Archive for November, 2013


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

Google Apps Button

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

Google_alerts

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!

Alerts_settings

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

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_

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

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.

Scholar_Create_Alerts_Settings

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 Paper.li and Scoop.it to create online “papers” in Part 2!

Jury’s Still Out on Cloud Party

When Cloud Party first hit the scene, there was a lot of metaverse press about that it may eventually topple Second Life as the king of virtual worlds (at least for us Westerners).  It was easy to get in and get started, could run in a browser window, was less laggy than SL–the list went on and on. Over the past six months or so, it seems that there’s been a new announcement from Cloud Party each week of some upgrade or another–a new physics engine, Oculus Rift capabilities, new art installations, inworld games being developed, new avatars, free building privileges, template builds, etc. Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education even had a portion in Cloud Party this year. I recall myself saying that, if Cloud Party kept on the trajectory, it could catch up to SL in a few years. The connection to SL hasn’t been lost on those working on Cloud Party.  They’ve been drawing the boundary lines of late to put to rest any confusion, pointing out the differences between Cloud Party’s Terms of Service and that of Second Life’s, as the latest Linden Labs debacle rolls on.

I like Cloud Party, but mainly as a visitor.  I like to go and hop from location to location, visiting the art installations and taking pics. I also play with the building tools and have used the building template to create an immediate virtual classroom. That said, I haven’t felt the urge yet to “live” in Cloud Party like I do in Second Life. My avatar is little more than the standard fare. Building seems to be more complex than it should be (some tools are in one location and others in another place–it’s part SL prims, part Minecraft). There’s also no privacy. One could make the argument that there’s no privacy in SL, but you can set a parcel or a sim to owner/group only which isn’t available in Cloud Party unless you are willing to pay a monthly fee.

This is my main issue with bringing students into Cloud Party. I love the free builds and access part because students can easily log in and start playing and working collaboratively on builds. This freedom also poses a risk, though. People who haven’t necessarily logged into Cloud Party can come through at any time (they’re the ones with “Guest#####” above their heads). This opens the door for trolls and griefers. (At least, from what I’ve seen, Cloud Party doesn’t have the adult seedy stuff proliferating throughout–at least not yet.)  So the jury’s still out.  I’ll continue to visit Cloud Party and encourage others to do so too but will it become part of my virtual routine? We’ll see. With each round of updates and improvements, my interest gets piqued a little bit more.

Aevalle in Cloud Party

Aevalle in Cloud Party

inside_my_classroom

Instant Classroom in Cloud Party

How_far_will_it_push

A Guest Inquires About the Cannon

It was a busy weekend for me in Second Life.  Sunday, Wrath and I began looking up inspiration for a new very special build, one that would be the virtual home for the Teal Life Foundation in Second Life.

Teal Life is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate women about ovarian cancer and assist those who have been diagnosed get the care and support they need.  It was founded by Crystal Elliot after she, herself, was diagnosed.  Crystal lost her battle in May of this year but her legacy, Teal Life, lives on to help others battle this cruel disease.  I’m very honored to be able to play a small part in bringing TLF into Second Life to educate more people about ovarian cancer as well as network with and support other organizations in the fight against cancer.

Currently, the TFL headquarters is in Caledon Steam SkyCity (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Caledon%20Steam%20SkyCity/105/138/75).  I liked the idea of “rising above” cancer as the entire build of SkyCity floats in the sky above open water below.  Wrath took my suggestions of a Victorian orangerie and images of the Palmenhaus Schönbrunn and ran with it, creating an oriental steampunk inspired build with a tree atrium and windowed rooftop.  Main color scheme?  You guessed it–teal!  We’ll probably be tinkering on it for a while but I adore the results–lots of etched metal, lots of ornamental girders, all focused on the teal tree in the center (Teal Life’s symbol).  The main floor is primarily for education and outreach–so far there are a handful of interactive boards, leading to various websites (including Teal Life’s).  The lower floor (in the “belly” of Steam SkyCity, so to speak) is to house a conference/presentation area and events area.  This will be accessible via a teleporter just inside the front door.  There is an in-world Teal Life Foundation group as well which is open for anyone to join.  I’ll be adding updates as we get events planned and on the schedule.

TLF in SL

TLF in SL