You may have noticed this blog veering off on a SL tangent at the moment. My excuse is that a) it's loads of fun and b) I am still at home sick and messing around with SL beats day time tv.
Today's frolics involve capering around hoola dancing with a student clad as a Transformer and getting a diamond tiara from another. About time the presents started rolling in, I say.
In world tutorial
I also had my first in-world tutorial with some students I bumped into. We are going to have formal classes in Second Life at some point, but I haven't arranged them yet. But this was good practice for me to see what it would be like. We looked at a little scripting using an example another student worked on last term. I showed them a link to some example scripts to light up a simple box like a light switch. And then I asked them to see if they could make the box change colour when they said "red" or "blue" to it. I demoed this. The example was a little too hard because these students weren't that familiar with programming. But I experimented with cutting and pasting code fragments into the chat channel. I tried to set it up so they could copy my object and see the script but couldn't get it working at the time. It is kind of weird, trying to work out what the students are thinking or what task they are trying but there are some cues. You can see what object they are handling - it shows up as a line going from the character to the object. And you can see what commands they utter e.g. "red" and the output of the object e.g. that it changes colour or that it prints out a message. You can whisper to individuals to ask them how they are doing, or speak to the whole group to praise people when someone gets something work. Now I have figured out how to take a copy of objects and view code, I think the classes will work quite well. I can't think of an equivalent of distance learning like this for other types of programming environments. I suppose you could use Windows remote desktop to see someone's screen when they were using something like Bluej. Somebody clever like my partner in crime Judith Good might know the answer to that - Judith?
With SL not only can the instructor and student see vivid visual results of programming, but the other students can too. So they can ask each other questions about how they did it (and answer them). And if they don't want to participate they can learn vicariously. And there is the added advantage of being able to do this when you are at home poorly, or in fact the students are at home poorly too!
Student learning logs
I am fascinated by my students' learning logs. You really get a sense of what they are grappling with as they learn and their satisfaction when they discover something new. Here are some quotes I thought were really good. Well done, those students.
"have never come across in try creating 3D before as I find it hard to do. After I managed to create a snowman in the lab today, it really change my mind perspective towards 3D. It's not that hard actually yet so much fun...but really need to be patient. Besides, I begin to noticed that I really have passion in 3D."
"Today's lab, I learned how to link my objects together, how to light it up, and how to make it move as well. Now I have a shiny rubber duck that I can sit on. However, My first rubber duck was flooded by a new mountain on the island, and I only found half of it in my lost and found folder of the inventory folder. So I had to create a new one. It's always good to have more practise anyway. The next thing I am going to work on will be make my duck move in a bigger circle. Can't wait. "
"Today I created a castle in the sky and a snowman on the hill, I found that it is easier to create an object if you first spend some time thinking about the way your final object is made up of individual basic shapes slotted together to form more complex objects and shapes, this allowed me to create the towers of the castle from simple cylinders and half spheres".
And lastly, one of the MSc students wrote: "I wish i know how to script". What? Students who want to learn how to program? It's like an outlandish dream.