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 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.

The SLENZ Update – No 117, July 23, 2009

IT’S BLOWING IN THE WIND …

Universities must adapt roles for

students changed by Web 2.0

UK REPORT

web2.0

Some rapprochement will be necessary between  Web 2.0 – the social web – system and the current  “hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured” tertiary system if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant.

This is a conclusion reached by the recently published (May 12, 2009) wide-ranging British Report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies.  The committee was chaired by Professor Sir David Melville (pictured) former Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent and the current chair of LLUK (Lifelong Learning UK) Council and of the JISC-funded Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience.

Noting that  Web 2.0 has had a profound effect on behaviours, particularly those of today’s young people, “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 world” (PDF here) says in contrast  to the current university norms the  social web has  led  young people to a strong sense of communities of interest linked in their own web spaces, and to a disposition to share and participate. It has also led them to impatience – a preference for quick answers – and to a casual approach to evaluating information and attributing it and also to copyright and legal constraints.

“The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change,” the report said. “They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications.

“Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system.David Melville

“It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term,” the report said. “The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is

to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant.

“The impetus for change will come from students themselves as the behaviours and approaches, apparent now, become more deeply embedded in subsequent cohorts of entrants and the most positive of them – the experimentation, networking and collaboration, for example – are encouraged and reinforced through a school system seeking, in a reformed curriculum, to place greater emphasis on such dispositions.”

It would  also come, the report said,  from policy imperatives in relation to skills development, specifically development of employability skills. These would be backed by employer demands and include a range of ‘soft skills’ such as networking, teamwork, collaboration and self-direction, which were among those fostered by students’ engagement with Social Web technologies.

Higher education with a key role in helping students refine, extend and articulate the diverse range of skills they had developed through their experience of Web 2.0 technologies had to adapt to and capitalise on the evolving and intensifying behaviours that were being shaped by the experience of the newest technologies by  “building on and steering the positive aspects of those behaviours such as experimentation, collaboration and teamwork, while addressing the negatives such as a casual and insufficiently critical attitude to information.”

I’m  indebted to SLED lister, Dr Bob Hallawell,  of Academic Lead Learning Disabilities,School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, at the University of Nottingham,  for the heads-up on this interesting report. Education Guardian comment here and UK Web Focus report here.

The SLENZ Update – No 93, May 29, 2009

‘TRIPPY” JOURNEY WITH ROLLO KOHIME

“Getting close by going far away,

going far by staying here …”

‘Departed – In the Company of Strangers’

The ineffable sadness of departure – of leaving, of death – is mirrored more and more in the work of Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) who has used  Wellington Railway Station both in Second Life and in Real Life to  show that   we, as human beings, can occupy,  two separate spaces and times in one mixed reality.

Baker, a noted improvisational contact dance exponent,  is to showcase his latest work at two events on the same day at the SDHS Conference 2009 (Society of Dance History Scholars) – Topographies: Sites, Bodies, Technologies at  Stanford University – in California and Second Life, between 2.00pm and 3.30pm (Pacific time) on Saturday, June 20, 2009.

He wont be there in person but will  make both presentations as Rollo Kohime, in Second Life.

The first is a paper presentation on his AUT Masters project, “In the Company of Strangers” (Abstract Title: In the Company of Strangers – Negotiating the parameters of Indeterminacy; a study of the Roaming Body and Departure in Urban Spaces) from his Wellington Railway Station build on Koru.

Later, between 5.30pm – 7.00pm (Pacific time) , he will participate in a round-table discussion with a shared presentation and question time (conceived by Isabel Valverde), Yukihiko Yoshida and himself.

The title is, “Dancing in Second Life: A roundtable – “Envisioning Virtual Topographies for Corporeal Interaction: dance and performance convergent applications of the Second Life 3D Metaverse social environment.”

Yoshida`s input has the title, “Real Dance and Dancing in metaverse : from the activity by INETDANCE Japan,” while Baker’s is titled, “The Human Analogue in Mixed-Reality.”

Following the presentations the panel will be asked, “How might dance work be created around the premise that we as humans can occupy, simultaneously, two separate spaces and times in one Mixed Reality?” and ” ‘Belonging’ in Mixed-Reality?

MikeBaker

Meanwhile Baker has had a paper selected for the ‘”Time, Transcendence, Performance” conference at Monash University, in Melbourne, in October.

Recently he also had one of his works, focusing on Second Life and mounted on dance-tech.net, presented at the Artist Salon at Chez Bushwick ,in New York.  The work,  ‘A Facet of the Real?’, is  a study combining his Real Life video work projected in his Second Life Wellington railway station. It was shown along with works by the New York City Ballet and Troika Ranch and a number of other outstanding international contemporary pieces.

Jaki Levy, a media artist and new media consultant in the USA, said after the “performance”: ‘”A Facet of the Real”explored how performance in “first” life and Second Life can intersect, creating a trippy situation in which a live performance is viewed in real time by online avatars in a virtual venue.”

“A Facet of the Real?”

The SLENZ Update – No 54, March 10, 2009

Body language in

Virtual Worlds?

bodylanguage_0011Does body language matter in virtual worlds?

I often find it interesting how real world etiquette and sometimes body language carries across into virtual worlds, such as Second Life, from the real world.

I believe one can determine another person’s/avatar’s  sense of immersion or commitment to a virtual world by watching his or her behaviour in  a virtual world.

Because I feel my avatar “lives” in virtual worlds his use of  etiquette and body language, as limited as that may be, often follows  that of his real life master – the person  sitting in real life behind the keyboard. I would not say that is true of all my avatars but it is at least true of my main avatar. Some of my “alts” are just plain contrary.

I listen to voice in SL from the point-of-view of my avatar rather than my SL camera but I still focus on who is talking in a meeting. I look at people in the meeting, as I would in real life,  rather than gazing around the venue or using my camera to search the surrounding countryside, rooms or buildings. It is as though I  am in the meeting with  those other avatars and pay attention to them in the same way as I would in real life.

In fact, if an avatar in a meeting of avatars, or for that matter in a virtual world classroom situation,  is not “paying attention” to the class – in other words “lurking” – I would suspect that he or she is not fully immersed in the learning programme, and probably should really be teaching face-to-face, or via a telephone hookup, videolink,  groups text messaging or another non virtual world technique, such as snail mail.

This was brought to mind for me recently  when a lead avatar who  normally makes a lot of sense in world, walked into a meeting and then stood for the whole meeting with his back to the other participants who were sitting down, despite the fact that he was talking and had important material to convey to the meeting. He is a person who “speaks” about being fully immersed in the virtual world among other things.

For me his body language spoke more loudly – and gave the lie to his claim of full immersion in virtual worlds. Of course, it may have not been the same for other participants. And it might have been that his computer was not up to the job of “moving” his avatar into a sit position.

But if it wasn’t important that the other avatars could see that he was talking to them what was the necessity for holding the meeting/class virtually. fleep-tuque

Its all about the thing others have defined as “presence”. It’s that thing we call “presence” that theoretically makes MUVEs valuable for both the conference and the learning environment. It’s “presence” that researchers and educators claim makes the difference in learning outcomes – the presence of both the educators/facilitators and the students and the sense of really being there. Few claim that anyone  gets that sense of being there in videolinks or phone hookups, or instant messaging.

To me, rightly or wrongly,  it seemed that that  the person behind the screen of that avatar who was turned away from his fellow participants in the meeting I attended had no sense of immersion in the process, no sense of being the avatar, and so no sense of  being there. Being in the virtual world served no additional purpose for him – and it was probably unnecessary for him to be there, virtually. He could have just as easily got his point across in an MSN group text message or any other text-based channel, such as a blog.

The opposite problem is created by students/participants who turn up at a class or meeting “naked”,  or turn somersaults/jump around and generally carry on  while others are attempting to learn or hold a discussion in world. Then their “presence” becomes very apparent and also is disruptive for both the facilitator and the rest of  SL group.

This is especially so if the teacher/facilitator/educator does not have the SL/RL skills to  curb the disruptor.

These are often educators who  say they “believe” in virtual worlds, but who don’t bother to get fully trained and comfortable with the medium, don’t have avatars and clothing that show they care about the medium, and  don’t have equipment and  headsets that work effectively in virtual worlds. Show me an educator or educational institution that  doesn’t have these prerequisites for “living” in-world and I will show  you an educator or educational institution that doesn’t really believe in virtual worlds as a learning tool and is setting out to prove that they will fail to have any learning benefits.

The question is, if  you are an education researcher or soon-to- be educator in virtual worlds, besides having adequate and effective equipment, are you ready to take on the commitment  of being a “real” avatar or do you want to just play around the edges for the sake of the money, the self agrandisment or because its the vogue thing to do?

Whether body language matters or not, with readiness for virtual education in mind Chris Collins, pictured (SL: Fleep Tuque) (collicn@ucmail.uc.edu) (http://fleeep.net/blog/ ) has created a quick  “self-assessment” quiz to help University of Cincinnati  faculty members determine if they’re ready to take students into a virtual world s uch as Second Life  (http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/7–PShe/Are-you-ready-to-teach-in-Second-Life)
Collins,  Project Manager, UC Second Life,  Second Life Ambassador, Ohio Learning Network,  UCit Instructional & Research Computing,  University of Cincinnati, notes that the quiz is a first draft, and would appreciate feedback. “It’s not meant to be an exhaustive test of competency,  of course, but more in the spirit of those “personality  tests” that give you a sense of where you fall on a spectrum,” she said.
Colllins is a big fan of the Global Kids Second Life Curriculum  (and Jeremy Kemp who hosts it on Simteach.com), which she told SLED listers,  she used as a guide to make the quiz.

“It’s (Simteach.com) a good place to start for faculty who want to increase their own skill level or plan exercises for students ( http://simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=GKCx/Table_of_Contents)” she concluded.

The SLENZ Update – No 51, March 6, 2009

I’ve seen the future …

I’ve seen the future of virtual worlds and already want to walk the streets. Well not really, but if Ray Kurzweil’s timeline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Kurzweil)(http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0274.html)is right Bruce Branit might be providing us with a glimpse into a future virtual world that is just over the horizon in this stunning and evocative video, “World Builder”.

tizzybettina1It’s not really grassroots education in Second Life or other virtual worlds but I think you will be pleased that you spent nine minutes watching it.

As Not Possible In Real Life founder (Madly, wildly embracing the impossible made possible in Virtual Worlds) SL’s Bettina Tizzy (pictured) agrees this is what “Second Life should be like – and sometimes is” (http://npirl.blogspot.com/2009/03/this-is-what-second-life-should-be-like.html) I’m grateful for her heads up to something I found rather astounding … although only a video.

As the wonderful Bettina said: “For those who have never been a part of a virtual world … and for those of you who have and are sometimes frustrated by the technical inefficiencies, here’s an inspiring glimpse at what content creation is like when everything rocks and rolls.”

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!

mccormickd

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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.