Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On the Road...

Since completing this course and seeing the excellent results obtained by students - results that I partly attribute to our use of ICT to provide a flexible and personalised learning environment - a number of teachers have asked to hear more.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by regor2012

I've prepared a presentation to help me explain why we chose particular Web 2.0 services, how students used them and why I think they contributed to higher than expected student achievement in the course.

Later today I'm hoping to get some feedback from teachers at another college during the presentation through Blogger and Twitter to show a little of how Web 2.0 services function.


Friday, August 29, 2008

How will they rate?

I'm interested to see how SDI students will justify how they rate their products - games, machinima, video and scripts. Many have strong views on censorship and there is much discussion about the proposed R18+ for computer games. Ratings affect sales and distribution and many games have had restrictions placed on them in Australia.

Organisations like the Interactive Entertainment Assoc of Australia provide guidance for parents who feel lost when it comes to computer games.

But game demographics are changing with 1/3 of parents now playing computer games and the average gamer age now 28. IEAA's Interactive Australia 2007 provides fascinating insights into today's game players.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Google Reader Common Sense

Common Craft have just released a "Plain English" Google Reader video.

I have 106 Google Reader feeds - 55 are student journals. Journal posts for the SDI class now total 370 - easily managed with the magic of RSS.

While on stat's... Twitter posts for the SDI class have just passed 1,000 - that's a lot of activity in just one course.

I've just printed all this and it's 6cm of A4 pages - and mostly double sided printing! Thankfully I can print directly to high speed photocopiers. And every page was where I could find it - one click to open, one click to print :-)


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's all go!

Many teams are now focused on the short number of weeks remaining this year and are working to complete major stages of their project.

Here you can look around the DIM Studio - click to activate window then drag mouse to pan around room - mouse scroll to zoom.

The team in the corner are recording storyboard scenes for their machinima staged in GTA Vice City. Here they are sitting on the bonnet of a Vice City police car...

And doing numerous takes to get the scene right...

Last week Dr Ian Lewis gave a presentation on the new Games Technology Degree at UTAS. He talked about the wide range of industries that use gaming technology - including the video games industry which is now bigger than Hollywood and growing at 40% per year.

The new degree provides an exciting way to learn essential programming, design and project management skills that graduates can use anywhere - not just in game design. It also will provide access to computer labs with modern consoles for designing and critiquing games.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Emerging Products

This is a very interesting time in the Interactive media class as products that have been in planning and development for months begin to emerge. A case in point is Dustin's first game preview...

Download the demo yourself and play it - Dustin is looking for feedback. Apologies to Dustin for my game preview - and spoiler :-)

On another topic I've recently added Not Possible IRL to my Google Reader - it's a great blog with lots of ideas for potential interactive projects for 2009.

One entry I found fascinating was the area of art and photography done in virtual worlds like Second Life. I followed the links to Lano Ling's Flickr page and checked out 'chakryn wolves' and several other sets of work done in SL by Lano and others.

Creating scenes with prims and scripts rather than brush and paint, and taking digital portraits of avatars creates some extraordinary work. I'm tempted to give it a try myself...

Finally, just a brief mention that the UTAS School of Computing is offering a Games Technology Degree from 2009. Some of the units and electives look like exciting options.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Skoolaborating face-to-face

60 students planned, created, designed, built, and scripted galleries, malls, studios, gardens and guides at the 2008 Skoolaborate Congress at MLC, Sydney from July31-Aug 2.

The students were from several local and international partner schools and they met and worked face-to-face for the first time with outstanding professionalism, fertile imagination and spontaneous playfulness. They were supported by some talented teachers, consultants, and of course IT staff.

Students took roles as experts, mentors, learners, participants and presenters as required. The Congress began with some 'big picture' presentations, a little teaching and much facilitating but as time went on the teachers did more learning, sharing with each other, and chatting with students - sometimes even distracting them from their work :-)

70 people had no problem simultaneously accessing and working online in Skoolaborate - MLC had a 100MB internet link and 30% of that was set aside for the Congress.

Can this kind of learning experience be sustainably provided for similar numbers of students at Hobart College? Is it possible to provide and manage rich virtual worlds that students and teachers can access as they would other learning environments?

After observing what worked at the Congress several key elements to the successful implementation of virtual world learning are apparent:
  • leadership, management and administration needs to be a partnership between students and teachers
  • some students should take key roles as teachers, presenters, experts, facilitators and mentors
  • appropriate physical learning spaces are important when required
  • some mobile access and group projection facilities are needed
  • being able to use and easily connect student/teacher owned laptops - people like to use computers they are familiar with when doing new and complex tasks.
  • teacher facilitation needs to be measured and responsive to need
  • 'big picture' contexts help to provide meaning and value

Other issues that came to mind during the Congress are shown in this map. (Click for whole map.)

For us at HC to move beyond just a few students and a couple of teachers using virtual worlds we need those worlds to be reliable and flexible. If one third of HC students are to use VWs we need systems and processes to manage 400-500 users with perhaps 75 (2 classes and 25 other individuals) concurrent avatars. We will need some students to be experts 'in-world' and some teachers to be expert facilitators.

Perhaps this could be achieved at Hobart College using a combination of:

  • a local networked Open SIM grid - implemented and managed by students
  • access to Skoolaborate for those under 18
  • access to educational areas of Second Life (eg Jokaydia) for those 18 and over
  • selected local-network or online game environments and other online VW services

Can this be in place by 2009? Possibly...

In the meantime it was great to meet face-to-face for the first time Emily - who has helped many of our students and teachers in-world, Mike - who lurks in-world doing essential expert building and maintenance, and Westley who had the vision and determination to bring us all together.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Animated Connections

What do Twitter, GTA IV, Google Reader, Indiana Jones and Second Life have in common? Next year's DIM course perhaps...

Via Twitter this week I saw the augmented reality game LevelHead Cube... this one made using Blender's video editor.

I wondered if it could be made in Second Life - as a game and also using chroma key to bring it into other environments...

Then via Google Reader I watched a great TED talk on using biology and physics in animation...

This led me to discover the Natural Motion software used in GTA IV and the latest Indiana Jones movie. I had no idea virtual stunt actors had progressed so far. This software also gives NPCs in games the next generation of AI - something for DIM in 2009? Or even in 2008 since it will be loaded onto the SIM PCs...

Here is the result of me playing with the cube, chroma key and Endorphin - NaturalMotion software. I wonder what could be done with these technologies with a little more thought... and expertise :-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Robotic Interlude

A number of students have taken a break this week from their normal work to build and program robots. The college has purchased two LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits for use VET IT, Interactive Media and Computer Science students - mostly in 2009.

Several students - and teachers - have been building with Lego for the first time in many years... lots of fun!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


It's been great watching project presentations to see so many projects beginning to take off as individuals and teams settle on directions and scopes. Many have commented on how they have cut back on their original ideas or changed direction... and in a couple of cases changed projects entirely.

With so many presentations over several weeks not many people have been able to view them all - and unfortunately not all were recorded. Nevertheless the slideshow on the right shows some material and there are a few video clips below made from some of the presentations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Game Programmer Looks In...

Sam Savauge from Melbourne brought 8 years of games industry experience to the game developers in the DIM class - and they had lots of questions.

After being shown some of the class project work Sam talked about how to get into the games industry and described the pros and cons of many of the different jobs available. The combination of design, programming and good people skills earns the most money...

He also said those who worked in the games industry tend to put a lot into their work but sometimes had to learn to let go when projects suddenly took a different turn or were cancelled when the money ran out. It was very disappointing when 18 months of your best work never sees the light of day...

Game production work can get very demanding with long hours for many months as production deadlines approach. You recover for a few weeks after the production "goes gold" (the disk master is sent for copying and distribution) until the next production gets underway...

Sam hopes to return later in the year to see how the projects are going... and answer more questions.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Virtual Work - Real Money

Mike, one of the high school designers in Skoolaborate has made it to the Wall Street Journal.

Have a look at the projected monthly incomes for these guys working part-time in Second Life and Entropia - up to $4,000.

With Gartner Research predicting 80% of active internet users will be in virtual worlds by 2011 there are great opportunities here for enterprising students with the right skills mix.

The kind of skill mix that one might develop in SDI: Interactive Media :-)

You can read more about why Mike got the job here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hello from Taiwan

When in Skoolaborate you can meet students and teachers from some of the partner schools in the project - MLC in Sydney, New Zealand, Japan... The following excellent video introduction to Skoolaborate was recently created by students in Taiwan.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Growing Body Parts

Body parts are appearing all over the place now... We have had a fake severed hand for an ArtVid project, Bugs hand (on the left) created in Blender (hopefully not going into one) and various legs, heads and torsos across several game development groups.

Skoolaborators are also busy with bodies but mostly just dressing them. Several people have now uploaded their own T-shirt designs for their Second Life avatars.

This week's presentation on mentoring was more of a workshop. Everyone present had a chance to mentor and be mentored... Some people found they learned a great deal about other projects, others learned to be a little more structured when reflecting on their own progress and a few were not sure of the usefulness of the exercise.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by regor2012

The mentoring process is based on GROWTH Coaching and Cognitive Coaching. The latter in particular is designed to assist students with student-directed learning. I did my training in GROWTH coaching a couple of years ago and found the structured approach to reflection very useful - although my workshop was a few hours - not 30 minutes. Nevertheless listening in to conversations around the room I was very happy with the level of reflection I heard.

Friday, May 2, 2008

From Lame to Game

This is pretty cool...

An SDI student has completely rewritten a web game to introduce advanced physics. It was developed from scratch using GameMaker. This video is silent but sound is coming soon which should greatly improve the gamer's experience.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Presentations, Concepts and Questions

The Glassbiscuit Development Team set a very high standard when they gave the first project presentation for the year. It was informative and well structured with clear visuals. (I'll edit this post when I can link to some of their content.) Thanks to Zoe on video and camera we will soon be able to see some of the action - and review it for future presentations.

This week we looked at concept mapping - using Cmap - an excellent tool that is easy to use and enables you to share maps online. This map shows where the tool might be used in the SDI course. Boxes in the map can contain a range of resources - such as web links.

One of the resources attached to the above 'Key Questions' box is a very useful Questioning Toolkit. Asking questions is a key part of SDI project work and research.

In other news... many excellent projects are well underway now with some high quality prototypes and products beginning to appear. Even though most projects have a long way to go you can get some sense of the range of work being done by looking at the slide show on the top-right of this page (and here) and the journals further down the right-hand column.

In particular checkout the recent work in Enigmarta Productions, Buggs Blog and Project CLOUT,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

...brought to you by the letter C

Today's lecture was brought by the letter C - Middle C and CC Copyright.

The presentation began with some impromptu piano renditions by a number of people - one of whom got a big round of applause - and attracted the attention of a passing music teacher. She's played before! After the lecture we were treated to a duet.

The lecture on Creative Commons copyright had some hitches however as the letter B made several appearances with the boring buffering bogey spoiling the otherwise flawless performance :-) (Our internet bandwidth from our service providers has been throttled for some unknown reason - they are still working to fix it.) I should have downloaded the .mov files before hand...

The videos Wanna Work Together? and Get Creative present the Creative Commons concept very clearly.

I also like this explanation: A Tale of Two Fish by yiibu but I didn't try to show it...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Buzz in the Air

The Interactive Media and Digital Projects classes are now buzzing! The students are great and the project work is of a high quality. Everyone is either designing or making or researching... and the ideas are fantastic!

And even better - many are now routinely documenting - updating journals and activity logs, commenting on other journals, taking an interest in other projects and being part of a supportive learning community.

Last week's State Quality Assurance Meeting reinforced how important it is for students to be recording their journey. While projects may race ahead or stall or take unexpected turns it is critical that documentation continues.

Most of the documentation at the moment is descriptive rather than reflective but we can focus on more on reflection after first term reports. Another thing we need to look at is questioning... students need to be much more skilled in asking key questions related to their project. This can have a profound effect on the quality of projects.

We are progressing very well through the mandatory content for this course - and in a fairly painless fashion. We are up to our 8th 30 minute lecture and it is clear from reading journals and looking at project work that many students have taken on board the material presented.

Online research and organisation skills have also improved. To be frank these were very poor at the start of the year - and while most still have a way to go in this area it is good to see the progress that has been made.

As far as my own skills go I'm getting better at managing such a large group - 42 students now - and I feel confident that those who are aiming for the top level course are on track to achieve it.

Some my project support work has not been ideal with many students having to wait too long for items or advice that is critical for their project work. But I've noticed more students asking for, and getting help from other students and teachers which is good to see.

Some issues have arisen with students who need high enough TE scores for universities but can't count the full range of pre-tertiary subjects they have done because they include different versions of the same course. eg Art Production, Media Production and Student-Directed Inquiry are all framework courses and each have multiple course options. Hopefully we can resolve this issue through the use of folios and negotiation. This issue is far from satisfactory when one can clearly see the wide range of different knowledge, skills and understanding that students are developing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Top Tools for Learning

We're in the top 10!

OK it doesn't mean that much but it's interesting to see that many of the learning tools we are using in this course have been rated highly in a survey of 155 educators by the Centre for Learning Performance Technologies.

We use seven of the top 20 tools: del.icio.us, Firefox, Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger, Moodle and twitter.

Wikis also feature in the top 20 and this tool was chosen by seven members of the Glassbiscuit Development Unit.

Also of note is that in the top 100 tools Facebook now comes in at 28 and Second Life has risen dramatically since last year to be number 41.

Google Earth comes in at 48 and this is certainly reflected at HC where many classes used it in 2008.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Feeling green with innovation...

Check this out! My mind is spinning with possibilities already :-)

Blended Reality: A look at bringing Second Life into Real Life

I had fun last year with the ads for Interactive Media - what could we do this year?

Ideas anyone?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Assessment AS Learning

Student-Directed Inquiry emphasizes assessment AS learning rather than the more traditional assessment OF learning where testing of what you know is often carried out at the end of units, topics or the year...

Essentially assessment AS learning supports student management of their own assessment - incorporating assessment FOR learning and even some assessment OF learning as required. It is about SELF assessment.

This course has FOUR criteria or ‘dimensions’ of learning. For each criterion we are looking for documented evidence of a range of ‘elements’. See presentation.

Learning and research tools can provide ways to capture, edit, organise and share work.

Regular use of these tools can help to improve the efficiency and quality of the documentation process required by the qualifications authority. These same tools also enable students to:
  • participate in learning communities
  • engage in accountable communication
  • manage learning and assessment
  • organise, authenticate and reference research
This level of self assessment will be new for many students - and may be challenging for some. Hopefully however it will become a natural part of the learning process and be fairer, more transparent and more useful than traditional assessment methods such as a three hour written exam.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Knowing What You Don't Know

Australian universities are calling for a new kind of learning, and a new kind of student - for 21st century success in work and life - personally, nationally and globally .

The new learning is about somebody who
  • knows what they don’t know
  • knows how to learn what they need to know
  • knows how to create knowledge through problem solving
  • knows how to create knowledge by drawing on information and human resources
  • knows how to make knowledge collaboratively
  • knows how to nurture, mentor, and teach others
  • knows how to document and pass on personal knowledge
In many ways the TQA subject Student-Directed Inquiry on which this course is based is a response to this call.

The document New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education goes on to say that good learners are able to
  • take the many different kinds of raw material in the world (culturally and location-specific information)
  • work out the different interpretative frameworks within which that information sits (different worldviews, theories, belief systems— professional, cultural, technical)
  • use these understandings to do something that works in the world (transfer of understandings, transformation of their immediate world, being a change agent, crossing a cultural boundary)
This week's 30 minute presentation introduced students to some of the beliefs, assumptions and worldviews that underpin contemporary western culture. It began with a quick online survey of the personal beliefs and assumptions of the class. The survey contained the following statements among others:
  1. Thought is due to brain activity
  2. Reasoning is the highest human skill
  3. The best way to understand something is to take it apart
  4. Love is mostly a chemical/ hormonal reaction
  5. Ultimately there is little purpose to human life
The majority of the 30 students who completed the survey appear to hold beliefs and assumptions arising from positivism, reductionism and materialism. Have they questioned these assumptions? How will these assumptions affect their project and research methods? How do they affect their views of the future of the world?

While more than half believe that the planet does not have a positive future 87% believe that learning is a natural human activity and 94% believe that there is still much to discover - maybe the future will be more positive than they believe :-)

The presentation this week looked at the nature of a 'worldview' and then went on to propose that having a conceptual framework such as Four Quadrant Integral Theory allows one to look for what we may not be seeing...

While there was applause for an entertaining presentation some are not convinced that this discussion has anything to do with their project or research... I look forward to some interesting conversations...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mimio Handles Complex Game Plan

The Glassbiscuit team moved their planning to the whiteboard today - recording their ideas to a laptop using Dirk's favourite device - the Mimio :-) This team of six certainly needed the space - not just because they are a large production team but because their project is large and complex.

For documentation, collaboration and file sharing they have chosen to customise the free hosted Wikidot. It's well organised and has RSS feeds for easy feeds - once they adjust the security setting so we can access it :-)

A critical issue with such a large project team is the ability of each team member to be able to document both their individual and collaborative work. This is required for assessment at the highest level of the Student-Directed Inquiry course.

The level of organisation and documentation that the team has put in place should address this very well.

Another aspect of the group's planning involves P.H.A.S.E.

According to their FAQ:

"P.H.A.S.E. (Project HAndling System Environment), is a scheduling system designed (soon) to set deadlines for the completion of all aspects of the project. Once a "phase" is complete a new playable version of the game will also be completed, meaning that we will not be left with a bunch of incoherent stuff at the end of the year, but a finished project and a graphic representation of the path we took to create it."

Sounds like a great idea!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Students Get a Life

Eight students have chosen to get a 'second life' in Skoolaborate - a collaborative Web 3.D project involving a number of Australian and international schools. They are going 'in-world' for a number of reasons... to do architectural design, to make machinima, to organise a game, to design clothes...

But before any of that begins the avatars have serious plastic surgery and wardrobe schedules... then makeup and deportment... then they learn to walk and fly! Above is some early body work by Aletia, Joshua and Ira.

Check out these avatars...

And this fashion... (which has made some people a lot of $$$)

Skoolaborate began as one island in 2007 but has now grown to six - and it's getting easy to get lost.

Click graphic for larger view

Most locations are still in the construction phase but there is an impressive range of landscaping and architecture with several sites nearing completion. 2008 promises to be an exciting year in Skoolaborate with more students joining each week.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Audio Plugged In

We have a new voice recorder for presentations - and it does a great job... even picks up comments from the back of the room... I was able to cut the file size down to about 5MB with only a little loss in voice quality. (Tip for next time - don't put recorder near laptop fan!)

Dirk recorded his Ethics presentation last week and this week I recorded the Reflective Learning and Virtual Worlds presentations with audio uploaded to Moodle - and only slight editing was needed where my laptop decided to snooze... (See moodle for presentation notes and audio.)

We hope this will give students the freedom catch presentations online that they may not want to or be able to attend in person ... The audio can obviously also be downloaded to an MP3 player...

I might try to do an integrated slides and audio in mp4 format later.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Birds Eye Views

Sometimes the best laid plans... WORK!

Although some students have been a little frustrated with the first week of classes with multiple registrations/passwords/emails... it's starting to come together - well for me at least :-)

With all students in Gmail I can see who is online, hover over names and see faces, initiate chat, organise groups... Great for matching names and faces for the 50 new students I have...

With all students in Twitter
I get an over-view of class activity - and easily click to read individual 'activity logs'. This will also enable me to gauge participation and levels of engagement.

With all students in Moodle I can see who has accessed tasks, viewed resources and submitted assignments... and MUCH more.

With all students in 43Things RSS'ed to Google Reader I can keep track of each person's learning goals and targets...

Now that these are set up I can sit back and relax while online services and RSS do all the work... OK maybe not... but at least I can now realistically work on the personalised learning and teaching while the ICTs look after the data management side of things.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In the Dark?

The 40 Interactive Media and Digital Project students who sat in a darkened theatre today were hopefully enlightened about the aims of this new course - and how we will manage learning that is both personalised and flexible. The half hour fast-paced presentation was an example of one way that students will meet in physical space... although most of the presentation was about how we will meet in online spaces.

We began with a look at a stunning machinima production by Travis. Love Harvest was filmed in The SIMS2 and won second prize in the international SIMS99 competition. I have subscribed to The_Enigmartist's (Travis) RSS feed to make sure I don't miss his future productions... BTW checkout Dwayne - very funny!

The PowerPoint explained the purpose and thinking behind the Student-Directed Inquiry course - a new TQA syllabus designed to stimulate learning skills and ways of thinking for work, study and life in the 21st century. (PowerPoint with notes - click/hover top left corner icon on each page - for those with access to our Moodle.)

I introduced some of the online services that we will use to help us keep the learning personalised and flexible. After the session students moved to computers to register for Twitter, Google Reader and 43Things.

Dirk and I then spoke to individual and small groups about their project ideas. Some people have definite ideas about what they want to achieve and others are still thinking... which is fine.

One thing is known... the course will be challenging for both students and teachers! Hopefully after today though we are all a bit less in the dark :-)

Monday, February 11, 2008


A new year... a new blog... new courses... new classrooms (and new carpet in the old ones)... new students (well some)...

What will it all bring? Something different that's for sure thoughtful

Am I ready? As ready as I'll ever be... Are the students ready? We'll soon find out... evil

Well that wasn't too hard for my first time in Moodle. I'm ready for anything now...

So, bring on the year of the Rat!
A lucky year the Chinese tell us... An Olympic year...

Darko in Jokaydia

Darko creates some Olympic Spirit over Rusty in Jokaydia - 7/2/2008

17/2/2008 - I've copied this post from my Moodle blog so that I can access more functions like commenting and page customisation. BTW my neighbour caught a large rat in his possum trap - he took it away and released it :-)