Chilbo


17
Sep 08

CCK08 – Disconnected

(This post is about the Massively Online Open Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)


Storm damage in Cincinnati, photo by elycefeliz used under CC licensing.

On Sunday, the remnants of Hurricane Ike traveled all the way up to Indiana and Ohio, and though I’ve certainly seen my fair share of weird weather phenomena, I have never seen a wind storm like that! I lost my biggest shade tree in the back yard and have a little roof damage, but other than property damage, all my friends, family, and coworkers are ok. Being so far inland, this part of the country is certainly not prepared for hurricane or tropical force winds, and it caused a massive blackout in the region, shortages of gas and food, school closings, and a new understanding and sympathy for those in Texas who took the brunt of the storm.


And suddenly, in the middle of the Connectivism course, I found myself forcefully Disconnected.

I’ve had brief power outages before, but not for so long and never for so long in the summer. When you get a big winter storm, there’s a snowy white visual barrier between you and the rest of the world and you know it will melt and things will get back to normal. This time, there was no visual, nothing but the hanging powerlines and broken telephone poles to remind you that our modern society and all of our connections are really quite tenuous. Without the juice that those cables provide, and the pipes that transmit all of those 01010101011110001’s, those of us who are hyperconnected online may be more isolated and disconnected locally than ever before. It was a sobering thought.

It wasn’t until sometime on Monday when I began to worry that the power might not be back by Tuesday’s Connectivism course meeting in Second Life that I remembered my Utterz account. I have Utterz set up in such a way that I can call Utterz from my cell phone and record a message. Utterz then creates a post automatically on my blog, and WordPress is set up with a plug-in to automatically send a message to Twitter whenever something is posted on my blog. This means that when I was stranded with no electricity, internet, or landline phone, I could flip open my cell phone, record a message, and within a few minutes my voice was online and my network of twitter friends were notified. Chilbo residents Malburns Writer and Tara Yeats noticed it, and Tara is also in the Connectivism course, so she very kindly sent an email out to the Second Life Cohort to let folks know I was offline. (Thanks Tara!)

Hmm, so maybe not so disconnected after all. But it was quite strange to be standing in the dark and sending out what felt like an SOS of sorts into the ether. What to say when you’re talking to.. well, anyone? Should I direct the message to my blog readers, to the Connectivism course? Without access to my online calendar, I wasn’t even sure who else I was supposed to be meeting with, so maybe it should be as general as possible? I realized I am quite weirded out by posting a voicemail to anyone who happens to hear it!

Mobile post sent by fleep using Utterzreply-count Replies.  mp3

And then a few days later I ran across a post by fellow Connectivism student Janet Clarey, who writes about my Utterz post, saying:

Chris Collins (a/k/a Fleep) sends a mobile post to her blog because she has no power and no Internet connection. She’s letting her ~2,000 online course mates (in the CCK08 course) know that she won’t be in attendance today. No biggee right? It’s no different than a voice mail sent to a group. Or is it? I think it’s significant. She’s communicating with anyone.

I’m not sure I could be as creative if I found myself without power or a connection. Perhaps that’s because Fleep seems to have several less wrinkles than I do and doesn’t carry the weight of my prior telecommunication experiences. Or maybe I’m just not cool.

See, I’d call someone even though anyone would be the better choice for learning (e.g., what was covered during her absence). She’s inviting dialogue over monologue.

Janet gives me too much credit. =) I am actually old enough to remember shared phonelines, dialing telephones, and pressing 9 to get an outside line. I’m old enough to feel awkward speaking to just anyone who happens to hear, and I’m still experimenting with and feeling out my own boundaries about what is and isn’t appropriate to broadcast out to the whole wide world. The only difference, perhaps, between Janet and myself, is that I had previously played with Utterz, had taken the time to set up the cascading automated linkages that would make that audiopost > blog > twitter chain happen, and remembered it during the blackout. But on the inside, I’m still uncomfortable both with my connectedness and disconnectedness, I still feel unsure, strangely vulnerable talking to anyone and yet discomfited when the lights were out and the PC buzz was palpably absent.

I think we’re all still learning how to be connected, how to cope with disconnection, and where our comfort level begins to stray into uncomfortable territory. One of the lessons I took from this (besides the fact that I really should have a bigger store of batteries and non-perishable food!) is that there turned out to be great value in the hour or so I spent playing with Utterz.. what a year ago when I set that up? It turned out that by connecting my blog and twitter to some new service I wasn’t even sure how to use or what to use it for would eventually come in handy. That the few minutes I spend from time to time listening to my friends’ Utterz was back there in my memory, recalled in the moment of need. Setting up connections is time consuming, and sometimes I don’t know what value, if any, it will have, but in this case, it turned out to be very handy indeed.

And it wasn’t just the technology connection that made this work, it was also the people connection. Malburns and Tara are good online friends, good citizens of our community, and good hyperconnected netizens. Who knows how many people saw/heard that post and did nothing, but Tara took the time to not only listen to the message, but then to compose a message and forward it on my behalf, completing a circuit in the chain that was NOT automated (notifying the Connectivism SL cohort) – and it was our personal relationship and connection that made that part happen, not the technology itself.

Lesson: Need batteries and better emergency stores at home – you must plan for the unexpected.

Lesson: Our electronic connections are more tenuous than they sometimes appear. The energy crisis and degrading infrastructure in the US is a Serious Issue that we need to pay more attention to.

Lesson: Keeping abreast of and playing with new online tools and ways to connect can have big payoff in the future, even if you don’t see value in it now.

Lesson: Technology facilitates many things, but it’s the people connections that ultimately save the day.

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14
Sep 08

CCK08 – Connectivism Village in Chilbo

(This post is about the Massively Online Open Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)

Cross posted from the Chilbo Community Blog:

Following the end of the very successful Chilbo Summer Fair, we said goodbye to the Ferris Wheel and fabulous rides, artworks, and projects and made way for a new three month project in Chilbo.

Connectivism Village in Chilbo

Connectivism Village - Main Gate

The Main Gate of the Connectivism Village down in the south Madhupak area of Chilbo.

This month marks the start of the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course, a Massively Online Open Course.  From the course info:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. George Siemens (SL: Whatever Russel) and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge – will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course. The course will run from September 7, 2008 to November 29, 2008 and will be fully delivered online.

Over 2000 participants from around the world have signed on to take part, and several members of the Chilbo community are fellow students, including Gann McGann,  Olando7 Decosta, Samuel Sputnik, Sine Rennahan, Tara Yeats, and Wainbrave Bernal.  The Chilbo Community is hosting the Second Life cohort of the class, and Cosimo Urbanowicz has also joined some of the early discussions and helped with the construction of the Connectivism Village down in Madhupak.

SL Cohort Wiki: http://chilbo.wikispaces.com/Connectivism+Course+in+Chilbo
SL Cohort Googlegroup: http://groups.google.com/group/connectivismSL
SL Cohort Tag: CCK08SL

Second Life Cohort Weekly Meeting Times:
Tuesdays at 11AM SLT (-7GMT)
Thursdays at 6PM SLT (-7GMT)
Sundays at 5PM SLT (-7GMT)

Purpose of the Connectivism Village

Initially, the impulse was simply to see if other students in the course who also had Second Life accounts were interested in meeting weekly in-world to discuss the Connectivism course.  Though there are many communications tools used as part of the course structure, I’ve begun to feel I haven’t really “met” someone until I’ve “seen” them – even if that meeting and seeing takes place in avatar form.  Psychologically, it seems as if I don’t feel the same level of engagement with another person through their blogs, tweets, or discussion board posts unless I’ve “met” them first, and I was interested in meeting other students in the class.

Connect - Week 1

Thursday is ladies night?  Members of the Connectivism course discuss the first week in Chilbo’s Shrubbery Amphitheatre.

But as I began to read more about Connectivism, I started to think that it might contain concepts that could be better visualized in 3D, and for SL building, the Second Life cohort would need land and prims.  After talking with folks in the community, we cleared up the Fairgrounds area and made room for a temporary Connectivism Village project that would last three months and house members of the course who needed a home base in Second Life.

Connectivism Village - Homes and Offices

Small mini-homes and offices are available for members of the Second Life Cohort of the Connectivism course for the duration of the class time.  Some students are interested in finding roomates!

The Fairgrounds area is also large enough to host some central facilities and resources for the course, to help make sense of the plethora of web based feeds, tools, readings, and course media.  The Connectivism Second Life Cohort Office will simplify the process of folks joining the cohort, and the Connectivism Reading Room contains all of the assigned weekly readings and some introductory materials for the course.

Connectivism Village - Reading Room

The Connectivism Reading Room can help students visualize course readings and discussion archives, as well as provide a place to discuss readings ad hoc through the week.

The Connectivism Course Tools Sundae Shop is a whimsical take on the somewhat overwhelming nature of the course structure.  With several websites, communication mediums, RSS feeds, and course emails, Moodle forums, Facebook, and on and on, it’s a little rough trying to figure out which tools will work for your particular needs.  The Sundae Shop is a metaphor for taking the flavors you like and sampling some of the others, not putting every choice on the sundae!

Connectivism Village - Course Tools Sundae Shop

The “Menu” of various course tools in the Connectivism Sundae Shop.

Beyond the few buildings near the plaza, however, I think it will be the Connectivism Sandbox that will hold the most interesting content of the course.  Here we can play with models, particles, sets, artwork, media.. whatever strikes our fancy as we play with the concepts of the course and learn more about Connectivism.  For those who are new to building in Second Life, visit the Ivory Tower of Primitives for a walk through, self-paced building tutorial.  The Ivory Tower is a cultural institution of Second Life and shouldn’t be missed even if you’ve learned on your own!

Connectivism Village - Overhead Map

An overhead view of the Connectivism Village in the Chilbo Community (Madhupak sim).

I look forward to seeing how the Second Life cohort of the course progresses, and I encourage anyone from Chilbo to participate or check it out!   If you have time to wander down, please say hi to any students you see too!   They are members of the Chilbo Community Building Project group and have the group tag “Chilbo Connect!”   ~  Fleep

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19
Aug 08

3 Great VW Panels @ Chilbo Summer Fair!


Cecilia Delacroix gives a poetry reading at the Chilbo Summer Fair 2008.

The Chilbo Summer Fair is well underway, with tours, rides, cultural events, and more happening every day this week!

Three upcoming panels promise to be of interest to virtual world enthusiasts:

Virtual Worlds Day Panel
Wednesday, 8/20, 3 PM SLT
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

This panel will feature a discussion about the current state of virtual worlds and how they may evolve in the future. What do we hope to see? What would be a “bad” outcome?
Moderator: Fleep Tuque
Panelists: Malburns Writer, Tara Yeats, Olando7 DeCosta


Second Life Community-Building: What We’ve Learned – Island Experience

Saturday, 8/23, 11:00 AM SLT
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

This panel is one of a pair of panels that will take a look at lessons learned that can make – or break – communities in Second Life. What’s the “glue” that holds virtual world communities together? What helps people engage? What are the challenges? What Second Life tools and features help – or hinder the process? Saturday’s panel will focus on island communities; Sunday’s panel will focus on mainland communities.
Moderator: Tara Yeats
Panelists: Sophrosyne Stenvaag, Director, Extropia Core; Fleet Goldenberg, Community Manager, EduIsland II, 5 & 6

Second Life Community-Building: What We’ve Learned – Mainland Experience
Sunday, 8/24, 12 NOON SLT
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

This panel is one of a pair of panels that will take a look at lessons learned that can make – or break – communities in Second Life. What’s the “glue” that holds virtual world communities together? What helps people engage? What are the challenges? What Second Life tools and features help – or hinder the process? Saturday’s panel will focus on island communities; Sunday’s panel will focus on mainland communities.
Moderator: Tara Yeats
Panelists: Prokofy Neva, Owner, Ravenglass; Fleep Tuque, Land Steward, Chilbo Community Building Project

Check the Chilbo wiki for the full schedule of events for the Chilbo Summer Fair, and hope to see you at these terrific panel discussions!

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16
Aug 08

Chilbo Summer Fair Begins Today!

Chilbo Summer Fair!

August 16 – August 31 – in and around Chilbo & neighboring sims

Chilbo Summer Fair

The Chilbo Summer Fair was conceived as an idea to celebrate our community – an excuse for everyone to get together and have fun and invite friends!

Please check the Chilbo Summer Fair Planning Wiki for the possible schedule changes.

Chilbo Summer Fair Scheduled Events!

August 16 – August 31 – in and around Chilbo & neighboring sims

Open throughout the Fair:

Chilbo Fairgrounds: rides and fun!
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Madhupak/15/65/65
Ferris Wheel , Go-Cart Race Track, Boat Ride, Avatar Cannonball, Skydive Ride, Bouncy Castle, The Dormouse’s Tea Party Ride

Exhibits & Builds:

Scheduled events:

Saturday, August 16

11AM SLT – Walking Tour: The History of Chilbo – Fleep Tuque
Location: Starting at the Town Hall
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/112/230/121

Join us for a walking tour of the Chilbo sim! We’ll poke into the nooks and crannies of the community, visit the places and spaces where Chilbo began, and explore the hidden treasures and artifacts of our community’s history!

12 PM SLT – FlowerBall Reception
The tour will finish up at the FlowerBall, an interactive art build that was voted one of the “Ten Best Art Installations of 2007” by New World Notes. The charming, witty, and extremely attractive co-creators Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield will be on hand to answer your questions – and hell….maybe musician Aldomanutio Abruzzo if we can get him to come by.
If you do visit, be sure to follow the annoying directions – you’ll get a much better experience if you do. Also – scripters take note: there’s a great deal of complex and interesting scripting involved in the pre-loading of the music clips that makes them play smoothly. Desdemona’s achievement is that you don’t notice all this.
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Madhupak/166/45/68


Sunday, August 17

1pm SLT – Presentation: HIV 101: What is HIV and How Does it Attack the Immune System? – Lizzette Zenovka
Location: SL HIV Education & Prevention Center
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Madhupak/130/80/60


Monday, August 18

3PM SLT – Go Kart Race – START YOUR ENGINES!!!
Location: Chilbo Fairgrounds
SLurl:

Join us for a smashing good time at the Go Kart racetrack in the fairgrounds! Contestants will compete for the best time around the track, feel free to practice ahead of time, but all scores will be reset before the race! First Prize: $1000L Second Prize: $500L Third Prize: $250L


Tuesday, August 19

4PM SLT – Poetry Reading – Cecilia Delacroix
Location: Chilbo Shells Plaza
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/80/100/116

On Tuesday evening, Poet Cecilia Delacroix will perform some of her favorite works in the Chilbo Shells Plaza. Cecilia previously gave a reading centered on a nature/seasonal theme in the Shrubbery Amphitheatre, and is memorialized there for donating the lovely backdrop of images that graces the area behind the stage. Beyond her poetry, Ceclia also enjoys wine, jazz, and running many art galleries in Islandia’s canal district in Second Life. Please join us to celebrate her latest poetry!

6 PM SLT – Virtual Artists Alliance workshop
Location: Chilbo Sandbox
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/197/20/93

Led by Rezago Kokorin, the premise of these sessions is simple: the host introduces a concept or technique that can be applied to building in Second Life, and the remainder of the session is dedicated to experimentation, using the concept or technique for artistic application. Rezago is an accomplished sculptor and photographer in both realities. The workshop sessions are very open and feature a lot of sharing of knowledge among the participants. It’s always interesting to see the variety of creations from a group of people all starting from the same point. Join us for some fun with the prims in the sandbox.


Wednesday, August 20

3 PM SLT – Virtual Worlds Day Panel – Fleep Tuque
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

This panel will feature a discussion about the current state of virtual worlds and how they may evolve in the future. What do we hope to see? What would be a “bad” outcome? Panelists: Malburns Writer, Tara Yeats, Olando7 DeCosta


Thursday, August 21

Noon SLT – How does reading inspire your virtual life? (about 50 minutes)
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

Olando7 Decosta (Roland Legrand) is not a professional philosopher, though he graduated in philosophy, but he still feels the urge to read some philosophers when he tries to make sense of his life as a Second Life resident. Olando7 will present some of his favorite thinkers in this context (Derrida, Deleuze&Guattari, Baudrillard) during 15/max. 20 minutes, and invites the audience to share their favorite philosophers and writers (also fiction!) and how reading throws some light on their virtual experiences.


Saturday, August 23

Time TBD – Second Life Community-Building: What We’ve Learned – Tara Yeats
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

This panel will take a look at some lessons learned that can make – or break – communities in Second Life. Potential focus on emerging plans for Mainland zoning and how that may impact existing communities and new ones. Panelists: TBA


Tuesday, August 26

6 PM SLT – Virtual Artists Alliance workshop
Location: Chilbo Sandbox
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/197/20/93

Led by Rezago Kokorin, the premise of these sessions is simple: the host introduces a concept or technique that can be applied to building in Second Life, and the remainder of the session is dedicated to experimentation, using the concept or technique for artistic application. Rezago is an accomplished sculptor and photographer in both realities. The workshop sessions are very open and feature a lot of sharing of knowledge among the participants. It’s always interesting to see the variety of creations from a group of people all starting from the same point. Join us for some fun with the prims in the sandbox.


Saturday August 30

Time TBA – Music in the Shrubbery – Tara Yeats/Leslee McCarey hosting
Location: Shrubbery Amphitheatre
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/167/129/109

Live performers throughout the day. Schedule to come.

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9
Aug 08

Letter to Linden Lab Re: Mainland Policies

Ad Farm Alley in Mangyeong
An ad farm along the Linden Road in Mangyeong sim seems much unchanged, despite changes in Linden Lab policies about ad farms announced seven months ago.

The Second Life community is all abuzz over a recent post from Linden Lab about upcoming changes in mainland policies. Several vocal SL bloggers have chimed in, including Gwen and Prokofy, comments on this blog, the Missing Image, and SLUniverse, in Italian, Russian, and in Germany, and reported on by New World Notes, Massively, Silicon Alley Insider, and Reuters.

Because of my professional work in Second Life, it is very rare that I publicly discuss my frustrations. I still believe that the Second Life platform is on the leading edge of the hundreds of virtual worlds (or more accurately, virtual environments) out there. I am still committed to Second Life, I pay my tier every month even though it gets harder and harder in this economy.

Griefer fireball in Chilbo
A griefer fireball in Chilbo (slightly camouflaged by our bushes) that has been sitting undisturbed for over 14 months, despite abuse reports to Linden Lab, on a parcel of land that was claimed in October 2006 by a resident who has not logged in (as far as we can tell) once in nearly two years.

I am still a committed community leader, I founded a mainland community, manage Second Life projects at work, and have taken a lead role in organizing a portion of this year’s Second Life Community Convention through the Second Life Education Community Conference.

But in light of Linden Lab’s recent blog posts, I feel compelled to speak my mind as both a citizen of this virtual world. These are my personal views and do not represent any of the professional, community, or other organizations I work with or represent.

My post to the closed forum is cited in full below:

Dear Jack,

I have invested thousands of dollars in building the Chilbo community on the mainland over the past couple years, as have others in my group, and spent countless hours of time working with mainland residents, dealing with abandoned parcels, griefers, and ad farm jerks. This is a very serious investment for me. Further, I’ve extolled the virtues of Second Life and virtual worlds to literally thousands of educators and administrators at workshops and conferences all over the US. I can’t even calculate how many residents, universities, and colleges have come into Second Life directly due to my hard (uncompensated by Linden Lab) work. I feel I have paid my dues as a Second Life resident and then some with a cherry on top.

Regarding the mainland, in the past 6 months, representatives of Linden Lab have kicked me in the teeth in several ways: they have placed abandoned parcels for public auction despite the fact that our community owns the land on three or even all four sides, at least once resulting in me paying over $20,000L for a 512m parcel because it was literally right next to our Town Hall in the heart of our community; they have worked out private deals with other residents who are NOT members of or invested in the area around Chilbo, giving them abandoned land for $1L that they then turned around and sold for extortionist prices; they have sold huge tracts of abandoned land near Chilbo through private deals rather than putting them up on auction, which were then cut up into small parcels and sold for extortionist prices; they have left griefer objects on abandoned land for literally years; and they have failed to address nearly every single ad abuse report we’ve filed despite a supposed change in policy all those months ago.

I, too, am quite skeptical that a change in mainland zoning policy will do anything but hurt honest community building groups like Chilbo, and will indeed like so many other changes, only help those who want to make a quick buck. In all my years in Second Life, I’ve always been working towards creating open, diverse, pleasant mainland communities, and no one at Linden Lab has ever bothered to take the time to look and see that our community owns land in 6 neighboring mainland sims, that our community actually uses the group tier donation model, that we ALREADY HAVE community standards but no way to enforce them, that we meet regularly to resolve our own disputes and issues, and that we are very serious and dedicated in our investment into Second Life and the mainland. They just pop in when they finally address an abandoned parcel, sometimes dole it out to someone who has a connection with them and sometimes just throw it up on public auction, and it as if our community, our hard work, and our investment of time and money doesn’t even exist. We’re left to fend for ourselves and pay through the nose if we want to try to continue to grow and keep a cohesive feel to our little tiny spot of goodwill in the anarchy of the mainland.

My suggestions:

1. Remove blanket banlines and pay-to-enter barriers from the mainland PERIOD. If you want absolute privacy, buy land on an island or eject jerks and implement individual bans. Blanket bans and pay to enter zones are the bane of mainland existence, worse than ad farms in my opinion.

2. Make the process for reclaiming land absolutely transparent so mainland communities can plan ahead and not feel subject to Linden Lab’s whims. If you don’t pay your tier after X months, your land is cleared and reclaimed automatically the very day after that period expires. 3 to 4 months is more than reasonable.

3. When a parcel is abandoned or reclaimed for lack of payment, all landowning group owners and private landowners in the sim should be notified FIRST and get FIRST SHOT at a private, closed auction. This should be relatively easy to automate. This would allow existing residents to work it out amongst themselves who wants to compete for the land. This would encourage cooperation and self governance by people who already have an investment in that region. Only after a set period of time if no existing landowner in the sim bids should that parcel then be put up for public auction. STOP ALLOWING EXTORTIONIST PROFITEERS TO BENEFIT MORE FROM LINDEN LAB POLICIES THAN GOOD HONEST COMMUNITY BUILDERS DO. IT IS THE COMMUNITIES THAT RETAIN RESIDENTS, PROMOTE PREMIUM MEMBERSHIPS, AND INCREASE USER HOURS, NOT LAND FLIPPERS.

4. Linden Lab has for years claimed that they eventually wanted to put more governance in the hands of residents since they do not have the staff or the time to resolve all disputes. So do it. Where organized communities exist, empower long-term residents with established records of good payment, good stewardship, and good relations to manage the sims instead of Linden Lab. Enforce our community-generated standards or allow us to enforce them. Whether through appointment or elections or petitions or through some other means, give community managers the ability to remove offensive ads, griefer objects, and banlines. Put your money where your mouth has been for the last 5 years.

5. Do what you say you will do. Consistently. Across the board. In a timely manner. Quit making special deals with residents who are friends of Lindens at the expense of those of us who don’t cultivate insider relationships.

A short forum or blog post can barely do justice to the injustice I feel Linden Lab has done to its best customers. I rarely ever speak of it, I keep a good public PR face, I do my best to soothe the irritation of the residents of Chilbo, newbies, teachers, and students. I am a good citizen of Second Life, but I am angry, frustrated, and distrustful of the company who repeatedly says they want to do better but somehow ends up implementing policies that make my work harder. Maybe this time will be different, but I won’t hold my breath.

Sincerely,

Fleep Tuque
Founder, Chilbo Community Building Project
Web: http://fleeptuque.com
Email: fleep.tuque@gmail.com

Chilbo Community in the Mainland of Second Life
Web: http://chilbo.org
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/112/222/121

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3
Aug 08

Educators: CCK08 – Connectivism & Connective Knowledge Course

In about a month, the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge Course will begin. From the course wiki:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. George Siemens and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge – will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course. The course will run from September 7, 2008 to November 29, 2008 and will be fully delivered online.

Course Wiki: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca:83/wiki/Connectivism
Course Blog: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/
Course Tag: CCK08

I don’t know why, but I’m really excited about this. If you have any interest at all in the future of education, and how the internet and open courseware and social media is changing what education might potentially be (higher education in particular?), I’d invite you to sign up. It’s free, it’s completely up to you how much or how little you participate or connect, and I have a feeling that this will generate some really interesting conversations.

I don’t have formal training in learning theory, I’ve only taken a few grad level courses, and I’m a bit worried that it will be over my head, but I’m hopeful that there will be room in the course for people like me who have a sincere interest but haven’t yet gone through the grad school process or haven’t taken formal classes in some of the background concepts that will be used.

Here’s a podcast where the course facilitators talk about what led to the course being offered and what they expect/think/hope will happen.

If we can work it out, the Chilbo community will host and I’ll help facilitate a Second Life cohort of the course for synchronous weekly meetings. This will probably be limited to 50 participants or so, but if you’re really interested, let me know.

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13
Jul 08

5 Years of Having a Second Life

It seems not too long ago that I was making predictions about Second Life and Education in 2008, and here we are more than half way through the year and I find myself helping organize the Second Life Education Community Conference and reflecting on SL’s fifth birthday and I’m just as involved and passionate about the future of education and virtual worlds as I ever was, maybe even more so. Lively and Vivaty made big splashes this week and the ever wonderful Dizzy Banjo released a video of the “Message in a Bottle” that he and Lillie Yifu created for the in-world birthday celebration and I can’t help but get a warm fuzzy feeling recognizing the voices of so many friends… (I’m at about 1:08 in the clip!)

My life has changed so much in the last 5 years, it’s hard to separate how much of the change was influenced by my involvement with Second Life, but I think I can say without a doubt that I owe my friend Spatch a huge debt for sending me that beta invite way back in 2003. It took some time for me to get a machine that could run SL well enough to really do anything with it, but once I did, and I had that first epiphany moment – there’s been no looking back.

Whatever the press may say, or my coworkers who make fun, or strangers who look at me oddly when I talk about what I do, I feel very, very good about my involvement with this platform and despite my frustrations with what feels like excruciatingly slow progress on the part of Linden Lab sometimes, I really can’t complain TOO much. This technology changed my life, helped me discover parts of myself I didn’t know existed, led me to people who share my passion for exploring all of this new technology not just for education in a formal sense, but in a very personal sense – as a tool for self expression, collaborative exploration, and shared experiences. Through Second Life and the people I met there, I got sucked into the blogosphere and Twitter, learned to wrestle with Photoshop and machinima, webcasting, podcasting, and managing a personal and professional network of friends and colleagues all over the world. Second Life changed my sense of time and place, and above all, what IS possible if you have a group of committed, caring, smart people who share similar goals.

Second Life hasn’t been a transformational experience for everyone who came to it, most of my old BBS crowd who started when I did have never returned, or never found a niche or a reason to come back except to stop in and visit me from time to time. But for those of us who have, whose careers changed, whose lives changed, it’s been a truly amazing journey. Just like in real life, I’m terrible at sending birthday wishes on time, but happy belated birthday to SL and thanks to all the wonderful friends who have shared in this experience with me.


8
May 08

Weblins – another transitional step to 3DWeb?

I was hanging out with @malburns and @tarayeats yesterday evening in Chilbo and we were having a wide ranging discussion of all things Second Life, Web 2.0, and virtual worlds more generally, when Malburns mentioned this cute little program at http://weblin.com. He was describing how it gives you a little avatar and you “teleport” from webpage to webpage, but I couldn’t quite grasp what he was saying until I tried it for myself.

Weblin.com homepage

This is a screenshot of the Weblin.com website, and you’ll notice along the bottom of the screen that there are a bunch of little avatars down there. Mine is in the lower right corner and hey presto, it’s actually an image of my Second Life avatar.

So in effect, you download this program and install it (doesn’t work with Macs yet), and then as you browse the web, you are represented by this little avatar and you can see the avatars of any other Weblin user if they happen to be on the same page as you. Which means, of course, that the solitary and isolated experience of browsing the web is transformed into a _social_ experience. I can pop over and see who else is checking out the CNN homepage. I can start a spontaneous conversation. I can add friends and invite them to view the web page I happen to be at. I can hang out on my OWN webpage and see who stops by for a visit and say hi.

I think this is something of a paradigm shift, and another transitional step to the fully immersive 3D Web or whatever you want to call the evolution we see happening with online social networks and virtual worlds technology.

How could this be useful for education? I’m glad you asked!

Weblins at the UC Blackboard page
University of Cincinnati Blackboard homepage, with little Weblins hanging out below.

Imagine students going to their course website to get information about an assignment, but instead of being there “by themselves” they run into a classmate who happens to be there at the same time. The visual representation of an avatar, something that indicates co-presence, opens up all sorts of opportunities for spontaneous dialogue, greater engagement with the course material, and additional network building. Imagine if the instructor popped in and was available to answer questions about the assignment on the spot, or even held “office hours” at the course website at specific times.

But wait, you’re saying, this is already possible with Instant Messenger or an embedded chatroom or any number of other tools, and of course that’s true, but the sense of _co-presence_ we keep talking about in relation to 3D immersive environments is simply not replicated in a text based chatroom environment. I can’t _SEE_ you in a chatroom. I can “see” you with a weblin. Beyond that, the chance encounter aspect, the ability to meet random other people who happen to be, for that moment, reading the same webpage that I am reading, wherever they are in the world, is something that intentional entry into a chatroom can’t replicate.

Co-presence, immersion, deeper engagement, serendipity. These are some of the keys, even if I’m not sure exactly what we’re unlocking.

Want to try it for yourself? Click this link which should take you back to my website, but this time with a little demo Weblin of your own. And maybe I’ll be around here to say hi. 🙂

(With thanks to twitter friends @iAlja and @iYan for stopping by the UC Blackboard page so I could get a good screen grab!)


30
Apr 08

Essayish: Traditional Learning Spaces in Virtual Worlds

What follows are some thoughts that have been percolating since I read Peter Ludlow’s critique of virtual campuses in Second Life (Chronicle article) back in early December (talk about a long tail, eh?) and recently re-sparked by some conversations on the SLED listserv. In any case, the question about traditional learning spaces keeps coming up, so I thought I’d address the issue head on. This is a first draft, any feedback?

Traditional Learning Spaces in Virtual Worlds
by Fleep Tuque

I have been involved with education in virtual worlds for several years now, and at discussions and conferences I often hear the question asked, “Why recreate a classroom with desks and PPT presentations in a world where anything is possible? Why create buildings with roofs and walls in a place where it never rains or gets cold?”

These are good and interesting points to consider, and certainly one of the most exciting aspects of virtual worlds is the sense of limitless possibilities they offer – we could hold class in the clouds, or on a beach, or in an environment imagined and created by the students themselves, for that matter. I think many educators hope that the flexibility and endless creativity available in virtual worlds will help us re-think and re-examine our teaching spaces and practices – not just in the virtual world, but in the real world, too. I count myself in that camp and think rigorous questioning of our teaching methods and learning spaces is very important, particularly in light of the changing landscape of knowledge production, aggregation, publication, and sharing that we’re seeing with Web2.0 technologies.

Having said that, however, I’d like to make the case for why you _shouldn’t_ scoff at the countless university islands in Second Life with traditional buildings containing traditional classrooms with traditional desks and chairs and the ubiquitous PowerPoint slide presenter. I’ll add this caveat: If in 10 years those Second Life islands still contain nothing but traditional buildings with traditional classroom spaces, then you have my permission to scoff and you should. But today, hold your scorn in check, because what you are seeing are the artifacts of learning taking place, and who of us ever gets anything perfect on the first draft?

I’ve personally introduced the concept of virtual worlds and Second Life to hundreds and hundreds of people. From my grandfather to college professors, from personal friends to strangers and students and administrators and geeks and non-geeks alike; I’ve sat through their first tentative steps, encouraged them to explore, and watched as many decided it wasn’t for them or took too much time or wasn’t far enough along yet. I’ve also watched as some smaller percentage become intrigued and stick with it long enough to cross the line into immersion, and I see patterns in what happens next – across gender and age lines, across populations with varied levels of computer and technology access, skill, and know-how, and even across cultural and national identities.

The first step for the majority of folks is to recreate what is familiar. The first spaces they create are meaningful _real world_ symbols that resonate within the context of their engagement with the _virtual world_. Teachers look for classrooms, administrators look for familiar campus landmarks, librarians want to know how to make books. Friends create houses and gardens and look for fancy cars and luxury items they don’t have in real life. My mother looks for virtual replicas of the types of furniture she wants to put in her real life sewing room.

For some people, the transitionary period seems to be much shorter – before long they tire of recreating the familiar and move on to exploring the limits of the platform; instead of recreating their house, they imagine a house in the clouds or skip the concept of a house altogether and begin building fantastic creations that simply are not possible in real life. Given enough time, and the resources and learning communities that speed learning, teachers begin to hold classes around campfires and in tree houses. They might not demolish that first traditional classroom they built, though, not yet anyway, because man that took a lot of work and there is some pride in the accomplishment and some nostalgia in remembering those early days when the virtual world was new and fun and not yet coupled to responsibility or work (for those who begin to use it seriously to teach, believe me, it’s a lot of work!). It’s the equivalent of a child’s crayon drawing that you don’t throw away, but rather hang on the fridge as a reminder of how far they’ve come.

But for others, the transitionary period takes much longer, or perhaps for their own personal reasons never happens at all – they choose to spend their time in and create for themselves spaces that are symbolic replicas of the real world. Maybe with some sparkly floating stars and a few bells and whistles not normally seen on Main Street, but for the most part they stay in spaces that evoke something you might see in the real world. My own Second Life community called Chilbo looks and feels like a small, cosy village, and we like it that way. Who are you to judge if it serves our purposes?

But to bring this back to education in particular, it seems unfairly harsh to criticize the early efforts of individuals and institutions who are exploring virtual worlds for the first time. A recognizable school building _does_ serve a purpose – it says to the newcomer “This space is intended for learning!” A classroom with desks and podium and PowerPoint projector allows a teacher new to virtual worlds to experiment with a new interface while keeping all the other variables the same. And in terms of looking at a campus space, what we see manifested in that space often is not the result of one person’s journey, but the result of a group experience, with laggards and speed demons mixed in with bureaucrats and oversight committees, and relics of past stages of learning that simply haven’t been torn down yet.

There are some imaginative and creative teachers who perhaps never built a classroom in Second Life at all, because they chafe at real life classrooms already. That’s terrific, and I hope that virtual worlds will provide a giant laboratory for us all to experiment and play and explore other possibilities, other configurations. There are some instructional designers who can extrapolate from their experiences with other technologies and immediately seize on using virtual worlds for what they are best at (co-presence, simulation, collaboration, prototyping) and leave the quizzes and notes and document repositories on their course management system, which delivers those types of content better than virtual worlds currently can. That’s terrific too, and probably results in a more effective learning experience for students as a result of their wisdom.

But for every instructor who experiments with delivering a quiz in the virtual world, one of them might stumble upon a method that IS more effective than the course management system. I haven’t seen one in Second Life yet, though the Sloodle chair that moves a student higher up in the air the more questions they answer correctly is a step in that direction, but that doesn’t mean there won’t ever be one. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t _try_ and encourage others to try.

Critiquing our and our institutions’ efforts in virtual worlds is good practice, and it is imperative that we continue to push our own boundaries and not get locked into habits or practices in the virtual world that we don’t even like in the real world (true story, I rarely use PPT in real life presentations, but find myself using them more often than not in presentations I give in the virtual world), but to instantly dismiss every replica of a traditional learning space in a virtual world without understanding the context in which it was created, the purpose and intent with which it was to be used, is not only unproductive, I think it may even be harmful. No one wants their sincere efforts to be mocked, and as teachers and educators, we shouldn’t be engaging in that kind of behavior. We should be showing alternatives, starting conversations, and experimenting with new solutions to stubborn old real world problems that we can share with our colleagues.

I’ll continue to create familiar classroom spaces for faculty who are brave enough to explore these virtual worlds with me, because my goal is to facilitate their learning, and I believe learning should be student centered – don’t you? As far as I can tell, the best way to speed that process isn’t to refuse to build a classroom with a roof, it’s to create a classroom to real life dimensions with roofs and all and let them experience bumping their head every time they try to fly. And some examples of traditional learning spaces, I hope to keep for a very long time to come. I’m very fond of the little one room school house that sits on our virtual campus, complete with desks and chalkboard. It reminds me that learning can happen anywhere, that good teaching can happen anywhere, and that we truly are pioneers in this increasingly digital, computerized, information saturated, complex virtually real world.

One room school house

To be pioneers means that many of our efforts will fail, that the development of virtual learning spaces will be iterative, and that the real world symbols of teaching and learning will take time to morph into something else even in the virtual world. I think we should be patient, take a longer view, and do some very real research into the efficacy of all sorts of learning spaces and teaching models in virtual worlds. And in the meantime, we should let people experiment with teaching and learning in whatever spaces feel the most comfortable for them, because in virtual worlds, we’re all learners – even the teachers.


24
Feb 08

Fleep’s First Machinima

Today I added 2GB of RAM and 1TB storage to my home system with a SimpleTech Duo Pro External HD in an attempt to solve my Machinima Problem – namely that Fraps kept freezing because my poor machine was steaming and I had less than 1 gig free space left. Doh.

Determined to make machinima, the RAM install went fairly well once I had the sticks paired properly and the SimpleTech drive was, well simple. Plug in and go. Yay! But the Fraps -> QuickTime Pro to convert .avi -> .mov didn’t work, had to do an intermediate step with VirtualDub which was a little annoying. Then loooong render time in QT -> upload to my blip.tv channel and if all goes well, you’ll see Fleep’s First Machinima down below.

Don’t get too excited, I’d just hit the record hotkey when Ryan came over to the plaza and we started chatting before I remembered I was recording, so it’s mostly just me fiddling with the camera HUD. Doh. Still, success??