ahh, august is here and dread hangs over teachers heads, err, i mean excitement over getting back into the classroom is in the air
this year might be very exciting and also hold some trepidation if you are introducing Sim-on-a-Stick as a tool for your students
if you are not certain if they will like it, just read about Kate Booth’s considerable experience with it! her students love it and will forego lunch to keep working on their virtual world projects!
however . . . this is true technology and it is alpha technology with some specific needs. the good news is that it works for 100s of teachers and they are not all tech superstars – not being techie should not be a stumbling block – i really am not techie nor techie-minded, but i tend to hang in there maybe longer than the average person. if you want an easy solution that simple works and don’t have a little time to spend with it, then Sim-on-a-Stick is NOT for you. if you have little patience, then SoaS is NOT for you. if you expect others to swoop in and tell you how to do it without being ready to spend a little time searching for answers, then SoaS is NOT for you. if you have never used OpenSim yourself, then SoaS is NOT for you
but . . . if you have patience, actually think using OpenSim is fun, use it on your own, love the creative possibilities – then SoaS is for you
it is one thing for SoaS to be for you but for it to be for your entire class? that is another thing entirely
are you scared off yet?
no? then you may be just the kind of teacher that will succeed with it. there are many who have and many to come. i mentioned Kate Booth as a wonderful teacher and so is Erik Nauman who has hacked SoaS for use as a true classroom grid allowing for many students to work together – these and many others have helped identify the biggest obstacles and here is a rough guideline for you if this is all new =)
you do need to do some diligent work ahead of time and maybe now is that time
- personal familiarity with OpenSim – do you enjoy building in it? have you done snapshots or even machinima (video)? do you know how to refresh your appearance and check your current frame rate? how about adjusting preferences to find a balance between quality and performance?
- have you used Sim-on-a-Stick? both on a work machine as a set of folders (like the installer sets up by default) and on an actual USB thumb drive (like the zipped files). depending on what you do in your classroom, the USB thumb drive might be the way to go. don’t fret if your budget doesn’t allow for you to buy 30 USB sticks (and they don’t have to be USB 3,0, i use USB 2.0 without issue), you can have one USB or even a base CD that you copy onto the student’s work machines
- have you tried OpenSim on your students’ classroom computers? this is vital for success and each machine needs to be checked. you may need an IT person or someone with admin rights to get all your machines up to speed. they should have all important Windows Updates applied including the .NET 3.5+ framework. i tend to go nuts here and also want each machine to perform at its peak with a run of CCleaner and Defraggler but that is probably a call for your IT person or you if you are savvy with these tools and comfortable with their use. i used to maintain 24 machines for a teaching lab and would spend a day twice a year uninstalling extra programs and doing maintenance (now we just wipe our machines and install an up-to-date base ghost image)
okay, so you have put in the considerable time to make sure OpenSim works on each student machine (and tested your LCD projector with your machine too!) and are stoked! w00t! this will be the best experience ever for your kids and they’ll be telling their parents how awesome you are! woohoo!!! =D
nipples? crotches? pubic hair? omg, the parents are upset and your schoolmaster has called you to their office! what went wrong?
you did get the coolest immersive and creative platform to work for your students and what should have been a tots win is now a nightmare and you hate Ener Hax!
awww, don’t hate Ener Hax? what did she do? fill your head with pink flowers, happy children, and unlimited imagination?
getting OpenSim up and running, even with the relative simplicity that is Sim-on-a-Stick, is only part of the preparation. it might even be the easiest part!
like i said earlier, i’m not techie and while i can appreciate the work to get OpenSim running on multiple machines (i do on the 24 i mentioned above and have helped subQuark at workshops with strangers’ laptops) it’s not what i like to do. the next part of preparation is what i do enjoy and it lets my OCD run rampant =)
- setting up your base region and/or OAR file – what in-world “stuff” should your students have at hand? do you want them to have a total blank canvas or to have some existing builds? maybe using Nebadon’s campus would be good, or my big tree. maybe you have some school branded stuff, like your own campus that you would like to build and include in everyone’s region – or iconic things from your region (if you are in Paris, maybe the Eiffel Tower – me, i’m in Portsmouth and we had a cool bridge, but it’s been torn down)
- your student’s inventory! ah ha, that’s the nipple culprit which we can nip in the bud (oh no, so many puns!). if you are using Sim-on-a-Stick, then everyone will be Simona Stick which is awesome for girls but boys might prefer to be Simon Stick! you can use Diva’s Wifi Admin panel and create Simon Stick (or any name) and that way have a girl and boy avatar. you could use your school name or mascot as the last names for your default avatars. once you have your base students made, you’ll need to go through their inventory and delete all the things you don’t want including default skins and shapes. then you can either make a generic shape and skin and let them mod themselves (they will anyway) with shapes and skins in their inventory or in a store on their region or you can use existing kids’ avatars
- once you have a base region created and student inventories edited, export base copies of the OAR and the IARs for future use
- also archive your “base” Sim-on-a-Stick files, the ones with the OARs and student avatars/accounts so that you have a clean build for later use
if you have kids of your own or can borrow some from friends, get them to use your customised Sim-on-a-Stick and see what challenges they have. kind of like your own focus group! this practice run can really ease issues later, let you do some tweaks, and boost your confidence
phew! lots of work and there are not many shortcuts, but if you do all of this – you should have a good year! =)