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 75 , May 1, 2009

The Birthing Unit – Te Wahi Whanau

Video is a great introduction

The SLENZ Project’s Birthing Unit  – Te Wahi Whanau – has been given a great introduction with the release on April 30  of  a  a video  which explains  simply and cogently why and how the pilot midwifery project has evolved.img_0502

“I think it is brilliant and I am just so excited,” Dr Deborah Davis, principal lecturer, School of MidwiferyOtago Polytechnic, Dunedin, said  in announcing the release of the pilot project video on the SLENZ List.  “In just seven minutes a lot of information gets imparted; both about the importance of birth environment and about the project. It is going to be a great little resource and “taster” and I am sure it will make interested people want to find out more.”

The first public showing of the video was scheduled to take place at the Open University in Delhi, where it was to be presented by joint SLENZ Project leader,  Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel). The lead educator for the pilot is Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky).

The video, originally conceived and pushed by SLENZ learning designer Leigh Blackall (pictured below right, SL: Leroy Post), was produced by  Blackall (audio recording and editing) and SLENZ  lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (pictured above right, SL: Isa Goodman) (video images and editing). Blackall is currently  working on a comic to go with the video as part of the  introduction to the Otago Polytechnic project.

The midwifery pilot on Kowhai is one of three pilots being worked on by the SLENZ Project which has been funded by  the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.img_0505

The project has been designed to determine how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) might benefit New Zealand education and how this can best be done. Using the multi-user virtual environment Second Life, it aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths or otherwise of learning in a virtual world.

The SLENZ Update – No 64, April 2, 2009

THOSE SLENZ BUILDS

Getting immersive realism on the SL ground

birthisa_002

The “real” thing … the drapes and Isa Goodman

AN essential ingredient of getting the SLENZ Project  off  the ground  has been to ensure the builds have enough realism to ensure a “suspension of disbelief” occurs, according to the project’s lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman).

This, Griffiths (pictured) told the SLENZ team recently, was to allow users to become fully immersed in the experience without feeling it didn’t look/feel real. “This is a difficult task when faced with the rigidity that building using Second Life’s 3D primitives have inherent in them, given the hard lines that these building blocks present,”  he said.

It had been circumvented in the past, he added,  through an intense use of multiple primitives to form every bend or curve of an object but this not only loaded a scene with primitives (more download requirements) but also added to the workload in creating and aligning textures to each of the primitives to create a complete object.

Although noting that the creation of organic shapes was now possible in Second Life using sculpties (sculpted prims created with texture maps), Griffths said, the creation of the number required to achieve the desired results within the hours defined by the SLENZ Project budget “just wasn’t a possibility.”img_05021

Therefore, he said, he had been excited to discover within  Second Life Rusalka Writer’s large sculptie sets with what he feels is the desired level of realism to make the build “that much more than a  2D  drawing” one can move through.

“So now, in the birthing room for example, we have rumpled eiderdowns and flowing drapes as opposed to the not so real faked 3D using shadowed textures on rectangles,” he said.

The   Rusalka Writer sculptie sets at her shop in Bahoozamoth, Griffths, a director of  F/Xual Education Services, said, were full permissions and inexpensive compared to most of the sculpties sets he had seen in-world.

Griffiths said that besides the realism/immersion issue he also had been concerned for sometime about the lack of interaction with the build in Stage 1 of the SLENZ midwifery build.

“Yes one can open doors and walk around, draw or open curtains (now beautifully flowing *smiles*) etc., but really in terms of  interactivity this stage of the build is currently limited to clicking on objects and
receiving information either in the form of notecards, dialogs or links out to the web,” Griffiths said. “The realism mentioned above will definitely create a more immersive experience and given that this (build) has been designed as an ideal birthing unit ( i.e. one that generally cannot be experienced in the real world) there will be a learning aspect in terms of sensing the atmosphere that such a unit could bring to the birthing
experience.

“But interactive… well not quite,” he said adding that he had been struck  by the fact that when he had recently met some of the midwives in-world for a walk-through  without exception, when they had entered the birthing room, they had attempted to enter the birthing pool.

birthisa_005

The “real” thing … all the midwives wanted to try the birthing pool.

“Well you would wouldn’t you?” he asked, and added, “… yet this aspect of engaging with the build had not been really considered for this stage despite his and other’s interest in the capability of MUVEs to present the aspect of play in a learning experience.
Building on that observation,  he said he had talked to the midwives about the possibilities and it had been suggested that, as well as clicking on each of the items displayed to present different birthing techniques (e.g. the birthing pool, the leaning mantle, the rope etc) and linking out to information on the  web relating to the theory involved, “we create pose animations for each of the objects that would optionally allow the users to “assume the position.

“Not only would this be instructive in a sense but would insert an element of fun that I feel is distinctly lacking in this stage,” he said, asking for the team’s thoughts on the idea.

Looking forward to Stage 2 of the midwifery build where the SLENZ Project intends to simulate a normal childbirth scenario there had also been a boon in discovering the Rusalka Writer sculptie sets, he said.

“Again in terms of suspending disbelief it is important in my view that we create as realistic a ‘baby’ as is possible,” Griffiths said.

The creation of a prim-based, scripted robot, or an avatar-based bot, logged in specifically for the birth, had been discussed but both had their drawbacks: the prim bot ,though easily manipulated through scripting ,would be hard to make look real, while the avatar would have to be logged in (complete with floating name and title) and manipulated, with the problem of animation permissions to be overcome.

“What a joy then to find amongst the sculptie sets a full set of body part shapes that with good texturing may solve our problems in this respect,” he said.

“All-in-all a good week for the developer with a much better sense that the midwifery unit will immerse, engage and have the end result that we all are heading towards,” Griffiths concluded.

birthisa_004

The “real” thing … a bed that looks soft enough to sleep on.

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 46, February 16, 2009

Making SLENZ work!

Learning by doing

slenz-workshop-057Learning by doing … Aaron Griffiths, building developer, Terry Neal, joint project leader, and Merle Lemon, lead educator (foundation leaning). Background: Sarah Stewart (lead educator midwifery).

The SLENZ project team has continued to test and modify the design and development processes, despite some on-going communication challenges which are similar to those faced by Linden Labs and Second Life (See  “Right tools for job” below)

“The most challenging part of the process is proving to be getting the midwifery educators together to feedback on these ideas before finalising them,” joint leader Terry Neal said of  one of the three pilots in comments which  could provide value for all those grappling with virtual world/on-line/real world education development issues.

Noting the context had already been written for Otago’s students by lead educator Sarah Stewart, while some ideas had been drafted about the specific activities that the students would do within the birthing unit for stage 1 of pilot, Neal noted  that although discussions could have taken place asynchronously in blogs and Googledocs “in practice the individuals wanted to meet together to discuss the issues online.”

Neal sees this as part of the SLENZ project team learning about how to work virtually across distance taking into account individuals’ preferences.

Earlier Neal had explained that she saw several competing priorities in designing the SLENZ pilot process.

“It is not easy to decide the best way to navigate through although that is what we need to do,” she said.

“We need a process that: allows ideas to develop, because we are all working out ideas as we go because we have not done this before; allows input from others because for each phase there are between two and seven people in the wider project team specifically involved, as well as the wider community who can add value too;  clearly specifies an end point of this developing thinking to pass on to the team for the next phase;  allows interaction between the different phase teams to clarify thinking and benefit from knowledge at the intersection of skill sets/phases;  allows us to capture and share our learning as we go; works over distance (and now time zones with the transfer in real life of Sarah Stewart (lead educator in midwifery pilot) to Australia ; fits as much as possible with individual preferences; fits with the team’s needs to achieve the project aims.

She said to answer these objectives the SLENZ team had decided to “think out in the wider sphere, and then bring  the design back inside the core team.

The team had done this, Neal said, to allow input from others  in the wider team  and work in with individual preferences as much as possible.

The risks  to this approach she said were: the thinking is too spread out and good ideas get lost or hidden and people get sick of following along potentially; team members and others can read something as being the final view point when it has been, or will be, superseded.

“We are still working this through but my understanding is that we will have two defining documents – Sarah Stewart’s Googledoc ‘Learning Design Midwifery Stage 1’ and the technical specifications document that joint leader Dr Clare Atkins with learning designer Leigh Blackall’s help have developed from the  learning design document.

Neal said, “I personally am comfortable with wide sharing of half-formed ideas as long as we know when they are ready to pass on.”

But, she said, the ‘definitive thinking perception’ risk had to be managed properly.

Here’s the RoadMap!

Joint SLENZ Project leader Dr Clare Atkins(SL: Arwenna Stardust – pictured) has made the “SLENZ Project Development Roadmap – Final Draft” available on http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dj2k8bp_22gdmdmpcp&arwenna_002invite=gw9jqw
She notes that there are still “things missing from it – usually because I need others expertise to suggest what is required in different stages” and has indicated  these “gaps” with red questions! Noting that she welcomed “any feedback on the document she has posted details on her blog http://arwennastardust.wordpress.com/

She notes there that “the process (of developing the SLENZ project roadmap) has been tough at times but then the task is complex and there is very little previous experience or best practice reports to draw on.”

‘Right tools for job’

Thinking about communications, I believe one of the major problems facing the collaborative creation of virtual worlds (as opposed to creation by an autocratic individual) is controlling the communication channels – and not allowing any one party to usurp control and/or to lose valuable ideas and material in the process.

The problem today is that besides two realities, virtual worlds and real worlds, there are also a myriad of communication options available to team members, some of which some participants might not be comfortable with and others they will be comfortable with. Dictators have solved this problem in the real world, but democracies have a little further to go.

The problem is what should be a collaboration can descend into anarchic time-wasting if not properly controlled and monitored with all worthwhile ideas recorded in an accessible format.

In the real world in a classroom situation small subgroups, learning to work together on research or other projects, learn that each team must have a discussion facilitator, a notetaker or recorder, and a chairperson or someone who reports back to the main group and/or initiates any group action, rather than each individual doing so, or any one member of team becoming locked into a certain mindset.

The same happens in the real world – even when decisions are taken by consensus. There is a requirement for an agenda to be set to ensure relevancy, someone to chair or facilitate any meeting, a recorder, and someone to either report back or initiate actions.

But the problems of communicating across a large number of channels both in the virtual world and the real world are myriad, with not even the experts able to narrow the field.

This was brought to mind by award-winning, SLED lister Anne Ogborn (SL: Annie Obscure), an independent software engineering consultant working primarily with educational institutions in Second Life (She is currently developing the Pathways to Knowledge educational system within Second Life and ScoolFaces student feedback tool).

Providing a striking although rather tongue-in-cheek confirmation of the ‘right tool for the job’  when it comes to virtual world communications Ogborn noted that Linden Labs itself operates no less than 12 communication systems besides Second Life: 1. A large, active website to distribute ‘knowledge’ about SL; 2. A large, active bulletin board to help communities of interest hold more persistent discussions about topics in SL, and a set of rolling boards for communications like ‘Fifi’s is hiring pole dancers’; 3. A jira for communicating and tracking technical issues; 4. Corporate email for ‘I really want to talk to Jack Linden’ comms;  5. An internal wiki for maintaining uniform responses to AR’s; 6. An external wiki as another method of communicating ‘knowledge’ about SL; 7. A corporate telephone system; 8. People presumably meet face-to-face and talk to each other and hold meetings at LL; 9. Premium and concierge members have access to the chat support application; 10. Linden Labs has a phone system; 11. Linden Labs sends and receives snail mail and packages; 12. People visit the premises.

“All of these have their place,” she said. “The best way to send the $7 million contract from Linden to the data center’s offices is to mail it. The best way to keep up on what’s up on the technical front is to attend Zero’s office hours in world. The best way to meet some really competent SL users and enlist their help is to hang out at NCI Kuula.

“Second Life is not the answer to all things – certainly not to holding an in depth, thread picking discussion on a complex topic,” she concluded. “It is, however, a tool for some things.”

‘Top’ VW research

Asked recently for the top three research articles on education in virtual worlds Second Life education guru Jeremy Kemp (pictured), of  San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science, told SLED listers he referred often  to:

Jennings, N., & Collins, C. (2007). Virtual or virtually U:Educational institutions in second life. International Journal of Social Sciences, 2(3), 180-187. Retrieved from http://www.waset.org/ijss/v2/v2-3-28.pdfkempjeremy21

Kirriemuir, J. (2008). Snapshot of UK HE and FE developments in SLEduserv Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.eduserv.org.uk/foundation/sl/uksnapshot102008

Livingstone, D., & Kemp, J. (2006). Proceedings of the 2006 second life education workshop, part of the second life community convention. Paper presented at the San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED493670

Luo, L. & Kemp, J. (2008). Second Life: Exploring the immersive instructional venue for Library and Information Science education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 49(3), 147-166.

New Media Consortium. (2008). Educators in Second Life Survey. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2008-sl-survey.pdf

EVENT

hulserrichard2March 16,18,  20, LIANZA – CPD – Second Life & Technology Strategy Planning workshops, Technology Strategy Planning  9am-12 noon, Library Services in SL, 1pm-4pm::  Presented by US-based world authority on SL and technology strategy planning for libraries, Richard Hulser (pictured).  $110 (member) and $160 (non member) for each workshop If attending both workshops $200 (member) and $300 (non member). Auckland – March 16, Whare Wananga room, Level 2, Auckland Central Library, 44 Lorne Street, Auckland (http://www.lianza.org.nz/cgi-bin/calendar/viewevent.pl?id=468); Wellington – March 18, Lion Harbourview room, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington (http://www.lianza.org.nz/cgi-bin/calendar/viewevent.pl?id=469); Christchurch – March 20, Sydenham Room, South Learning Centre, 66 Colombo Street, Beckenham, Christchurch (http://www.lianza.org.nz/cgi-bin/calendar/viewevent.pl?id=470) Information: Maree Kibblewhite  maree@lianza.org.nz mailto:maree@lianza.org.nz; booking enquiries Anna O’Keefe  anna@lianza.org.nz <mailto:anna@lianza.org.nz>

The SLENZ Update – No 35, December 22, 2008

SLENZ Workshop:

One viewpoint

slenz-workshop-057Workshop: Building designer, Aaron Griffiths, joint project leader (RL) Terry Neal, and lead educator Merle Lemon work on the details.

Blood, sweat but

no tears

The SLENZ workshop held in Wellington, New Zealand, mid-December achieved the goal set for it – the initial establishment of the learning activities needed to achieve the SLENZ Project objectives.
The three-day event at WelTec ended with all participants agreeing on “a fairly complete overview of what will be done” to create the two New Zealand pilot education programmes in foundation learning and midwifery in Second Life.
All nine participants in the two-day, “closed” part of the workshop, however, also would probably agree that the process of determining the activities, resources and support needed to achieve Stage 1 of the pilots, rough out Stage 2 and develop the Stage 3 vision, needed considerable refinement.
As one of the participants said, “It was a crap process, but we found out ways not to do it.”
But, as joint project leader (Second Life) Dr Clare Atkins and developer, Todd Cochrane, said in their “Principles for Design and Implementation of SL ‘Builds’ in November, that, as with the ‘process for designing learning activities’, “We are working in an area in which there are no clear guidelines or best practices.”
Earlier in their “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” joint project leader (Real Life) Terry Neal and learning designer Leigh Blackall said that because all involved in the SLENZ project were learning through the project, it was important that “our process for designing learning activities is flexible and engages as many of the participants as possible.
“Our aim is that the people who will pilot the learning activities will have a sense of ownership over the activities, and so their involvement is necessary throughout the process.”

slenz-workshop-006Blood, sweat and no tears … some of the participants in the open session of the workshop.

The facilitators – as were all participants – were heavily involved and all would have left the workshop with both a sense of achievement and ownership of the projects.
And it appears likely that at least one academic publication, which could become a key text in guiding the creation of viable education initiatives in multi-user virtual worlds, will result from the workshop.
The workshop began with a valuable, if at times technically fraught, scene-setting, one-day, open workshop attended by more than 40 people in RL and some 20 in Second Life at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27).
The Real Life participants were mainly drawn of New Zealand universities and polytechnics.
The Second Life participants included SL education developer Jo Kay, of Wollongong, Australia, and in Second Life Jokaydia, who detailed her Australian activities and University of Arizona, US, students who spoke candidly about their reactions to learning in Second Life as well as answering questions in realtime from the live audience(unedited text script at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=ddbqbfvm_118qn5pmx3).
The morning session included an, at times, fairly volatile discussion of critical perspectives for education within virtual worlds with some participants opposed to the use of virtual worlds for education.
The session was completed with “brainstorming” sessions on the two proposed pilot programmes – Manukau Polytech’s foundation education project led by Merle Lemon and Otago Polytech’s midwifery education, led by Sarah Stewart – which led to some valuable new insights into the projects.
There is no doubt that the SLENZ team benefited from the brainstorming activities which also served to raise awareness of the potential for Second Life to improve adult learning experiences. The documents produced in these sessions were used by the project team in establishing goals and determining how best to go about the creation of the pilots.

slenz-workshop-052Point made: Developer Todd Cochrane tells it how he sees it

During the course of the workshop it was determined that there were actually three pilots – the two education projects and an orientation/education pilot for facilitators and students.
Probably the two key problems which the workshop faced were the differing philosophical leanings and sometimes boundless enthusiasm for other new media which led to some frustrations in the debates, and the lack of Second Life/MUVE experience of some of the key education participants.
This led to some difficulty at times in keeping the workshop focused on relevant Second Life issues and in determining what activities should be left in Real Life, in-on-line learning, print media or machinima.
There were also problems in narrowing down exactly what the educators wanted to achieve through Second Life, possibly because of a lack of experience in virtual worlds.
Finally, although the free-flowing nature of the workshop brought up a considerable number of new and valuable ideas the decision-making process might have been improved with a tighter focus on the targets and what needed to be achieved.
The workshop was the first major function to be held by SLENZ since it secured funding from the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission to determine the benefits of virtual world education in New Zealand, particularly for adult learners.

More pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/10345904@N08/sets/72157611341636969/

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

<!–[if !mso]>

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.