The SLENZ Update – No 22, November 05, 2008

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Three members of the SLENZ Project selection panel at work. Aaron Griffths (Isa Goodman), Dr Clare Atkins ( Arwenna Stardust) and Leigh Blackall (Leroy Goalpost)

Three on SLENZ shortlist

Three New Zealand education/training institutions have been “shortlisted” for the Second Life Education New Zealand Project.
The project, funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission, has been designed to determine whether New Zealand education can benefit from “new” virtual world internet technology.
The initial selection, from six formal proposals from across New Zealand, was made by a four-person SLENZ team, Terry Neal and Dr Clare Atkins, joint project leaders, the project’s learning designer, Leigh Blackall, and lead developer, Aaron Griffiths.
“We selected the three because we considered they covered the breadth of student types and desired learning outcomes to help us determine the answers to a broad range of questions,” Terry Neal  (Tere Tinkle) said. “We were disappointed budgetary constraints prevented us from selecting more because all the proposals were interesting.”
The proposals from which the selection was made included: language learning, including Te Reo; medical training; foundation learning; information technology and retail training.
The names of those selected are expected to be announced before the end of the month after final evaluation by the SLENZ project steering group.
Initially more than 40 individual educators from tertiary institutions across the country expressed interest in becoming part of the SLENZ project.
All five types of New Zealand tertiary institution were represented in the numbers – universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga, industry training organisations and private training enterprises.
The innovation project, which has been set up on the Second Life islands of Koru and Kowhai, owned by NMIT, aims to determine how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning.

MUVEs  boost ‘writing’

Though not in a realm of  tertiary education a study of the effects of a digital learning environment designed to improve elementary student writing,  has come up with some useful and sometime thought-provoking answers to questions often posed by educators in all fields of virtual learning.

By Warren, Scott J Dondlinger, Mary Jo; Barab, Sasha A , and posted in the redOrbit Knowledge Network (http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1576546/a_muve_towards_pbl_writing_effects_of_a_digital_learning/index.html), an online community specifically for those with an interest in science, space, health and technology,  the paper is entitled “A MUVE Towards PBL Writing: Effects of a Digital Learning Environment Designed To Improve Elementary Student Writing”.

The project on which the paper reports  endeavored to solve two major obstacles to using problem-based learning methods with writing in elementary school classrooms. The problems are the time taken to design the learning environment and the time required for students to interact at their own pace with ill-structured problems used to spur student writing.redorbit1

The study determined that game elements could be used along with Problem Based Learning (PBL) in a digital learning environment to improve student writing.

The results from this study, which could be used as a basis for foundation learning,  included statistically significant decreases in teacher time spent answering procedural and directional questions, increased voluntary student writing, and improved standardised achievement scores on writing tasks.

SL Toolkit!

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She has uploaded it  to (http://seekersbrain.wikispaces.com/Reports+and+Articles)  to make her list available to anyone who wishes to use it.

At the same spot she provides a link to a  valuable  hypertext book which explores the psychological aspects of environments created by computers and online networks.

The book by John Suler, Ph.D, of the Department of Psychology, Science and Technology Center, at Rider University, presents an evolving conceptual framework for understanding how people react to and behave within cyberspace: what he calls “the psychology of cyberspace” – or simply “cyberpsychology.” The book is continually being revised and expanded. ( http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/psycyber.html)

Transformation?

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The difficulty of being a newbie in a strange land never ceases to surprise me – especially when I visit new OpenSims that don’t have the facilities of Second Life – and many of them don’t. They feel more like Second Life of three to four years ago with the inherent problems of lag and crashes and lack of easy to obtain freebie clothes, skin and hair etc. Even walking like a penguin can prove a pain in the proverbial with AOs largely ignored.

However, for newbies or noobs entry to Second Life also can still be a painful and often offputting experience without the other pressures of non compatible or elderly computer technology,  slow broadband and other grief causing problems.

But Benjamin Linden has announced that  Linden lab is about to do something about transforming the Second Life rebirth experience ( http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/11/03/transforming-the-second-life-experience)
Announcing that Linden Lab had engaged award-winning interactive design agency Big Spaceship as a partner in transforming the Second Life experience,  Benjamin noted that   tailoring the Second Life platform to make it easier for new Residents to begin experiencing the virtual world had been “one of our primary objectives moving forward”.

“The goals of the project are to dramatically simplify the sign-up stage, ease users’ introduction into Second Life, and quickly connect people to relevant content and experiences in Second Life,” he said.

Big Spaceship (http://www.bigspaceship.com/), an interactive design agency with expertise in user experience strategy, interface design, and Web development, is well known for its work creating compelling online experiences that are approachable and engaging.

The latest Linden  move hopefully will do something to turn around  the sometimes claimed 80 percent churn/loss rate in new residents.

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