The SLENZ Update – No 123, August 07, 2009

THE COUCH IN THE COMPUTER

Virtual psychology, therapy

to get own  OLIVE world

InWorld

Using the On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE™) virtual world platform from Forterra Systems, InWorld Solutions™, of Palo Alta, California,  has developed a virtual world specifically designed for behavioral healthcare.

Created for use by clinical institutions and individual therapists, the online application, InWorld, has been designed to  overcome emotional and cognitive barriers to therapy, counseling, and education by engaging clients and mobilising their active participation.

Like health and medical applications in Second Life, InWorld can also be used for therapist training and supervision. Although in a different virtual world it will join a number of pioneering medical training and health care applications being run in Second Life such as  the SLENZ Project’s midwifery education pilot program being run by  Otago Polytechnic,  Auckland University’s Virtual Medical Centre,  and  a myriad of other universities and organisations around the world who are doing pioneering medical and healthcare work in  MUVEs.

The InWorld application was scheduled  to be unveiled in Toronto, Canada,  today, Friday,  at an American Psychological Association (APA)  117th Annual Convention  plenary session entitled Next Stop: Virtual Psychology and Therapy.

“We founded InWorld Solutions to bring new technology to the field of behavioral healthcare,” said InWorld Solutions co-founder and CEO Walter Greenleaf, a pioneer in medical virtual environments and a Stanford University-trained research scientist specialising in behavioral neuroscience and cognitive rehabilitation.

“I’m excited about the convergence of several technical and social trends that enable us to provide InWorld today: the advancement of virtual environment technology, the penetration of broadband Internet, the affordability of computing power, and the growing adoption of virtual worlds,” he added.

Les Paschall, InWorld Solutions co-founder and CEO of CFG Health Systems, a 450-clinician behavioral healthcare provider in Marlton, New Jersey, said, “The potential demand for this kind of program is enormous. InWorld is designed to manage a wide range of disorders, and we’re seeing unprecedented levels of engagement and participation in our first use with clients who suffer from oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as patients dealing with issues of anger management and substance abuse.”

The pair claimed that  InWorld is the first and only product to offer therapists a complete solution by combining a virtual world with important clinical functions such as session notes, appointment calendar, clinical illustrations, a clinical manual, and the management of avatars, the personalized characters used by therapists and their clients.

Complements traditional therapy

Interactions use speech, so keyboard skills are not required. Sessions are recorded and can be saved for review and playback from different viewing perspectives.

It complements traditional talk therapy, helping the therapeutic process to go deeper and progress more rapidly for individual, family, and group therapy. In addition, InWorld can increase access to behavioral healthcare by allowing therapists and clients to meet in the same or different locations.

It was first used in residential care facilities for teens more than two years ago and was found to be a successful treatment option, making it possible to engage patients in the therapeutic process in ways that not only enable therapy, but facilitate faster progress.

In every setting where it has been used, clinicians and patients have reported, according to the company, that it is an important addition to the tools available for the management and treatment of behavioral health.

InWorld, which runs on the Windows operating system and requires broadband Internet access, will be available for download from the InWorld Solutions website in October 2009 at an introductory subscription-based pricing of  US$95 per month per clinician.

See also:  Use of Virtual Environments in Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and  here.

inworld2

The SLENZ Update – No 120, July 29, 2009

SOME THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED …

Research: VWs may help put you at ease

when dealing with your own health

mammogramUniversity of Toronto researchers put their avatar through
the paces of a virtual mammogram. Picture itbusiness.

Health researchers believe that the Web 2.0 world may be able to teach them something that the medical industry has never been able to master — the ability to make people feel comfortable and at ease when dealing with their own health, according to  the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“If you have to get a mammogram and you can walk through the process before it happens, it may help you get more informed and ask more reasonable questions of your healthcare practitioner,” Dr Jennifer Keelan, with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, told  itbusiness.ca, when discussing a University of Toronto study of healthcare activities in Second Life.  “I’ve never been taught to do a breast self-exam before. I found it interesting as a woman to go through that exercise, and I think the detail was sufficient for a person to try in real life.

Authored by student Leslie Beard and supervised by Keelan, the study published in a recent Journal of Medical Internet Research, examined 68 virtual sites where health was being taught or supported and concluded that even if healthcare is conducted in a virtual world, it may have real world applications.

Of those 68 sites, 34 were taking part in health education or awareness raising activities just like The Women’s Health Center at the Ann Myers Medical Center, referred to by Keelan in discussing the mammogram, which although a virtual healthcare facility,has nurses and physicians  who are real. They work here to reach out beyond the physical boundaries of the hospital and work past the innate discomfort of demonstrating good technique for self-examination mammograms.

“For many (medical) users, Second Life activities are a part of their Web 2.0 communication strategy,” the study said. ” The most common type of health-related site in our sample  were those whose principle aim was patient education or to increase awareness about health issues. The second most common type of site were support sites, followed by training sites, and marketing sites. Finally, a few sites were purpose-built to conduct research in SL or to recruit participants for real-life research.”

“Studies show that behaviors from virtual worlds can translate to the real world,” the study concluded. “Our survey suggests that users are engaged in a range of health-related activities in Second Life which are potentially impacting real-life behaviors.”

Discover Magazine asks:

Can Training in Second Life Teach

Doctors to Save Real Lives?

Auckland University’s associate director of information technology Scott Diener (pictured right) gets a notable mention in Discover magazine’s  report on virtual reality medical training programs which it says may bring big changes to the way health-care professionals learn their craft.

The article, among other things, looks at Diener’s  virtual Auckland University Medical Centre, and specifically at  a postpartum-hemorrhage simulation which has been operating since January for nursing students.DienerScott

Quoting Diener, Discover notes that so far, around 20 students have used the simulation on Auckland University’s  Second Life island of Long White Cloud, with overwhelmingly positive results.

“After they’ve ended the scenario, the faculty sits down and talks about their decisions,” Diener said. “From a learning perspective, it’s the post-scenario debriefing that does more for the students than anything else.”

The SLENZ Update – No 119, July 25, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Midwifery tutor passes on

‘lessons’ from 1st SL  class

Lead educator for the SLENZ Project’s Midwifery pilot for Otago Polytechnic and Canterbury’s CPIT, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) (pictured),  after running her first  teaching sessions in Second Life, has come up with  nine interesting and valuable  lessons for  any neophyte virtual world teacher.

Although most seasoned Second Life educators will have already solved these the issues she raises  they are worth thinking about again as one reads her blog, Sarah’s Musings.Stewart, Sarah

Stewart’s sessions were based on the second learning activity that has been designed for junior midwifery students as part of the SLENZ Project’s midwifery pilot.
Her key lesson appears to be: “If you are new to Second Life as a teacher, have someone with you who can help out until you grow more confident in your abilities. I am still learning about Second Life myself so found it really useful to have Leigh (Blackall) with me to support me.”

Although disappointed at the lack of discussion and apparently interaction that took place with the small number of  students Stewart  enjoyed taking them around. Her final word to herself, however, says it all: “… be very organised with what I do and say, and make sure I am as prepared for eventualities as I can be.”

While reading  Stewart’s blog its also worth while looking at her  two explorations/ examinations  of  “birthing places” in Second Life, no matter how unrelated to real life some of those birthing places are and how whimsical they may be.

The blogs are here and an earlier one, here.

The SLENZ Update – No 110, July 07, 2009

Oldest US dental school to become first dental school in Second LifeUMDentalSchool_007

The United States’ oldest dental school – at the University of Maryland-Baltimore – is set to become, later this year, the first school to offer dental training in Second Life.

“We have developed a virtual world where students and faculty can collaborate and train,” Dr Carroll-Ann Trotman, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at UMB, told Emmett Burnett of SLEntrepreneurMagazine last month.

“Second Life enables us to reach students around the world in ways that were practically impossible before,” she said. “It is a global outreach.”

“But virtual dental training is an additional educational tool, one of many,” Dr Trotman told Burnett. “It is not a substitute for real classrooms.”

Students at virtual UM Dental School will be able to study and train at the new virtual campus which will offer consultations, case studies, classes, lectures and training.

It is the brainchild of Julie Gilliam, – instrumental in the online school’s technical development – and Dean Christian S. Stohler, Dean of UMB, who, according to SLEntrepreneurMagazine, is credited with the foresight in funding the virtual site’s development.

UMDentalSchool_001UM Dental School campus replicated in many ways.

The virtual UM Dental School in many ways replicates the real life campus. It has classrooms, conference areas and student centers as well as clinical areas.

It has three goals: Allow more collaboration between students and faculty; provide another tool for teaching, with emphasis on ‘another,’ not a substitute for traditional training; simulate real life scenarios with case studies and role playing opportunities, giving avatars hands on training in activities ranging from diagnosing symptoms to dealing with disgruntled patients.

The virtual campus also houses exhibits from the National Museum of Dentistry.

UMDentalSchool_008National Museum of Dentistry … from the historic to the unusual.

The SLENZ Update – No 104, June 24, 2009

CYBERPSYCHOLOGY

The Virtual World challenges

facing mental health research

The challenges health professionals face in using virtual worlds have more to do with the commercial cost of developing serious games or health purpose virtual worlds rather than with the quality of the environments being delivered over the internet or through off-the-shelf games,  according to  Dr Andrew Campbell, an Australian researcher  in Cyberpsychology.

In a wide-ranging interview with  Lowell Cremorne, of  The Metaverse Journal, the director of the Prometheus Research Team at the University of Sydney,  said that in addition to this, research, looking at how  immersive environments could be used to tackle problems  in health, behaviour and education, was  facing a health professional vs tech industry challenge in trying to effectively harness the ideas for scientifically-based delivery of health interventions.

“In short,” Campbell (pictured left) said, “the health professionals need to learn more about the tech industry and vice versa. Once this bridge is finally built, I believe we will be entering a new error of technology consumerism – games for wellbeing and ICT for personal health management.”Campbell, Dr Andrew

Campbell’s primary job is an academic researcher and teacher in the field of Psychology, particularly Cyberpsychology, which is the study of how technology is impacting human behaviour, both in good and bad ways. Secondly, he is a general practice psychologist who specialises in child and adolescent mental health and behavioural problems. His clinical work is focused on treating children with ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression, conduct problems, as well as parental counselling and family therapy.

His fascinating interview with Cremorne covers gaming and violence and addiction and  the often-hidden benefits of  video games – “parents themselves do not know anything about the games their children are playing” .

Based on his experience he is dismissive of the anecdotal direct causative link between the regular playing of violent games and violent real-life behaviour.

“Playing a violent game is no more likely to trigger someone’s violent behaviour than eating your favourite food is going to motivate you to become a chef,” he told Cremorne.

Conversely a  number of studies of gaming, he said, had shown wonderful results through helping people to ameliorate either behaviour or, in some cases, the management of pain.

This is only a very limited taste of the full interview which you should read  here.

The SLENZ Update – No 89, May 25, 2009

Distance education with a difference

Otago Midwifery students to learn

about birthing in virtual world

Birthing Centre_002

Today, for the first time,  New Zealand midwifery students began  to enhance their regular study programme with learning in the virtual world of Second Life.

The 27 first year students and 23 second year students were introduced to the Otago Polytechnic’s virtual “model” birth centre (Te Wāhi Whānau), on the Government-funded SLENZ Project’s Second Life virtual island of Kowhai.

The students will be joined by another 15 third-year students in June as the School of Midwifery further develops the “blended delivery tools” it is using in its newly-revised midwifery education programme. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and midwifery students will also join the virtual world part of the programme in June.

The students range in age from their 20s to 40s, with a variety of life experiences and varying degrees of computer literacy.

According to Dr Deborah Davis, the school’s principal lecturer, students will eventually access The Birth Centre from home via the Internet through Broadband links.

In February Otago Polytechnic in collaboration with CPIT began a new “flexible” programme which allows the students to remain in their home town or community while accessing course material on line and working alongside local midwives and women and meeting for face-to-face tutorials. Their virtual world experience will be part of this.

‘Intensives’ face-to-face

“They are supported by a midwife from their area who provides face-to-face tutoring and support,” Dr Davis said, adding that these students travel to the polytechnic for “intensives” (two weeks, four times/year) where they “focus on skills and other learning that is more suited to face-to-face” teaching.

Dr Davis said the virtual Birth Centre would also “provide an important learning opportunity for second-year students, who are currently focusing on the physiology of normal birth.

“While students are currently engaged in real life midwifery practice they may not have the opportunity to facilitate physiological childbirth in a home or home-like environment … we hope that the virtual birth centre will provide them with an immersive experience and one in which they start to feel the sense of responsibility and accountability that comes with being a registered midwife.”

Dr Davis said the virtual birth centre should also provide a useful opportunity for third-year students to hone and practice their midwifery decision-making skills while participating in an “apprentice” style year on clinical placements with midwives all over New Zealand.

The SLENZ Project, which is running two pilot education programmes in Second Life, is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.

The SLENZ Update – No 87, May 20, 2009

AUCKLAND U’s  VIRTUAL MEDICAL CENTRE

Students learn those communication,

teamwork, clinical  skills – virtually

Virtual simulation in an Auckland University, New Zealand, virtual medical centre  training environment is returning similar results to a  real life training facility at a fraction of the cost of a facility of that type, according to Dr Scott Diener PhD (Pictured at right).

Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) (http://scottdiener.edublogs.org), the university’s associate director of IT Services, an enthusiastic proponent of learning in virtual worlds and creator of the University’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies’ Long White Cloud Island sim in Second Life, made this remark in  a YouTube video presentation on the Virtual Medical Centre.

The University of Auckland’s interest in virtual worlds is such that it has also taken up 12 islands on the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid (on the ONGENS Test Bed Facility), a start-up being run by Otago University and the University of Canterbury on the KAREN network. ONGENS (Otago Next Generation Networks and Services)  is supported by the Global Network Interconnectivity Project which is funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission Growth through an Innovation Pilot Initiative.DienerScott

American-born Diener (right), who is also a blue-water yachtsman, notes that  to set up a similar training facility in real life, using mannequins, would cost something like US2.5 million.
In the SL Medical Centre simulation, however, Diener said, the instructor could set various similar simulations/situations that students teams had to diagnose and treat.

“Readings and charts change when someone becomes a patient,” he said, adding that the students, through working in the simulation, learned teamwork and communication skills alongside the clinical skills.

In the virtual  ward, actors could sit in beds  (as avatars) acting as patients with specific problems, he said. He didn’t mention it  in the video but this means they can be accessed/interviewed/diagnosed by students and interns – and even working doctors needing to upgrade their skills – with access to Broadband internet anywhere but not the time to travel to New Zealand’s two medical schools, one in Auckland and  the other in  Dunedin.

“Participant take a survey to determine if virtual simulation provides comparable results to laboratory settings,” he said, adding, “So far, the virtual simulation is offering comparable results at a fraction of the cost.”



The SLENZ Update – No 27, November 20, 2008

Mercy killing gets Lively

Google has taken the hatchet to its  virtual world, Lively, after less than six months operation.

Initially damned with faint praise and sometimes ridicule the Lively virtual world was launched in July by Google Labs with much overhype “because we wanted users to be able to interact with their friends and express themselves online in new ways.”

Now its impending mercy killing at the end of December has been announced by Google  with little fanfare at the official Google blogspot ( http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/lively-no-more.html)  under the simple livelyheading, Lively no more”.

Whether is was ever lively is debatable, although Google Labs admit “we’ve always accepted that when you take these kinds of risks not every bet is going to pay off”.

That’s why,” Google said, “despite all the virtual high fives and creative rooms everyone has enjoyed in the last four and a half months, we’ve decided to shut Lively down at the end of the year. It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritiise our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business. Lively.com will be discontinued at the end of December, and everyone who has worked on the project will then move on to other teams.

“We’d encourage all Lively users to capture your hard work by taking videos and screenshots of your rooms,” Google Labs said.

VW painkiller

Some of us outside the main centres of New Zealand who have often struggled with TelstraClear or Telecom’s woefully inadequate Broadband  services might not see virtual world technology as a painkiller. More like a constant pain in the butt.

But the University of Washington’ s HIT Lab created Snow World   as a virtual reality pain reduction program almost a decade ago, according to Second Life’s wellknown Dusan Writer (pictured) (RL: Doug Thompson, CEO of Remedy Communications) in his Metaverse blog (http://dusanwriter.com/)

Snow World has had remarkable results on burn patients, Dusan said. The  ‘distraction,’ as it is called, has been in frequent use at the University of Washington Harborview Burn Center, helping take the patient’s mind off of pain during the difficult wound care period.

Now, Dusan said, quoting  ScienCentral, the US military is going to study whether Snow World is applicable to soldiers who have been burned in combat.dusanwriter

Snow World is all about snow, the near-opposite of fire and heat. The world is snowy and cold and researchers say this is a great help to burn victims.

Meanwhile Dusan has also reported on the fact that paramedic students at two universities in London, UK, are using SL to aid in their learning, through allowing them to check a patient’s pulse, dress wounds and administer drugs is a similar way to what Auckland University’s Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) [http://scottdiener.edublogs.org/] is doing on Long White Cloud Island in SL.

“The most important thing is that they can afford to make mistakes online, which they could not afford to do in real life,” Dr. Ahmed Younis, the principle lecturer, said. “”When they make a mistake, they are always keen not to make this mistake again.”

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