Monthly Archives: April 2008

Second Life at Technology Day - FIT NYC

Interesting little side trip into NYC today to go to the FIT (Fashion Institute). I definitely needed the side trip out of the office and into another world, fashion not being my strong point. Let's just say I prefer form over fashion. At any rate the first half of the day was given over to virtual worlds and in particular Second Life. I do't necessarily follow trends (fashion or otherwise) but apparently Second life if very much about the fashion, at least fashion as a form of self-expression. Plus, here (or there) is where one can feel free to embrace the inner fashionista. And, folks make money, real money dressing avatars. That aside, I'm fascinated to watch others do things in Second Life and less thrilled when I have to do things there (plus, one look at my avatar and I want a new wardrobe).

So how, in education can we leverage this virtual world? What are the benefits, besides being able to create designer fashions for others? As a social environment it is interesting to note that the second life reflects real life interaction. Boundaries (physical and psychological) apply in the virtual world as well. Second life (unlike WoW) has an added element of "mirrored flourishing". The second life benefits the real life. It's creative environment represents a bebop reality where creativity is rewarded and encouraged. Popularity springs up around collaborative creative communities where people from all over the world meet and connect. People who may not ever have connected in their real lives. There is also real world affiliations particularly around religious convictions. One person created a Jewish synagogue as an art project where avatars now meet to hold religious ceremonies and discuss Judaism. Avatars meet at memorials to share experiences around real world grief (9/11 memorial created by an invested banker turned monk due to his exposure to the world trade center attacks). There are also real world applications being run. IBM runs a prototype to express server data in three dimensions.
How about a Yale IT showcase? In this event one of the speakers was an avatar whose real life counterpart was in New Zealand. Why not bring in top IT specialists from across the globe to offer technology lectures? We'd only need one avatar as the leader but we could invite those who could not attend the physical space.

Avatars in Second Life are also making their way into other webby 2.0 applications. Avatars have flckr accounts, create movies on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/machinima) and personas on facebook. Would this be an answer to our FERPA issues with these very public social networking areas?

Here are my questions regarding using it in a course. What is the learning curve for getting your avitar up and flying? Can we expect students to have powerful enough machines and fast enough internet to be involved? Could we provide people with "student avatars" so that one could visit and then walk away without having to create an avatar. How does ones persona in second life affect his/her learning? Other's learning? Would it depend on the type of interaction -- role playing, interactive environment, or passive ingest of information?
A website that is exploring virtual worlds in education: http://www.rezed.org/

Here are some ideas for educational uses (besides our Virtual Tech Lectures):
Art Gallery curating
Musical showcase
Architectural rendering and spacial layout of rooms - see wikitecture- http://studiowikitecture.wordpress.com/

Trimming mp3 files

We recently heard from a faculty member who needed to trim an existing mp3 file. The faculty member is using a Mac so our initial reaction was to suggest GarageBand. A little testing revealed that it's a less than intuitive process to use GarageBand for this purpose. Instead, Yianni and Pam tried out Audacity (a free download for both the Mac and PC) and MP3Trimmer (shareware for the Mac - $10.95 for a license). Below I recorded a couple of screencasts while trying it out for myself.

Here is a QuickTime video showing how to do this using Audacity:

Using Audacity to trim an mp3 file

Here is a QuickTime video showing how to do this using MP3Trimmer:

Using MP3Trimmer to trim an mp3 file

Vertov

An intriguing new plug-in has just been released that allows researchers to edit and annotate video and audio clips in real time right in Firefox. It's entitled Vertov, after the famous Soviet filmmaker, and is produced by the Concordia Digital History Lab at Concordia University in Montreal. Vertov is designed to work primarily with Zotero and, according to its designers, "allows you to cut video and audio files into clips, annotate the clips, and integrate your annotations with other research sources and notes stored in Zotero." This has potentially important implications for faculty members and grad students who rely on digital media for their teaching/research.

From some initial tests, it seems to work great, though the interface is a little clunky. It works with any QT-compatible media file, which is also a plus. The media files can be stored and edited either locally or remotely. I definitely think it merits further study.

RM/RP streaming content

I happened upon an issue that may or may not have any bearing on what is done at ITG, but I thought I would post it anyhow. Â While attempting to watch a news broadcast for a project, I ran into an issue with Safari playing streaming video that was encoded into Real Player/ Real Audio format. Â I thought that the problem was only that the computer did not have Real player on it, however, I installed Real Player, ran the configuration so that plug-ins would be installed on the system and tried again. No Luck. Â Next, I restarted the computer, tried again, still with no luck. Â So I looked a bit deeper, and found that Thelma gets all her wonderful computing power from an Intel Duo-Core processor, and according to the Real Player site, "some Real Player files are currently incompatible with the Intel-based Apple Macintosh computers that use an Intel Core Duo chip." Â After doing more searching I found a wonderful, easy solution to the problem... Use Firefox, which is not Intel-based! Â Another score for open-source web browsers. Â The file worked beautifully.

ViXY update

In doing a recent project for a professor, I found it necessary to capture several YouTube clips to use in the project - so I thought it due time to test both ViXy and Snapz as tools for capturing such media.  What I found was the ViXY is certainly a great tool to use if you need to go from a YouTube video straight to one of the many formats Pam listed in her post, as Snapz saves the capture as a .mov file, and the conversion to some other file type can often be time consuming, or because of the nature of Snapz, not work at all.  The only issue I had with VIXY was one of quality and audio.  On the VIXY captures, the audio was sometimes not in sync with the video, requiring me doing another capture to try and correct the problem (which didn't help a few times, requiring 3 or 4 recaptures).  So I found that if one was in need of a .mov file, that Snapz ended up giving more consistent, slightly higher quality captures in the end.  So my summary is as follows:Use Vixy if...- You cannot/don't feel like watching the entire YouTube video you need- You need to be doing something else while the YouTube video is capturing.- You need the end file in a format other than .mov- You are trying to make an avant-garde art film from YouTube clips in which the audio is sometimes in sync, and sometimes out.  Use Snapz if...- You need the end file in .mov- You are pressed for time, need a .mov and don't want to take the chance with the audio.- You need a higher quality .mov, such as for a large-scale presentationSound good? Â