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.

SLENZ Update, No 139, September 24, 2009

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

SLENZ members  on  international

virtual world conference  circuit

1. Cochrane at SLaction 2009

valverdeset1_002The Valverde conceptual design … as envisioned in Second Life.

There are two Second Life conferences over  the next few days which will feature  the work of members of the SLENZ Project team, underlining just   what can be achieved both by individuals and team members in a virtual world, even if one’s country is isolated in the real world.Slactions

The presentations also  demonstrate the unique  around-the-world, immersive, day-to-day collaborative nature of  working in virtual  worlds – something that  is seldom achieved in real life without the benefits of  virtual technology.

Today (September 24)   Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) (pictured left), a lecturer in Cybertechnology and Human Computer Interaction at WelTec and a SLENZ Project developer,  will “work” with Dr Isabel Valverde (pictured right),  a performer, interdisciplinary choreographer and researcher originally from Portugal,  to  present “Weathering In / Com Tempo: An Intervention towards Participatory Multi-modal Self-organizing Inter-corporeal” at the SLACTIONS 2009 research conference at the NMC Conference Center, Babbage Amphiteatre, in Second Life ( SL time: 11.30am, Sept 24; NZ time: 6.30 am, Sept 25;  GMT:  6:30pm. Sept 24, 2009 ).Valverde,Isabel

IMG_0503In Weathering In/Com Tempo (WI), a joint paper by Valverde  and Cochrane,  they will detail  their initial concept and interface design work on the dance-technology project that questions reductions of our corporeal intelligence in a hybrid embodied environment, where participants are invited to playfully interact physically and virtually with one another as hybrid-embodied entities.

The  intelligent physical-virtual networked  environment is being designed to act like another player, interacting with the participants through related flow of sensed aspects with the ultimate goal of becoming a  more inclusive, integrated and connected interface for human-environment hybrid living systems.

In  their concept they envisage that the project,  to be staged in an enclosed space, will incorporate a form of  augmented reality (3D motion, haptic and weather data) achieved through  a variety of  hardware  and software means – the five participants will wear clothes that facilitate the capture of motion data and provide haptic feedback -  with the bridging to the physical environment from the virtual environment being through audio and video projection of the virtual space into the physical space and via data transmitted to micro-controller actuated servos embedded in clothing or micro-controller mediated switches that control a smoke machine, fans and sprinklers.

Bridging to the virtual environment will be through live data transmitted from: micro-controller monitored sensors embedded in clothing, weather data and 3D motion capture data, and stereo audio and video streams taken from the physical environment onto SL screens.

In her paper Dr Valverde  expects Weathering In will lead to a) the development of a grammar of personal and relational behavior (through performative and choreographic research in particular site specific space/time frames); b) the development of an electronic Corporeal Network (that senses corporeal data and actuates haptic feedback through the internet into and out of a MUVE/SL); c) the development of performance technologies (through hybrid modes of practice, based on contemporary dance, Movement Therapy forms, Contact  Improvisation, Yoga, and Tai Chi,).

Ultimately, she believes,  the development of the  WI interface prototype “will be the embodiment of a theory of corporeality for the post-human era”.

2. SLENZ at Jokaydia Unconference

Jokayunconf

SLENZ Project lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), lead developer Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman) and joint co leaders Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) and  Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) will all  feature at the Jokaydia Unconference over the weekend when the two educators lead a virtual tour of their virtual “lecture halls” on  the SLENZ island of Kowhai.

Facilitated in world by Briarmelle Quintessa the   Sunday, September  27 (Aust time 4pm; NZ time: 7pm; SL time: 11pm, Saturday, September 26 ) session on the SLENZ Project will allow  educators and visitors to  see what the Kiwis are doing on the island of Kowhai where two projects for students (midwifery and foundation or bridging education) are currently being run. Participants will be able to meet and speak with members of the  SLENZ team involved in both pilots.

Jokaydia Support will be provided by by one of Second Life’s best known educators, Jokay Wollongong herself.

But that’s not all there will be at the Jokaydia  annual Unconference which starts tomorrow, September 25, and has been designed to  to celebrate the year’s discoveries and achievements and welcome Second Life residents both old and new to share their work in workshops, presentations, panels or discussions.

It  is worthwhile looking through the schedule and planning on at least taking in one or two  sessions on Jokaydia or at other venues both in Real Life and Second Life. There will be valuable lessons in all of them.

The unconference is designed for educators, academics, researchers, policy makers, curriculum designers,  IT industry,  digital media developers, students and anyone interested in diverse views and approaches to learning and teaching to build and strengthen their personal learning networks through shared interests.

Meanwhile midwifery pilot lead educator  Sarah Stewart and Otago Polytechnic’s principle midwifery lecturer  Dr Deborah Davis are to present a paper entitled “Using a Virtual Birthing Unit to teach students about normal birth” at the  Australian College of Midwives 16th national conference in Adelaide tomorrow.

SLENZ Update, No 130, August 20, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

First classes of Foundation Learners -

excited , motivated, enthusiastic …

“Even the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated students were “sucked into” the excitement of the virtual environment!”

-Merle Lemon, SLENZ lead  educator, Manukau Institute of  Technology, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

foundation pilotpicSmiling Foundation Learning student Aziz Qasimi (SL: a280q Engineer) at
the first class on the Foundation Learning site on Kowhai in Second Life.

By their very nature Foundation Learning classes can be difficult  for students and lecturers alike.

The students are often there because  they have been spat out by the education system somewhere along the way. And the lecturers, although dedicated, are often disheartened by the attitudes of students who have been turned away or who have turned away from getting even a modicum of  necessary normal, modern-day life skills to enable one to survive successfully in an ordinary, mainstream world.

Therefore it was with some trepidation that SLENZ Project lead educator Merle Lemon (pictured) (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) launched her Manukau Institute of Technology Foundation Learning  classes on the island of Kowhai in Second Life this week.

It’s early days yet but  but with two classes successfully undertaken she  is no longer holding her breath.Lemon, merle2

Speaking of  her second day’s teaching classes designed for students to learn  interview techniques, she said, “The first class today was new to Second Life. The start of the class was slow-moving as four students had no avatars, despite repeated reminders that this had to be done for homework. One student created an avatar in the lab and three students ended up using avatars that were provided for them

“This class was not easy! A couple of students were reluctant to sit down at the computers, but once into Second Life, they became engaged and seemed to really enjoy their activities. Even the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated students were ‘sucked into’ the excitement of the virtual environment!”

Commenting on another class, entering Second Life for only the second time , she said, ” This lesson went like clockwork, and students were fully engaged … the students are all ready and anxious to begin interviewing practise in Second Life … “

Her first session three days earlier had had “good and bad moments”, some of the problems caused by campus logistics, lagging, visitors to the new class, observers and absenteeism.

But even so  student motivation appeared ” extremely high”.

“… it was so high it was hard to hold them back in any way,” Merle said. “They wanted to try the next thing, learn the next skill, just continually moving forward at a break-neck pace.”

Describing her personal feelings now that her pilot program has been launched, Merle said, “I believe (the first week of classes) a success.  Second Life proved to be motivating and fun.  It was very rewarding seeing students making such huge progress in a single session of learning in Second Life.  I can’t wait for the interviewing to begin.”

kowhaifoundationThe Foundation Learning area on Kowhai

SLENZ Update, No 126, August 12, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT UPDATE

Foundation students to learn how to

get jobs – in virtual ‘classroom’

interview room_001_002

Students at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) are set to become the first in New Zealand to learn how to succeed in getting a job in real life through training in a virtual world.

The initial 31 students in the Foundation Learning Future Focus career planning classes will enter the virtual world of Second Life with their lecturers on Monday (August 17). They will later be joined by other Foundation Learning students from MIT as well as NorthTec and Otago Polytechnic.

The pilot programme, which is part of the Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) Project, will eventually see more than 160 students ranging in age from 18 to 45 doing some of their classes as avatars in Second Life, a virtual world which has been in existence since 2003.

The research project is being funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand under its Encouraging and Supporting Innovation funding programme. The SLENZ Project is also running a distance education pilot programme in midwifery with Otago Polytechnic.Photo Terry-1

Expressing excitement at having two pilot programmes under way, Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) (pictured top right), joint leader of the SLENZ Project, said, the Foundation Learning pilot was quite different from the midwifery pilot where the project team had been learning how to motivate and encourage distance learners to engage with Second Life.

“The Foundation learners will be in a computer lab with their teacher so we do not have the same challenges getting them there,” she said.

“The team has designed a highly interactive experience which we hope will   be lots of fun as well as effective.

“One of the key benefits is that the whole class can be involved in learning at the same time rather than sitting watching their peers stumble through role plays,” she said. “ I know from my own experience walking  through what we have designed  that I can laugh and learn at the same time, and seeing ‘myself’ on  screen brings it alive much more than standing in a classroom trying to  imagine a situation.”

In the MIT programme, led by SLENZ lead educator and MIT lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), the students will learn interview techniques through role-playing for possible positions in travel and tourism, business, engineering, social work, teaching and nursing training.

Second Life had been chosen for them to learn interviewing skills, something they all need but which is not easy to practice in a classroom environment for a variety of reasons, she added.

‘Motivating and exciting as possible’

“Second Life gave us an opportunity to deal with more students at the same time as well as making the learning engaging,” Merle said. “We are trying to make the learning process as motivating and exciting as possible to overcome any previous negative experiences in school.

“Second Life engages the students actively in the process of learning and offers them everything they need to succeed,” she said.

Tina Fitchett (pictured bottom right), Dean of MIT’s Faculty of Education and Social Science, believes that virtual learning may hold the key to learning success for foundation students.fitchettT

“Research indicates that both academic and social engagement are important factors in foundation learners’ success,” Tina said. “The utilisation of technology like Second Life to support student learning brings together both of these elements. It offers an engaging, dynamic and stimulating environment for students to operate in and provides another useful tool for them to hone their practical interview skills.”

“This is also a great example of tertiary providers working collaboratively together to enhance their students’ learning,” she added.
Merle has collaborated closely with the  head of the MIT Learning Technology Centre,  Oriel Kelly (SL: Noumea Sands)  and  SLENZ Lead Developer and contract SL builder, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman)  in the creation and development of the virtual world learning programme, stage 1 and Stage 2 on the SLENZ island of Kowhai.

Other lecturers for the foundation programme  include Maryanne Wright (SL: Nugget Mixedup), Tania Hogan (SL: Tania Wonder), NorthTec’s Martin Bryers (SL: Motini Manimbo), Vicki Pemberton (SL: Sky Zeitman) and Clinton  Ashill SL: Clat Adder) and  Otago Polytech’s Jane Fields (SL: Morgana Hexicola).

The SLENZ Update – No 122, August 03, 2009

The SLENZ Project

Walk-through  demonstrates the

emperor  does have clothes …

but shows where  reworking/enhancements needed

SarahTerrySL

Practising in the Birth Centre .. “midwife” Petal Stransky
and “mother-to-be”,  Tere Tinkel (Picture Terry Neal)

Working for months on a project  – especially in a virtual world, where one does much of the work alone even if in a team, and where one’s  own “creations” sometimes become sacrosanct -  you often get to a stage where you can’t see the wood for the trees as self-criticism and  objective analysis take a holiday.

The result  is that the objectives of a project are sometimes lost or buried and you believe the emperor is clothed  when in fact he is only partially clad, or his clothing is unfinished. In  a virtual world education setting this can mean the student misses out or has difficulties  learning and the tutor-facilitator  is left frustrated and wondering why the lesson did not work and learning objectives were not filled. Green, john

To avoid these problems the SLENZ Project recently commissioned John Green (pictured right), an expert in online learning and senior lecturer in information sciences with the School of  Information and Social Sciences, at the Lower Hutt-based  Open Polytechnic New Zealand, to walk-through the SLENZ Project’s  Foundation Learning and Midwifery pilot  builds and programmes on the island of Kowhai in Second Life.

Teaching since 1981 and online since 1999,  Green has presented details of his research in online learning  in the UK, US, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.  He also  has taught other teachers to teach online at other institutions and advised international universities regarding eLearning.

His walk-through of the two builds, Foundation Learning, being led by Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) of Manukau Institute of Technology, and  Midwifery, being led by Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), of Otago Polytechnic, although not critical of the programmes as a whole, resulted in  a number of recommendations for changes to various facets of the builds and programmes.

“John Green’s walk-through was extremely useful and provoked thoughtful discussion among the team members,” the joint project leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), said. “He gave us an independent opinion on how we might enhance both the builds, which encouraged us to articulate why we had done things in certain ways, and, of course, pointed out things that needed correcting.

“This was another layer of the process which allows us to make changes and enhancements to improve the student experience,” she said.

Green recommended five “top critical changes” for each programme.

For the Midwifery pilot (pictured at top) these were:

1. Purposeful activities must match clear objectives.

2. Students should understand questions before going in world so that their observations can be more focused.

3. There are not enough clickable objects to be consistent with with the richness of the requirements of the activities.

4. Student reporting should be centralised for the sake of both student and teacher.

5. Some of the writing and multimedia appears to be more affectation than instructive.

For the Foundation Learning pilot (pictured below) his top recommendations were:

1. Lack of sound/predominant “motorway noise” type sound (ed note: ambient wind sound?) is very disturbing.

2.Video does not work for me.

3. Blue for go on buttons is not intuitive on Hyperdome Console.

4.  The adoption of correct body language, voice tone and eye contact in Activity 4 is best done by videoing a real life role play since the SL interface is not good enough to provide this successfully. These may well be played back in SL if needs be for student comment but I think it is best for this final stage to be “real”.

5. Welcome notecard is not about the students; it is for marketing SLENZ and should be removed/moved elsewhere.

AAfoundation_001

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