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Linden Lab strikes again

It’s a good thing I’m not a conspiracy nut.

Over a month ago I created a group for the newly named Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable – a name change, and vision change, de-emphasizing Second Life as the only virtual worlds and expanding our vision and virtual vocabulary.  I kept the group out of search until the day of our big announcement, as I didn’t want people finding the group before the meeting.  Any time you add or update something to search, it shows up pretty much right away.  So the next day, when the group was not showing up in search, and people were writing to me, I contacted Linden Lab.

They told me that the ALL and GROUP categories can take up to THREE DAYS to update.  WTF is up with that?  Three days?  Seriously?  Has LL got some part-timer who comes in twice a week to handle this?  Seriously, with something as complicated as a user-generated content persistent virtual worlds, it takes three freaking days to get a group name populated into your database?  Shame on you for that alone!

So I waited the three days and on the third day the group showed up.  Great – I saw the group, I clicked it, it showed up for me, so I went and wrote to all of my groups letting them know they can now find it in search.

Today I started getting messages from people – although the name is showing up in search, when they click on it they get an error message saying

We’re sorry: This item’s privacy settings prevent us from showing you any further details about it.

I contacted LL and they told me it could take ANOTHER 72 hours before this is “fully” in the database.  I, apparently, was seeing the group in search because I’m a member already.  Now, other people are seeing it in search but when they click the search item, they are being told – in essence – that AJ is an idiot who doesn’t know how to set up privacy settings properly on the group.

First off – why even show it in the SEARCH if it can’t be reached.  Second, why make the end-user look like the one who is to blame.  When is LL going to step up and say “Ya know, we screw things up a lot, and we’re sorry”

Linden Lab, you are on notice – keep things up this way, treating me and others who have been your biggest evangelists in our industry, and you’ll soon find that you won’t have to worry about us any more.  I’m not the only one who is desperately checking out anything out there that might be worth investing time in and waiting patiently for some of the up-and-comers to get just to the point where it works for our needs.

How long before the masses start shouting out of their windows “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

Bad press for Linden Lab

Someone on the SLED list posted a link to the following Slashdot story

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/11/20/1323231/SecondLife-To-Remove-Free-Content-From-Web-Search

The write-up reflects very negatively on Linden Lab.  This latest dust-up, about freebie items in the online store, has not sat well at all.  Is it my imagination, or has Linden Lab had trouble keeping on the good side of the news cycle lately.  Lets look at what they’ve done recently.

  • Announced a great shiny new enterprise solution that cost $55,000 to own.  Oh, sorry, just today, apparently they announced that they are cutting that to a measly $38,000 for higher education.
  • They served legal notice to a very high-profile, and very SL-supportive, educator regarding abuse of the SL in the name of a project she’d created – which, by the way, was in support of Second Life as an educational platform and held up BY Linden Lab as exemplary.
  • Eliminate the freebie market from the officially support web-based sales tool. (or at least trying to)
  • On shorter notice than had been previously promised, we all had to update our viewer – required.  Most people I know have said that their experience since that forced update has gotten significantly worse.  My experience has been that things are worse now than in the recent past as far as the in-world experience is concerned (lag, slow rezzing, voice issues, etc….)

I look at the above items and see “business” decisions, as opposed to “community” decisions.

I have never had a problem with John or Claudia or George.  Ok, sometimes they don’t get back so quickly…. :-) ….but they are busy.  :-)
But I have never once doubted their commitment to the education community.

One has to wander, are enough people widening their scope that even a gesture from Linden Lab right now wouldn’t stop the diffusion of the academic community?

What do YOU think about the current state of things – with Linden Lab?  with other Virtual Worlds specifically? with virtual world technology?

National Educational Technology Plan meeting

As mentioned in my previous post, I was one of the speakers at the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Second Life meeting with members of the President’s panel for the National Educational Technology Plan.  Below is the content of my speech.

Hello, and welcome. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to speak today at what promises to be an interesting and informative event. My name is AJ Kelton and I’m the Director of Emerging Instructional Technology for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University, located in Northern New Jersey.

I am joining you from the premier technology in higher education event, the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, taking place this week in Denver Colorado. What an appropriate place to be when considering this topic, as EDUCAUSE is heavily invested in talking about, and acting on, improving the use of technology in the learning and teaching process. I’d like to thank all the folks at EDUCAUSE, especially Victoria Fanning, Lida Larson, and Justin James for assisting me today.

At this event you are going to hear about assessment, tools, pedagogy, and, I’m sure, a wide variety of other aspects of the importance of technology in education. As a doctoral student in the Educational Communication and Technology program at New York University’s Steinhardt School, this topic is of great importance to me. The work being done in the Educational Communication and Technology program, and other programs like it, is invaluable to our industry.

Funding and support for education needs to be consistent with the incredible importance we place on education. If funding continues to take a back seat in our priorities, we will fall further behind regarding a well-educated public and, more importantly, we risk losing the support of the most important constituency in this process, our students.

It has been said that technology is anything that was not around when you were born. At the rate we are seeing technological advances, everything we know as technology today will be passé to most students entering our grade schools in a few years. Things are changing that quickly and our students are adapting to the change. If we do not adapt with them, we run the risk of becoming the dinosaurs of the educational process.

This is not to say I believe we have to use technology because the students want it; or that we should use it just for the sake of using technology. No, we need to invest both time and resources to an ongoing conversation about pedagogically sound uses of both current and emerging technology.

We can spend a great deal of time talking about different tools that will engage our students as we move further into an increasingly digital age. Virtual worlds, like Second Life, are an excellent vehicle to engage our students in ways that are simply not possible in the actual world. I have watched students, those I’ve taught, and those in grade school, become completely immersed in the learning activities in virtual worlds.

Although not for formal educational purposes, many children are already immersed in virtual environments. There will soon, very soon, come a time when these students will expect the same type of engagement when learning in school. Want proof of this? Watch any small child while they play away in Webkinz, Club Barbie, Club Penguin, or one of the many other virtual worlds exclusively for children. These students are engaged.

These students are prosumers, those who are both producers AND consumers of content. Think YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia. These students will soon be in our grade schools, our high schools, and then our institutions of higher education, making their way into our work force. If we don’t do what is necessary now, we run the risk of creating probably one of the greatest social injustices in our lifetimes.

But it’s about more than just Second Life, or virtual worlds, or any of the tools that are just cresting over the horizon. What good are virtual worlds, augmented reality, web-based games, etc…, if our system does not have the three things it needs to be successful making use of them.

First, everyone needs inexpensive access to the Internet. I have watched my home Internet access bill go nowhere but up. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the $60 for high speed access. Many people, however, all across this county, like in cities such as Newark, NJ, where I was born and still live near, cannot. Let’s do whatever is necessary to make Internet access a utility, like water, electric, and gas, instead of a commodity more concerned with profit margins. Want to see a kid learn, hook him or her up to the Internet and guide their learning process. This is not just about hardwired connection, either – it is very much about wireless.

Second, the tools we use to connect to the Internet need to be easy to use, well designed, and inexpensive. This is not just about laptops and desktops. In fact, it is about much more than that. It is about mobile technology and what the students can hold in their hands, walk around with, be connected wirelessly, and explore. The One Laptop Per Child program is a great start, but we need to take it further. We need to see handheld devices for educational use at a price point most can afford. We need to see the access to those devices come at a reasonable price, so people won’t have to look at the bill each month to decide if they can afford to continue to learn using them.

Bottom line, we need to make it easier for students to get the technology and access they must have in order to be great learners and the future of our world.

Lastly, we need to see many more people studying and talking about pedagogically sound uses of the technology. Our schools need to employ people who have taken the time to learn, and continue to learn, about theories and practices that will help the teachers plan the educational uses of existing, and new, technology. One instructional designer for 100 teachers is just not enough.

How can the government help with this, meaning, why did I couch such large issues into a meeting like this? These issues, although large, are also foundational. Unless we do something about them, the other issues on top of which these three are build, will continue to flounder. There need to be incentives created for the private sector to develop and maintain partnerships with school and students at all levels.

We need to be more concerned about what students learn, and not just what they remember. Well thought out and pedagogically sound use of technology is a gigantic step in that direction.

Thank you for your time.

Speaking at an event for the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP)

On Thursday, November 5th, 2009, starting at 6pm Pacific Time, ISTE, Metanomics, New Media Consortium, Virtual Ability and the University of Michigan will be hosting an event on the ISTE amphitheater in the 3D virtual world Second Life (c).

This event will center around the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP).   Prior to an open discussion on technology in education, several speakers will present on a variety of topics.  The premise is “If you had five minutes to talk with President Obama about educational technology, what would you say?”  I have been asked to be one of those speakers and am scheduled at the very beginning of the event (6:10pm pst).  My topic will be about how there needs to be support for technology in education, meaning we need to make it easier for teachers and students to use technology beyond word processing and simple, filtered Internet searches.  We need to create the environment where instruction can include cool, collaborative, constructivist applications LIKE Second Life and other virtual worlds, augmented reality, and online games and environments as educational tools.

Below I have pasted information I found at the Facebook page for this event.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163866392474&index=1

My question to you is, if you have 5 minutes to talk to President Obama about the use of technology in education, what would YOU say?  Please use the COMMENT section below to chime in.

The federal government of the United States of America has assembled an 18 person team to update and revise the National Education Technology Plan. Their report deadline is November 11, 2009. There will be a community meeting in Second Life for educational technology stakeholders to provide input into the planning process. Currently, we expect that a representative of the national team will be present as an observer at the SL event.

The event coordinator is Perplexity Peccable (RL: Patricia F. Anderson, patriciafanderson@gmail.com). Perplexity is the University of Michigan Emerging Technologies Librarian for the Health Sciences, and the community manager for Wolverine Island in SL. Contact Perplexity for more information or to volunteer support or services for this event.

Information on prior versions of the plan is available here.
National Educational Technology Plan: <http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/index.html>

Information on the current planning process is available here,
National Educational Technology Plan: <https://edtechfuture.org/>

The team is seeking input from the public. You can join the conversation on their website here.
Opportunities for Input: <https://edtechfuture.org/?page_id=888>

Updated information about the event will be available at the Facebook event page and the Second Life at the University of Michigan wiki.
<http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163866392474&ref=nf>
<http://slum.wetpaint.com/>

The key topic discussion points are these.

* Learning: Providing unprecedented access to high-quality learning experiences.
* Assessment: Measuring what really matters and providing the information that enables continuous improvement at all levels of the education system.
* Teaching: New ways to support those who support learning.
* Productivity: Redesigning systems and processes to free up education system resources to support learning.”

Experiment: Text to Voice for transcripts

In an effort to make these transcripts available to those who would normally need to use screen readers, or those who just prefer to listen to them instead of reading them, the SLER is experimenting with converting the text chat transcript to a voice enabled version.

This entire effort is the brain child of Margaret Czart (SL: Margaret Michalski).  Not only was this her idea, she is also the one who has invested the time to re-edit the written transcript to make it more listenable and taken care of the conversation and upload process, as well as putting the test web page together.  HUGE thanks to Margaret for her work on this.

As you can imaging, this work does take time.  In order to be sure that time is well invested, we are going to post the next few text-to-voice (t2v) chats here into this blog.  The purpose of this is to provide you with an opportunity to provide some feedback, which we think is really important.

If you love this idea, tell us.  If you hate this idea, tell us.  If you see or think of anything that can make it better, tell us.  No matter what your thoughts are, please tell us by responding by leaving comments below.  Even if you just write “hey, great idea” – it will let us know that there is a demand or interest in this.  We will use this feedback (and site traffic) to determine if the beta-test on this project will continue.

Here is the link, we look forward to your input.

http://sites.google.com/site/slervoicetranscripts/home

best,
aj

“And Justice for All”

I am attending the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) 2009 Annual Conference and had the privilege to present with Dr. Leslie Wilson and Dr. Laura Nicosia, both from Montclair State University.

Our presentation was titled “And Justice for All: Using Artificial Environments to Create Community and Teach Diversity”. We had a large, and active group, who stuck around after we were done to continue talking to each other (and to us) about the content of the presentation. We actually had to move the conversations out into the hallway so the next presentation could get rolling. That was fine, since the coffee and fruit tarts were out there. :-)

Here is the link to the presentation. I’ve posted it here in my blog, instead of directly to my networks, to provide a place for those who are interested to be able to post comments and, perhaps, continue the dialog.

http://www.slideshare.net/sorry.afk/and-justice-for-all-using-artificial-environments-to-create-community-and-teach-diversity

SLER Wordle

I wanted to see if any common words (or people) showed up more often than others in our SL Education Roundtable meetings. So I took the transcripts from the meetings in March, April and May when we did NOT use voice chat (since the voice chat would not have as complete coverage of the meeting) and popped it into Wordle. Here is the result
Wordle: SLER Meetings 3/10 - 5/26 public
I now wished I’d take at least my own avatar name out before running the wordle. Clearly, given the opening segment is an introduction by me, and I moderate, my avatar name shows up a lot. Its a bit embarrassing in the wordle, but it is what it is. What I found MUCH more interesting were the other dynamic.

Help Comparing Netbook Models

(the following was also posted to the SLED list.  I will [hopefully] add any helpful info posted there into comments here)

Sorry to repost a similar message, and thanks to the folks who responded to me off list, but things have gotten a bit more complicated.

I’m a Mac user, so my exposure to the PC side of things is quite limited.  So I’m inquiring with my colleagues for assistance.

I’m looking for a small “netbook” type computer to drag back and forth into the City with me for classes and also to take to conferences, etc..  I don’t expect it will be my primary machine (given I’m a Mac user) but I do need something reliable.  The prices are such now that it almost doesn’t make sense NOT to buy one.  I”ll need it for email, documents (word, excel, etc..), probably also some simple web work, spss, things like that.  The one big exception to the “simple” stuff, is that I need it to run SL.

I originally started looking at the Acer, since a friend has one and its not bad (although I fat finger things all the time).  Now, some kind folks have added a few models to the mix and I wanted to know what others who might have had experience with some of this might think.

Just as an FYI – I want the unit to be small and portable – not looking for a 14+” replacement [snicker - no comments], I”m also looking to keep it under $500, preferably closer to the $350-400 I’ve seen for each of the models below.

The four models are (alphabetically):
Acer Aspire One 10.1
Asus EEE 1000HE
Dell Mini 9
Lenovo S10

Anything you can add to my information base on these would be greatly appreciated.

p.s. – rumor has it that Mac is coming out with a netbook over the summer, anyone else hear that or know more?

SLER makes the Highlights of 2008 list

Each week, on Tuesday night, from 5:30pm to 6:30pm Eastern time, I host the Second Life Education Roundtable, or SLER for short.

The meetings started last spring. I was looking for a place to meet other education professionals to talk about issues that were important. Nothing met at a time that was convenient for me so I decided to start my own meeting.

I determined that I wanted it to be a place where everyone would feel welcome, and anyone could chime in when the wanted. The best way to do that would be for everyone to sit around a round table – no head of the table, everyone can see everyone else, etc…

The idea took off and at one point we were hitting from 40-50 people each week.

This last Tuesday we held our first meeting of the year and had a blow out. The meeting featured Chris Collins, Sarah Robbins, Jonathon Richter, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Fontana, and Daniel Livingston. It was our first “panel” discussion – where each of the panelist talked briefly about their view on the potential, possible, and probable future of higher education in virtual worlds.

We had 90 people at one point. I had to cap the sim at 90 (meaning I blocked any more than 90 from coming in). I wanted to make sure we did not crash out. Even then, close to a dozen people that I know of were IMing me and others to try and get in.

Certainly the response was mainly for the star power of the panel. If you don’t know those people, Google them!

How nice to have as a follow up to our best and biggest meeting ever, to be featured in the Second Life Highlights in Education 2008 blog.
http://blog.secondlife.com/2009/01/09/education-in-second-life-highlights-from-2008/

Montclair State University has made an exceptional commitment to Second Life. They trusted me nearly 2 years ago when people were still really joking about virtual environments. They have committed resources, time, and great support, for all the work that is going on – not just the Roundtable.

A small but dedicated faculty is engaged in what is going on. Congrats to everyone from MSU – the nod to the SLER is only one indication of the great work that is going on.