The SLENZ Update – No 6 September 13, 2008


The kids will grow up

If one feels that virtual worlds are still not relevant for education – and there are a myriad who feel that way – one only has to look at the current figures for children in virtual worlds, and extrapolate those figures into future young adults and adults.

To ignore this potential user group one’s thinking processes would have to be akin to the thoughts behind the  1943 statement apocryphally attributed to then IBM head honcho Thomas  J. Watson, who reportedly said,”I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,”

Like dinosaurs, those educators who don’t get on the Virtual World  bus now and bleed a little on the cutting edge could eventually be left behind  or worse die out: that’s not to say Virtual Worlds are a panacea for all tertiary education problems, just that they are pointing in a new direction.

This thought was brought to mind by Cambridge,UK-based VW guru Nic Mithams’ recent ruminations on  “Winners and losers in the kids’ VW space” .

Although he pondered on the difficulties of assessing who, where, and what kids are accessing, the problem of multiple registrations and just how big the VW space is, he did come up with some striking answers.

Taking the top five worlds in the KT space on a registered account basis he determined a figure of close to 200m kids.

He said, “Filter out from this duplicate accounts (a single person with multiple accounts in the same world), aged accounts (people no longer logging in) and cross-world accounts (people with accounts in more than one world) and you probably get a unique user base of 35m kids aged seven to twelve. This is equivalent to the entire population of California or for us Europeans, the whole of Poland.”

Then extrapolating from that figure  – a “quick and dirty estimate” – he said he saw the figure doubling to 70m by the end of 2009 and comfortably growing to 150m by 2010.

As a result the companies – Barbie Girls, Disney, LEGO and numerous TV-based properties – leveraging real world IP and brand power into the virtual space, he said, already had millions of potential ‘virtual world residents’ – kids who have grown up in a real world wrapped by these brands – and were looking at increasing success. The kids understand them and most importantly they know them. In fact, more than likely they see them every day as toys on their shelves or programmes on their TV.

“We’re not in charge of this industry, the kids are,” he said. “These are the individuals who’ll be driving the virtual worlds industry into the middle of the 21st century.”

If that’s the case even without the current up take of virtual worlds  by adults and soon to be adults educators ignore the phenomena of virtual worlds at their peril – we need to get the skills now on virtual ground so that we can design the education programmes that  are going to be the key of future life-long learning based around our tertiary institutions.

This is particularly so for a country like New Zealand which could be so easily left behind in this revolution/evolution that is occurring given there are senior executives in our telecommunication organisations who believe third world communication products are good enough for this country adn educators who still see virtual worlds as no more than “games for nerds”.

But read Nick Mitham, [] particularly on the need for relevance to be a winner in VWs. I think his conclusions will set you thinking.


Distance education

San Jose State University’s Jeremy Kemp has alerted SLED readers to what he terms  “not his (and Ken Haycock’s) magnum opus, but it is peer reviewed”   views on “Immersive Learning Environments in Parallel Universes: Learning through Second Life”.

Based around the Virtual World opportunities for more creative and innovative environments for learners developing through distance education, especially at the post‐secondary level,  the treatise has some relevance and insights for SLENZERS. For Kemp and Haycock immersive environments can involve high‐end video game technologies to create multi‐user virtual worlds that can both replicate and far extend physical classrooms. At San Jose State Universityʹs School of Library and Information Science, courses offered in and through Second Life “have developed both competence and comfort in working with library users,” they say. They also share the several useful lessons that have been learned.

More SLEDcc info

SLEDcc 2008 in Tampa, Florida, was one of those conferences that SLENZERS probably should have covered more fully. However, one can catch up fairly easily at: or at

Tip: If you Google “slideshare” and “slcc08” you may find the original Powerpoint, which can aid your viewing experience.


September 15, 2008, from 10:00 am-1:30 pm SL time, for a half-day, immersive conference in Second Life® and on the web, “Virtual Worlds and the Future of Business Education”, celebrating the debut of Kelley Executive Partners’ Virtual Campus. Affiliated with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Kelley Executive Partners is one of the world’s leading innovators in executive education. This half-day program will bring together representatives of Kelley’s global-class faculty, leading corporations and virtual world technologists, and will provide unique insight into the current value and potential of immersive social worlds to executive education, corporate/institutional learning partnerships, training, team building and related disciplines.”

October 9, 2008, at 8pm (BST), renowned UK author Terry Pratchett will appear in  Second Life on “Nation” island to take part in a Q&A with fans from across the globe, as a part of a month-long Second Life promotion of his new children’s novel, Nation,  published in the UK September 11, by Doubleday, and in the US  September 30 by Harper Collins. Visit Elysian isle in SL to get a note card with details of his visit and a Treasure Hunt.






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