The SLENZ Update – No 41, January 23, 2009

Xstreet ‘in from cold’

pressconf_007

The Linden Lab’s acquisition of  Xstreet SL and OnRez – the two leading Web-based marketplaces for buying and selling creations for Second Life -  will not lessen marketplace competition, according to Lab executives.

And it could eventually lead to Xstreet SL retail virtual world products being made available to other grids, such as OpenLife, although this is not under active consideration at present.

This was made clear at a Linden Lab in-world press conference (pictured above)  during which there was a frank discussion of just where the organisation planned to take its most recent acquisitions, bought from Virtuatrade and the Electric Sheep Company for undisclosed amounts.

OnRez will be folded into the more successful Xstreet SL entity following the acquisition which Linden executives say, rather than lessening competition, will increase retail competition through an easier user interface – both from a buyers’ and sellers’ point of view – being made available to SL creators and retailers.

Apotheus Silverman and  key members of the Xstreet SL team have joined Linden Lab to integrate the Xstreet SL platform more deeply into SL with  a single, unified SL marketplace. (Press release: http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/01_20_09)

Suspension of disbelief

The more a virtual immersive experience is based on design strategies that combine actional, symbolic, and sensory factors, the greater the participant’s suspension of disbelief that she or he is “inside” a digitally enhanced setting, according to Christopher Dede (pictured), Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology, Innovation, and Education, Harvard University.

chris_dede22Noting that immersion is the subjective impression that one is participating in a comprehensive, realistic experience, he said in an abstract of an article in the January issue of Science that “Studies have shown that immersion in a digital environment can enhance education in at least three ways: by allowing multiple perspectives, situated learning, and transfer.”

But, SLENZers take heart, he added in his article, “Immersive Interfaces for Engagement and Learning”, further studies were needed on the capabilities of immersive media for learning, on the instructional designs best suited to each type of immersive medium, and on the learning strengths and preferences these media develop in users.

Just what SLENZ is doing mate!!

His article is in the subscription only:  http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/323/5910/66 but he can be reached at: chris_dede@harvard.edu

75% SL tasks completed

One should watch out for Dr Steven Hornik’s (SL: Robins Hermano) “Really Engaging Accounting: Second LifeTM as a Learning Platform” when he finalises the research paper.

It will be a unique and important document for virtual world education researchers and providers.

Hornik of the University of Central Florida’s  Kenneth Dixon School of Accounting,  uses SL to teach a financial accounting course titled Really Engaging Accounting   (http://mydebitcredit.com). The aim of the project is to engage students in what is normally a very non-engaging course and ensure they develop basic accounting literacy.

In the course, SL is used asynchronously to help students learn basic concepts related to the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Stockholders Equity; to learn how to manipulate the equation using debits and credits; and to become debits and credits themselves as part of the T-Account Game. They also participate in weekly web-based lectures and other web-based learning.

Taught since the fall of 2007 class size has grown from an average 250 to close to 900 in 2008, with 75-80 percent of the students completing assignments in SL.

hornikstevendr1In a preliminary draft of his study of the course, albeit released inadvertently,  Hornik (pictured left) said the courses have demonstrated that through the use of SL’s building and scripting tools, “environments can be created that in some cases lead to student engagement, and for those cases positively affect student performance”.

This, “in the context of accounting which traditionally might be viewed as the opposite of engaging, provides an extreme example of the power of Second LifeTM to create socially relevant, immersive, engaging learning environments,” he said.

“This study has also shown that time-on-task can far exceed expectations if tools are designed to actively involve the students and allow them to become immersed in the activity.”

Besides, Hornik said, the study also showed that one antecedent to successfully engaging the student is spatial presence.

“Thus, when building and designing environments it is necessary to create places where students are able to perceive a sense of place and a sense of ‘being there’,” he said.

“These virtual places are no less real than a physical world classroom space, the geography is no less real, the experiences are no less real because they take place in a 3-D environment,” he said.  “The results indicate that the more genuine we can make the experience, the more engaged our students are likely to become.”

But Hornik has one  important caution.  It would be wrong to view these new learning platforms completely through rose-colored glasses, he said,  as there can be adverse psychological reactions to these environments, such as dizziness and nausea, and the results of this study show that if student experience these adverse conditions their performance suffers.

“As we routinely test students for learning styles and direct them towards learning material best suited for their styles, we may need to direct certain students away from 3-D immersive environments if it is determined they are having adverse reactions,” he said.

Coming events

January 31, 2009 – 10am SLT – 2pm SLT,  Info Island(http://slurl.com/secondlife/Info%20Island/112/105/33): Alliance Virtual Library Tech Fair 2009. Designed for educators, librarians, museum owners, and others who teach and/or create and provide information and exhibits  to view the tools that are available to  meet and hear  their creators. Speakers: 10am:  Eloise Pasteur, “Developing teaching tools in Second Life”; 11am:  JJ Drinkwater,  “Lowering the Barrier – The Library-Onna-Stick”; 12noon:  Fim Fischer,  Quiz System (Multiple Choice Board); 1pm:  Buddy Sprocket, SLOODLE. A comprehensive trade exhibition will be held along with the presentations.


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