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ASU professor teaches students to find masterpieces in virtual worlds.
Teaching students to see and execute creativity in virtual realms.
January 5, 2016

ASU professor is an expert in 'virtual world' education

You can open a book and look at a picture of an artistic masterpiece or, in a virtual world, you can soar inside a 3-D version and become part of it.

An Arizona State University professor has become an expert in teaching via virtual worlds — computer-based simulated environments where users create avatars, which are online versions of themselves.

Mary Stokrocki, an art education professor in the School of ArtThe School of Art is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts., has created artistic worlds not only for the ASU students she teaches but also for children and senior citizens. She teaches primarily in the Second LifeSecond Life is a virtual online world where users can explore the environs via digital avatars of themselves, or other creations. The service has more than 1 million users. virtual world.

“Everyone thinks this is a game,” StokrockiMary StokrockiStokrocki was named the 2015 Kenneth Marantz Distinguished Fellow for the U.S. Society for Education Through Art. She also was the editor of the 2014 book “Exploration in Virtual Worlds: New Digital Multi-Media Literacy Investigations for Art Education.” said. “It’s a multi-use platform. There is multi-literacy — many ways to communicate, including music and dance.”

The virtual worlds are practical. Students can communicate with peers around the world and explore textures and spatial design instantly. And they can build sculptures or architecture in Second Life that can be created in real life using a 3-D printer.

Much of Stokrocki’s work is done across cultures, including several months teaching “digital ethnography” in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar, when she had students create an art exhibit about their country in Second Life.

She has also worked with Navajo and Apache students and participated in a virtual-world project at a charter school in Apache Junction.

Using avatars can transform students and free them to open their minds about themselves, she said.

“I worked with 80-year-olds. In real life, no hair. In Second Life, hair. Tattoos up and down their avatar bodies,” she said.

At first, students hesitate.

“But then they’re fearless,” she said.

Her own avatar is the Lizard of Ars — “ars” is Latin for “art.” Her space in Second Life is called Art Ark (seen in the photo at top).

In class, students learn to search out the masterpieces in the virtual world, like treasures, she said.

"At first they don't know what they're looking for. Our job is to teach them to see.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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Uncovering the history of Perry Mesa one sherd at a time

January 6, 2016

“Sherd!”

That’s the sound 16 volunteers had their ears out for as they surveyed an area in Perry Mesa, 77 miles north of Phoenix, looking for prehistoric artifacts one cold December morning.

The volunteers, four of which are Arizona State University students, were to yell “sherd” whenever they found an artifact. The sherdsIn archaeology, a sherd, or more precisely, potsherd, is commonly a historic or prehistoric fragment of pottery. Occasionally, a piece of broken pottery may be referred to as a shard. While the spelling shard is generally reserved for referring to fragments of glass vessels the term does not exclude pottery fragments. Source: Wikipedia. will help piece together where a mysterious population, who once made this area their home, came from. It’s part of a five-year research project conducted by ASU and the Friends of Tonto National Forest.

ASU anthropology senior Sarah Garner said she found two pottery sherds that were bigger than her hand and at least a half-an-inch thick.

According to David Abbott, associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, between 1,000 to 2,000 people lived in the area in the late 13th to early 14th centuries. Abbott, along with retired forest archaeologist Scott Wood, led the group of volunteersThose who want to volunteer, ASU student or not, can contact the Friends of the Tonto National Forest at friendsoftontonf@gmail.com..

Wood said this population seems to have come out of nowhere, and the project will help uncover why this population settled here and if there were others before them.

The group trained for the search at the Seven Springs area outside of Cave Creek. They moved up and down in lines while in pairs to cover the area and properly survey the land, while marking their path. Wood simply described the technique as “walking across the landscape and trying to find stuff.”

The volunteers were also briefed on the various artifacts they might find while transecting the area, such as Wingfield Red Pottery and Jeddito Yellow Ware. Both are significant because they are not native to the area, hence signifying trade. Also the age of found artifacts could contain clues to a civilization that may have settled the area prior to the 13th-century residents. 

Over the next few years, ASU and the Friends of Tonto National Forest will work together to uncover more of Perry Mesa’s history.

Wood says one of the most satisfying parts of this project is that it brings a diverse group of people together: “It’s going to involve different kinds of people, different expertise and provide opportunities for people to come do something they’ve never done before.”

Learn more about some of the artifacts they found via the videos below.

Videos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now