The SLENZ Update – No 23, November 08, 2008

**ALERT: FOR SLENZERS **

Version 4 of the “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” has been published by joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives. The full text is available for SLENZERS at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dd2zdcf6_0c5trmf3n or on this blog under the heading to the left, SLENZ Project.

Social network + Web 3 = VWs

If you have been thinking that Virtual Worlds are not the wave of the future a recent report from In-Stat should help to dispel those thoughts.
But, given the current world economy, there might be few at the New Zealand end of the world who can afford to read the US$2995, 58-page report.instat
“Evidence supports the conclusion that the ‘killer application’ that is critical to virtual worlds-and, by extension, to Web 3.0-is, in fact, already here and it is none other than social networking,” said Vahid Dejwakh, an analyst with In-Stat, a part of Reed Business Information and a segment of the US$8 billion Reed Elsevier global information network.
As blogging and the ability to comment on news items online are, in essence, popularising and decentralising the news industry, so too are virtual worlds popularising and decentralising the gaming, meeting, and 3D graphic design industries, In-Stat reported. (http://www.in-stat.com/press.asp?ID=2405&sku=IN0804326CM)
Virtual worlds – especially the 3D kinds, such as Second Life – were classified under the Web 3.0 category because of their profound ability to integrate multiple types of content, information sources, and feeds into one highly engaging and interactive format, the research organisation said.
In-Stat found:
* Total registered users of virtual worlds are expected to exceed 1 billion and total revenue is expected to exceed US$3 billion by 2012.
* 70 percent of the more than 300 million registered users of virtual worlds are younger than 18.
* Virtual world companies earn close to 90 percent of their revenue from the sale of virtual items, currency, land, and fees associated with these items.
In addition to Web 3.0 applicability, In-Stat identified nine other critical components of virtual worlds, including user-generated content, social networking, virtual items, an economy, and business integration. In-Stat then rated each virtual world company according to these ten components. All ten platforms scored the maximum points possible in the social networking category, which emerged as the one critical element to virtual worlds.
The research, Virtual Worlds and Web 3.0: Examined, Compared, Analyzed (#IN0804326CM), covers the worldwide market for virtual worlds. It provides analysis of this form of gaming and social networking including profiles of 17 virtual worlds.
It also includes forecasts of worldwide registered users and revenue for virtual worlds through 2012. User demographics and market shares of virtual worlds are also provided.
Info: http://www.instat.com/catalog/mmcatalogue.asp?id=212

Where will the girls be?

Given the ubiquity of Playstation buffs, especially  young (18-35) men, could “Home”, the upcoming, console-based virtual world for the PlayStation 3, eventually develop into  a serious rival for the current crop of  Virtual Worlds?

That question arose from a recent interview with Jack Buser, Sony’s Director for PlayStation Home who told Virtualworldnews that the immersive platform which is due to launch as open beta late this year “will always be evolving and living and breathing.”http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/11/playstation-home-to-be-evolving-living-and-breathing-platform.html

“We’ll launch within open beta,” he said. “That means two things. It will be available to all PlayStation users at no cost. But there will obviously be a certain percentage of people who want to stand out from the crowd andplaystation3 customise their avatar with certain items or have a premium space and they will have that option within the PlayStation Mall, but it is not required. Second, we are calling it an open beta for a specific reason. Home will always be evolving. You will be seeing new stuff, including new technology.

“It’s important to realise the scope of PlayStation Home. When you look around, it’s just the icing on the cake,” Buser was quoted as saying. “The cake is that it’s a development platform for third parties to develop content on. We want Home to scale rapidly, and we figured the best way to do that is to get third parties involved. After launch, you’re going to see Home grow rapidly with new media, new content, and new experiences, coming quite rapidly. That’s absolutely been the demand from the users.”

Given the demographic and social networking needs of the age group the only question is where will the girls be?

Stopping trash talk

censored

I’ve always been dead against censorship in Second Life believing that thought processes should never be censored but I recently received  my comeuppance while showing an elderly and rather conservative new user into  a PG-rated welcome area.

I had not been into a Welcome area for a long time (pre-voice days) and I was appalled -she was too – by the bad language in SL voice and trash talk by all and sundry, but especially loud-mouthed yobbo males, who referred continuously to various parts of their anatomy and what they planned to do with it or what they wanted to do with the girls present.

Muting worked but  my uncalled for feeling was that the Lindens should police PG welcome areas much more proficiently if businessmen and women, educators and their students are going to move freely through this michael-leeworld.

Thus I was interested in Michael Lee’s (pictured) blog  http://www.redherring.com/blogs/25281 in which he noted Microsoft had been granted a patent to filter and censor undesired words in real-time. The automatic system would process everything being said and alter the unwanted words so that they are, according to the patent, “either unintelligible or inaudible.”

Microsoft, he said, understood that “censorship of spoken language can be annoying if each obscenity or profanity is “bleeped” to obscure it so that it is not understood, particularly if the frequency with which such utterances occur is too great.” The company, theefore, has opted to either lower the volume below audibility, replacing the word with an acceptable word or phrase, or taking out the word completely.
Lee said Microsoft’s proposed technology would work in real-time – a practical solution when it comes to the many simultaneous conversations that take place in online multiplayer games.

Now when is SL going to avail itself of the technology?

Virtual crime

thief2

With virtual crime in virtual worlds on the rise, Nick Abrahams,  a Partner and Sydney Office Chairman of law firm, Deacons, has published an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald looking at online and virtual world theft, fraud, sex and relationships and their failure .http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/virtual-crime-is-on-the-rise/2008/11/03/1225560726242.html

[Illustration: Screenshot from: “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” published by Eidos http://www.eidos.co.uk/gss/thief_ds/]

EVENTS

November 15 (SL time, 9am- 5pm): Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women’s Community in Second Life will be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life maintained by The Department of Women’s Studies, Ohio State University. Registration free, conference registration/information. http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/collingwood7/minerva/conference.html. Workshops for conference attendees who are new to Second Life will be held at noon and at 5:00 pm SL time on Friday, November 14. To participate IM Ellie Brewster, or e-mail collingwood.7@osu.edu.

September 24-26, 2009: SLACTIONS 2009, research conference in the Second Life® world as well as real world: “Life, Imagination, and work using Metaverse platforms”. Important dates – Current: Scope and call for papers covering full spectrum of intellectual disciplines and technological endeavors in which any Metaverse platforms are currently being used: from education to business, sociology to social sciences, media production to technology development, architecture and urban planning to the arts. February 28, 2009 – Deadline for paper submissions. OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse and Project Wonderland are among the other VWs are on the agenda. SLACTION currently has chapters in Brazil, Hong Kong, USA and Europe. The organisers, from some of the world’s leading tertiary insitutions, have invited Australian and New Zealand academic institutions or private research institutions to set up  local physical chapters. Information:  http://www.slactions.org/

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The SLENZ Update – No 22, November 05, 2008

photo
Three members of the SLENZ Project selection panel at work. Aaron Griffths (Isa Goodman), Dr Clare Atkins ( Arwenna Stardust) and Leigh Blackall (Leroy Goalpost)

Three on SLENZ shortlist

Three New Zealand education/training institutions have been “shortlisted” for the Second Life Education New Zealand Project.
The project, funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission, has been designed to determine whether New Zealand education can benefit from “new” virtual world internet technology.
The initial selection, from six formal proposals from across New Zealand, was made by a four-person SLENZ team, Terry Neal and Dr Clare Atkins, joint project leaders, the project’s learning designer, Leigh Blackall, and lead developer, Aaron Griffiths.
“We selected the three because we considered they covered the breadth of student types and desired learning outcomes to help us determine the answers to a broad range of questions,” Terry Neal  (Tere Tinkle) said. “We were disappointed budgetary constraints prevented us from selecting more because all the proposals were interesting.”
The proposals from which the selection was made included: language learning, including Te Reo; medical training; foundation learning; information technology and retail training.
The names of those selected are expected to be announced before the end of the month after final evaluation by the SLENZ project steering group.
Initially more than 40 individual educators from tertiary institutions across the country expressed interest in becoming part of the SLENZ project.
All five types of New Zealand tertiary institution were represented in the numbers – universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga, industry training organisations and private training enterprises.
The innovation project, which has been set up on the Second Life islands of Koru and Kowhai, owned by NMIT, aims to determine how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning.

MUVEs  boost ‘writing’

Though not in a realm of  tertiary education a study of the effects of a digital learning environment designed to improve elementary student writing,  has come up with some useful and sometime thought-provoking answers to questions often posed by educators in all fields of virtual learning.

By Warren, Scott J Dondlinger, Mary Jo; Barab, Sasha A , and posted in the redOrbit Knowledge Network (http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1576546/a_muve_towards_pbl_writing_effects_of_a_digital_learning/index.html), an online community specifically for those with an interest in science, space, health and technology,  the paper is entitled “A MUVE Towards PBL Writing: Effects of a Digital Learning Environment Designed To Improve Elementary Student Writing”.

The project on which the paper reports  endeavored to solve two major obstacles to using problem-based learning methods with writing in elementary school classrooms. The problems are the time taken to design the learning environment and the time required for students to interact at their own pace with ill-structured problems used to spur student writing.redorbit1

The study determined that game elements could be used along with Problem Based Learning (PBL) in a digital learning environment to improve student writing.

The results from this study, which could be used as a basis for foundation learning,  included statistically significant decreases in teacher time spent answering procedural and directional questions, increased voluntary student writing, and improved standardised achievement scores on writing tasks.

SL Toolkit!

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She has uploaded it  to (http://seekersbrain.wikispaces.com/Reports+and+Articles)  to make her list available to anyone who wishes to use it.

At the same spot she provides a link to a  valuable  hypertext book which explores the psychological aspects of environments created by computers and online networks.

The book by John Suler, Ph.D, of the Department of Psychology, Science and Technology Center, at Rider University, presents an evolving conceptual framework for understanding how people react to and behave within cyberspace: what he calls “the psychology of cyberspace” – or simply “cyberpsychology.” The book is continually being revised and expanded. ( http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/psycyber.html)

Transformation?

secondlife

wa

The difficulty of being a newbie in a strange land never ceases to surprise me – especially when I visit new OpenSims that don’t have the facilities of Second Life – and many of them don’t. They feel more like Second Life of three to four years ago with the inherent problems of lag and crashes and lack of easy to obtain freebie clothes, skin and hair etc. Even walking like a penguin can prove a pain in the proverbial with AOs largely ignored.

However, for newbies or noobs entry to Second Life also can still be a painful and often offputting experience without the other pressures of non compatible or elderly computer technology,  slow broadband and other grief causing problems.

But Benjamin Linden has announced that  Linden lab is about to do something about transforming the Second Life rebirth experience ( http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/11/03/transforming-the-second-life-experience)
Announcing that Linden Lab had engaged award-winning interactive design agency Big Spaceship as a partner in transforming the Second Life experience,  Benjamin noted that   tailoring the Second Life platform to make it easier for new Residents to begin experiencing the virtual world had been “one of our primary objectives moving forward”.

“The goals of the project are to dramatically simplify the sign-up stage, ease users’ introduction into Second Life, and quickly connect people to relevant content and experiences in Second Life,” he said.

Big Spaceship (http://www.bigspaceship.com/), an interactive design agency with expertise in user experience strategy, interface design, and Web development, is well known for its work creating compelling online experiences that are approachable and engaging.

The latest Linden  move hopefully will do something to turn around  the sometimes claimed 80 percent churn/loss rate in new residents.

The SLENZ Update – No 7 September 15, 2008

SLENZ issues RFP

More than 40 individual educators from tertiary institutions across the country  have expressed interest in becoming part of the Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) project.

All five types of New Zealand tertiary institution are represented in the numbers – Universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, Wanangas, Industry Training Organisations, and Private Traiing Organisations – across the length and the breadth of the country

“The response to our call for expressions of interest has been very heartening,” Terry Neal, joint cordinator of the project said when announcing that SLENZ had now issued a formal Request for Proposal to those who had expressed interest.

Funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission the research project, which has been set up on the Second Life island of Koru (general views pictured at right), owned by NMIT, aims to determine how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning, had already attracted considerable interest from educators which has now solidified into the 40 formal expressions of interest.

Using the multi-user virtual environment Second Life, the project aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths of learning in a virtual world as well as involving them on an on-going basis.

The deadline for the return of proposals from groups of educators who wish to be involved in “engaging with Second Life: Real Education in a Virtual World (SLENZ) project” is October 10.

The final selection will run from October 11 to 25 with the preferred educators/groups notified on October 31. A negotiation period has been set aside to November 30 to confirm institutional and IT team commitment
and the release of the lead educator to the project.

It is anticipated that group work will commence in December with a design and development workshop for each  project team and lead educator.

Click for the full text of the SLENZ Request for a Proposal.

 

 

The VW trends

 

Further to the story in our last blog five interesting trends emerged at last week’s  Virtual Worlds Expo, in Los Angeles, according to Simon Newstead, CEO and co-founder of Frenzoo, a start-up in the 3D fashion and lifestyle area, writing as a contributor to Freetooplay.biz [http://www.freetoplay.biz/2008/09/12/the-war-on-geekiness-and-4-other-trends-from-virtual-worlds-expo-2008/]

Asking where Virtual Worlds were headed, he said several hundred insiders – operators new and old alike, technology providers, and a smattering of advertisers and Hollywood players –  had offered their own opinions on the future: opinion which should matter to all those involved in creating education space in VWs.

He listed these as “the multi-global war on geekiness”;  the users are saying “no” to large client downloads;  the trend for virtual brands to enter the real world, as has Neopets (pictured); the charging for brand items which were once “free”, and a growth in “social responsibility” among the creators/marketers of  various virtual worlds.

To sum up one could say that the virtual world as envisioned by the insiders in LA will be one which is simple, doesn’t create a log-jam inside a user’s computer, promotes its products in-world but sells them in the real world, starts charging for almost everything that has a brand on it, and is as socially responsible as the wholesome Brady Bunch. By these sort of standards one wonders where Second Life might be tracking.

 

E-Learning Research

 

Learning Light Ltd and The University Of Sheffield, UK,  have carried out a comprehensive Systematic Literature Review of e-learning research in the workplace. They haved made this research  available through the e-Learning Centre, based in Sheffield, which is a free information resource for learning and development professionals and academics and staff developers.

Partnering

Australian-based virtual world initiative, Skoolaborate, has “partnered” with the Pacific Rim Exchange project and Global Challenge joining 17 schools from across the Globe to make it the world’s largest ’school based’ virtual worlds project. Westley Field, Director of Skoolaborate, believes that it is the collaborative and philanthropic nature of the project that has struck a chord with schools. Claudia Linden, Head of Education for Linden Labs described Skoolaborate as the “best model I have seen for international collaboration”.

 

The SLENZ Update – No 1 August 1, 2008

NZ Educators ‘invited’

New Zealand educators – and their adult students – will soon be able to “live and learn” in a virtual 3D world.

The New Zealand virtual world education group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), is to invite groups of New Zealand educators to join its research project in the on-line virtual world of Second Life in September.

Funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission the research project, which has been set up to learn how multi-user virtual environments might be used to improve student learning, has already attracted considerable interest from educators.

Using the multi-user virtual environment Second Life, the project aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths of learning in a virtual world.

“Multi-user virtual environments, in which individuals create avatars, digital representations of themselves to ‘live’ in a 3D virtual ‘world’, are offering a revolutionary view of how individuals and educational communities may interact and learn in the future,” joint leader Terry Neal said of the recently launched project.

Originating from multi-user online games, the virtual landscapes created in virtual worlds like Second Life, are already natural playgrounds for many younger, adult learners.

Joint leader Dr Clare Atkins said that virtual world environments are considered, anecdotally, to have a number of strengths which differentiate them from other online learning environments.

These include the increased engagement of learners with a familiar game-like environment where learning may intentionally be a product of serious ‘play’ ; the ability to create experiential learning situations not available in “real life”; the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to operate socially, technically and ethically in an online global virtual world; and also the opportunity to experience and practice collaborative, cross-cultural problem solving in social networking environments.

“These multi-user virtual environments offer the opportunity to provide innovative delivery to New Zealand learners and to encourage collaborative development and the sharing of learning resources,” Dr Atkins said.

The project team plans to invite applications from groups of educators to work with the project team next month.

“We are not looking for individuals or groups that already have Second Life experience, although this would be an advantage,” Ms Neal said. “We are looking for enthusiasm to explore the new opportunities collaboratively.”

The project team, she said, would provide support “every step of the way” with funding available to release a participant in each group from some teaching responsibilities so they can commit themselves to the project as well as travel costs associated with the training.

Educators wishing to pursue the possibilities of education Second Life should contact either clare.atkins@nmit.ac.nz or Terry Neal at terry.neal@blendedsolutions.co.nz to express interest.

If you have any questions Terry can be phoned on 04 233 2587.