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.
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SLENZ Update, No 148, November 4, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT – final F2F

SLENZERs celebrate ‘completion’

of virtual world  work …

now  team awaits official evaluation

IMG_1116The SLENZ Project team … final face-to-face meeting and debriefing.

The SLENZ Project team celebrated its successes last week at a real life face-to-face meeting in Wellington, New Zealand.

The meeting, which  included a warts-and-all debriefing of all team members, was marked by an unanimity of views on project outcomes in a team which  has occasionally been rift by  differences of nuance and interpretation over the  16 months of its scheduled 18-month life span.

The NZ$500,000 Second Life/Real Life project, which was funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand, has been designed  to determine  whether and how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) can benefit New Zealand education and, and if they are of benefit,  how the benefits can best be harvested.

Despite the fact the  formal evaluation  has not been completed  team members appeared in no doubt that most, if not all, of the  objectives of the three pilot programmes – Midwifery, Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Orientation – had been met.IMG_1127

The lead evaluator, Michael Winter (pictured right), of CORE Education,  who attended the meeting – although not pre-empting his formal evaluation, due before year end  –  seemed upbeat about  the project and said he  had been impressed with communication skills displayed by the team.  .

“I was really impressed with the level of communication and  the way people were working together,” he said. “It was a pretty tight ship in terms  of communication.

He added, however, that the project might have been somewhat hindered by a number of technical issues, including  bandwidth (Ed note: Possibly perculiar to New Zealand); institutional technology and firewall issues. He  added that there had been some resistance to what was perceived as “gaming” by some students;  and that there was a necessity for designing the e-learning experiences properly to  increase engagement. He also cautioned about an underlying concern about the “sleezier side of Second Life” which  the press has focused on.

Summing up her feelings about the project, joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins said, she was “incredibly proud of what we have done.

IMG_1121“I’ve learned some amazing lessons how not to do many things,” she said to laughter.

Despite the barriers to adoption of MUVEs for education in New Zealand,  Atkins said, she now  “absolutely believed”  that “the use of these types of environments and kinds of education are  going to change  the way everyone teaches, how they teach  and the way we think about teaching within 20 years.

“I believe its really important  not only to look for the next project,” she added, ” but also to offer everything (that we have learned) we can to others in education.”

In the debriefing team members  agreed the staged approach to the SLENZ Project had been one of the major keys to the success of the project.

“In fact,” Atkins said, ” I would recommend next time that we should go for even shorter stages – each with its own discrete documentation. For example we could perhaps have broken Midwifery Stage 1 down further into a) the build of the Birth Unit b) the ‘fitting out’ of the birth unit with information.”

Other things that  had worked well had included  the regular team meetings with voice in  Second Life and the face-to-face meetings for getting acquainted and determining agendas for further Project Stages.

Barriers or obstacles to development of the pilot programmes chosen for implementation, included, according to a list compiled from the discussions by  joint project leader, Terry Neal (pictured lower left):

  • Communication: Not having a one-stop shop for all documents from the start of the project. This was implemented when problems arose  after the project  had been launched.
  • Immersion: A lack of pre-project immersion by some tutors, team members. It was felt by some team members that for education to succeed in virtual worlds it is essential that promoters/champions/teachers and tutors be “immersed” in virtual worlds rather than just being “active” before launching into  educating students. This was coupled with a the lack of educator release time for immersion in world.
  • Learning Designer: The need for a Learning Designer or Educator  to be fully  “immersed” so that he/she could specify exactly what was needed based on their own knowledge.
  • Roleplaying Experience:  At launch a lack of MUVE roleplaying experience on the part of tutors, preventing them from having a complete understanding of what could and could not be done in a virtual environment.
  • Clarity: More clarity was needed around the setting of pilot  objectives/initial learning design specifications and the expected/required outcomes.

Things that were seen as an aid to project development included:

  • The use of “immersed” mentors/helpers for new tutors and students.
  • The employment of a professional MUVE builder/scripter rather than attempting to get teachers/tutors up to speed in this area. It was observed that teaching  should be left to teachers/facilitators, and building and facility development to MUVE building/scripting professionals.

Summing up the consensus feeling and her feelings at the debriefing, Neal said, she  thought the team could have done a lot worse, but it could have done a better job too.
Team members were all given a Taonga ( treasure) at the end of the session.

SLENZ Update, No 147, November 2, 2009

Kiwi ‘speaks on ‘  Obama world vision panel

Machinima role recognises

Cockeram’s  SL/RL  standing …

The University of Auckland’s Judy Cockeram (SL: Judy-Arx Scribe) (picture, right)  has been recognised  as a leader in  virtual world architecture  by being selected  as one of  four real world architects – from the US, New Zealand and Egypt –  to “star” in a US State Department  machinima discussing  the Obama vision enunciated in Cairo and how it is already being implemented in  Second Life.

President Obama recently promised in his Cairo speech  an online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries, something that Draxtor Despres (RL: Bernard Drax), a real life winner of the international ” Every Human Has Rights” media award in France in 2008 and director/producer of the machinima, “Cross Cultural Collaboration In Second Life”,  argues SL has been  doing for some time.Cockeram,Judy1

The quotes by the four architects, along with  excerpts of their Second Life work,  were taken from a recent panel discussion in Second Life on Architectural Design and International Collaboration in a Virtual World (CNN Report).  The event was hosted by the US Department of State on Public Diplomacy Island.  Besides Cockeram, the panelists were:   Amr Attia (SL: Archi Vita) (picture left), architect, Urban Planner and professor of architecture and urban planning at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt; Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard) (picture, lower right), owner, The ARCH Network and Founder of Studio Wikitecture, based in Madison, Wisconsin; and David Denton (SL: DB Bailey), Architect and Urban Planner located in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, California.

Cockeram, a senior tutor in architecture, with the School of Architecture and Planning, at the University of Auckland, was speaking  from experience when she told the  Second Life audience drawn from more than  12 countries, that working and learning together in a virtual world “generates empathy” across cultures.Amr Attia

Cockeram first entered Second Life after hearing a presentation by The University of Auckland’s Dr Scott Diener in November last year, which “rang true” for her because  of her experience of having students entering university with good modeling  and drawing skills but little hands-on digital experience, even though members of the so-called “digital native” generation.

The first project Cockeram and her students engaged with  involved support from the US-based  virtual community of practice for nonprofits to explore the opportunities and benefits of Second Life, the  NPC  ( Non- Profit Commons) organisation.

“Right from the start the experience of Second life has been about reaching out and getting away from the introspective, ego-driven architect, ”  Cockeram explained. “The work done in that first project looked at virtual office space and proposed things that were understandable but were not four walls and a flat ceiling.

“When you are building a wall together, rubbing shoulders with another’s  avatar it changes your decision-making. We tend to realise our similarities but we can observe differences and it generates an empathy for each other.”

“Working with such things as sculpties,” she added, “gives them a  different way of thinking about the surface of architecture.”

Second Life also led to  a big change to Cockeram’s  teaching methods.

“Previously I had always insisted on working with computers in the rich environment of  the studio,” she said. “With Second Life the much richer environment for students to respond to means that anywhere is a studio. Second life has led to them understand design decision-making from contextual information.

Today Cockeram has  more than 120 plus students from her classes participating in Second Life on The University of Auckland Second Life islands of Putahi and Kaiako.

And, although her Second Life student body is already cross-cultural with 45 percent Asian, 40 percent Pakeha (New Zealand-born Europeans) and Europeans,  and five percent Maori and Polynesian, Cockeram intends to continue extending the exchanges her students have to include more students and clients from Pakistan to America.

“I believe we are seeing an improvement in the quality of a students ability to lead with design rather than react because of what is easy in a computer package,” she said. ” The virtual world has not interfered with their design decision-making in the way some of the more complex design packages do for early learners in the field.

BrouchardJon

“Cutting edge … design”

Problems she has  overcome include  inappropriate student behaviour in-world  – a number “went absolutely nuts, with no idea how their behaviour was impacting on the rest of the class” at an initial  class with a guest lecturer;   identifying that a student’s work is his or hers, and that the student  in Second Life is the authentic student; and the problem of students leaving “unlabeled objects” littering the landscape. The first problem had been solved, she said,  by establishing  a similar ettiquette in-world to that prevailing on a real life campus, the second had been solved through  use of oral testing, and the third, through policing the issue and stressing the need for labeling in all worlds.

The “unlabeled object” problem has also led her to plan the creation of  an “unlabelled object” finder, which she hopes to include in a Toolbox she will be creating over the southern summer vacation.

Cockeram says that she does not think  that virtual worlds such as Second Life  should be seen only as developing early learner skills.

“Part of my summer  will be spent developing a collection of scripts so we can spend time developing some of the cutting edge of architectural design as well, ” she said.

Next year Cockeram plans  to take 10 to 12 fourth year students, 115  first years, and 115  second years  into Second Life.

SLENZ Update, No 146, October 27, 2009

Australasia’s first “complete” virtual school

South Island  schools  to take  trade

training to  the world – virtually

schoolscreengrabs_01A New Zealand Virtual School classroom developed by SmallWorlds.

A group of  South Island, New Zealand, secondary schools, with training partnerships and associations nationally,  is to establish Australasia’s first  virtual,  online school,  New Zealand Virtual School.

To open in 2011 it will  cater for Year 9 to 13 children and adults from across the country and around the world.

The group,  which is already running a “pilot” virtual aviation programme with students from across the country and as far away as Africa,  has been named by the Minister of Education, Ann Tolley, as one of five  successful applicants from a field of 113 to become  New Zealand’s first trade academies. The other successful trade academy applicants were: Northland College; the Wellington Institute of Technology; the Taratahi Agricultural Centre; and a partnership between the Waikato Institute of Technology and Cambridge High School.

The Catlins Area School’s bid in  conjunction with  South Otago High School, Tokomairo High School, Blue Mountain College and Telford Rural Polytechnic,  was the only application accepted from the South Island but it  will provide the only fully virtual, computer-based “trade academy” service throughout the country, using Skype, specifically-developed 3D graphics from New Zealand -based SmallWorlds – a  virtual world that runs inside a web browser; combining media, web content, and casual games, created by  Auckland’s  Outsmart – podcasts, video conferencing, specialised MMORPGs and other online features.

Others associated with the New Zealand Virtual School include 10  Industry Training Organisations (ITOs), among them AgITO, ESITO, ATTTO, JITO, MITO, Creative trades iTO, GlobalMet, InfraTrain NZ, and EXITO, as well as Enterprise Clutha and Air Fiordland.

New Zealand Virtual School  project  manager Allan Asbjorn Jon,  the Deputy Principal, eLearning and International Student Director at the Catlins Area School told the Southland Times “We now have the opportunity, here in Southland and Otago, to be at the forefront of the virtual movement in New Zealand. It could become a very big educational project in Australasia.

“We are trying to put together a platform to assist young people more towards trade training and trade careers with greater ease.”

Funding on per student basis

Noting that the project, which he has spent many months on, was still evolving Jon said that the governance, structure and  final funding  decisions would be made during discussions with the New Zealand Education Ministry  scheduled to take place on November 4. It is presumed funding would be on a per student basis.

Under the NZVS programme students will get three days virtual study and work placements  for up to two days a week so they can also learn “hands-on”. They will also be able to participate in “block camps” likely to be run at RNZAF bases in both the north and south islands. The RNZAF, according to Jon, has been very supportive of the project.

Jon said programmes were being developed across a wide range of subjects including aviation, tourism, travel and museum studies, joinery and glasswork, stonemasonry, painting and decorating, automotive, mining and drilling and civil engineering. Courses will also cover entire NCEA qualifications including  English and maths.

The virtual school (Facebook link here), he said, had the benefit of being able to cater for the needs of an individual – programmes could  be designed specifically for them.

Classes begin 2011

Although a pilot programme has been running with  about  70 students, enrolments for the new school will be opened  towards the end of next year with the first classes to  begin in early 2011.

Announcing the virtual school choice as a trade academy, Mrs Tolley said every student should have an education system which worked for them and met their needs: the New Zealand Virtual School based in the Catlins would help deliver that.

“Trades academies are part of the Government’s Youth Guarantee programme,” she said in a statement. “They’ll provide more career choices for 16- and 17-year-olds and give them greater opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills and talents through trades and technology programmes.”

Six other proposals from around the country are still to be developed with a view to them also becoming trades academies.

nzvs

The NZVS team: Front: Gavin Kidd, Principal, The Catlins Area School, Allan Asbjorn Jon,
Deputy Principal and Project Manager,  NZVS; Wayne Edgar, Principal,  Tokomairiro High
School; Nick Simpson, Principal,  South Otago High School; Back: Dave Evans, Aviation
Industry Training Advisor, ATTTO; and Kevin McSweeney, Principal, Blue Mountain College.

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,

SLENZ Update, No 140, September 28, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Virtual world makes mastering

interview skills  much easier

… when virtual ‘really feels real’

“Fabulous”,  “amazing” and “fantastic” were only three of the superlatives used by the  more than 20  educators and researchers who toured the SLENZ Project’s two builds on Kowhai  in Second Life and listened to commentary from educators, developers and builders during the  virtual worlds’  prestigious, annual Jokaydia Unconference  on  Sunday.

The superlatives were used  by virtual visitors from around the world to describe  the concepts, designs, the builds and the practises being  used in the the SLENZ Project’s two pilot education programmes,  Foundation Learning (Bridging Education), under lead educator, Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), of Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland,  and Midwifery under lead educator, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), of Otago Polytechnic.

The Jokaydia attendees probably  would have been even more blown away had they   been able to watch the Pooky Media [producer Pooky Amsterdam,  director Russell (Rosco) Boyd]  machinima production  on  Foundation Learning, “Foundation Interviewing in Second Life,”  which was placed on general  release on YouTube later that the day.

Jo Kay, herself, one of Australia’s leading virtual world educators, said of  the video, “Impressive! Congratulations too all involved in the project and the video,” and   SL’s PimPeccable commented,  “Brilliant and professional.”

BirthUnit jokay unconference_019Arwenna Stardust (RL: Dr Clare Atkins) talks to the Unconference visitors.
BirthUnit jokay unconference_015Inside the  Skill Mastery Hyperdome …  demonstrating a “catwalk” rezzed.

The Skill Mastery Hyperdome, the centre of  the foundation learning  “class space”,  is described by PookyMedia in the preamble to the YouTube video, as “a step into the future, an environment in which students can learn, develop and practise skills that will help them progress on their career pathways and achieve their life goals.”

And it obviously is – and eventually, like the Birthing Centre,  will become the SLENZ Project’s “gift” to virtual world education, having been created under Creative Commons attribution license in OpenSource. It is scheduled to be made freely available  with all bells, whistles, scripts and animations in Second Life on completion of the project.

Foundation students who are use the Hyperdrome build are preparing to enter academic and/or training courses as diverse as nursing, teaching, business, police, travel and tourism, IT, engineering, and social work. Foundation Studies provides the basic building blocks and the scaffolding to enable students to enter and succeed in their selected career pathway.

Acitivites provided in this build are designed to enhance communication skills, specifically the skills needed in an interview situation. These students can  select appropriate interview apparel from Rapungakore (“…you have come to the right place”), the clothing store,  which is part of the Hyperdome.

Noting that irrespective of their ultimate career goal all students will need to develop interview skills and strategies,  Merle Lemon,  has pointed out that the hyperdrome environment allows students to experience virtual interviews, to take on the roles of both interviewer and interviewee, and to develop confidence in answering and asking questions in a professional manner.

“The opportunity to rehearse variations of the interview scenario will lead to further enlightenment through reflective evaluation and deliberation on their own behaviour in action,” she said.

The Manukau Institute of Technology  students, whose reactions are canvassed in the video, find that  the Second interviews “really feel real” with one student even worrying that he was being interviewed for a “real job” which he couldn’t accept accept because of his student commitments.

The SLENZ Project is funded by the New Zealand Government”s Tertiary Education Commission.

BirthUnit jokay unconference_011The Unconference participants tour the birth centre.

SLENZ Update, No 139, September 24, 2009

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

SLENZ members  on  international

virtual world conference  circuit

1. Cochrane at SLaction 2009

valverdeset1_002The Valverde conceptual design … as envisioned in Second Life.

There are two Second Life conferences over  the next few days which will feature  the work of members of the SLENZ Project team, underlining just   what can be achieved both by individuals and team members in a virtual world, even if one’s country is isolated in the real world.Slactions

The presentations also  demonstrate the unique  around-the-world, immersive, day-to-day collaborative nature of  working in virtual  worlds – something that  is seldom achieved in real life without the benefits of  virtual technology.

Today (September 24)   Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) (pictured left), a lecturer in Cybertechnology and Human Computer Interaction at WelTec and a SLENZ Project developer,  will “work” with Dr Isabel Valverde (pictured right),  a performer, interdisciplinary choreographer and researcher originally from Portugal,  to  present “Weathering In / Com Tempo: An Intervention towards Participatory Multi-modal Self-organizing Inter-corporeal” at the SLACTIONS 2009 research conference at the NMC Conference Center, Babbage Amphiteatre, in Second Life ( SL time: 11.30am, Sept 24; NZ time: 6.30 am, Sept 25;  GMT:  6:30pm. Sept 24, 2009 ).Valverde,Isabel

IMG_0503In Weathering In/Com Tempo (WI), a joint paper by Valverde  and Cochrane,  they will detail  their initial concept and interface design work on the dance-technology project that questions reductions of our corporeal intelligence in a hybrid embodied environment, where participants are invited to playfully interact physically and virtually with one another as hybrid-embodied entities.

The  intelligent physical-virtual networked  environment is being designed to act like another player, interacting with the participants through related flow of sensed aspects with the ultimate goal of becoming a  more inclusive, integrated and connected interface for human-environment hybrid living systems.

In  their concept they envisage that the project,  to be staged in an enclosed space, will incorporate a form of  augmented reality (3D motion, haptic and weather data) achieved through  a variety of  hardware  and software means – the five participants will wear clothes that facilitate the capture of motion data and provide haptic feedback –  with the bridging to the physical environment from the virtual environment being through audio and video projection of the virtual space into the physical space and via data transmitted to micro-controller actuated servos embedded in clothing or micro-controller mediated switches that control a smoke machine, fans and sprinklers.

Bridging to the virtual environment will be through live data transmitted from: micro-controller monitored sensors embedded in clothing, weather data and 3D motion capture data, and stereo audio and video streams taken from the physical environment onto SL screens.

In her paper Dr Valverde  expects Weathering In will lead to a) the development of a grammar of personal and relational behavior (through performative and choreographic research in particular site specific space/time frames); b) the development of an electronic Corporeal Network (that senses corporeal data and actuates haptic feedback through the internet into and out of a MUVE/SL); c) the development of performance technologies (through hybrid modes of practice, based on contemporary dance, Movement Therapy forms, Contact  Improvisation, Yoga, and Tai Chi,).

Ultimately, she believes,  the development of the  WI interface prototype “will be the embodiment of a theory of corporeality for the post-human era”.

2. SLENZ at Jokaydia Unconference

Jokayunconf

SLENZ Project lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), lead developer Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman) and joint co leaders Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) and  Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) will all  feature at the Jokaydia Unconference over the weekend when the two educators lead a virtual tour of their virtual “lecture halls” on  the SLENZ island of Kowhai.

Facilitated in world by Briarmelle Quintessa the   Sunday, September  27 (Aust time 4pm; NZ time: 7pm; SL time: 11pm, Saturday, September 26 ) session on the SLENZ Project will allow  educators and visitors to  see what the Kiwis are doing on the island of Kowhai where two projects for students (midwifery and foundation or bridging education) are currently being run. Participants will be able to meet and speak with members of the  SLENZ team involved in both pilots.

Jokaydia Support will be provided by by one of Second Life’s best known educators, Jokay Wollongong herself.

But that’s not all there will be at the Jokaydia  annual Unconference which starts tomorrow, September 25, and has been designed to  to celebrate the year’s discoveries and achievements and welcome Second Life residents both old and new to share their work in workshops, presentations, panels or discussions.

It  is worthwhile looking through the schedule and planning on at least taking in one or two  sessions on Jokaydia or at other venues both in Real Life and Second Life. There will be valuable lessons in all of them.

The unconference is designed for educators, academics, researchers, policy makers, curriculum designers,  IT industry,  digital media developers, students and anyone interested in diverse views and approaches to learning and teaching to build and strengthen their personal learning networks through shared interests.

Meanwhile midwifery pilot lead educator  Sarah Stewart and Otago Polytechnic’s principle midwifery lecturer  Dr Deborah Davis are to present a paper entitled “Using a Virtual Birthing Unit to teach students about normal birth” at the  Australian College of Midwives 16th national conference in Adelaide tomorrow.

SLENZ Update, No 136, September 17, 2009

CAN NEW ZEALAND USE THIS LESSON?

Texas shows the way forward in

virtual world education …

UTSLcampus

John Lester (SL: Pathfinder Linden) and Leslie Jarmon (SL: Bluewave Ogee)
meet in front of the virtual version of Johnson Claudia Taylor Hall
at the University of Texas System.(Picture: Pathfinder Linden)

The New Zealand tertiary education system  should probably be looking at  following the virtual lead of the University of Texas, although perhaps not on  a such a grand scale.

After four years of research and “toe-dabbling” the University of Texas has  launched its State-wide 16-campus system into Second Life  as part of a year-long project that will bring students, faculty, researchers and administrators into Second Life to explore the use of virtual worlds as “an innovative, low-cost approach to undergraduate instruction.”
At the same time the New Zealand  tertiary education system remains at the stage of “toe-dabbling” with the arguably  successful SLENZ Project slated to finish at the end of the year  and the OpenSim ONGENS New Zealand National Grid Project simmering – one might unkindly say bumbling – along in Alpha mode with inadequate funding and resources despite a small band of hard-working devotees doing their best to create a homegrown virtual world and build support across the whole New Zealand university spectrum.

That the Texas lesson, created by the UT System Transforming Undergraduate Education Program initiative, is being taken to heart, however, can be gauged from the fact that 0ne of the main ONGENS “builders” and virtual world enthusiast,  University of Auckland academic Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), describes it as “an astonishing development … in scale and concept.”

But despite some tardiness here all is not lost. The UT research into virtual world education  is to be made freely available to educators/researchers around the world and there will be opportunities for collaboration with the UT campuses, something New Zealand educators should look into.

Biggest challenge

The University of Texas’ Dr  Leslie Jarmon (pictured right), Faculty Development Specialist and Senior Lecturer in the Division of Instructional Innovation & Assessment (CIE/DIIA), at the University of Texas, at Austin,   co-founder of the Educators Coop in SL, and the primary investigator for this statewide  initiative, told Linden Labs’ John Lester that the  the biggest challenge to gaining approval for the  initial  one-year, 50-plus-SL region launch of the project  had been  finding the most effective language and concrete Second Life examples  to craft a proposal that would be heard by key administrators. JarmonLeslie

In a lesson for  New Zealand educators seeking virtual world education funding, she said, “When an opportunity arose, a real time demo of Second Life using Voice with real educators and Linden Lab officials answering the Chancellors’ questions right there on the spot was more effective than 100 pages of textual description. Very pragmatic, concrete, visionary ­ at the same time.”

Another key challenge, she said, had been rigorously ensuring that the provision of the virtual infrastructure for 15 campuses (9 academic campuses; 6 medical health science center campuses)  and information and training support would  not dictate which direction each campus would take as they discovered and created their own unique learning and research journeys.

“We’re meeting this challenge with the overriding mission of creating together a virtual learning community,” she told John Lester. ” Virtual worlds are a new human dimension for educational activity, and we¹re constantly exploring and learning alongside one another.”

“Step-by-step in this evolving system-wide virtual learning community, all of these players — and especially our undergraduates — will be seen as learners with expanded roles: learners as scientists, learners as designers, learners as researchers, learners as communicators, and learners as collaborators. We see endless possibilities on the virtual learning horizon.”

UTmeeting

UT campus Leads meet Second Life officials in Austin Texas to lay the foundation
for the Virtual Learning Community Initiative (VLCI). (Picture VLCI)