Presented at the Computers and
Writing Conference, May 17, 2001,
in the Workshop "How to Set Up and Administer an Educational MOO Using Minimal
Amounts of Mustard" in Whitinger Business Building 213, Ball State University.
Originally Posted on the NCTE Web on May 26, 2001.
- Become Completely Comfortable with the Basic MOO Commands and the Client Your Students Will Use.
The amount of time necessary to feel comfortable with
a MOO and a client will vary, but as a general
guideline, you can assume you'll need at least a
month, perhaps as much as a semester. In that
preparation time, be sure to learn the general
commands necessary for communicating and moving around
the MOO. Further, be able to do whatever you want
your students to do on the MOO if you want them to
build rooms, you need to be able to build rooms. If
you want them to program their own verbs, you need to
be able to program your own verbs. You need to know
precisely what technical know-how is required, and be
prepared to provide the technical support that your
- Be as Knowledgeable as Possible About the Basic Workings of the MOO Where Your Students Will Work.
Learn as much as you can about the MOO itself: what
special places does it have for students to visit,
what features are available, how can students learn
more about what's available, and so forth. For
instance, on MediaMOO, you might ask someone to visit
the Library (room of features) so that they can add
special verbs which will allow them to use big signs
or to paste in text. Essentially, spend some exploring
to find out as much as you can before you bring
classes to the MOO.
- Deal with Local Technical Issues Before Taking Students Online.
You'll want to think about the mechnical details of
taking students to a MOO and plan accordingly. You'll
need to think about the client students will use, how
they will get it, and about the local resources which
are available to you do you have the network
resources to connect your entire class to a MOO? Do
students need to download something? Are any special
settings required in their web browsers? Do the lab
machines need settings changed or software added?
Work through all the needs with the technical support
folks before you take students online.
- Deal with Local Political Issues Before Taking Students Online.
Check very carefully into your school's policy for
gaming and the educational use of computers. If your
school has a non-gaming policy, gather material which
proves your use of the resource does not fall under
the "gaming" definition. Get permission to use the
resources before you take classes to the MOO!
Further, make sure that your department knows of your
plans and supports you. It's tragic to find out half-
way into a project that your school does not approve
of the tools that you're using it's better to find
out ahead of time than to have to rethink and redesign
your course completely in mid-stream because the tools
that you're using are no longer available.
- Deal with the Managerial Issues of Real-Time Collaboration.
Consider the details of bringing students to a real-
time environment, especially for distance
collaboration. The problem with real-time
communication is that you have to find real times when
groups can meet. That task isn't very difficult if
you're just connecting students on your campus, but it
becomes increasingly complicated with distance
collaborations. Think carefully about time zones and
academic calendars. Is it reasonable for your students
to meet with students half-way around the world
would they even be awake at the same time? What
midterm breaks and other constraints might affect
students' abilities to meet and work together? Don't
forget that network problems can complicate matters
further. Give your students guidelines to follow in
situations such as finding that their local internet
access isn't working, that their partner school's
network is disabled, or that the MOO is down for some
reason. Planning ahead for all the possible problems
you can think of will help make the collaboration
smoother. If relevant, be sure you plan with the
collaborating teacher to make the technical and
managerial aspects of the project as smooth as
- Think About the Appropriateness of the MOO You're Considering For Your Class.
Make sure that the MOO is right for your classes. Does
the MOO even allow classes? Are there any restrictions
on the size of classes or on the kinds of characters
students can use? Perhaps students aren't allowed to
build on the MOO you planned to use if building
important to your pedagogical plan you need to find
out whether your students will have the access that
they need before you take them to the MOO. Do you
need to schedule large class meetings in advance to
insure that there are enough connections available?
Does the MOO fit your pedagogy? Part of the time you
spend preparing to take students to the MOO should
include getting to know whether the environment is one
that can accommodate your needs for resources (for
characters and for group work) and one which really
fits the kind of project you want students to
- Explore the Netiquette and Guidelines of the MOO You're Considering For Your Class.
To make sure that your students fit in as smoothly as
possible, be sure to find out what policies the MOO
has for manners. Further, talk to others, especially
other teachers and wizards if you can, to find out how
students usually work in the environment. The MOO
might be one where students are expected to
collaborate in specific rooms, or it could be one
where students can meet anywhere. The wizards might be
willing to answer any page, or they might prefer that
students page only if they are in an emergency
situation. Players might wander about freely on the
MOO, or it might be appropriate to "knock" or "page"
before joining other groups. Is there a building
policy that students must follow? The more you learn
of the unwritten rules, the better you can prepare
- Discuss Netiquette with Your Students.
Begin by discussing netiquette with your students so
that they will know what behavior is and is not
acceptable. Share all the information about the MOO
which you learned in your preparation including how
they should interact with characters they don't know,
what they should do if they need help, and how they
should respond if someone interrupts or bothers them.
Make sure that your students think about all the
possible situations they might encounter before they
visit the MOO. Do some role-playing in your face-to-
face classroom so they're prepared for a wide variety
of situations when they do go online. Here are some
sample situations you might examine:
- You need to know how to do something and can't find
the information in the online help. How can you find
out what to do?
- Another character has interrupted your small-group
meeting and refuses to leave the room that you're
using. The character is using offensive language.
What can you do?
- You see a really cool dune buggy in the common
area. Is it ok to take it for a ride?
- Someone has accidentally dropped a talking robot in
the room that your using. It's interrupting your
conversation. You can't ask the owner to move it
because she is no longer online. What can you do to
keep it from interrupting you further?
- A really nice character keeps asking you questions.
You didn't mind explaining how things worked at first,
but this character doesn't seem to know how to do
anything, and it's getting annoying to have to explain
everything. What can you do without being rude?
- Teach Students the Basic MOO Commands.
You'll also need to teach students all the basic
commands for communication and movement as well as
introduce them to the various places in the MOO which
they might want to visit. Giving students help sheets
with the basic commands and with lists of rooms on the
MOO they might visit is a good idea. It's perhaps best
to demonstrate the commands and show students the
features on the MOO using an LCD projector to keep
them from being overwhelmed and so that you can
control the conversation a bit. Once everyone is
online, it can be difficult to have the entire class
follow your instructions. Additionally, be sure that
they have instructions available for whatever tasks
you want them to complete. If they are to create
their own feature object, be sure that they have all
the instructions necessary to program verbs, for
- Give Your Students Time to Practice.
Most important, give your students plenty of time to
practice and become accustomed to the MOO before you
expect them to do any major projects. Students need to
get used to both the speedy nature of real-time
communication and the commands used in MOOs. Ideally,
they should practice locally, holding class meetings
before moving to distance group meetings. These
meetings might be structured so that students might
progress over the period of several classes from
simply holding a discussion in a single room to
visiting several rooms, working in smaller groups, and
using commands to page or mail other characters.
Students should have a chance to try all these MOO
activities in practice with one another before they
need to use them as part of a collaborative project to
give them the background necessary to make the project
NOTE: This list is revised from Traci's "MOO Teacher's Tip Sheet," which was originally available on the Daedalus Website.