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Article for IIE on Virtual Worlds

I was recently invited to contribute a small piece (a magazine half-page) for the Institute for International Education.  I’ve only just sent in my draft and am awaiting editorial response.  This exercise made me re-think why I believe virtual worlds can provide a unique and unparalleled educational experience for the right content.  It also made me look hard at what has stopped virtual worlds from becoming more main stream and why the fanfare of 2007-2010 went bust.  Sad thing is, not much has changed since I was at all actively involved.

Streaming streaming into Second Life

I am working with the folks at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) on a few different aspects of their Annual Meeting in February.  One of the things we are working on is streaming the general sessions into Second Life.  We thought it might be a bit easier this year, with the new media settings included in Viewer 2.x but I seem to have run into a snag.

When I use this URL

http://educause.mediasite.com/mediasite/Catalog/pages/catalog.aspx?catalogId=7e668ea5-7ef5-4227-b2da-dab47d4079d4 The page shows up on the prim just fine.

When I click on one of the videos I can hear the audio but the video does not show up.  Any idea why?

Thanks in advance.

Reporting or Readers, which matters more to Jeff Young?

Jeff Young is the technology writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In an article not that long ago he asserted that people were leaving Second Life in droves for opensim options.  Actually to summarize the article that way is unfair, there was a lot of other information there that was not entirely accurate and poorly researched.

Wait, come to think of it, I’m not so sure it was poorly researched.  In fact, it seemed as if the article was designed to do exactly what it did, attract readers and make his article the #1 most read for a few days.

Mr. Young was brave enough to face a quite hostile crowd as my special guest for one of our Virtual World Education Roundtable meetings.  You can read the transcript here.  Please, do read it, it’s quite interesting in how Mr. Young defended what most visitors considered shabby reporting and even worse research.  I was part of Mr. Young’s research, in that I talked to him for almost 45 minutes as he was preparing his article.  In fact, although not by name, he mentioned the VWER and our recent name change.  I’m sure that Mr. young, like most reporters, cherry picked what he wanted from our conversation.  Not that he quoted me directly on anything, but I could see in his article what he was looking for when he interviewed me.

I was willing to give Mr. Young the benefit of the doubt, as you will plainly see in the transcript of the meeting.  I tried to keep it fair and balanced (and NOT in a Fox News way) and tried to make sure our members treated him with some respect.

I remember seeing another short a few weeks ago where, after reading it, I thought to myself that it was clear Young was fishing for readers and not reporting.  I don’t recall the article, I could find it I’m sure if pressed, but I do remember thinking that the title was very misleading.

Today, Young puts out another article about Woodbury University being banned, AGAIN, from Second Life.  I was in SL during the first banning.  A griefer group was using the Woodbury Campus to stage its attacks around SL and, from all reports, Woodbury would do nothing about it (like simply banning the griefers from the island).  SL was forced to take the island down.  It was a controversial decision at the time but most of us, in the end, felt like they handled it as best as they could.

Well, apparently the same thing has happened again and once again Woodbury has been banned and their virtual campus taken down.  Now, Second Life, and the company that owns it – Linden Lab – is in business to make money.  One does not make money by tossing out paying customers willy-nilly.  They also don’t make money when people are talking about THIS crap instead of all the positives of using virtual worlds in education.  So, it must take some real consideration to make a decision like this.  I certainly don’t know, perhaps they just made a dumb decision, but I’d err on the side of wanting the supposed $1000 a month, unless what was being done wrong was so egregious.

This is not my point.  My point is that Jeff Young is clearly trying to get more readers than get the story right.  He’d rather have the most talked about article, even if its got terrible inaccuracies (by omission), then produce good journalism.  When did journalism become about getting attention instead of getting the story right.  Perhaps Young attended the Fox school of journalism – it doesn’t matter if it is right or twisted, it only matters if they read it and talk about it.

As one for instance, Young quotes Edward Clift, dean of Woodbury’s School of Media, Culture & Design, as saying
“The professor said he felt that the virtual campus did not conform to what Linden Lab wanted a campus to be—with buildings and virtual lecture halls.”

Ok, so, Clift may have said that.  Now, wouldn’t it be the job of a good reporter to find out if this assertion is true – that this is what Linden Lab wants a campus to be?  Mr. Young was a guest on the Montclair State University island.  If he had looked around, he would have seen that, although we do have some buildings, we have no virtual lecture halls, and – in fact – our campus looks very little like an actual world campus.  I’ve been involved in the education side of Second Life for over three years and I can tell you that most educators, and institutions, in SL, may have some buildings, and a high-profile lecture hall or two, but the MASS MAJORITY of educational builds in SL are not mock ups of the actual world institutions.

Aside from the very silliness of that thought, Linden Lab is not in the business of telling its customers what their virtual worlds should look like.  The Lab is most concerned with the terms of service and to make sure others do not violate those.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have my gripes with LL and how they are moving forward with the SL product, but never, not once has a single person from Linden Lab even suggested what our campus should look like and, in fact, we’ve received quite high praise from the educational team in Linden Lab for our creativity and originality.

Anyway, this latest example is not really such a big deal.  When coupled with the other reports that use similar language, similar tactics, and, in my opinion, similar tabloid reporting, it shows a pattern that I had hoped-against-hope was not the case when I interviewed Jeff in February.

Dear Chronicle of Higher Education, if you are looking for someone to write National Enquirer type articles about Second Life, keep Jeff Young on the spot.  Let him continue to put into print these one-sided, badly reported snippets that are doing more harm than good.  Those of us in education, working in virtual worlds, are struggling with this new platform and working hard to help it find the legitimacy it deserves in education.  By printing, and supporting, half-baked articles like this, you are unnecessarily alarming some with accounts that are not accurate (by omission) and you also undermine your own legitimacy as a new source as opposed to of an entertainment outlet.

UNC TLT Conference Plenary

The University of North Carolina Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference will be held entirely in Second Life and is free to all those who register.  I will be the plenary presenter at the opening of the conference on Tuesday, April 13th, at 9:00pm Eastern Time (6:00am Second Life Time).  The conference lasts for three days and has over 50 scheduled sessions in a well-rounded and well-informed schedule.

You can find general information about the conference here:  http://conference.unctlt.org/

The conference sessions are listed here: http://conference.unctlt.org/program/index.php

And registration is here:  http://conference.unctlt.org/registration/overview.php

Here is the description of my session:

Big wheels generally move slowly and formal education can be a fairly big wheel. For many years, how we taught did not change. More recently there has been a shift from the “sage on the stage” methodology to a “guide on the side” approach. This constructivist approach has been at the heart of Montclair State University’s (MSU) nearly 3-year adventure in Second Life. AJ Kelton (SL: AJ Brooks), Director of Emerging Instructional Technology for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, will take session attendees through the three phases of adoption MSU has gone through since opening their first of three islands in April of 2007. Included will be detailed highlights of some of the most popular and pedagogically sound locations on MSU’s Second Life presence. The discussion will conclude with a brief look at what could be next for education and virtual environments. Following this presentation Mr. Kelton will take question from the audience.

SLOODLE Moot Conference in SL this weekend

A great friend of mine is working on the SLOODLE Moot conference that is happening this weekend – FOR FREE – in Second Life.  Here are some of the details.

https://www.sloodle.org/blog/?p=187

SLOODLE Moot 2010 is approaching!

This weekend SLOODLE Moot – a free, online conference will be taking place in Second Life. A range of presentations, discussions and demonstrations will take place over the weekend including:

  • Devil Island Mystery. Learn how freshman students in S. Korea were stranded on a virtual island – and had to develop their English skills to survive – and solve the Devil Island Mystery!
  • Hacking SLOODLE tools. SLOODLE is open-source – in this sessions learn why you might want to change SLOODLE to suit your own ends – and how you can do so.
  • SLOODLE at the Open University. With around 250,000 online students, and individual courses with student numbers in the thousands, the OU faces some significant challenges in using virtual worlds to support its courses. Learn how the OU has been using SLOODLE to meet this challenge.
  • Cypris Chat demonstration. After a very successful set of demonstrations earlier this year, Mike McKay gives another demo of SLOODLE and the Awards system.
  • Saturday night social. Lights, music, dancing!

Timetable yet to be finalised, but get all the details at the SLOODLE Moot pages.

NZVWG Visit – Additional ways to configure

As a few folks have tried getting ready for tomorrow (I’ve done so myself and it works quite well, best to cut/paste the long entry in #4 though), two of the folks on the VWER Planning Committee have also written up alternate directions.

For those of you using Mac, try these:

The instructions they give basically enable you to create an alternate icon for SecondLife which obeys some particular command-line parameters to use a particular server and location. Mac applications icons don’t point to command lines – except for applications which are an AppleScript. Here are the instructions to create an AppleScript, adapted from http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Client_parameters#Command_line:

1. In /Applications/AppleScript open Script Editor.

2. Open a new document and paste the following text into it:

do shell script “”/Applications/Second Life.app/Contents/MacOS/Second Life” -set SystemLanguage en-us -loginuri http://130.216.248.197:8002/ -loginpagehttp://nzvwg.org/opensim/loginScreen.php

3. Once you’re happy with the parameters, click “Compile”
4. Choose File > Save As
5. Save the script as an “Application” (not Script), and select “Run Only” (may be “Execute” on OS X.4 Tiger). I named mine “New Zealand Grid” and put it on the Desktop to make it easy to find.
6. Double-click the application you’ve compiled to launch the Viewer with the specified parameters.
NOTE: If the Viewer launches then immediately quits, open it normally since there is likely an update available: download it and your script will work again.

For those of you using PC, this may be simpler:

1. Download RealXten viewer (http://www.realxtend.org/)
2. Open viewer and enter you name and password
3. On the right hand side you will be asked where you want to connect to.
Here you will just enter the login uri for  Auckland NZVWG Portal

The Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable visits New Zealand Grid

I realized this is very short notice, and I take full responsibility for that – but the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable will be holding its monthly “Other Gird” meeting this Thursday, March 11th – from 12:00pm Pacific Time for an hour.  Our host grid this month will be the New Zealand Virtual Grid and Dr. Scott Diener.

In order to join us, you have to follow the instructions below.  We hope to see you Thursday.

To request an account you need to first go to www.nzvwg.org.  Select the Auckland University Portal as your NVWG portal.  Our host has requested that everyone use their real name for the avatar, as that will simplify things.  Of course, this is not a requirement, but a well considered request.  The system is automated so the new account should be approve in very short order.

While waiting for your confirmation on your account, here is what you need to do in order to access the New Zealand grid.  Please note, the following instructions are for a PC.  Mac instructions are in the works. (you may want to print this out)

  1. Make a copy of the Second Life shortcut on your desktop
  2. Right click the new shortcut and select properties
  3. Select the General tab and rename the shortcut to ”NZVWG’ (change the text in the box at the top)
  4. Select the Shortcut tab and change the Target as below:
    “C:Program FilesSecondLifeSecondLife.exe” -set SystemLanguage en-us -loginuri http://130.216.248.197:8002/ -loginpage http://nzvwg.org/opensim/loginScreen.php
  5. Click OK
  6. Double click the new shortcut and the Second Life viewer should start.
  7. Enter your NZVWG account First and Last names for your avatar and your account password.
  8. Do NOT log in to Home.  Login to region Kapua 3

According to our host, apparently when you first rez your avatar will be a fluffy cloud,  so you will need to create a new skin/shape/hair and clothes.  Here are the steps he provided in order to do this.  Its suggested you log in prior to the meeting to take care of this – as far in advance as possible.  Once you are signed in to the New Zealand grid:

  1. Click the inventory button at the bottom right of the viewer.  This will open an inventory window.
  2. In the inventory window, right click on Body Parts.  Select New Body Parts -> New Shape.
  3. You can give your new body shape a name if you like.
  4. Do the same thing to create New Hair, Skin and Eyes.
  5. These new body parts should all now appear in your inventory under Body Parts.
  6. Select all the new body parts in your inventory (ctrl-click to select multiple) and right click to select Wear.
  7. Now right click on your avatar and select Appearance…
  8. The appearance window should now be displayed.  Down the left hand side of this window are a number of tabs that you can select and these will give you options to change particular parts of your appearance.  NOTE: At this point you will not be able to change your clothing
  9. From the shape tab you have the option to make your avatar male or female.
  10. Once you have customized your appearance, click Save All  and close.
  11. You can now go back and change your appearance at any time by following steps 7 – 10

What’s going on at “The Lab”

Over the last few months we’ve seen a rash of people leaving employment with Linden Lab, the owners of Second Life.  Some of the most recent ones are names most people would not recognize but they were important players working “under the hood”.  There have been, of course, some very big departures – many of which have been written about in other blogs, if you have a link please feel free to leave it in the comments section.

Today, John Lester announced that he will be leaving “the lab”.  John, who is better know as Pathfinder Linden, is an amazing guy and has been an awesome evangelist for education in Second Life.  This is not an under-the-hood, behind-the-scenes low-level department.  And, unlike a few of the others, John is not “leaving to pursue the next adventure”, as is evident by his recent note to the Second Life Educators list:

Greetings,

Due to recent reorganizations at Linden Lab, my current position
(Evangelist, Market Development) has ceased to exist.  There are
no alternative positions available to me, so as of March 12th I
will be leaving the company.

I am not sure what the future holds for me, but it will probably
involve something at the intersection of online communities, 
virtual worlds and neuroscience.  I will be remaining open to 
new opportunities.

I'll continue to follow this mailing list, since innovation in 
education and healthcare remains near and dear to my heart.

You all are doing amazing work, and I'll be sticking around to 
see what you come up with next!

Take care,
-John (formerly Pathfinder Linden)

This follows on the heels of another shake up of the EDU community when a very prominent figure, Jokay, who blogged regularly about SL in education, and also created a well-used wiki, was unceremoniously served a cease-and-dissest order from Linden Lab for using the “SL” in her wiki name.  Linden Lab lays legal claim to the “SL” in capital letter in the use of anything related to virtual worlds and Second Life.  The tool that integrates Second Life and the learning management system Moodle, originally called SLoodle, was forced to change its name after being served a similar cease-and-dissest, although this pre-dates what is now being called “The Jokay Incident”.

After the Jokay Incident, the SL Education Roundtable decided to change its name to Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable (VWER – http://www.vwer.org) and to also expand its consideration to include other (read: non-SL) virtual worlds.

Something is up at Linden Lab.  Instead of the “Google”-like atmosphere I used to image in, I now have images of evil scientists running around trying to figure out how to rule the world and keep their subjects in line.  Perhaps its just my over-active imagination.

What do you think about John (Pathfinder) leaving Linden Lab?  How do you feel about what is going on for the EDU community in Second Life?  Do you think things are better today than they were for us a year ago?  Two years ago?  I don’t mean the platform itself, I mean the consideration we (the EDU) community are given?  Do you think we are still important to Linden Lab or is this just a readjustment phase?

Technology as place?

Although I attended Sloan-C this year, virtually, one of my colleagues attended on site.  She forwarded to me a slideshow from one of the presenters, Steve Kerby from McDaniel College.  Steve talks about “Technology as Place: Designing Environments for Student-Centered Learning”.

You can watch the presentation here:
http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/skerby/presentations/Sloan_2009.html
it’s about 16 minutes long.

The link should open for you in a new window.  Once you’ve watched it, feel free to come back here and in comments let me know what you think.

Upcoming Event for the SLER / VWER

There is a lot going on for the SL Education Roundtable, soon to be Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable.  I thought it might be a good idea to summarize some stuff in one place.

  • The topic of our upcoming meeting, Tuesday the 22nd, will be Meeting Management and Event/Function Facilitation Tools.  2:30pm SLT.  Montclair State CHSSSouth Amphitheater
  • Join us for our Holiday Meeting, Tuesday December 29th. There will be no formal “meeting” per se.  The idea here is to enjoy each others company, network, socialize, and one of the main things is for new people to join us to find out things they may not know or want to know more about. There will be volunteers on hand to answer questions about a wide variety of topics (changing clothing, attachments, etc….).  We’ll have freebie clothing and other items, food, drink, dancing, and not far from the amphitheater location (in our Quidditch pitch) we have a winter wonderland built with free ice skates, snow ball throwers, and much more.  If for no other reason, you MUST come see this winter build.  We retained Claudia13 Rossini, who also built the Quidditch build for us.  She has done an astounding job and I recommend her services wholeheartedly!
  • The first official meeting of the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable will take place on Tuesday, January 5th, at 2:30pm SLT.  This meeting is a reprise of our very first, Special 1st of the Month meeting last January.  The topic is: Possible, Probable, and Preferable Futures of Education in Virtual Worlds – Redux and our special amazing panel includes: Sarah Robbins (SL: Intellagirl Tulley), Chris Collins (SL: Fleep Tuque), Jonathon Richter (SL: Wainbrave Bernal), Ken Hudson (SL: Kenny Hubble), Daniel Livingston (SL: Buddy Sprocket), and Anthony Fontana (SL: Anthonyfontana Chavelier)
  • January 11th, VWER hosts its monthly non-SL event, we’ll be meeting in Metaplace.  Details to be provided later.
  • January 19th, VWER announces the start of a new monthly feature – VWER’s The Reading Meeting.  The 3rd Tuesday of each month we will meet around the topic of a previously determined and announced article pertaining to virtual worlds and education.  Details on the article for this first meeting are coming soon.  Our facilitator for this first meeting will be Evelyn McElhinney.
  • February 8th, VWER hosts is monthly non-SL event, we’ll be meeting on the ReactionGrid.  Details to be provided later.
  • February 9th the VWER will have our Special 1st of the Month meeting, a week late.  :-)   Our very special guest for this meeting will be Barry Fishman, who serves on President Obama’s National Educational Technology Plan committee.

There is SO much more planned, this is just the beginning.  If this listserve is not the best place for you to get your information like this, you can follow us on Twitter (username VWER) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Koinup, Flicker, and in Second Life – all under the name Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable.