The SLENZ Update – No 35, December 22, 2008

SLENZ Workshop:

One viewpoint

slenz-workshop-057Workshop: Building designer, Aaron Griffiths, joint project leader (RL) Terry Neal, and lead educator Merle Lemon work on the details.

Blood, sweat but

no tears

The SLENZ workshop held in Wellington, New Zealand, mid-December achieved the goal set for it – the initial establishment of the learning activities needed to achieve the SLENZ Project objectives.
The three-day event at WelTec ended with all participants agreeing on “a fairly complete overview of what will be done” to create the two New Zealand pilot education programmes in foundation learning and midwifery in Second Life.
All nine participants in the two-day, “closed” part of the workshop, however, also would probably agree that the process of determining the activities, resources and support needed to achieve Stage 1 of the pilots, rough out Stage 2 and develop the Stage 3 vision, needed considerable refinement.
As one of the participants said, “It was a crap process, but we found out ways not to do it.”
But, as joint project leader (Second Life) Dr Clare Atkins and developer, Todd Cochrane, said in their “Principles for Design and Implementation of SL ‘Builds’ in November, that, as with the ‘process for designing learning activities’, “We are working in an area in which there are no clear guidelines or best practices.”
Earlier in their “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” joint project leader (Real Life) Terry Neal and learning designer Leigh Blackall said that because all involved in the SLENZ project were learning through the project, it was important that “our process for designing learning activities is flexible and engages as many of the participants as possible.
“Our aim is that the people who will pilot the learning activities will have a sense of ownership over the activities, and so their involvement is necessary throughout the process.”

slenz-workshop-006Blood, sweat and no tears … some of the participants in the open session of the workshop.

The facilitators – as were all participants – were heavily involved and all would have left the workshop with both a sense of achievement and ownership of the projects.
And it appears likely that at least one academic publication, which could become a key text in guiding the creation of viable education initiatives in multi-user virtual worlds, will result from the workshop.
The workshop began with a valuable, if at times technically fraught, scene-setting, one-day, open workshop attended by more than 40 people in RL and some 20 in Second Life at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27).
The Real Life participants were mainly drawn of New Zealand universities and polytechnics.
The Second Life participants included SL education developer Jo Kay, of Wollongong, Australia, and in Second Life Jokaydia, who detailed her Australian activities and University of Arizona, US, students who spoke candidly about their reactions to learning in Second Life as well as answering questions in realtime from the live audience(unedited text script at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=ddbqbfvm_118qn5pmx3).
The morning session included an, at times, fairly volatile discussion of critical perspectives for education within virtual worlds with some participants opposed to the use of virtual worlds for education.
The session was completed with “brainstorming” sessions on the two proposed pilot programmes – Manukau Polytech’s foundation education project led by Merle Lemon and Otago Polytech’s midwifery education, led by Sarah Stewart – which led to some valuable new insights into the projects.
There is no doubt that the SLENZ team benefited from the brainstorming activities which also served to raise awareness of the potential for Second Life to improve adult learning experiences. The documents produced in these sessions were used by the project team in establishing goals and determining how best to go about the creation of the pilots.

slenz-workshop-052Point made: Developer Todd Cochrane tells it how he sees it

During the course of the workshop it was determined that there were actually three pilots – the two education projects and an orientation/education pilot for facilitators and students.
Probably the two key problems which the workshop faced were the differing philosophical leanings and sometimes boundless enthusiasm for other new media which led to some frustrations in the debates, and the lack of Second Life/MUVE experience of some of the key education participants.
This led to some difficulty at times in keeping the workshop focused on relevant Second Life issues and in determining what activities should be left in Real Life, in-on-line learning, print media or machinima.
There were also problems in narrowing down exactly what the educators wanted to achieve through Second Life, possibly because of a lack of experience in virtual worlds.
Finally, although the free-flowing nature of the workshop brought up a considerable number of new and valuable ideas the decision-making process might have been improved with a tighter focus on the targets and what needed to be achieved.
The workshop was the first major function 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.

More pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/10345904@N08/sets/72157611341636969/

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