SLENZ Build FREE, VLENZ No 167, March 16, 2010

SLENZ Project  Foundation Learning

Build now available FREE

Creative Commons license

The Foundation Learning build, now available FREE, under CC license.

The SLENZ Project’s much-praised Second Life Foundation (Bridging) Learning  Build (Version 1.0) is now available FREE, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, from the Second Life island of Kowhai.

The key section of the  SLENZ Project’s Second Life Midwifery Education Birth Unit build is also to be made available shortly.

The announcement of the availability of the Foundation Learning Build was made today  by the SLENZ Project’s Lead Developer Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) on a newly setup blog, The SLENZ Project Technical Blog, where Griffiths plans to  discuss the ongoing development of the two builds following completion of the SLENZ Project.

Commenting on the announcement, the creator and joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins, of Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, said, “We in the SLENZ Project  are delighted that we have been able to  fulfill our original plan of making the  builds available to the public. This is the culmination of our dream.  We hope it will set a benchmark for others involved in education in  Virtual Worlds, not only Second Life.  We also hope that others will extend and enhance our builds and we look forward to seeing the exciting and innovative ways in which they will be put to use.”

Aaron Griffiths, SL builder.

The build, which has been made available for pickup, includes textures, animations and scripts for the Skill Mastery Hyperdome with all rezzable scenes  (including the Stairway of Learning) and the private interview room teleporters. All build items are full permissions except for a few clothing items, some hair provided for the Hyperdome shop, and a few seating animations.

“The build items are provided inside a 60 x 80 metre megaprim base (SLENZ Foundation Studies Rez Base) and can be rezzed from this base once it is positioned.” Griffiths said.

The SLENZ Hyperdome, a holodeck, contains a number of rezzable scenes designed  to help students learn and practise interview techniques as well as prepare for real life job or tertiary study interviews.

The Stairway of Learning is a dual staircase surrounding the Hyperdome and is designed to deliver learning information about interview preparation. The “private interview room” teleporters, placed near the front of the Hyperdome, allow individual, supervisor-configurable, interview rooms to be rezzed on demand for students to practice in.
The SLENZ Project which ran for 18 months was financed by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand. It was designed to determine  whether there were  any benefits from  using Virtual Worlds for education and to  establish how those benefits could be harnessed.

Pickup the Foundation Learning Build free from under the pyramid in the left of the picture. http://slurl.com/secondlife/Kowhai/146/115/32

NZVWG Update, VLENZ No 166, March 14, 2010

NZ Virtual World Grid hosts

international  guests

NZVWG Auckland portal now accepting

‘resident’ avatar applications …

Educause Roundtable meeting on New Zealand Virtual World Grid

The  University of Auckland portal of the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (NZVWG)  has successfully hosted its  first international seminar, attracting  a number of leading MUVE educators and researchers from  around the world.

The meeting coincided with the announcement by Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), the virtual meeting host,  that the University of Auckland portal of the grid, although  still in a trial phase,  was now open for  virtual-world users to apply for ‘free’ registration from the Auckland portal.

Dr Scott Diener.

It also coincided with a ‘demonstration’ of just how easy it is to teleport an avatar from the University of Auckland portal MUVE on the NZVWG ‘Hypergrid’ to the MUVE of   the University of Otago and return with inventory intact and retention of all abilities.

The NZVW Grid based on OpenSim software has grown out of the original ONGENS  grid, developed by the University of Otago in concert with the University of Canterbury, and the University of Auckland.   Weltec has also developed a portal for the grid and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has associate status.

Welcoming the 20 plus guests from Educause’s Virtual World Roundtable  to the meeting in the Great Hall of “Kapua Castle” on the island of Kapua 3 in the New Zealand Virtual World Dr Diener said, “This is a really exciting development for us.

“We are stand-alone…we run our own asset server (database) with  the University of  Otago and Canterbury University having  similar setups, which have been linked together.”

Members of the Virtual Worlds Roundtable, who have previously visited a number of other Virtual Worlds  as a group for their meetings to assess and monitor MUVE development around the world praised the  apparent stability of the University of Auckland portal MUVE, the ease of entry, the fact  that it was open source and free, and  the  use of the Hypergrid, which opens up possibilities for easy, transparent connections to tertiary institution   MUVEs around the real world.

“We have found the Hypergrid does work, albeit with problems, “Dr Diener said, explaining that the goal of NZVWG was first to experiment and eventually to link to other grids.

Detailing the  setup of the MUVE, he said, the Auckland University portal is running on two virtual servers (VMware), and has a total capital investment of some $NZ10,000 ($US7000). This compared to an investment of say $US55,000 for signing up for SL Enterprise (previously Nebraska), the Linden Labs’ “behind the firewall” solution for standalone virtual worlds.

The Auckland MUVE is running on two dedicated, virtual machines with one server running a database and six sims. CPU usage has never got above five percent. Freeswitch voice is available on the MUVE but not yet completely activated.

“We can duplicate them (the virtual machines) in about 30 minutes – to scale if necessary,” he said in answer to a question, adding that OAR content was backed up automatically.

A  University of Auckland staff member is assigned one day a week to the MUVE , he said, with most of the work involved with things like getting voice working, and getting the Hypergrid fully functional.

He said the portal had been created out of his own budget as associate director of IT Services at the University of Auckland.

Dr Diener's Kapua Castle where the Roundtable meeting was held in the Geat Hall.

The portal, Dr Diener said, “is focused mostly on proving the concept of Hypergrid.”

“This is how our Writing Center began,” Iggy  Strangeland, of the University of Richmond, observed. “I bought a server out of budget, and then eventually got it supported by our data center. Now they maintain it and I just design content.

“We proved the concept. If it works for 2D Web, it can work for Virtual Worlds,” Strangeland said.

The major current problem with using the NZVWG MUVE for education purposes was the fact that there were as yet few resources “in world” … “all scripts have to be brought in,” Dr Diener said.

Given success for the NZVWG, however,  Dr Diener said, he would be excited to work on connecting  the that portal  with any other university  grid in the world.

Commenting on this, Lindy McKeown, of the University of Southern Queensland, said education.au in Australia was trying to set up a Hypergrid for all Australian universities to join.

Dr Diener, who is also a Lecturer at the University of Auckland, is well-known in Second Life and virtual world education circles around the globe for his and his associates’ creation of successful medicine/nursing/architecture simulations on the three University of Auckland Second Life islands in Second Life, the first of which was “Long White Cloud”.

Dr Diener mentioned that the “very active” New Zealand virtual world  group  VLENZ was represented at the meeting by Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology  and Second Life Education New Zealand Project founder and joint leader,  Dr Clare Atkins (SL and NZVWG: Arwenna Stardust). Dr Atkins, on behalf of SLENZ and NMIT, operates two islands in Second Life, Koru and Kowhai.

“I think it WILL be a viable alternative (to Second Life) soon,” Dr Atkins said.

Other speakers agreed with Dr Atkins’ view that NZVWG and OpenSim were a good replacement for Second Life: “for me (as an educator) one of the huge benefits to OpenSim is that we can use it with under 18s,” she said.

Visitor Margaret Czart, of the University of Illinois,  said that all of the virtual worlds the Virtual Worlds Roundtable group had visited over time had provided good alternatives to Second Life but, “it is not so much the place but how you run it.”


A sitting room in Kapua Castle.

Dr Atkins’ and Czart’s comments about possible replacements for Second Life followed a remark that the Linden Labs’ position of Second Life education guru Pathfinder Linden had been disestablished and that the Lindens appeared to be showing  less interest in education.

Lindy McKeown foresaw the development of a “Hypergridded federation universe of locally-hosted worlds with some access by others but some private spaces” as appearing to be “a great education alternative for many reasons.”

But, she added, that for these alternative worlds to be successful “we need an SLexchange type (virtual worlds sales) system for other grids since Linden Labs had bought out virtual world goods sales competitors.

Iggy Strangeland replied that http://imnotgoingsideways.blogspot.com/2009/11/alternatives-to-xstreetsl.html was a good source for other sales portals. Lindy McKeown added that one also could buy OAR files full of content one  the net and there were lots of free ones too.

James Abraham (SL: Calisto Encinal  and http://calistoencinal.spaces.live.com/) said he was writing a grant to  “roll out a 10 college zero-cost OpenSim virtual world program for the Maricopa Community College District [James Abraham’s Mi Casa Es Su Casa won a prize for full sim builds at the recent SLPro! Conference sponsored by Linden Labs for Second Life content creators.]

On this point AJ Kelton, director of Emerging Instructional Technology at Montclair State University, founder and current leader of the EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds Constituent Group and Roundtable moderator, agreed with Mirt Tenk who suggested that it would be good for tertiary education providers to share the “stuff  WE have built in Second Life as  open source for OpenSim users. Others agreed with this view, including Dr Atkins who noted that all SLENZ Project builds were free and open source.

Asked how close he thought tertiary educators were to replacing Second Life with other virtual worlds, Dr Diener said, “ I don’t think we ARE close … and in fact, I don’t think that is even the question…I think we need to ask how we can augment our Second Life resources with Virtual World like this.”

There was also a question, raised by Liz Dorland, of Washington University, in St Louis,  and others, of the importance of virtual world students and educators being able to connect with the rest of the world community as they could in Second Life.

Dr Atkins said that she thought the “richness of Second Life and its diversity” would be hard to grow in an OpenSim environment although other speakers noted interoperability between all MUVEs, including Second Life, to get the best of all virtual worlds, was a possibility.

Another "resident's' Castle on the NZVWG portal grid.

VLENZ Update, No 161, February 02, 2010

VLENZ PROJECT

Steering Committee named

for  new VLENZ Group

A new steering committee, which includes some of  New Zealand’s  leading virtual world researchers and educators,  has been named to head  the Virtual Life Education New Zealand (VLENZ) group, formed after the finish of SLENZ Project.

The  new leadership group is:  Dr Clare Atkins, of Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions, Dr Scott Diener, of the University of Auckland, Merle Lemon, of Manakau Institute of Technology, and Aaron Griffiths, of Fxual Education Services.

Dr Atkins and Terry Neal (pictured top right and left) were joint leaders of the NZ$500,000 Government-funded SLENZ Project;  Dr Diener(pictured middle right), the Associate Director, IT Services (Academic & Collaborative Technologies) at the University of Auckland, has led the development of the University of Auckland’s  much-lauded medical simulation project in Second Life,  is active in many international groups related to the use of virtual worlds in higher education, and  is a key player in the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (NZVWG);   Lemon (bottom left),  an MIT lecturer, was a Lead Educator (Foundation (Bridging) Learning) for the SLENZ Project; Griffiths (bottom right) ,the founder of Fxual Education Services,  was the Lead developer for the SLENZ Project. Atkins and Griffiths initiated the SLENZ Project two years ago.

The VLENZ meeting early last week, which set up the steering committee, agreed  to the VLENZ name for the group,which will be a consortium of

individuals rather than institutions. It currently has 32 members drawn from education and virtual world research across New Zealand.

It will continue with this blog at slenz.wordpress.com, as well as becoming a sub-domain of the previously registered edumuve.ac.nz domain as vlenz.edumuve.ac.nz. It has a  Second Life Group  called VLENZ as well as a google group under the same name.

It is likely that the formal group will operate as a non-profit trust although this has not yet been finalised.

The group’s purpose and objectives are to be discussed  at meeting on the NMIT Second Life island of Koru at 10 am on Monday, Feb 8 (New Zealand time),  with the objective of finalising the  group’s  mission statement and initial goals.

VLENZ Update, No 160, January 20, 2010

A NEW START FOR 2010

NZ virtual world group off

the ground and running …

At the  NZVWG inaugural meeting: Arwenna Stardust, Rollo Kohimi
and Briarmelle Quintessa.

Fourteen  leaders in virtual world education in New Zealand attended the inaugural meeting earlier this week of  the New Zealand Virtual World Group (working name) on the NMIT island of Koru in Second Life.

The meeting, chaired by Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), one of the joint leaders of the recently-completed SLENZ Project,  was attended by university, polytechnic and others with interested in New Zealand virtual world education.

Professor Noarlunga

Besides SLENZ Project  joint leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel)   the University of Auckland’s Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), and multi-media improv dance exponent, Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) the attendance also included educators from the United Kingdom and Tasmania.

The inaugural meeting, which was mainly an introductory session, set four items for discussion at the first working meeting which will be held at the KiwiEds’ meeting place on Koru at 10am New Zealand time next Monday.

Toddles Lightworker

The agenda items include:

  • Confirmation of the initial agreement that the  group should be  non-institutional  i.e.  a consortium of individuals committed to formal and informal educational initiatives in Virtual Worlds.
  • Group Structure: Determination of how the group should be structured and whether it should be informal or formal,not-for-profit, charitable  or commercial of something else and the roles which individuals could play in the group (positions) as well as tasks.
  • Steering Group:   Discussion of the possibility/necessity of establishing a  “Steering Group” and who should be on it.
  • Group Name:  Discussion and determination of a Group name.

    VonFaraway Meridoc

Besides those already listed among the  SL names   at the first meeting were: Toddles Lightworker (Weltec), CiderJack Applemore, Kattan Hurnung, Petal Stransky (Otago Polytec), Briarmelle Quintessa, (Manukau Institute of Technology) Work Quandry, VonFaraway Meridoc, Rusty Kemble, Anjil Kyoteri and Johnnie Wendt.

At the conclusion of the meeting Atkins confirmed that the formal evaluation of the New Zealand Government-funded SLENZ Project would be made available  shortly.

SLENZ Update, No 158, December 23, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

Yay! It’s a 2nd runner-up EDUBLOG

‘Oscar’ to  SLENZ  Project Team

‘Phenomenal’ result for team from Aotearoa/New Zealand

The SLENZ Project Team at work … the final 2009 meeting.  Key players, Terry Neal and
Aaron Griffiths at the head of the table, and Dr Clare Atkins, in black, left.

A chance meeting in Second Life three years ago between  Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), of the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology,  and  education-online tools developer and Second Life builder Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) came to a climax this week with  a second runner-up place for the SLENZ Project in  the prestigious, international EDUBLOG 2009 awards  in the “best educational use of a virtual world” category.

The placing  for the  the team from New Zealand was greeted with elation by SLENZ Project team members –  “the best Christmas present ever “- and seen by  independent educators, academics and  education institution administrators as “fantastic”, “phenomenal” and “unprecedented.”

The New Zealand team  won its second runner-up place in a competition which pitted it against 14 of the world’s best  “virtual world” education organisations. The winner of the title was  Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; the first runner-up, Virtual Round Table Conference; with the SLENZ Project sharing second runner-up status with  ISTE’s Second Life island.

‘Set a benchmark’

“I  think this is just phenomenal,” said Scott Diener, one of the world leaders in Second Life education and associate director, IT services, Academic Services, at The University of Auckland, in a message to the team. “The SLENZ team has truly set a benchmark against which other developments should measure.  I hope I can say ‘I am so proud of you’ without it sounding pretentious…because I am so proud of you.”

Tony Gray, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology which hosted the SLENZ Project  initially  on its island of Koru in Second Life,  said in a message to Atkins on hearing  the news:  “This is a fantastic outcome and significantly achieved through your passion and commitment to the project. I am  very proud that NMIT should have first of all taken a lead and secondly that we can show a peer-reviewed achievement as a result.”

The SLENZ Project  grew out of that first meeting between Atkins and Griffths who both dreamed of seeing “students interacting with each other and their international peers, with the Second Life environment, with teachers, domain experts, inspirational speakers from all over the  “real” world”.  The project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission. It  has been completely developed under Creative Commons license with all builds freely available for use or acquisition by anyone with “full permissions.”

The EDUBLOG placings were chosen by public vote.

The SLENZ Project creations – 1. The Otago Polytechnic’s Birthing Unit during
a Jokaydia un-conference presentation

The SLENZ Project creations – 2. The Kowhai Island arrival pad.

The SLENZ Project creations – 3. Manukau Institute of Technology’s
Foundation (Bridging) Learning Pilot Programme

“I don’t think either of us ever really imagined that only three years later we would have been part of a team that had not only helped to realise that dream but had succeeded beyond our wildest hopes,” Atkins said today commenting  on the award to the NZ$500,00 project . It was designed to determine whether there were benefits from providing education in a virtual world and, if so, how those benefits could best be harnessed.

“The SLENZ project has been a very large part of my ‘real’ and ‘second’ life for the last two years and I sincerely hope that its successes will enable us to continue the work that it has begun,” Atkins, who is joint co-leader of the project, said. ” I think we have demonstrated, not only that the immersive and engaging experiences of multi-user virtual worlds have an enormous potential to enhance learning for all kinds and levels of tertiary students, but also that a small virtual team from New Zealand can create global-award winning experiences.
“Gaining this award is a recognition of the world-class work being done in Second Life by our educators, our designers and our developers and this is just the beginning,” she said. “I would like to thank those at the TEC who decided to take a bit of a gamble and fund the SLENZ project.

‘Brave decision’

“It was a brave decision to take in 2007 when education in this kind of environment was truly in its infancy but I believe that we have proved worthy of the trust that they displayed in us and that we have set the stage for some really exciting developments in the next few years.  The use of environments such as Second Life will change the way we teach and learn in the 21st century and I hope we have helped to sketch out the early plans of how this might be achieved.
Acknowledging the work of the development team, the Steering Group members,   SLENZ friends and support staff who enabled the project to run so smoothly,Terry Neal (co-Project Leader) “for keeping us all on track with such good humour” and  Tony Gray (CE, NMIT) for not only supporting the project but believing in it, she singled out Griffiths for “both  sharing the dream and for using his incredible 3D building and scripting talent to actualise it.”
Describing the award as “thrilling,” Project co-leader Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions Ltd,  said, “From the very beginning  we wanted to share our journey so others could learn from what we  could do well and what we could do better. I’m proud of what we have achieved, but its nice to know others value it too.
“It has been a wonderful team effort. Each of us has contributed in a different way but no subset of the team could have achieved what the team has. I’m  also proud that even though we are in such a small country we can still foot it with the rest of the globe when it comes to what is happening in virtual worlds.
“But we really need to build on what we have achieved over the last 18 months and maintain the  momentum through the recently formed New Zealand Virtual World Group (NZVWG).”

‘Lil, happy dance’

Aaron Griffths Second Life alter ego, Isa Goodman, “smiled and did a lil, happy dance” inside Second Life, on hearing the news, according to Griffiths, the SLENZ Project’s lead developer.

Griffiths added, “This is a great achievement and I think all the team should be proud of what we have accomplished. It is wonderful to have peer recognition that we have done something right in our attempt to explore the educational possibilities of virtual worlds and I hope that New Zealand will not now drop the ball  as this award, I believe.  recognises, we are up there with the best.
“On a personal level I am very proud to have produced builds that have been received so well,” he said. “I believe it gives some credence to the methodologies used in them and in particular to the Foundation Studies build, which was deliberately designed to capture some of the elements of play that an environment like Second Life allows.

“It showed I think a possible pathway for developing learning that can engage and be fun and still have a positive outcome in terms of student achievement.”

The core SLENZ team members who worked on the project, besides Neal, Atkins and Griffiths, included from time to time, Merle Lemon, Sarah Stewart, Todd Cochrane, Leigh Blackall, Ben Salt, Henry Work and John Waugh.

The SLENZ Project’s final fling – the Koru Xmas Party 2009

SLENZ Update, No 156, December 13, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT

SLENZ in 14  international finalists

for top Edublog 2009 award

Your vote will count! Click Button TOP RIGHT and vote.

The SLENZ (Seoncd Life Education New Zealand) Project team has been  honoured by being named among the 14 finalists  for an EduBlog 2009 Award  in the category, “Best Educational Use of a Virtual World 2009.”

The award is among those which  “celebrate the best educational blogs on the web”.

Although the SLENZ Project originated from an isolated  small country – one might say at the end of the earth – the nomination shows  again that Kiwis can compete on  an even footing with the rest of the world when it comes to internet applications, such as virtual worlds, despite in-country broadband limitations and the “tyranny of distance.”

It demonstrates that virtual worlds can create a world  without borders:  that ordinary New Zealanders – anyone – can collaborate across time zones,  national borders, cultures, ethnicities and languages to provide benefits throughout the world.

Dr Clare Atkins (SL; Arwenna Stardust) (pictured right), the SLENZ Project co-leader said that she was  delighted, when told  of the SLENZ nomination in the final list.

She appealed to readers of  the SLENZ Update: “If you have enjoyed reading the SLENZ blog we are really pleased. We would love it if you felt a strong need to show your appreciation by voting for us.”

The other finalists include prestigious virtual world groups such as:  CANVAS (Children’s Art in the Virtual Arena of Scotland); DEN SL Blog; Edunation; ISTE’s Second Life island; Reaction Grid; School of Nursing, University of Kansas; SIGMS in Second Life;  Sloodle;  The International Schools Island (isi); The UC Davis Virtual Hallucination simulation; Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh; Virtual Macbeth – Angela Thomas; Virtual Round Table Conference.

“For SLENZ to even be listed amongst these groups is absolutely wonderful, ”  SLENZ Update editor/writer, John Waugh (SL: Johnnie Wendt) said. “While I would love for the SLENZ Group to win the award  I am very conscious of the calibre of the other finalists – they are the best in the world from a myriad of educational uses and I have accessed them all.”

He  wished the other finalists luck  and concluded with a call for SLENZ Update readers and their friends to vote for  Second Life Education New Zealand at  Edublog.

The Second Life Education New Zealand Project was funded by the New Government’s Tertiary Education  Commission. It has been designed to determine the benefits of using virtual worlds for education and  how best these benefits can be captured.

The work of the team has been completely “transparent” with all documentation/discussions etc included on this site. The team’s builds and findings  have all be done under Creative Commons attribution, are all OpenSource, and freely available to all educators as “full perms” packages.

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 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 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.

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.