Friday, December 5, 2008

We're in!

At long last, the students have accounts, the computers are updated, and WE ARE INWORLD!!!

That's not to say we haven't had some bumps -- a big one just this past week. Seems that there are some scheduling issues here at the high school, and we cannot have a lab. Up to this point, the kids have done their wiki work on laptops, but those machines aren't powerful enough to run Second Life. We need the desktops. But no lab is available.

So our IT guy put 5 brand-new computers in my room that are really, really fast. They're part of the school's upgrade, but since we're ready to go, he put my room at the top of the list for replacements.

I have a class of 18 with 14 active members (three students rarely come to class and one student is too old for the Teen Grid. He's fascinated, however, and wants to write scripts, so he's looking over everyone's shoulder and offering help. He's serving as another eye in the room, which I'll talk about in a minute). With only five computers that run SL at my disposal, I've had to go to a lottery-type system. So Wednesday (our first inworld day), I put all the names in a tin and had my 18-year-old pull out five. Those kids went on the desktops and I logged in using my laptop.

A sidenote about my laptop. It's a tablet and while it's wonderful for all sorts of other activities (including blogging), it really doesn't like Second Life. At all. I'm constantly lagging behind the kids!

At first, the five kids went flying. Exactly what I expected. But then they caught sight of each other and realized they all looked the same. Immediately they wanted to change their appearances. We have a 40-minute block. With the first 15 min taken up logging in, accepting their membership into the group, figuring out how to walk and fly...they then spent a half an hour on their appearances. Surprised the heck out of me.

On reflection, however, I should have expected it. Teenagers are incredibly image-concious and to have an avatar that looked like everyone else's avatar? No way! They needed to express their individuality and that was an item far more important than anything I'd planned. So I did what any good teacher does when presented with an important issue. I tossed out what I'd planned and let them edit their appearances to their hearts' content!

Each of the other groups has done the same thing -- although I'm not sure if their choices were just because the first group led the way in that or because they were truly concerned about how others in the world saw them. Doesn't matter that the person running the avatar is sitting right beside them. They know they're going to be judged inworld as well as in RL and so are making choices about that image they project. As a sidenote: most of the boys have experimented with weird, outlandish appearances (hot pink skin, spiky white hair, bulbuous body shapes) whereas the girls are more inclined to change the color of their dresses).

I need to put in a word about classroom management. With only a third of my students inworld, what do I do with the remaining bulk of the class? Today I had the laptop cart again, so those who were NOT inworld were writing about their experiences in their journals on the wiki. So I had one group co-exisiting in the real classroom and in SL and another group in my real classroom doing work on the laptops. And me? I'm bouncing back and forth between being inworld and dealing with spoken questions coming from the group on the big computers as well as answering questions and helping students on the laptops (and wiki).

And that's where my 18-year-old came in handy. Because my attention just can't be everywhere at once, he stood behind those who were in SL and answered several of the questions that popped up. That freed me to keep an eye on my classroom students who weren't inworld while also being in SL and talking with Lynn and the other students. Do I sound schizophrenic? I certainly feel it!

Having all the kids in one place at the same time is the ideal and is what I've had in mind all along. I got a little blindsided this week when I was told there was no lab available (I thought everything had been worked out. I was wrong and it threw me some). Having only a third of them inworld at any point isn't what I planned for, so I'm doing some fast thinking to keep up (forget getting ahead!).

But, WE'RE INWORLD!!! And the course can really take off now! So I'm psyched and we'll find a way to make it happen. All of it. Step by incremental step.

Take care,

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