Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Visit Rime of the Ancient Mariner!

Need something fun to do today? Head over to Literature Alive's Rime of the Ancient Mariner build at Drexel Island!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Literature Alive! and the Conference Circuit

Working on the builds for Literature Alive! is only half of the work Eloise and I do in Second Life. Eloise has her own thriving business as a goddess scripter/builder and RL educator, and, of course, I have my own RL educator work at Hotchkiss. On the side, I do a lot of presentations, workshops, and faculty development projects including trainings, conferences, and workshops.

Conferences are energizing, and I truly love participating in them. Of the conferences I love most, NMC's conferences top the list. They really select top speakers/presenters, and I always learn the newest and most cutting edge stuff. Their energy is amazing, and Larry Pixel (RL Larry Johnson) and CDB Barkley (RL Alan Levine) and really great guys.

The NMC Symposium on New Media and Learning opened today, and I am presenting on Google in Second Life on Thursday. If you have teh chance, PLEASE go register! It is well worth the money spent, and it is all online, so you can stay in your jammies!

If you don't have spare cash, check out the Best Practices in Education conference happening this weekend in Second Life. The schedule was a bit hard to find, but here it is.

So, to see if anyone actually reads this blog; what do you think of Desi with short hair? T'is a little poll ;p

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or The Albatross Returns

Now that House of Usher is done, we are moving on over to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner build. I love Samuel Taylor Coleridge's wicked sense of doom and gloom. We have all felt the weight of that albatross from time to time.

In my renaissance, I have been connecting with old friends in SL. Many of them are wearing the weight of those virtual albatrosses (albatrossi?). As budgets get cut, monies for virtual education are slim to none, and it gets hard to make a case for supporting virtual worlds when supporting the real world is hard enough. It is challenging to see value when the fog is thick and the seamates are dropping like flies all around you; it is easier to just to jump ship and swim to a safe shore where the birds are cute and don't smell like dead penguins.

However, there is hope. There is ground under that fog; there is light. The Mariner came back to tell his story. There was no dead yucky bird grossing out the bridal party; no - he lived to tell the tale.

We are all in a storm right now. But, there is hope, and we have a tale to tell. Our students need us to be creative all of the time. If we give up during the worst of times, our hope for the best of times is slighted. We need science folks to keep thinking about ways to cure the ills of the world; we need engineers to think up better and stronger bridges; we need people to find better and useful ways to communicate. It is only through the storms that we generate the best tales.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Virtual Edgar Allan Poe Classroom ReBorn!

Eloise and I worked all day and night on recreating the Edgar Allan Poe Classroom (AKA "The House of Usher Classroom). Eloise whipped up a snappy drawbridge, and you can read or listen to several Poe texts before "trying" to gain entry to the House to find text-related artifacts. Stop in at

Near the Poe Classroom, you will find a brief little exhibit called "Virtual Rhetoric." Complete with tank, the lesson address visual rhetoric in virtual worlds. Stop by at

MANY MANY MANY thanks to Jean-Claude Bradley at Drexel for providing land sponsorship to Literature Alive!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Heroic Journey

Among the builds that Literature Alive! still operates, the Archetypal Cave is among the list of the living. Visitors can learn about archetypal literary theory and the quest of the hero. In a classroom, it is an engaging and interactive lab full of hunts and student-created content. Alone, however, it is a pretty dish with stale candy....pretty to look at, but a little dusty.

In Second Life, this seems to be the norm. There are lots of pretty dishes. There are lots of fabulous places that are chalk full of content but are empty, abandoned, and, well, virtually dusty. Even my most favorite builds are empty when I take people to visit them...they have, somehow, lost their magic, their wonder, their passion...

Right now, Eloise and I are finishing a how-to chapter on building a viable workspace. This comes at a time when we have lost more than 50% of our donated land because the owners have given up. What can I possibly tell businesses about Second Life when we are holding on to Literature Alive! by a simple thread? Should we pack it in? The thought has occurred to me on more than a few occasions.

But then I think about those wandering avatars. The ones that get tired of the hair of the week hunts and lucky chairs and type "Poe" into the search box. They will find the Literature Alive! Edgar Allan Poe House of Usher plot hosted by AJ Kelton and Montclair State University. Or, if they type "literature" they will find the Literature Alive! group that was formed for 3 people and now is home to a few hundred. They can find Dante's Inferno in a simple search and learn about Italian and literary history. These are the reasons why packing it in is not an option. As a teaching professor, the mission was always to get students to love literature. The goal wasn't to be the most popular professor, but to be the professor that sparked interest and cultivated a little flame

The virtual dream was the same. I started Literature Alive! alone as an alternative to the crappy content that can be found in SL. Literature Alive! would have died without the scripting genius of Eloise Pasteur, and since she came on board, we have celebrated all sorts of successes for over 2 years now. The students that have gone through, most notably Daliah Carter, have become proficient communicators. Daliah is such a success adult learner gone from sewing factory worker to newspaper editor. She never planned to be a writer., but Second Life gave her a chance to write publicly. It is for the the Daliahs of the world that we need to keep on track.

That said, we do need some fresh air; we to open the windows in our virtual world and kick out the rugs. Once the light cracks through the dust, we can see what it is that makes us love virtual worlds. Eloise and I have been kicking up the rugs, and underneath the dust, we are finding the gems that have made us strong. The content, the builds, and the documentation have all been strong since the first prim was raised in the name of Literature Alive! While things might be dusty, the is solid. There is no structural damage. There has been no weathering.

Jean-Claude Bradley (SL Horace Moody) is donating some of the land at Drexel Island to Literature Alive! In real life, Jean-Claude is one of the most inspirational people I know, but he has now become that open window of fresh air for my virtual life. Literature Alive! is organic, much like the chemistry he teaches, and it relies on constant care, examination, and experimentation. Alone, the structures are just molecules, but adding the chemistry of intellect and passion will be the air that is much needed for us to stay successful in SL. What makes SL the tool of choice is its ability to connect people together - the collaboration of many for the sole purpose of educating others.

OK, so we have let ourselves get dusty. There are always Pledge and Old English. We need to grab our rags and polish and get to work. It is time for Spring Cleaning!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where Have I Been???

Lordie! It seems that I have been away from this blog FOREVER, and then I checked the date, and, d'oh! - t'is true!

Life, as is usually does, got in the way of composing witty posts for all y'all. Most specifically, my mother's terminal illness raised its bar on Christmas Day, and it has been an all consuming journey. She is stable for the moment, and I can breathe once again.

Sooo....I'm back!

My Second Life is a little smaller now, as I have packed up a number of our builds. Sadly, the economy is hurting everyone, and my generous donors are giving up property left and right. One day, Literature Alive! might have its own island to call home, but, for now, all of the builds are available on request with a few stable properties left standing. It is sad to watch SL shrinking. It is a great tool for educational collaboration, and I hope that, one day, the powers that now rule LL will see the educational value of programs like Literature Alive! - the ones that serve the community as a whole and not a specific college or university. But, then again, they are a business, and money is usually the bottom line, so I guess we will just keep on trucking with what we have out there.

It feels good to be back :-)