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The Magic Skybox
How it looks
It’s a nature-like environment in which added animations like leaves driven by the wind, background wood sound and a fireplace contribute in giving the impression of an alive place without being distracting. When first arriving to Skybox, alone and lost, it was a very dark and creepy place.The name ‘Skybox’ was a bit misleading; as I had imagined it would look like a scene out of … Care Bears or other magical kingdoms filled with floating clouds, rainbows and blue skies, but instead, it was like a forbidden forest outside a kingdom with lots of mysteries, magic and sorcery, witches and warlocks, a place where evil and wild roam and a place with talking trees and animals and place with a life of its own.There were eyes staring at you and you could feel their presence.It made focusing a bit difficult.
The Magic Skybox theme is a forest. There is light, at least with the midday settings, but it is not direct sunlight. The forest trees keep much of the direct sunlight out. So the forest remains dark most of the time. However, there is a campfire that burns around the clock. The thought ran through my mind that Smokey the Bear may not be too happy about that. And then I thought, a virtual Smokey the Bear might be very interesting training tool and maybe he has already been created. The trees are not uniform in shape and size. If they were, it could be a sign of a newbie creator. The variety of plants and trees lends to the illusion of a forest, which is only broken if you run into one of the forest walls.
How it feels
During our first meeting we were provided with little furniture (table, chairs and cushions on the ground) just to make all feel comfortable in an informal space. Actually the atmosphere was "magic" and motivating, I can say very suitable to foster the flow of thoughts/brainstorming. The fireplace gave me a perception of familiarity and reminded me friendly environments similar to those sometimes dedicated to storytelling in Second Life; as shown in picture can elicit a sense of mystery and enchantment, variables that can strongly affect learning.
The atmosphere around the Magic Skybox has a sense of mystery to it.It has a sense that there is something new to discover behind every tree, under the rocks and behind the bushes.It also has a sense of struggle (good and evil and in our context as educators, between ideas).It feels like the last remaining frontier, a place where evolution has not yet reached and with our presence and the things we bring in (from clothes to tables and chairs to even ideas), we are disturbing, colonizing, and changing it.
Without others in the forest, this feels like a very lonely place. There is no one present for interaction. There is no social networking. There is no sharing or discussing of ideas with others. There is no friendly verbal bantering back and forth. The experience is not much different than an asynchronous web-based training course, just you and the computer. It is the people that change the feel of the place. The Magic Skybox provides a setting and a context in which social transactions may take place. After being in the Skybox, it is easy to imagine how it would feel when the forest is populated with people.Then it is transformed into a very engaging place.
What instructional activities might be done there?After our class experience I began reflecting on the need of designing and using various environments in the different phases/steps of a learning path; the Magic Skybox is a very welcoming space for informal meetings but I guess there are a lot of ways an instructor can take advantage of such a lovely place, I believe it could be successfully used for a treasure hunt or for a storytelling session.
If gathering thoughts, staring and imagining are instructional activities, then the Magic Skybox is the place to do it.It also offers a good place to read, write, reflect and meditate.It can potentially be used to host on-line games like scavenger hunts/matching (find a word behind a tree, find a meaning behind a bush and match it; unlock an idea and match it with clues you have; or even our own class Primtionary space).
The environment of the Magic Skybox provides an appropriate context for many types of learning activities. However,due to the dimensions of the Magic Skybox itself and the technical constraints of having too many avatars in one place, the MagicSkybox is best suited for small group activities. Many of the same learning activities performed elsewhere in Second Life can be performed here; slide shows, lectures, group discussions and debates,group collaboration, and for an ice breaker perhaps a variation on the game of hide and go seek.The Magic Skybox can lend an element of fun around learning, transforming traditional methods of delivering training and making them interesting and even fun. Other types of learning activities that may be well suited for the Magic Skybox are those involving creativity and thinking outside the box (well maybe not outside the Magic Skybox) and brainstorming.
What could be modified to make it more comfortable or usable?It would be useful to have a drop-box for collecting notes: after a brainstorming session or a learning activity a tool to collect immediately reflections and/or assignments that have just been noted down by participants/students can help producing further observations/reflections.
On how it looks:
- I think some color would make it more comfortable, maybe with some purple, red, colorful flowers and plants and maybe even a bit of the blue sky.
- On additional features:
- Providing some options of opening other programs in Second Life (opening Internet window crashes my computer).
- Providing recording (video, voice and data) learning sessions.
- Lighting influences the mood inside the Magic Skybox. Even though individual residents have some controls over environmental lighting. It would be nice to have a global lighting control for the Skybox, so that the instructor could facilitate the appropriate mood for a learning activity. Also, it might be helpful to have a holodeck control associated with the Magic Skybox, where different forest seasons, such as fall and winter could be swapped in and out.
Latest page update: made by MissAnnie
, Aug 27 2009, 5:15 PM EDT
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