SLENZ Update, No 158, December 23, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Yay! It’s a 2nd runner-up EDUBLOG

‘Oscar’ to  SLENZ  Project Team

‘Phenomenal’ result for team from Aotearoa/New Zealand

The SLENZ Project Team at work … the final 2009 meeting.  Key players, Terry Neal and
Aaron Griffiths at the head of the table, and Dr Clare Atkins, in black, left.

A chance meeting in Second Life three years ago between  Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology,  and  education-online tools developer and Second Life builder Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) came to a climax this week with  a second runner-up place for the SLENZ Project in  the prestigious, international EDUBLOG 2009 awards  in the “best educational use of a virtual world” category.

The placing  for the  the team from New Zealand was greeted with elation by SLENZ Project team members –  “the best Christmas present ever “- and seen by  independent educators, academics and  education institution administrators as “fantastic”, “phenomenal” and “unprecedented.”

The New Zealand team  won its second runner-up place in a competition which pitted it against 14 of the world’s best  “virtual world” education organisations. The winner of the title was  Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; the first runner-up, Virtual Round Table Conference; with the SLENZ Project sharing second runner-up status with  ISTE’s Second Life island.

‘Set a benchmark’

“I  think this is just phenomenal,” said Scott Diener, one of the world leaders in Second Life education and associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, in a message to the team. “The SLENZ team has truly set a benchmark against which other developments should measure.  I hope I can say ‘I am so proud of you’ without it sounding pretentious…because I am so proud of you.”

Tony Gray, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology which hosted the SLENZ Project  initially  on its island of Koru in Second Life,  said in a message to Atkins on hearing  the news:  “This is a fantastic outcome and significantly achieved through your passion and commitment to the project. I am  very proud that NMIT should have first of all taken a lead and secondly that we can show a peer-reviewed achievement as a result.”

The SLENZ Project  grew out of that first meeting between Atkins and Griffths who both dreamed of seeing “students interacting with each other and their international peers, with the Second Life environment, with teachers, domain experts, inspirational speakers from all over the  “real” world”.  The project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission. It  has been completely developed under Creative Commons license with all builds freely available for use or acquisition by anyone with “full permissions.”

The EDUBLOG placings were chosen by public vote.

The SLENZ Project creations – 1. The Otago Polytechnic’s Birthing Unit during
a Jokaydia un-conference presentation

The SLENZ Project creations – 2. The Kowhai Island arrival pad.

The SLENZ Project creations – 3. Manukau Institute of Technology’s
Foundation (Bridging) Learning Pilot Programme

“I don’t think either of us ever really imagined that only three years later we would have been part of a team that had not only helped to realise that dream but had succeeded beyond our wildest hopes,” Atkins said today commenting  on the award to the NZ$500,00 project . It was designed to determine whether there were benefits from providing education in a virtual world and, if so, how those benefits could best be harnessed.

“The SLENZ project has been a very large part of my ‘real’ and ‘second’ life for the last two years and I sincerely hope that its successes will enable us to continue the work that it has begun,” Atkins, who is joint co-leader of the project, said. ” I think we have demonstrated, not only that the immersive and engaging experiences of multi-user virtual worlds have an enormous potential to enhance learning for all kinds and levels of tertiary students, but also that a small virtual team from New Zealand can create global-award winning experiences.
“Gaining this award is a recognition of the world-class work being done in Second Life by our educators, our designers and our developers and this is just the beginning,” she said. “I would like to thank those at the TEC who decided to take a bit of a gamble and fund the SLENZ project.

‘Brave decision’

“It was a brave decision to take in 2007 when education in this kind of environment was truly in its infancy but I believe that we have proved worthy of the trust that they displayed in us and that we have set the stage for some really exciting developments in the next few years.  The use of environments such as Second Life will change the way we teach and learn in the 21st century and I hope we have helped to sketch out the early plans of how this might be achieved.
Acknowledging the work of the development team, the Steering Group members,   SLENZ friends and support staff who enabled the project to run so smoothly,Terry Neal (co-Project Leader) “for keeping us all on track with such good humour” and  Tony Gray (CE, NMIT) for not only supporting the project but believing in it, she singled out Griffiths for “both  sharing the dream and for using his incredible 3D building and scripting talent to actualise it.”
Describing the award as “thrilling,” Project co-leader Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions Ltd,  said, “From the very beginning  we wanted to share our journey so others could learn from what we  could do well and what we could do better. I’m proud of what we have achieved, but its nice to know others value it too.
“It has been a wonderful team effort. Each of us has contributed in a different way but no subset of the team could have achieved what the team has. I’m  also proud that even though we are in such a small country we can still foot it with the rest of the globe when it comes to what is happening in virtual worlds.
“But we really need to build on what we have achieved over the last 18 months and maintain the  momentum through the recently formed New Zealand Virtual World Group (NZVWG).”

‘Lil, happy dance’

Aaron Griffths Second Life alter ego, Isa Goodman, “smiled and did a lil, happy dance” inside Second Life, on hearing the news, according to Griffiths, the SLENZ Project’s lead developer.

Griffiths added, “This is a great achievement and I think all the team should be proud of what we have accomplished. It is wonderful to have peer recognition that we have done something right in our attempt to explore the educational possibilities of virtual worlds and I hope that New Zealand will not now drop the ball  as this award, I believe.  recognises, we are up there with the best.
“On a personal level I am very proud to have produced builds that have been received so well,” he said. “I believe it gives some credence to the methodologies used in them and in particular to the Foundation Studies build, which was deliberately designed to capture some of the elements of play that an environment like Second Life allows.

“It showed I think a possible pathway for developing learning that can engage and be fun and still have a positive outcome in terms of student achievement.”

The core SLENZ team members who worked on the project, besides Neal, Atkins and Griffiths, included from time to time, Merle Lemon, Sarah Stewart, Todd Cochrane, Leigh Blackall, Ben Salt, Henry Work and John Waugh.

The SLENZ Project’s final fling – the Koru Xmas Party 2009
Advertisements

SLENZ Update, No 157, December 22, 2009

ascilite 2009 – AUCKLAND, NZ

Virtual worlds might not be quite  there

but ASCILITE shows  the way forward

Second Life – ‘This will change everything…’ Scott Diener

The Auckland University-Boise State collaborative post-partum haemorrhage
nurse training scenario, presented by Scott Diener (Pix: Merle Lemon)


When Scott Diener (pictured right),  associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, first saw  the NTSC  internet browser Mosaic, he had an ephiphany. “This will change everything,” he thought. And it did. Without it there probably would be no WorldWideWeb as we know it today.

He had the same epiphany when he  first saw  and used  the virtual world of Second Life, he told educators and researchers from around the world who attended the  ascilite 2009 conference held in Auckland early in December: “This will change everything,” he thought, especially in higher education.

Arguing that  higher education had not changed since the 14th century and before – it still takes place in a protected environment with protected knowledge based on  the notion of scarcity with students, although the chosen few, often not engaged – he asked, rhetorically, “What if we had Global access to all knowledge?” And then after praising the Google goal of releasing  all books in all languages on the net but noting the futility of tertiary institutions repeating  the same basic courses with the same knowledge ad infinitum in the age of the Internet, he said,   “… we don’t need to redevelop education. We need to share.”

Sharing, he said was the only way  to solve the tertiary education needs of the world’s burgeoning population. The  provision of tertiary education even now  could not keep pace with the population trends. Today the world with 7 billion people needed to create 2500 universities the size of Auckland University (40,000 students)  every year, year on year to keep up with demand. Within 20 years, he said,  it would need another 200,000 universities, another 400 million university teachers and 40 million lecture theaters of the same size as the giant Owen G. Glenn Building auditorium at The University of Auckland, would be needed.

“It’s impossible,” he said, adding that the challenge was how  to provide education to the world differently.

The only practical solution, he suggested, was virtual education in virtual worlds such as Second Life and the 200 plus other virtual worlds or some derivative of them.

Describing the benefits of virtual worlds such as Second Life for tertiary education, Diener said,  their major difference  to other on-line learning methods, was that they provided a real sense of self and the suspension of disbelief, a sense of place and sense of emotion.

Virtual worlds which immersed students enabled educators to adopt problem-based learning approaches which worked, he said, adding the challenge was realise the benefits through the emergence of these constructivist pedagogies into main stream teaching.

He urged the  conference participants to focus on the emerging new spaces in virtual worlds, but not  to replicate  the architectural spaces they had in the real world into new virtual spaces.

“Don’t fall into the trap of shoveling the same old stuff into the new spaces,” he said.

Urging innovation in virtual worlds, he said, their uptake by mainstream tertiary institutions  could change everything in education as it was known today and provide  possibly the only answer to the world’s future tertiary education needs for all.

But, Diener warned, the educational benefits of virtual worlds could be  locked away from the rest of the world and in fact were being closed-up by some  large tertiary institutions which had already  “locked their builds down”  returning virtual worlds to the world of 14th Century education, when learning was only for the  privileged.

“Please don’t lock the systems down,” he said, noting  his UofA project and the New Zealand SLENZ Project builds were released under Creative Commons license.” Share them with others,” he said. ” Open them up to collaboration with others.”

Later in another presentation  Diener, along with in-world and real world collaborators from Boise State University, Idaho, and Wyoming, demonstrated the  University of Auckland’s  innovative Second Life presence and medical centre teaching system on the Second Life island of  Long White Cloud.

The post partum haemorrhage  simulation real-world presentation team.

SLENZ Update, No 156, December 13, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT

SLENZ in 14  international finalists

for top Edublog 2009 award

Your vote will count! Click Button TOP RIGHT and vote.

The SLENZ (Seoncd Life Education New Zealand) Project team has been  honoured by being named among the 14 finalists  for an EduBlog 2009 Award  in the category, “Best Educational Use of a Virtual World 2009.”

The award is among those which  “celebrate the best educational blogs on the web”.

Although the SLENZ Project originated from an isolated  small country – one might say at the end of the earth – the nomination shows  again that Kiwis can compete on  an even footing with the rest of the world when it comes to internet applications, such as virtual worlds, despite in-country broadband limitations and the “tyranny of distance.”

It demonstrates that virtual worlds can create a world  without borders:  that ordinary New Zealanders – anyone – can collaborate across time zones,  national borders, cultures, ethnicities and languages to provide benefits throughout the world.

Dr Clare Atkins (SL; Arwenna Stardust) (pictured right), the SLENZ Project co-leader said that she was  delighted, when told  of the SLENZ nomination in the final list.

She appealed to readers of  the SLENZ Update: “If you have enjoyed reading the SLENZ blog we are really pleased. We would love it if you felt a strong need to show your appreciation by voting for us.”

The other finalists include prestigious virtual world groups such as:  CANVAS (Children’s Art in the Virtual Arena of Scotland); DEN SL Blog; Edunation; ISTE’s Second Life island; Reaction Grid; School of Nursing, University of Kansas; SIGMS in Second Life;  Sloodle;  The International Schools Island (isi); The UC Davis Virtual Hallucination simulation; Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; Virtual Macbeth – Angela Thomas; Virtual Round Table Conference.

“For SLENZ to even be listed amongst these groups is absolutely wonderful, ”  SLENZ Update editor/writer, John Waugh (SL: Johnnie Wendt) said. “While I would love for the SLENZ Group to win the award  I am very conscious of the calibre of the other finalists – they are the best in the world from a myriad of educational uses and I have accessed them all.”

He  wished the other finalists luck  and concluded with a call for SLENZ Update readers and their friends to vote for  Second Life Education New Zealand at  Edublog.

The Second Life Education New Zealand Project was funded by the New Government’s Tertiary Education  Commission. It has been designed to determine the benefits of using virtual worlds for education and  how best these benefits can be captured.

The work of the team has been completely “transparent” with all documentation/discussions etc included on this site. The team’s builds and findings  have all be done under Creative Commons attribution, are all OpenSource, and freely available to all educators as “full perms” packages.

SLENZ Update, No 155, December 11, 2009

ascilite 2009

VW leaders establish  New Zealand

virtual worlds’ education group

The University of Auckland’s Dr Scott Diener presents at
ascilite 2009 ….  he is one of Australasia’s leaders in
virtual world tertiary education.

The New Zealand Virtual Worlds Group (NZVWG), an independent, not-for profit association for people interested in virtual worlds and their use for education in New Zealand  has grown out of the recent ascilite (Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) 2009 conference held in Auckland, New Zealand.

The four-day conference, the leading Australasian forum on computers in education,  saw a number of presentations on the successful use of virtual worlds – particularly in Second Life – for learning,   including an impressive  keynote address by one of the Australasian leaders in virtual education, Dr Scott Diener (pictured above), of  The University of Auckland.

The conference in the Owen Glass Building at  The University of Auckland was attended by delegates from across the world and the leaders of virtual world education in New Zealand, Diener, Dr Clare Atkins, of NMIT (Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology) and Terry Neal, of Blended Solutions.

The formation of the group followed a  symposium initiated by  the SLENZ Project team  about the future of Virtual World  education in New Zealand and what  could be done to promote and encourage it, which was  led SLENZ Project co- leader, Dr Clare Atkins (pictured right), and grew out of subsequent conversations between Atkins, Diener and and SLENZ Project co-leader Terry Neal (pictured left).

“The group has been set up  to further education in multi user virtual environments and virtual worlds in New Zealand,” Dr Atkins said. “We will be looking not only at teaching in MUVEs but also how other aspects of education including administration, libraries, marketing etc., can  benefit from virtual worlds.”

Initially  the group will operate from a Google Group which has been set up “to get the initial ideas flowing,”Atkins said, noting that,  as yet few, if any concrete decisions have been taken on anything except the pressing need for such an association.

Although the group has been formed by members of the SLENZ Project, which was funded by Tertiary Education New Zealand, it is independent from that project and also virtual world platform independent.

Issuing an invitation to New Zealand educators and others interested in virtual world technology and education, Atkins said, “”We would like to encourage  you to be part of these early discussions! We need everyone’s ideas, thoughts, comments etc.  We hope you feel like joining us.”

The two aspects of the creation of the group that the founding team was most set on, she said, were:

  • It should be independent and not for profit. Although institutions/organisations may choose to support the association in some way it would not be affiliated with any particular one.
  • It should encompass the broad spectrum of virtual worlds or MUVEs and interpret education in the broadest of terms – all sectors, all aspects.

To join one should go  here.

SLENZ Update, No 154, December 06, 2009

Where is education going in Virtual Worlds?

An earlier (2008) view of a Duke University  foray into virtual worlds
– just one of  the university’s many virtual projects

With the  Obama Administration  turning to the virtual world to extoll the virtues of a science education through expansion of the STEM Education Initiative and NASA also using virtual worlds to promote engineering education to the next generation of potential NASA employees it seems certain  that educators around the world will not be able to avoid the  MUVE issue although it is  apparent many would wish to.

It  also appears certain that Governments, if they wish to keep abreast of world education trends, can no longer allow their telcos to limit bandwidth or  to  obfuscate the issue of the need for consistent, high speed Broadband  – which New Zealand telcos dont deliver outside  the major centres –  if  all are to benefit from the growing acceptance of virtuality, in all its guises. In future education poverty might be determined by one’s access to Broadband, particularly in the sense of distance education,  as we move away from on-campus learning to virtual campus learning which is available to everyone.

Following President Obama’s announcement early in his term of  initiatives to encourage American students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the White House now  appears to be moving into the Metaverse in an attempt to expand its  flagging science education initiative, according to  Max Burns (pictured left) of the Washington-based Pixels and Policy  blogs .

Quoting a  press release issued by Duke University, Durham, North Carolina,  in which  the Duke Center announced a partnership with the White House to promote the development of virtual learning worlds related to science and engineering  especially in middle and high school by linking into virtual worlds and the digital generation’s undoubted video-gaming experience, Burns said:

  • The third-annual Digital Media and Learning Competition will award $2 million in support to 21st Century learning lab designers  for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through STEM-based activities.
  • Digital media of any type (social networks, games, virtual worlds, mobile devices or others) may be used. Proposals are also encouraged for curricula or other experiences that link or connect to any game, especially but not limited to Sony’s LittleBigPlanet™ on PlayStation®3.

“Lifting American students from the middle to the top of the pack in STEM achievement over the next decade will not be attained by government alone,” said President Obama at the event in late November at which he announced the “Educate to Innovate” campaign. “I applaud the substantial commitments made today by the leaders of companies, universities, foundations, nonprofits and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers from across the country.”

KZERO’s current virtual world universe – an ever-increasing population.

Moves cannot be seen in isolation

But the  White House moves cannot be seen in isolation.  The University of Texas has already  announced plans to put all its 16 campuses across the State online in the virtual world of Second Life; The prestigious Australian Film Radio and Television School, based in Sydney, has announced  a Graduate Certificate in Video Games and Virtual Worlds starting next year;  the University of California at Irvine has received a US$100,000 National Science Foundation grant to study World of Warcraft;  the creation of  an US Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds by the Information Resource Management (IRM) College of the National Defense University, to ‘ prepare leaders to direct the information component of national power by leveraging information and information technology for strategic advantage’; Glasgow’s Caledonian University has become  the first university  in the UK to offer a complete, integrated module on 3D Internet Virtual Worlds, teaching students all components involved in this relatively new branch of internet design and multi media; the Immersive Education Initiative, a 1000-plus  member, non-profit international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia and companies that are working together to define and develop open standards, best practices,platforms, and communities of support for virtual reality and game-based learning and training systems, is growing apace; and closer to home  the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission’s  NZ$500 000 SLENZ Project to determine the benefits of virtual education  is nearing completion with the formal evaluation process currently taking place;  The University of  Auckland, under the aegis of lecturer Scott Diener has set up a medical centre for training purposes in Second Life; and that university has also seen lecturer Judy Cockeram, gain international recognition for  her virtual architecture study programme which is schedule to accept more than 100 students in the New Year.

But these are not alone.  They  are among  the more than 500  universities and tertiary institutions now in Second Life and other virtual worlds. The launching of both learning and research programmes into  virtual worlds is continuing apace throughout the world, despite  some skepticism  from those who have never been immersed,  who are not  members of the digital generation or not digital migrants. Unfortunately for them virtual worlds, with 690 million participants worldwide, according to the UK-based research organisation KZero, will probably leave them behind as the flotsam and jetsam of  the virtual age.

Probably one of the best recent summations of just where  virtual education in the world is and where it is going   has been given  by Robin Teigland (pictured right), Work Associate Professor in the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness, at  the Stockholm School of Economics,  Stockholm, Sweden.

Her Powerpoint presentation to the Online Education Conference in Berlin on December 2 is well worth taking the time to look at.

And the US National Defense University initiative.