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Digitally Amplified Literature in the Virtual World

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Rod Humble of Linden Labs recently described the Virtual World as “creative space”.  Jeddin’s Underground City sim on Second Life is a creative space melding the ideas of Descending Road author/creator with 3D artistry and SL scripting to make what the artist … Continue reading

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Living Literature in Virtual Worlds

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The use of Virtual Worlds to explore and enhance the literary experience is a useful activity for pre-reading, ongoing as a specific piece is read, and/or  as reinforcement after the reading is complete.    The value of a virtual world in … Continue reading

Virtual Worlds as Part of a Transmedia Literacy Experience

Transmedia Storytelling is a strategy that uses current and emerging technologies along with traditional strategies to enable the participant to become immersed in a story to increase engagement and understanding.  Henry Jenkins, Professor of Communications, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California, explains that “In transmedia, elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole.” It is a strategy that is used in the world of marketing and entertainment, still lagging in the education sector.

Telling stories across multiple platforms and formats addresses multiple learning modalities, encourages participation and motivates participants.  Stories are used to teach a wide variety of concepts at all levels of education.  A virtual world with a sim designed to draw students into a “game”  could potentially result in a high level of learning of a literary work, historical event, or scientific phenomenon.  The compelling attributes of transmedia storytelling are the capacity to engage participants and the capacity to promote creativity among the participants.  Engagement is crucial to meaningful learning and creativity is identified as a 21st Century skill necessary to solve problems and be competitive in a global environment.  As we look into school reform and teacher preparation for 21st Century schools it may be beneficial to ensure that teachers have some knowledge and skills in the the use of Transmedia storytelling.

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Sharing Educational Machinima

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Multiple sites exist for sharing video, including Machinima, Wikipedia has an ‘almost’ comprehensive list. Each has benefits and drawbacks, selecting the right one depends on your goal, there are special considerations when the focus is education rather than entertainment, though … Continue reading

Virtual Literature Circles

Facilitating a literature circle takes skill and even the most practiced practitioners sometimes have challenges in encouraging the reticent to speak up.  In her article “The Virtual Circle” Stacy Kitsis describes how she used blogging to support student participation and thoughtful reflection. This English teacher describes a number of positive observations including increases in engagement and interaction, completion of homework, and active reading.  Ms. Kitsis described how the more reticent students chose to use pseudonyms for their blogs and were ‘not shy’ with their entries.

The success described could be taken a step further by conducting the literature circles in an immersive environment.  Positive aspects achieved in blogging could be even more enhanced as students use their avatars to reflect and discuss the selected literature.  The discussions could take place in voice or in text, the latter offers an archival benefit.

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Machinima in Education

Creating films for learning is not new in K-12 education nor has the strategy  been limited to magnet programs or exclusive schools that offer high-level technology classes and/or broadcasting.  Teachers have used filmmaking  as a way to help students learn … Continue reading

Pixel Performances

How can performing in a virtual setting help aspiring musicians? Performing in a virtual setting includes characteristics of a

A "live" musical performance in the virtual world

real life performance as well as some unique qualities available only in a virtual world. A musician on Second Life told me it was more like being in a sound studio, missing are the auditory and visual cues that a real audience provides. In a virtual environment, you must ‘read’ your audience through chat. Setting up equipment so that you can see the computer screen while you perform allows a performer to be able to read the chat and thus respond to audience cues. Typically the audience will respond with applause and commentary, the commentary does not disrupt the performance and is typically a conversation about the performance (the lyrics, historical references, personal reflections). Another unique trait of entertaining an audience of avatars is that you can see all their names and additional ID tags providing the performer with a supply of information for personal interaction with the audience.

Technical aspects of performing online require some hardware setup as well as software to enable audio streaming. A basic requirement is a high quality microphone and a quality sound card. Some software is available online for free and some have an associated cost. Setting up to a streaming server and entering IP addresses are part of the setup. Then of course the performing avatar must develop their stage presence including attire, hair, appropriate instruments and animations. The ability to create supernatural effects to enhance a performance brings an additional magic to a virtual show that could be cost prohibitive or simply impossible in the real world.

A student who is interested in performance as a future career may be able to learn a great deal by performing in a virtual setting. There are the technical and studio aspects as well as the “live” aspects. The virtual stage can provide a feeling of “being there” without some of the barriers of physicality and on stage jitters that often accompany new performers. In a recent LA Times article, Thriving Music Scene, a musician who regularly performs inworld, and makes money doing so, states that “…the interactive experience that the virtual platform provides can actually surpass that of traditional live gigs.” Perhaps this venue can provide a “training stage” to help prepare future performers, something for our performing arts instructors/schools to consider.