- I'm excited to be starting this project. It's nice to find and use new ways to help my students enjoy their English experience. The assignments that involve the use of technology are right up their alley!

3/8/08 - Well, I finally have a use for the wiki page I set up last summer! My students will use our class wiki ( for journaling. I am also setting up the Socratic Seminar in Second Life, for our post-journaling class discussion. Here we go...

3/12/08 - Yes, I stink at keeping up with journals. As a writer, I understand that this is blasphemy, but I do most of my best work on a spur-of-the-moment basis, so scheduled daily writing irks me. ANYway, my fifth period has really taken to this blogging business (as we knew they would). I have several responses to the poem on my wiki page, and they run the gamut from personal experience to world connections. This has led me to believe that my class would be best suited to five or six individual projects (24 kids, ~4 per group). Another idea I have is asking them to only develop three projects (a text to self, a text to text or person they know, and a text to world presentation), and forming smaller groups to work on the individual tasks involved in each presentation. I will run these options past the kids and see what they would prefer. They are also psyched to get back into Second Life for our Socratic Seminar next Monday!

3/17/08 - Looks like we're taking on the whole-class story! To kick off our digital storytelling project, students reflected on the poem and its connection to world events, people they know, and themselves. Many of them posted these reflections on our wiki over the weekend. On Monday, Peg Sheehy came into our classroom to discuss the project and expectations, and we began a discussion about a single unifying idea related to the poem, which our class could design a Second Life experience (storyworld) around. Students came up with a list of situations that require making difficult choices, including examples as broad as leaders’ decisions to go to war, and as close to home as their own decisions about who to be friends with.
Their overall favorite idea was related to the theme of gaining independence from the ideas and beliefs of their parents/family (big surprise – they’re teens!). Tuesday and Wednesday are reserved for Socratic Seminar discussion in Second Life, to help students expand on the feelings and concepts associated with this theme. We are all excited to get back into Second Life – my fifth period class is chock-full of talented Second Life mavens. I love the fact that the in-world Socratic Seminar provides a written record of their brainstorming. I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO DO THIS WITH YOU JULIE! BJ ! This can be extremely helpful in keeping students who are performing individual roles focused on our original thoughts and ideas, and hopefully make for a consistent (non-“patchwork-y”) project.
By Thursday of this week, students will take on the roles of narrator, music/sound specialist, image gatherer, world builder, etc., and begin piecing the class storyworld together. They‘re such bright, creative forces – I can’t wait to see the fruits of their labor!

3/18 – Interesting turn of events. Throughout the course of our Socratic Seminar, students focused more on the idea of independence from friends than from family, but some parent-related issues did come up. The theme of independence from parents seems to be too narrow for 12-13 year olds, but a theme of overall independence gives them a lot more to talk about!

Definitions of independence that came up in our discussion included the following:

  • Being by yourself
  • Freedom/separation from someone or something
  • Standing up for yourself
  • Not relying on someone else – going your own way
  • Making your own choices
  • Having your own opinions
  • Doing your own thing
  • Separation from others – being a leader
  • Doing what you want, not just what others tell you to do
  • Being different – not a follower
  • Being outspoken – not just listening to others
  • Being an individual without losing the ability to ask for help
  • Saying no
  • Not giving in to peer pressure
  • Having your own ideas and opinions
  • Risking being grounded by speaking out to parents
  • Having your own political views
  • Not being influenced by others (Holocaust example)
  • Disagreeing when parents say you can’t hang out with certain people

Picture ideas included

  • Stepping away from the crowd
  • Revolutionary War/Declaration of Independence
  • One person sitting out in gym class
  • Going to college – breaking away
  • Family picture of everyone dressed the same vs. one where they’re all different
  • People protesting
  • Conversations between people to be acted out (need to be mini convos.)

Relation of independence to the poem has only gotten as far as the idea that Robert Frost chose his own path; he did not have parents or friends around to persuade him in any way. Tomorrow is the day we focus on how it all relates!

3/19 – WOW what a class. I love these guys. For their entrance activity, I asked them to rate the given roles (narrator, music/ambient sound specialist, image gatherer, continuity director, and story-world builder) from 1 to 5, #1 being their most desired role. This aided in the designation of students to specific groups. For the most part, students were able to get their #1 choice, with only a few taking their #2 instead. Within each of the four groups, there was at least one story-world builder and continuity director, and either two music specialists or two image gatherers.

While I was sorting all of this out, I asked students to compare the bulleted list of ideas from yesterday’s discussion (made into a handout) to their copy of the Frost poem. Independently, they found at least three ideas from yesterday that corresponded to specific lines or stanzas in the poem. After five minutes, students shared their ideas with their seat partner, in an attempt to generate at least one idea per stanza. By the time I was finished creating the four groups, they were ready to share their connections as a class.

Making Independent Choices

  • Having your own ideas and opinions
  • People protesting
  • Freedom/separation from someone or something
  • Risking being grounded by speaking out to parents
  • Doing what you want, not just what others tell you to do


  • Having your own ideas and opinions
  • Saying no
  • Not giving in to peer pressure
  • Not relying on someone else
  • Separation from others – being a leader


  • Saying no
  • Stepping away from the crowd
  • Having your own ideas and opinions
  • Revolutionary War/Declaration of Independence
  • Doing your own thing
  • Being different – not a follower


  • Revolutionary War/Declaration of Independence
  • Stepping away from the crowd
  • Having your own ideas and opinions
  • Separation from others – being a leader
  • Going to college – breaking away

It became obvious that the themes that ran through the whole poem included having your own ideas and opinions, being “different” (stepping away from the crowd, being a leader not a follower, etc.) and being able to say no or stand up for yourself. Reference to the Revolutionary War was made several times, both for the underlying ideas behind it and the images associated with it. Groups now have some pretty solid ideas to focus on as they design their stanza’s experience.

Each group was then assigned a stanza to focus on. The storyboard was mounted at the front of the classroom. Our storyboard is a four foot piece of butcher paper with four columns, and one stanza per column. As groups came up with ideas for their stanza’s underlying message, images, and music, they wrote them on Post-It notes and stuck them on the storyboard, under their group’s stanza. They have some really cute ideas so far, and they’ll have all of tomorrow to continue the storyboarding process. They should also be able to start gathering images and music, so we’ll be ready for Bernajean’s visit on Tuesday!

3/20 – Thursday, we got off to a great start. Peg was with us, and she explained how limitless the storyworld experience could be. Each group was working on one of the four stanzas, and students spent time coming to a consensus about what their related story would be. Group One focused on the idea of being faced with choices, and the feelings involved therein. Group Two’s story revolved around making the choice that is less popular. Group Three discussed what people give up when they make certain choices, and Group Four’s focus was on how choices can make a difference in a person’s life.

I also developed a checklist for them to center their work around:


Students were eager to get to work finding images and music to go along with their seminal ideas, and the period passed quickly and quietly (I love it when they work so hard that all you hear are the clicks of keyboards and mice).

3/25What an enlightening and productive day! The kids met up with me in the classroom, and all they wanted to know was, “Where’s Bernajean Porter!?” We found her in the library and began our storytelling adventure in the world of the unlimited imagination – Second Life. Bernajean, Marianne and Kevin brought students through a main-grid story world, to get their cerebral juices flowing. The kids were absolutely entranced. The onset of this particular story world was set up to look like a train station. The idea was that you were about to be reincarnated, and the track you chose transported you to a certain kind of life. Once there, you experiences (visually and aurally) the inner workings of the brain of a person living that life. All in all, it was quite a cool experience, and it got them thinking about the myriad possibilities involved in their own story world creation. BJ asked students to think about what kind of metaphor they would want to apply to the overall experience.

Their list was so exciting! Adam’s original dome structure idea was kept. Other ideas included James’ doors (both glass and opaque, much like many of our day-to-day options), Michael’s baseball diamond (one base for each stanza), Rebecca’s modern art museum (paintings to step into), and Soraya’s carnival motif. Once the list was generated, students voted by secret ballot on their top two favorites. There was a tie between Samantha’s ice cream parlor and Rebecca’s movie theater, but that was easily remedied. We’ll just use the ice cream parlor in place of the concession stand in the main lobby! Four movie posters will be placed in the lobby, which will transport avatars to each of the four stanza experiences. The building’s dome shape allows for a wonderfully creative entrance into the center of the building, with the four stanzas’ rooms built around the perimeter. Now that they had a sense of what the place was going to look like, students got back into their groups to continue discussing the concepts behind the parallel story that would accompany the reading of their stanza.

After the class left, Bernajean, Kevin, Marianne and I discussed the day’s progress. We now have an idea about the general atmosphere, and Bernajean had a great idea about playing the “Road Less Traveled” audio in the lobby to expose everyone to the whole poem, regardless of their choice of stanza experience. James Yap suggested that there be several transporters in each of the four rooms to take people to certain stanzas, the next one, the lobby, or a random room. We still need to figure out how people will get the “ticket” to their chosen experience, but we think it will have something to do with their choice of refreshment at the concession stand.

This and several other points of discussion will be the focus of tomorrow’s class. Rebecca will begin the voice over coaching process, students will need to hone in on what exactly their experience will entail, and most importantly, everyone will need to pin down the lesson learned for both their own stanza and the whole experience. We will also need to reinforce the fact that this will be so much more than just a movie. It should be an environment that people can walk through and interact with – quite a concept!

3/26 – BIG day. To start things off, students were shown the floor plan that we developed yesterday after they left, to give them a handle on the kind of space they would be using for their stories. Before they continued with their stories, however, we really needed to make sure they were focused on the “lesson learned” in their stanza. This, I explained, is exactly how teachers start their plans for units. Question #1 today: “What do you want people to understand by going through your story world experience? The experiences you create will come from that one idea…” They also needed to take the whole “How do we get our tickets?” question into consideration. It was decided that the Continuity Directors would meet as a separate group to determine how this would happen. Kevin gave out index cards and reminded students that they needed to write two things on the cards by the end of the period – a clear lesson learned and a rough outline of what their experience would look like. They were off and running…

Right away, the Continuity Directors decided that tickets would be given to specific stanza experiences based on the person’s answer to a given question. The question they received depended on what flavor ice cream the person chose at the concession stand. Questions included such moral dilemmas as:

  • Two friends invite you to spend the weekend at their house. One friend wants to take you to a theme park (you love theme parks), while you haven’t seen the other friend in a long time and are afraid to hurt their feelings. Who do you visit?
  • A group of people is doing something you don’t want to do. Do you give in to peer pressure, or walk away and do your own thing?
  • Your college choices include the party school (not known for its academics) that all of your friends are going to, and a far-away school that is renowned for its high-quality education and access to excellent jobs after graduation. Which do you choose?
  • Given a choice between a family gathering and a party with friends, both cases including people you may not see again, which do you choose?

Meanwhile, in each of the four stanza groups, students got right into determining the lesson they wanted to share through their story. Once that was established, it was easier for them to develop their ideas about what kind of experience they wanted to share with visitors to their “theater.” For a first effort, these sound pretty cool!

Stanza #1 Group – Their lesson is based on the main idea in Stanza #1. “When faced with a decision, consider all variables.” Their experience will present visitors with a scenario that requires them to make a choice. They will then be led to a screen that shows the result of that choice.

Stanza #2 Group – The main idea in Stanza #2 – “Consider the possible results of your decisions.” Visitors are greeted by two doors, one marked “WAR” and one marked “PEACE.” Their choice will lead them through a visual representation of war or peace, and at the back of the room, a visual representation of the implications of each choice.

Stanza #3 Group – The lesson “Choose Wisely” will definitely need to be expanded on, but their experience looks like it’s shaping up to be a good one. It includes three doors, marked “FAMILY VS. FRIENDS,” “THE GROUP VS. SELF,” and “COLLEGE-BOUND VS. STAYING HOME.” Each experience will show the pros and cons involved in each of these decisions.

Stanza #4 Group – “Make mature choices, because they will affect your future.” This one incorporates a bit of irony. The two portals that visitors are confronted with are actually misleading. The portal that shows a rainbow of colors, and people smiling and having a good time actually leads to a disappointing, foggy, dark experience. The portal that is completely black and apparently devoid of people leads to a much more pleasant (as yet undefined) experience. This really hits home the overarching idea that your choices should not be made based on what others are doing.

In our final debriefing today, Kevin, Bernajean, Marianne and I spoke about what students would need to get as far as they could over the next two days. We tossed around different portal ideas (most students were using doors). Fred phoned in, and we attempted to help Kevin develop a list of prims for Fred to send us, as well as a “wish list” of prims that may or may not exist. Tomorrow, students will be given a box in which they can construct a 3-D representation of their intended experiences. We will make it a point to avoid more time-consuming endeavors, but we agreed that a quick diorama exercise would be vital in solidifying students’ ideas, and ensuring consistency among the stanza experiences.

On a final note, I'll be very excited if we can get a "ghost" of Robert Frost to stand in the lobby and recite his poem!

WOW that’s a lot. More tomorrow, I’m sure!

3/27 – 3/28 (Finally written on 3/29)

Ahhhh, the weekend. Puffy chair? Check. Orange juice and Goldfish? Check. White noise in the form of a squishy girl movie? Moonstruck’s on, so that’s a BIG check. Now I can get into writing mode. That’s such a difficult thing to do when I’m surrounded by work that needs to be done, people that both ask for and demand attention (I’m a sucker and can’t say “no” to either), and the stark fluorescent lights of the classroom. With Bernajean, Marianne, and Kevin’s help, we came through so much as a class this week. Through those last two days, I really just needed to stop, breathe, and collect my own thoughts on the whole process before cataloging it all.

THURSDAY – As mentioned above, Wednesday was a day for establishing the concepts that students would use in their sections of the theater. We did talk on Wednesday as a whole class about what imaginative things they might do in Second Life, and on Thursday, Marianne started us off by showing us even more. She brought us to her space on the main grid, where she demonstrated how one might design objects that avatars could be allowed to walk through. She also explained how pictures (textures) could be applied to simple shapes to add visual interest to an area. The night before, Marianne, Kevin, Bernajean, and Jen Fruhling had gone “out dancing” on the main grid, and Marianne had taken machinema (in-world video) of their outing to show the class. The kids were enthralled with the swirling colors and patterns, and a discussion about how colors affect mood ensued. Then we talked about using portals other than doors, and a whole list of possible environments and related scripts emerged.

Some “alternative portals” included:
Ocean waves
Portal that sucks you in and spits you out

Swirling vortex with colors
Hot-air balloons take you to destination

A blue or red pill (a la The Matrix)

Ice cream flavors

Seeds to be planted



Shaking hands


A swing

An animal takes you to a destination


A vehicle takes you to a destination

Settings included:
See-through floors

Wind blowing leaves/things around

A maze

Dramatic landscape/images

Crescent moon
Rod Serling

3 full moons

Middle of nowhere


Flying carpets
Shaky things

Mirrors with water

A past era

Constant feeling of falling

Once these lists were established, students were (finally!) given the instructions and art supplies to start working on their dioramas. They only had about 20 minutes at the end of class to begin this, but it really seemed like the groups were anxious to see their imaginative ideas come to fruition. Rebecca had completed her narration (a beautiful job), so she was able to give her attention back to her group. They did miss Adam, however, (our Second Life guru) who was busy showing the writer from The Journal News through our SMS islands on Second Life. The groups were so all-consumed with the creative process that I really didn’t want to tell them when the bell was about to ring! They were encouraged to continue thinking about their experiences overnight, but they’ve been so into this whole project that I knew they didn’t need prodding from me.

FRIDAY – This was Bernajean, Kevin, and Marianne’s last day at the school with us; it was our last chance to have the groups consult directly with them, and have the benefit of their expertise in person. Kevin let them know that the original building that we expected to bring into our islands was unavailable, but he showed us another one that we could modify easily to meet our needs. This glimpse at what was already done really raised the level of excitement in the room. After this, it was obvious that students wanted to get back into the design process as quickly as possible, so we asked them to sign up for group consultations with Bernajean and I, and we sent them off to work again.

Upon meeting with each group, it became obvious that there had been some backsliding going on. They had become so enamored with the “magical qualities” that they could instill in their environments, that almost all of the groups had completely lost their original story-lines.

Bernajean started with Group 4. “So, tell us about your section – what is your parallel story going to be about?”
“Well, when you first come in, it will be all foggy,” Haley answered, “and then you will see two clouds, and they will suck you up into the sky...” (This was different from the two doors they started with, and just as vague.)
“But, why? What is the STORY that you are sharing with people? The one related to the poem?”
Blank stares around the table. Oh, brother. Looks like I have to jump in on this one.
“What did you put up on the story board?” I prompted, “We worked on it all last week. What did you decide to base your lesson learned on?”
“Ooohhh!” Hallelujah, thank you, Steven. “It was about a person who has to choose between a group of people he’s friends with, or a single person sitting alone at a table.”
“That’s a nice story, but why is it important? You have a chance to tell the world something very important. What is it that you’re trying to tell people by showing them this? What would be the lesson there?”
“Well, our original lesson was about making mature choices that affect your future.”
“Again, that’s a nice lesson, but how can we make that actually relate to your story about choosing one person over a group?”

Suffice to say, it was a long consultation. I asked, “Why?” as often as I could, to hone in on the real meat of their lesson, and I reminded them about the kind of sensory experience they were offering their visitors – sight and sound only. What could they do that would make their visitors not only see and hear, but actually FEEL the lesson they were teaching? By the time they left, they had a better handle on what types of interactive props and scripts would help them share their now reinstated story. These included ghosts whispering in the visitor’s ear as they made the choice to go with the crowd or sit with the loner, and the ability to see what their story characters were thinking through thought balloons.

Groups 1 and 3 were having similar trials. They had also pretty much forgotten about their original story-line and headed directly for the bells and whistles. We were able to straighten them out and get them back on track with some effort. The only group that had maintained their idea was the group whose idea was so incredibly solid from the very beginning. Group 2’s “WAR/PEACE” concept proved to be a winner; they just needed a little help strengthening their lesson learned. The old, “Why?” helped here, too.
“Yes, yes, ‘Think about the possible results of your decisions.’ But, WHY should people do that?”
“Because the choices you make could affect the world...”
Bernajean told them about the Native American saying about keeping in mind how the choices we make will affect our ninth generation. In the end, their lesson ended with “...and our children, and their children, and their children...”

There was not enough time in the period to do everything we all wanted to do (students and teachers alike). Not enough time? Now the kids know how I feel every day! Speaking of which, we’ve still got so much work to do next week. My biggest worry last week was, “How in the world am I going to be able to help them build this thing when everyone leaves?!” It was a short-lived fear. I’m sure we will be spending vast amounts of time next week on Second Life, and I’m delighted that we’ll have such an incredible amount of in-world back-up. With help from Peggy, Marianne, Kevin, Fred, and Bernajean (and of course, our very own, Adam and other Second Life student experts), the development of our new Frost Theater should be a relatively painless process. The interior design of it is really the only thing left to do, so we should be able to finally tie it all up in this, our third week of the project. Period five’s endless enthusiasm and eagerness to learn are the biggest reasons I chose them for this project. As usual, all I really need to do now is step back and let them do their stuff!!

4/14 - We needed to move on with other things in English class, but work on the project continues, nonetheless! The stories and ideas are set - we just need to get them together in virtual form. Peggy has been chronicling the group stories and the list of "props" that will be needed in Second Life. In-world design has been a bit slow-going, but every day they make a little more progress!

Stanza 1 Storyline: Choosing between 2 groups of friends.
Lesson Learned: Every choice has a consequence.

Date Requested
Date fulfilled by
2 lunchtables


1 nerdy avatar (glasses etc) "Hey sit with me?"also say sit here
Firesabre? Ryl? Who can make avatars- they even can be cutouts - just something to represent the major scenes (fancy idea would be for them to be ROBOTIC)

group of "cool avatars" (popular kids) these need to whisper comments like "Look at that jerk, I can't believe he wants to sit with that weirdo, dork etc)
Firesabre? Ryl? Who can make avatars- they even can be cutouts - just something to represent the major scenes (fancy idea would be for them to be ROBOTIC)

a normal person trying to decide avatar with question mark bubble - conflict
Firesabre? Ryl? Who can make avatars- they even can be cutouts - just something to represent the major scenes (fancy idea would be for them to be ROBOTIC)

trays, food, milk containers, image of cafeteria for background

bubble of tears, bubble of question marks,

sounds: laughing, jeering,

IN STORYWORLD: Plan is to have visitor enter, see the two tables - one with nerd and one with cool kids - here is where you have to choose - if you go to the table with the cool kids the nerdy kids feeling's are hurt demonstrated with head down and tears bubble and if you go to the table with the nerdy kid all the cool kids make fun of you demonstrated with jeering, mean comments, etc.
Final scene will be if you have chosen the cool kids and sat at down at the table you teleport to a sphere where the nerdy kid is portrayed in an image crying and turning away from you. If you go to the nerdy kid table and sit down you get an image of the other "cool" kid making fun of you and ignoring you
Finally after either chice you get the message sent to you that Every choice has a consequence.


Stanza 2
Storyline: Do I tell about my friend's eating disorder?
Lesson learned: The most important decisions are also the hardest ones.
Date requested
Date Fulfilled by:
Two avatars (fake) one who is the bulemic and one who is the friend,

Scene where you catch the bulemic in the bathroom forcing herself to throw up (bent over bowl, hand in mouth etc) "please don't tell! dialogue (maybe with hands together in a begging - all of these will be digital pictures taken by students)

Conflict: Two bubble over head - one with friends turning away cause you told and the other with the girl fainting and collapsing-
Either choice results in same last scene - vehicle (ambulance or hearse) taking her away

LAst scene for lesson learned is either ambulance driving away from school if choice is to tell - the ambulance is shown heading for a hospital if you DON't tell the n you see a hearse driving away from the school toward a graveyard.

Newspapers with headlines "Teenage Eating Disorders on the rise"


Stanza 3
Storyline: THe struggle between selecting a career that your parents want for you and the one you want for yourself.
Lesson learned: Don't let others tell you what to be.

Storyworld will be:FROST …and both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black Oh I kept the first for another day Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back
OUR STORY Mom has SAT scores in hand and explains to me that I am really smart and should aspire to be something “important” She wants me to be a pediatrician cause I’m good in science and I like kids I tell her I want to be a teacher
She says I will be poor and should be a doctor I say will help kids either way and I want to be a teacher I don’t care about the material things I’d get from more money Although being a doctor might be prestigious I think there are greater rewards from being a teacher
What it looks like Mom with SAT SCORE paper in hand BIG SMILE high score – shows the two jobs: teacher/ doctor Describe the two Says you should be pediatrician But you want to be a teacher choices- one has fancy car big house etc the other doesn’t but has lots of kids laughing and learning I think about being a doctor (shows scenes from medical school, practicing medicine etc) Shows being a teacher and stuff like kids raising hands and doing projects and graduating Shows future classroom door with “Miss Jones” Room 122 or something like that
What we need
Date Requested
Date Fulfilled By:
SAT paper,

images of pediatrician and doctors graduation