The Schome Park bliki

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This page provides information about the current research and development phase of the Schome Park Project. There is also a Schome Timeline.

1 March 2011 End of an Era

It's the end of the world as we know it. After four years, and two Grid moves, Schome Park vanished as the month came to an end.
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Return to the Main Grid

Schome Park is back on the Main Grid after a four-year absence. However, avatars still seem to be locked to the island.
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Animus, Topper and Kit have been busy adding new buildings to Schome Park in the last few months.

The new eco area, complete with turbines.
A beach hut on top of a rocky cliff.
A new beach, complete with waves.
Under the sea at the beach, complete with fish and tortoise!
The memorial.
Redesigned Scho-Op, complete with a helpful Hapno bot.
La Tour Eiffel, the place to learn a language.
A well. What's down there?

Life Returns

Life has returned to Schome Park (see images). There are new developments and pictures will soon follow....

A scenic spot
The new scho-op design, memorial garden and beach are being built


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Publications related to Schome continue to appear. Some of the early publications are listed on our publications page. Books take longer than articles or conference papers to produce, but books relating to Schome are now available on Amazon. Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds deals with research methods and related issues for education in virtual worlds. Two of the chapters focus on the Schome Park Programme: 'The Schome Park Programme: Exploring Educational Alternatives' by Peter Twining and Shri Footring, and 'New Literacies in Schome Park' by Julia Gillen. Schome is also mentioned in'Virtual Environments: Issues and Opportunities for Researching Inclusive Educational Practices' by Kieron Sheehy, and 'The Third Place in Second Life: Real Life Community in a Virtual World' by Anna Peachey. The physical book is now on sale, and PDFs of the chapters are available online from SpringerLink.

Out early in 2010 was Understanding Heritage and Memory from Manchester University Press, which ends with 'Heritage and the Recent and Contemporary Past' by Rebecca Ferguson, Rodney Harrison and Daniel Weinbren. This chapter on virtual heritage draws on many Second Life sources, including interviews with Mars and Kali, and activities in Schome Park.

ReLive conference: 20-21 November 2008

Conference poster

The ReLIVE08 conference (Researching Learning in Virtual Environments), brilliantly organised by Anna Peachey, took place at the Open University recently. It was an event full of life and excitement, with everyone interacting via blogs and Twitter and Second Life and more. You can find over 100 pictures on Flickr tagged relive08 - this one is particularly good.

The Schome team gave a 90-minute presentation: 30 minutes from Shri (with PeterT on video) on an overview of the Schome Initiative, 30 minutes from Gaea on the Satellite competition, and another 30 minutes from Rowan, Schome Malone, Fox, Gaea and Shri (supported by Roughbounds and Straad) on staff experiences of the Schome Park Programme. We had the latest issue of MySchome with us, prepared by Mars, the cut-down version of the Hindenburg machinima rushed to us by Pigment, and slides from Ahoy. Oh, and some excellent art by Animus.

At the end of the conference, Roo Reynolds (Portfolio Executive for Social Media at BBC Vision) agreed to conclude by sharing his notes, including what he found most interesting and what he was going to take away from the conference, wrapping up the two days by distilling any key themes and considering what participants had learned about learning. This was webcast, and you can view a video of his presentation here or look at his slides here.

It's an excellent presentation, and I recommend that you read it and/or visit Roo's blog.

Below are the sections related to Schome. It's unusual to find out what a member of the audience took away from your conference presentation. It's even more unusual to see them passing what they have learned on to a wider audience - so it's wonderful to see how positive Roo was about the experience - and how closely he was paying attention :-)

Excerpt from Roo Reynold's Presentation

Ceci n'est pas une image d'Earthshine

Yesterday I saw something that actually moved me to tears (I’m a soppy git) and I was sat at the back with a little tear running down my eye. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but it was about Schome. It was about this thing, which hopefully you’ve all heard of by now: the education system for the information age [shows Schome slide]. Some of you are involved in it. I recognised a lot of faces in the room. It started with NAGTY, the National Association of Gifted and Talented Youth and then moved on, opening up after that.

This project has done a lot of interesting stuff, and it has learned some lessons. It doesn’t claim to have delivered the education system for the information age by any means; that was pretty obvious from the presentation. What it has done is raise some really interesting questions. I think some of the stuff that has worked, some of the success stories of this, we should think about.

This is not a picture of Earthshine, this is a picture of moonshine [shows slide of moon]. This is light reflected off the moon. I happened to have a nice photo of the moon in my collection, so I used that, but if I was in space and I could just turn around and look at the earth, then you would be seeing earthshine.

There was a project that Rebecca Wilson introduced us to which was a space satellite competition in order to get a group of (I think it was) six 14- to 18-year-olds thinking about ‘What instrument could they put in space?’ What they worked on was something to measure earthshine and to measure the light that’s reflected from the earth, and whether we could feed that data into climate models if it’s changing over time and, even more excitingly, does the signature of Earth from space have a certain smell of life about it? And if we see another, similar looking one from an exo-planet, will we know that that has life on it because it’s similar enough to our own. Pretty interesting project, right?

And so you’ve got this group of six 14- to 18-year-olds working together and they’re working in forums, they’re working in wikis, they’re working in Second Life, they’re hanging out together, they’re socialising, they’re bonding [slide with moon and text]. They’re working with some PhD students who are working in that field, in that kind of earth sciences field, and working together.

Something that came out very strongly to me was when they were asked ‘Would it be more useful’ (because they were kind of hopping between the wiki and virtual worlds and the forum and Second Life) ‘Would it have been more useful if you could have done that all in one place?’ And there was this kind of blank response [gestures a blank face]. Well, no, they just have lots of different tabs open. They have lots of different windows open and they jump between then. Of course they do. That’s what kids do. That’s what a good chunk of you probably do as well. You don’t just have one thing you’re working on, you have many things, you switch between them and you’re copying and pasting, and you’re taking a lesson that you’re learning from one application and you’re applying it to another. That’s how your desktop works. We don’t need everything to be converged into one monster application. The kids know that. The kids know that they can use the forum and then they can drop into Second Life whenever they want to. So they were doing that. They were using the appropriate tool for the appropriate job. That stuck with me.

Conference balloon above SchomeBase

I also really loved (and that’s the reason why I shed a little tear) I also loved the idea that these kids weren’t feeling like they were being judged by their peers. They’d never actually met each other until quite late in the process. Until they were actually beginning to be finalists and coming up to opportunities to meet astronauts and do all these amazing things that their parents apparently had very little idea what was going on. Of course they knew what was going on, because they’d all had informed consent up front, but they maybe just hadn’t quite realised the scale of what their kids were going to get into.

And this idea of, it doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 18, you can help each other out. It doesn’t matter if you’re bullied at school. If you’re working towards a common goal, and you’re working together, and you’re having fun. You’re going to be hooked to that. You’re not going to be just fixed to a school timetable and you’re going to be having an awful lot of enjoyment. And you’re going to have some great experiences out of that.

So here are some reflections from the group: I couldn’t be bothered to type it up, so I just took a photo for you [shows slide of feedback quotes]. There’s just one that I want to mention: ‘You can write a forum post whenever you have the time or whenever you have an idea’ This idea that they’ll be logging in at home at the weekends. This fixed schedule of one hour a week is just completely implausible – they’re going to be in there whenever they can be.

So: what have we learned? Where are we with this stuff? Well, let me challenge you. One point that has really stood out to me is that our horizon is a bit too close. Maybe we aren’t looking out far enough. And we’ve discovered some tools sthat we quite like the look of and we want our students to use and understand them as well. Maybe I’m speaking ehre as an observer, rather than as someone who works in this field.
I want to leave you with some challenges. Not from me, but from you guys (and girls. Guys is non-gender-specific, right?)

Moving to the shed

Kieron said, ‘The sandwich that I made in the kitchen wasn’t very good. I know, I’ll try making it in the shed.’ Brilliant. Brilliant. Are we going to put our existing structures, and our existing models of how we understand how people interact and how we teach them, and just splurge that into a virtual world? Why? Why?

Simon said, ‘It’s not about the buildings. It’s not about the prims or how we arrange them. It is about the social domain and how we connect. It’s about building up communities.’ The Schome project taught me this in a big way as well. What I was getting from that presentation was not, ‘Oh, they’ve learned a lot of stuff, haven’t they?’ They have built a community and they love each other. It’s pretty special.

Virtual worlds, according to Peter (who wasn’t actually here, but he appeared on video.) ‘Virtual worlds are unclaimed territory for educators. Put a teacher in a classroom and they know what to do. Put them in a virtual world and they have no idea.’ What do we do about that?

With that Schome project you had 14- to 18-year-olds hanging out with PhD students, and they were learning a lot from each other, and that was great.

Maybe this is going back to what the kids were pointing out, and the people who’d worked with those kids, were pointing out in Schome. It’s very easy to have lots of different things going on. Maybe we should be thinking about fragments of utility rather than one monolithic blob that does everything for us.

I wished that I was 14 and that I was in Schome doing that satellite challenge.
The tear that I shed was because I was blown away. Really, really blown away, by what those kids were getting out of that.


RM and to Sums Online agreed to sponsor the Time Explorers' entry into the Y Factor competition for innovative approaches to learning.
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Images of island

Here are pictures of some of the odds and ends left around on Schome Park when it closed at the end of Phase 3.

Data analysis

Data analysis tends to go on in the background and not get written up in the wiki, so I though I'd mention it for a change. I'm currently working on the chat logs of eight events, together with associated videos, forum postings, wiki pages, Photobucket pictures etc - looking at the levels of knowledge-age skills displayed in each.

I've just been generating tag clouds of some of the data using Wordle. Here's an example from a chat log of a Time Explorers discussion about Roman Roads. The more frequently a word was used, the larger it appears (if you look carefully, Dr Who is in there somewhere). Fox


Topper added this wordle of the space experiment first proposal.

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Visit to the Open University and Surrey Satellite

Baso got to grips with a meteorite
Kali in the Planetary Sciences department
Gaea's real-life desk
Decimus and Spiral
Topper with 'Gibeon', the iron meteorite
One of the Open University labs

11 June 2008

A picture of Schome Park appeared in Wagner James Au's Second Life blog,New World Notes in a report on Kathy's use of shadows in Second Life.