Perhaps the best way to learn how to MOO, which is also the best way to learn how to teach in general, is with a mentor, some fellow teacher with experience and patience who can help us, as newbies, to wade through the mud. If we belong to professional communities, particularly electronic communities like listservs where we have established a rapport with colleagues, we may be able to find mentors there. Or when we log on to a professional M** meeting, we may stay on after the formalities have ended and find mentors there. As Amy Bruckman reminds us,
In a MUD, you are never alone. If you have a technical problem, there are other people there to help you. Helping others is a central activity in MUD culture; it is a basis on which strong friendships are formed. People often speak warmly of those who helped them through technical difficulties." (1994)Finally, we must remember that before meeting other users, new users--both teachers and students alike--who log onto a MOO are welcomed with screens filled with helpful text, and unfortunately for most of us who have not invested in a user-friendly client software package, those instructions fly by, leaving us baffled, staring at a flashing cursor at the bottom of the screen. Many of the help sheets give brief explanations of the common commands, but usually end up by stating that M**s are better experienced in practice than explained in theory. And while this is certainly true, it may help us newbies to keep a written reference (like this article, printed out, for instance) handy when we first venture into the MUD, and it certainly helps our students if we are prepared with these materials, and prepared to give them actual support as they venture forth into M** space under our direction. So we should remember, as newbies and as teachers, that it takes a considerable amount of time, patience, practice, and support to learn how to teach in the MOO.
Monthly (sometimes more frequently, sometimes less) meetings of writing teachers, graduate students, and other professionals, who gather to discuss issues, hold conferences, or to celebrate events that are usually announced in advance over many rhetoric/writing listservs. Recent events included a discussion of Webfolios, and a Poetry Festival. Teachers may bring classes to this MOO, but should schedule these in advance with the wizards to avoid overcrowding. Users must request characters by completing an online application and awaiting passwords via email.
Tuesday Cafe at MediaMoo
Weekly Tuesday evening gatherings of writing teachers, graduate students, and media researchers who meet to discuss topics that are also announced in advance over listservs. Recent discussion topics include Web Publishing and MOO in the secondary schools. This space also hosts the Computers and Writing Teaching Assistants (CWTA) meetings and numerous other media research projects. Teachers may meet one another here, as well as meet researchers, but may not bring classes to this MOO. Users must request characters by completing an online application and await passwords via email.
Athena or Virtual Online University (VOU)
This is a virtual university, designed as around a central hub, with spokes leading to each of the traditional colleges. Entire programs of study are offered here by professors from nearly every discipline, especially writing. Users must request characters by completing an online application and await passwords via email.
This MOO is maintained by the programmers of Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment software, and designed to allow instructors who use that software in class a realtime forum. This one has extensive (and very helpful for teachers) documentation available on the Web. The MOO is also available for exploration by other writing teachers who have not purchased DIWE, and who may request a temporary character while they preview the environment.
Diversity University (DU) is a MOO-based cyberspace platform for experimentation with new and innovative approaches to learning. It is populated by educators and students from all over the world and its environment includes many educational models ranging from traditional to constructivist. Teachers may bring their classes here freely. Users must request characters by completing an online application and await passwords via email.
Newbies may join a MOO listserv called firstname.lastname@example.org by sending email to email@example.com, leaving the subject line blank, and filling the first line with: subscribe moo-ed email address.
Bruckman, Amy. "Programming for Fun: Muds as a Context for Collaborative Learning." Presented at the National Educational Computing Conference in Boston, MA, June 1994. Available online as ftp://media.mit.edu/pub/asb/papers/necc94 (May 10, 1996).
Crump, Eric and Rebecca Rickly. "It's Fun to Have Fun But You Have to Know How! or, How Cavorting on the Net Will Save the Academy *" _Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine_. Volume 2, Number 1, January 1, 1995.
Evard, Remy. "Collaborative Networked Communication: MUDs as Systems Tools." Proceedings of the Seventh Systems Administration Conference (LISA VII), pages 1-8, November 1993, Monterey, CA. http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/remy/documents/cncmast.html (May 10, 1996).
Fanderclai, Tari. "MUDs in Education: New Environments, New Pedagogies." 1995. http://sensemedia.net/sprawl/16880 (May 25, 1996).
Oughton, John. "Genderbending on the MUSH." _All About MUDs_ 1993. http://www.oise.on.ca/~jnolan/muds/about_muds/ours/john1(May 10, 1996)