SLENZ Update, No 150, November 17, 2009

The potential: “Daddy, Miss America wont share her toys.”

Obama vision could be crippled

by rich, greedy US institutions

… and commercial interests who want an arm  and two legs.

Birthunitdemo131109_0021. Sharing knowledge – The Gronstedt Group begins tour  of the SLENZ birthing unit.

The more time I spend in Second Life and  other virtual worlds the more I become convinced  that  SLENZ  joint leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) is right: Collaboration and sharing is the key to success in  world education in virtual worlds.

But its not just collaboration within the United States, or New Zealand. It’s collaboration around the world.

The rich, big universities of North America and Europe might be able to afford to go  it alone, but for the smaller and the often poorer tertiary institutions of  the United States,  countries like  New Zealand, and Third World countries – if they even have reliable, affordable Broadband services – don’t have the luxury of NOT collaborating and sharing,  both at an institutional level and at an academic level.

The creation of complex builds, huds, animations and all the other paraphernalia of teaching successfully in a virtual  world, as well as aquiring the skills/knowhow to use them  can cost megabucks: to not share them under OpenSource and Creative Commons license with institutions and academics around the world would seem to be me to be both profligate and selfish. It also could regarded by some , particularly when sold at a high price or with an exorbitant  license fee attached, as both  neo-colonialist and  greedy capitalism of the kind that brought about the most recent crash of world markets.

Second Life behind the firewall

The collaboration thoughts, although first ennunciated  for me by  Dr  Atkins, were brought to mind more recently by  five things: the move by the Lindens, admitted an avowedly commercial organisation,  to  promote Second Life behind the firewall, previously Nebraska, to  commercial, Government and educational institutions at US$55,000 a pop, a princely sum for many cash-strapped institutions around the world;  President Obama’s Cairo vision, proclaimed in June;  a visit by the KiwiEd group to the University of Western Australia, Second  Life site; a Train for Success Gronstedt Group  35-avatar tour of the SLENZ Project’s virtual birthing unit on the Second Life island of Kowhai; and  finally, but not least,  the one-hour keynote address on copyright  by  Harvard University  Professor of Law Lawrence Lessig to  EDUCAUSE09 in Denver earlier this month.

Lessig-certificate-of-entitlement-700x524

2. Sharing the knowledge: Lessig’s certificate of entitlement.

Obama told  the world,  “We will match promising Muslim students with internships in America and create a new online network … ” something  which  Second Life arguably has been  doing for sometime with  the collaboration already  occurring between individual academics and many smaller institutions creating an “online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

The problem with his vision is that  US commercial – and often Government –  interests  have almost always  worked against  facilitating collaboration and sharing across geographic  and cultural boundaries. Look at Microsoft software. Look at Apple and ITunes licensing. Look at software regionalisation. Look at the record industry. Look at the book industry, where rich English language publishers in the UK and the US split the world into at least two markets.  Look at the way copyright law has moved into  education – and science.

But its not a new phenomenon. Look at banana republics, created out of Boston,  as a rather ironical and destructive facilitation of collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.

Triumphs of reason

On the other hand there are triumphs of reason over idiocy. Look at the rise of the ubiquitous PC, compared to the Apple computer, even though using a proprietary Operating System  the rise from the “underground” of  Moodle, compared to say Blackboard; the slow advance of bilateral free trade agreements, even if not the much desired mutilateral  free trade agreements, instead of the trade siege mentality,  which  affected most of the world in the 1930s (and still threatens); the growing popularity of Linux compared to proprietary Operating Systems; and finally the astounding growth of  Wikipedia compared to Encarta or Britannia.

Despite my misgivings I have been heartened over the years by the surprising degree of co-operation and collaboration that has been happening in virtual worlds. That is despite the actions of  those  few Scrooge McDuck-like educational institutions which have purely commercial interests at heart and appear to run closed shop operations, sharing with none.

I was even more cheered recently by a visit to the University of Western Australia when I found that  university, which is in the forefront  of Australian virtual world education, was entering into bi-lateral  virtual “free trade” and/or “free exchange”  agreements with  the likes of Stanford University and others. This mirrors the agreements put in place  by  Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) at the University of Auckland with the University of Boise; and Judy Cockeram (SL: Judy-Arx Scribe) and  her work with architects around the world;  and those “handshake”   agreements  or informal sharing arrangements put in place by a myriad of other relatively smaller institutions who have already recognised the benefits of world-wide collaboration.

3.Sharing the knowledge – KiwiEd group tours University of Wester Australia site.

And then there is the SLENZ Project, which 18 months ago adopted as its ruling credo,  complete transparency, with OpenSource under Creative Commons license for all its virtual educational products, developments and knowledge in the hope that others would be able to build on the team’s work. Even though the adoption of this credo was probably due more to the persistence and bloody-mindedness of a then non-Second Life “immersed” and relatively sceptical SLENZ Learning Designer Leigh Blackall than anything else, it has worked and is working.

One has to  agree now that Blackall was right, even though  there is obviously a place for fair payment to commercial (virtual world creators, builders, developers etc) interests, something Linden Labs has recognised  with its protection of its own virtual world product lines (and  unfortunately those created and developed by its residents, even if Creative Commons, full permissions and OpenSource) behind  the walls of Second Life.

Linden Labs is not alone, however, in usurping user/creator rights.  The way  they have covered the issue in their rather draconian and very American Terms of Service is little different from other major US on-line social networking services: if you put it up on their service, they own it.

Virtual World Free Trade/Exchange Pact?

This is despite, or perhaps in spite of “renegades” like the  onetime Arcadia Asylum, making all her magnificent “builds” available to “anyone to use anywhere,  how they like, even blowing it up.”

Like  the tyrants behind the old Iron Curtain the Lindens realise that keeping  control of their residents’ creations inside  their world (and keeping them there), guarantees that they will have to stay there unless they want to pour their creativity, time and work down the drain and start a new virtual life elsewhere.

This leads  me to the thought that President Obama, although paying lip service to “collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries,” needs to put his Government’s money  where his mouth is and promote a world-wide free trade/exchange agreement for  virtual world education if not for virtual worlds themselves, guaranteeing rights of both personal ownership of  individual products when created or bought in a real world sense,  but also opening up US educational institution virtual knowledge and creativity for the rest of the world to freely add to, and build on.

The President  has the vision  for a better on-line world – which could lead to greater understanding between peoples through education.

If he does nothing except talk. Nothing will happen.

And, I believe, we will find the major educational institutions moving more behind their Ivy Walls – if they are not already there – and American educational institutions (and others in UK, Germany, Brazil etc) adopting  a siege mentality   even though  virtual worlds (all virtual worlds, whether emanating out of the US or China or anywhere else) will only fulfill their true potential of levelling the playing field for all educationally if they are free and open to all.

That is something America can do for the world – all worlds.

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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.

The SLENZ Update – No 114, July 15, 2009

SECOND LIFE BUILDING OPTION

Import builds from easy-to-create

Google Sketchup  3D models

… at a (very) small cost

A demonstration in real time (9 minutes without preparation) of
how a 70 metre square can be created in SketchUp (using the
Sketchlife extension) from 10 metre square tiles, textured
using a single texture image spreading over all
the 49 tiles, and uploaded to Second Life.

West Australian Second Life resident Mrs Brandi ( EvgeniSergeev in his/her product details/YouTube publications)  has developed Sketchlife to allow Second Life residents  to create and upload builds/models using free, easy-to-learn Google SketchUp, a programme which is simple enough for it to be used regularly by primary school students in many New Zealand schools.

Created by University of Western Australia student “EvgeniSergeev”  ( is that a nom de guerre?) as part of the 2009 project for putting The University of Western Australia into Second Life , Sketchlife is being billed as an application that can convert 3D models made with Google Sketchup to Second Life through the use of an “importer” briefcase available free from the Mrs Brandi’s table at the university’s build in Second Life.

Brandi_001Mrs Brandi’s table with free Sketchlife …
the Sketchup-import truck behind is free too.

“After winning Google’s ‘Build Your Campus in 3D Australia and New Zealand‘ competition ( in 2007, the models are on Google Earth) and also creating a VRML-based virtual campus with more detailed models,” Mrs Brandi explained to Wagner James Au of  NewWorldNotes, “we had about two dozen high-quality SketchUp models of buildings, and there was no easy way to put them into Second Life. That’s an island-full of buildings which are complete and textured, so it seemed worth the effort to write an importer.”

Hence Sketchlife, which, according to Au,  Brandi says is also useful for creating Second Life builds from scratch in Sketchup.

“Quite complex models could be built,” he/she said. “There is a limit of 512 prims per upload, to keep things sane (but if one needs more, they can be uploaded in multiple stages.)”

You can obtain the Sketchlife client for free from Mrs Brandi’s table in SL, though as with many but not all executables,  there is a price:  LS1 per primitive with no texture;  and L$2 per primitive with at least one texture. However, a model containing only one prim with at most one textured face can be imported for free allowing experimentation without one having to pay anything.

EvgeniSergeev explains in his product pages that  while  most 3D modelling tools use meshes (vertices connected by edges which define faces),  Second Life has adopted solids, referred to as primitives as their building blocks.

“This guarantees that there won’t be any stray polygons flying around, but it also prevents mesh models from being imported automatically,” he/she says, adding, however, that while  the in-world modelling tools in Second Life are quite good,  they are stone age compared to the 3D modelling power tool that is SketchUp.

“Therefore, if we can’t bring SketchUp to Second Life, we’ll bring Second Life to SketchUp.”

The video below shows  this happening: a very simple model of the words “Hello World” is built and uploaded using Sketchlife tools. It demonstrates the process: press “Export”, copy and paste the model key, drop the textures into the box, and, finally, copy and paste the build key. The process is the same for all models.