THE SLENZ PROJECT
Yay! It’s a 2nd runner-up EDUBLOG
‘Oscar’ to SLENZ Project Team
‘Phenomenal’ result for team from Aotearoa/New Zealand
Aaron Griffiths at the head of the table, and Dr Clare Atkins, in black, left.
A chance meeting in Second Life three years ago between Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, and education-online tools developer and Second Life builder Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) came to a climax this week with a second runner-up place for the SLENZ Project in the prestigious, international EDUBLOG 2009 awards in the “best educational use of a virtual world” category.
The placing for the the team from New Zealand was greeted with elation by SLENZ Project team members – “the best Christmas present ever “- and seen by independent educators, academics and education institution administrators as “fantastic”, “phenomenal” and “unprecedented.”
The New Zealand team won its second runner-up place in a competition which pitted it against 14 of the world’s best “virtual world” education organisations. The winner of the title was Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; the first runner-up, Virtual Round Table Conference; with the SLENZ Project sharing second runner-up status with ISTE’s Second Life island.
‘Set a benchmark’
“I think this is just phenomenal,” said Scott Diener, one of the world leaders in Second Life education and associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, in a message to the team. “The SLENZ team has truly set a benchmark against which other developments should measure. I hope I can say ‘I am so proud of you’ without it sounding pretentious…because I am so proud of you.”
Tony Gray, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology which hosted the SLENZ Project initially on its island of Koru in Second Life, said in a message to Atkins on hearing the news: “This is a fantastic outcome and significantly achieved through your passion and commitment to the project. I am very proud that NMIT should have first of all taken a lead and secondly that we can show a peer-reviewed achievement as a result.”
The SLENZ Project grew out of that first meeting between Atkins and Griffths who both dreamed of seeing “students interacting with each other and their international peers, with the Second Life environment, with teachers, domain experts, inspirational speakers from all over the “real” world”. The project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission. It has been completely developed under Creative Commons license with all builds freely available for use or acquisition by anyone with “full permissions.”
The EDUBLOG placings were chosen by public vote.
a Jokaydia un-conference presentation
The SLENZ Project creations – 2. The Kowhai Island arrival pad.
The SLENZ Project creations – 3. Manukau Institute of Technology’s
Foundation (Bridging) Learning Pilot Programme
“I don’t think either of us ever really imagined that only three years later we would have been part of a team that had not only helped to realise that dream but had succeeded beyond our wildest hopes,” Atkins said today commenting on the award to the NZ$500,00 project . It was designed to determine whether there were benefits from providing education in a virtual world and, if so, how those benefits could best be harnessed.
‘Lil, happy dance’
Aaron Griffths Second Life alter ego, Isa Goodman, “smiled and did a lil, happy dance” inside Second Life, on hearing the news, according to Griffiths, the SLENZ Project’s lead developer.
Griffiths added, “This is a great achievement and I think all the team should be proud of what we have accomplished. It is wonderful to have peer recognition that we have done something right in our attempt to explore the educational possibilities of virtual worlds and I hope that New Zealand will not now drop the ball as this award, I believe. recognises, we are up there with the best.
“On a personal level I am very proud to have produced builds that have been received so well,” he said. “I believe it gives some credence to the methodologies used in them and in particular to the Foundation Studies build, which was deliberately designed to capture some of the elements of play that an environment like Second Life allows.
“It showed I think a possible pathway for developing learning that can engage and be fun and still have a positive outcome in terms of student achievement.”
The core SLENZ team members who worked on the project, besides Neal, Atkins and Griffiths, included from time to time, Merle Lemon, Sarah Stewart, Todd Cochrane, Leigh Blackall, Ben Salt, Henry Work and John Waugh.
Filed under: Education, Education in Second Life, Education in virtual worlds, Second Life, SLENZ Project, Virtual Worlds Tagged: | Aaron Griffths, Ben Salt, Clare Atkins, EDUBLOG 2009, Henry Work, John Waugh, Leigh Blackall, Manukau Institute of Technology, Merle Lemon, Nelson Marlborough Insitute of Technology NMIT, Sarah Stewart, Scott Diener, SLENZ Project, Terry Neal, The University of Auckland, Todd Cochrane, Tony Gray