Published by Joe Sanchez on 28 Apr 2008

Student Project in Second Life

Tonight April 27, 2008 the first group of my students will be hosting their final project in Second Life. The group is having a carnival complete with rides, games, clowns, and DJ to raise money for Wheelies (see the movie below) starting at 6SLT.


This is a picture of their rehearsal held on Thursday afternoon. Please join us tonight and help them raise money for a great cause and to see an example of what students can achieve in Sl

Published by Joe Sanchez on 22 Apr 2008

Virtual Worlds Overview

Some of the students in my Working in Virtual Worlds class recently submitted an extra credit assignment where they had to pick a virtual world and make a short video providing an introduction for a noob audience. These are the first few i have received.

Habbo Hotel


World of Warcraft

Club Penguin

This extra credit assignment turned out pretty well so i think next semester i will incorporate it into the regular content of the class. Each student will have to create a machinima about their final project so this exercise gave them a little practice before the major movie is due.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 07 Mar 2008

Tyra’s Virtual Studio

Tyra's virtual studio

Tyra banks recently launched her own virtual world called Tyra’s Virtual Studio I saw a short commercial for it while i was flipping channels and my curiosity got the best of me so I had to check it out. Luckily they have an Alpha version for Mac OSX which worked fine on my laptop. Tyra’s world is very comic book like. The avatars look like flash renderings and the bodies are outlined with thick black lines. Once you get into the world it is very easy to navigate with an avatar but teleporting seemed to take a long time.

There is a lot of commercial media in Tyra’s Studio. The browser/client runs a media player while you explore the world and the player shows you the artist and album of any songs that play. Users can even rate songs as they play in the media player. I liked that feature a lot. There have been many times i have been in SL and i wanted to know the name of a song but there was no way of finding it. I was on at 3:30 am CST and their were many people hanging around chatting and dancing. I didn’t see any camping chairs : )

The world seems small and that is likely the reason the world seemed so heavily populated. I only spent about 30 minutes exploring so my observations are very limited in scope. The avatar gestures were easy to use and they had plenty of options for a noob. The dancing was much smoother than i have seen in Sl and the default dances, about 25 or so, were well made and actually looked like REAL dancing. I made a short video of my experience.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 29 Jan 2008

Teaching with Voice Issues

USB head set

This semester i am requiring my students to purchase a USB headset and mic so we can use voice chat in Second Life. Of course, when implementing SL nothing is as easy as it seems. As usual I look to Social Informatics as a way to analyze the problems. Social Informatics is “the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts.” In this case problems with voice chat arose even though the students had the proper equipment, networks, and access to Second Life. Only about 1/2 my students were able to use voice chat…so what happened?

My RL classroom doesn’t have computers in it so when we have class in SL students need to find their own access. My instructions have always been, if your computer doesn’t work with Sl go to a computer lab or use the library, problem solved. But when you throw voice chat into the equation it shakes things up a bit. Most computer labs on campus are quite work spaces, students wear headphones and most talking is between two students who might be collaborating on a project. Talking in the labs, especially for students “playing a game” like Second Life is not tolerated. Some students couldn’t use voice because of the following scenarios:

1. students who were on campus because they had class before or after mine,

2. students who had to use a computer lab because their home computers couldn’t run SL

3. students who don’t own a laptop but were away from there desktop computer that can run SL

a student describes this on his blog

Another downside of being in the lab was the fact that I couldn’t talk. I should probably try to find a place on campus where I can get a fast connection and talk at the same time. (Any suggestions? I don’t live on campus so I can’t go to a dorm room, and I can’t play from home since I have class immediately before this one).

class in second life

About 2/3 of the class could not participate in the voice chat because they were in a computer lab, using a library computer, or at a wireless hotspot on campus where they couldn’t or rather, they didn’t feel comfortable talking. Very interesting barrier to a technology implementation, a social barrier rather than a technical barrier. The institutional and cultural context within the University of Texas at Austin acted as a barrier to voice chat in SL. Cases like this lend support the idea that we need to base our Second Life teaching on actual uses of Second Life rather than possible uses of Second Life.

Even with this barrier however, students reported that were more comfortable learning in SL compared to our face-2-face classess. Some quotes from their blogs are below.

One thing I noticed about holding class in Second Life was that more than the usual people participated in the discussions that we have. It seems that the barrier of shyness or being uncomfortable with expressing one’s opinion was just taken away. The reason for this I think is because when class is held in the virtual world, most everyone is in a comfortable zone, for me it was my apt. (which was a good thing because I didn’t feel like being out in this cold weather lol). Since you are not physically there, and instead a virtual form of yourself is there, then you are more inclined to participate without any sort of anxiety or fear to speak out.

Class in Second Life yesturday was really interesting in a fun way. I feel like i can open up and contribute more when i’m not in an actual classroom i think it’s because i’m shy in public. Having conversations through the computer is what our generation does though so i feel more comfortable that way.

once we were in the virtual environment everyone was talking. Arguments flew back and forth. Side conversations were held. For the first time in the two weeks we have been meeting, Joe’s conversation was practically secondary to the class conversation.

First off, I will say that the meeting was a lot more convenient and informative than meeting in a classroom. It was a big relief to be able to get an extra 1/2 hour of sleep.

BTW, Leslie Jarmon and I were featured in an article titled Universities Use Second Life to Teach Complex Concepts in Government Technology Magazine.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 04 Jan 2008

Another Student Machinima Project

This is a machinima created by the G3s, a group of 4 students in my Working in Virtual Worlds class that held a fundraiser at the Happy Clam for a non-profit organization called the Wildlife Trust (see this post below for more info). The students raised 72,000 Linden, about 300USD during their 2 hour benefit party.  This was an open ended video project, the instructions were to keep it to 2 1/2 – 3 minutes, and to have each student’s voice represented in the video. 

Published by Joe Sanchez on 17 Dec 2007

Student machinima

This is the first of four student machinima projects I will be posting created by the students of Working in Virtual Worlds, a class I teach in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. Students were required to plan, coordinate, and host an event in Second Life as part of the class activities. Originally we had planned on having two tests in the semester but when the students asked to replaced the second test with a machinima project I agreed ; ).

The machinima project was an open assignment, i required the machinima be about the event they held and that every group member’s voice be heard. Other than that they had creative freedom. This is a video produced by the Drag Rats (4 students) who held a custom motorcycle show in Second Life. Many thanks to the Saints of Hell in Second Life for agreeing to partner and work with the students on their assignment. As you will see, the event was a huge success, at the highest point over 60 avatars were at the event. The video is five minutes and the students begin their narrative about 3 1/2 minutes into it.

Corin Lipinski led this team and produced most of the video. She graduated last week from UT Austin with a degree in Advertising and she is looking for an entry-level job in Austin. As you can see she is very fluent in everything Second Life and Web 2.0, if you have an opportunity available or have any leads for her please email me and I will put you in contact with her.

joe / North lamar

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