My Workshop – Reflections

PREPARATION

I really had no idea what to base my workshop around, but realised that I really enjoyed building stuff after attending a workshop based around building a valentine’s day bench, so decided to do something in a similar vein, using the way the bench workshop was delivered as a template for my workshop’s design.
I started playing in the MUVEnation sandbox and remembered the “ice house” I’d made a few weeks earlier, so thought that I’d use the same basic design to make a treasure chest. I wanted the lid to open and close, and I’d had some issues with the script that opened things (again, while trying to add a door to the Ice house – the whole building had rotated rather than just the door), so thought that by trying to get the script to work this time I’d not only solve my personal scripting issue, but end up with a workshop that hopefully honed a variety of useful SL skills such as:
· duplicating and linking prims
· typing in specific measurements to make shapes that fit together neatly and rotate to a very specific angle and for a specific purpose
· Had interactive elements , again referring to the lid properties
I made a treasure chest / trunk, jotted down the measurements, then went to the “script me” website to generate a script that would open and close the lid. Through trial and error I realised that I only needed to add the script to the specific part I wanted to move – the lid – and that I could do this to linked prims by ensuring the “edit linked parts” option was selected on the editing pane and that I highlighted the lid as being the area I wanted to add the script to. This answered my earlier “ice house” scripting problem, and was a proper “eureka” moment.
Now I had a workable trunk and my hastily scribbled notes, I typed out a set of more definitive instructions. I made a third trunk using these, and was able to fine tune the instructions as I worked.
Now I knew what I was doing and had instructions the workshop needed some structure. Thinking back to the Valentine’s Day bench building session I’d attended, I decided that it would be a good idea to give participants a folder containing a notecard with the same step-by-step instructions as I’d written, a treasure chest texture that I found in my inventory and a copy of the script that would make the trunk lid open and close. I dropped this in my ALT’s (Hebask Falconer) inventory but found that he couldn’t accept it – I hadn’t altered the items’ permissions so that anyone could accept copies and modify them, so worked out how to do this in each item’s “Properties” settings. When I offered Hebask the folder again, he was able to accept it – I then ran through the instructions I’d written once more using Hebask to make sure the texture and script still worked.
I wanted to add an element of differentiation to the workshop so decided that participants could either use the texture given to them at the start of the workshop or select a colour and level of shininess from the default colour palette. I then had a go at making treasure from a single prim made into a coin, given a golden sheen from the shininess and texture menus and copied and linked repeatedly until I’d made a pile of coins. I positioned this into the treasure chest, added a bottle and a goblet I already had in my inventory and linked the whole lot. Adding treasure meant that I now had an extension task at a higher level, so I wrote instructions for this, pasted these into a notecard and added this to the participants’ folders. I then rezzed a basic (and very small) dessert island and put the treasure chest containing treasure on it, along with a mail box I had used in my Travel Guide activity at the end of last year. Participants could leave comments via notecards in the mailbox after the workshop, so I emptied out the cards that had been put in at the end of the previous activity, made the mail box smaller, changed the textures, and then linked this to the island too.
I was really getting into the whole pirate thing, so I typed “free pirate costume” into the search engine and managed to locate some pirate shirts and pants, an eye patch, a rapier and even a cigar. As I was changing my appearance (again, in the MUVEnation sandbox) I ran into another MUVEnation member and jokingly remarked that I needed a parrot to complete my look. We checked my inventory, and found a parrot (though how or when I picked up a parrot in my travels Lord alone knows!). I managed to attach it to my shoulder and position it so it sat realistically, and a few days later my MUVEnation colleague sent me a script that made the parrot repeat things that I said randomly.
I advertised my workshop on the wiki, making sure the time I set was accessible in SLT, GMT and CET. I had my participants’ folders with notecards containing trunk and treasure-building instructions, a trunk texture, lid script and one gold coin. I had a Word document with instructions that could be copied and pasted to the local chat banner. I had a pirate costume, a miniature desert island and a selection of trunks of different colours and textures, one with treasure in. And I had Eric the parrot, complete with his repetition script. The final piece of the puzzle came when I read about someithng called a “Speakeasy HUD” in another course member’s blog. I had one of these in my inventory already (honestly – days of picking up freebies has obviously paid off), and read the instructions to check how to add my instructions. Now all I had to do was wear the HUD and click on it whenever I wanted a line from my instructions to be delivered via local chat.

THE WORKSHOP

I allocated 10 participant places for the workshop and I was really pleased that they filled quickly. The workshop was advertised on a separate discussion thread that formed part of the activity 2 forum, posted in the events calendar on moodle and advertised on the timetable for workshops page of the MUVEnation wiki. I was surprised at how many hours I had spent preparing and thinking about the workshop and how as it came closer I began to get more and more nervous. I dreamt about it at night, and spent the whole day of the workshop getting more and more nervous. It pre-occupied my thoughts and by early evening I have to admit that I was starting to think of ways to get out of doing it! I spent the day on SL, panicked when my avatar stated playing up (Sod’s Law), ran through everything about 6 times to make sure everything ran like clockwork, and at 6.00 GMT I logged into SL for the final time, put on my pirate costume, sat Eric the parrot on my shoulder, flew to the MUVEnation sandbox and began to set up my desert island and demonstration trunks.
Twenty minutes before the workshop was due to start 3 participants turned up – all were lovely, said the pirate costume looked cool and immediately made me feel at ease. (My fellow MUVEnationers are all so supportive – this needs to be metioned)
However, by 7.00 – kick off time- nobody else had arrived (even though 10 participants and one non-participating observer had booked places), and my five past I felt that I needed to start as I didn’t want people to be hanging around. I handed out participants’ folders (and was relieved when they were accepted without any permissions issues) and told the group via local chat the following (by copying and pasting each point into the chat banner):
· Today you will use building skills to make a treasure chest (trunk) with a lid that opens and closes when touched. You should all have a folder with a script, a texture, a coin and some instructions in it.
· The workshop should only take about half an hour to work through, and at the end if you are feeling confident there will be an extra activity at a slightly higher level you can choose to complete.
· It will be best if you all form a semi-circle around me so we can all see and hear each other.
· I will be using local chat to give you all instructions. Click on Communicate at the bottom of your screen then click on the local chat tab to read these. You can then scroll through instructions if you get lost.
· You can also IM me if you have any questions or need any extra assistance. I will try and answer your questions as quickly as I can.
· Would anyone like to work in a pair if they aren’t feeling very confident?
· Okay then shipmates…here we go…
At this point, as I attached the speakeasy HUD, I noticed that participants were already starting to make their treasure chests. I started to issue instructions, noticing that a couple of group members were further ahead than the instructions issued via the HUD…then realised that they were obviously using the instructions on the notecards they’d been given rather than the ones appearing command by command via the local chat. This, and the disappointment and odd sense of failure I was already feeling because only 3 participants (plus one latecomer) had shown up threw me, so I felt a bit cast adrift…especially when I noticed that the participants were all working at a completely different pace to one another; one was racing along, already linking prims and adding the treasure chest texture, one was not far behind, the late comer was catching up rapidly, but one was having trouble and needed some assistance. I went over to her and offered to help, and a fellow participant copied her basic trunk shape and gave to the troubled group member who had somehow managed to taper her prim so it had taken on a rhomboid appearance-something easily done, but that I hadn’t accounted for in my preparation . I returned to issuing instructions via the HUD, but had now fallen so far behind that whenever I issued a command I was concerned that participants would be confused by having too much information thrown at them out of sequence-they were all at different stages anyway, so this would no longer be a satisfactory way of running the session.
By now I felt that I was losing control and actually started to feel very hot and stressed in RL – I could actually feel sweat rolling down my back, though luckily, my discomfort couldn’t be seen in world!
I had to make a decision – and that was to detach the Speakeasy HUD and stop using it and to continue to allow participants to follow the notecard instructions at their own pace. As they did this, I walked around the group and offered praise, encouragement and assistance as an when required.
One very positive aspect was that participants were all really happy when their treasure chest lids opened. One had trouble getting the lid to rotate as opposed to the whole chest – my own experience with the “ice house” meant that I could give instruction via local chat, and her lid opened correctly afterwards. Two made treasure from the coins and extension task instructions and had already added the texture given to them at the start of the workshop to their completed treasure chests, so the differentiation / extension activity worked. However, one had trouble with adding her script – this was because she had been given a trunk base by another participant but the permissions hadn’t been altered so that she could modify it. I quickly dragged a completed trunk from my inventory, unlinked the prims, separated trunk base from lid and re-linked their constituent parts, changed the permissions and deleted the script and textures so that I had templates of both parts of the trunk that could be given to and modified by anyone, but the participant said that she had to leave because she needed to make dinner (it was now after 8.00 GMT) and that she would use the instructions she’d been given at the start of the session to try again in her own time. I am now quite concerned that her confidence gas been knocked because everyone else finished their trunk: non-verbal communication isn’t easy to read in world, so whether she was genuinely happy with the progress she’d made and really did need to head off to make dinner or not I do not know.
REFLECTION

CURATE’S EGG – “Something which is part good, part bad; a mixed bag. (Phrase Finder, 2000)

Like the Curate’s egg, the workshop was good in parts but I felt that it unravelled in others
· It took about 20 hours to plan and fine tune and an hour to deliver. Not a good ratio. I’m guessing the balance will get better with practice
· That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the planning process and also enjoy a few eureka moments / improve my building and scripting skills at the same time
· I was really disappointed with the poor turn-out and still feel that this is, somehow, my fault.
· The Speakeasy HUD is a brilliant device – but I didn’t use it properly.
· It may have been that I tried to put too much in the workshop – building, linking and duplicating prims and adding scripting elements may have been just too much
· The extension activity was a good idea
· Giving participants all the stuff they need to complete the build in their own time is a good idea – after we’d finished and I was clearing up a few MUVEnation members arrived to practise their own workshops, and I was able to give them copies of the workshop folders too.
· Getting participants to work at their own pace via a notecard with instructions whilst facilitating rather than instructing works – but probably only because the group was so small. Larger groups would possibly need either two or more facilitators moving around the group or a more didactic approach
· It may be an idea to give notecards out at the end of the workshop so participants have no choice but to follow the teacher’s step by step instructions-if the group was bigger, this may work well
· It’s not nerve wracking once you start – participants are very supportive
· I really enjoyed it – now that I’ve had24 hours to reflect and the immediate feelings that it had been a complete disaster have gone, I can honestly say that I had a great time delivering the workshop – and that there were bits that did work well

I’ll add to this post when I’ve had some participant feedback…
UPDATE (01/03/09)

Feedback from participants was very positive: maybe I was being overly critical and hard on myself, possibly because this is how my role in RL has made me (which is no bad thing). The participants seemed to find the workshop useful and genuinely enjoyable, and lack of numbers was down to the session being run on a Sunday evening and because I didn’t send group notices to remind people when it was.

Subsequently I ran the workshop a second time (without the Speakeasy HUD and as a completely self-paced session) on my skybox, and participation was much better (see image below). Participants were more critical too, and made some good points: namely that my notecard instructions were hard to follow layout-wise: each instruction was bullet pointed and should really have been numbered, and text was densely packed so it was hard for participants to re-visit specific instructions if they needed to back track. In the future I shall space each numbered instruction out, as this simple format change could make a big difference.

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