little shapes appearing around the island. A good sign that my colleagues are beginning to experiment with building.

        Secret cavern more_003

        I've have plenty of conversations with a range of teachers who are keen to give this a go with their students. I'll blog as it happens!