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It has been a while since I’ve posted here. I have somewhat kept up my content curation on and, though I have not been as active as I once was. However, when I logged in to this evening and saw the announcement of the upcoming changes, I felt the need to delete my account. Basically, what they have managed to do is cap content to ten per day and are getting rid of the ability to share to most social media outlets (as well as doing away with the ability to personalize–which wasn’t all that great to begin with) unless curators pay up now.

I will find another venue– had already started to become “stale” in feel. At one point, I thought it was great. Now, however, the company behind the site has decided to make people pay for things that have always been free, on a site that has not improved in years.

As far as this curator is concerned, no thanks.


If you’re like me, you detest most commercials. I primarily watch HuluPlus instead of cable television anymore and the commercials irritate me to no end (usually I lower the volume or simply choose to get up and do something when they’re on) but a few months ago, a series of commercials caught my attention. These were from Verizon and they were promoting an accessibility technology called Velasense that Verizon is integrating into their system.

I have to say, from the videos, I am deeply impressed. Velasense not only uses GPS to help guide visually impaired users to their destination, but even to doors and other structural elements. It has facial recognition built in to not only recognize friends but also tells users what their facial expressions are. It also reads things, like cans, money, newspapers, etc.

I’ve wondered how the visually impaired might be able to use virtual worlds such as Second Life. I realize that screen readers can often pick up text chat, but what about the graphical interface? Seeing technologies like Velasense coming into the marketplace makes me wonder if, someday, these technologies won’t be able to interpret online graphics for their users, painting a picture through descriptions of what is happening on the screen. Such a breakthrough would be amazing, not just for virtual worlds/vr, but online education as we know it.

For more information about Velasense and to see more video of it in action, check out their website and Tumblr.


Nine years ago today, a rather geeky avatar with the name of Desmond Shang officially opened a sim called Caledon with much frivolity and festivities. It was different from other areas of Second Life, Victorian steampunk in design with a covenant to keep it in theme and apart from the hodge podge and patchworked chaos that typified much of the grid at that time. The sim filled quickly and a waiting list formed. Soon there were more sims and a micronation was born with “Guv’nah Shang” as its land baron leader. The rest is virtual history as they say.

I wasn’t around in those early days. I discovered Caledon sometime in the fall of 2008. It was so vast, I immediately misplaced myself but in doing so, fell in love with the community, the theme, the builds, the ingenuity–you name it, I was utterly enchanted. When my initial home sim in SL closed its doors, I knew where I would be settling next. I have never questioned that decision in the six plus years since.

Having a virtual home in Caledon pulls you into an odd type of family. There are certainly a number of standing traditions as Caledon has been building its community history since day one. For someone unaccustomed to these traditions, the existence of founders plaques, seals, letters of marque, Caledon roses, mushrooms, cavorite chunks, pounds, etc. may seem silly, but for those who are ingrained into the community, these become valuable treasures–bits to remember the history of the community and where they were within that history. Newcomers may be confused by the plethora of animal images or personae–bunnies, dodos, catgirls, tinies and other “cultured furs” or knights, princessas, dukes and duchesses, captains, barons and baronesses, etc.–but most long-term Caledonians understand and appreciate what these personalities and segments of the population have brought to the nation, both in terms of the community and its infrastructure.

Since I’ve been in Caledon, I’ve witnessed first-hand how virtual life can intermix with real life. I’ve celebrated members of our Caledon family falling in love and eventually getting married in the real world. I’ve cried with joy at the news of  little ones being welcomed into the lives of Caledonians who are, in reality, across the country or the world from me and yet I’ve keenly felt and shared their bliss, because we’re neighbors and “family.” And I’ve felt this elation, even while aware that such events would eventually pull them away from the virtual world and I knew how madly I’d miss them. (As many know, I’ve had my own virual/real crossover relationship, thanks to Caledon, and hope that one day soon, our friends and neighbors in the community will be celebrating our announcement.) I’ve also mourned the passing of members of our community as keenly as I would someone in my everyday real life–because, virtual world or not, their friendships were very real to me. This is what it means to be “of Caledon.”

As a “family,” the relationships are not always perfectly harmonious. Along with the laughter, fun, and collaborative magic, there have also been the “dysfunctional” moments–friendships shattered over a Caledon rose (who found it first or didn’t, etc, etc) or the “stealing” of guests from one ball or party to go to another; neighbors moving out because of bird sounds “invading their parcel,” a shadow falling from a parcel nearby, garish holiday decor, a better draw distance suddenly showing storm clouds coming into view where none was visible before; and too many rage quits to count.

And yet, here we still are, the Independent State of Caledon, turning nine years of age.

Upon anniversaries, our tendency is to look back at history and talk about all the “good ole days” and maybe gaze forward and dream of the future. I enjoy delving into Caledon history possibly more than most. The founding of such a micro-nation and it’s living community is a fascinating topic and I’ve spent hours reading through the old forums and wiki. Imagining the future and the potentials also has its place–without dreams and goals, it would be all too easy for such a community to shrivel and die (and we’ve seen all too many virtual communities do exactly that). That said, I’ve recently come to the realization that too much of doing either does a disservice to those who are active in the community in the here and now. To all who are now active in the Caledonian community, currently writing what will be part of our communities history and memorable moments, I salute and thank you.

Thank you to Des and Kami for being hanging in there for 9 years of what must have, at times, seemed to be barely managed insanity. Thank you to those original residents, without whom Caledon would not have bloomed. Thank you to all of the EMs over the years who have volunteered their time and energy and put up with much nonsense with very little appreciation–you helped keep the nation safe, many times without any acknowledgement. Thank you to Carl Metropolitan and the many Oxbridge deans, professors, mentors, and tutors. While Oxbridge is, in many ways, it’s own “animal,” I cannot fathom what Caledon would look like without Oxbridge being a part of it. Your work has added a depth that cannot be ignored (and allowed me to complete my Ph.D. work so THANK YOU!). Thank you to Excalibur Steamlander for providing a place on the web to keep the history alive and also thanks to all those writers, bloggers, reporters, etc. who have dedicated their time and talent to cataloging what it is to be Caledonian. Thank you to the myriad of event planners and sponsors over the years for helping create many many fun shared memories. Thank you to Team Caledon’s organizers and planners, builders, team members, and all-around cheerleaders for the amazing yearly efforts put towards RFL in SL. Thank you to the builders and scripters whose work continues to amaze and delight, sometimes with unintentional and awe-inspiring grandiose bungles. Thank you to the countless group owners and leaders who somehow manage to organize Caledonians and other Steamlanders periodically for events (I realize that at times, it’s much like herding cats). Thank you to our “sister nations”–Winterfell, Steelhead, New Babbage, Marikesh Mondrago, etc.–for being an extended family. And finally, thank you to those who are active in the community right now–I hope to know you for years to come.

I am privileged and blessed to be amongst you.

I kid around a lot about being somewhat dangerous when left with too much time to wander around the interwebs while waiting on things to digitize/download/upload/rez/etc at work. Every now and again, though, I manage to find something that I find useful and entertaining. When I immediately see the promise of something and it’s fun, we get into the realm known as the “squee factor”–and yes, I let out a squee when I learned about HabitRPG from this article on Kinja.

HabitRPG is a free online program that gamifies your to-do list. There is a subscription version (for 5 dollars per month) for more goodies, but so far, I’ve found that for most students, the free version would probably be fine. How does it gamify your to-do list and habits?  Once you sign up for HabitRPG, you can outfit your character or avatar. Below is an image of mine now at level 30.

Habit RPG avatar

Habit RPG avatar

HabitRPG uses basic motivators from gamification to help hook users into the “game” and prompt them to get things done on their to-do list, while building good habits (or lessening negative ones). XP, leveling, health meters, badges, rewards, pets, mounts, quests, parties, guilds and the like can all be found in HabitRPG. Need people to be accountable to or a cheering section to get you going? Join a guild. Like collecting items through quests and drops? There are questlines and pets (as well as the foods and saddles to “raise” them into mounts). The creators have made a great set of tutorial videos and, better than me re-explaining how the program works, I’m embedding them below.


I’ve been playing with the system for a bit over a month now and I’m still finding new tricks to use to better organize my lists. I can’t say that the program has suddenly made me into a perfectly organized individual but, there has been a handful of times that the reminders (red-colored alerts) have prompted me to do something I’d been putting off or I did something extra to get that last bit of gold needed for a piece of armor. Bottom line, it’s a fun way to keep yourself accountable and I think students, especially the gamer crowd, might get a few grins using it as well.

See you out on the grid!

Hi everyone!

Still trucking away gathering data for my dissertation. I’m still looking for people who have used Particle Laboratory to teach themselves how to work with particles in Second Life.

The survey can be found here .

Thanks in advance!

In my last post on this subject (which was a while ago), I walked readers through how to set up the different types of Google Alerts.  In this post, I’ll focus on offers social curation on the web for free (for their most basic package). Power users may want to upgrade to have more topics and posts available. To set up an account, simply go to and click the “Join Free” button in the top right corner of the screen. Most people already have a Facebook or Twitter account (at least those interested in social curation) and, by using one of these, it makes sign-up a breeze.


In the example, I used the ILC’s Twitter account to sign up.

Scoopit Signup

Scoopit Signup

I’ll simply fill in the email and desired password. The profile picture is already pulled from the Twitter account but it can be changed, if desired.


The next step is to choose the topic you want to curate. Give your “paper” a name (this will show as the title of your page of “scoops.”) List keywords or phrases (separated by commas) that are connected to your topic. will search the web and social media sites to pull in posts with those keywords/phrases.

Creating a Topic

Creating a Topic

Click the “Create a Topic” button.


The next screen will offer a bookmarklet. Don’t forget to drag and drop it into your bookmark bar on your browser!



Once the bookmarklet is in your browser’s bookmark bar, you’re ready to start curating your topic! Click the “Start Curating” button and get ready to dig in!


The next screen should be your topic page and you’ll see a list of suggestions to include on the right.

Click the title of the article to access it on the web and peruse it. If it’s something you’d like to include, click the “” button. If not, you can click the trash can icon to delete it. Scanned through and nothing looks promising? Click the “Discard Suggestions” button at the top of the list to delete multiple suggestions. You can also add more keywords and phrases as needed by clicking and typing into the keyword box and clicking the “Apply” button. Suggestions Suggestions


Once you’ve chosen to “” on a selection, you’ll get a pop-up box.

At the top of the pop-up is the name of the selection and a blurb about how it appeared on the web (i.e. social network posting). Beneath this is an area that you can add your thoughts—for example, were there points in the article that you found particularly interesting or things you disagreed with? (This is optional but it does give you more of a presence within your curated topic.) Near the bottom are icons for the various social networks that you can link to via Right now, in my example, I only have Twitter connected as that was what I used to create this account. I can easily add more by clicking the “Add More” button and entering the necessary information. Selection Selection

Why would you want to connect networks?  It’s simple. By adding your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts to, you can easily share information and articles on your topic throughout your social media networks, just by making sure the boxes are selected whenever you publish a new “Scoop.” Once you’re satisfied with the “Scoop,” click “Publish” and it will appear on your page.

Continue through the suggestions, adding those you find valuable. Once done, simply click the “Discard Suggestions” to get rid of all of the old suggestions so you can start fresh tomorrow (or whenever you return).

One of the nice things about is that you can do it as often or as little as you want. Your suggestions will simply keep in your suggestions stream until you’re ready. That said, regular curating and sending new and interesting articles out to your social media networks (and hosting them on your page) will grow your network of followers. Better yet, these new followers tend to be interested in the same topic(s) you are!


Now we circle back around to talk about Google Alerts and how to use them with

If you have Google Alerts set for your topic, you’re probably getting a lot of articles into your email inbox. To get these into your page, simply click on the title of the article in your email.

Google Alert

Google Alert

Remember the bookmarklet we added to our bookmark toolbar? Once the webpage opens, we’re going to click on the bookmarklet icon. Bookmarklet Example Bookmarklet Example

This opens a pop-up window just like the one you had earlier when selecting a “Scoop” from your suggestions list. Even without having open, clicking the “Publish” button will send it to your topic page and to your social media networks (if desired).


Congrats! You’re well on your way to being a social curation guru! In the next part of the series, I’ll show how to use to send out regular online curated “papers” on your topic to your social media followers and networks.


This week, we’ll be visiting some sites in SL dedicated to science. First, we’ll visit the inworld session area for NPR’s Science Friday which airs weekly on Fridays. Then we’ll head to Genome Island to tour their training areas for students and finally, we’ll experience Virtual Hallucinations.

We’ll meet up at Jaguarland ( at 3pm slt (5 pm central) and head out from there!

Note: Tours venture into Mature as well as PG sims. If you are not able to access Mature rated sims (if you are below 18 years of age), you will not be able to fully participate in these tours.

First, we’ll drop in on the Science Friday program area which streams the show weekly and sometimes takes questions from the SL audience.


Science Friday in SL

Next, we’ll head to Genome Island.


Genome Island

Genome Island is run by Texas Wesleyan University and supports genetics classes for university students studying biology.
From the rez point, we’ll walk up the hill. Look for the hovering block with the question mark on it. Click for a tour chair. Sit and click again for a guided tour of the island.

Once the chair derezzes, look for another box with a question mark. This will give you the guided tower tour chair. This chair will derez at the Gene Pool.

Look for another box with a question mark for the next tour leg. We’ll end with the abbey section tour.

Need more information? There’s a notecard full of information back  at the rez point.🙂

Finally, we’ll visit the Virtual Hallucinations Lab, sponsored by University of California, Davis.


Nurses’ Station at Virtual Hallucinations

The Virtual Hallucinations Lab was designed to allow visitors to experience some of what those with schizophrenia live with–visual and audio hallucinations. Info cards can be picked up at the entrance.

We also need to pick up and wear a badge which will produce the audio hallucinations. As we enter, each visitor needs to select their gender for the correct audio.  Look for the blue pyramid shapes for info about the experience.

This Friday (1/21), I’ll be leading a tour of USC Marshall School of Business in SL and we’ll then head to Wyoming Entrepreneur if the sim is available.  We’ll head out from Jaguarland ( at 5pm central (3pm slt).


Johnny Cash’s Childhood Home in SL

This week, we’ll be visiting the Arkansas State University heritage sims, home to Dyess, childhood home of country legend Johnny Cash.  (We’ll meet up at Jaguarland at 3pm slt–5 pm central and head out from there. )

The Dyess Colony project is a virtual reminder of the real life colony, begun by President Roosevelt. Five hundred families were chosen on the basis of need, farming ability and fitness–these families were awarded 40 acres and a mule (this was during the Depression) to come to Dyess and set up homesteads.
Note: Tours venture into Mature as well as PG sims. If you are not able to access Mature rated sims (if you are below 18 years of age), you will not be able to fully participate in these tours.

Our first stop will take us directly to the replica of the childhood home of country legend Johnny Cash.

Next we’ll head to the “Colony Homes” street, with it’s examples of the home styles build in Dyess in the 1930s.

Walking down the street to the east, we’ll work our way around the big white house (the admin building) and find our way to the general store, made to look much like the one in Dyess in the 1930s.

On the other side of the circle, we find the Dyess Theatre, featuring photos of real life Dyess residents over the years.

Right next door to the theatre is the Dyess Cafe, based on residents’ recollections of the real world cafe from the 40s and 50s.

If we make our way west, back down the Colony Homes street, we’ll find ourselves in the next sim, in front of the Dyess Colony design office with its real life pictures of Dyess.

Just around the corner is the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, set in a representation of the Bank of Tyronza.

Your media player will need to be working in order to fully experience the museum. Don’t forget to click on and teleport to the cotton field (the teleporter is in the small theatre at the end of the museum tour).

There are other historical builds scattered around the sims, including a Delta shotgun house (right across from the museum) and Lakeport Plantation in the sim to the south.

Next we’ll head to Napoleon, AR, the underwater town. (note: as of 1/14, their media stream wasn’t working, but we can still tour).

Head down the dock and jump in the water. Here we can see the virtual remains of a once thriving small farming town on the Mississippi River. By 1870, erosion from the Mississippi had caused the bank (with the town included) to topple into the river, becoming an underwater ghost town.

Flight is turned off, so we’ll have to walk back up to the shore. Just down the path, we’ll find a carriage ride to the Lakeport Plantation. Each carriage seats two and you’ll be dropped off near the front door after a ride around the grounds.

Please give us feedback on these tours, so we can make everyone’s experience a fun one!
The survey can be found at:

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
CC2014 Aether Education and Travel

I guess you could call me a snooper.  I snoop out tid-bits, news, and new programs/gadgets that help me know more about the field of educational technology and, more specifically, my areas of interest. At one point, I’d keep all of these to myself or point it out to a few coworkers. Now, thanks to the growing list of social media technologies, I don’t have to keep such finds to myself. I can share them with my followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Because these tools have their own webspace, they can also be found by those doing keyword searches using Google or Bing.

One of the ways I find things is to have them brought to me rather than my having to do daily ongoing searches. Sound too good to be true? It’s fairly easy. Through setting up Google Alerts, both basic and Scholar, I can view both what is being said in the mass media (or by lay people in blogs and non-juried articles) as well as what is being written about in peer-reviewed journals and being published in books.

The basic Google Alert can be set up by clicking on the Google Apps icon in the top right corner if you’re logged in to Google.  Then click “More.”  The selections in the box will “flip” and you’ll need to click “Even More from Google.”


Google Apps Button

Scroll down the page that appears until you see the Google Alerts selection.  Click on it.


Google Alerts Link

A settings page will open in which you can select the keywords and limits for the alerts.  For this example, I put virtual worlds in quotations to make sure that I catch the phrase, not just the words virtual and worlds, willy nilly.  And I want specifically to have educational information presented to me, so I added the term education.  I tend to select “Everything” but you have the option of only receiving information from blogs or books or news, etc.  I’ve learned that “Once a day” is a good setting–“As it happens” can clog your inbox with emails and “Once a week” can produce a confusingly long email (not to mention some of the info can be old news by the time it gets to you!).  Selecting “Only the best results” keeps down the old information and tagged spam posts.  Finally, select the email you want the alerts sent to (if you’re logged into Google already, your Gmail account will show in this field automatically). Click “Create Alert” and now you have news and information set to come to your inbox automatically!


Google Alerts Settings

To set up an alert for scholarly articles and books, there’s a bit of a different method of setup.  Again, you’ll click the Google Apps icon at the top right of the screen (as before), click “More” and then “Even More from Google,” but this time as you scroll down the page of options, you’ll click on the Scholar link (it’s in the same section as the Google Alerts link).


Google Scholar Link

The page that opens looks like a normal Google search for the most part, but this is a specialized search engine, as it searches mainly “articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites” (from the About Google Scholar page). Fill in the search box with your terms as before (again I placed quotation marks around virtual worlds to keep it as a phrase). Click the magnifying glass to search.


Google Scholar Search

What you should see now is a plethora of academic articles, books and presentations to peruse. However, if you wanted anything new on the subject to come to your inbox, you’d need to click the Alerts link at the bottom of the menu on the left side of the screen.


Create Alert Link in Scholar

Once you click the Create Alert link, you’ll be taken to the Scholar Alert settings area.  There aren’t as many selections in Scholar (mainly because it’s already a specialized search). You can choose to receive up to 10 or 20 results at a time (and again, if you’re signed in to your Google account, your Gmail will automatically be listed in the Email field). Click the red Create Alert button and you’ll now have notices of academic items coming into your inbox.


Create Alert Settings in Scholar

(Note: Many academic journals require a subscription so though you may get the notice of an article or presentation being published, you still may have to order or access the article through your school’s library system.)

Now that you have all of this fabulous information coming into your email, how do you share it with others?  I’ll explain how I use and to create online “papers” in Part 2!