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Inspiration Island

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Inspiration Island. This talk was special as it took place completely in Second Life. The images and experiences were surreal even for people who are not new to SL.The talk started in an open conference space at Inspiration Island with a virtual presentation board, which beats any screen sharing where people can only see faces and sometimes only black squares.  Amongst the avatars assisting to the talks I discovered  famous people in SL, like Gentle Heron. Our group of moocers was given a tour by Lissena/ Lynne Berret, the founder of The Ageless Mind Program and Creative Elders, her projects are focused on helping people have a healthy and fulfilling life through programs and activities in online environments. Lynne has a solid background on Positive- Psychology based Life Coaching among others.

Talks Different coaches with plots on Inspiration Island presented their work in world. Plays and Drama Bhelanna spoke about the importance of having mind, body and spirit activities and making the effort to take all levels of demand. A mind, body and spirit activity would be writing plays. People who visit her plot are interested in novelty,  play readings, drama and theatre, they are artists, writers or actors. Some people try those activities for the first time in SL. They write stage plays with one scene of about 10 minutes long. They have many audio recordings. I can imagine putting into practice that kind of activity in a language class at school, where students are not keen on performing live.

The Tour During the tour we had to wear a "follow me ring" which is a tool that made our avatars follow Lissena  to the places she wanted to show us. The ring caused laughter every time we changed scenarios because as soon as you wear the ring, you can't control your avatar, it follows the leader very closely and keeps bumping into other avatars also following. The ring is one of the things that could not happen in RL, it was a new experience that made us interact with each other. In a new SL class, where people don't know each other, I would use the ring instead of teleporting avatars, or building a stargate.

Inspiration island invites us to make our own combination to be healthy. That means you should find different things to do to maintain your mind health. There are five ingredients according to Lissena: Creative social connection, self care, sense of purpose, cognitive challenge and variety to stimulate brain. Inspiration Island offers all of them, the speakers told us about the different activities like music, meditation, sculpture, painting, self care stress reduction, Thai chi, yoga, chi gong, under water spa, green house etc.

I want to show in this article how teachers could use some of the ideas I took with me from Inspiration Island in a virtual class at school or university.

Meditation Our fist stop was a place of relaxation, where Dani made a one minute meditation exercise with us. The place and the short stay made me aware of the fact that you can also teach and learn yoga, meditation, music and many other things through SL even using only one of your senses, which is indeed a very interesting idea.  I must say that the exercise was very effective for me. Dani is also involved in meditation in RL, her SL experience has a positive effect on her students, who soon after starting meditation with her, will look for a RL group to practice. This is a very valuable fact to take into account for weak learners or people who have had bad experiences with one subject at school could start a class in SL without any compromise and then keep it going. If the class is successful, the student will then start making progress in RL. So maybe schools should have a virtual class for weak learners or difficult subjects. in SL even shy people may try something out they would never try in RL and when they have enough knowledge or confidence, they may become more open to practice it in RL. An example would be shy students of languages who won't say a word in front of the class, but who would start chatting away in SL.

Simply Impossible. Simply impossible is an amazing project by Thuja, who has made a lot of machines without using scripts. One can say that she has managed to make perpetual mobiles in SL like a ceiling fan, a perpetual swing, a dancing machine and several other machines. Thuja likes to experiment scientifically and solve problems  finding forms and function. The activities here need collaboration and deal with physics, engines, energy, robots etc. To make something like the unscripted dancing machine would be a great project for schools. They could be built in a physics class and shown on an exhibition at the end of term. I could imagine starting a pilot project in SL with one class and then inviting the whole school for a tour. That may be a good way of introducing 3D worlds into school. You need an expert like Thuja working with the class if you want the project to be a success.

The Butterfly Gallery. The Butterfly Gallery was our third stop. The building has different floors and different activities. We started watching paintings. People can reflect and work on topics while representing them on pictures. Drawing feelings. We were shown pictures manifesting feelings, some were made by two people working together. I would call it modern art therapy and imagine it is a positive way of getting rid of frustrations, anger and angst. The advantage of painting feelings is that people can work together and don't need to explain which situation they are referring to. colour, shape sizes, working as speaking, issues or states or decisions to be made, values concepts and feelings. This idea could be used to analyse a conflict at school, of course you need a psychologist to help.

The Galaxy Language. This is an impressive project dealing with research in new social and computer methods that should help encourage respect for human rights. The group has created an interactive science fiction story in order to teach strategies to solve problems making such a complex matter understandable to many people. The story has magic drums to help people learn the language of the galaxy, they function as a guide. The creators hope that the virtual science fiction adventure will help with real life situations. The work of the group can not be explained in just a few lines. It would need at least an article of its own after having a look at the story, which I am willing to write as soon as time allows.

The cultural community Hub. The Cultural Community hub is a place to share knowledge and experiences in SL. The building contains several walls with posters the avatars can click on to find other sims in search for people with similar interests. The posters are sorted out according to topics like historical places, countries, spiritual places, art places and educational places. In educational places you can find many virtual university campuses. The idea of making a collection of places to visit is very practical. Looking at the wall full of places to visit makes you realize how many places there are yet to visit, how many activities to try out and how many new things to learn and show students. I certainly can not say how many blog articles I could write about each of the places. The atmosphere in the hub was similar to that in a library where one can always find peace and quiet, but at the same time lots of inspiration. The sim is a place where you can find a diversity of people working together. Here you will find like minded people cooperating with each other, interested in so many things like: Ethnography, cultural values, architecture, nature, flora, gatherings, dialogue, wisdom and maturity, that it will be almost impossible not to find a group to stay with. Ewan was a great host. By the way, he is offering a course at university level in the fall of 2015 that will surely be a good way to learn more about the sim. I may see you there.

Art and Problem Solving. In the second floor of the octagon shaped building visitors create self portraits as sculptures as well as collaborative sculptures which sometimes have a story to go with them. I particularly liked this idea for a class doing languages, geometry and arts as people need an incredible amount of communication skills and creativity in the group to be able to build something like that. avatars can create sculptures alone or in groups.

Sustainability. Marly, who has a background in arts and psychology, is a very talented person. Her building and the variety of activities she offers can't be explained in just a few lines. The most complex project was in the 3rd floor. Marly explained that she tries to make people reflect on their position when solving a problem here. People also try to understand the position of others. Difficult topics like sustainability and climate change are, for instance, represented on her platform. There are builds representing the position of different people, charts representing decisions, pictures and mind maps made by Marly showing the complexity of the problem. The fascinating thing is that you can walk out of or into the different positions and take the role of that person. That is a way of learning tolerance trying to understand other opinions. It is  good for conflict solving. I can imagine that using the idea could make lessons in history, politics and economics at school extremely interesting and it would be great to test it at university in lessons like negotiating in a foreign language.

Looking for Solutions. There are so many people with so many points of view! I suddenly had the idea that all the points of view are little pieces of a puzzle that once put together in the correct order should result in a whole solution. 

The Dance. The last stop was a tent where we could animate the avatars and dance while we listened to the music and started reflecting on the tour. The place is a gathering point for people who like to listen to music related to different cultures. While I was watching all those different avatars wearing such different clothes and looking so different to each other I thought that the power of music can unite peoples. I remembered what Szanna, one of the speakers, said about their sim. She is right. When people gather to listen to music from different countries, they will learn about those cultures, instruments, dances, tune and traditions, they will notice influences and start mixing tunes or sharing stories, they will relax together, open their minds and maybe they will make friends with people who come from those cultures. That is an important step to keep peace and freedom in the world. That idea could also work in schools or universities. Listening to music in the classroom, explaining something about the culture (you might have one or two students who come from that country in your class) and maybe inviting people from that country to give a short talk in a history or a language lesson would be a nice change for everyone. What a pleasant way of ending the tour! We could have spent an hour at least in every sim, but time was short and the flow of information massive. Inspiration Island is a real adventure that needs many visits to fully understand the variety of activities offered by so many skilled people.



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