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

The SLENZ Update – No 109, July 07, 2009

SLENZ PROGRESS

Otago’s birthing centre pilot

goes live with real students

Birthingcentre070709_001

Open for class…  SLENZ Project lead developer Isa goodman (RL: Aaron Griffiths)
“polishes”  the  Te Wāhi Whānau (The Birth Centre) build before students “arrive”.

Otago Polytechnic and  Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology midwifery students have begun taking part of their midwifery course on the SLENZ Project island  of Kowhai in Second Life.

The 27 Otago Polytechnic and CPIT Year 1 extramural students from Central Otago, Southland, and Nelson/Marlborough, began for the first time on Monday to use  the specially-constructed  Birth Centre (Te Wāhi Whānau) with the help of  qualified midwife facilitators from their home areas to do the “virtual world” portion of their coursea via Broadband from their homes.

The joint co-leader of the SLENZ Project, which has sponsored the pilot programme, Terry Neal, said she was excited that “the real learning” had to begun.

The movement of real life students onto “real learning tasks” within Second Life, she said,  meant an important milestone had been achieved on schedlule by the SLENZ Project which is one year old.

“We will now find out whether the students value the opportunity of being able to learn in a virtual world,” she said. “Later, as part of the evaluation process, we will find out how great the benefits are they receive from this type of learning.”

Lead educator for the pilot Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), talking about the first day, noted that  students had had a variety of reactions to their first day, with some having the usual minor difficulties and thus needing help  and others wanting to be left alone to find their own way around.

Sarah quoted one of the students, who had joined the class Facebook group, as saying of her initial experiences, “”I have popped in a couple of times to the birthing unit (after Petal Stransky got me out of the underwater bubble – which I am very grateful for!) and had a look around. Then my hair fell off. “Another student from ChristChurch took me to a shop where I got new hair and I got some proper clothes from the same place rather than my warrior outfit. So far I seem to have spent a lot of time ‘fixing myself up’. Apparently I had elf ears … I am still walking into walls and getting stuck to the ceiling and getting lost. So it’s taking me quite a bit of time to get orientated.”

In another aside, Sarah (Twitter: SarahStewart) said interest in the midwifery pilot had been growing on Twitter, with the pilot YouTube video being passed around.

The innovative pilot programme has been funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission as part of a project to determine how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) might benefit New Zealand education and how this can best be done.

The project, which has selected midwifery and foundation learning for its two pilot programmes, aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths or otherwise of learning in a virtual world.

To celebrate the milestone and the first birthday of the project  the SLENZ Project team held a well-attended celebration “party” on the adjacent Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology  island of Koru on Sunday night.

korupartI_014Line dancing in celebration …
korupartI_001Toddles Lightworker, with the dragon wings, appears to be directing the dancers.

EVENT

Kiwi Educators Group

to be revitalised

Meanwhile SLENZ Project lead developer Isa Goodman RL: Arron Griffiths) and joint leader Arwenna Stardust (RL: Dr Clare Atkins) are keen to re-vitalise the Kiwi Educators group and in response to popular demand plan to hold regular meetings again.

The duo have issued an invitation to all past and potential members – in fact, anyone with an interest in education in New Zealand – to a meeting on Sunday July 12 from 6pm – 8pm (NZ Time) (Saturday, July 11 11pm-1am SLT) beginning at Kauri Grove, Koru.

The plan is for attendees to gather at 6pm and then visit  the Particle Lab to see the wonderful fireworks display which starts at 6.30pm and runs for an hour before returning to Koru to chat and catch up, and plan for the futureof the organisation.

Birthingcentre070709_002A useful addition to the SLENZ Project build
… “all” the information you need to get started.
Birthingcentre070709_003and the Skill Mastery Hyperdome

􀀁

The SLENZ Update – No 82, May 15, 2009

The reality of unreality

When an avatar changes his/her appearance

Briarmelle110509_006

Tere Tinkel aka RL, Terry Neal

Immersed in Second Life one thing you notice, as in the real world, is when another resident changes his or her appearance – especially if they  are close to you, as in a work or social relationship.

I don’t mean just a little tweak mind you – but a real change.  These changes, often made once one gets comfortable with the technology, often mirror the reality and dreams of the personality  behind the avatar and sometimes the real appearance, if one is really confident.

But one, I would say particularly a student,  can determine the level of confidence – and competence –  behind an avatar just from one’s appearance no matter how fantasy the figure is.

This is why I believe it is important for educators to have an avatar that  builds respect, in an educational environment in virtual worlds such as Second Life, or at least an avatar which gives the appearance of being intelligent and friendly, not matter what the advocates of “stick men” and box figures argue.

Sometimes that avatar might mirror your real life physical appearance, at other times the reality  that you perceive inside yourself.  An avatar  based on Freddie Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street or Chuckie  might  be fun and create some fear but  loses out on credibility, unless of course one is a man or woman who carries a hatchet and wants the virtual world – and one’s students to know that, even if only subliminally.

This was brought to mind recently at a SLENZ working meeting on Koru  when SLENZ project co-leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel), returned from a real life trip to India into  world as a n ordinary girl next door, rather that the blue-haired houri she has been for all the time I’ve know her in-world.

korumeetingmay0409_010

Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) when he is in working garb
rather than being a dragon.

It also was brought to mind when I first saw the human-like lecture room presence of SLENZ developer and Weltec lecturer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker ) rather than  his more normal presence as Puff the magic dragon, or some dragon  of that ilk, who has been pictured in this blog a number of times.

This normalisation of appearance must be catching because Manukau Institute of Technology lecturer and Foundation pilot lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa – right middle) arrived  at the in-world meeting in conservative garb rather than her normal more flamboyant, and one might say more limited attire,  while Otago Polytech Midwifery pilot lead educator, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) also has changed her appearance, somewhat in the run up to the launch of that pilot.

Briarmelle110509_001

Merle Lemon in the form of the “conservative” SL educator Briarmelle Quintessa.
Arwenna Stardust (Clare Atkins) is in the background.

There are some who never change, however, and strangely to me in real life I have begun to recognise their avatars as being really who they are. They include joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) who, for me, has almost become the  light-bathed, elfin princess with golden tresses in real life, and  lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) ,  who I see in my mind’s eye as being Isa the “good man” rather than Aaron when I speak with him in real life.

Petal Stransky

Sarah Stewart as  SL’s Petal Stransky.

And,  of course, there is SLENZ learning developer Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Goalpost) who sometimes term’s himself the group contrarian, and is little changed  from his early days with SLENZ and I don’t think ever will.

For me it’s all a matter of perception  – and  immersion –  and I suppose my own superficiality when it comes to appearance both in  Second Life and real life. I am a great fan of  WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

The problem is we do all make subjective judgements  – no matter who we are – based on appearance, especially in learning environments in all worlds.  Our judgment depends   on who we are., and where we’ve come from. After all in both worlds beauty  (and one might say the appearance of brains) are solely in the eye of the beholder.

korumeetingmay0409_003

The never-changing persona of Leroy Goalpost – in real life, Leigh Blackall.

Progress on Kowhai

Meanwhile, according to joint project leader, Terry Neal, on the SLENZ sim, Kowhai,  good progress has been made on on the SLENZ pilot, Foundation Stage 1,  with Griffith completing   an easily rezzable/de-rezzable  interview room, a catwalk, and the “outfit shop”. Lemon  is  currently making an introductory video and wells as planning the specific scenarios needed for Foundation Stage 2.

Midwifery Stage 1  is almost complete while the context and learning design has been completed for Midwifery Stage 2, with working beginning on animation poses.

With Orientation Stage 1 completed Cochrane and Atkins  were able to successfully use  a subset of the lesson plan developed by Cochrane and Blackall  to orient the initial batch of educators connected with  Midwifery Stage 1.

Neal said that work on Orientation Stage 2 was  focused on creating a resource package that distance students and others  could use on their own rather than in f2f environments.

foundation_001

The Foundation pilot’s catwalk, like its outfitter and various interview rooms,
can be rezzed on demand.

 

 

The SLENZ Update – No 81, May 12, 2009

MIDWIFERY TUTORS ‘ENTHUSIASTIC’

Exciting introduction to SL with bonding  and play

Petal- group with Sarah

Trainers, Dr Clare Atkins and Todd Cochrane with Kate Spencely, Dr Deborah Davis
and Sarah Stuart. (Pictures from Sarah  Stewart)

The importance of a time for “play” when people are initiated into Second Life was reinforced for  the SLENZ Project’s joint leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), when  she led an orientation workshop for a group of mainly SL “newbie”  midwifery educators from Otago Polytech’s  School of Midwifery.

“I learnt again just how important it is to allow people the time and opportunity for play when they first get into Second Life,” she told a SLENZ Project meeting on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Second Life  island of Koru. “They want to play around with how they look and how they can change themselves and what they can do. I’ll never forget them all doing the chicken dance and laughing (in real life). It was very much about bonding and the creation of confidence.

“… nobody, but nobody, is  not concerned with how they  look,” she said, adding that although there had to be time for “play” the learning process had to be focused and based on a clear structure of what had to be achieved in the time frame.

Atkins, of NMIT, and SLENZ developer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), of Weltec, conducted the training session  for the eight educators from Otago and Canterbury midwifery schools, in person, on the Otago campus and on the SLENZ island of Kowhai, in what was both a real life and Second Life “bonding and learning” workshop.

Human nature

Cochrane said, “Working with the midwifery instructors was absolutely fantastic.

“I also I learned a lot about, well, human nature.

“They were completely interested in the way their avatars looked and moved,” he said. “Getting the right clothing and the shape of their avatar’s figures right turned out to be the major activity. I had expected this to take some time but not to the extent that it did.

“I was completely stunned when one pulled out an animation that made her avatar walk , in a more than catwalk manner, and that everyone wanted their avatars to walk that way too.”

The lead educator for the midwifery pilot programme, one of three SLENZ Project pilots, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), said she had been “very encouraged by the enthusiasm” of the educators who attended the two-day workshop.

Noting that some had been apprehensive about the move into virtual worlds, she said, “They were extremely enthusiastic, very reassured and very excited at the end.

“It was good to have it face-to-face. There were some ups and downs during the two days but everyone is now a lot clearer where we are and where we have to go in the next few months.”

Stewart, however, noted that while the majority of participants had found the “play” – trying on new clothes, doing the chicken dance etc – “valuable”, there has been some who had wanted to focus only on what needed to be done and felt they didn’t have time for those sort of things.

SLENZ learning designer Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Post), who had a major hand in setting up the training session, said proof of the success or otherwise would be in seeing  if and how the midwives came back to Second Life … “we need to observe these midwives,” he said.

From his point of view, though, the workshop  had been “very successful” and he had enjoyed “watching it from a distance … The fact that the midwives were physically together  might have lifted the spirit. It will be interesting to see if it really does translate into persistent use.”

The pilot is scheduled to put its first  real students into Second Life May 25.

Petal Midwives do the chicken dance

The chicken dance – need for a moment for play in orientation.

The SLENZ Update – No 71, April 27, 2009

EDUCATION IN SL

A lesson from Mexico

palaceofmining_0011The UNAM Palace of Mining in SL .. and in RL.

Despite the “tabloid” critics of  Second Life and Virtual Worlds educational use of  Second Life and other virtual worlds is becoming more and more  mainstream, especially in the Open University environment.

This growth  has been strikingly demonstrated in world  in world by creation of the virtual campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a school with more than 300,000 students and the largest university in Latin America.

George Linden in the  Second Life blog details UNAM’s current work on building its campus in Second Life for its Engineering School (11,000 students) Distance Education Programs and also its establishment of connections  with companies in the real world to help take engineering design and training to the next level.

“Developments began in November 2008 but a lot has happened in that short span of time,” Linden said, and that’s somewhat of an understatement.

And as SLENZ joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins noted, “A good example of how education in MUVEs is (possibly) poised to become mainstream in the fairly near future.”

The UNAM’s main center in Second Life (slurl here but access limited) is built to look like the Palace of Mining, considered to be where science first set foot in the Americas. Here there are a wide range of projects including 3d demonstrations involving mathematics, robotics, and engineering, many with adjustable vectors (x, y, and z coordinates) giving hand’s one experience for students.

In  another area UNAM is using Second Life models to act  as a visualization of and an interface for a  real power world plant as in the machinima  below.

The SLENZ Update – No 55, March 11, 2009

SLENZ Project progress

Gearing up for RL

face-to-face …

Gearing up for a face-to-face meeting in Wellington, New Zealand,  in two weeks time ( March 23-24) the SLENZ Project team is  now moving  steadily forward with its three pilot programmes – Foundation learning, Midwifery and Orientation – according to joint project leader, Terry Neal (SL: Terre Tinkel) in her latest project update.

With co-leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust)  she expects to be able to post the agenda for  the face-to-face meeting early next week.slenz-workshop-003

Speaking about the individual pilot programmes Neal reported that Foundation learning  lead educator Merle Lemon (Pictured at right, SL: Briarmelle Quinetessa) , of  Manakau Institute of Technology, had written a context and learning design for Foundation Stage 1 (blog, best  in Firefox, describes the foundations students and the issues simply and extremely well: http://briarmelle.edublogs.org/2009/02/26/foundation-education-context/ )with work to begin on the build (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Kowhai/138/177/26 ) shortly. The Foundation pilot group plans  to hold an in-world meeting at 9am on March 17 with the aim of  understanding potential access issues for  fellow educators in the programme and  to give them an opportunity to provide feedback on the learning design and as much of the build as is completed.briarmelle-todd

Briarmelle Quintessa & Toddles Lightworker

Neal said  that work on the in-world build for Midwifery Stage 1 had been delayed by challenges in deciding which items to include in the birthing unit for Stages 1 and 2 and by finding suitable images. As a result team members Deborah Davis  and Leigh Blackall, project learning designer (SL: Leroy Post) had even visited a local hospital to take pictures.

“Then,” Neal said, “we have had challenges in where to put the images and how Aaron [Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman),  project lead developer], can access them – all part of our process development. Hopefully, these are resolved now and Aaron, Clare and Todd ( Cochrane, SL: Toddles Lightworker and project developer), can make good progress on the build in the next week.”

The midwifery team, Neal said, had organised an interview session for the video that  was being made “to engage” tutors and learners before they entered Second Life, while Sarah Stewart (Pictured lower right, SL:  Petal Stransky and midwifery pilot lead educator) and Blackall had begun developing lesson plans. At the same time Davis and Stewart had devised labels  for the various objects which would be in the birthing unit. A feedback session for the pilot’s educators  has been organised for March 2o.

birthcentre1_004

Birthing unit … decisions on wall colours/covering and furniture

Commenting on the Orientation pilot, Neal, noting that Blackall had put up a wiki with a list of agreed skills for orientation,  asked SLENZ team members again  for links to other good orientation packages. The
place to do this is the Googledoc for  orientation linked from the one stop shop SLENZ blog  as the Context Summary Document-Orientation ( https://slenz.wordpress.com/slenz-project/project-processes).sarah-op-2007

Neal said the protocols for the evaluation of the project were still being determined.

Concluding, Neal hoped the introduction of  the “one-stop shop page (for “understanding our process and accessing the various documents we are creating to communicate with one another”) in the SLENZ blog would help  team members all feel they could navigate “through our many files more easily and help us differentiate between ‘thinking out loud’ and ‘decisions’.

“I want to echo Clare’s ‘thank you for your patience’ message,” Neal said. ” We have  some minor tweaking still to do, such as linking to images effectively, but we have made a lot of progress beyond where we were
two months ago. Clare and I both believe our discussions to date have  helped us create something that will work well for the rest of our project, and beyond.

The SLENZ Update – No 53, March 10, 2009

Getting  right ‘message’

and/or where to read it

SLENZ SORTS COMMUNICATIONS

There has been considerable debate within the SLENZ Project on just how team members can communicate with each other effectively, in context, in timely fashion, and in the same “language”  without being  buried under a mass of  information both relevant and extraneous.

The major part of the  communications dilemma – a problem apparently inherent to the initial stages of most  if not all virtual world projects built by committee –  has been the plethora of communication methods used by participants, and perceived, by the individuals using them, as having the same weight as other chosen channels. The channels have ranged from blogs, to e-mails, and email lists, to skype, to instant messaging, to twitter, googledocs, and recorded/minuted face-to-face meetings (in SL and RL).

Joint SLENZ Project leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust-pictured), however, has now come up with what appears a workable solution to the virtual morass that the SLENZ communciation/documentation was apparently in danger of becoming swamped by. In fact, at one stage from the outside, it appeared team members were suffering from information overload not knowing where each was at and failing in attemptingarwenna_002 to sort extraneous and out-of-date material from the deluge, with each having a different viewpoint.

“We have struggled to figure out the best way of keeping us all in touch with the latest versions of documents, the latest thinking on our development process and how to work collaboratively and collegially,” Atkins said in  an e-mail to members, after thanking them for their”patience.”

“I know that it has been frustrating at times for all of us but I hope we are working towards a better solution,” she said. ” I don’t think it is yet the ‘best’ solution but I am confident it will be an improvement.”
She  said that, if one visited the SLENZ Update blog and chose the SLENZ tab now, one would find a static (i.e. not a frequently changing ) page relating to the SLENZ Project.

“From there you can follow the link to the project development page.
Alternatively, she said, one could  bookmark  https://slenz.wordpress.com/slenz-project/project-processes/ from where one could find links to various documents.

These include:

  • The Project Development Roadmap – this is the current version of the process of development that SLENZ is following. “This is a google document that has been published as a web page,” Atkins said. “This means that anyone can read it but only those invited to collaborate on it can edit it. I am going to restrict the people who can edit it for now so that changes to the process are all agreed before we publicise the change by way of the document. This will ensure that the document always reflects the baseline that we are currently working to.”
  • Working Documents – There also are working google documents for each of the sub-projects. These are  viewable by anyone but will be editable by only those who are collaborators. Any changes made to the documents will be instantly reflected in the public version. “Once again, it should mean that we all always have access to the latest document,” Atkins said.

“This process is only going to work  if we all agree to work on these versions of the files – as soon as we start working with a private copy or with a new document that is not on the page then we are going to run into trouble again,” she said. “As a new document is needed or created please please please share it with me and then I can publish it. Of course you may have documents or emails that flow between you and that is fine – but be aware that they are just private, personal documents until we have them up on the site.
“I am as desperate as you are to find a solution to this document management problem – it is one of the major headaches of virtual team work I am sure,” she said. “Any improvements, problems or comments please let me know as soon as possible. Also let me know if you feel that there are other documents that should be here (on the same basis as above).”
“While I am happy to see links to blog discussions within the documents, my personal opinion is that the blogs are a discussion tool not a documentation tool,” she said. “The ‘documents’ should be capturing and summarising, if necessary, the decisions that have been made as the discussions progressed.

“My intention with the documents has always been to provide a baseline of agreed information on which others could base their work, even though there may be change with refinement or further discussion,”  Atkins concluded