North East Association for Learning Laboratories

Fall 1996

How can anything be this much fun and be educational too??
A MUSH and MOO odyssey

Wendy Baker Davis

Mary whispers "This is fun, isn't it?"
Jose grins and nods
You sense that Attila is looking for you in the International House
You type IH
International House(#59RJ)
A wide, vacant room with exits to all sorts of exciting places! Let your
imagination run wild. Create a world in your second language! To the north
is a doorway painted Red, White and Blue. Beyond this door lies the Place
Francaise. In the distance, to the east you see a large bus. To the west is
a door painted Black, Red, and Gold. Through this door lies the Deutsches
Haus. To the south is a door marked in Red and White. Through its tiny
window you see Victoria.
Obvious exits:
Sverige Russia Espana Victoria Deutsches Haus Place francaise Bus Stop
You say "Attila, I've arrived"
Attila waves
Attila says "hello, I've been waiting for you. Let's go to "La Place Française where we can speak in French."
You say "On y va!"

This is a snippet of a MUSH session. Participants might proceed to "La Place Française" where they can converse in French with friends and strangers in the "Café Recréatif", or they could enter "Espana" where, navigating and conversing in Spanish, they can "visit" the Prado Museum in Madrid (complete with descriptions of the paintings) or "buy" a braceleta from a Vendero in "El Rastro"; or they might wander over to the "Deutsches Haus" where they can go to a disco or play a game with another student. The possibilities are endless.

But hold on you say - MOO, MUSH - sounds like the contestants in an agrarian, Alaskan county fair. What are they?

Well, I finally discovered it - a way to explain what a MOO and a MUSH is to someone unfamiliar with the medium! This was no small task, for although I had seen the schMOOze U MOO demonstrated at NEALL in '94 and participated in a hands-on intro to the UVic VCR MUSH at IALL '95, I felt totally deficient in explaining exactly what a MOO or MUSH was to anyone at my home college.

MUSHes and MOOs are interactive, text-based environments, accessible via the Internet, in which participants can converse in real time, move around, and create spaces and objects.

I see the blank looks out there. Okay, in other words, native and non-native speakers, scattered all around the world, can connect to a central location and have real-time conversations with each other by typing on their computer keyboards. The more creative or motivated among them can type commands to create objects i.e. La Tour Eiffel. Another player who enters the area can see a description of this Eiffel Tower and again, using typed commands, perhaps "climb" to the top, or simply "put" it in his pocket and walk off to a different area. Whole virtual cities have been created. In the VCR MUSH, for instance, you will find Paris, Madrid, and Victoria, complete with metros, cafés, and museums. Upon connecting to the MUSH or MOO, students must use the target language to converse with strangers, to find and navigate their way from place to place, and to explore their surroundings.

MOOs and MUSHes, however, are best experienced rather than explained. My goal in this article is to encourage you to give it a try, and to point you to the resources you can use to ease your voyage into this new world.

Several MOOs and MUSHes are geared specifically to language learners and are conducted entirely in a specific language.

Language-specific MOOs and MUSHes

"LittleItaly", Italian language MOO
telnet address: 4444

Le MOO Francais, French language MOO
telnet address: 7777

UNItopia, German Language MUD
telnet address: 3333

MundoHispano, Spanish Language MOO
telnet address: 8888

schMOOze University (an EFL/ESL MOO)
telnet address: 8888

VCR MUSH: Virtual Classrooms MUSH
German, French, Spanish, Russian and English areas.
telnet address: 6250

Technical Info

All of these locations can be accessed via telnet. Merely type in the address i.e. 8888 in the "Host/Session Name" field. Most will allow you to connect as a guest, some may require that you create a name and password first and then connect. Participants or "Players" converse with others and move around in the MUSH/MOO using a few simple commands. MOOs and MUSHes can vary somewhat in the syntax of the commands which are used in each. In addition, some of the foreign language MOOs require the user to type commands in that language.

While you can access these locations merely using telnet; if you intend to spend any amount of time in them, a "client" program is in order. Without the enhanced interface provided by a client program - a MUSH/MOO session can be an unwieldy beast to ride. In my initial attempts at using MOOs, I was frustrated by the fact that I could rarely finish and send a thought without another player's message cutting me off and garbling my message. With my client program in place, I can take as long as I want to compose my message, and my message is never severed by that of another player. Several client programs exist - the one I am familiar with is called Muddweller. Muddweller is freeware for the Macintosh and is available at:

Other clients exist for Windows and Unix machines. See the MundoHispano web-site for links to those programs.

An excellent place to begin your introduction to this new world is Steve Thorne's web-site:

With extensive links to educational MOOs, MUDs, and MUSHes; to ESL and FL MOOs and MUSHes; to professional papers discussing the use of these environments in education; to other web sites relating to MOOs and MUSHes; as well as documents on Basic and Advanced MOO commands; how to log on to a MOO; and a brief history of MOOs; Thorne's web-site covers the bases, while linking you to other related sites with equally abundant resources. Notable among these is the MundoHispano web page.

Once connected to a MOO or MUSH there is usually a beginner's guide that can be downloaded or referred to while on-line. Some MOOs and MUSHes have associated web pages that include a list of commands, or advice on activities to do with your students in the MOO/MUSH. An excellent pedagogical resource is the "MOO Teacher's Tip Sheet" available via the MundoHispano web-site.

To give you an idea of what is possible with your students, I include here some suggestions from the MundoHispano web-site:

What can my students do at MundoHispano?

Interview other MOOers s
Gather information and write a report for class
Hunt for new vocabulary or idiomatic expressions
Build rooms in response to an in-class reading
Hold a party on the MOO, invite other on-line friends
Start a MOOmail correspondence with someone met on the MOO
Log their MOO sessions for later analysis
Design their own task
Keep a journal of MOO activities

MundoHispano director Lonnie Turbee had these words of advice for me as I was preparing a hands-on demonstration of MOOs and MUSHes for my Modern Language faculty, "I strongly suggest spending at least 4 hours in the MOO before you take anyone else there". I heeded those words and spent many hours with my student assistants exploring various MOOs and MUSHes and trying out the commands. In addition, we linked up with Susan Mackey on-line in the VCR MUSH as she led us through two tutorials.

My initial demonstration seems to have been a success - already I have a second demonstration scheduled for this week with members of the library and computer services staff. Most importantly, the week following my faculty demonstration a professor brought her Spanish class to use the MUSH. The students quickly figured out how to converse and to navigate around the MUSH, answering the questions and performing the actions assigned by the professor. Enthusiasm for the activity was high. After the class, one student asked how he can access the Spanish MUSH from his dorm room. Two students wanted to know how they could become "Wizards" - the administrators/programmers of these environment.


I want to express my gratitude first to Susan Mackey of the University of Victoria - creator of the VCR MUSH. Via e-mail, MUSH conversations, and telephone calls she assisted me at every step along the way to learn how to use a MUSH, how to train others in its use, and to conduct a class using the MUSH. Her encouragement and enthusiasm made the task less daunting. I'd also like to thank Lonnie Turbee, director of MundoHispano, who pointed me to some excellent web resources about MOOs and MUSHes and had some valuable advice from the trenches. I hope I have continued in their tradition, passing along enough information and resources to get you MOOving and MUSHing on your way.