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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.

Bad press for Linden Lab

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

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.

“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.

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.

SnapSession: EtherPad

What you see below is what my final document looked like in EtherPad.


Ok – so I’m testing this program called Etherpad. I just put out a note to my social networks, lets see if anyone shows up.

I started out as “unnamed me”, which I easily changed to AJ. Folks will have to be asked to change their status to their real names. Under my name, in the “Connected Users” area, it also shows my IP address and what browser and version I am using. At this point I can also pick the color I want my additions to be seen in. There are eight colors, so I guess only eight people can edit at one time.

You can invite people to share and change this document with you. The statement that appears when you first open EtherPad, read:

Welcome to EtherPad!

As you edit this text area, anyone else viewing this same page will
see your changes in real time. You can see their edits in real time

To share this pad, just send them the URL:

So the URL is there to use. Or, to the right, you can enter someone’s email address and invite them directly. The URL also appears at the top of this specific web page and also in the URL window.

As for the sign up, well – there was none. I went to and click one button and got right here. It was quite simple

There is a chat function. Like the other four areas in the right hand window, there is a right/down arrow you can use to hide that area. The chat indicates who said what and the time. This would be very good for collaborators to talk to each other. The chat does not get saved as part of the document.

Below the chat is a window called “Saved Revisions”. This shows each revision, when it was saved, it gives you the option to view that revision and even to restore it the way a wiki would let you roll back to a previous version. I wonder if any guest can save and/or restore a revision?

The next window down is called Options. Here you can determine if you want to highlight who typed what, wrap long lines (both of which are checked off by default), show line numbers, use full window width, or highlight JavaScript syntax. The show line numbers is nice if you are working with others because it makes it very clear which line one might be talking about. The only negative is it is not really showing the line as much as the paragraph.

In the upper right hand corner is an icon that, when clicked, will allow you to make the current window full screen inside the web browser. There is also a “hide” option, so you can hide all of these option windows. This would allow the document being worked on to be the only thing seen in the full browser window.

The last window is an area when you can send Feedback directly to the Etherpad team. I like this – they make it easy to hear from their users.

This application first came to my attention because it has been used by people in Second Life. One of the major complaints from education types, regarding SL, is that there is no way to collaborate on a document in SL. One could post the URL from this Etherpad document into SL (HTML on a prim) and give the URL to the others in SL who can then edit the document together and see it on the prim in SL.

I have been one of those people calling for collaborative documents in SL. To me, EtherPad is a very cool application, but I’m not clear why SL users would use it IN SL, when they could just share it in the browser window without having to have it imported and refreshed in SL. That said, I can see that it fills a need for some.

This would be a great tool for a class, or group, that wanted to work on a document together. Google documents can also be used for the same thing and those documents can be exported into a variety of formats, something I don’t see here.

While I was working on this Margaret popped in and agreed to help me test this. She wrote the text below, which I saw her adding to the document in real time (which was kind of cool!) With Google docs, you have to wait for the refresh or save before others see the changes, whereas with EtherPad, the additions are in real time. In fact, I am writing this at the same time she is adding her text below, and both are working quite well. So this seems to be one advantage over Google Docs.

“This is a multi-user test to check the advantages of EtherPad vs. Google docs. I have never used Google docs but this is a good tool. Nice and simple. You just have to remember to save every so often to get the most recent version saved. The only disadvantage I see is that unless people are working on different sections of a document it could get complicated. Thoughts and statements might get duplicated. For me it would be difficult to type and look what someone else is doing at the same time to prevent duplication. Other than that for beginners it is a easy tool to use. Another advantage is that you do not have to worry about uploading in SL. You can edit and change things as needed. Especially, for big events where you can put real-time status. Everyone can look at one screen vs. opening local chat and sending IM’s.That is all I can say on EtherPad.”


In order to get the text here I had to copy and paste everything, not a real big deal. The real big plus is that, even after everyone leaves the document on EtherPad, it still remains – so you can go back to it at any time. This means a a group can work on a document from week to week. Also, something you can do in Google Docs, but a cool feature nonetheless.

I can see excellent classroom uses for applications like this. I’m still not 100% clear why this is as good or better than using Google Docs, except for the real real-time nature of seeing what people are typing. If that’s the only thing, the ability to export from Google Docs into a word, pdf, etc.., is far better for me.

Have you used EtherPad? If so, why do you think its better than Google Docs?

Northeast Connect 08

I’m attending (and presenting at) the Northeast Connect 08 conference here at MSU today. Here is my current schedule.

8:30 – 9:30am Breakfast and Registration

9:30-10:30am Keynote Address: Curt Garbett, Spencer Johnson Partners

10:45 – 11:30a Pageflakes vs. Blackboard: An Exploration of Content Delivery in Foreign Language Education. Presenter: Enza Conforti

11:40 – 12:25p OK, So I Have My Second Life Account. What Now? Presenter: AJ Kelton

12:30-2:00pm Lunch

2:00 – 2:45p Using Second Life to Teach Difficult Concepts Presenters: Edina Renfro-Michel & AJ Kelton

3:15 – 4:00p – Learning in a Virtual Environment: Managing Emergency Preparedness and Health Security Using Second Life as a Teaching Tool Presenters: Anne Hewitt, Susan Spencer, Riad Twal & Ramesh Ramloll

4:10 – 4:55p – Portrait of a Micro-Blogger: Have You Twittered or Plurked Recently? Presenter: Laura Nicosia

I have no power in the main conference room, so I”m not sure about liveblogging and I don’t know about Internet access in breakout rooms – but I’ll post to my updates if/when a liveblog will start.

ELIFALL08 – Building Community with Virtual Spaces

Building Community with Virtual Spaces
Shannon Ritter, Social Networks Adviser, Penn State World Campus, The Pennsylvania State University

Building a community of learners can be especially challenging when working with online and distance education students. By using social networking tools like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Second Life, we can begin to construct a community of sharing and participation that leads to enhanced satisfaction and a true sense of belonging.

[UPDATE: Unlike Blogger, which allows iFrames, WordPress (.com, at least, not sure about .org) does not. So, unlike Blogger where the CoverItive session would appear right here inside the blog, you need to click the link above and it will open a separate window.]

Machinima for my presentation.

The following are machinima clips I’ll be using in my upcoming presentation for ELI on Learning Spaces.

Rezzing a Clever Zebra Build (using the building assistant), rezzing something from inventory, and using a sky platform.
Rezzing a Clever Zebra Build

A clip from a YouTube Video from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management, demonstrating how quickly and easily a ballroom can be set up/changed.
Hong Kong Polytechnic

Biome, an underwater learning area

The Tsunami exhibit on Meteroa, NOAA’s first sim

Virtual Hallucination (warning, some foul language is used in this exhibit – not work or child safe)
Virtual Hallucination

[UPDATE: once again, unlike Blogger, WordPress (.com, at least, not sure about .org) does not like something in the code that Screencasts provided that allows clips to show up right in the blog. So, you need to click the link above and it will open a separate window.]