... or...

... how participation in an online virtual community has impacted one teacher's understanding of history, and how that has been reflected in actual classroom instruction.

Monday, January 21, 2013

21 January 2013: Family

Unlike the main character of the book The Artificial Silk Girl, Augusta was not fleeing the police, but her own mother.  And this would not have been too outside the boundaries of reality.  As Augusta explains on Facebook:

Augusta reading at the public library
in the 1920s Berlin Project.
I was educated at home by a series of governesses and tutors. I had wanted to attend finishing school in Switzerland after visiting my best friend Sophie at Ch√Ęteau Mont-Choisi in Lausanne. Mamma would have none of it, of course, as this would have meant that I would learn French. I would spend hours in Pappa's library, reading books on all subjects. When the last tutor left, he told my parents that I was well-read and very opinionated, which I took to be a compliment.

Augusta is therefore in a situation where she is obviously different than others in Berlin, but in many way, she is the same as well.  We are all products of our history, both individual and collective, which are concepts that I teach to students in my RL history classes.  Trying to establish the identity of a character in a dynamic immersive role play has really deepened my understanding of both.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

20 January 2013: Reaching into the Past

A watercolor painting of Eltville am
Rhein, where I lived from 1989-91.
  My profile in SL goes something like this:
In the 1920s Berlin Project, I am Augusta Carolina Maria von Nassau-Weilburg, the teacher at the Hindenburg Schule, the namesake of an actual RL member of Hesse's noble family.

 I had researched a historical identity before coming to Berlin, in response to the way RP was being played out in Versailles in SL.  I wanted to be able to relate to the character more, so I looked for a real individual from a section of Germany that I am familiar with.  That would be Hessen, in the Rheingau region in central Germany.

Friday, January 18, 2013

18 January 2013: Developing Character, Part 2

An "identity crisis" is a whole new
issue for people starting to role play
in a virtual environment.
 Introductions tend to be pretty straightforward.  Someone says "hello" and you begin to communicate, and you decide how much of your personal history that you want to share with this new acquaintance.  As an avatar in Second Life, and engaging in your first role play (RP) in a new community, this process is a bit stickier.  Someone says "hallo" and you begin to communicate, but what personal history is there for you to share?  Panic sets in... and one of two things happens.  You either avoid the issue, or you start to make things up.  In RL, making things up about yourself can get you in a whole lot of trouble!  In SL, making things up about yourself is essential!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

17 January 2013: Developing Character, Part 1

A visit to Der Keller.
After arriving at Teleportplatz and making sure I was properly attired, I found my way to the Bahnhof, got on the train (which is tricky at first), and got off at the other end.  You arrive at Alexanderplatz, in the midst of a very busy commercial district.  Like I usually do at new sims, I wandered around... but the sim was so huge, and like the RL cities in Germany that I got to know when I lived there, it was confusing and before long, I was lost.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

16 January 2013: Arriving at Teleportplatz

So to begin at the beginning...

A year ago in "real life" (or RL), I was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and was stuck in bed.  I was now able to start really exploring in Second Life (SL) and took full advantage of the opportunity.  I had heard about the 1920s Berlin Project in an education group, and thought I would go there.  I had been to historical role play sims like Versailles in SL and to Romanov Russia, but for various reasons, they did not work for me.  So, I traveled to Berlin to see what it was like there.  What I found was a living community that has changed how I look at and teach history.  Berlin is (to paraphrase my hometown's slogan) "a city that works!"

VSTE tour group arrives at the Berlin Teleportplatz
(VSTE is the Virginia Society for Technology in Education)
The rules that make Berlin work are relatively simple:
  1. You must wear clothing appropriate for the era.
  2. You need to make sure your avatar is realistic.
  3. You must behave in a natural manner.
  4. It is a "PG" sim, so there are certain things not permitted.
Following the clothing rule is easy!  If you don't have clothes from the 1920s or 1930s in your SL inventory, there are "freebies" at the Teleportplatz when you land there. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

15 January 2013: Why Am I Here?

An Introduction to Role Play in Virtual Environments

My Second Life avatar, Augusta, exploring a new sim.

So another day, another blog post.  That's how it's supposed to work, right?  And for the #etmooc, they want us to introduce ourselves.  So I thought I might take a slightly different approach, since most of my "real life" information is posted on the G+ page.

What brings me to this MOOC is Second Life, which I have been accessing for a year and a half now.  It is basically a collection of virtual worlds that use avatars who can move through different simulated environments that we call sims.  It began as a part of a professional development course on games, simulations, and virtual environments in teaching and learning... and it has been a truly formative experience for me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The First Post

This blog is starting as a component of the #etmooc that I am participating in.  So this post is probably going to be pretty lame!  But hey -- we all have to start somewhere! 

You can find out all about me by clicking on the Google+ link; my "About" page has everything there!