MUVE education at NMIT– VLENZ Update, No 176, August 11, 2010

New Zealand  MUVE activity

NMIT launches  course covering

3d immersive environments

Class of 2010: The first NMIT class in 3d immersive environments.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology  has successfully launched and is into the fourth week of an online course on multi-user three dimensional virtual environments (MUVEs) and their relationships to other multi-user technologies.

The 16 students, enrolled in the course (A&M624, Immersive 3D Environments), based on  the  NMIT Second Life islands  of Koru and Kowhai, are being tutored on-campus by Dr  Clare Atkins  (SL: Arwenna Stardust) and online by former SLENZ developer and New Zealand’s most experienced virtual world builder, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman).

Dr Clare Atkins

The course has been designed to  develop knowledge and understanding of using current generation commercial software as well as providing in-depth knowledge of specialised processes, techniques and media, according to Dr Atkins.

While the course includes explorations of other virtual environments, most of the classes  focus on the use of Second Life.

The course will take 60 hours class time,  with at least  half the classes in a virtual world, mainly Second Life.

Dr Atkins and Griffiths are known in New Zealand for creating and championing the successful $NZ500,00 Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) Project,  which  over an 18-month period created and established two pilot  education programmes, one with Otago Polytechnic in midwifery, and the  other  in Foundation (Bridging) Learning  with Manakau Institute of Technology.  The  Foundation Learning course, under  the leadership of MIT lecturer Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), has now become a permanent course within the MIT structure, with a large number of students participating in it.  Otago Polytechnic, however, decided at the conclusion of the pilot programme not to take the midwifery course any further.

Aaron Griffiths

Commenting on the first couple of NMIT classes Griffiths said that although the students  had appeared reluctant at first they had  quickly realised the potential (of Second Life) “… that it’s more than a game” with the student blogs starting to show their realisation of this.

” I am well pleased with this class…. most seem committed to learning ,” he said.   “Building  is slow, of course(and its) a HUGE step for many of them. I guess I am rather passionate about these environment … hopefully that rubs off on some.”

” The hardest part really is the limited time I have with them …  (there is) one hell of a lot to get across in such short spaces of time.”

Griffiths and Atkins  are detailing  the class’ activities  in a  blog, Immersive 3d environments, which also links into the student blogs:   this blog gives an interesting glimpse into how the lessons are constructed and are proceeding as well as student reactions.

SLENZ, VLENZ Update, No 170, April 22, 2010

Latest  SLENZ  Project/NZ VW news

SLENZ Project  may be over but

lecturers still use the builds

Foundation Learning  in use, free builds popular, viewing  by Indian Minister

The Wellington-based  Natraj School of Dance welcomes
the Hon. Minster Sibal and Indian delegates to WelTec.

The Second Life Education New Zealand Project may have been concluded but things are still happening on the  Second Life island of  Kowhai where  the Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Birth Centre builds are  sited.

SLENZ lead educator Merle Lemon, (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa), of the Manukau Institute of Technology, and other lecturers are continuing to use the Foundation Learning build for normal real life classes in interview preparation, practise and assessment as part of that school’s Foundation Learning programme.

And the lead educator for the Midwifery Studies  pilot programme run by Otago Polytechnic, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) has fielded a number of enquiries from British and US academic institutions  interested in making use of the  Birth Unit build as well as the knowledge gained from teaching in it.

At the same time more than 50  free-to-the-public, full permission  Foundation Learning builds and more  than 15 Midwifery Studies’  Birth Unit builds, created by SLENZ Project Lead Developer Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman), have been picked up from the Kowhai Island welcome area. Goodman has also begun a series of tutorials and advice on the builds  here and  the first of series of articles looking at scripting of the builds here.

India’s HR Minister views SL

Toddles Lightworker (left), of WelTec, greets guests from New Zealand
and India who attended the  Indian Minister’s WelTec SL “viewing”.

Meanwhile on the neighbouring island of Koru, also run by  Nelson Marlborough Institute of  Technology,  SLENZ developer  and Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) lecturer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) hosted a  Second Life  ‘viewing’ by  India’s  Hon. Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resources Development (India’s equivalent of the NZ Minister of Education) during a visit to the Wellington Institution.

The Minister’s viewing – he asked a question about accessing Second Life from India  as there were  India-based researchers present in Second Life  –  came as part of discussions on collaboration with New Zealand in the area of vocational training and technology. Cochrane has a  special interest in  the use of virtual worlds for vocational training and technology. The meeting was also attended by Arwenna Stardust (RL: SLENZ Project joint leader, Dr Clare Atkins).

During his visit to WelTec the minister spoke about India’s immense demand for education and training with a population of more than 546 million under the age of 25.

WelTec CEO Dr Linda Sissons  said, “India and New Zealand share a special relationship in the fields of vocational education, applied research and innovation … both face unprecedented social and economic challenges and also have tremendous opportunities in co-operation, especially in the technical and vocational education and training sector.

The New Zealand government has also recently reaffirmed its commitment to an international relationship with India. and both nations confirmed their commitment to deepening education cooperation with the resigning of an Education Cooperation Arrangement, which was first signed in 2005.

An SL visitor from Mumbai, Zeus Zetkin, as Ghandi, with the University of Auckland's JudyArx Scribe  at  the WelTech  Sl viewing.

In SL for the “viewing”, Mumbai’s Zeus Zetkin,  (RL: Siddharth Banerjee, of Indusgeeks.com), as Ghandi and
JudyArx Scribe (RL: Judy Cockeram, of the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture).

SLENZ PROJECT EVALUATION, VLENZ 165, Mar 10, 2010

SLENZ PROJECT EVALUATION RELEASED

SL Research project ‘successful’ but

marred by technical difficulties  …

Full PDF of Evaluation Report available here

Education conference delegates view a Birthing Room

The SLENZ team achieved “a remarkable success in creating and delivering” the core of the SLENZ Project, according to the official evaluation report of the $NZ500,000, Second Life  research programme released today.

This was despite the fact that both the project and student/educator learning  and engagement  had, at times,  been hampered  by  technical  challenges and difficulties during the 18-month long project, said Michael Winter, the independent evaluator of the project. He is  a veteran educator and senior researcher with  CORE Education, of Christchurch, New Zealand.

At the core of the project were two builds – a Foundation Learning Centre and a Birthing Centre – which were used for virtual world teaching as part of the project to determine the benefits or otherwise of virtual world education, and how these benefits, if any, could best be harnessed.

“The creation and effective employment of the two builds is a great success of the team,” Winter said. “In the process, the project team established a valuable corpus of experience in developing and using virtual world resources for tertiary education.”

The pilot programmes, Winter said, had both increased the engagement of learners with a familiar game like environment where learning may intentionally be a product of serious play; had been successful in creating experiential learning situations not available in ‘real life’;  had had only limited success with providing the  opportunity to learn the skills necessary to operate socially, technically, and ethically in an online global virtual world;   but had  provided an opportunity to “experience and practice collaborative, cross-cultural problem solving in social networking environments.

Although the report   appears a little short on hard facts, figures and comparative measurements it contains much  interesting anecdotal evidence from both students and educators and the conclusions reached  by Winter should be helpful to all  contemplating  or launching a new educational programme  within a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) such as Second Life.

Michael Winter

Winter said  that  the “success of the project”, which incorporated Foundation (Bridging) Learning and Midwifery Education pilot programmes, had  largely been due to the project management skills of the real life Project Manager (Terry Neal, of BlendedSolutions) who  had been responsible for managing the budget, interpersonal communications, and ensuring that timelines were adhered to and deadlines met.

Winter  also singled out the  Project Developer (Aaron Griffths, of Fxual  Education Services)  for special mention.  “As far as the design and development of the builds are concerned, the Project Developer almost single-handedly achieved a remarkable success with both builds,” Winter said. “He was able to incorporate the differing needs of both the Foundation and Midwifery educators, and in many cases produced aesthetically pleasing and functional designs. The ongoing process of development generally met the required deadlines, although sometimes at some cost in terms of stress.”

Terry Neal

Winter  made a  number of recommendations for future projects exploring the use of virtual worlds in education, which should be useful to MUVE developers and researchers around the world.  These included:

  • The Project Team, and Lead Educators at each institution should become familiar with the IT processes, and strike up an ongoing working relationship with members of the IT team. This could be greatly facilitated by the identification of a senior manager to act as a champion of the project within the institution.
  • Clear identification of the hardware and network needs required effectively to run the virtual world on the multiple computers within a particular institution. This would include addressing network security and fire walling issues.
  • Clear communication with students who will be using the virtual environment off-site regarding hardware and software requirements to access and make use of all the features of the virtual world.
  • An indication to students of the broadband requirements and hardware specifications to run the virtual world effectively on their own home computers, including connection speed, and the likely impact on broadband usage.

    Aaron Griffiths

  • Give more attention and time to ensure that users become fully familiar with using Second Life. This could involve a more thorough orientation process including working with buddies experienced in Second Life.
  • Clear indication to students of expectations in terms of their participation and learning outcomes when using the builds.
  • Ensure that each stage of the build actively involves and engages learners, and avoids them spending time “just looking”.

Summaries

Foundation Learning pilot

In his  summary of his findings on the Manukau Institute of  Technology Foundation Studies pilot programme, led by lead educator,  Merle Lemon,   Winter noted that  the Foundation build had provided a rich environment for learners to develop their job-hunting skills, despite criticism of its external appearance.

“It provided the opportunity for students to review material they had learned in face-to-face sessions, and to practice dressing appropriately for, and taking part in, interviews,” he said, but “for many participants, the experience was marred by technical difficulties, which highlighted the need for careful planning and good collaboration with the IT department before introducing virtual world learning into on-site programmes.”

The  MIT staff, Winter said,  were generally keen to be involved in future work with virtual worlds, but stressed the need to resolve technical issues.

Midwifery Education pilot

In his summary of the Otago Polytechnic Midwifery pilot programme, led by lead educator Sarah Stewart,  Winter said the two completed stages of the Midwifery build had represented “a significant success of the project”.

He, however,  again noted technical problems involving both hardware and connections to the internet  –  as well as navigation difficulties within Second Life by both  students and tutors -as hampering the results in this distance education part of the SLENZ Project.

On the question of user navigation,  he said,  “It is likely that a longer and more careful period of orientation might help participants overcome these difficulties.”

But he said, “Those students that accessed the build, and who were confident with the environment, reported a high degree of engagement and enjoyment of the experience, especially in working through the scenario with a buddy. They found this experience removed some of the stress, compared with face-to-face role-play. “

Visitors look over the Foundation learning build

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 149, November 7, 2009

ATKINS ADVICE TO POLYTECHS/UNIVERSITIES

Collaboration is key to making

virtual education work in NZ

Nurse educators  ‘convinced’ of value –

the question is, how best to use it.

IMG_1151NZ nurse educators at the Wellington SLENZ meeting.

Collaboration between tertiary educational institutions in the implementation  of  virtual world education scenarios is the key to making them economic, effective and successful in a country as small as New Zealand.

This is the view of  of the joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins,  who has worked for 16 months on three education pilot education projects funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand to determine the benefits or otherwise of education in virtual worlds and how the benefits, if any, can be harnessed successfully by New Zealand educators.

Dr Atkins expressed her view at a meeting attended by eight leading nurse educators from a number of polytechs  in Wellington last week.

“It makes sense  to collaborate,” Atkins said. “It would be crazy to try to do things separately when you can share  and collaborate.”

She suggested that New Zealand’s Polytechs and/or Universities could band together inexpensively to increase New Zealand’s educational usage of  and presence in Second Life, around the  virtual island “archipelago” already created by the Nelson-Marlborough Insitute of Technology (NMIT), the SLENZ Project, and The University of Auckland. Virtual land for education could be made available economically within this hub area, she said.Jacoby, Jean

Atkins noted  that whereas a Second Life build from scratch, such as that of  the SLENZ Project’s midwifery pilot could cost up to NZ$30,000, collaboration by institutions both in New Zealand and overseas – and the sharing of already created facilities – could reduce on-ground, virtual world costs for individual collaborating  institutions to several hundred dollars a year, if enough were involved.

“There is no point to reinventing the wheel,” she said. “Second Life is  notable for the way educators share and collaborate.”

The one-day meeting,   sponsored by the SLENZ Project followed expressions of  interest from nurse educators who had viewed or attended presentations on the SLENZ Project’s Midwifery and Foundation Learning pilot programmes.  The nurse educators attending represented  among others, UCOL, Manukau Institute of Technology, NMIT and Whitireia Community Polytechnic. The  national co-ordinator of  nursing education in the tertiary sector, Kathryn Holloway, also attended.

Besides Atkins, the meeting also included presenations by other SLENZ Project members,  and a Second Life nursing training presentation by Second Life’s Gladys Wybrow, of  The University of Auckland.

The meeting, less than a week later,  has led to the establishment of a  “collaborative” New Zealand Polytech nurse educator project to explore and develop the potential of Second Life in Nurse Education.

The project,  Nurse Education in Second Life NZ,  based on a ning created by Jean Jacoby (pictured), an instructional designer, at the UCOL School of Nursing Palmerston North, already has  20 members.

Jacoby, who has taken on a co-ordinating role, said in a dispatch after the meeting,  “It seemed to me that none of us needs to be convinced of the value of exploring Second Life; rather we are looking for practical ways to do so.

Two main approaches

“There seemed to be two main approaches identified at the meeting,” she added. “Looking for existing builds that we can adapt or use as they are”  and/or “Identifying a small, practical project to build from scratch, for which we could potentially get funding.”

The nursing group is currently in the early stages of discussing a proposal to set up a verbal health assessment scenario, with the nurse getting the information from the patient.

According to Susie le Page, also of UCOL,  this suggested Second Life application could be applied across a number of nursing areas, including midwifery, mental health and the medical/ surgical community.

Meanwhile commenting on the meeting the SLENZ Project’s lead educator for Otago Polytech’s Midwifery pilot on Kowhai in Second Life, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) offered advice, based on her Second Life experience, to the  nurse educators.

Stewart said nurse educators contemplating using Second Life should:  find a Second Life mentor and learn as much as you can about how Second Life works; network with other nurse and health professionals using SL using online communication tools such as blogs, YouTube, Slideshare and of course, Second Life; develop learning activities in Second Life that require little or no development to keep things as inexpensive and easy as possible; work alongside your educational institution to ensure you have full access to Second Life; collaborate with each other using virtual tools such as wiki, Google Docs, Skype and Second Life.

At the same time as the nurse educator meeting SLENZ Project joint leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) and  Foundation Learning pilot lead educator, MIT’s Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) briefed representatives of the Open Polytechnic, UCOL, CPIT and Wairakei Polytech at another venue, delivering  a similar message to that of Atkins.

EVENT -Kiwi educators

Sunday 8 November 7 pm (NZ Time) – meet on Koru shortly before  7pm: This week Kiwi Educators have been invited to tour the University of Western Australia sim. Our guide will be Jayjay Zifanwe, owner of the UWA sim. Highlights of the tour will be the main landing area, Sunken Gardens, Sky Theatre, Square Kilometer Array, Visualisation Research & the 3D Art & Design Challenge. This amazing SL campus is a pefect combination of realism and fantasy and well worth a visit. – Briarmelle Quintessa.

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 132, August 25, 2009

Virtual world experiences …

Do SL memories  have same

quality as RL memories?

A “personal” view
sailwith wendy_001A question of memory … sailing on the Dreaming Sea, Daedelus, in SL

There  is no question one can use  a virtual world to learn or train  but there is a question still hanging over what educational benefits MUVES can provide when compared with other educational electronic learning techniques and face-to-face Real Life teaching.

There also is the question whether virtual worlds can be separated from Real Life as a stand-alone teaching aid, particularly in distance education, or whether they are just another useful tool in the education toolkit;  just another classroom/space on the  Real Life campus?

These thoughts were brought to mind  by the recent  blog by SLENZ co-leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel)  on “The barriers to using Second Life” and the PookyMedia  machinima promoting midwifery student use of the SLENZ Project’s pilot Second Life midwifery education programme at Te Wāhi Whānau, The Birth Place, on Kowhai, being run in conjunction with Otago Polytechnic.

The conjunction of the two sparked a discussion with my three-year, virtual-world, travelling companion, Wendy Steeplechase (pictured right), who believes that the  “memories”  created in Second Life, because of the nature of virtual world “immersion”,   have the same “feel, qualities and weight of real life memories” when compared with the memories created by more passive  entertainment/information delivery such as reading a book or watching television or a  movie.

This is important when one considers the role of memory in learning.

“For me,” Wendy said, “those more passive forms of information input don’t create the strength of the memories created by Second Life. I would never  confuse a memory I have of reading something in a book  with me doing it in Real Life. But it does happen  to me in Real Life that I sometimes don’t know whether the conversation took place, I saw the place, or the event happened in Second Life  or Real Life.

“Everybody talks about Real Life versus Second Life as though the two can never meet but in actual fact Second Life is a part of Real Life. The interaction between Real People in the virtual world means the  memory you create, the programming that goes into your head is more permanent:  you perform the action or interaction  and it becomes part of you, part of your Real Life memory.”

But that’s because of the 3 Dimensional,  graphical quality isn’t it?wendyA_006

She bridled. “Actually the 3D graphics and animations are a bit of a red herring because the great value of virtual worlds like Second Life lies in the realtime interaction between people/individuals  remotely.”

“In business I have found people very leery about the use of web cams,” Wendy who is “immersed “in Second Life  but also controls large Telecons in Real Life on an almost a daily basis,  said. “People do not like to do live video in a science/business environment. But the level of anonymity and  the artificial, perceived  (safety) barrier one gets with an avatar within a virtual world makes people more comfortable with a virtual world than with video conferencing, where everyone sits rigid and doesn’t really dare to relax or move naturally.

“This comfort level is evidenced by  the relationship situation in virtual worlds where people get so close to each other so quickly. It is also evidenced by the fact that virtual world residents  are comfortable  exploring alternative lifestyles and places  they would never even consider doing or visiting in a million years in Real Life.

“It’s less scary to interact with other people in here (SL),” she said. “They (we) think, “People can’t really see the real me so how scary can it be?’

“The ability to interact with this ‘safety barrier’ in place makes virtual worlds far more compelling and palatable than doing the same thing in Real Life or watching videos or movies,” she said.

The big negative of virtual worlds for Wendy is the fact that avatars, except for walking,  can only move in prescribed animations. For instance they can’t point at things with their hand or fingers; and their arms, except in prescribed animations, cannot  be moved. This, she believes, works against true roleplay learning in Second Life for many applications. For instance, she said, as a pregnant woman having a baby she would want to be able to point to where the pain is and the Real Life midwife would need to understand this.

For her – and she is at pains to point out she is not an educator – one of the most compelling training uses of Second Life is the international border crossing simulation created by Loyalist College, of  Ontario, Canada.

It works, she believes, because the  two partipants in the roleplay are fixed in space and time and do not move very much. She views the interview room of the SLENZ Project’s Foundation Learning pilot, with  its fixed avatar and fixed interviewer, in the same light, although neither Loyalist College nor the SLENZ pilot takes great advantage of the 3D environment for their roleplay.

Critical  of my view that academics need to be “immersed” before they can “champion” Second Life as an educational tool or teach in Second Life, Wendy believes that not everyone is capable of becoming “immersed” in a virtual world.

“Just as there are different learning styles,” she said, ” there are different styles of being. Not everyone will ‘get’ virtual worlds, no matter how hard they try. I’ve come across many, many residents who have spouses or partners who think it is absolutely stupid and a waste of time, even after they try it, and even if they really want to share the experience.

“It’s unfortunate in those cases but that is the way it is:  for educators/businesses virtual worlds can only ever be one tool in a toolkit which might suit some and not suit others.

“Virtual Worlds are just another room  of Real Life and  a useful adjunct to it, if needed,” she said. “I think considering them separate from Real Life limits their usefulness.” – Johnnie Wendt/John Waugh

rolloZagreb_008

Memories of departure  …  a Rollo Kohime performance
at Wellington Station in SL

SLENZ Update, No 128, August 16, 2009

THE SLENZ PROJECT

There is a difference between

immersion and  activity …

foundation_utdsom2Learning in Dallas …  Snowflake Lannock has a giftbox  for Aotearoa-NZ learners.
foundation_utdsom6Learning in Dallas  … virtually  speaking. [All Pictures: Merle Lemon]

Sometimes one listens to the  presentations  and reads the publicity  about  a person’s role in the world – any  world, real or virtual – and fails to  see  the difference between commitment  and involvement, between  being immersed in life  and just being active … and often noisy.

Those who play a full role in life – real or virtual – might  identify with  the old story of the breakfast plate  loaded  with bacon and eggs: the pig who “donated” the bacon was committed, the fowl  who laid the egg might have been active, but was only involved.

I believe there  are many “involved” in  virtual worlds –  builders, technicians, academics  and educators, making names  for themselves as “experts” and who appear to be able to talk-the-talk  and use the right jargon – who are not “immersed” and not committed to virtual worlds and in actual fact never will walk-the-walk of real virtuality, and do not understand  what being “immersed” in a virtual world really means.

They only pay lip service to the idea of  virtual immersion – only entering virtual life  for “work”, rather than “learning” to live  within it.

They are there because they see that being on the virtual world band wagon provides a career-enhancing opportunity. They will invariably move on to the  next career-enhancing fad as soon as it comes into their view, and is greeted with wonder by the chattering classes. They will then become the critics, the doom sayers of the old wave, and the “promoters” of another new wave.

foundation_janedaughterGetting into a virtual world  … educators Jane Field and daughter.

Manukau Institute of Technology lead educator for the SLENZ Project, Merle Lemon (pictured  right) (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa) is not like that: since joining the SLENZ Project team less than 12 months ago she has quietly immersed herself in Second Life and become one with it. For her the suspension of disbelief is part and parcel of immersion and  an integral part of learning, and the best way of providing the best learning opportunities possible in a virtual world.Lemon, merle2

It is very difficult to get her to promote herself or her role but  tomorrow (Monday)  she will launch a Foundation Learning programme which will  eventually see  about 150 New Zealand students, ranging in age from 18 to 45,  “virtually” acquiring some of the skills needed to get a job or further education and training in the “real world”.

To this end  she staged an all-day  face-to-face training exercise for the  Foundation Learning team in the Learning Technology Centre at MIT South Campus early this month and has written about it, albeit probably reluctantly, on her blog, Foundation interviewing with SLENZ.

foundation_teresusietaniaSomewhere in a world … Terry Neal, Dr Susie Jacka and Tania Hogan.

The training workshop which began with a Karakia  (traditional Maori prayer that both welcomes and brings everyone together) was attended by SLENZ Project co  leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel),;  Maryanne Wright (SL: Nugget Mixemup), and Tania Hogan (Tania Wonder) from MIT; Jane Field (Morgana Hexicola) from Otago Polytechnic with her daughter; Vicky Pemberton (Sky Zeitman); Martin Bryers (SL: Motini Manimbo) from Northland Polytech; and Dr Susie Jacka (SL: Littoral Farshore) from Unitec.

The presenters from around the world included:  Jenny Wakefield (SL: Snowflake Lannock) of the Dallas School of Management at the University of Texas,  who gave instruction in communication skills, use of contextual menus, handling the inventory, more complex movements, location and SLurls, camera controls, and security issues;  Second Life’s Pacifico Piaggio, a faculty member from the University of the Pacific, and Second Life resident Doran Horngold, an elementary school librarian from Houston, Texas, who  passed on her collection of note cards with teaching resource SLurls and information.

“The workshop provided a great opportunity to gel as a team, to learn skills and to share ideas, ” Merle says. ” The day was tiring but rewarding. It provided all collaborators with the reassurance that they would never be on their own, and that there is a support structure soundly in place.”

Merle could have added that she, with her  hard-won knowledge of virtual world immersion, is one of the major  foundations of  that sound support structure.  But that is not something she would say.

foundation_vickymartin

What was the  question?- Martin Bryers  listens to the real world
answer from Vicky Pemberton

SLENZ Update, No 127, August 13, 2009

SLENZ Project

Arwenna, Petal find the  light

at the end of the SL Tunnel …

Sarahmidwif“Authenticity of the scene” … inside the Birth Centre. (picture Sarah Stewart)

“The first words I heard were, ‘This is so much FUN …’

The listener was Arwenna Stardust (RL: SLENZ Project co-leader Dr Clare Atkins) and the words were from one of the midwife trainees “learning real lessons” at the Otago Polytechnic  Birth Centre on the Second Life SLENZ  island of Kowhai:  they summed up just what learning in a virtual world should be.

Arwenna, in the blog that  she doubted she  would ever be able to write “many times over the last few months””,  details how she was able to watch and listen in as the first of the midwifery students used the birth centre.

Her post entitled  “Finally – it all comes together! Midwives and SL” is  inspirational.  It demonstrates  again there is really light at the end of the virtual world education/training  tunnel.

Coupled with  lead educator Sarah Stewart’s (SL: Petal Stransky) post, “Students’ first experience of the Second Life normal birth scenario,” Arwenna’s post shows that, in Clare’s words,  “this is perhaps the closest (student midwives)  will get …  to the ‘real’ world  (for some time) and for them it seemed real but it also allowed them to make mistakes, ask for reassurance from Sarah and … to learn from her instruction and guidance.”Stewart, Sarah

For her part, Sarah (pictured right) says, “They were able to engage with a scene that will face them many times as a ‘real life midwife’ …  the beauty of this scenario and role play in Second Life is that students can experience the authenticity of the scene and learn from it, but are unable to do any harm to the woman. And because they have supporting visual tools and resources the role play is a lot more immersive than it would be if they were carrying out the role play in the classroom.”
But read both posts for yourself. I think you will find them worthwhile, particularly if you are feeling disheartened by the perceived difficulties with launching  an education or training programme in a virtual world. There is a light at the end of the virtual tunnel.

The Midwifery Pilot, as part of the Otago Polytechnic’s School of Midwifery, is one of three pilot programmes being run by SLENZ Project, which is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.