Science site tour, Friday, Feb 21 @ 5 pm central (3 pm slt)

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.


Next, we’ll head to 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.


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.

Business School Tour, 1/12/14 @ 5pm central (3 pm slt)

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).

Tour of the Arkansas Heritage sims, this Friday, 1/17/14, 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

(Originally posted on the Virtual Educator blog.) 

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


Instant Classroom in Cloud Party


A Guest Looks into a Cannon

Originally posted in the Virtual Educator blog.

USA’s VGDC (Video Game Development Club): Not a Club for Lurkers!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the first meeting of the fall semester of the Video Game Development Club (VGDC) here on campus.  First, as an aside, Shelby Hall is gorgeous and any excuse to visit is a good one!

President Joshua Dunn (Junior IS major) led the meeting by first having the club sponsor, CS instructor Howard Whitston, and the other officers introduce themselves then presented a bit about what the club would be doing.  I quickly realized that this is not a club for lurkers (which is great!).  Just as the title suggests, the group will actually be designing and developing games!  Teams will be formed with group members of varying talents and strengths.  The idea is that the team, over the course of a month, will design and develop a game using the Unreal gaming engine or Unity3D.  The club will be working towards levels/badges on the One Game a Month challenge site.  Lessons gleaned from one project can be used to hone skills and make future projects better. For those of us in education who want a boots on the ground experience in learning real-time development of games to match the book knowledge, this is perfect. :)

Interested in playing a part of this growing club?  Follow the group on Twitter and Facebook, or contact president Joshua Dunn for an invite to the Sakai project site (you must have a USA Sakai account to join).  And who knows?  In the near future when a student asks if you’ve “got game?,” you can answer “YES!”

Sometimes You Accidentally Stumble on Success :-D

We’re in full swing of the summer virtual tour season at Jaguarland.  I try to take pictures of the things I’m up to in the virtual world and gaming and upload them to Flickr (almost) daily.  Little did I know it would pay off!

The first tour of the summer was for Interactive 3D/Virtual Art and we hit the UTSA Artspace sim, along with a couple of the featured areas with teleports at the rez point.  I love the feel of the Artspace sim.  It’s gritty but in a cool way–post-apocalyptic steampunk (if there is such a term)–lots o’ rust and parts being used in odd ways.

We finished up by visiting Rebeca Bashly’s Inferno, which is straight out of Dante’s nightmarish landscape.  I led the tour while Wrath Constantine (one of the builders of Jaguarland and the mastermind behind the Iron Cloud build–not that I’m partial) snapped photos of the various levels of hell as we traveled through with the few tourists who had the courage to continue onward.  At the end of our journey, we came face-to-face with the Evil One himself but there was no climbing him to escape (as in Dante)–we had to teleport to safety. :)

It was a fun excursion and made even more amazing when I discovered that the photos from the tour had earned me the Artisan badge for GameMOOC3.  Wrath isn’t part of the GameMOOC but I have to share the honor and badge with him–it was his graphics that carried the day!  (I just led us through hell and back!)

Check out my Flickr photostream for the tour photos, starting here.

Jaguarland is back! :)

Wow, has this post been a long time coming?!  Jaguarland is officially back on the grid.  There’s going to be some tweaking over the next few weeks.  Yours truly is still trying to find pieces in my inventory and get them placed and there’s quite a bit of information updating that needs to be done on the clickables, but we’re back!  

We’ve already been training some of the ILC consultants to do talking head machinimas for introductions and directions in online courses and I’m excited to get rolling with even more.

Stay tuned to a new intro to Jaguarland machinima (once more things are in place)!  

And we start our first tour from the new Jaguarland next Wednesday (June 5th) at 5 pm central (3 pm slt)!  This first tour’s theme is 3D/Interactive Art Exhibits here in SL.  We’ll meet at the main Jaguarland hub and set off from there (!

Jaguarland Returns!

While the technical issues still have a bit of ironing out, I’m very happy to report that the University of South Alabama College of Education’s sim in Second Life, Jaguarland, will be making a return soon.  A combination of events came together (too many to get into here) and the decision was made to bring it back.  We’ll have, for the most part, the same set-up as before (maybe a bit enhanced since yours truly has–I hope–learned a few things over the past few years in SL).

Personally, I’m looking forward to having the sim-sized machinima set back in the skies over the sim, as well as the space to host larger groups of educators (my areas in Caledon are homesteads, limiting events and meetings to 20 avatars).

The news just happened to coincide with my going to the SITE conference in New Orleans where I met quite a few people who were new to virtual worlds and gaming but really wanted to learn more through the tours, so there’s a whole list of contacts for when the Jaguarland tours get revved up again–it’ll be great to have a big group!  (Now if I can just avoid losing people along the way…)

This slideshow features shots from Jaguarland over the years, as well as its final hours when we had a “bewm party”, complete with asteroids, volcanoes, and tornadoes.

Guilds as Professional Learning Networks

I’ve been quiet for a while now.  At work, we’re focused more and more on settling into and finishing off the Sakai migration.  I’ve been put on the video team, working on creating videos to be housed on various professors’ online courses.  I’ve also been working on quite a bit of accessibility issues–learning more about captioning software programs so that I can train others to use them.  It’s been fun learning all this new stuff, but I haven’t forgotten about my passion.  Jaguarland may be history but virtual worlds and gaming in education remain close to my heart–I’m just having to explore these options on my own time.

Through last year’s Virtual Worlds–Best Practices in Education conference, I was lucky enough to fall into a group of educators who are fascinated by Quest-Based and Game-Based learning–specifically  how to use off the shelf gaming in the classroom.  This may seem like a stretch to many–and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t try to bootstrap it onto any course without making sure that it would be a worthwhile tool–but there have been enough people working on this that there’s already quite the collection of quests/lessons that have been directly tied to core curriculum standards.  All of this can be found at the WoW in School site.

But even without actually using gaming in a classroom of my own, I’ve found that I’ve gotten some amazing advice/guidance/support from the group I play with in various games and in Second Life.  Our main home is on the World of Warcraft Sisters of Elune server.  There are two educators guilds on the server.  Cognitive Dissonance is the one on the Alliance side and boasts (as of this writing ) over 600 members.  Innevitable Betrayal is the Horde guild–it’s smaller and at a lower level but growing quickly as more and more interest gets drummed up.  Because of the worldwide nature of the internet, I can log into WoW at almost any time of the day and I’ll be connected with educators who are playing.  I can ask questions, not just about the game, but also for advice about specific issues in training/teaching.  There are also weekly online meetings using Twitter and Google Hangout on Air to keep everyone connected.  Members of the group can be as involved as they want to be.

It Takes a Guild is a video series put on by members of the guild to showcase how various members are using gaming in their classes.

There’s also a Games Mooc starting up again shortly–this is the third iteration of the Mooc and this time the theme is “Apps, AR, and ARGs”.

Think you might be interested in learning more about how to use gaming or virtual/alternative reality in the classroom?  You can join in for free and dip your toes in being a part of a guild.

Hope to see you there!

Local gaming educators have a new site/group!

Welcome to our new site for SAGE–South Alabama Gaming Educators.  I’ve been meaning to create a new blog/group since Jaguarland closed.  I think that though Second Life may be the primary place that most educators involved in virtual worlds have as their home, there is so much more out there!  As for myself, I know I’ve been posting more and more non-SL articles so the topic had outgrown the previous South Alabama Educators in Second Life WordPress site.


So here we are–new site, new name.  I’m still mucking around with the theme, so it may end up changing.  Have a cool project you’re working on?  Give me a poke!  I’d love to have guest posts or additional authors contributing to the site.  Maybe, just maybe, through showing amazing projects we can change the anti-gaming mindset of at least a few educators. ;)


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