The SLENZ Update – No 28, November 24, 2008

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YOU ARE INVITED

‘Open’ SLENZ workshop

New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators in both Second Life and “real life” to attend a one-day workshop in Wellington, New Zealand.

The open workshop will be held on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life from 9am to 5pm on December 15 (NZ Time) as part of a three-day workshop to establish the  learning activities needed to achieve the SLENZ project objectives.

Registrations are required for the one-day event which will take place in both the real world and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru  (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). It is hoped to webcast part of the real world proceedings.

Announcing that the first day of the workshop would be open to the public, joint project leader Terry Neal said that places at the WelTec campus were limited to 50.  As a result registrants would be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

‘We are inviting others to the first day so that we can benefit from brainstorming possible activities  and therefore better raise awareness of the potential for Second Life to improve adult learning experiences.’ she said

The public workshop is the first 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.

The announcement of the workshop follows the selection of two pilot education projects: the Manukau Institute of Technology, with a foundation learning proposal, and Otago Polytechnic with a midwifery proposal. Both proposals include a number of partner institutions.

The lead educators for each project will detail their proposals to the workshop.

Guest speakers at the one-day workshop will include students already studying in Second Life. They will discuss their experiences live via Second Life with other students attending in person,. One of Australia’s leading Second Life educators, Joanna Kay (SL: JoKay) will detail and demonstrate   what other educationists are doing in Second Life.

A key part of the workshop will be a discussion of critical perspectives for education within virtual worlds. The SLENZ literature review will also be presented at the workshop.

In the afternoon participants will work together to come up with relevant project ideas for activities in Second Life  as well orienting project staff and students. Over the next two days, the project team will use these ideas as a basis for implementation of the two projects.

The one-day event is free.

Neal said that the team hopes the event will attract other foundation and midwifery educators as well as interested educators and e-learning staff.

For first come, first served free registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

ekids don’t waste time

Dr Mizuko Ito discusses why time spent online is important for teen development

“It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online,” according to Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine, researcher and the lead author of the most extensive US study to date on teens and their use of digital media.(http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.4773437/)

The study showed that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online, often in ways adults do not understand or value, she said. The study also has implication for adult learning as the youth of today are the adult learners of tomorrow.

“There are myths about kids spending time online – that it is dangerous or making them lazy,” she said. “But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age.”

Released mid November at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, the study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s US$50-million digital media and learning initiative, which is exploring how digital media is changing how young people learn, play, socialise, and participate in civic life.

Together with the late Peter Lyman, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Michael Carter, of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, Ito led a team of 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. Over three years, they interviewed more than 800 young people and their parents, both one-on-one and in focus groups; spent more than 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other networked communities; and conducted diary studies to document how, and to what end, young people engage with digital media.

The researchers identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven.

While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group. Significant findings included: –

There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity.

  • Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.
  • Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.

Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by participating online.

  • Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society.
  • The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of dynamics, as online socialising is persistent, public, involves managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.

Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.

  • The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.
  • Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.

Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.

  • Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.
  • Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.
  • “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, PhD, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “It concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century.”

Ito and her team of researchers found that participation in the digital age means more than being able to access serious online information and culture. Youth using new media often learn from their peers, and notions of expertise and authority are being redefined.

More information about the study and the MacArthur Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative can be found online at digitallearning.macfound.org.

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The SLENZ Update – No 25, November 15, 2008

SLENZ NAMES ‘PILOT PROJECTS’

The SLENZ project steering group has chosen  educational institutions at opposite ends of  New Zealand as the successful applicants for the first two innovative pilot education projects in Second Life.

The two projects, named to participate in the SLENZ project are the Manukau Institute of Technology, with a foundation learning proposal , and Otago Polytechnic with a midwifery proposal. nealterry11

Both proposals include a number of partner institutions who will join in the pilots.

The participants will work with the SLENZ project team  subject to agreeing roles, responsibilities and expectations, according to the SLENZ project joint leader, Terry Neal (pictured).

Neal is currently talking to all the institutions who have signaled their  participation and will give more details as the institutions confirm their roles.

The two insitutions were selected from a shortlist of three from the initial six formal proposals from across New Zealand.

“We initially shortlisted 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,” Neal said. “We were disappointed budgetary constraints prevented us from selecting more because all the proposals were interesting.”

The proposals from which the initial selection was made included: language learning, including Te Reo; medical training; foundation learning; information technology and retail training.
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 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.

‘Playability’ crucial

‘Playability’  was described as a crucial factor in video games at the second European Conference on Games-Based Learning in Barcelona, Spain,in October, according to Nicola Whitton (pictured), a Research Fellow at the Education andwhittonnicola Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has presented an interesting two-part blog on the conference. http://playthinklearn.net/

Her take on the conference is particularly valid for educators involved in virtual worlds, given her interest in the potential of using online games for learning, teaching and assessment – particularly in Higher Education but also in the context of adult learning. She recently completed a PhD in the potential of collaborative computer games for learning in Higher Education at Napier University in Edinburgh.
She noted that JL Sánchez described six facets of ‘global playability’:

  • intrinsic playability – the mechanics of design intrinsic to video games (e.g. goals, rules, game mechanics).
  • mechanical playability – the quality of the game as a software system (e.g. sound, graphics, rendering).
  • interactive playability – the methods of player interaction and interface design (e.g. dialogue and game controls).
  • artistic playability – the aesthetics of the artistic elements of the game (e.g. visuals, music, storyline).
  • personal playability – the vision, perceptions and feelings of the person playing the game.
  • social playability – the perceptions of the player group when the player plays with others.

Each of these facets, Sanchez and colleagues argued in their paper, had seven attributes (satisfaction, learning, efficiency, immersion, motivation, emotion and socialisation) and this can be used as a design framework for ensuring playability in educational games.

Another presenter, NP Zea gave guidelines for the development of collaborative games. They  should foster, Whitton reported:

  • positive interdependence – group members must share the same goals, group lifespan, evaluation and score.
  • personal accountability – individual contributions can be identified (but the game should seamlessly support students who may be struggling).
  • face-to-face interaction – game elements (such as reaching consensus) that encourage face-to-face meeting.
  • social skills – activities that support the development of team skills such as leadership, negotiation, and debate.
  • group processing – meta-cognitive group skills and evaluative skills.

In her blog Whitton gives perceptive highlights of a number of other excellent papers from this conference which she termed “one of the best conferences of the year with lots of relevant and high-quality papers.”

The Hayes diagram

A simple although complex-looking social media marketing campaign diagram which focuses on a few simple phases and steps has been developed by Australian, Gary Hayes(pictured) (SL; Gary Hazlitt) one of the Australasia’s leading virtual world builders, designers and bloggers on marketing and the new media. http://www.personalizemedia.com/the-future-of-social-media-entertainment-slides/
Although his views on the future of social media entertainment are apt to be dismissed by some of the more academic educators operating in and theorising about education in virtual worlds they do provide an easy-to-understand key to “getting under the skin of the new forms” of social connection being developed by the audience/consumers.

As head of MUVE Development at the Project Factory and also the Director of Laboratory for Advanced Media Production run through the Australian Film ,TV and Radio School, he managed and built the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Telstra’s Big Pond presence in SL. He has always had positions at the “bleeding edge” of new service delivery including being in Senior Development and as Producer at BBC New Media for eight years and as an Interactive Producer in Los Angeles in 2004.hayesgary

Although not all the Hayes concepts, developed with Laurel Papworth, are as relevant to virtual world education as they are to 21st Century viral and regular marketers  they do provide a roadmap of what virtual educators should be thinking about in shooting for success in virtual environments (diagram on Hayes’ website – see above).

  • INVOLVE – live the social web, understand it, this cannot be faked.
  • CREATE – make relevant content for communities of interest.
  • DISCUSS – no conversation around it, then the content may as well not exist.
  • PROMOTE – actively, respectfully, promote the content into the networks.
  • MEASURE – monitor, iteratively develop and respond or be damned!

The crash!

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With the recent release of the latest Second Life metrics and the world global economic meltdown which is currently taking place, questions are being asked about whether high-technology internet pursuits such as Second Life or other virtual worlds can survive the severe downsizing which will occur in all developed economies and the fact that consumers are likely to put their wallets away for the duration.

My feeling is that they will survive – and handsomely. In most developed countries, once the initial costs of equipment and broadband are overcome,  virtual worlds offer  a much less expensive form of entertainment than almost any form of real life entertainment except perhaps lolling in the sun  on the grass in your own backyard. There is no cost for fuel to get away to the beach or the mountains, no necessity for special clothing, no necessity to buy drinks or food, beyond that which one has in the cupboard, and no need to face up to expensive peer pressure with cars, boats, planes, travel, resorts or clothing – keeping up with the Jones’.

That said the metrics for Second Life and other virtual worlds are going to make interesting reading over the next few months.

Despite the world economy turning pearshaped the Linden Lab economic metrics for Second Life’s third quarter show significant growth in land, user hours and the inworld economy. (http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/11/12/q3-closed-on-a-high-note-with-an-unusually-strong-september/)

Users spent 10 percent more per hour than the year-to-date average although inworld transactions in October declined to levels more consistent with the year-to-date averages.

Linden said that the October results indicated that it should expect land growth to slow in Q4 as residents reconfigured their land holdings to accommodate the change in pricing and the addition of the “Homestead” island type.

It remains to be seen, however, just how great the exodus to other virtual worlds will be as a result of the new pricing arrangments.