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Week 1--Lessons Learned

Underwater tour of Caledon Sound

Submarine tour of Caledon Sound.


General discussion

Ever lead a tour and, afterwards, have a series of "I won't do it that way again!" thoughts?  Interested in leading tours for your classes but aren't sure what to do?  Ever been on a tour or exploring and thought of a better way of doing it?  Speak up! 

This is the area where we discuss our experiences--what we've learned to do (and what not to do).  Horror stories?  Bring 'em!  Aha moments?  We want to hear those too! cheeky

Task Discussion

  • kimmer   March 22, 2012, 11:23 p.m.

    I have led a couple tours with Virtual Pioneers in the absence of our fearless leaders but mostly served as support personnel as we went across builds in Second Life on Sunday evenings.

    One Sunday last summer, I found myself with a large group of newcomers to Second Life. The tour went across a wide area and took us out of chat range.  I was able to get everyone on to our group chat and use a technique Esme from the ISTE Tour group often practiced which was to place a group call.  This then allowed us to navigate together on voice or text.

    I still prefer text chat as a participant and would like to always offer notecards with landmarks and additional information.  I think this is helpful if there are latecomers and also to those who have bandwidth issues.  I have found that if voice is used, I like the sound to be run through an IP address/ land stream so that it can be easily clicked on using the music controls through the viewer.  Having had experience with managing an art gallery and assisting with djing in SL, I am somewhat familiar with this and stream rental makes sound optimal for users - especially newcomers.

  • Exquisite Corpse   March 21, 2012, 11:25 p.m.


    Here's a cool way to "animate" students of poetry who haven't quite figured out the beauty of the medium and that it's about THEM.  Ask students in groups (or solo) to create an Animoto to express the essence of a poem as these students have done here. 

    My program chair for literature contacted me two weeks ago and said that students were struggling in the poetry unit, whereas in the short story unit (where joy, and not just rigor) was built in, students flourished.   think her poetry unit was written from a DISTANCE and not self-immersion.  Immerse until joy bubbles up -- simmer well within the appropriate technological apparatus, season with boundaries and student choices -- and voila! One has a complete educational experience. 
    Poetry can be a hard sell, despite the movie with sexy Michele Pfeiffer in the inner city school promising carnivals and dinners out for those who "get" Bob Dylan.  
    Virtual worlds offer another type of immersive educational experience, but should we follow the same formula above when creating these opportunities/experiences as well? And I don't mean we should all be Michelle Pfieffer (although one of my avatars is a decent lookalike)  LOL
  • Letty   March 20, 2012, 11:13 p.m.

    I once gave a very informal tour of the Second Life Elementary School I use with my students, and I did learn that trying to use any extra huds, or additional tools is just too much to keep track of.  In the moment, what has worked best every time is a notecard, landmarks, and maps, which have already been mentioned.  K.I.S.S. does work very well, Aevalle!


    I teach my undergrad classes completely online in Second Life, and so every semester, I start with a group of newbies.  In a sense, I lead a "tour" with them at the beginning, a lot like an orientation of sorts, much like Gridjumper mentioned.  It is a lot like a tour because--other than simple navigation--they know next to nothing of their environment.


    Dealing with groups of newbies every semester, I have learned a few things about managing tours well:

    1. If they are newbies, keep the groups small.  15 is a max, I would say.  At 20, lag starts attacking indescriminately, and newbies panic and get frustrated very easily when that happens.
    2. Start by telling them how to IM you should they get lost or confused.  This has been the best lifeline my students have ever had with me.  They also friend me, but initially, this is the best insurance against, "losing" some of them.
    3. Ask for sign up and a list of avatars before the tour or virtual meeting.  This gives you control of capping the group, and allows you a quick search and IM or teleport should they become lost.  This has also been the best tool for me to manage the groups.
    4. Give them a map or a picture they can carry.  I usually put the texture in a notecard that they acquire by clicking on a prim.  This gives them some semblence of control because they have a map of the location.  Not one like the World or Mini-Map in SL show, but one with labels and distinctive building and geographic features drawn into it.   And yes, I also show them how to find the notecard in their inventory should they close it.

    These are just my suggestions, from teaching in Second Life for going on two years now.  :)

  • Don Elliott   March 19, 2012, 11:03 p.m.

    I took a college course on technology and society about a year ago, our instructor did some virtual world tours.  One thing that could have helped our semester-long course was for the instructor to create a in-world group for the class.   We lost a lot of time on tours trying to find and teleport "newb" class members who were still learning the ropes and could not keep up (either that or helping crash victims).  If there had been a group for the course, it would have been easier for participants to yell help in a safe environment.

    I would think conversation could be less distracting for non-tour participants in some instances by using a group to chat in as well. 

    If you are doing a one-shot tour, a group would probably be overkill.  But if you have a group of students who for a least a semester will be together, it might be a possibility.

  • Aevalle Galicia/Stasia Weston   March 20, 2012, 12:16 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Don Elliott   March 19, 2012, 11:03 p.m.

    I agree with the group chat idea.  I tend to use the group chats for my university or the general Oxbridge group chat for those tours--if someone gets stuck or crashes and returns to find themselves all alone, they can pop in and give a shout out.

    That said, as far as the helping group members--just something I've noticed--after a while when it's the same group, there's a certain pressure from the group as a whole for those members that aren't pulling their weight to "step it up". 

    For example, I ran a series of tours for an online ID course.  Students were told to go through an orientation prior to the first tour and were given a series of landmarks of inworld location sites to select from.  Out of a group of 20, roughly half were unprepared the first week.  It showed up in the reflection pieces in the wiki afterwards.  The next week, there were maybe 5-6 who were still unprepared.  I'm not privy to the private IMs but the next week, everyone was better or gone.  By the end of the 10 weeks, the students were pretty good at getting around SL--I hardly had to teleport anyone to the group.  And they all had stories to tell about the nights that the lag was bad or they'd made mistakes or what have you.  Reading the wiki, it was like they were trading "battle stories" and comparing scars.

  • Exquisite Corpse   March 24, 2012, 1:18 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Don Elliott   March 19, 2012, 11:03 p.m.

    Do you think that "keeping up" in a virtual environment is analogous to some instructors' resistance to online teaching and learning?  Online ed is here to stay – shouldn't we make it the best it can be?  Same goes for learning experiences in VWs..

    Online education makes higher more accessible to more students – in some cases possible at all, and more affordable as well. VW platforms add synchronous authenticity.
    It's Important for students to have 21st century skills -- VW learning makes that possible.
    A good LMS, VW proficiency  and Web 2.0 tools make learning more accessible & engaging
    Faculty often resist because of outdated ideas about quality, or trying to make what happens in the classroom exactly replicated in the online environment.  Do you think this is true?
  • Gridjumper   March 19, 2012, 3:59 p.m.

    What Not to do ... Not exactly a tour but an orientation to the virtual world

    ok so in my enthusiasm I got a group pf colleagues together and we met at a coffee shop.  I knew I needed help so I recruited friends but failed to inform them of my carefully crafted plan...I suppose I expected them to read my mind.  Although it was nice to have a mentor for every 2 noobs, each mentor had a different idea of what was essential on a first visit.  So each  mentor took a different route.  It kind of worked out but next time I'll set clear objectives and directions.

    Tours I have been on have been best with the following in place:

    1. a little preparation of what to expect

    2. A guide (person) when you get here

    3. Some independent time after the main tour is over

    4. An extra but so nice is a gift of costume or prop to get into the mood of hte tour location.

  • Exquisite Corpse   March 21, 2012, 11:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gridjumper   March 19, 2012, 3:59 p.m.

    I sympathize with the Trouble with Mentors.  I think that may have been a Disney movie.  Or a Dr. Seuss rip off:  Some Mentors put the ME in Mentor... LOL

    In not quite the same way, I recently had some "MEntors"" in a grant-based online course who tried to manipulate the instructor around rigor of the course.  One even rewrote student work fro one of her mentees in order for her to get a better grade?  WHY would someone do this?  As crass as it might seem, these mentors were promised a cut of the $20K grant "winnings" if 80% of the students were "retained."  And each of them had unique ideas of who/what to blame that the students weren't responding to them nor succeeding -- more likely they just realized that the MEntors were just in in for the bonus pay.... Egregious!