Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Laying out the "Campus"

Okay, I know it's real-life residue, buildings that look like buildings, but I'm beginning to work on the design for my kids' new virtual campus in ReactionGrid and I'm beginning with an OpenVCE .oar file from which I deleted some stuff, moved some around, and replicated some in ways that the makers likely did not intend for them to be replicated. I love the OpenVCE setup because it seems just the right mix of land and water and it features that wild water-filled volcanic pit mountain with the landing zone level cap. I wonder what we'll end up putting _in_ the mountain? A soda shop? Skateboard park! That's IT! Both!

Here's a first draft map after only about 3 hours total inworld design time:

and I'm sticking to it (at least for now). In the lower right hand corner, the "Dorms" are stacked 5 high (will be 7 high, and contain a ground level computer lab meeting place where kids can sit together and login and do their online class work while chatting. There's a big drawing board in one window, a Jeff Lowe Brainboard in another, and there will be sprawling stations with relaxing poses on the Persian rugs I laid out. I'm just beginning, you understand, and the idea for dorms, places each student can call home, just came to me yesterday morning. I may change those to more residential-looking OpenVCE domiciles, but I'm thinking the open floorplan will serve us better in the beginning.

I haven't locked down anything yet to building , and I'm sure that I'll need to at some point, so the mountain feature sports a big sandbox with a filled texture giver for building. Offices for the admin team will be in the center right building, and the open roofs will give some flexibility for take-off and landing. Campfire stations in the open green, a dance area which will have music, and an ampitheatre round out the place for now. 

I haven't heard any complaints from neighbors, but the two-megaprims each walls around the region's perimeter are intended as much to save my neighbors from the sprawl I hope to maintain in my region as it is to tidy up the horizon for my students. They are coded phantom, so fly right through and visit anytime!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The (closed) wiki post about what's going on

This is a post that's copied from a wiki that is hopefully the way we'll communicate with our "pioneers" at MNPS Virtual Learning. I'll introduce the wiki to our first students this coming week. This blog is open and is intended as a reflection journal. I hope it serves.

Here's the first post at my personal page at our new (private) wiki:

I'm Scott Merrick, and I have a long job title, "Virtual Learning Curriculum Specialist." I was brought into the Virtual Learning Program as the second hire, right after my colleague Barbra Thoeming, who leads us as "Virtual Learning Coordinator." As Coordinator, Barbra "gets" to go to many more meetings than I do, and she has intricate mastery of the big picture for us. We worked together with Jack and Sherry the first week of employment, which began August 2nd, to create the foundations for what we envision will be a gigantic leap forward for Tennessee schools. Out of "virtually" nothing came our website, MNPS Virtual Learning, our beginning course offerings, and our procedures for enrolling our first students, both full-time and part-time.
One of the first things I did was to customize the lighting in my little Dilbert cubicle.

It's great to be here, and I look forward to serving and working and enjoying the service and the work! Here's my space, which a colleague has dubbed my "Cozy Corner." Nothing like unscrewing a few fluorescent light bulbs to make a place comfortable!

More Students Need Laptops--USA Today

In my email inbox from Keith Bennett, Litton Middle School Technology Educator, with the little message, "Thought this might interest you," was a link to a USA Today article about a laptop program in Walled Lake, Michigan's Consolidated School District that points to the future, driven by perceptive administrators and educators, and is well worth the read. Staff writer Stephanie Steinberg gets to the point with a quote from a participating school principal:
""We would never send our own kids to pediatricians that were practicing medicine from the '70s or '80s," says Mark Hess, principal of Sarah Banks Middle School in Wixom, Mich. "Why would we send our kids to schools that are practicing instructional techniques that are decades old? If we did that, it'd be educational malpractice."
Indeed, although hundreds of thousands of parents are in that unenviable position not out of their own choice, but  because they are beholden to the policies of schools and school districts that are not so forward (or even present) thinking. Enjoy the read at  More Students Need a Laptop...

In other news, we now have 9 of our first 13 MNPS Virtual Learning students enrolled in their courses. Barbra and Sherry have worked tirelessly with Theresa at Middle College High School to understand each student's needs and to craft a schedule for them that will challenge them but not discourage their completion of coursework. We will watch closely and offer every bit of support we can muster, as we continue to build this program, toward building this school, underneath them. Please, dear Powers-That-Be, let our Blackboard P.O. burst out of the procedural entanglements and into the hands of Blackboard so that we can get going on our Learning Management System!!!

My mantra for the day: Let me know the next right thing, then do it, and do it well for...

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Day on the Job

This is going to be interesting and challenging. I've already issued a blocked site override request for Second Life, which I consider an essential tool in my mission to create and implement a virtual school. Hippo stalled in efforts to get to ReactionGrid and Science Sim, so I'm imagining we need to get some firewall port action working as well. Use of virtual worlds in this school is likely a year off, at best, but that doesn't mean exploration and investigation doesn't need to be happening. I'm on it.

I'm spending the day with Blackboard and course vendor introductions and getting settled into my little cubicle. Nice people, helpful people, and my little USB fan is buzzing away. Not wonderfully happy about the lighting, but I can learn to live with it. I'm rambling. Back to work!