Friday, December 15, 2006

FYI - Background from Interview

I am posting this as more complete background information - perhaps it will fill in some blanks - I have been remiss in my lack of participation in the Educators and Teens list:
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so I am going to let this posting serve as my introduction to that list as well.
Here we go:
November 12, 2006

Can you give a little background on Suffern Middle School (demographics,
size, location, technology, relationship to innovation, etc.)
Ramapo Central School District is located in Rockland County, New York,
approximately thirty miles northwest of New York City. We serve the
Villages of Airmont, Hillburn, Monsey, Montebello, Tallman, Wesley
Hills, Sloatsburg, and Suffern- along with a small, unincorporated area
of the Town of Ramapo.

Our K-12 student population of 4,774 is engaged in a challenging
curriculum and award-winning educational programs beginning in our five
elementary schools:

* Cherry Lane
* Montebello
* R.P. Connor
* Sloatsburg
* Viola

This award-winning education program continues through Suffern Middle
School and Suffern High School.
Ramapo Central School District Superintendent Dr. Robert MacNaughton has
presented the workshop, “ The World is Flat”
The presentation is about how students and teachers can integrate
technology into their work and their communications with others and
explains how RCSD is changing to meet the challenge of providing
adequate technology for today's students and how this will help them
communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, culture and
Dr. MacNaughton, Superintendent of RCSD since 1998, participates in
hands-on work with his professional staff to design, implement and
evaluate educational programs with an emphasis on the use of technology.
He is constantly seeking ideas that will empower schools to respond to
the needs of today's students who will be living and working in a
"flatter world". He has received the Distinguished Technology Leader for an Administrator award:
Dr. MacNaughton was honored for persistently working to develop a vision
for the use of technology throughout the Ramapo Central School District. Among his
initiatives, Dr. MacNaughton was instrumental in bringing digital
photography labs to the Ramapo High School art program and a digital keyboarding lab to the High School music department. Under his guidance, classrooms in the District are equipped with computer clusters, projection devices, wireless tablets, mobile labs, and adaptive technology for special education students, and most importantly, he supports teacher training in multiple methods.

RCSD has a clear and focused mission: Educate For Personal
Excellence. This mission reflects our commitment to challenging every student to
achieve his or her highest personal potential. We accomplish this through student-centered educational models implemented by top-notch
teaching professionals.

Where did you first hear about Second Life and when did you start
thinking in terms of making connections with it to the curriculum as a
platform to teach middle school students in?

Curiously enough I knew about SL for at least a year before I actually
went in world and explored. The initial “nudge” came from my
daughter, Meghan, who actually worked for Linden Lab as a liaison on the teen grid (Deana Linden)
She was constantly saying "Mom! You have got to check this out! You'll
love it!" However, I assumed Second Life was just another of the video games that had always eluded me and I just kept putting it off because I “didn't have time to play a game.” I had never explored video or online gaming, had never ventured into World of Warcraft or Diablo or GTA or any MMORPG for that matter. Then one day Meghan was visiting and I guess she played the ultimate “guilt card” by asking, Don’t you even want to know about where I work and what I do?” Reluctantly, I sat down and created an account in Second Life.

Initially, all I did was wander about and laugh—--a lot! I was clumsy, limited and didn’t quite “get it”. But everyone I encountered seemed to be willing to help and answer my questions, and Meghan suggested I try attending a few “events”. She walked me through some basic “etiquette”. She showed me a few fascinating places. After meeting the most extraordinary people (all the while I was banging into walls,) I started to make the connection to education. A web of ideas started to form and as I investigated further, it all started to actually make sense. I knew that this could be something huge for kids and learning. I started to investigate anything connected to education in Second Life. I searched down educators in world. I formed a group for discussions and I joined other related education groups. I read the blogs and the wikis and the journals and it all started to click. The thoughts I’d had about the “dysfunction” of conventional instruction, fueled by my own experience teaching and my own experience learning started to find a small solution. All of the books and articles and heated discussions I’d shared with my fellow educators and in my graduate classes about issues concerning twenty-first century literacy and educating the digital native was finding a home in what I was learning about the power of simulations and the potential of game based learning communities. All of these things started to crystallize for me. I felt that I had discovered one avenue of 21st century literacy that I could actually put into action. I decided to write a proposal for my district to establish a pre(sence in the virtual world of Teen Second Life. It began to take shape. The rest is virtual) history!
“In order to teach the students of the 21st century we need to use the tools of the twenty-first century.”

One of your blogposts indicate that your administration gave the all
clear for three private islands. To what do you attribute the key
factors within this proposal or other factors about your school that
administration was in support about the project?

Our head of instructional technology, James Yap, helped me to focus in on the curriculum connections and to organize my myriad ideas into a cohesive document. I was able to present a bit of background on the digital native and learning styles, on the neuroscience behind their multi-tasking, etc. I relied a great deal on ideas I had read about in works by educators like Marc Prensky and James Paul Gee. But my task was not as difficult as one might imagine since the administrative leadership of Ramapo Central School District truly understands the demands and direction of the global workforce, and how best to prepare our students to be successful in that “flatter world” awaiting them!
When I presented the proposal, they asked all the right questions: How will this enhance learning? How can we guarantee our students’ safety? Once I addressed those issues by making curricular connections to learning in the virtual platform and by setting up Ramapo Islands as secured, “closed” land, I received the green light!

Can you explain a bit about the fees for the private islands, the bulk
accounts for the students, background checks, and any other fees that
have been contributed to the project?

Linden Labs gives educators a discount for island purchase. There are
also fees associated with the maintenance and for account creation but
Linden Labs bent over backwards to accommodate our project. As we were
breaking new ground, many of the decisions concerning the development
of the islands were "first time" decisions and Linden Lab always took
the high ground-their priority being our success rather than their
convenience. I can't say enough about the Lindens who worked tirelessly
on this project, especially Claudia Linden and Blue Linden. There were
many others at the company going the extra mile for us too! They did not though, lower the security settings for adults entering the teen grid – even for our teachers who all had to submit evidence of background checks.

Who designed the buildings and services on the islands?
Once the proposal passed and RCSD had purchased the three islands I started planning with teachers who had agreed to participate in the pilot program. We began by looking at the existing curriculum and designing projects that would be enhanced in the virtual platform.

I remember the day that I received notification from Linden Labs that the islands had been created and were now accessible. I had asked to have them established on the main grid to be transferred over to the Teen Grid after completion. The reasoning behind this was simple. My avatar was not allowed on the teen grid and I had no “connections” on the Teen Grid. The first time I went to Ramapo Islands I imagine the feeling was not unlike what the early explorers experienced. Vast EMPTY land of rolling green – that seemed to go on forever. I had generated some interest in the project in world through the educators groups and such, but I knew I didn’t have sufficient skills to create my vision. I had been greatly inspired by the content on the main grid and I had the imagination and ideas for builds from my teachers. So, I attended the SLCC in San Francisco and basically approached anyone and everyone who would listen to my plea for help! I had done my homework, and I scouted down some of the most creative residents who were at the convention. Due in part to my shameless recruiting methods, and even more so to the truly generous natures of the Second Life Community, I was able to connect with the best and the brightest visionaries in SL. The excitement of the potential for educational possibilities was infectious!
After some initial planning done at SLCC, all meetings to determine the design and building of the islands was done in world. I left SLCC with names, and a plan! We then formed a group, Ramapo Volunteers, and held meeting in world to discuss builds and design. Fred Fuchs of FireSabre Consulting (Gus Plisskin in SL) who was instrumental in the Global Kids Island move to the Teen Grid became my technical director and Guru! I have a list of about twenty other residents who donated their time, builds, energy, etc. As the build was developing I also traveled about in world and looked for "cool stuff" that we could use on the islands. Then I would approach the resident who owned or created it, deliver a note card about the project and cross my fingers! I received everything for which I asked - NO ONE turned me down. This doesn't happen anywhere else that I know of!

Ramapo Volunteers included Robbie Dingo, Seifert Surface, Lyr
Lobo, Patch Lamington, twisted fool, lumiere noir, Mathieu Basiat, Chaac
Amarula, Liberty Tesla, Les White, Sulumor Romulus, Ayesha Honey, Lilith
Heart, Frans Charming, Joshua Deckard, aEoLus Waves, Bella Damone,
Karamel Madison, Kayla Khan, Amulius Lioncourt, Rhiannon Chatnoir, and
please forgive me if I have forgotten others. Many of these residents even paid for the background clearance check so that they can enter the teen grid to mentor. The spirit of community is outstanding and the islands reflect it!
We needed to have functional builds that taught skills etc, but also to have enough "eye candy" and fun stuff to keep the kids motivated and to allow them to
glimpse the potential of SL without ever being on the Teen Grid proper.
I think we managed it really well!

The team, Ramapo Volunteers, would meet, assign tasks, delegate responsibilities and the islands started to take shape. An idea would surface and if a team member was unable to complete the task, they recruited a friend who could.

What do the names of the islands mean?

The islands are all names that reflect the real world locations of our
school. We are in the town of Suffern, in the county of Rockland, and
the Village of Ramapo. The Native Americans from this area were the
Ramapo Tribe.

We read the press coverage in SLNN here:
.html Is there anything else you would add in terms of plans for
services for students? Can you elaborate a bit more on the description
and function of the library (photos?)

Everything is evolving. As my teachers learn and become more familiar
with the capabilities of the platform, they are coming up with some
powerful ideas. The library will not only serve as a meeting place,
auditorium for group viewing of movies, (student generated etc. ) but
will also eventually serve as a receptacle for student writing and art. Eventually I am looking to investigate the integration of Web2 portals for a virtual collection but for now the “books” are student works.

What does it feel like to be a pioneer? Have you always been one? In
what ways do you see this as a pioneer effort and in other ways similar
to real life in terms of reaching teens where they are?

I came to teaching later in life than most. My first career was as a
musician. (That's another whole story!) When I decided to teach I truly
did so for all of the mushy altruistic "change the world, make a
difference" reasons. I have been very lucky in that the three districts
in which I have worked have had a major focus on technology and literacy. When I taught third grade at Mount Sinai Elementary School on Long Island, I was also attending SUNY StonyBrook for my masters in Ed Tech. I remember learning things on a Tuesday night and then teaching them to my third graders the next morning and they got it! We had six computers in the classroom and by the end of the year every student had generated their own web site and a digital portfolio of their work.
Funny thing is that everyone assumed it was some kind of technical magic
that I had - and they were wrong. It was the kids. What I realized from
that first teaching experience, was that these students are comfortable
with technology and given the tools they soar with it! This opened up a
whole new realm for me and I became passionate about the authentic
infusion of technology in learning. When I taught for the Greenville County School District at Stone Academy of Communication Arts, I started to train teachers and develop curriculum that wasn't just teaching technology for technology's sake but truly addressed the learning style of the digital native. It was there (University of South Carolina at Columbia) that I started a second master’s degree in Library and Information Science which I am now completing at Southern Connecticut State University (online of course).

Educators must begin to realize that 21st century Literacy is NOT what WE
grew up with. It has evolved and we, as educators, must evolve with it. I love
Prensky's new book, "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning", as he explains
this in very "teacher-friendly" terms. Educators too often feel that teaching
the new literacy negates traditional literacy and it does not.
Traditional literacy is the foundation of all literacy.

Right now, with this latest project, I am feeling encouraged and
validated. The 8th grade teachers at Suffern Middle School have
embraced this project. Some are young and on the fringes of “Digital
Nativism” themselves, so this was not a giant leap for them but others
are definitely Digital Immigrants, and although they don't
personally subscribe to the processes of the native, they are insightful
enough to realize that this is where the kids need to be!

Can you give some examples of how your curriculum was written to match
with activities in SL?

Initially, so as not to demand too much too soon, I explained to my
teachers that they would teach as they have always taught, but that the
virtual platform would be used for the students to demonstrate learning.
We talked about different projects and assessments that would translate
into the 3D environment. For example, after studying World War II,
rather than a research report or a PowerPoint presentation, the students
would demonstrate learning by constructing a virtual timeline of the
major events of WWII. This project would be differentiated in that
students who were less familiar with the platform could simply research
and create an exhibit in world, while others could use the movie tools
and create a documentary. What I expect to happen is that the kids will
start to develop their own ideas and eventually their own curriculum
connections. They have already opted to create an Ellis Island (many thanks to Liberty Tesla for our “Lady Liberty”) complete with a museum, and a kids who completed a Geometry unit have created a Geo Gallery with 3-D sculptures that give note card explanations demonstrating geometric concepts. I am advocating use of peer review and peer tutoring. As each successive class enters Ramapo Islands, the previous residents will be charged with the responsibility to "teach them the ropes" and eventually, when all the kids have been oriented, we will address cross curricular content and have the kids generate activities that relate to
their curriculum. The latest idea is a team lesson involving English and Social Studies. The students will read To Kill a Mockingbird in English class and re-enact the trial in SL. So, they will need to use traditional literacy skills in reading and understanding, and then synthesize that information to create a setting and role-play the trial. They will need to research the American Judicial System to understand the trial by jury system and the required participants (judge, jury, witnesses, defendant, prosecutor, etc.) and they will need to identify those corresponding roles from the novel. The teacher will assign the roles and the kids will research what they need to know in order to play their part. The teachers and I are developing a rubric for assessment.

How are you working to build sustainability in the project?
Right now, I have introduced the kids to the islands and clearly
explained that they are the "test cases" I have outlined not only the
community standards, but the Ramapo Central School District code of
conduct. I have told them that it is up to them whether or not this
project flies for next year. I am hoping to present this at NECC this
year, and I will be gathering evidence of success and even some data to
support the project.

What has reaction from your students been? Are many of them familiar
with SL already? Any direct quotes to share? Any parent feedback yet?

As I said, yesterday was the first day that the kids were shown Second
Life, but they have not been given their own accounts yet. We are
expecting that this week. Of about 100 kids, about three quarters
consider themselves "gamers". Only a handful had heard of Second Life.
After showing them one of the SL trailers, I had them watch my avatar on
Ramapo Islands. I gave them a quick overview of changing appearance,
flying, dancing, building and a simple rotating script. They were
literally spellbound. First of all, I think it really helped to grab
them that my avatar very closely resembles me in real life. (albeit about twwenty years younger) Gus
Woodward arrived so we demonstrated chat and IM. The kids had a million
questions! They wanted to understand the commerce; Linden Dollars were
of great interest to them! "How can I earn money here?" Other questions
were, "Can you die? Can someone else take your stuff? Can I do this
from home? Can I create my own account on the Teen Grid? Will I have
this in high school? (update: see for comments and photos)

Any negative feedback on the project? How do you address it?

We are still in the infancy of the project so this remains to be seen.
I plan on sending an informational letter home to parents to explain
things in detail. The emphasis is that our kids are on a PRIVATE island,
- no one else gets on, and our kids can’t get off - so there is no danger of them being exposed to outside influences. My hope is that after this year we will have sufficient evidence of the value of this platform and will increase our land
holdings and, possibly, open our islands to the Teen Grid in order to
expand the experience and enjoy the cultural exchange! Bring on some more schools and the possibilities for cultural exchange are boundless!

Where can people contact you for more information? If you are looking
for help, what would you like to include as to specific areas you are
looking for help in? I am always open to new ideas for curriculum connections~ or at school,

What words of advice would you give teachers or school districts if they
are wanting to start a similar project?

Be sure to include fees for developers in your proposal! Although I am
eternally grateful to the philanthropic volunteers that worked with me on this
project, they all had time constraints.
In order to really develop your project in a timely manner and
to the specifications of your needs, a really good technical director
and team are absolutely necessary. I hope that anyone embarking on this
journey will contact Fred Fuchs,
FredF4364 on AIM 713-429-1750
Authorized Member, Firesabre Consulting LLC
Content Services for Second Life
Creation, Training, and Management
(Gus Plisskin in Second Life)

He is, in my opinion, an expert on all things relating to Teen Grid
education builds and can troubleshoot many issues before they really
become issues. Gus knows the people you need to know and is creative,
devoted and doesn't ever seem to sleep!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bring on the Math Students!

Today we had math students enter Ramapo Islands in order to show what they have learned in a geometry unit! It was an open-ended task and the students were merely instructed to demonstrate a particular concept in such a way that a visitor could learn about it. Some examples were: lines, rays, angles, shapes, spatial relations. area and circumference. Our Math Teacher, Mrs. Nestler, is a self-described novice to the vrtual platform, but a pioneer all the same.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Suffern Middle School in Second Life

Suffern Middle School in Second Life -

Hello! Please forgive the great lapse in my communcation, but to say life has been busy is the understatement of the century! Allow me to fast-forward to today and then if I cn I will backtrack to the steps leading up.
The kids entered Ramapo late November. We had a number of delays due to technical problems that were all ironed out with gracious efficiency by Claudia Linden and Gus Plisskin! Thanks to you both and to all the LL Staff behind the scenes.
I brought about 2 dozen students in before the rest of the classes in order to acclimate them as Peer Mentors. THen we brought Mr. Rice's classes in twenty five or so at a time. The kids were asked to go through our orientation, adjust their appearance and explore for a bit. Then we gave them their first task. The instructions were available to them in world, on the calendar which is posted on a billboard in two locations (to reduce potential lag) Clicking on the assignemnt for the day, a notecard revealed step by step instructions. First, they had to find and exchange friendship with me, (Chaser Brody on Ramapo) and once they did I paid them 10L$. I was sure to move about the islands n order to promote the kids' use of the map tool and the search tool. Then they were asked to take a snapshot of their avatar and upload it to their profile (hence the 10L$) The kids were great - and after a bit of encouagement, most communication went on in world. The Peer Mentors worked really hard at helping the others and I highly recommend this approach. (As incentive they are given a 100L$ stipend and they are in a group with the title Peer Mentor so that is visible to others). Next we gave an assignment to create a notecard and to write about their initial experience in SL. When the notecard was saved and renamed they either could drop it into their teacher's (TheRussellRice Resistance is his avatar's name) inventory OR they could complete the bonus project and create a book that would give the notecard when clicked. In thismanner they were using creation tools, texture, floating text script and notecard giver scripts. About half of them opted to do this. The books are now on shelves in the library. Also we asked them to comment on how they felt the virtual platform could enhance their studies. Here are some quotes from the notes they wrote:
--" I learned so many new things this week. I learned that the second life is a new way to experience a virtual world that is just like the real world. I also learned that we are ahead the country in tecknology. I also learned that there are computer languages that can help with controling things we make in second life. scripting the language that controls the things we build, scipting is very had to master it takes hours of concentration. second life can lead us to carreers in the future. there are people on second life that are famous people who do concerts and more. "
--"Using Second Life has opened me to a new generation of interacting with my freinds and other kids in my grade. "
--" As far as second life goes I thihnk it's great! I feal completely comfotable in this world. I am getting the hang of things here but I cannot take all the credit I had some help from my friends. Because I had not been here on monday and tuesday you would think i would be struggling to adapt well you are wrong!"

--" In second life I would like to learn a new way to, well, learn. I would like to learn in a more fun way, and I belive second life will help me learn in a fun way. It would be cool if in this world we could have a regular class! I mean if that were true if you are sick and don't come to school you would not miss social studies because all you would have to do is go on your compu at home and the only way you could miss class is if your computer shut down."

--" I would like to see more objects that can be used by everyone. Also, an opportunity to build a large scale building. I still think the islands are great. I am hoping to learn about social studies while still having fun and exploring. I think that the second life world is a great way for us to learn"

--"In the virtual world you can do things that kids can only dream about doing. For example, you can fly and use jet packs. One of the coolest things is that it is in real time to to make it more realistic. I think that second life is a great tool for us to use."

--"what will be better in tthe vitural world will be doing projects because there's alot of possibilitys to base your projects on. Lastly what would be better in real life would be doing everything for school in second life. Also real life is just as fun as second life too. I wonder what we will be doing tomorrow and can't wait to find out! "

--" I think that a virtual world will have some good things like you can express your feelings without anyone making fun of anyone. I think that some things will be better in real life. In real life you can hang with friends too but don't always have to use the computer. "

--"Second life is more than a video game. Its a world. I think it is very cool that you can do what ever you want. If you want spikey hair you get spikey hair. The world is endless. It stops when you run out of imagination. To me second life is cool and it will definitly help with learning and for fun. "

--"My avatar Yakal Hillburn has a yacht, a plane and a jetpack. In real life I could never get things like that but in second life you can. I am getting used to the controls and all the proper ediquit. My apearance looks nothing like me but that is cool. "

--" These worlds are very cool. I also think it is very nice that no one else can get into these islands. It keeps us safe from people that may be a danger to us . I am very happy that we are one of the first schools to try this new and exciting learning experience. I am looking foward to finding out new places on here, and new things to try and experiment with.
Second Life is an exciting thrill compared to just plain work in classrooms. I am very excited to learn, and i dont say that alot. "

This is just a few from one class- NO ONE has contributed any negative feedback except for a few who griped about the speed being too slow here as opposed to their computer at home. I have included some photos from the islands for your enjoyment! More to follow!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

September 24 - Moving Along...

Reminder: Meeting to be held in SL on Ramapo Island on Tuesday September 26th at NOON SL time. Call Maggie Marat or Gus Plisskin for TP
We are hoping that scheduling the meeting at this time will afford better opportunities for our European friends to attend! The meeting will continue to outline the plans and delegate specific tasks and responsibilities to those who are willing and able.
We received some great news from Linden Lab this week in that they WILL be able to accept our New York State Teacher Certification FBI check as clearance for Teen Grid. All NY State teachers (and I am assuming this is true for other states as well) must be FBI fingerprinted and cleared before being hired. LL will accept this documentation for their clearance. This demonstrates to me that they really do want to help - and get us in there teaching! Thanks to Claudia Linden who did the footwork!
Also joining the "Wall of Honor" this week is Twisted Foool who rebuilt the library on a smaller scale and added a great back patio with a new walkway. Kayla Khan rebuilt the castle and added the teleporters again! PAtch Lamington created a great Doodleopolus" area that the kids are going to love! (on Rockland complete with Doodle Cars!) He also donated Doodle Boards fopr all the kids! Thanks for teacher laptops to aEoLuS Waves who donated a bunch of great tech stuff including "EmailToOwner machines" for all of the Ramapo Teachers! Ushu T sent over some great games!

September 24

We received some very positive news from LL this week. They will be accepting the existing FBI check that all NY Teachers must have before they are hired. That saves us (and any other educators who have similar employment requirements) time and money. More about that later.
Gus Plisskin and his team of volunteers are incredibly busy behind the scenes preparing inventory for the transfer to the teen grid and determining what can be accomplished before the move and what needs to transpire once we are over there.
On Suffern, the castle has been rebuilt(thank you Kayla Khan) since the new terraforming (thank you Mathieu Basait) required all be removed. I have begun to furnish it and have received generous offers from help from many including Ayesha Honey who has basically given us everything for the castle and been wonderful! Twisted Fool rebuilt the library on a smaller scale and added a great back portico and pathway. He is quite a talent! I have added a little Irish Cottage for my own teacher space! Oh and let's not forget Patch Lamington who built us a "Doodleopolus" (go and see on Roackland) and donated DoodlePads for the kids! Lastlly, aEoLuS Waves has graciously donated EmailToOwner MAchiones for all the teachers in Ramapo Islands! WOW! What a community we have! Please support these artists in world!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Meeting held September 14 in SL

Suffern Middle School in Second Life

Many apologies for such a lapse in communication - but once school started , well, you know! Things have been moving along at a furious pace! If you have been directed to this blog therough a SL notecard, please read earlier posts for the vision. I will try to summarize noteworthy events in our progress:
1. After a meeting with Claudia and Blue Linden, we cleared up a lot of the nagging questions. The Lindens were extremely helpful in clarifying procedure and anticipating problems we may have as we continue. Specifically, we now know that the islands will ultimately reside on the Teen Grid where they will be private. This means that my students will not be able to leave and others from the TG will not have access. This non- access status is a condition requested by my district. I will be able to invite adults onto the islands ONLY if they have LL clearance. We are now trying to ascertain if Linden Labs will accept the teacher certification as clearance since, in New York at least, it requires an FBI background check. Otherwise there is a fee for Teen Grid clearance and I'm sure some kind of waiting period for the clearance status through LL.
2. Gus Plisskin, Seifert Surface, Frans Charming, Lilith Heart, and many others dropped by for an in world meeting yesterday and we started to assign tasks and delegate responsibilities. SO far we are going to have a movie section in the library, a roller coaster, Mathieu Basait has consented to doing some terraforming with Gus as well as contributing the coastline wav set-up! (surfs up on Ramapo!)
3. On the district side, I am meeting with our superintendent for curriculum as well as my building principal soon to go over curriculum connections in SL. I approached some of my teachers today who have signed up to use SL with their classes and they already have lessons aligned to standards to be taught with SL! Any of you who have curriculum ideas for NY State (8th grade) please submit them to this blog! We are specifically seeking some science connections.
4. Thanks to Robbie Dingo who has built a sound stage on Rockland and also to Twisted Fool for the library. We are getting donations everyday and the positive input from many residents is invaluable! More meetings to come soon! Remember to join Ramapo Volunteers in order to have acces to the islands.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

SLCC 2006

Arrived at SLCC last night - nothing like it! The Lindens are wonderful and welcoming and the residents are colorful, and the laughter contagious! Opening night was a mass of greetings, with many folks meeting in RL for the first time. This is a really curious phenomenon to observe as avatars unveil their RL identity to others they have “known” for years.
Everyone I spoke with last night had something to contribute to Ramapo Islands and I am really encouraged by the brilliance and generosity of the SL community! I am generating a list of resources and residents who have offered assistance.
I also found out that a new version will address the problem of the access to creator profiles from a right click on objects so that my students will not be exposed to anything of a mature nature. This had really been perplexing me since the last thing I wanted to do was respond to a resident’s offer of a donation with a request to alter their profile first!
Thanks to the musicians last night who were amazing!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tralee! Heaven! No high speed access - well you know the withdrawel symptoms - but I have found that large doses of banafee ( do alleviate the shaking and sweats!
Logged in for the first time yesterday -and - you guessed it, UPDATES! I was however able to catch up briefly with two of Ramapo Volunteer's finest, Kayla Khan and Stephen Nephilim. Kayla has finished placing an awesome castle (created by Itsmee Zender) on Suffern Island! Stephen had the foresight to illuminate the fact that creator's profiles are visible when right-clicked and that some may be unsuitable for Middle School viewers. We are still looking for a sure fix to that issue. If you do choose to participate in this project please do be sure to ieep your profile "PG" as LL requests.
In the mean time thank you Itsmee, Kayla, and Stephen for breaking ground. Keep up the great work! Again, anyone wishing to volunteer and build on the islands join Ramapo Volunteers. Once I am home (August 15) I will be much more available to offer guidance and direct our efforts. Please email with your ideas and suggestions. Also, let me know if you will be at SLCC and we can get together!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Access denied...Access denied..Cyn Linden to the rescue! It seems we have worked out the access issues and anyone who is a member of the group, Ramapo Volunteers, has access to the islands. One of the problems we are now facing is that very often the wonderful creative geniuses in SL who have donated free copies of their work to such illustrious areas as "Yadni's Junkyard" etc., (or any freebie hub) have profiles that are slightly, umm, shall we say, interesting? Although profiles are supposed to be kept "PG" many have included pics and links to mature content. This is a potential problem for us once the kids are in. Although they will not be able to TP or venture in any way off the three islands - they still can do some right click education that may fall into the "unacceptable for middle school" category. Anyone know a fix for this? Anyway to block designer profile in the edit object? Anyway to transfer the item and lose the original creator info?
I will be on as often as possible in the next three weeks however Big Ben and the fairies of Tralee may kidnap my senses till August 15th!

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Favorite SOAPBOX :-)

Monday AM, and I realize I have until Thursday to make some real progress on these islands. Then I leave for Europe until August 15, and athough I will be in London for the first five days and will probably have connection, after that it is off to Kerry, and a rather remote cottage outside of Tralee! I have posted a classified ad in SL asking for donations of time and resources (please come and build!!) and I am hoping that the hearts and minds of those who believe in Real Life Education in Second Life will be swayed to lend a hand! I have the general plan figured out but I am certainly not locked into anything so if you have a dream that you've always wanted to build, and you feel it is something that would be inspirational for 8th grade students - please contact me and we'll go from there! I am touting this not only as a great opportunity for all of you designers to "stretch" but also as a contribution to the future! ( *fully launched on favorite soapbox *) Think about your time as a student in 8th grade - do you really want to condemn yet another generation to the "what I did on my summer vacation report" mentality of education? Help me to take the leap - one small step for SL, one giant leap for education! *exhales*

Sunday, July 23, 2006

SL Closed for Maintenance...Again...

After taking a bit of a respite from the Ramapo Islands project and putting in a few miles in the Relay for Life in the Chats region Saturday night, I logged in bright and early Sunday AM (8:00 a.m. EST) to find that the world is undergoing yet another makeover (updates -).... bah! Maybe LL is fixing my Estate access settings hehehe...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

This is Me in both my lives!

Proposal Passed & Islands are Up!

Cutting to the chase here, after developing my proposal, and presenting it to the administration of my district, I am proud to say that they had the foresight, and the courage to go ahead and give me the "all clear" on three private islands. As soon as I am back in my office I will post the actual presentation that I gave, which cited the reasons for moving in this direction, as well as the details of the expenses involved and the curriculum which would be addressed.
In English, what I did was a bit of pedagogical explanation - drew rationale from constructivist learning, and reiterated the whole digital native thing - explaining that education can and must teach the students using the tools they know and relate to - (their brains are different!).

I then drew connections to the existing curriculum giving examples of content that would be enhanced by using the technology present in the virtual platform. (see previous post for some of that). Once I was given the OK I contacted Pathfinder Linden who heads the educational division of Linden Labs and together we generated a quote for three private islands; Ramapo, Suffern and Rockland.
I should mention here that one concern my administration voiced was the inevitable "safety" of students online in an "uncontrolled" environment. This was why we decided that rather than establish our teens on the teen grid, we would have to, at least for now, keep out islands private. This means that once the students enter in the fall, the islands will be "no on-no off". My students will only be able to travel our three islands, and no one other than my students and teachers will have access to the islands unless it is granted and set up by the governess, (Your's Truly!)
Although I don't consider this the most beneficial experience for my kids, I will take what I can get for now! The potential of the cultural exchange available through open interaction on the teen grid is something I will work toward.

So, after some weeks of emails and stalls, I was informed yesterday that the islands are now up on the main grid, and I have access to them through my account - there they are under My Land. Ramapo, Suffern, and Rockland....OH MY!

I eagerly teleported over and let me tell you I felt much like I imagine Columbus did when he landed -- only I was TOTALLY alone- no natives, no trees, no NOTHING! I faced a large expanse (larger than I could have imagined) of dull green land. Each island has a mound type thing toward one end - that I suppose might end up being cool - but I walked/flew around totally overwhelmed. NOW WHAT!?!?!

I have a rather rich life in SL - and have made many friends and networked with many educators - but I realized that what I need now is builders! I need a team to help me create my vision. AND I AM OUT OF MONEY!! Chatting with some folks about this - I realized that I needed to start with a plan - something that I could at least direct volunteers to in order for them to understand where I wanted to go with this project.

My basic vision is this: Island # 1, SUFFERN

  • Suffern Island will be where the kids first enter SL. This island needs to accomplish a few things. It must serve as orientation for the kids (an abridged version of the orientation island we all went through when joining SL is what I envision-the kids will grasp it in a heartbeat!)
  • Suffern is also where the kids can practice some basic building/scripting and just get comfortable with the tools and the environment. As facilitator, I can pass on my (limited) knowledge, but my experience has always been that the kids will zoom right past my skills in a nano second and start to amaze me! This will only be the case though, if they are challenged and motivated which brings me to the second requirement for Suffern Island;
  • IT MUST BE AMAZING! The kids need to be stimulated and intrigued by what they initially see when they enter SL or they will just lose interest! This is where my prefab buildings will just not cut it, and that is why I am desperately seeking volunteers to come in and make this place amazing! I am hoping that al of the creative talents in SL will see this as an opportunity to stretch and design/build that idea that has been waiting for an opportunity! All this AND contributing to the future of education---what more could you ask???
  • Ramapo will be where the students go to "demonstrate knowledge" or simply put - to do their projects. For example - if I work with a teacher who is working on a unit studying the Holocaust, this is where the students can go to build a museum or to create works of art reflecting their responses to a particular subject, or design and build an ancient Greek temple - you catch my drift? I will work with the teachers to "build a better book report." Act it out, build it, write it and publish it here - the potential is limitless!
  • So what do I envision on Ramapo - maybe a few basic structures; a library where the kids can publish, perhaps a gallery, but mostly I will leave this island to the students to design and evolve.
The third island, Rockland, is for commerce and recreation.
  • The kids will not have immediate access to Rockland but will have to "earn" it by completing a project successfully either with a group or individually.
  • I am even imaginging and "Ellis Island" experience to gain access to Rockland.
  • Rockland should have all the games, skateboards, powerboats, malls, clubs, etc. Now, some of it has to be there already - but there should also be room for the kids to develop entrepreneurial projects, and their own creations!
THat is the basic vision I have to date. I am TOTALLY open to suggestions and again, I am in desperate need of benefactors of talent, resources. I am stumbling along in the dark here - but I have faith that the SL community will extend their hands to "RAISE THAT SCHOOLHOUSE".

Please contact Maggie Marat in world and also join the group I have established: Ramapo Volunteers.

Thanks in advance -

A Little Background on this Proposal

Please see for the background on my vision for this proposal. THanks!