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.

SLENZ Update, No 153, November 25, 2009

THE SLENZ  PROJECT:

Formal  in-world Maori Kaumatua’s

‘blessing’  for Foundation build

Is this a world first?

Historic moment: Kaumatua Matua Wati Ratana  in two places at once
– he also is in SL as  Matua (Teacher) Mistwood.*

For what is believed to be the first time in the history of Second Life,  and probably in the history of virtual worlds, a Maori Kaumatua (respected elder) has conducted a public ceremony of blessing in a virtual building with an avatar.

The ceremony was conducted by Manukau Institute of Technology Kaumatua Wati Ratana (SL: Matua Mistwood) on the Foundation Learning build on the SLENZ Project island of Kowhai. Arranged and facilitated by Manukau Institute of Technology lecturer and SLENZ Project lead educator, Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) the ceremony was attended by leading members of the SLENZ Project and other guests.

Ceremonies of this nature are part of the normal dedication  of New Zealand-Aotearoa public buildings both in New Zealand and abroad.

However, it is believed that this was the first time an event of this nature had been held in a virtual world.

The ceremony included an informal welcome, known as a whakatau, because a karanga (formal welcome to a marae) was not considered appropriate, according to Lemon.The cermemony commenced with a karakia (prayer) offered by Matua Mistwood. DaKesha Novaland (RL: Whaea Helen Rawiri) was present to support Matua Mistwood.

For the ceremony Mistwood wore a kiwi feather korowai (cloak) made especially for the occasion and donated by Second Life builder, Theo Republic, of Adelaide, Australia.

The official Maori  party with two helpers ( back to front): student helper,
Kaumatua Wati Ratana and Kuia Waea Helen Rawiri, and another helper.

The waiata (song) in support of Matua Mistwood was He aha te hau, a Ngati Whatua song, used to acknowledge the tangatawhenua (people of this place) from Manukau Institute of Technology. The responding waiata was Tutira Mai, in support of the whaikorero (formal speech),  delivered by Martin Bryers (SL: Martini Manimbo), of Northland Polytechnic (NorthTec)

After hongi (a traditional Maori greeting) were exchanged via HUDs worn by participants, Kaumatua Mistwood proceeded to enter the Foundation Learning build’s Whanau Room alone to pronounce the blessing.

He later blessed the “food” which was served in world to all guests at the conclusion of the ceremony.

“Despite  some small technical hitches, It was a really good experience,” Lemon said after the  function.  “We made history having an actual  Kaumatua come into  a Second Life build to  bless a room for students. To my knowledge it has never been done before in a virtual world.

“I really loved being able to bring a Kaumatua and a Kuia into Second Life, Their first impression was that it would be a wonderful  for the education of Maori students, particularly in Te Reo and literacy programmes.

“They even talked of building a 3d version of a full Maori marae in a virtual world like Second Life,” Lemon said.

The SLENZ Project  which has run two  pilot education programmes in Second Life is funded by the New Zealand Government’s  Tertiary Education Commission.

Kaumatua Matua Ratana greets participants with a traditional hongi.
*All pictures in this blog issue taken by Dave Snell, LTC.

SLENZ Update, No 151, November 20, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT: Useful lessons

Team debriefed on  unit tour,

presentation techniques …

Learning lesson: part of the Gronstedt ‘Train for Success Group’s tour.

It’s very easy to be wise with hindsight.

That is  not to take anything away from the  outstanding performance of  Otago Polytech tutor and SLENZ Project’s lead educator (Midwifery) Sarah Stewart’s (SL: Petal Stransky) before what she admits now was an unexpectedly large crowd of “experts” for  her early morning (NZ time) presentation and tour of the project’s birthing unit on the SLENZ Project island of Kowhai last week.

Your’s truely, also admits he was a little unprepared as a “helper” being  “invited” to demonstrate his “incompetence” (grin) in the early New Zealand morning after a self-inflicted heavy night of Second Life roleplaying.

Stewart also must be forgiven for her late notice of the Gronstedt ‘Train for Success Group’s tour, because it  had been moved up a week on short notice, following the postponement of another planned presentation. It did not help that  Stewart understandably did not realise the group’s  importance – in an education sense in the world of Second Life – until a few  hours before the meeting, and that she had previously only presented “virtually” to very small groups.

Stewart herself  has commented  usefully on the experience on her blog under the heading,  Learning a few painful lesson about presenting in Second Life

The debriefing at the normal Monday  SLENZ team meeting, however, raised some other important points – albeit many probably not new – which may be useful to others presenting their projects to  tour groups, particularly those composed of  virtual world  aficionados.

The highlights of the debriefing, including additional thoughts I have had since:

  • One must qualify “tour parties” before presentations so that one has an understanding of who they are and what their needs and desires are.
  • At least two people are normally needed for a  successful presentation of this nature  – on voice and monitoring chat, and in an IM link between presenter and helper.  The helper/facilitator should have enough knowledge of the project and the site to be able to answer questions, in text chat if necessary, rather than interrupting the flow of the presenter. It would help if  the helper is given a copy of the briefing paper before the event.
  • The TP area or meetup/holding area where the major voice briefing is being held should be far enough away from the  unit to be toured to prevent contention between  voice  – the tour leader presenting and the helper answering questions –  when the  audience is split into  smaller groups to tour a facility.  If there is a potential for conflict the helper should only answer questions in text chat. If there are two or more parties being shown the facility at the same time, all tour leader briefing should be done in text chat. If there is contention this can cause problems for video/audio recording  and is distracting for the presenter.
  • In facilities  where  the tour has to be conducted in  “tight spaces”  the roof should be able to be lifted off the facility so all the tour members can cam in, especially if they cannot fit inside the space without difficulty.  The  SLENZ birthing unit has this facility  but neither the presenter nor the  helper knew how to activate it.  On tight sites, with   the audience split into a number of tour groups it is also  potentially  worthwhile having the ability to rez a duplicate facility (if the prims are available) so that simultaneous tours out of  voice range of each other can take place.
  • There is a need for an agreed presentation format which both the presenter and the helper/faciliator are able to refer to during the presentation as well as  succinct presentation briefing notecards the audience can pick up  from a notecard-giver on the site and which the presenter alerts them to.
  • If the presentation is to be in voice rather than text the presenter or helper must ask everyone to use headsets or to turn off their talk button because of  feedback echo problems from  both that and from the use of  computer speakers.  The presenter should also use a headset for voice.
  • The presenter and  the helper  involved in the presentation should check voice levels immediately before the event and also make sure they are linked in a private IM window … so they can text to each other privately during the presentation if necessary. (Practice with this  in  presentation mode might be necessary so that the presenter is not distracted by the text). The helper should IM anyone generating echo  and ask them politely to turn off their talk button.
  • The helper must have both sim knowledge and sim land  rights to ensure he  or she can  deal with griefers – this tour attracted one –  and other sim problems which might arise, without disturbing the presenter.

SLENZ Update, No 150, November 17, 2009

The potential: “Daddy, Miss America wont share her toys.”

Obama vision could be crippled

by rich, greedy US institutions

… and commercial interests who want an arm  and two legs.

Birthunitdemo131109_0021. Sharing knowledge – The Gronstedt Group begins tour  of the SLENZ birthing unit.

The more time I spend in Second Life and  other virtual worlds the more I become convinced  that  SLENZ  joint leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) is right: Collaboration and sharing is the key to success in  world education in virtual worlds.

But its not just collaboration within the United States, or New Zealand. It’s collaboration around the world.

The rich, big universities of North America and Europe might be able to afford to go  it alone, but for the smaller and the often poorer tertiary institutions of  the United States,  countries like  New Zealand, and Third World countries – if they even have reliable, affordable Broadband services – don’t have the luxury of NOT collaborating and sharing,  both at an institutional level and at an academic level.

The creation of complex builds, huds, animations and all the other paraphernalia of teaching successfully in a virtual  world, as well as aquiring the skills/knowhow to use them  can cost megabucks: to not share them under OpenSource and Creative Commons license with institutions and academics around the world would seem to be me to be both profligate and selfish. It also could regarded by some , particularly when sold at a high price or with an exorbitant  license fee attached, as both  neo-colonialist and  greedy capitalism of the kind that brought about the most recent crash of world markets.

Second Life behind the firewall

The collaboration thoughts, although first ennunciated  for me by  Dr  Atkins, were brought to mind more recently by  five things: the move by the Lindens, admitted an avowedly commercial organisation,  to  promote Second Life behind the firewall, previously Nebraska, to  commercial, Government and educational institutions at US$55,000 a pop, a princely sum for many cash-strapped institutions around the world;  President Obama’s Cairo vision, proclaimed in June;  a visit by the KiwiEd group to the University of Western Australia, Second  Life site; a Train for Success Gronstedt Group  35-avatar tour of the SLENZ Project’s virtual birthing unit on the Second Life island of Kowhai; and  finally, but not least,  the one-hour keynote address on copyright  by  Harvard University  Professor of Law Lawrence Lessig to  EDUCAUSE09 in Denver earlier this month.

Lessig-certificate-of-entitlement-700x524

2. Sharing the knowledge: Lessig’s certificate of entitlement.

Obama told  the world,  “We will match promising Muslim students with internships in America and create a new online network … ” something  which  Second Life arguably has been  doing for sometime with  the collaboration already  occurring between individual academics and many smaller institutions creating an “online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

The problem with his vision is that  US commercial – and often Government –  interests  have almost always  worked against  facilitating collaboration and sharing across geographic  and cultural boundaries. Look at Microsoft software. Look at Apple and ITunes licensing. Look at software regionalisation. Look at the record industry. Look at the book industry, where rich English language publishers in the UK and the US split the world into at least two markets.  Look at the way copyright law has moved into  education – and science.

But its not a new phenomenon. Look at banana republics, created out of Boston,  as a rather ironical and destructive facilitation of collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.

Triumphs of reason

On the other hand there are triumphs of reason over idiocy. Look at the rise of the ubiquitous PC, compared to the Apple computer, even though using a proprietary Operating System  the rise from the “underground” of  Moodle, compared to say Blackboard; the slow advance of bilateral free trade agreements, even if not the much desired mutilateral  free trade agreements, instead of the trade siege mentality,  which  affected most of the world in the 1930s (and still threatens); the growing popularity of Linux compared to proprietary Operating Systems; and finally the astounding growth of  Wikipedia compared to Encarta or Britannia.

Despite my misgivings I have been heartened over the years by the surprising degree of co-operation and collaboration that has been happening in virtual worlds. That is despite the actions of  those  few Scrooge McDuck-like educational institutions which have purely commercial interests at heart and appear to run closed shop operations, sharing with none.

I was even more cheered recently by a visit to the University of Western Australia when I found that  university, which is in the forefront  of Australian virtual world education, was entering into bi-lateral  virtual “free trade” and/or “free exchange”  agreements with  the likes of Stanford University and others. This mirrors the agreements put in place  by  Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) at the University of Auckland with the University of Boise; and Judy Cockeram (SL: Judy-Arx Scribe) and  her work with architects around the world;  and those “handshake”   agreements  or informal sharing arrangements put in place by a myriad of other relatively smaller institutions who have already recognised the benefits of world-wide collaboration.

3.Sharing the knowledge – KiwiEd group tours University of Wester Australia site.

And then there is the SLENZ Project, which 18 months ago adopted as its ruling credo,  complete transparency, with OpenSource under Creative Commons license for all its virtual educational products, developments and knowledge in the hope that others would be able to build on the team’s work. Even though the adoption of this credo was probably due more to the persistence and bloody-mindedness of a then non-Second Life “immersed” and relatively sceptical SLENZ Learning Designer Leigh Blackall than anything else, it has worked and is working.

One has to  agree now that Blackall was right, even though  there is obviously a place for fair payment to commercial (virtual world creators, builders, developers etc) interests, something Linden Labs has recognised  with its protection of its own virtual world product lines (and  unfortunately those created and developed by its residents, even if Creative Commons, full permissions and OpenSource) behind  the walls of Second Life.

Linden Labs is not alone, however, in usurping user/creator rights.  The way  they have covered the issue in their rather draconian and very American Terms of Service is little different from other major US on-line social networking services: if you put it up on their service, they own it.

Virtual World Free Trade/Exchange Pact?

This is despite, or perhaps in spite of “renegades” like the  onetime Arcadia Asylum, making all her magnificent “builds” available to “anyone to use anywhere,  how they like, even blowing it up.”

Like  the tyrants behind the old Iron Curtain the Lindens realise that keeping  control of their residents’ creations inside  their world (and keeping them there), guarantees that they will have to stay there unless they want to pour their creativity, time and work down the drain and start a new virtual life elsewhere.

This leads  me to the thought that President Obama, although paying lip service to “collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries,” needs to put his Government’s money  where his mouth is and promote a world-wide free trade/exchange agreement for  virtual world education if not for virtual worlds themselves, guaranteeing rights of both personal ownership of  individual products when created or bought in a real world sense,  but also opening up US educational institution virtual knowledge and creativity for the rest of the world to freely add to, and build on.

The President  has the vision  for a better on-line world – which could lead to greater understanding between peoples through education.

If he does nothing except talk. Nothing will happen.

And, I believe, we will find the major educational institutions moving more behind their Ivy Walls – if they are not already there – and American educational institutions (and others in UK, Germany, Brazil etc) adopting  a siege mentality   even though  virtual worlds (all virtual worlds, whether emanating out of the US or China or anywhere else) will only fulfill their true potential of levelling the playing field for all educationally if they are free and open to all.

That is something America can do for the world – all worlds.

SLENZ Update, No 149, November 7, 2009

ATKINS ADVICE TO POLYTECHS/UNIVERSITIES

Collaboration is key to making

virtual education work in NZ

Nurse educators  ‘convinced’ of value –

the question is, how best to use it.

IMG_1151NZ nurse educators at the Wellington SLENZ meeting.

Collaboration between tertiary educational institutions in the implementation  of  virtual world education scenarios is the key to making them economic, effective and successful in a country as small as New Zealand.

This is the view of  of the joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins,  who has worked for 16 months on three education pilot education projects funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand to determine the benefits or otherwise of education in virtual worlds and how the benefits, if any, can be harnessed successfully by New Zealand educators.

Dr Atkins expressed her view at a meeting attended by eight leading nurse educators from a number of polytechs  in Wellington last week.

“It makes sense  to collaborate,” Atkins said. “It would be crazy to try to do things separately when you can share  and collaborate.”

She suggested that New Zealand’s Polytechs and/or Universities could band together inexpensively to increase New Zealand’s educational usage of  and presence in Second Life, around the  virtual island “archipelago” already created by the Nelson-Marlborough Insitute of Technology (NMIT), the SLENZ Project, and The University of Auckland. Virtual land for education could be made available economically within this hub area, she said.Jacoby, Jean

Atkins noted  that whereas a Second Life build from scratch, such as that of  the SLENZ Project’s midwifery pilot could cost up to NZ$30,000, collaboration by institutions both in New Zealand and overseas – and the sharing of already created facilities – could reduce on-ground, virtual world costs for individual collaborating  institutions to several hundred dollars a year, if enough were involved.

“There is no point to reinventing the wheel,” she said. “Second Life is  notable for the way educators share and collaborate.”

The one-day meeting,   sponsored by the SLENZ Project followed expressions of  interest from nurse educators who had viewed or attended presentations on the SLENZ Project’s Midwifery and Foundation Learning pilot programmes.  The nurse educators attending represented  among others, UCOL, Manukau Institute of Technology, NMIT and Whitireia Community Polytechnic. The  national co-ordinator of  nursing education in the tertiary sector, Kathryn Holloway, also attended.

Besides Atkins, the meeting also included presenations by other SLENZ Project members,  and a Second Life nursing training presentation by Second Life’s Gladys Wybrow, of  The University of Auckland.

The meeting, less than a week later,  has led to the establishment of a  “collaborative” New Zealand Polytech nurse educator project to explore and develop the potential of Second Life in Nurse Education.

The project,  Nurse Education in Second Life NZ,  based on a ning created by Jean Jacoby (pictured), an instructional designer, at the UCOL School of Nursing Palmerston North, already has  20 members.

Jacoby, who has taken on a co-ordinating role, said in a dispatch after the meeting,  “It seemed to me that none of us needs to be convinced of the value of exploring Second Life; rather we are looking for practical ways to do so.

Two main approaches

“There seemed to be two main approaches identified at the meeting,” she added. “Looking for existing builds that we can adapt or use as they are”  and/or “Identifying a small, practical project to build from scratch, for which we could potentially get funding.”

The nursing group is currently in the early stages of discussing a proposal to set up a verbal health assessment scenario, with the nurse getting the information from the patient.

According to Susie le Page, also of UCOL,  this suggested Second Life application could be applied across a number of nursing areas, including midwifery, mental health and the medical/ surgical community.

Meanwhile commenting on the meeting the SLENZ Project’s lead educator for Otago Polytech’s Midwifery pilot on Kowhai in Second Life, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) offered advice, based on her Second Life experience, to the  nurse educators.

Stewart said nurse educators contemplating using Second Life should:  find a Second Life mentor and learn as much as you can about how Second Life works; network with other nurse and health professionals using SL using online communication tools such as blogs, YouTube, Slideshare and of course, Second Life; develop learning activities in Second Life that require little or no development to keep things as inexpensive and easy as possible; work alongside your educational institution to ensure you have full access to Second Life; collaborate with each other using virtual tools such as wiki, Google Docs, Skype and Second Life.

At the same time as the nurse educator meeting SLENZ Project joint leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) and  Foundation Learning pilot lead educator, MIT’s Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) briefed representatives of the Open Polytechnic, UCOL, CPIT and Wairakei Polytech at another venue, delivering  a similar message to that of Atkins.

EVENT -Kiwi educators

Sunday 8 November 7 pm (NZ Time) – meet on Koru shortly before  7pm: This week Kiwi Educators have been invited to tour the University of Western Australia sim. Our guide will be Jayjay Zifanwe, owner of the UWA sim. Highlights of the tour will be the main landing area, Sunken Gardens, Sky Theatre, Square Kilometer Array, Visualisation Research & the 3D Art & Design Challenge. This amazing SL campus is a pefect combination of realism and fantasy and well worth a visit. – Briarmelle Quintessa.

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 143, October 8, 2009

THE SLENZ WORKSHOPS AT

Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009 -2

MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching in a Multi-user Virtual Environment,” and “In-world, meets the real world – the trials and tribulations of bringing Second Life to an ITP,” presented by Merle Lemon, lead educator in foundation learning, and lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s Learning Environment Support Technology Centre.

SL foundation learning students

“do better” than f2f learners

Real Life assessment finding
IMG_0836Merle Lemon is her SL alter ego on screen at Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009

Foundation Learning students who used the SLENZ pilot foundation learning programme in Second Life to hone their interview skills  did  better in real life assessment interviews than  those students  who had not been through Second Life, according to SLENZ lead educator and senior Manukau Institute of Technology lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briamelle Quintessa).

The  result came from  all foundation learning classes in interview techniques – both from those students who  used Second Life and those in face-to-face classes – being assessed in real life interviews by an assessor who did not know who had attended which classes.

Although Lemon is the first to admit the test was “not scientific” and that the results “might have  been confounded by individual class teacher ability” the results point to the benefits of  a properly- designed  virtual world  learning programme used by itself or as a valuable  adjunct to face-to-face learning.

The result, even if anecdotal in nature, was across the board with students four  the  four SL classes  doing better in the real life interview assessment  than those from six face-to-face-only classes.

Lemon reported the result as an aside to virtual world teaching workshops she conducted  at last week’s annual, national Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009  tertiary education conference  at UCOL in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

IMG_0838Introducing “MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching team in a Multiuser Virtual Environment”,  Lemon  paid tribute to the SLENZ team and  to the support she received from her foundation learning pilot members and fellow educators –  MIT’s Tania Hogan (SL: Tania Hogan) and  Maryanne Wright (SL:Nugget Mixemup); NorthTec’s  Martin Bryers (SL: Motini Manimbo), Vicki Pemberton (SL: Sky Zeitman) and  Clinton Ashill (SL: Clat Adder), as well as Oriel Kelly (pictured right),  manager of MIT’s Learning Environment Support Technology Centre and MIT’s IT support staff  “although they were somewhat reluctant at first.”
“We tried  to get the  educators into Second Life as quickly as possible after the project started,” Lemon said. ” We tried to keep everyone on the same page all the time and largely succeeded.

“But  we had to keep the lecturers motivated. They had to realise they were not going to be alone when they were going into SL.  For this we used mentors and we linked up for meetings together in SL and with other educators in SL. Volunteers from ISTE ( International Society for Technology in Education) and the University of Arizona helped out a lot in SL.”

Highest praise for ISTE, Jo Kay

On an international collaborative basis she paid tribute for outstanding help – I publish her list in the belief it may be a help to other educators –  to  Second Life’s MNC  (New Media Consortium), CCSL (Community Colleges of Second Life), Google Teacher Academy,Second Life Mentors, Second Life Education, and Second Ability Mentors (for the disabled).

She also found the  VWBPE (Virtual World Best Practices in Education  conference) run virtually in  February  this year as being invaluable both from a  learning and networking point of view and received help from  the Education Coffee House, Virtual Pioneers and Media Learning – Danish Visions, the Kiwi Educators group, and COM Educators in Second Life.

She reserved some of her highest praise for   The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) which she described as “the trusted source for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation” in in-world education and Australian Second Life educator and researcher Jo Kay, of Jokaydia, the Jokaydia annual Unconference , Jokaydia News and Info and   Jokaydia Educators-in Rez.

“Inadequacy,” “panic”

Lemon said among the difficulties experienced by her  team  were: wavering support and/or a lack of commitment;  exacerbated by feelings of  “inadequacy” and sometimes “panic”;  communication problems and the loss of some team members as the pilot progressed. There  also was a problem initially with student non-attendance and  a lack of computer literacy but this had been overcome with the establishment of a “buddy” system. This had sometimes turned into a problem of keeping track of students: “Make sure they are in your group and are on your friends list,” she said.

However, in the five classes taken into SL, there had only been one student who had “resisted” the idea, not for computer or virtual world issues, but because of “privacy” in connection with the other students.

In deciding to move learning into Second Life, Lemon said, educators, rather than  initially spending lots on their developments etc, without proper research,  should consider the existing resources within Second Life and  whether they could use these  resources, and what needed to be added to them to make them useful for a particular purpose.

She recommended, based on her experience, that the lead educator or “champion” of any on-going  education project in Second Life should  Motivate, Motivate, Motivate team members.  She noted that in the Second Life context “knowledge is power”.

She added that any  education team should  hold regular meetings in world and members should lock  themselves into the relevant Second Life groups. But, she added, team members must take time to have fun in SecondLife.

Technology issues

On Technical and Learning Technology Support Issues, Oriel Kelly, who presented  this paper with Lemon, said at MIT, they had  found,  that Second Life barely ran on a computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo; Motherboard: Intel DG35EC (G35 Express); CPU: Intel E8400 (2Ghz); Memory: 2GB (800mhz) RAM; GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT. On the question of network and bandwidth,  latency was an issue  with computer lab  sessions needing 416kb/machine. Firewalls had also been problematic because Second Life’s  SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is non-standard  and needed to be passed without being shredded by SIP aware firewalls or declared an  “illegal operation”.
On the question of access MIT  had had problems with  single IP NATs (network address translation) registering more than two avatars.
“We had a lot of technical problems, ” Lemon said,  adding that the major complaints from students had involved  technical issues.

Many of the problems, Lemon said, could be overcome by involving the technical staff in-world in the Second Life experience.

“Once in there and involved in the experiences they are sucked in,” she  half joked,  adding that previously the technical staff hadn’t been able to see why anyone would want to teach in-world.

SLENZ Update, No 142, October 6, 2009

THE SLENZ WORKSHOPS AT Teaching and Learning/eFest 2009

Five lessons from the creation of

education pilots  in Second Life

IMG_0803SL’s Arwenna Stardust and RL’s Dr Clare Atkins make a point.

The five SLENZ Project workshops attended by mainstream tertiary educators at  the  annual, national Teaching  and Learning/eFest 2009 conference, at UCOL, Palmerston North, New Zealand, last week,  provided some valuable tips for  the administration and creation of virtual world education.

I thought the lessons  important enough to provide summaries of some of them for educators and administrators who could not attend the conference. The first  summary is below.

The SLENZ Project team members who presented at the conference  included, SLENZ Project co leaders, Dr Clare Atkins and Terry Neal; Merle Lemon, lead educator  for the foundation learning pilot at  Manukau Institute of Technology, and  Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s  Learning  Environment Support Technology Centre;  Lead developer, Aaron Griffiths, of F/Xual Education Services;  and   Todd Cochrane,  a SLENZ developer  and lecturer at WelTec.

Funding for the SLENZ Project was provided by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand, a Government body.

1. “Working effectively in a virtual team”

[Presented by  SLENZ Project co-leaders, Dr Clare Atkins, of NMIT, and Terry  Neal, of Blended Solutions.]

The core team was made up of two parts:  students, educators, learning designer, Project Leader Second Life, (Atkins)  and the developers,  in one box, and the evaluator, communications and Project Leader Real Life (Neal) in the other. Although theoretically all the  roles  were to have worked together in practice they overlapped.

The core team was supported by a project administrator, literature reviewer,  web developer, other educators (10), IT support (4), video makers (2),  the steering group (9) and the friends of the project who sometimes attended meetings  on the Second Life island of Koru or provided advice via email or other means.

Forming: The creation  of the project evolved out of Dr Clare Atkin’s network through one-to-one phone conversations, the formulation of a Project Execution Plan and a face-to-face meeting at which modifications were made. Those modifications included the addition of a communications role. In Second Life the “forming* of the SLENZ Project included the creation of avatars, support for  newbie players on the team and the formulation of  agreed meeting protocols.

Storming: The design and development phases of the project  included a process to agree process, the agreement on process,  open versus closed interaction, the learning design – considering access or focus on in-world experience, and discussion of the implications of creative commons licence, which will eventually lead to the team’s Second Life work and builds being made freely available with full permissions.

Norming: Communication and problem solving  was done  through weekly in-world team meetings on the island of Koru, weekly Skype calls by Neal, weekly development team meetings  led by Atkins,  a weekly catchup/review by Atkins and Neal, and  the provision of publicly available documentation through all stages of the project.

Performing: The project proceeded with the ongoing use of established processes,  celebration of milestones and  achievements – something often missing in virtual projects –   and the linking in of educators, through the lead educator in each of the pilots,  and the linking in of the evaluator  by Neal.   Extra  team roles were developed with the appointment of a web developer and video developers.

Adjourning ( or the winding down and completion of the project): A final face-to-face team meeting will be held, with the team sharing what it can over the final three months to the winding up and clear finish.

Keys to success: According to both Atkins and Neal the keys to the success of the Project were/are: the establishment of a clear prupose, clear roles, the use of  multiple communications methods, including a variety of online tools and text and voice communication; dual project leadership, and constant monitoring of the progress and well-being of the team.

Next blog:  MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits  and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching in a Multi-user Virtual Environment,” and “In-world, meets the real world – the trials and tribulations of bringing Second Life to an ITP,” presented by Merle Lemon, lead educator in foundation learning,  and lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and Oriel Kelly also of MIT.

eFest unconference workshop demos

IMG_0807 SLENZ co-leader Terry Neal (right) gives an
unscheduled demonstration of SLIMG_0809Griffiths  points out a detail to a polytech lecturer.

IMG_0806

Educators Trevor Forest, of Rotorua, and his wife watch
a demo by SLENZ ‘adviser’, Warren Masterson

SLENZ Update, No 141, October 6, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

SLENZ teams finds new ‘acceptance,

enthusiasm’  at    education  gabfest

… Need seen to retain team skills, post-SLENZ Project

IMG_0846Almost full house … Aaron Griffiths details a Developer’s work.
as the SLENZ Lead Developer/builder.

Growing “acceptance” of Second Life as an education medium  and a new  “enthusiasm” for  virtual world education  was demonstrated in Palmerston North, New Zealand, last week by the  number of mainstream tertiary educators  who attended five  SLENZ team workshops at  the  annual, national Teaching  and Learning/eFest 2009 conference .

The growing interest in virtual worlds also was demonstrated in an unscheduled,  eFest unconference workshop before the conference proper and the fact that the  eight members of the SLENZ team who attended the conference were constantly pulled aside by attendees, wanting to learn more about virtual world education  or wanting to know how to become actively involved.

It was the third annual mainstream conference at which  the SLENZ Project  has been promoted but  its acceptance was very different from previous outings.

IMG_0843As Lead developer Aaron Griffiths (pictured) (SL: Isa Goodman), of F/Xual Education Services, said, “It was  like a coming of age. At the first two conferences we could only tell them what it  could be like. With this conference we really had something to show them. We could show that education in virtual worlds can work and be both economic and effective.”

The success was such  that a number of educators  attending the workshops and  in private conversations later suggested that the SLENZ Team,  due to complete  the SLENZ Programme  by year end,  should be retained  so that  the  skills learned and honed on the project would not be lost to  the New Zealand education community. The suggestion was even made that the project should be set up on a permanent, collaborative  basis with funding from New Zealand  tertiary institutions who wished to employ the team’s skills in setting up their own virtual education units.

Commenting on this, SLENZ Project  joint co-leader,  Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of NMIT,  said it made sense for  New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and particularly its Polytechnics to  co-operate and work collaboratively in virtual worlds, rather than individually. In that way they could make effective, economic  use of the available advice, skills  and lessons already learned as  well as ensuring  that each was not going through the costly exercise of trying to reinvent the wheel, independently.

After the conference, co-leader, Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel), of Blended Solutions, said  that the Project would consider setting up a virtual world roadshow  for those Polytechnic educators and administrators who had expressed  interest in learning more about education in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

The Polytechnic educators at  the four-day conference at UCOL who appeared most interested  in virtual world education for their students included  those involved in  nursing and paramedic training, anatomy and physiology lecturing, foundation (bridging) learning,  trade and industry training and  agriculture, including viticulture,  all areas which the SLENZ team has worked in  or has looked  at working in.IMG_0813

Dr Clare Atkins and Terry Neal .. working effectively in a virtual team.

The SLENZ Project team members who presented at the conference  included, Dr Atkins and Terry Neal; Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), lead educator  for the foundation learning pilot at  Manukau Institute of Technology, and  Oriel Kelly, manager of MIT’s  Learning  Environment Support Technology Centre;  Aaron Griffiths;  and   Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker),  a SLENZ developer  and lecturer at WelTec.

The SLENZ workshops, which will be the subject of a separate posting, looked at, “Working effectively in a virtual team,” “3D as an everyday medium for teaching, ” “MUVEing towards collaboration – the benefits and pitfalls of working as a collaborative teaching in a Multiuser Virtual Environment”, “In-world, meets the real world – the trials and tribulations of bringing Second Life to an ITP, “From  Real World to Virtual: Actualising Virtual World Education.