Second Life

I just did a very dangerous thing. I downloaded the latest version of Second Life – one of those immersive massively multiplayer doowackies that I never really got into. I just threw an hour away twiddling bits to make my Second Life character kinda sorta look like me, then starting to wander around Tutorial Island. The environment is really quite cool, and I had a lot of “hey, this would be cool for a blended learning thing…” moments.

Here’s what my character looks like now:
Second Life

There appear to be some rendering artifacts – in close-up view, my character has hair (but not much more than I do) and his pockets don’t contain inter-dimensional rifts. Apparently, my video card isn’t quite up to snuff…

If you sign up for a Second Life account (your first “Basic” account – what I got – is free), drop my name “Darcy Malaprop” and my character will get a few fake shekels for the referral.

Participation and Competence

Brian just linked to a great description of how blogging can affect reading and writing in the classroom. The blog he linked to is one I hadn’t come across in my travels, so I’m dutifully subscribing. Some good thinking about this stuff in Konrad’s blog.

What hit me in this post was the simple and clear demonstration of the power of an online community of practice to support the “real” physical face-to-face community. In Konrad’s case, it changed his perception of “reading” his student’s work – it became a participatory experience – more of a conversation or dialog than a fire-and-forget writing exercise. That, through blogging (or more appropriately, through participation in a dynamic community of practice), his evaluation of students shifted to become somewhat more holistic. Less brute-force “marking” of writing, to more of a comprehensive assessment of competence.

That’s when it occurred to me that I have stopped “marking” or “correcting” and started reading. I do not mean that my students are no longer evaluated, that they no longer receive grades. They do. But my approach has changed dramatically. It’s taken over a year but I have become a teacher-blogger and I am recording this change because it is crucial to my thesis and my professional development.

I have become a teacher who reads, who looks forward to reading, who comments on student entries and can’t wait to see the responses, who can’t wait to see where the conversation takes us. I have become a teacher who sees my students as writers, as people with voices who can contribute to and initiate insightful conversations.

That is such a powerful shift, and shows some of the real benefits that this blogging stuff can provide if applied appropriately.

I’m looking forward to reading through Konrad’s blog, and his stuff on connectivism, etc…

Locomotive Ruby on Rails Distro for MacOSX

I just grabbed the Locomotive distro of Ruby on Rails for MacOSX – what a nice package! Includes the latest build of Rails, a fresh copy of Ruby, all of the database connectors, RMagick and ImageMagick, some AJAX libraries, and a bunch of other stuff to play with. Best part is – it’s all self-contained in the Locomotive application, so it won’t affect any of the other bits installed on my system.

Looks like the best Rails development system so far – no idea if it translates to a server very easily though.

I’m going to try to force myself to play with Rails for at least a couple of hours every week to see what I can get it to do. This is a good headstart for that…

A few days with OmniWeb 5.1.2

I’m really digging OmniWeb. It’s got lots of cool stuff that work as I would expect them to, not as if they were ported from some other source. It behaves as a great MacOSX app should.

Over the weekend, I was writing up a blog post, and when I got to about 75% done, I opened a new tab to get a link. OmniWeb crashed. Crap! OmniCrashCatcher pops up, and I filed what would perhaps be described as a more-colourful-than-necessary bug report. The next morning, however, I fired up OmniWeb again, and all of the tabs that I had opened were restored for me – and, get this – the contents of the WordPress blog post entry form were also resurrected for me, right at the point OmniWeb had crashed! I didn’t lose a thing! That’s just plain awesome. It never occurred to me to even check to see if the form values would be resurrected after a crash, so I assumed the post was gone. Of course, it wasn’t Shakespeare or anything, but still – that’s just cool.

On top of that, the “live” source editor rocks quite nicely, and the “Get Info” pane for any page is the best I’ve seen. (it would be even better if it allowed you to get the full URL for every resource, but that’s so minor)

So far, the OmniWeb experience has rocked. No plans to switch off of it as a default browser. But, there are a few little niggles that keep me launching Safari occasionally.

  • The “AJAX” stuff in Flickr doesn’t seem to like OmniWeb. I’d thought maybe the ad-blocking stuff was borking it, so turned it off. No joy. Can’t add photos as favorites. Can’t edit titles/descriptions of photos. Can’t even open Organizer for some reason… Have to launch Safari for that – which is odd, since they’re both based on WebKit – perhaps OmniWeb’s embedded WebKit is a bit off?
  • Some sites just don’t want to display in it. No idea if it’s a weird browser-sniffing thing going on or not, but I’ve had to launch Safari a couple of times to view things.
  • CSS display seems to be a bit off – things like the Flickr photos section of my blog display weirdly – and there are other sites that don’t behave as they do in Safari.

But, those are relatively minor nits to pick. Hopefully easy fixes (either in configuration on my end, or in code at OmniGroup). I’m just glad I’m putting my OmniWeb license to use again 🙂

Update: Oh, yeah. Just realized that one of my machines has to run OmniWeb in “unlicensed mode” since the licensing system checks the LAN for other copies using the same serial number. That means I’d get to buy a license for every machine that I want to run OmniWeb on – not cool. I paid for the OW license, but I’d have to shell out another $29US for each machine I want to use it on. I could see a token fee – $5 or $10 per additional machine – but not a whole ‘nother license…

Update: I also find that I really miss Safari’s page-load-status-as-thermometer-in-Location-bar style of loading indicator. Makes it much easier to see status in my peripheral vision – in OW, I have to seek out the rotating “loading” widget, then click on it to see how much of the page is left to load. Much less elegant.