Saturday, October 24, 2009

On using Second Life to enhance my real life

I couldn't get SL to fully download on my personal computer since we were first exposed to it so I've been making some visits to my local Enoch Pratt public library to put my avatar to work! Which brings me back to an earlier post (see "Avatars and Authenticity").  My avatar name is Ang Luckstone...the name still makes me giggle.  But it reminds me when I was younger and had to create a screen name on AIM that was sort of an offshoot of my identity and name, but still only those who I chatted with really knew the person to whom it belonged.  In SL, there is an actual visual being on the screen to further accentuates the identity of the person behind the name.  So I made sure my avatar looks somewhat like me and is clad in a form of "professional attire" that I might wear when at work at my school or professional development events in my real life -- right down to the hair pulled back and the light pink dress and shoes, haha.  I figured this way, my digital professional development for me would align more closely to the physical events I take part in as a teacher in Baltimore city.  And I could take myself and my identity more seriously on SL as well.  

In addition to roaming around to other countries and events during the handful of times that I've been on SL, there were 3 events that I have enjoyed attending and benefitted from for my professional life.  The first was an ISTE Eduverse Talk last week (Oct. 13th) that was called "Demystifying Grants." It was a talk that featured Jim Vanides, the Program Manager for HP's Technology for Teaching Initiative. Cool, right?!  It took place in the ISTE Broadcast Studio so I was able to be a member in the audience and hear him and the other panelists talking, along with other audience members who could ask questions.  There was not a mic at the library computer, so unfortunately I could participate to that degree, but still was able to listen in on the talk just fine.  Jim talked from his standpoint on writing up ideas for ed grants and also reading over the proposals, so he had a good advice on how to fill out a grant app as an education professional, and stand out against the thousands of other apps that stream in for education technology funding and materials.   I really needed to see (and hear) this, as I have been holding off for over a year to apply for 2 different grants for my school -- one for a Smartboard, Elmo photo projector, and a video projector for my school (can anyone say wish list!!!?!), and another for funding for my school's fine arts initiative that I am teaming up with the other resource teachers at my school (art, instrumental music, dance, theater arts) to write up and send out an application.  The talk definitely gave me the urge to overcome the somewhat overwhelming feeling of applying for an educational tech grant app that I have felt since I first became a teacher.  Thanks, Mr. Vanides!

Second, I decided to leave ISTE Island altogether and visit another country only a few short minutes after this Eduverse talk ended.  I went to a Spanish street forum/event/festival thing that I stumbled upon in a SL setting in Madrid, mainly to see the avatar version of where I lived and studied about 3 years ago. I tried chatting with some avatars, which was difficult because of the event going on, but managed to find a IBM technician (in SL named Soto Anles) and a salesman (w/ SL name Ave Mascarenhas) to chat Spanish, and I told them I was a Spanish teacher in Baltimore, MD :)   Save the plane ticket, money exchange, hotel cost, and so forth, and get on SL for a digital foreign country experience!

Today, I went to a third event that I was able to attend to actually help out my first-year secondary English teacher roommate.  It was the first part of the 2009 SL College Fair that took place on the International School Island.  My roommate teaches juniors and seniors in high school who are prospective college students.  I was able to visit slideshow booths that colleges and universities created for the fair that was full of info for her to bring back to her students...especially since she has to help them this semester with writing their college admission essays.  We focused on gaining that info at a ton of college booths, including Towson, UNC, Florida State U, East Carolina, University of Michigan, IUP, St. John's, and many more.   I think there were almost 50 schools at the event, so now I can understand why the event is 2 days long!  If you still want to check it out -- there's time! It's free to attend for prospective students and fair visitors...teleport to the entrance towers on the International School Island for the last day of the event, Sunday, 10/25.  Enjoy!

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