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Online Symposium: Educational MOOs

January 16, 2001: This message was distributed by Papyrus News. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For info on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see

[Please forward to appropriate lists until 1/17/01]

Please come
to the annual online symposium
in honor of MediaMOO's 8th Birthday
At MediaMOO, telnet://
Wednesday, January 17th, 2001
8:00 pm-10:30 pm ET

Wednesday, January 17th
A community discussion with leaders in the field. (In The Root Lounge: @go root)

(In The Ballroom: @go ballroom foyer)

At 10:00 pm, Amy Bruckman will hand the keys to MediaMOO over to our new fearless leader, Michael Day!

A community discussion with leaders in the field.

Educational MOOs have grown in popularity over the last eight years since MediaMOO's founding. In honor of MediaMOO's 8th anniversary, we've gathered leaders from the field to talk about where things stand. Are there documented learning gains from these environments? How do we evaluate whether we've been successful? What makes some environments thrive and others fade? What challenges does the community currently face? What is the right combination of technology and pedagogy?

Featured speakers:
Bradley Dilger, University of Florida
Tari Lin Fanderclai, Akamai Technologies
Clint Gardner, Salt Lake Community College
Cynthia Haynes, University of Texas, Dallas
Jan Rune Holmevik, University of Bergen, Norway
Steven E. Jones, Loyola University Chicago
Linda Polin, Pepperdine University
Mark Schlager, SRI



Right now I'm not teaching so I'm mostly helping folks learn to use our MOO as a discussion space and for constructing texts in the MOO. My experimental work in MOO has been on hold while I work on PhD exams, though I can't seem to keep my fingers completely out of the editors. I'm also using MOO extensively to prepare for Computers and Writing Online 2001.

I've always believed the biggest benefit folks can get from MOO is creating, customizing, and showing off their own stuff. Without digging MOO is nothing more than a cumbersome chat room. To that end I'd like to see the MOO documentation base continue to improve, and I'd like to develop (and encourage others to develop) generics and other tools which make object creation, description, and customization more possible.

Bradley Dilger is a graduate student who helps instructors and students in the Networked Writing Environment use computer labs and networked systems in composition and media studies courses. He is currently chairing C&W Online 2001 and working toward a Ph.D. with Greg Ulmer and other faculty at Florida.


I started out using MUDs with my own classes, back when I was a writing teacher. Since 1994, I've been running Connections, a MOO for educational and other learning purposes; see A couple of my favorite recent projects: I worked with Kali Tal of Arizona International College, University of Arizona on her MOOseum Tools project, writing a series of MOO tools that Kali designed to allow students to create museum displays in the MOO. With Sharon Cogdill of St. Cloud State University, I conduct five-week workshops for teachers who need help getting ready to incorporate MOO into their classes. We call this project MOOshop, and shortly we hope to expand this effort, as two more teachers have agreed to join our team as workshop coordinators and leaders.

I'm currently very interested in the development of practical, hands-on resources for teachers who are getting started with MOO. I see countless questions from teachers about help getting started, and I talk to lots of teachers who tried MOO once or twice and gave up in frustration -- which of course contributes to the reputation of MOO as too hard or too chaotic or too gamelike or too <insert your favorite negative perception>. I'd like to see a lot more projects like MOOshop, where we workshop with a few new MOO teachers on a MOO for a couple of hours a week over the course of five or six weeks. Books and articles and web pages are important, of course, but hands-on sessions that help teachers get comfortable in the MOO and work out their ideas with other teachers are essential to help new MOO teachers have successful first experiences. We've hardly ever seen a MOOshop "graduate" give up after just one class, and even when they decide they aren't ready yet, they don't blame the technology -- they just say they need more time.

I currently work at Akamai Technologies, Inc., doing technical communications. Before that, I was a human factors engineer working on applications for computer supported cooperative work. And before that, I was a college writing teacher, which is when I became interested in MOOs. I run the MOO Connections, and I'm a co-coordinator of the Netoric Project, a series of virtual conversations for teachers of writing; Netoric had its first home on MediaMOO and has since moved to Connections. I also continue to do research in MOO-related areas; recently I discovered that I can get sent to Hawaii for writing papers, and my future plans include milking that for all it's worth. I live in the Boston area with my husband, Jay Carlson, and His Royal Highness Van the Cat.


Currently we use our MOO to facillitate our online composition courses and to provide real-time tutoring in writing for our students and the community. My interests in MOOing are situated around making a user-friendly interface so that novices can more readily access the MOO without difficulty.

I believe that the future of MU* relates to access. The more readily accessible MU* becomes for all the more likely they will continue to develop and grow beca use of their increibly flexible (programmable) nature.

I am the Writing Center Director, and I teach composition here at Salt Lake Community College. Over the years I have learned a great deal about the uses of comp uters in composition classrooms, and as research tools. We have set up this WWW site to enhance discussion of composition issues, to allow student access to the Internet, and to encourage electronic Writing Advising. My role as Writing Center Instructional Support Coordinator allows me to bring the two seemingly distinct programs...tutoring and technology together. My vitae is at


I am Director of Rhetoric and Writing at UT-Dallas and co-founder and co-administrator of Lingua MOO. Currently I am working on a book called Beta Rhetoric, only part of which deals with MOO theory, pedagogy, and administration. I supervise a modest undergraduate writing program and teach graduate courses in rhetoric, electronic expression, ethics, and digital culture (all of which use Lingua MOO). I co-edit an e-journal, Pre/Text:Electra(Lite), which is a WOO'd journal housing part of each issue at Lingua MOO. I also host the Computers, Writing, and Theory listserv and C-FEST (MOO meetings held each spring at Lingua MOO on various topics).

Although I am extremely invested in providing an easy and productive MOO experience for our Lingua users (and for other enCore administrators), my personal focus in MOOs has been on experimental design, theory, and pedagogy. With the Xpress interface, I believe we have a solid system at Lingua in which to explore the implementation of creative projects andcreative teaching. I want to help facilitate such experimentation. Specifically, I think we could foreground ambient features more and in creative ways. I am tinkering with ways to implement graphic novels in MOOspace and have a fledgling collaboration with a group in Belgium who illustrate and write graphic novels. I see MOO as a powerful research testbed in which to create, design, guide, teach, and publish cutting edge projects.

Cynthia Haynes is Associate Professor in the School of Arts & Humanities and Director of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Dallas where she teaches graduate and undergraduate rhetoric, composition, and electronic pedagogy courses. Her publications have appeared in Pre/Text , JAC, Composition Studies, Keywords in Composition, St.Martins Guide to Tutoring Writing, Works & Days, The Writing Center Journal, Kairos, CWRL, and numerous anthologies. She is co-editor of Pre/Text: Electra(Lite), and with Jan Rune Holmevik, she is co-founder of Lingua MOO. With Jan Rune Holmevik, Dr. Haynes is co-editor of High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs published by University of Michigan Press and co-author of MOOniversity: A Student's Guide to Online Learning Environments published by Allyn & Bacon.


Administrator and co-founder of LinguaMOO. (1995-present) Principal architect, developer and maintainer of the enCore Open Source MOO Project. (1997-present) ( Author of the enCore Xpress Graphical User Interface to MOO.

Keep the technology as open and adaptable as possible. Keep up with technological developments especially on the web. Provide easy to use tools that new MOO administrators can use to make own systems flexible and productive. Bottom line: Empower both users and administrators to the greatest degree possible.

Jan Rune Holmevik is a visiting assistant professor and doctoral candidate in the Department of Humanistic Informatics at the University of Bergen, Norway. He holds a Cand. Philol. degree in the history of science and technology from the University of Trondheim, Norway 1994. He is co-editor of "High Wired: On the Design Use and Theory of Educational MOOs", University of Michigan Press, 1998, and co-author of "MOOniversity: A Guide to Virtual Learning Environments", forthcoming from Allyn and Bacon, 2000, both with Dr. Cynthia Haynes of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). His MA thesis, "Educating the Machine: A Study in the History of Computing and the Construction of the SIMULA Programming Languages", was published by the Center for Technology and Society, Trondheim, Norway in 1994. In his dissertation, "The Digital Factor(y): Collaborative Socio-technical Development on the Internet", Holmevik studies the processes by which technology is collaboratively constructed in online environments. His other publications on history of computing and science policy have appeared in journals such as "Annals of the History of Computing" and "Forskningspolitikk", and "Kairos".


Romantic Circles ( is a collaborative, peer- reviewed research Website published by the University of Maryland serving an international c ommunity of scholars of romantic-period literature and culture. With the help of a $130,000 grant from the NEH the site is building a special section devoted to high-school literary education (, the center of which is a collabor ative MOOspace. One of its pedagogical goals is explicitly constructivist: to g et students to make new knowledge by using both inherited literary texts and their own writing as building material in the MOO.

ONE issue in the future of educational MU* will be the problem of the (un)cool : the real and perceived) anachronisms of MU*-ing in the era of 3D graphical virtual worlds. Why MU* at all in the future? In what form(s), and what role if anywill writing and archival texts play in such forms?

Steven Jones teaches Romantic-period literature and culture as well as textual studies (including digital textuality). He has published on Byron, the Shelleys , satiric writing, radical culture, and textual studies, among other things. He edits the letter press "Keats-Shelley Journal" and co-edits Romantic Circles,


Pepperdine runs an online M.A. in educational technology that makes extensive use of Tapped In MOO for online discussions. The doctoral program in ed tech leadership also uses Tapped In for online seminars. I fell into MOOs back in '92 at an MIT conference, and immediately joined LambdaMOO and PurpleCrayon. I was also a productive citizen at PointMOOt, OpalMOO, and DU MOO. For a couple of years I was arch-wizard in our own MOO core, el MOOndo, which is still limping along, though we've since moved most of our action to TappedIn for the 24/7/365 support.

I'm pursuing three related issues I think are important. One is the value added, or not, of 'place.' That is, does it matter, and how, if a group chat takes place in a landscaped, object-filled MOO instead of a empty 'chat' room like AOL offers. I've been looking at people's impromtu and intentional uses of props and locale in online class seminars at Tapped In (a dressed up LambdaMOO core). I'm also very interested in trying to track the actual joint construction of ideas in MOO seminar sessions. In this issue, I'm looking at the value-added of text-based talk and of the turn-taking constraints in MOO chat. While I first thought of this in comparison with face-to-face traditional classroom talk, I'm starting to think it's something different, more akin to a group version of the dialogue journal in its function (Staton, Shuy, Peyton, & Reed, 1988). Millions of years ago I did research on composition theory, which may turn out to be useful yet again as I look at 'writing as thinking' in MOO spaces. Thirdly, I'm interested in how a community space, such as a well-inhabited and formally-commissioned MOO supports a socio-cultural model of learning. I believe it does and am working to identify features or 'affordances' of MOO space that accomplish that. These issues all strike me as important as we work to create and support online environments for collaborative work and learning.

Dr. Linda Polin is a professor of education at Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology where she directs the Master of Arts programs in teaching and in educational technology. She is largely responsible for the WASC-approved online MA in Educational Technology, which enrolls students from across the United States. She teaches graduate courses in learning, technology, and design, as well as in research methods. Dr. Polin consults with school districts and software developers, an d in a prior life, produced two commercial multimedia packages high school literature and writing. Dr. Polin is deeply involved in research and development of networked learning communities in intranet and Internet settings.


TAPPED IN ( is a Web-based multi-user virtual environment that supports synchronous and asynchronous collaboration on-line. The environment is designed around the familiar metaphor of a conference center with private rooms for individual groups and open areas for public gatherings and events. TAPPED IN is a fully extensible and customizable environment with web page and text document sharing, whiteboards, and other capabilities that facilitate dialogue and sharing of information in real time and asynchronously. TAPPED IN's architectural metaphor provides a straightforward, easy-to-navigate way to organize and access people and resources. Since the virtual doors of TAPPED IN opened in 1997, it has become the on-line home to a community of more than 9,000 K-12 teachers, teacher education faculty, professional development staff, researchers, and other education professionals.

When we set out 4 years ago, we were convinced that a commercial MUVE development platform that would meet our design requirements was just around the corner. Despite a great deal of development in labs and by commercial developers, no MUVE platform today meets what we (and most TPD practitioner organizations that we talk to) believe are the requirements for an online education community of practice (CoP). The MOO server architecture is a closed, single-threaded, text-based system that was not designed to support some of the capabilities that our research has found to be central to our ability to extend our online CoP framework. If we continue our research on this platform, technology limitations will constrain our efforts to develop guideposts to the future. To continue to conduct leading-edge research, we must shed the limitations of the MOO platform, retain the capabilities that we have found useful, and build on more powerful, flexible, and scalable technologies.

Dr. Mark Schlager, Director of TAPPED IN, is a Senior Cognitive Scientist & Associate Director of Learning Communities in SRI International's Center for Technology in Learning. Dr. Schlager specializes in the application of cognitive and social learning theory to the development of educational technology. His current research focuses on the development of community-based pedagogies and on-line technologies for teacher professional development. Dr. Schlager earned his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a B.A. in psychology from Temple University. He is a member of the American Educational Research Association and the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction.

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Last updated: January 21, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0