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Teaching in SL

Over the years, I have been incorporating more and more technology into my chemistry classes. Here's a PP presentation I gave not that long ago. This fall (2010) will be my 3rd semester at trying to incorporate optional weekly review sessions into SL. Optional for a few reasons. (1) My classes are large; I teach two classes of about 250 students each, so obviously I cannot have everyone in SL at the same time. (2) I do have a few students under 18 - which is problematic. (3) Some students are very uncomfortable in SL. Here I'll be blogging about the trials/tribulations of encouraging students to get involved in SL. Here's the link to a video clip of a tour of my area:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Made our local newspaper!

Hi, all - The TAMU Health Science Center had their ribbon cutting yesterday on their new SL islands that are connected to our islands.  We had about 20 people in SL for the event.  Our local paper reported it and here is the link to the article: .  I made the front page!  This was a big deal - the Nancy Dickey, the president of HSC and past president of the AMA gave a speech in SL and even one of the Lindens, Teeple Linden, was there to talk of the importance of the educational mission of Linden Labs.  I asked him about the disappearance of the educational discount and the hardship it was placing on us university folks.  He said I should drop him a notecard with my concerns.  That is one of today's projects for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chemist as Artist Project

I'm now creating another chemistry learning module in my area of Second Life - Chemist as Artist, where students are given a molecule (created by Hiro Sheridan's molecule rezzer), then they have to link the atoms & bonds together, make a copy, rotate each one to form two different orientations, and draw them in 2-D using solid lines, wedges and dashed lines.  My hope is that students will begin to be able to do the reverse:  look at a 2-D drawing and in their minds' eye be able to picture the 3-D molecule.  Here is the powerpoint presentation, which you can also view in SL. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dr. K's Molecule Game

Well, after hours and hours and hours of playing with objects, scripts, permissions (agh) and instructional design, Dr. K's Molecule Game is ready for folks to try out.  My student avatar could get through it so I'm hoping it is now working well.  If you want to try and you're not a chemist - here are the answers to the 5 stations:  6, 2, 63, nitrogen trifluoride, and 13, in that order.  Please give me feedback.  Its purpose is three fold: (1) to help my students learn to work within Second Life, (2) to have them apply a bit of chemistry knowledge and (3) to introduce them to the 3-D nature of molecules. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Ahead Full for SL Study

Hi, all - I've been meeting with my Ph.D. student, Ms. Zahira Merchant.  She and I are conducting a study of student learning in my chemistry site for her dissertation.  The study will be conducted during Spring 2011.  Since I have two classes, so one will be learning molecular shapes in SL, and the other class will be learning the shapes using traditional 2-D approach.  She and I made a video tour of my site for an initial presentation.  Here it is:
You can also watch it on my movie screen in SL and link to it from a sign at the entrance.  

One of the issues is getting students familiar enough with SL so as to not inhibit their learning during the actual study.  So, I'm going to be arranging a tiny scavenger hunt (5 stops) and at each one, the student will have to rez a molecule and answer a question about it - not on its shape, but on its composition or name or simple calculation, like % by mass.  This exercise will get students used to working with the tasks they will be expected to do during the learning module.  I'm using the scavenger hunt by Alice Klinger and Alli&Ali Designs called "A&A Networked Scavenger Hunt Kit."  It is expensive - about $50 = $L12,000, but it is very sophisticated and folks must answer a question before they can proceed to the next item.  I'll let you know when it is set up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Streaming My Personal Sympodium into SL

One of the most important parts of running office hours or a review session for a chemistry class is being able to work out problems.  So how would I do that in SL?  Our TAMU Instructional Technology Services folks and I searched for months before we found Wirecast from Telestream, which turns my own PC computer into a streaming server.   It did cost $450, but it was well worth it.  About a year ago, I bought myself my own Sympodium.  With Camtasia I was able to make videos that I posted on my website - they are definitely not professional, but my students find them useful.  Wirecast was fairly straightforward to install, but I admit I had my buddie, Ranil, from ITS, take care of it.  Initially, some students couldn't see the stream, but now that I tell them they must have Quicktime on their computer, and if they are off-campus, they must set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to get past TAMU's firewall, I think we're good to go.  I spent this afternoon at a local pub, Fitzwilly's (with free wireless) outside TAMU's firewall to make sure that off-campus students could see my desktop.  We'll have to see - the test will be my SL review session this Sunday......  As a note - the review session went great - all could see the board just fine, once VPN was in place!!  Whoop!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Invited Speaker in SL - An Attempt

Last week, I was one of three invited speakers to a SL session at BCCE (Biennial Conference in Chemical Education) in Denton, TX run by  Chimera Cosmos (Liz Dorland).  Here is her blog - look at the August 9 entry.:

blog:  (the mispelling is on purpose)

Although there were some technical difficulties and she couldn't make it to my chemistry area, Chimera was able to visit the American Chemical Society and meet with Georgianna Blackburn (Sandy Adam - the brains behind the now defunct Sigma-Aldrich Islands - ).  She did include some great pictures of my site and 50 chemistry faculty were there to see  her talk.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My thought process for this learning module...

I just had a nice chat with Chimera Cosmos in SL and we became friends.  Afterwords, I realize that I never explained why I'm spending so much time on the backside of making molecules using Hiro Sheridan's Rezzer and not having the students build them or work directly with the programs.  Teaching first year chem is a challenge and although I've been giving review sessions in SL, only a few students show.  Part of the reason is the steep learning curve for building in SL.  So I'm working to develop these VSEPR learning modules so that the emphasis is on learning VSEPR theory and not on learning more than the fundamentals of SL.  That's my ultimate goal.  I'll be trying it out in Spring 2011 since I teach off-sequence - Chem 101 in the spring.  Here's how I will incorporate this activity into the gradebook.

In my class - I give optional 3 writing assignments using Calibrated Peer Review as part of the syllabus (I'm the university administrator for this on-line program).  I plan on adding an SL assignment on VSEPR theory so that I have 4 assignments.  So their final score is based on 3 exams, 1 final, and a virtual 4th exam where I average the best 3 scores of their writing assignments (+ now their SL assignment) and their 3 exams.  The students like the ability to have some control in how their grades are determined.  As a note, I also have their on-line homework count as 100% or 20% of an exam.  I calculate their final grade both ways and give each one their better score.  I love how I can use an Excel spreadsheet to individualize student grades.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this will work.  I'll have to have an alternative for my students under the age of 18 since they won't be able to get into SL.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Making a Specific Molecular Rezzer - Part 2 - Finishing up your rezzer

(1) Once you have the hin code for your molecule or ion, the easiest way is to use a molecular rezzer that has already been built and edit it.  So enter Second Life, go to my VSEPR area.  Here is the SLURL: .  Right click on one of the boxes on the TOWER of VSEPR and take a copy.  

(2) Find a public sandbox where you can build, or use TAMU's sandbox.  Go to the entrance of my area and click on "Sandbox" on the 12th Man Map.  You'll get a landmark to the sandbox that will allow you to teleport to the sandbox that is about 750 meters above the ground.  You can build here for a couple of hours before your objects will be returned to your inventory. 

(3) Drag the Hiro Sheridan Molecular Rezzer box from your inventory to the sandbox.  Now we will edit it.  Right click on the box and pick edit.  In the General tab, change the name and make sure all the desired boxes are clicked. In the Texture tab, choose the texture you want.  (I use CorelDraw to produce appropriate jpg files.  I then upload the textures at L$10/texture to use in SL.  I'll be providing all the molecules and rezzers I use to anyone who wants them.).  Finally, under the content tab, we will only be editing the MoleculeNotecard, so right click on the notecard and choose Open.  Now, simply edit.  Change the title to the molecule of your choice - I'll use CO2.  Then copy and paste the hin data for atom 1, 2, etc.  The notecard now looks like:

mol 1 "CO2" (the quotes aren't necessary)
atom 1 - O ** - -0.18608 0.99436 0.00000 0.00000 1 2 d
atom 2 - C ** - 0.37217 2.19152 0.00000 0.00000 2 1 d 3 d
atom 3 - O ** - -0.18608 3.38867 0.00000 0.00000 1 2 d

Now hit the Save button and get out of edit mode.

(4)  To check your work,  left click on the box, and CO2 will appear before your eyes!  You can link the parts together by right clicking on an atom, choosing edit, holding down the shift key, then clicking on each individual atom and bond, then hitting control l (the letter L).  Try to click on the center atom last.  You'll see all the objects in blue with the last object you linked in yellow.  (Note: to unlink, hit Control Shift l (letter L).  Now the molecule is a single unit.  To name it, go into edit mode, and change the name.  To get the molecule to rotate, open your inventory and search for rotation script.  You'll find one in your library.  Drag the script into the contents tab of your molecule and exit edit mode.  You'll find it rotates very fast around the center carbon atom - the last one that was linked.  To edit the script so that the molecule spins more slowly, go back into edit mode, under the contents tab and click on the rotation script.  You'll see:


The coordinates in the angle brackets set the spin (x,y,z) and the number sets the speed of the spin.  Change the 1 (I have it bolded and in red) to 0.2, then hit save.  The spin speed will be much nicer.  Now, exit edit and right click on your rezzer box again to pick "Take" which will add it to your inventory. 

(5)  Now the trick is to get out of the sand-box.  Ours is so high, most folks cannot fly out.  You can teleport home or to another site.  However, the "funnest" way is to parachute out.  Find the ramp and on your way out of the sandbox, click to buy an E-Chute.  At the top of the ramp, open your inventory, and search for the chute.  Either drag it to your back, or right click and choose wear.  Either way, the unopen chute will appear on your backside.  Now the hard part:  walk off the end of the platform and fall.  The chute will automatically open at about 100 meters.  You can use your arrow buttons to direct your descent.  It's fun!  Here I am parachuting onto our "Aggie Beach."  Unfortunately, I landed in the water. (LOL!)

Making a Specific Molecular Rezzer - Part 1 - Getting the right code for your molecule

The backbone of the VSEPR learning modules is preparing Hiro's Sheridan Molecular Rezzer boxes to create the molecules and ions you want the students to study.  Here's the way to do this for molecules/ions with 2, 3, or 4 regions of high electron density around the atom of interest.  Lone pairs of electrons are not shown and the species created are the ones that minimize formal charge.  So the sulfate ion shows 2 oxygens bonded to S with single bonds and 2 oxygens bonded to S with double bonds.

(1) Download and open the free OpenBabelGuI program from  OpenBabel is an open source chemistry toolbox.  We will use it to translate the SMILES chemical file format for our molecules into hin (HyperChem HIN) format; this is the formate that the Hiro Sheridan's Molecular Rezzer uses to create molecules.

(2) Go to and type the name or formula of the molecule you want the rezzer to create into the search box. is an on-line chemistry community that provides free access to millions of chemical structures.  Type in CO2.  You can now find that the SMILES formate for CO2 is
C(=O)=O after you click on Machine readable identifiers.  Hit the COPY button.

(3) In the open program, OpenBableGUI, select smi (SMILES) as your input format and click on "Input below" box.  Paste the SMILES data (e.g. C(=O)=O) into the input box.  In the center section, make sure that "Add hydrogen" and "Generate 3-D Coordinates' boxes are checked.  In the right section, select hin-HyperChem HIN as your format, and put a check in the box "Output below only." Now, click on "CONVERT" button in top middle.  In the right hand box, you'll see:

mol 1 ""
atom 1 - O ** - -0.18608 0.99436 0.00000 0.00000 1 2 d
atom 2 - C ** - 0.37217 2.19152 0.00000 0.00000 2 1 d 3 d
atom 3 - O ** - -0.18608 3.38867 0.00000 0.00000 1 2 d
endmol 1

You'll only be using the bolded part.  Here's what the OpenBabelGUI page should look like.

VSEPR Species Giver

Hi, all - I've now got the prototype for my VSEPR learning module - see June 28th blog.  You can try it out as a student and get a copy of it for yourself to see how it works from an instructor perspective.  The instructions are given in the contents list.  It is set to give the student 2 molecules that are simple octet violators - the molecules aren't rezzed yet.  They will build themselves before the students' eyes using Hiro Sheridan's Molecular Rezzer.  I plan then on giving the students an assignment sheet to:
(1) rez the molecules/ions and take a picture of yourself with the molecule/ion.
(2) draw an appropriate dot stucture for the molecule.
(3) give the electronic and molecular geometry
(4) give the bond anges and the hybridization of the center atom.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Free Stuff for Faculty

Hi, all - I've just built the prototype for how I'm going to give away my teaching/learning materials.  Take a look! The backdrop is the MetalGrate texture you can find in the SL texture library in your inventory (under building).  I like it because it provides structure, but you can see through it, so the views aren't blocked and one doesn't feel claustrophobic.  This is why I've used it throughout my space.  The colored squares contain the content I'm giving away.  When you left-click, you automatically get the buy option to get a copy of the square and its contents.  Buying a copy of the square is better than buying the content since inventory control is always an issue - especially for me.  Also, the panel textures have duplicate names (false01, true01, etc.) which would be a nightmare if I had folks just buy the content.  The pink squares contain the panel textures for Chem 101 quiz obelisks (you still need to buy the obelisk (Big Quiz Rezzer-Structured) from Eloise Pasteur).  The blue squares contain the panel textures for the Chem 102 quiz obelisks.  The yellow squares are for the Tower of VSEPR project, including the new script for giving objects to students in a controlled manner.  Now, folks who want to use some or all of my quiz panels can get them without uploading anything and paying L$10 per panel.   

Monday, June 28, 2010

Object Giver Script

Hi, all - just finished "speaking" with my new friend BetterThan Ordinary, also known as "Sphere" for short.
Sphere is a scriptor who I met through the Second Life Forum on Scripting when I posted my problem (see 6/22).  Sphere worked on the issue and just presented the script to me today!  It looks great.  Sphere gave me permission to give it out to anyone who wants it, you can find it on the Free Gifts for Faculty panel near the Tower of VSEPR.  Here is the first rendition of the instructions notecard: 

This script allows you to give items to students, as in a homework assignment. You set how many (1, 2, or 3) objects are given to each person who clicks. It keeps a list of which items were given to each student ... and it gives you reports upon request.

1) Rez your "item giver" prim and load the items to be given.
2) Add the script.
3) Open the script in the prim's contents, check the "Mono" box, and "Save."
4) When you click the box, you get a menu. The following options are available to you.
A) Power On/Off = turn the unit on/off. When it is off, it will not give items away.
B) Give 1, Give 2, Give 3 = set the number of items to give when a person clicks. Once a person has gotten objects, clicking again will remind them of the objects they were given.
C) Student Rpt = get a list of students who have received objects, along with the objects they received.
D) Item Rpt = Get a list of the items in the contents, along with the individuals to whom each was given.
E) Reset Student = Allows you to reset an individual student, and they will be allowed to click and receive objects again.
F) Backup = Gives you a list, to be placed in a notecard (see below), which resets the device with those values. This is an alternate way to reset individual students, because you can simply remove them from the list.
G) Reset = Resets the device, clearing all values.
H) Cancel = Turn off the menu without making a choice.


The "Backup" option will give you some information to be placed in a notecard. This allows the object to be reset, but without deleting all of the values contained in memory. If you desire to remove individuals, you may do so.
To do this:
1) Click the "Backup" button and get the listing.
2) Create a new notecard in your inventory. Set the name to "Reset Values."
3) Copy, beginning with (and including) the "***START***" line, and ending with (and including) the "***END***" line, all of the information to the notecard.
4) Remove the lines for any students you would like to delete.
5) Save the notecard.
6) Add the notecard to the object's contents. The script will be reset with those values, and will automatically delete that notecard from the contents when finished.
That's all there is to it! Enjoy your object giver.

BetterThan Ordinary
Betr Scripz

Obelisk Quizzes

I'm taking a little break from VSEPR theory to work on my obelisk quizzes for Chem 102.  I'm using a similar system to the one that Horace Moody uses for organic chemistry.  The obelisk quizzing system is by Eloise Pasteur and can easily be bought at  Big Quiz Rezzer-structured, which I use, and Big Quiz Rezzer-random, costing L$350.  They are copyable, so you only have to buy it once.  I changed the texture so that each obelisk covers the material for a chapter.  I wanted mine structured so that the same 4 squares appear together, 3 false statements and 1 true.  Each set generally represents a topic in the class.  When you click on a square, if you picked the correct one, you are given another set of 4 choices.  If you picked the wrong one, you have to start at the beginning again.

This is a great way to direct a review session in SL for students.  You do have to watch out for students who want to click a square, before you finish discussing all the options.  If they pick wrong, it's back to the beginning again. 

The downside is the creating and uploading of each choice.  I make mine in Corel Draw, but I know you can use power point.  You then have to upload each drawing/PP slide into SL at L$10 a shot.  If you have 15 sets of statements, that is 60 file uploads and L$600 (about $2.25 as of yesterday).  If you would like any of my quzzes (not the quiz obelisk, but the actual quiz textures), I'm happy to give them to you - just email me at or IM me in world.  That way you wouldn't have to pay to upload them.

I actually combine the quiz obelisk with an in-world clicker system called Pollster from Azwaldo Villota that I bought for L$299.  It works perfectly.  There are 4 colored squares arranged just like the squares in the quiz obelisk system.  This allows students to make their choices before you start the discussion on each topic.  The students are involved in the process and even newbies can handle this.  The only issue is that students will click on the quiz obelisk square rather than the pollster square, and the class will either be sent back to the begiinning, or you'll move onto the next topic too soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Great Resource for SL

Hi, all - wanted to talk about a great resource for newbie's in SL: 
Second Life Blogs > Second Life Forums > Scripting > Discussions.
To see the benefits, here is the link to my question so you can see all the nice people helping me out:  How do I script a random gift giver for a chemistry assignment?  The issues are still being worked out.  The purpose behind this script would be to give a student a random 3-D molecule or ion to build and then give info about.  I plan on having several of these molecule kiosts, one each for different classification of molecules:  octet obeyers, octet disobeyers, ions, molecules with lone pairs, molecules that exhibit resonance, etc.  The student will pick one molecule/ion from each kiosk to work on.  At least, that's the plan for now.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tower of VSEPR examples

Hi, all - I just put out a small blue/green hemisphere near my Tower of VSEPR so that anyone can have their own!  Right click on the hemisphere and you can "buy" for free the tower, the examples and the Hiro Sheridan Molecular Rezzers that create each example.  There is also a protractor which can help measure the angles.  Be careful when you use Hiro's rezzers - if you just click on them, the molecule will appear before eyes!  Actually that's a lot of fun! You then have to link the atoms together.  I'll put a notecard in the hemisphere soon to explain everything.  Happy playing!

Wendy  :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

VSEPR Learning Module

My present project is creating a learning module on VSEPR (Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion) Theory, which allows students to figure out the geometries of molecules and ions. I've got the basics done now, using Hiro Sheridan's Molecular Rezzer. You can go now to my SL site , take copies of the VSEPR tower, the molecular rezzer boxes that will create the basic VSEPR shapes and the actual created molecules.  You'll find a pre-quiz you can take and an elevator to take you from one floor to another.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Setting up my blog

Here I am outside Oslo in Norway, deciding how to set up my blog.  Hubbie is attending the Oslo Science Conference for the International Polar Year (he is President of SCAR - Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) and I get to travel with him during the summer. 

I have spent months working on my SL corner of 12th Man Island - getting it up so that I can easily work with newbie students in SL.  I've learned quite a bit as well.  Over the summer and beyond, I will be sharing what I've done and if I've created it, you can go to my SL area and copy it.