We can learn social skills

I gave the annual lecture on virtual worlds in E-Learning for my Master's seminar this morning. As usual, I have to download new versions of browsers and such, check that my Second Life avatar looks presentable and position her in a useful location, see if I can still find the things I want to show, and then see if I can scare up some living being for a chat.

I did manage to find a vampire last night that let me know that he was from Oregon and that he was here to find new friends. He asked how the weather was where I am, I said that we had snow. He replied that snow was not his thing, and he needed to go get some blood. Whatever.

This morning we got lucky as well, there was an entire group in one of the welcome areas I like to visit because it is not full of advertising. There were a bunch of guys doing their morning exercises, they didn't answer me. But a girl in a bridal dress did answer me and tell me she was from Turkey. It was a bit odd, as she stood with her back to my avatar, and she didn't really understand any of the other questions I asked. Whatever.

I found a film in the Internet archives about the Onlive Traveller virtual world, a very early one that is no longer alive. I had only played the first few minutes of it and decided to show it in class today. I forwarded it a bit past the text stuff, and let it play. I immediately had to giggle. There was this very, very "edgy" rabbit talking with another creature, perhaps a unicorn. They were talking about why this was such a cool thing.

I usually have myself under control when teaching, but this just cracked me up. The rabbit was going on and on about why learning in virtual worlds is great. About 6:30 the rabbit says "We're here to see our friends... the training here in social skills alone is a valuable tool", and I lost it. I started laughing so hard, I had to turn to the wall to try and compose myself. It continues "... we swap recipes ... some people got married here ...." and I stopped  the video. This rabbit - eyes blinking, mouth moving - was just too funny.

At the end of the session the students were all of my opinion - why on earth would anyone want to use an environment like this for teaching and learning? As one student noted, at least in World of Warcraft the graphics are better.


The Forty Rules of Love

A good friend from Jordan gave me this book when she was visiting earlier this year. This strange tale by Elif Shafak, "The Forty Rules of Love" , weaves two stories together. One, taking place in the 1200s, is about a Persian poet, Rumi and his encounter with a whirling dervish, Shams. Shams is a Sufi and he spends much time with Rumi, discussing the Forty Rules of Love with him.

The second story is about Ella and Aziz in 2009, with Ella (a Jewish-American housewife) struggling in an unhappy marriage. She is getting back to work as a literary reviewer and is given Aziz' book to review. The book touches her deeply, and she contacts Aziz, a Scotsman who has himself become a Sufi.

It was an interesting introduction to a very foreign, Muslim world for me, and a quick read. I was not able to relate to many of the "Rules of Love" set out, but the fortieth one does indeed resound, so I will quote it here:

A life without love is of no account. Don't ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western ... Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water."

Mission Impossible 4

WiseYoungMan wanted to see Mission Impossible 4 (called Ghost Protocol in the US), so we managed to find a theater showing it at a time that the ancient parent and godparents found convienient. The film is a little over 2 1/4 hours, so with all the commercials and the break you are looking at a solid 3 hours.

I was not expecting to really enjoy it, I'm not much for the car-chase and senseless violence genre of films. But oh, my, the toys they had! It was fun seeing all the cool stuff a secret agent can do with an iPad and some intelligent textiles! There were some bits that were waaaay too far-out (the cutting of the window high up on the tower and then climbing up on the outside), but by far I found most of the stuff believable.

And isn't Tom Cruise good looking? What a shame he's on that Scientology trip.


Happy Birthday, WiseKid!

Where did the time go? It seems just a few years ago my little package of energy was (literally) bouncing off the walls. He turns 20 today, and has to work on his birthday. That's grown-up life, kid! But I guess I have to stop calling him a kid, he's as old (if not older) than some of my students.

So all the best as you start into your Twenties, WiseYoungMan!


Back to being "just" professor

Last Monday I stepped down as dean. The details are messy, and I will only communicate them to people orally. Let's just say that the top administration at this school finds it more important to follow perceived protocols than to keep the place running. I was treated in such a disrespectful manner about a supposed fault on my part (I am, and have since been independently determined to be, innocent) that I could not continue as dean.

So I've moved my stuff back up to my office. Sorted my toys. Pitched a lot of stuff on top of already teetering piles. Dusted a few year's worth of dust off the surfaces. Hooked up my laptop and started to work.

Do real work. I spent the afternoon researching for the lecture I'm giving next week. Not the one for tomorrow, next week. I could afford to experiment with something, throw something out, get down into the topic, get a good feel for now understanding it.

This feels very, very good.