Thursday, December 13, 2007

OMG! Poinkey's Pods!/Ramapo Teachers Rock

Let me tell ya - Decka has done it again! Her latest and greatest teaching tool, "POINKEY'S PODS" are transforming learning on Ramapo! Here's how they work:
Like Decka's Decks, they are enabled by the facilitator and are used to accommodate discussion, only this time, rather than supporting 5-7 avatars the pods are designed to accommodate 1 to 1 discussion and --- here's the clincher---- they are timed so that after a set amount of minutes the chairs reset themselves into a new pod with a new avatar automatically. Kind of like "speed dating!" LOL!

NEWS ALERT!!!! As I was writing this post (SNOW DAY GUILT----MUST DO WORK! :-) What happens to arrive in my inbox - but a complete write up of the experience from Gayle Yodowitz -. This has inspired me to rename this post - from "POINKEY's PODS ROCK" to "RAMAPO TEACHERS ROCK" I will writie more later about the technology - but let's look at what is really important-- THE LEARNING! Here it is (yes - Ramapo teachers are amazing!)

Gayle Yodowitz, FACS educator
Darby Wind, SL Avatar on Ramapo Islands

While middle level students are too young to choose a career, it is a great time for them to begin exploring careers. Career planning is a lifelong process, with self-knowledge being the beginning of the journey. The Family and Consumer Science curriculum for 8th graders at Suffern Middle School consists of Career Exploration and Financial Literacy. The career exploration unit addresses three questions: Who am I? Where am I going? and How do I get there? The first question involves many self-assessments taken by students from a variety of sources that help them identify aptitudes and particular aspects of their personality. The assessments generate lists of potential careers. Many students are surprised to see some of the jobs on their list. However, when they compare and contrast their personality characteristics with the responsibilities of the listed jobs, they begin to see that although the jobs may be worlds apart, the types of people geared for each job share similar interests and characteristics. A quote I like to discuss with the students is “Do what you love and love what you do.” and how they have the ability to find a career that makes them happy, successful and financially supports their lifestyle.
At this point, the students select a career they would like to learn more about. This is just some basic research- job responsibilities, advantages, stressors, related jobs and job outlook for the future. We discuss how technology might impact their career in the future. The students also research a college or vocational school that will provide them the education needed for their researched career using an online post secondary search website. Embedded in this search are understandings about admissions expectations, expenses and ways to finance their education. Lastly, I have the students examine the high school curriculum book to become familiar with, not just the required courses for graduation, but also all of the electives available. If students have an interest in engineering, film directing, sports broadcasting, writing or being the next top chef, they should know what electives might be offered that could give them a snapshot of a career in that area. Students also check out the high school activities book to see what clubs or sports they can join.
Okay, so here is where SL comes in!
As part of their assessment, students (avatars) play the role of interviewer and interviewee “in world”. Before the interviews take place, students spend the first week in SL developing the following skills: changing their avatar’s appearance (be unique but appropriate- like in the real world), be able to navigate around the islands by flying, walking and TPing, join the Group, make friends, communicate in world (via instant message (no problem Ms. Y!), chat and creating a note card), using the camera to take a snapshot of themselves and uploading it to their profile.
Now, they are ready to be interviewed about what they learned through class activities and research. Students have learned about Costa’s Levels of Questioning and have developed interview questions for all three levels. I have taken their questions and put them on a note card that is sent to the Group to be used during the interviews. While developing these skills in the virtual world, students must work on being good listeners so they can follow directions, use their critical thinking skills to troubleshoot and solve problems and work in a collaborative atmosphere.
Chaser Brody, my SL guru and mentor, offers me the opportunity to use these awesome pods that allow avatars to interview each other in pairs. Every five minutes the pairs automatically swap to new avatars. Being one who thrives on cutting edge opportunities, I accept!

Chaser facilitates Poinky’s Pods with my class of avatars- and they’re off into space to complete their assessment…in their favorite mode of conversation- Instant message style! Before the class ends, students create a new note card (naming it with their class period and real first name); copy and paste the “IM interviews” into the note card and drop it in my inventory. Now, using a rubric, I will grade their work based on two roles- the interviewer and the person being interviewed. As a result of this process, students have had to take what they have learned and share that knowledge with others. They have had to “think on their feet”- not knowing what questions they will be asked, but being able to address each question because they prepared for the interview by creating the questions and practicing interview techniques. Using Costa’s Levels of Questioning challenges students in higher level thinking skills.
As an aside, there were some glitches. The pods in one class initially went up, leaving some avatars without an interview partner. Someone, by accident, stepped on a power cord and turned off an entire row of computers. Two students were off task. However, just like in the real world, we addressed each issue, resolved it, learned from it and moved on.
Wait a minute! Isn’t everything the students accomplished and learned considered transferable skills for the future? You bet they are! A recent survey of business leaders identified the top qualities that employers look for in potential employees are- communication skills, a capacity to learn, critical thinking skills and ability to work with others. Didn’t this project enable students to learn how to map their way to success using 21st century literacy skills? Absolutely! I hope they think of me and Chaser someday when they are in SL being interviewed by a college admissions person or at a global conference representing the company they work for!

(Students will soon be writing their reflection about the career project. Then, they will start their entrepreneur project in SL. I can’t wait- and neither can they!)

Peggy's note: Reflections will be posted ASAP and photos are coming as soon as we get back into school!

Monday, December 10, 2007

With gratitude and promise...

Ramapo Islands was a dream that started as just a "tip of a thought" when my daughter, Meghan, hounded me to enter Second Life to take a look around. After all, she was a Linden Lab Liaison at the time - and she was so excited about this emerging Metaverse. I thought I had no time for a "Second Life" but succumbed, and seeing this new frontier through the eyes of a teacher - I was startled, and intrigued. After a very short time, I became determined to bring my students in world to be a part of it.

However, all of the determination in the universe was not going to make this happen without the support of a visionary administration, a community of believers in world, a solid staff of volunteers, and ultimately, a teacher who said yes. My teachers did say yes. Some said it tentatively; "I don't understand it, but I believe it is important for my students," while others were eager and excited; “I don't care how deep the water is--I know how to swim!"

It was never going to happen without the help of people like Fred Fuchs of Firesabre Consulting who spearheaded the volunteer effort, and Barry Joseph of Global Kids, ushering the way - sharing hope and experience... All of you who wrote, or visited, or spoke to me at a conference and cheered us on -- All of you who spread the word, and most importantly all of you who followed soon after - validating the work and extending the horizon. All of you share this award.

When I first began my "crusade", shamelessly soliciting your help and your talent and energy, I used the worn out adage, "It takes a village." I am a dreamer - a visionary if you will--but first and foremost, I am a teacher. So perhaps the old adage is still true, and those who object to its overuse may perhaps digest its latest incarnation a bit more easily. With that, I respectfully submit, "It takes a Metaverse."