The Holodeck versus the Builder’s Buddy script: 3 teacher’s point of view
June 23rd, 2010 • MUVEs
Last year, during the MUVEnation programme we explored different holodeck technologies for the design and deployment of flexible learning scenarios inworld. Amongst these, we focused in the 2in1 Production Holodeck by Inside This World and the Builder’s Buddy Script by Newfie Pendragon.
Professor Shirley Williams, from The University of Reading, led this process and developed herself the tutorials that we first used in the course: Building with limited space, Workshop on using the Builder’s Buddy Script, Unpacking your Holodeck, and Putting content inside your Holodeck. She also blogged about it here: Holodeck: first steps at production and Builder’s Buddy First workshop
The participants found the process particularly challenging. We even had a collection of Holodeck horror tales in a dedicated forum! But despite the complexity, 50 participants effectively engaged in and completed the production of their learning scenario with either the holodeck or the Builder’s Buddy Script. To support this process, I have also developed a detailed visual tutorial of the 2in1 Production Holodeck that can be found here: Creating a simple scene with the Holodeck!
The release of these tutorials launched an interesting discussion about pro and cons of the 2in1 Production Holodeck for educators and its comparison with the Builder’s Buddy Script. You will find here 3 teacher’s point of view about their use, all based in personal experience of the tools: Jaime Álamo Serrano, professor of chemistry at the University of Valencia, Spain; Nergiz Kern, English language teacher in Turkey, presently completing a MA in Educational Technology and TESOL at the University of Manchester; and me!
For Jaime, the main criticism was related to the conceptual differences between exterior and interior scenes that are not so clear:
I would add that the difference between exterior and interior are not so clear. For instance, to say that a house is the exterior and the furniture is the interior is very restrictive idea, because you cannot ass more interior scenes as any new replaces the former. Instead think of ‘exterior’ as what will be permanent and not changed accordd different ‘changing’ (interior) scenes. Another example: think of your classroom. Some furniture will be always the same, but in each day or session you’ll use specific scenes for the topic of that class. You need different interior to practice different sets of vocabulary, botanical species, architectonic samples, and so on. So that part of the furniture, educational tools and other parts being always there should be ‘exterior’. A kitchen, another example, will have different foods each time you teach how to cook. These changing foods will be the interior.
In relation to using the Holodeck versus the BB script, Jaime’s opinion is that:
- The Builder’s Buddy is much more customizable than the Holodeck. It’s open source and free.
- Also the BB rezzes the components more precisely and much better than with the Holodeck
- Also the BB has the possibilities to Reset and Record again that the Holodecks lacks.
- In addition when using the BB you can nest several levels of BB scripts. When using the Holodeck, only two (interior and exterior). Besides the BB provides a much nicer and intituitive menu system.
- Finally, the only issue is that you have to learn to handle the channels.
My opinion is that:
- The process of using the BB script and the Holodeck are close: making scene, putting scripts, taking back, recording position… However using the holodeck is more complex. Once you learn one, the other won’t be very difficult to learn.
- On the other hand I find the holodeck, once you’ve learned how to use it, quite practical, in one single object you have all the scenes you need.
- I agree: “the Builder’s Buddy is much more customizable than the holodeck. It’s open source and free”.
- I agree: “Also the BB has the posibilities to Reset and Record again that the holodeck lacks”.
- I agree: “Using the BB you can nest several levels of BB’s. Using the holodeck, ony two (interior and exterior)”. But I still prefer the Holodeck menu, because it offers all in one.
- Finally what I really prefer in the Holodeck is the easy way to be used by visitors and owners with different set of rights , without touching the scripts.
One issue that came often during the MUVEnation programme was the complexity of using the Holodeck. I’ve received requests for help and even complaints about people who could not use the Holodeck because it was too difficult. At the time, some of these people were not yet able to position correctly a platform or a door, to modify alone a simple script, or even to retrieve the Holodeck object in their inventory or to send a landmark to another resident’s profile. Without any doubt using the Holodeck is much more difficult than using the BB script. And in the Holodeck’s user manual, it is clearly stated that the Holodeck is for people who have two months of building experience.
But what concretely is two months of building experience for an educator? In helping the students to understand and use the Holodeck I observed that those who succeeded were confident inworld and were capable of 1) managing their inventory and retrieve perfectly any element within; 2) positioning precisely objects in the grid; 3) editing the basic features of these objects using the camera independently of their avatar’s position.
At the time of this discussion, in April 2009, Nergiz Kern’s opinion was:
So, on one side we have the issue with building skills. You need to have some basic building skills as you mention. You don’t need to really now how to “build” from scratch, though. The scenes most of us built are made up of freebie objects like chairs, boards, tables, etc.. So, you only need to be able to move them and position them where you want. The only scripting skills you need for the BB script is to be able to open a script, modify and save it. For simple scenes (that are not nested), the only thing people will need to change in the script is the channel number. The version we are using, makes changing other settings easy, too. On the other side, we have the different tools, namely the holodeck(s) and the BB script. Which is easier, more intuitive and more practical? I think we can’t anwser the more practical question clearly because a lot will depend on your needs and the purpose of the scene. If you, for example, need a shell, a holodeck can be easier because it provides you with ready shells that you can, then, modify according to your needs. In order to build shells with the BB script, you need to have good building skills and it will take time. I agree with Marga, that the holodeck allows you to have everything in one place/prim with a nice menu to select the scenes you want. On the other hand, I can easily hand out the boxed scenes made with the BB script. Holodecks, because they are commercial products, have some important limitations regarding permissions. I am not quite sure yet how far these go but this makes them less useful for educational purposes, especially when you want students to work together or don’t have the money to buy everyone a holodeck. Regarding ease of use, there seem to be huge differences between different holodecks. I have unpacked, rezzed and browsed through the scenes in the Production holodeck, unpacked the scripts, etc. But reading the long instruction and reading all your “horror” stories, did not make me want to use it. Around the same time, I was provided with a Horizons holodeck. And I have to say, creating a scene was very easy, even easier than with the BB script. There is only one script and the moment you put it into an object, it’s position is recorded. It’s also much cheaper then the Production holodeck. Another advantage is that rezzing and clearing scenes is much easier, also changing permissions from private, to public or group. When rezzed, the holodeck looks like a disk which is easier to click on than a small wall pannel. It has a small wall pannel, too and even a HUD to control it, when this is want you want. There is only one problem that I have to find out about. Once you create a scene and save it, it becomes unmodifiable which is a complete nuisance if you want to change a scene or even only rename it. My conclusion is that the BB script
- is easy to use once you have used it a couple of times and practised by creating mini scenes,
- It doesn’t cost anything,
- you can easily share your creations
- you can be creative with the box. It can come in all kinds of shapes (Nick/Corwin showed me one that came in the shape of a rucksack which had a picnic scene in it).
- The nesting allows for complex structures. Again, it was Nick I thik who showed me a kind of pyramid. Each time you clicked one level the next appeared. Great for presenting something in a gradual way.
If you have a folder in your inventory with all the boxed scenes, it is not much more difficult or time consuming to drag out the scene you need than to rez your holodeck and select the scene from the menu. Also, sometimes, you might not want others to see all your scenes. You could have differen copies of your holodeck for this but then it gets complicated again. If you want all your BB scenes in one place, you can create a picture board like you did, Marga.
Nergiz has also extensively written about her experiences using the holodecks for education in:
- Building holodeck scenes in Second Life
- Holodecks and language learning
- Holodeck or Builder’s Buddy Challenge
And you, Holodecks or Builder’s Buddy Scripts, what do you think?