Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Second Life Tour for you!

     I have just submitted the tour that I created in Second Life.  Inside, you will find places that offer you relaxation, places that allow you to learn on your own, and places to just cut loose!  You will also find locations to get help from others, and get a basic introduction to Second Life.  I felt it was important to make a tour for people new to Second Life, because I am guessing that many of those in Second Life are already essentially experts at navigating to zones that exhibit the themes they seek.  It was quite refreshing to get out on my own and experience what Second Life had to offer, but it is always good to end the day at the beach!  I hope you enjoy my tour!

Second Life Quest 2: Who needs physics!

The best part of waking up, is coffee in your NASA cup!
     Alright, so I have done things in a rather disjointed fashion on my Second Life quest list, and have found
myself back at quest 2!  In the process of doing this quest, I was afforded the opportunity to test my movement and shutterbug skills.  I will have to say, the photography aspect of Second Life has been one of the oddest experiences so far.  I have to think about the fact that I am engaging in a virtual world and all the things that come along with it, and now I am taking pictures of my avatar.  While I do not see this as a terribly new concept, it boggles the mind to think that I am able to treat my avatar as a real representation of my persona, visiting places (albeit virtual ones), and interacting with what I find there.  All the while, I am taking photos, as though I am on a vacation!
     Now, I am use to being immersed in virtual worlds (through World of Warcraft, SWTOR, Guild Wars, etc.), but I have never spent much time in a virtual world that exists for the sole purpose of being a virtual world.  In the games I have played; things like dancing, photos, talking to other people, and crafting, have been side activities - and the were not meant to be more than distractions.  In Second Life, simple interactions in the virtual world are the primary objective.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The new you! Only a button-click away.

     So I have toyed with my Second Life avatar at this point.  Well, technically I did it immediately.  I took the default avatar that I had selected and gave it an anime flair on the initial island:
Here I am, all ready to go to work!

     However, I decided that this look wasn't going to get me everywhere I wanted to go.  Many destinations have restrictions on how you should act and dress while on at the location!  Thus, I decided on something a little more formal for when the need arises:
As it turns out, green suits me.
     See, I clean up nicely!  I have had an interesting time going to different zones so far, and most people are reasonably nice.  I hope to see more classmates in my adventures, soon!

Across the 4th Dimension: Asynchronous Collaborative Gaming

my Screenr post in a nutshell
     Greetings folks!  I have been working with Ryan Andreassen (of Universal Design Through Assistive Technology fame) on Kingdom Rush this past week.  We do not have particularly matching schedules, so we have found a need to communicate asynchronously through email, for the most part.  Due to this obstacle, I had not been of much use to Ryan, I fear.  However, my potential for increased participation arrived when he suggested using a website called Screenr.  Through Screenr, users can make 5 minute videos of parts of their computer screens; and the video quality is actually really good. 
     Ryan was having difficult with a particular level (Level 4), and through Screenr, I was able to replicate his current number of stars (for upgrades) and go about doing the level in a way that demonstrate how to navigate successfully.  I am happy to report that he completed the level, and I hope that my Screenr share was useful.  As of now, I have also sent him the link to my video showing how to beat Level 1 on Iron Challenge with just 3 stars.
     Because Ryan saw an issue and offered a solution to the group as a whole, we were able to engage in a more successful asynchronous collaborative effort.  Also, through this effort, both of our knowledge bases have been expanded, and we have both engaged in learning.  As it turns out, even the simplest tasks in collaborative environments can lead to the empowerment of all individuals involved!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lionheart Authoritarian Regime

you can't see it, but there is a yellow ban tape right in front of me
     Okay, so I am a little angry at the folks at Lionheart.  Right when I zoned into the Lionheart
Orientation course section (Lionheart Pumbaa), I was warned by a bot that I was in flight mode, and that I had to land or I would be banned from the main area for 12 hours.  Well, I wasn't flying, and I still got banned.  So...exploring the beginner tutorial was really boring for me.  I tried to see if I could contact admins about it, but the system is so convoluted and all the admin support on their website was OFFLINE.  I explored as much as I could, and I already have a good command of the controls.  I will never wait 12 hours to walk through an annoying tunnel that tells me how to do what I already figured out on my own!
     Here is my assessment in two questions:

1)  Why on earth are Lionheart's police bots so glitchy as to assume I was in flight upon teleport?

2)  Why on earth would a host ban flight?

     I was happy to hear nice music in the entryway, as I was blocked from going down the stairs by floating yellow tape.  I walked around a bit, discovered some buildings, watched cars go by - and I took a photo after learning the controls on my own.

     I love the customization aspects of Second Life, but as a Digital Native, I am liking less and less of the actual virtual world.  I believe Second Life is for Digital Immigrants who feel like something this simple is still a cute novelty.

You only live once...unless you're on Second Life!

Me at Dr. Z's fountain!  I love my wings!
     Alright,  so I am sure it is no secret by now that I am pretty big into gaming.  In fact, I'm also
pretty well acquainted with virtual worlds.  I played World of Warcraft a lot longer than I should admit, EverQuest, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and yes - Second Life.  Though, compared to the others, Second life is not really an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) in the traditional "gamer" sense.  Yes, it is massive, yes it online, and yes - you play any role you want.  Instead of mutiplayer, I would call it "multi-avatar".  I say this, because there is less emphasis on gaming in Second Life, and more emphasis on building your own virtual identity (hence the name "Second Life").

     Second Life is an canvas, on which you can paint just about anything.  Want to build a building?  Great, have at it.  Want to go to a virtual social gathering?  They have those all the time.  Just about anything you can think to do in the parameters of the virtual world, you can do (to a degree) in Second Life.  There is a potential to hold classes, and to have meaningful interactive dialogue with people anywhere in the world.  I'd say the biggest benefit of Second Life is the fact that it plays on the aspect of flow that involves losing yourself in what you're doing.  This enables you to truly engage in whatever task you are trying to accomplish: whether it be watching a presentation in a classroom, or building furniture.  I also like the mini-transaction aspect of Second Life, as it serves as a virtual economic model.

     There are two major negatives that I have experience thus far.  I am used to MMOs performing flawlessly on my computer, as I have a high end graphics card, tons of RAM, and a dedicated gaming laptop.  However, Second Life's servers are so overcrowded with extra things people create (which I call garbage) and other toons (players), that the server lag is almost unbearable in high population areas!  Even when I changed my video settings, no changed occurred!  This can only mean that it is the host server's issue.  This would not be the place in which to hold successful MOOCs, as frame rates would be terrible!
     The second negative pertains to the lack of rewards.  There are no in-game achievements or rewards inherent to the system.  All of the non-financial motivation is purely internal.  I have found that this generally is in violation of applied Gamification principles.  I will argue that the creation system behaves in such a way that you can profit off unique items you make, but that is Capitalism, and markets don't always create rewards.

     Second Life is fine if you keep your student population small and live on a small island, encouraging students to go explore for themselves and report back.  I also suggest using the video and audio functions to the fullest.  I see Second Life as a free version of any number of pay-to-play meeting software suites out there.
     However, I would suggest a closed-environment server capable of many of the same functions, like Minecraft.  Yes, there is an initial fee, but educational licenses come with the server account plus multiple accounts for student use.  Heavens, you could even start a private server in World of Warcraft.  WoW is a game where 10-40 people have to act collaboratively (and cohesively) to complete various objectives.  I guess the point I am trying to make is that Second Life does a lot of things, but I do not feel as though it does any of them particularly well.

If you want to read another blog with interesting input on Second Life, I suggest Jeremy Cooper's blog.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So you think you can code?

flickr photo courtesy of FutUndBeidl
     Want to give coding a try?  Feel like you're ready for that next step in truly understanding the Codecademy, the way to play games and learn just how all things digital work...at the same time! 
nature of computing and the Internet?  Psh, I just wanna play games!  Well ladies and gentlemen, I give you Codecademy!
     How have the designers at Codecademy managed to Gamify coding?  That's easy!  So here is the deal:

  • There are many language to choose from, like: JavaScript(pretty common), Python(learn to program your Raspberry Pi(a super-small computer), and HTML (the old guy of the bunch).
  • You are rewarded with various Achievements for completing lessons.
  • There is no punishment for errors, instead they turn a helpful color - and you can use hints any time! 
  • You're able to take as much time as you want, be as creative as you want, and most important - you can do as little or as much as you want in one sitting.

     My advice?  At least check it out, it might just be the thing you're looking for if you've always thought about programming, but never really wanted to think about algorithms and Boolean logic.