The SLENZ Update – No 29, November 28, 2008

REGISTER NOW FOR SLENZ

OPEN WORKSHOP

December 15, from 9am to 5pm (New Zealand Time): New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators to attend a free, one-day workshop in real life on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). Registration essential on first-come, first-served basis as numbers limited. For registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

rolloposter_003

An underground experience

Rollo Kohime’s ‘In the

company of strangers’

You wont want to miss  Rollo Kohime’s (RL: Mike Baker, Nelson, New Zealand)  live performance in Real Life and Second Life at the Railway Station (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/86/72/21)   on Friday, November 28, at 8.40pm (all times are New rollo-mike-fionaZealand time), Saturday, November 29, 12.40pm, Wednesday, December 3, 12.00 midday, Friday December 5, 8pm, and a closing performance, Saturday, December 6m at 12.40pm. Rollo will be dancing in Real Life/narrating/playing his  Real Life videos/Second Life Station with Real Life  videos and some Real Life audience participation. He said, “Its going to be busy but if you can make any of those times Id love to see you in the Station! Bring friends! I want a crowd!”

If you want to know more Rollo/Mike’s blog (http://hoststranger.blogspot.com/) makes fascinating reading before or after taking part in the Railway Station experience. His profile is at http://www.blogger.com/profile/04422973770773339028

Rollo/Mike’s performance-based project “explores the dynamic of ‘the stranger’ in meetings between people in urban spaces” and the interaction between the real and what is perceived as virtual and unreal.

As Rollo has said himself of the experience: “Virtual space and time I believe, is a facet of real space and time. I want(ed) the two descriptions of Real Life and Second Life – as one blended reality – to extend our perceptions of space and time in a public venue and to receive responses related to this aspect.”

From my point of view the  underground experience is well worthwhile, especially if you interact with the “real” world on the other side of the Station from your “real” Second Life world at a scheduled performance.

rolloconcourse

EVENT – Now on

November 28 – 29, 2008: Australian Virtual Worlds Workshop (AVWW) -Arguably Australasia’s most important virtual world meeting for 2008. Swinburne University, Melbourne.  Opening speaker Gerry White (Principal Research Fellow of ACER and Former CEO of Education.au), Guest speakers include Larry Johnson (CEO of New Media Consortium), Bruce Joy (CEO of Vast Park), Chris Collins (Director of Enterprise Business Systems of Linden Lab) and Keren Flavell (Executive Producer of SLCN.TV). The event builds on the successful ‘Discover Your Second Life’ workshop hosted at Monash last December with panels chaired by Australian Film TV and Radio School (AFTRS) and IBM and guest speakers from leading Australian universities and TAFE colleges. ‘Discover Your Second Life’ was a mixed reality event with people attending in both the real and virtual environments, AVWW continues this theme with live audio streaming of the event is available through http://75.126.100.42:8060. However you need to have Winamp installed. Once installed please click ‘File’ and then ‘Play URL’. Enter ‘http://75.126.100.42:8060’ and you should be listening live audio of the workshop shoutcasted from Melbourne. Register now at http://avww08.eventbrite.com/

Advertisements

The SLENZ Update – No 28, November 24, 2008

koru1_0031

YOU ARE INVITED

‘Open’ SLENZ workshop

New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators in both Second Life and “real life” to attend a one-day workshop in Wellington, New Zealand.

The open workshop will be held on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life from 9am to 5pm on December 15 (NZ Time) as part of a three-day workshop to establish the  learning activities needed to achieve the SLENZ project objectives.

Registrations are required for the one-day event which will take place in both the real world and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru  (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). It is hoped to webcast part of the real world proceedings.

Announcing that the first day of the workshop would be open to the public, joint project leader Terry Neal said that places at the WelTec campus were limited to 50.  As a result registrants would be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

‘We are inviting others to the first day so that we can benefit from brainstorming possible activities  and therefore better raise awareness of the potential for Second Life to improve adult learning experiences.’ she said

The public workshop is the first to be held by SLENZ since it secured funding from the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission to determine the benefits of virtual world education in New Zealand, particularly for adult learners.

The announcement of the workshop follows the selection of two pilot education projects: the Manukau Institute of Technology, with a foundation learning proposal, and Otago Polytechnic with a midwifery proposal. Both proposals include a number of partner institutions.

The lead educators for each project will detail their proposals to the workshop.

Guest speakers at the one-day workshop will include students already studying in Second Life. They will discuss their experiences live via Second Life with other students attending in person,. One of Australia’s leading Second Life educators, Joanna Kay (SL: JoKay) will detail and demonstrate   what other educationists are doing in Second Life.

A key part of the workshop will be a discussion of critical perspectives for education within virtual worlds. The SLENZ literature review will also be presented at the workshop.

In the afternoon participants will work together to come up with relevant project ideas for activities in Second Life  as well orienting project staff and students. Over the next two days, the project team will use these ideas as a basis for implementation of the two projects.

The one-day event is free.

Neal said that the team hopes the event will attract other foundation and midwifery educators as well as interested educators and e-learning staff.

For first come, first served free registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

ekids don’t waste time

Dr Mizuko Ito discusses why time spent online is important for teen development

“It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online,” according to Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine, researcher and the lead author of the most extensive US study to date on teens and their use of digital media.(http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.4773437/)

The study showed that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online, often in ways adults do not understand or value, she said. The study also has implication for adult learning as the youth of today are the adult learners of tomorrow.

“There are myths about kids spending time online – that it is dangerous or making them lazy,” she said. “But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age.”

Released mid November at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, the study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s US$50-million digital media and learning initiative, which is exploring how digital media is changing how young people learn, play, socialise, and participate in civic life.

Together with the late Peter Lyman, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Michael Carter, of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, Ito led a team of 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. Over three years, they interviewed more than 800 young people and their parents, both one-on-one and in focus groups; spent more than 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other networked communities; and conducted diary studies to document how, and to what end, young people engage with digital media.

The researchers identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven.

While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group. Significant findings included: –

There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity.

  • Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.
  • Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.

Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by participating online.

  • Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society.
  • The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of dynamics, as online socialising is persistent, public, involves managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.

Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.

  • The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.
  • Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.

Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.

  • Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.
  • Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.
  • “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, PhD, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “It concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century.”

Ito and her team of researchers found that participation in the digital age means more than being able to access serious online information and culture. Youth using new media often learn from their peers, and notions of expertise and authority are being redefined.

More information about the study and the MacArthur Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative can be found online at digitallearning.macfound.org.

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.”

The SLENZ Update – No 26, November 18, 2008

A personal view

Can we unlock Ivory-tower gate?

cheguevara

I sometimes get the feeling  that some educators move into places like the web and virtual worlds in order to keep the lock on the gate or keep “control” of the world of learning – in other  words keep the learning  behind the ivory-tower  gate  – in a universe which is expanding learning opportunities exponentially outside the normal education system.

Google Search and the wikipedia system, as unreliable as the data  they dredge up or record sometimes is, has made information available to (initially) anyone who writes/reads English, and has access to a phoneline and a computer; almost any old computer. For  many the advent of the web as we know it today has made the ivory tower virtually irrelevant for true learning.

Communities of interest/barriers which tertiary institutions thrive on – and which I once thought were the reason for universities: where else could one easily meet girls with the same interests who were away from home and available? – have given way in many cases to web-based social networks, which today are more pervasive and often more tribal than fraternities or sororities. The ivory-tower communities of interest also encompass the professional groups which have grown out of tertiary institutions to ensure the closed-shop enclave nature  of some intellectual/professional pursuits and thus increase the workplace value of a tertiary education.(eg law and medicine).

But the barriers, which started to break down in the 1960s with the call for the establishment of “free” universities without examinations or structured courses, or in some cases attendance – even though re-erected by academics wanting to protect their patches – are threatened with complete demolition by the web with its virtually-free, anytime, anywhere  knowledge and/or propaganda.

Today anyone who can read and write can educate themselves, given the will, the discipline, a computer and a web link. But they still can’t get the piece of paper that would  allow them to be recognised as a “practitioner”: Medical associations and other groups, created alongside the English-speaking ivory-tower system, do all they can to keep the foreign-language/university educated, self-educated and non ivory-tower educated hoi polloi out, citing lower education standards in the university/country of origin/culture differences, or  non-recognised credentials.

I had hoped – and this is a personal, non-academic view – that there was a new force/ideas afoot with the Edupunk movement in the US, but alas I think I might have been mistaken and what is happening in SLENZ might be closer to the future, where the whole process of the creation of the SLENZ project has appeared to have been democratised, transparent and allowing input, albeit guided,  from all. It is also in many ways directed at adults who  the ivory-tower system has often conveniently bypassed.

sararobbins1

I feel that even some of those in the edupunk movement [The revolution will be syndicated (http://blip.tv/file/1441388/)], in proclaiming their attempts to break the ivory-tower barriers and break out of what they see as the stifling, red-tape ridden, zombified (LMS) systems are doing little more  than trying to preserve their academic power by taking the nuts and bolts  off campus, while hypocritically still keeping their roles as paid academics within their institutions. Their middle-class methods may work in a society where  computers and broadband gigabytes off-campus are virtually free, but in fact, also serve to alienate those who are the true revolutionaries in education and elsewhere, who are working completely (and often anarchically) outside the  ivory-tower system, like many of the bloggers on the web.  The edupunk movement, also like many of today’s great, well-washed, middle-class don’t seem to understand that Che Guevara was a “real revolutionary” who got down and dirty, not just a model for a tee-shirt logo.
To me the edupunk attack on zombie systems in Ivory-tower education reeks of the faddish criticism  which  often surrounds Bill Gates and the Microsoft Windows operating system. They both “suck” but if it wasn’t for the Ivory Tower system we wouldn’t have academics who could freely attack it by biting the hand that feeds them, and if it wasn’t for the ubiquitous Windows system we might not have the cheap PCs and the Web as we know it today.

Although, like PhD candidate and VW researcher, Sara Robbins-Bell (SL: Intellagirl Tully), I would be loath to have a doctor who had trained and graduated only in SL, or done his study through blogs, perform surgery on me,  I still think there is space for a much wider appreciation of the learning choices and desires of the students outside the ivory-tower system; learning through peers and users, even bloggers,  rather than academics. No longer can we view learning  in this way as second class to piece of paper with “graduate” on it.

The problem, however, for the self/web-educated woman/man is how to ascribe a recognised/accepted, standard measure to one’s capabilities in order to secure one’s first, paid employment. After that, of course, one  should be able to secure employment on the basis of work experience and references.

These thoughts on where education is going and the on-going need to develop critical literacy in the learning population in general, if we are going to benefit as much as we should from the educational possibilities of the web in all its forms, were brought to mind by two blogged articles and videos which I am grateful that academics Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Goalpost) and Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) pointed me too.

Although long (54 minutes and 55 minutes) they will reward you by giving you an inside view on where web-based education in 21st Century US could be going. The first, a streaming and streamed video presentation at the New Media Consortium, suffers from 15 minutes or so of old-hat waffle posing as SL theatre which is fairly old hat, while in the second, Sara Robbins-Bell, starts well  on where education is  going for the millennials but then fudges the issue with her solutions, which I personally felt were more about keeping academics in control than in actual learning for students. Her reference to the on-going need for critical literacy education hit a nerve though.

Leigh, a SLENZ “learning designer”and educational developer with Otago Polytechnic, said, for him, the significance of  “zombies, edtech survival and edupunk ” [“The revolution will be syndicated” [(http://blip.tv/file/1441388/)]  was:

  • Innovative approach to live presentation in the education technology sector.
  • Primary content was developed outside SL and so an example of reusability and accessibility.
  • Use of a Zombie Flaming theme as an ice breaker in a live presentation in SL.
  • Zombies as a kind of homage to some SL pop culture and griefing fun.
  • Streaming Blip.tv videos into SL.
  • Generation of Machinima from the presentation (more accessibility and reusability).
  • Inspired after event edtech blogging interests.

For another report on the presentation go to http://cogdogblog.com/2008/11/07/revolution-is-syndicated/

Meanwhile Diener,  [http://scottdiener.edublogs.org/], who has created the the Long White Cloud island in SL (Long White Cloud/31/38/27) for Auckland University, returned from the Educause 2008 conference, “overwhelmed with the sheer bulk of information I encountered. “

tower&cloud

Describing Sarah Robbins-Bill presentation, “Social Media and Education: The Conflict Between Technology and Institutional Education, and the Future” ( http://hosted.mediasite.com/hosted5/Viewer/?peid=5eb9cd4798a4488288e0b6d117f5c99c) as a highlight he said she presented “a quite challenging picture of the future of higher education in an era of rapidly expanding, free, and leveraged technologies” before “highly” recommending that one should view it. Some of you may have seen it in the Educause 2008  link files posted previously, but you haven’t it is well worth the time spent with it.

In his blog Scott also recommended a new online 2.1MB book, “The Tower and the Cloud – Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing,”  edited by Richard Katz. Click on book cover.

The SLENZ Update – No 25, November 15, 2008

SLENZ NAMES ‘PILOT PROJECTS’

The SLENZ project steering group has chosen  educational institutions at opposite ends of  New Zealand as the successful applicants for the first two innovative pilot education projects in Second Life.

The two projects, named to participate in the SLENZ project are the Manukau Institute of Technology, with a foundation learning proposal , and Otago Polytechnic with a midwifery proposal. nealterry11

Both proposals include a number of partner institutions who will join in the pilots.

The participants will work with the SLENZ project team  subject to agreeing roles, responsibilities and expectations, according to the SLENZ project joint leader, Terry Neal (pictured).

Neal is currently talking to all the institutions who have signaled their  participation and will give more details as the institutions confirm their roles.

The two insitutions were selected from a shortlist of three from the initial six formal proposals from across New Zealand.

“We initially shortlisted the three because we considered they covered the breadth of student types and desired learning outcomes to help us determine the answers to a broad range of questions,” Neal said. “We were disappointed budgetary constraints prevented us from selecting more because all the proposals were interesting.”

The proposals from which the initial selection was made included: language learning, including Te Reo; medical training; foundation learning; information technology and retail training.
Initially more than 40 individual educators from tertiary institutions across the country expressed interest in becoming part of the SLENZ project.

All five types of New Zealand tertiary institution were represented in the numbers – universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga, industry training organisations and private training enterprises.
The project, which has been set up on the Second Life islands of Koru and Kowhai, owned by NMIT, aims to determine how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning.

‘Playability’ crucial

‘Playability’  was described as a crucial factor in video games at the second European Conference on Games-Based Learning in Barcelona, Spain,in October, according to Nicola Whitton (pictured), a Research Fellow at the Education andwhittonnicola Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has presented an interesting two-part blog on the conference. http://playthinklearn.net/

Her take on the conference is particularly valid for educators involved in virtual worlds, given her interest in the potential of using online games for learning, teaching and assessment – particularly in Higher Education but also in the context of adult learning. She recently completed a PhD in the potential of collaborative computer games for learning in Higher Education at Napier University in Edinburgh.
She noted that JL Sánchez described six facets of ‘global playability’:

  • intrinsic playability – the mechanics of design intrinsic to video games (e.g. goals, rules, game mechanics).
  • mechanical playability – the quality of the game as a software system (e.g. sound, graphics, rendering).
  • interactive playability – the methods of player interaction and interface design (e.g. dialogue and game controls).
  • artistic playability – the aesthetics of the artistic elements of the game (e.g. visuals, music, storyline).
  • personal playability – the vision, perceptions and feelings of the person playing the game.
  • social playability – the perceptions of the player group when the player plays with others.

Each of these facets, Sanchez and colleagues argued in their paper, had seven attributes (satisfaction, learning, efficiency, immersion, motivation, emotion and socialisation) and this can be used as a design framework for ensuring playability in educational games.

Another presenter, NP Zea gave guidelines for the development of collaborative games. They  should foster, Whitton reported:

  • positive interdependence – group members must share the same goals, group lifespan, evaluation and score.
  • personal accountability – individual contributions can be identified (but the game should seamlessly support students who may be struggling).
  • face-to-face interaction – game elements (such as reaching consensus) that encourage face-to-face meeting.
  • social skills – activities that support the development of team skills such as leadership, negotiation, and debate.
  • group processing – meta-cognitive group skills and evaluative skills.

In her blog Whitton gives perceptive highlights of a number of other excellent papers from this conference which she termed “one of the best conferences of the year with lots of relevant and high-quality papers.”

The Hayes diagram

A simple although complex-looking social media marketing campaign diagram which focuses on a few simple phases and steps has been developed by Australian, Gary Hayes(pictured) (SL; Gary Hazlitt) one of the Australasia’s leading virtual world builders, designers and bloggers on marketing and the new media. http://www.personalizemedia.com/the-future-of-social-media-entertainment-slides/
Although his views on the future of social media entertainment are apt to be dismissed by some of the more academic educators operating in and theorising about education in virtual worlds they do provide an easy-to-understand key to “getting under the skin of the new forms” of social connection being developed by the audience/consumers.

As head of MUVE Development at the Project Factory and also the Director of Laboratory for Advanced Media Production run through the Australian Film ,TV and Radio School, he managed and built the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Telstra’s Big Pond presence in SL. He has always had positions at the “bleeding edge” of new service delivery including being in Senior Development and as Producer at BBC New Media for eight years and as an Interactive Producer in Los Angeles in 2004.hayesgary

Although not all the Hayes concepts, developed with Laurel Papworth, are as relevant to virtual world education as they are to 21st Century viral and regular marketers  they do provide a roadmap of what virtual educators should be thinking about in shooting for success in virtual environments (diagram on Hayes’ website – see above).

  • INVOLVE – live the social web, understand it, this cannot be faked.
  • CREATE – make relevant content for communities of interest.
  • DISCUSS – no conversation around it, then the content may as well not exist.
  • PROMOTE – actively, respectfully, promote the content into the networks.
  • MEASURE – monitor, iteratively develop and respond or be damned!

The crash!

user-hours-per-quarter

With the recent release of the latest Second Life metrics and the world global economic meltdown which is currently taking place, questions are being asked about whether high-technology internet pursuits such as Second Life or other virtual worlds can survive the severe downsizing which will occur in all developed economies and the fact that consumers are likely to put their wallets away for the duration.

My feeling is that they will survive – and handsomely. In most developed countries, once the initial costs of equipment and broadband are overcome,  virtual worlds offer  a much less expensive form of entertainment than almost any form of real life entertainment except perhaps lolling in the sun  on the grass in your own backyard. There is no cost for fuel to get away to the beach or the mountains, no necessity for special clothing, no necessity to buy drinks or food, beyond that which one has in the cupboard, and no need to face up to expensive peer pressure with cars, boats, planes, travel, resorts or clothing – keeping up with the Jones’.

That said the metrics for Second Life and other virtual worlds are going to make interesting reading over the next few months.

Despite the world economy turning pearshaped the Linden Lab economic metrics for Second Life’s third quarter show significant growth in land, user hours and the inworld economy. (http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/11/12/q3-closed-on-a-high-note-with-an-unusually-strong-september/)

Users spent 10 percent more per hour than the year-to-date average although inworld transactions in October declined to levels more consistent with the year-to-date averages.

Linden said that the October results indicated that it should expect land growth to slow in Q4 as residents reconfigured their land holdings to accommodate the change in pricing and the addition of the “Homestead” island type.

It remains to be seen, however, just how great the exodus to other virtual worlds will be as a result of the new pricing arrangments.

The SLENZ Update – No 24, November 12, 2008

SL learning “fun”

lecture_in_sl

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.

campuspeople1

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

The SLENZ Update – No 23, November 08, 2008

**ALERT: FOR SLENZERS **

Version 4 of the “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” has been published by joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives. The full text is available for SLENZERS at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dd2zdcf6_0c5trmf3n or on this blog under the heading to the left, SLENZ Project.

Social network + Web 3 = VWs

If you have been thinking that Virtual Worlds are not the wave of the future a recent report from In-Stat should help to dispel those thoughts.
But, given the current world economy, there might be few at the New Zealand end of the world who can afford to read the US$2995, 58-page report.instat
“Evidence supports the conclusion that the ‘killer application’ that is critical to virtual worlds-and, by extension, to Web 3.0-is, in fact, already here and it is none other than social networking,” said Vahid Dejwakh, an analyst with In-Stat, a part of Reed Business Information and a segment of the US$8 billion Reed Elsevier global information network.
As blogging and the ability to comment on news items online are, in essence, popularising and decentralising the news industry, so too are virtual worlds popularising and decentralising the gaming, meeting, and 3D graphic design industries, In-Stat reported. (http://www.in-stat.com/press.asp?ID=2405&sku=IN0804326CM)
Virtual worlds – especially the 3D kinds, such as Second Life – were classified under the Web 3.0 category because of their profound ability to integrate multiple types of content, information sources, and feeds into one highly engaging and interactive format, the research organisation said.
In-Stat found:
* Total registered users of virtual worlds are expected to exceed 1 billion and total revenue is expected to exceed US$3 billion by 2012.
* 70 percent of the more than 300 million registered users of virtual worlds are younger than 18.
* Virtual world companies earn close to 90 percent of their revenue from the sale of virtual items, currency, land, and fees associated with these items.
In addition to Web 3.0 applicability, In-Stat identified nine other critical components of virtual worlds, including user-generated content, social networking, virtual items, an economy, and business integration. In-Stat then rated each virtual world company according to these ten components. All ten platforms scored the maximum points possible in the social networking category, which emerged as the one critical element to virtual worlds.
The research, Virtual Worlds and Web 3.0: Examined, Compared, Analyzed (#IN0804326CM), covers the worldwide market for virtual worlds. It provides analysis of this form of gaming and social networking including profiles of 17 virtual worlds.
It also includes forecasts of worldwide registered users and revenue for virtual worlds through 2012. User demographics and market shares of virtual worlds are also provided.
Info: http://www.instat.com/catalog/mmcatalogue.asp?id=212

Where will the girls be?

Given the ubiquity of Playstation buffs, especially  young (18-35) men, could “Home”, the upcoming, console-based virtual world for the PlayStation 3, eventually develop into  a serious rival for the current crop of  Virtual Worlds?

That question arose from a recent interview with Jack Buser, Sony’s Director for PlayStation Home who told Virtualworldnews that the immersive platform which is due to launch as open beta late this year “will always be evolving and living and breathing.”http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/11/playstation-home-to-be-evolving-living-and-breathing-platform.html

“We’ll launch within open beta,” he said. “That means two things. It will be available to all PlayStation users at no cost. But there will obviously be a certain percentage of people who want to stand out from the crowd andplaystation3 customise their avatar with certain items or have a premium space and they will have that option within the PlayStation Mall, but it is not required. Second, we are calling it an open beta for a specific reason. Home will always be evolving. You will be seeing new stuff, including new technology.

“It’s important to realise the scope of PlayStation Home. When you look around, it’s just the icing on the cake,” Buser was quoted as saying. “The cake is that it’s a development platform for third parties to develop content on. We want Home to scale rapidly, and we figured the best way to do that is to get third parties involved. After launch, you’re going to see Home grow rapidly with new media, new content, and new experiences, coming quite rapidly. That’s absolutely been the demand from the users.”

Given the demographic and social networking needs of the age group the only question is where will the girls be?

Stopping trash talk

censored

I’ve always been dead against censorship in Second Life believing that thought processes should never be censored but I recently received  my comeuppance while showing an elderly and rather conservative new user into  a PG-rated welcome area.

I had not been into a Welcome area for a long time (pre-voice days) and I was appalled -she was too – by the bad language in SL voice and trash talk by all and sundry, but especially loud-mouthed yobbo males, who referred continuously to various parts of their anatomy and what they planned to do with it or what they wanted to do with the girls present.

Muting worked but  my uncalled for feeling was that the Lindens should police PG welcome areas much more proficiently if businessmen and women, educators and their students are going to move freely through this michael-leeworld.

Thus I was interested in Michael Lee’s (pictured) blog  http://www.redherring.com/blogs/25281 in which he noted Microsoft had been granted a patent to filter and censor undesired words in real-time. The automatic system would process everything being said and alter the unwanted words so that they are, according to the patent, “either unintelligible or inaudible.”

Microsoft, he said, understood that “censorship of spoken language can be annoying if each obscenity or profanity is “bleeped” to obscure it so that it is not understood, particularly if the frequency with which such utterances occur is too great.” The company, theefore, has opted to either lower the volume below audibility, replacing the word with an acceptable word or phrase, or taking out the word completely.
Lee said Microsoft’s proposed technology would work in real-time – a practical solution when it comes to the many simultaneous conversations that take place in online multiplayer games.

Now when is SL going to avail itself of the technology?

Virtual crime

thief2

With virtual crime in virtual worlds on the rise, Nick Abrahams,  a Partner and Sydney Office Chairman of law firm, Deacons, has published an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald looking at online and virtual world theft, fraud, sex and relationships and their failure .http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/virtual-crime-is-on-the-rise/2008/11/03/1225560726242.html

[Illustration: Screenshot from: “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” published by Eidos http://www.eidos.co.uk/gss/thief_ds/]

EVENTS

November 15 (SL time, 9am- 5pm): Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women’s Community in Second Life will be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life maintained by The Department of Women’s Studies, Ohio State University. Registration free, conference registration/information. http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/collingwood7/minerva/conference.html. Workshops for conference attendees who are new to Second Life will be held at noon and at 5:00 pm SL time on Friday, November 14. To participate IM Ellie Brewster, or e-mail collingwood.7@osu.edu.

September 24-26, 2009: SLACTIONS 2009, research conference in the Second Life® world as well as real world: “Life, Imagination, and work using Metaverse platforms”. Important dates – Current: Scope and call for papers covering full spectrum of intellectual disciplines and technological endeavors in which any Metaverse platforms are currently being used: from education to business, sociology to social sciences, media production to technology development, architecture and urban planning to the arts. February 28, 2009 – Deadline for paper submissions. OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse and Project Wonderland are among the other VWs are on the agenda. SLACTION currently has chapters in Brazil, Hong Kong, USA and Europe. The organisers, from some of the world’s leading tertiary insitutions, have invited Australian and New Zealand academic institutions or private research institutions to set up  local physical chapters. Information:  http://www.slactions.org/