The SLENZ Update – No 115, July 22, 2009

Upcoming Aotearoa New Zealand events

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GNI Project Symposium ’09

An invitation has been issued by Melanie Middlemiss to the GNI Project Symposium ’09 to be held from  8.30 am – 5 pm on Friday, September 4, 2009, at the  School of Business, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Online Registration is free but must be completed before 5pm, Friday, August 14.

The one day symposium has been designed to bring together academic and telecommunications and internet industry leaders to discuss current and future issues relating to convergence in the ICT and Telecommunications arena.

Discussion topics will include: Next generation networks and LTE convergence; Evolved Packet Core; IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS); Applications and services; WiMAX-LTE; Architectures and standards for service development and operation, such as JAIN SLEE; Multimedia telephony and service convergence; Integration of real-world services and applications within virtual worlds and augmented reality systems; Convergence of the network core vs. convergence on the application layer; Next generation web and telecommunications services;

The Global Network Interconnectivity (GNI) Project was established at the University of Otago in 2006 to develop expertise, provide knowledge sharing and conduct activities supporting new ICT technologies that contribute to telecommunications, multimedia, and information systems convergence.

The Project currently runs  the alpha release virtual world Grid ONGENS.

This is an experimental Grid set up in the ONGENS Test Bed Facility between Otago University and Canterbury University to explore the possibilities of Virtual Worlds and Web3.D technology.

This grid is currently running the OpenSimulator software, and utilises the high-speed KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) connectivity between New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and research organisations.

The GNI Project plans to develop this Virtual World Grid into a New Zealand National Virtual World Grid initiative, and is seeking funding and expressions of interest to be involved in this project.

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One of the “development” sim islands in the ONGENS virtual world

Teaching and Learning +

eFest 2009  conference

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The New Zealand  Teaching and Learning Conference and eFest are joining forces for 2009. The combined conference will held Wednesday,  September 30 – Friday, October 2, 2009 at  UCOL in Palmerston North, New Zealand. It will have an  “Open Space” unconference day on Tuesday,  September 29.

The conference themes are “Teaching excellence – excellence in teaching” and “The changing role of the teacher in the 21st century”. 2009efestlogo

Speakers at the conference proper are scheduled to include Dr Angie Farrow (pictured left), a senior lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand specialising in drama and creative processes, and a playwright, Colin Cox, Colin Cox, currently the only Master Trainer of Neuro Semantics in the world,  Helen McPhun, a learning and development specialist, Dr Lisa Emerson, a Massey University lecturer and recipient of a Prime Minister’s Supreme Award in  2008 and Paul McElroy, chief executive at UCOL.

Angie FarrowThe two principal sponsors are: Ako Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, and UCOL.

You can download the registration form here.

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The SLENZ Update – No 100, June 15, 2009

The boy from the future

XBox 360’s Milo  takes virtual

reality into another  world

I’ve been mulling over, for a few days now, whether  Microsoft’s latest offering in virtual worlds, Milo and his virtual friends, is going to prove a greater boon to  video games and MMORPGs or to personal computer-based virtual worlds.

Is Milo the next step along the road  to virtual life becoming mainstream or will he ,being console and television screen-based, kill off the  virtual worlds like Second Life. In other words is he the next step.

The benefits are obvious and the reality of Milo is in many ways astounding. But  I will let you judge for yourselves.

The anonymous blogger (Cv, picture and “occasional” avatar, “Head Teacher”,  but shy about real name) who writes Crossed Wires for Eduworlds.com said the launch of  Microsoft’s Project Natal controller at the E3 gaming conference earlier last  month  appeared as though it would redefine how “virtual and non virtual worlds ( i.e. the real world) interact”.

Project Natal is a hands-free control system for the Xbox that recognises facial expressions and body movements and allows, so it is claimed, virtual characters  to recognise not only voices and even faces but also read moods  [Interestingly, one could pose the question: Is Milo, Microsoft’s answer to Eve? Massey University, New Zealand, announced earlier this year it had developed a virtual teacher, Eve (pictured right), who can read and react to a student’s emotions].Eve

Head Teacher said, “If anything was ever worthy of the description game changing this is it … Microsoft  may have done for virtual what the Iphone has done for the mobile interface. Others will surely catch up but if Microsoft can really deliver on this, virtual experiences will soon be split between clicking in a make-believe world and apparently walking around something we can almost touch.

“For me,” he said, “the conclusions are that the future of virtual experiences won’t be limited by uptake or not of the current crop of virtual worlds: it is virtual experiences which overlay and blend with our real lives in ways we are only working out now. Virtual worlds will continue and thrive but will not define our experience of virtual reality.”

Meanwhile on the BBC,  film director Stephen Spielberg described Project Natal to journalist Peter Emery as “a window into what the future holds”.

Saying it was an evolutionary step for games, Spielberg said, “It’s like the square screen we saw all of our movies on in the early 1950s. Then The Robe came out in Cinemascope. And then came CinRam and Imax followed. That’s what [Natal] is.

“The video games industry has not allowed us the opportunity to cry, because we were too busy putting our adrenalin rush into the controller, or wherever we swing our arm with a Wii controller to get a result,”  Spielberg said. “Because of that, there is no room for a video game to break your heart. We now have a little more room to be a little more emotional with Natal technology than we did before.”

The SLENZ Update – No 61, March 29, 2009

How do teachers see education benefits?

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Vimani Gamage … trying to find why teachers ‘like’  or ‘don’t like’ MUVEs.

Masters student in business studies at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand-Aotearoa, Vimani Gamage (SL: Emerly Alter),  has  set herself  the difficult task of establishing  what factors influence teacher acceptance of  multi user virtual environments (MUVEs).

Briefing members of the SLENZ Project team last week she said that she was seeking to establish for her thesis how the known determinants of Technology Acceptance (according to existing TAM-related research) influence the intention of educators to use MUVEs to conduct virtual classes and how educators perceived the potential benefits of educational use of MUVEs as claimed in the literature.

Gamage is using a virtual classroom on Jokayadia within Second Life for her study which will involve the use of a questionaire to explore teacher perceptions.

Although not wanting to compromise  the results of her research in anyway,  I personally believe  the greatest  influence on  teacher perception of the benefits of MUVEs is directly related, initially, to the informal linkages the teachers  form  and the networking they do  on MUVEs like Second Life when they first enter, perhaps to play.

For  early adopters and subsequent promoters of the benefits of MUVEs  for education, I believe,  the major initial influence is “other people” within the world and the virtual society  they become attached/addicted to.

For those teachers who  “only work” in virtual worlds, MUVEs can apparently be a very boring place indeed. One sees them nitpicking on the SLED list and other lists, complaining about the technology or lack thereof, or being  pedantic  about educational theory.

They sometimes forget that MUVEs are fun and should be fun … that is the easiest way to learn … something the earliest adopters discovered and why many of them are still there.

When I consider some of the “reluctant” educators I meet in Second Life I am reminded of a great quote  from the Wizard of “Watchmen” – Alan Moore:  ” All too often education actually acts as a form of aversion therapy, that what we’re really teaching our children is to associate learning with work and to associate work with drudgery so that the remainder of their lives they will possibly never go near a book because they associate books with learning, learning with work and work with drudgery.

“Whereas after a hard day’s toil, instead of relaxing with a book they’ll be much more likely to sit down in front of an undemanding soap opera because this is obviously teaching them nothing, so it is not learning, so it is not work, it is not drudgery, so it must be pleasure. And I think that that is the kind of circuitry that we tend to have imprinted on us because of the education process.”

My great hope is that MUVEs are never viewed like that – by educators or students.

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Vimani’s classroom is worth visiting for the range of educational tools she uses.