The SLENZ Update – No 24, November 12, 2008

SL learning “fun”

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Second Life provides options for multi-modality in communication that “make learning fun – always a desired outcome,” according to two Finish researchers.
This was only one of the findings from their recently completed in-depth study of distance learning in Second Life, published recently in First Monday, the peer-reviewed journal of the University of Illinois (Chicago). http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2178/2033
Reflecting other research Kim Holmberg and Isto Huvila (both have researcher/lecturer roles in Finland’s Department of Information Studies, Åbo Akademi) found that, although virtual learning is reshaping what happens in the classroom and will be a valuable add-on learning tool in the future,  Second Life and other virtual worlds can never fully replace in-class learning.
But they said, “To place Second Life, Web-based learning environments and face-to-face education in order according to which one is the best is hardly useful.

“According to the results of this study, the three learning environments compete very well with each other,” they said. “There are benefits in face-to-face education and in real physical presence that are difficult to achieve in other learning environments.
“Education in Second Life is closer to face-to-face education than traditional methods in distance education that are based on asynchronous communication and two-dimensional media. Second Life provides options for multimodality in communication (voice, chat, gestures, space) that make learning fun – always a desired outcome.”
The researchers said they were convinced that the concept of interreality – the integration of physical and virtual worlds – is “an advantage in distance education, if it can bring distance education closer to face-to-face education.”
Interestingly of the 30 students that participated in the study of a course in information studies – 28 female, two male – few had difficulty navigating through SL and most felt that it was superior to other Web-based learning environments.
Second Life was used as a platform to deliver lectures and as a place for organising group assignments and having discussions.
“One reason why the barrier to participation in Second Life was lower may be the fact that SL provides means for multimodal communication, even in-world,” the two researchers said.
“Students could use text-based chat inside SL to ask questions and participate and the teacher could answer and respond at a suitable time without interruption. It is possible to communicate through different channels at the same time, and students can use a channel that best suits them. Another possible explanation might be that the use of avatars gives students some level of anonymity with students ‘hiding’ behind their avatars.
But they added, provided that participating face-to-face education does not require too much travelling and learning outcomes are satisfactory, “Second Life does not necessarily provide any significant benefits, at least not when using it only as a platform for lectures and teamwork.
“When considering distance only as a physical measure of separation, Second Life provides a means to overcome it. The existence of multimodal and non-interfering means of communication and socialisation by using chat, instant messages and voice calls in personal and group interaction provides users a wider range of possibilities to communicate than in face-to-face sessions.”

Browser wars?

My belief that the creation of a universal generic browser (carrying assets) will be the key to the widespread adoption of virtual worlds received somewhat of a setback this week with Wagner James Au reporting in Newworldnotes, about a leading open source developer creating a non-SL compatible viewer.
Asking whether there was a fork ahead in the road to the Metaverse (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2008/11/a-fork-in-the-m.html#more) he wrote about KirstenLee Cinquetti’s, development of the Openlife R16 viewer, (pictured, courtesy nwn) cinquettikirstenleewhich, although based on the original open source code of the SL viewer, only works with Openlife.
Au said the move was significant because the work by Cinquetti, previously renowned for her SL-compatible viewers, especially her dynamic lighting-enabled Shadowdraft viewer, could complicate attempts by Linden Lab, IBM, and other organisations to create full interoperability between Second Life and OpenSim servers as well as possibly lead to browser wars a la the early days of the net.

SL prize details

Every educator believes they are working not only for the good of their students but also for the good of the world and even the universe.
Well, Linden Labs has now allowed them – as well as every other Second Life resident – to compete in a “superlative achievement” award in what would appear to be a made for education prize opportunity (http://lindenlab.com/lindenprize)
Robin Linden and Everett Linden gave further details of the Linden Prize in SL this week. The prize will see one Second Life resident or team receive US$10,000 (paid in $L) for an innovative inworld project “that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world.”
When originally announced four months ago by Mitch Kapor the prize was described as rewarding “superlative achievement” exemplifying the mission of “elevating the human condition” through using SL.
“We expect and want to create a wide funnel of people thinking, ‘Hey that might be me,'” said Everett Linden (Everett Harper in RL and Linden’s Director of Community Initiatives).
He said entries were expected from people in healthcare, people-creating communities with real impact, scientists with psychological studies, people with diplomacy projects, and architecture among other things.
“The key thing is that can you document tangible evidence of improving and having a good impact on people’s lives, and I say that broadly,” he said. “And it’s got to be compelling and high-quality, from compelling to aesthetics to technical to pure execution. It should really have a sense of being influential to creating future development across virtual worlds into the real world. ” Applications close January 15, 2009, with the winner and finalists announced no later than April 30, 2009.

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SL Community

For those of you who missed it previously Jennifer Ragan-Fore (SL:Kittygloom Cassady), SLEDcc Co-Chair, has again provided the slurl of the streaming pages and blogs of the successful “edu track” of the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa. http://sledcc.wikispaces.com/Audio+Visual+Archives; http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=blog+sledcc08&btnG=Search; Flickr uploads http://www.flickr.com/groups/sledcc08; RezEd discussions http://www.rezed.org/ ; and tweets http://twitter.com/sledcc .

Kemp on SL strength

Building community in Second Life is “really a matter of fostering user ownership and getting users involved,” says Jeremy Kemp, assistant director of San Jose State University’s SL Campus and wellknown virtual world guru. “That’s the strength of Second Life,” he said, “it’s a world created by users.”
And, in Second Life, according to Kemp, where a group of students meets at the same time online, there’s a sense of embodiment, a feeling of being in the classroom and a sense of presence.
“They get the feeling of being there,” says Kemp, and “they can see me in the classroom.”
Kemp expressed this view to Samantha Cleaver in an article in the ecommercetimes on Virtual Learning and the Avatar Generation – diverse issues in higher education, which looks at distance learning up close. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/web20/65082.html?wlc=1226309206&wlc=1226353422

Events

November 17, 1-5pm (SL time) “Real World Impacts from the Virtual World” including a “sneak preview” of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s new sim “Foundations” should be of interest to educators and researchers. Interactive events covering how groups use virtual spaces like Second Life to build opportunities in preserving native peoples’ cultures, creating accessible spaces for people with disabilities, helping obese people make healthy life choices and teaching underprivileged youth about paleontology and science. Venues: (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Foundations/119/233/36) and the neighboring archipelago that includes the Network Culture Project, Justice Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/The%20Justice%20Commons/134/130/29) and Aloft Nonprofit Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Aloft%20Nonprofit%20Commons/88/52/23/).

November 18, 2008, 7-8am (SL time) – Edward Lee Lamoureux (pictured at right), associate professor, Multimedia Program and Department of Communication, Bradley University) (SL:Professor Beliveau) participant in the recent lamoureuxInternational Distance Learning Day event. will share a portion of his IDLD talk with the Healthcare Education group (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Health%20Eduisland/174/144/25) Info on Lamoureux http://slane.bradley.edu/com/faculty/lamoureux/website2/

November 28-29, 2008 – Australasian Virtual Worlds Workshop 2008, EN 101, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia, and selected locations in SL. Keynote speakers include: Larry Johnson (CEO, NMC), Chris Collins (Director of Enterprise Business Systems, Linden Lab) and Bruce Joy (CEO, Vast Park) This workshop builds upon foundations established by the Second Life Discovery Day held in 2007 at Monash University, Australia. Registration for presenters and students is A$20 and for other participants A$50. In-world attendance slurls will be emailed following registration. http://avww.org/files/AVWW%20programme%20Panel%20and%20Presenters.pdf

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