Archive - Oct 2007

October 14th

Harnessing the power of youth and creativity

I'm sitting at a table at The Bistro East at the Litchfield Inn in Litchfield, CT. I am at Poets and Writers for Avery. The purpose of this gathering is to help raise funds for Avery Doninger's legal battle for her freedom of speech. But really, it feels like it is about so much more. Students are selling buttons they have made. Young Vic is the lead off band, young. Three young men exuding passionate, creative energy. Yesterday, I wrote about the National School Board Association (NSBA) online conference this coming week about trying to harness some of the energy students put into their online existence. Avery's case, with the help of some skillful organizing by Andy Thibault has brought together some of that raw energy to fight for our most basic rights.

My new cellphone sends video, so I've posted text, pictures, and videos to various sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blip.TV, and Flickr. There is Wifi here, but the signal is week, so I will try to live blog as much of this as I can, reverting back to mobile blogging when the WiFi fades.

If you can make it up to Litchfield, please come.

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October 13th

Harnessing the power of engaging Internet technology in the classroom

In Tuesday’s Hartford Courant, there was an Op-Ed by Melinda French Gates entitled Students Leaving School Unprepared For College, Work. It recited the standard litany of problems. “Students are sitting in classrooms, bored and unchallenged, and are being left unprepared for the future.” Over a million students dropped out of high school last year. Even students with 4.0 GPAs get off to college and find themselves unprepared.

The article suggested that we need to ask many more questions at the presidential debates about education. That might help, but the rubber meets the road in the local communities and we need to add some focus there.

Do you know who is on your school board? Have you spoken with them about educational priorities in your community and how we can achieve them? Have you spoken to the principal at your local high school or the superintendent of your local school district?

Somehow, I’ve ended up on the mailing list of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). This coming Wednesday, they will hold an online forum entitled, “What are the Educational Benefits of Social Networking for Students and Teachers?” The email I received about this said,

New research by NSBA and Grunwald Associates shows that teens are doing more than hanging out in social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. In fact, 70 percent of online students report discussing education-related topics such as college or college planning, learning outside of school, and careers; and 50 percent of online students say they talk specifically about schoolwork. But how can schools harness this engaging technology tool in the classroom to increase learning for students?

Not only are they discussing education-related topics, but sometimes they even use derogatory terms to criticize school administrations, and that is where you get a true view of how willing a school is to harness the engaging technologies of the internet to increase students’ learning.

The Avery Doninger case in Burlington, CT is a perfect example of this. When Avery used derogatory terms to criticize school administrators, those administrators sought to discourage discourse instead of encourage it. They prohibited students from wearing T-shirts showing support of Avery. They disregarded the voice of the student body who wrote in Avery’s name for the class election the school administration had barred her from running in.

Other schools have recognized the value of this teachable moment and I will be speaking at at least one other high school in Connecticut about Avery’s case and about how the students can use internet technologies to become better advocates of their own positions and along the way, learn better writing and computer skills.

Perhaps school board members in Connecticut will participate in the NSBA’s online forum this week. Perhaps, even more importantly, the voters in Connecticut will take Melissa French Gate’s suggestion to ask more questions about education, and take those questions not only to presidential candidates but also to candidates running for local school boards.

Is your school district harnessing the power of Internet technology to engage students and increase their learning? Or, is your school district attempting to curtail students’ efforts to grapple with technology, advocacy and all the complicated issues of being a teenager in the twenty first century?

Get out and ask those questions before you vote in your next school board election.

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October 12th

Ginko Sells land to Quanta Torok

Today at the Ginko Financial region in Second Life Island, it was announce that Ginko was selling the land to Quanta Torok. Quanta will be using this land to set up his new bank which will be based on deposits backed by gold deposited at Bullionvault.com. Initially, Quanta plans to deposit $20,000 in Bullion Vault. He lives in the Denver area, and has offered to release his ‘secret name’ at the vault, as well as real life name and phone number.

Quanta is also interested in OpenSim and I have spoken with him a little bit about how a gold based bank operating in Second Life could be an interesting platform for inter-grid as well as inter-game financial services. It could also open up Second Life to micro commodity trading. Who knows, it could easily to other forms of micro commodity trading in Second Life.

The Ginko Financial region will be renamed to Andalusia. When I hear Andalusia, my mind goes to Luis Bunuel’s famous film, Un Chien Andalou, which he wrote in 1929, just before the stock market crash, with Surrealist master Salvador Dali. This film was followed by L’Age d’or, The Age of Gold, another surrealist masterpiece collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali.

It is unclear how the proceeds from the land sale will be used or distributed, but dividends on the Ginko Perpetual Bonds, WSE.GPB are said to be due on Nov 1st, and some may come in that form. GPB trading on the World Stock Exchange so far seems unaffected by the land sale.

It will be interesting to see what develops next.

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Contemplating Mortality

Before there was Second Life, before Fiona, before I met Kim, there was LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO is a text based virtual reality, a programmable chat room, Second Life with nothing but text. Over time people built other MOOs, connected them together, added web interfaces and so on, but LambdaMOO is the flagship.

I’ve been on LambdaMOO for about fourteen years now. Friends there helped me through my divorce. I celebrated New Years Eve with them, sometimes online, sometimes at bashes where they would gather. I’ve stayed in real life cabins with crowds of MOOers and on September 11th, I hung out in the MOOs to talk with friends about the events of the day.

On November 1, 2000 Kim and I celebrated our marriage in LambdaMOO. I have a log of the wedding ceremony which I’ll have to get back online soon.

One person who attended our wedding was Xaviera. Neither Kim nor I ever met Xaviera face to face, but we would often talk in the Living Room of Lambda.

In Lambda, people have entrance messages, a phrase that gets displayed when a person enters a room. Xaviera’s entrance message was

“Xaviera lights a cigarette and contemplates your mortality.”

Today, I contemplate her mortality. As I was hanging out in Second Life, an old LambdaMOO refugee got in touch with me. He asked if I had heard about Xaviera’s death. Several months ago, she had moved back to Worchester, MA and was living in an apartment by herself. Another friend told me she had a degenerative disease in her legs and hips. Whatever the reason, she slipped and fell in the shower. She hit her head and died of the head injuries.

I don’t know how old Xaviera was. I always thought of her as being younger than myself, and it is strange to be contemplating the death of a friend who you think of as younger than you, even if the friendship was only an online friendship.

So, as part of my homage to Xaviera, let me post her description as she appeared at our wedding:

Xaviera

If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folks who give me pains;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.

But I have no lethal weapon-
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.

-Dorothy Parker

Xaviera is wearing her ghost dance shirt. She proudly displays Xaviera's
Official Helpful Person Badge.
She is awake and looks alert.
Carrying:
subpoena compact
Pumpkin Seeds Blue Topaz Ring
little blue dildo vanilla body oil
yoyo Xaviera's smile
toy gun

Just as people on LambdaMOO have entrance messages, they also have exit messages. Before Xaviera left the wedding she exclaimed, “"For 100 years!!!"” She left with the exit message, “Xaviera looks for other. . .amusements.” May she find those other amusements and never be forgotten.

Mine exit message is “you leave em laughing when you go”. It is from Both Sides now, by Joni Mitchell.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I don’t know life at all, perhaps none of us do. Yet as we contemplate our mortality, it is important to leave people laughing as we look for other amusements.

Rest in Peace, Xaviera

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Starting to explore Zude!

We finally have a crisp clear autumnal day, and Fiona and I are both sick. If it weren’t so, perhaps she and I would be running around outside. Instead, she is watching some mindless television and I’m doing very simple tasks online.

Really, I should be working on job opportunities. I desperately need to get some cash coming in the door. I should also probably be writing a lot more. There is plenty going on in politics right now, most of it eclipsed by Gore’s Noble Peace Prize. There is plenty going on in Second Life, particularly in the financial services sector, as well as with the Streambase deal with Linden Labs. I also really need to promote the Poets and Writers for Avery event this coming Sunday.

But I have no energy. My mind is befuddled with a headache. I need something fun and simple to do. Last night, I spent a little time configuring my new phone for uploading text, pictures and videos to appropriate places online. I set up special new cellphone email and IM accounts. It kept me busy for a little bit.

This morning, I did something a bit more fun. I spent time tweaking my Zude! page. People are suggesting that Zude! could be the gold standard for next generation Social Network pages, the site that knocks off MySpace. MySpace has incredible inertia. Everyone is on it and it isn’t going anywhere. That is a plus on why it won’t go away anytime soon, but it is also a negative in why their time is ending.

MySpace is ugly. It is a pain to customize. Facebook is moving in the right direction with the Facebook Apps. Yahoo! Mash looks interesting, but hasn’t drawn me in the way Zude! has.