Halloween on PacRimX Island

The Halloween Party on the PacRimX Island came off without a hitch. This was our first large scale test of the capacity and capability of our islands. For the first time students on both sides of the Pacific had voice enabled headsets available to them. The intent of this event to was to introduce the Kyoto students to the American celebration of Halloween. It was also the first opportunity to use voice between the students.

I was unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it) not able to attend this milestone event. I was required at a groundbreaking for our new high school that will be opening in the Fall of 2010. Considering this will be another technology heavy campus, I was very excited to finally be attending this groundbreaking. I couldn’t help but wonder how things were going on the island.

I had gotten on late in the afternoon to make sure everything was in order with the Haunted House. We used this haunted house to distribute some free avatars and wings for students to use for their costumes. There was a problem the night before with the boxes giving out the avatars, so the night before I asked one of my sons to get on and modify the scripts to fix the problem. I had not had a chance to check with him that morning to see if he had finished. Not only had he finished, he disabled the push features of the swords and light sabers to comply with the rules of the island. His avatar name is Giere, and he’s a big help with the new students and the project in general.

Here’s a picture of one of the Modesto welcoming committees on the island waiting for the Kyoto students to arrive:

We had two labs at two different high schools (Modesto High and Johansen High School) open for this event. ROP funded these labs to be open from 4:00pm – 8:00pm. There were also a fair number of students who logged in from home. The time on the PacRimX Wiki (a private wiki) was posted as:

October 30th, 2007 (4:50 – 5:40 PM in Modesto) October 31st, 2007 (8:50 – 9:40 AM in Kyoto)

So it technically was not yet Halloween in Modesto. The time difference has interesting effects on some of our events. I am sure this schedule made it possible for many more Modesto students to participate in this event than if it had been in Modesto on Halloween night.

The Kyoto students arrived in full costume a little before 5:00pm. As always, their avatars were very colorful and abstract. I am always amazed at the creativity of the Japanese students in breaking away from the standard human looking avatars and coming up with completely unique avatars.

Since I was not there, I asked for a recap from one of the teachers running one of the afterschool labs. Here is the account of the event by Kathy Soares, our Modesto High School teacher involved in the project:

This was our first attempt at voice chat and I think it went well. It definitely was the most crowded I have seen the island. As the Japanese students began logging on, my students gathered at the Haunted Modesto Island. I had students in the classroom, as well as many more from home.

The students began to approach each other and at first were just saying ‘hi’. Soon, however, they began talking about music, baseball (the Japanese students would use phrases such as “Barry Bonds”, “Major League” ), and soccer etc.  My students tried to get the Japanese to dance, but they didn’t want to.  Who can blame them?

The time went so fast.  MHS students were saying, “Why do they have to leave?” as the Japanese began logging off.  I had to remind them they are at school in Japan and had to go to their next class. My students are looking forward to the next meeting with the students from Japan.”

Brad Cornwell (Johansen High School Teacher) reports back the following:

“The event was a success! The students had a great time, and most attempted interaction with the Japanese students. You could frequently hear greetings in both English and Japanese all over the islands as students interacted, and almost all of the student’s avatars were dressed up in costumes. There were Japanese students dressed as their favorite cartoon characters and American students dressed as everything from zombies to the kool-aid guy.”

Estimates were that there were upwards of 75 students online at the peak of this event. The teachers said that the students were clumping up in large groups, and that made it hard for conversation. At the next event we will set up areas for the hosting students, and then let the others students move around between these areas. That should help with keeping the conversations manageable.

I got home from the groundbreaking in time to see some of the dancing, and listen in to the conversations. Towards the end of the event there was an earthquake (real world) that really shook Modesto. That kept the buzz going for at least a half hour past the official end of the event. Overall it was nice to see this come off without any major technological glitches. We had some lag in one of the labs, and we’ll be looking into that in the coming week.

The Modesto students are really looking forward to the “Festival of Ages” celebration that the Kyoto students will be hosting this month on their island. The floats and displays are already being built by the Kyoto students.

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