The SLENZ Update – No 8 September 19, 2008

Growing like Topsy!

There is no doubt that the importance of Virtual Worlds for recreation, education and business is growing around the world, despite the fact that the print and free-to-air television media often appear to have a vested interest in denigrating them.

Cambridge, UK, based Nic Mitham, K Zero’s resident guru has just updated his  Virtual World universe  graphs showing total registered accounts for the virtual worlds sector. The latest data  relates to Q3 2008.

In the plus 25 age group Second Life is still  leading by miles, despite the plethora of start ups  around the world, including in Australia and New Zealand, where we have our own Ongens Virtual World grid.

But aside from the below 25 age groups within  Virtual Worlds – particularly the tweens and teens – it is to Second Life, I believe New Zealand educators must look if they want to get involved in Virtual World technology, even if it is only a case of getting their feet wet – and despite some of the difficulties.

For Nic’s graphs: http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/?p=2485

Latest presentations: http://www.slideshare.net/nicmitham/slideshows

SL wears crown – for now

AJ Kelton (“AJ Brooks”),  director of Emerging Instructional Technology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University, says in EDUCAUSE that  Second Life wears the  Virtual World education crown today and appears to be poised to do what it can to remain at the top of the pack.

He made this comment when observing in his latest column that whether it is Second Life or another virtual world, this Virtual World “foundational movement” is not going away. The question to be addressed in the coming months and years, he says,  is how higher education and, subsequently, individual institutions will determine the best way to continue to move forward with Virtual Worlds.

“Linden Lab has made exceptional efforts to reach out to the educational community and to provide the resources that will allow teaching and learning to be an important part of its business plan,” he said. “Educational institutions receive discounts to encourage investment in “land,” which must be used for educational purposes. Linden Lab does not release individual client data, so the number of educational institutions and the amount of virtual land specified for education can only be speculated. Virtual Worlds? “Outlook Good” <http://educause.informz.net/z/cjUucD9taT0xNDgwNzEmcD0xJnU9MTAwMDAwMjExOCZsaT00MzQ2NzU/index.html&gt;
Other stories you should look at on this publication include:    Higher Education as Virtual Conversation <http://educause.informz.net/z/cjUucD9taT0xNDgwNzEmcD0xJnU9MTAwMDAwMjExOCZsaT00MzQ2NzY/index.html>  where  Sarah Robbins-Bell (“Intellagirl Tully”)  argues that  although   Virtual worlds can become an important tool in an educator’s arsenal their use  requires a shift in thinking and an adjustment in pedagogical methods that will embrace the community, the fluid identity, and the participation—indeed, the increased conversation—that virtual spaces can provide.

In looking to the Future: Higher Education in the Metaverse <http://educause.informz.net/z/cjUucD9taT0xNDgwNzEmcD0xJnU9MTAwMDAwMjExOCZsaT00MzQ2Nzg/index.html&gt; Chris Collins (“Fleep Tuque”)  looks beyond the capabilities that Virtual Worlds offer  at the moment to  the possibilities that can be imagined for the future that may be even more “compelling”. Virtual worlds’ technology, like the Internet in general, is changing the way we access and experience information and the way we can access and connect with each other, he says.

It’s a winner?

Melbourne’s ExitReality founder Danny Stefanic is on a winner for  the hoi poloi if a test run of his new 3D web browser software is anything to go by.

It also might lead to an even greater adoption of other Virtual World’s where one can do  real things like building and designing one’s own content.

ExitReality claims to be to 3D internet what Google was for web searches, what YouTube was for video and what MySpace and Facebook were for social networking and in a short  – one hour – trial it far surpassed Google’s almost amateurish concept with Lively. Available for free at http://www.exitreality.com as a four megabyte download, ExitReality operates as a plug-in for existing web browsers.

Unlike most Virtual Worlds Stefanic says it was designed with the average computer in mind. “ExitReality has been built to run on low-spec computers,” he said. “It can even run on dial up, albeit slowly”.
It claims to offer “more than 40 billion 3D worlds instantly”, by converting 2D webpages into 3D landscapes that the user can then navigate to view the website’s content. ExitReality also allows users to see and chat with other users who are visiting the same site.

Is it a game?

Educators, particularly those raising money for educational activities in Virtual World’s like Second Life, are often asked, “Is it a game?”

SLED lister Barbara Mikolajczak  recently provided educators with some links which can spark thought and go some way to answering this question both for oneself and for others – particularly those who control the purse strings.

She noted that the question of  whether  Second Life is a game had been discussed in depth by members of the Immersive Education Initiative. The discussion is archived in the “2008-March” Immersive Education email archives. If you’re currently a member just go into the email archives, and look under 2008-March for the subject “Is Second Life a game?”. It was a very active discussion, with lots of input from a wide range of educators. If you’re not a member you can still get access to the archives. Just visit http://ImmersiveEducation.org/ to join Immersive Education (it’s a free merit-based organization), and once you’ve been given access to the main grid.ied discussion group go into the archives. Once a member you can view all past discussions.

By the way for those who may be involved in secondary education and thinking of using Second Life (The main Grid of Second Life is for adults only (18+) but there also is a Teen Second Life strictly for teens (13-17) there is the SLED-Teens list: https://lists.secondlife.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/educatorsandteens
There is also more information for educators working with Teens in Second Life at: http://www.simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=Second_Life:_Educators_Working_with_Teens

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