Posts Tagged: Virtual Worlds


11
Nov 10

Creating an OpenSim Private Sandbox on Your Home PC

Confession:  It’s been so long since I logged into my blog, I momentarily forgot the password.  Yikes!

I’ve had my head buried in work, house repairs/maintenance, family stuff, and when I have spare moments – OpenSim.  I intend to write up my first try at installing OpenSim in grid mode sometime soon (I’ll skip the part about it taking a weekend to rebuild a box to use a server, hello Blue Screen of Death, not nice to see ya so often), but in the meantime, this week I walked a group of educators through the installation of OpenSim on their personal PC to create their own private OpenSim sandbox, and I thought I’d share the slides:


Note that this guide skips all of the networking configuration that would be required for someone else to log into your sim.  This is intended to be an entirely private sandbox for only your own personal use.

Why would you want that?  Well, a couple of reasons.

First, if you’re a virtual worlds or Second Life enthusiast, watching the console and seeing what’s happening on the back end when you’re rezzing a prim or changing clothes or running a script is endlessly fascinating.  It’s like seeing your virtual experience through the Matrix.  It boggles my mind to imagine what that looks like for Second Life, with hundreds of thousands of users and transactions and activity.

Second, anyone who builds or creates content in Second Life really SHOULD be able to save a local copy of their work to their personal machines.  With OpenSim you can do that, indeed, you can back up objects and whole sims, and re-import them wherever you like.  I think from this point forward, I intend not to build a single thing IN Second Life ever again – I’ll do all my creation work on my sandbox and then import it in to Second Life when it’s done.  That way I really DO own my content.

Finally, installing even the most simple instances of OpenSim gives you a new appreciation for the service Linden Lab (and Reaction Grid and InWorldz and all the other grids out there) provides.  This is not trivial stuff, and in the aggregate, it’s important to understand the sheer complexity of what running the Main Grid must be like – running your own OpenSim installation helps give you a sense of that complexity in a way that 7 years of being a Resident did not.

I hope the tutorial is helpful and I’d encourage you to give it a try even if you consider yourself to be a “non-techie” sort.  It’s strange and disorienting to find your poor Ruthed self on a little island all alone, but it’s also.. enchanting and exicting to know it’s your very own world to do whatever you like.

What will you create for yourself?  Go find out!


27
Mar 10

Governance in Virtual Worlds

On Friday, March 26th, I participated in the Governance in Virtual Worlds 2010 conference sponsored by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and World2Worlds.  The conference description:

Virtual worlds and online games are used by millions of people around the world for recreation, corporate and academic conferencing, formal education, research, training and charitable work. These worlds have given rise to public-policy issues, both ancient and cutting edge. Governance in Virtual Worlds will provide an exploration of these issues by professors, journalists, corporate managers and community activists. Learn what it means to be an active citizen, a creative producer, and a savvy customer, and meet the people shaping policy for the worlds of the future.

Now, I’ve attended a LOT of conferences, conversations, symposia, discussions, and other such things revolving around virtual worlds, but I must commend John Carter McKnight, Adjunct Professor of Law at  Arizona State University for putting together a truly excellent group of panels.  (And I’m not just saying that because I was on two of them!)   Though the conference was plagued with technical issues at the beginning, which happens sometimes, the panels sparked good conversations (and sometimes heated debate)  and it was the first time in a while I heard some new ideas that made me stop in my tracks and think, “Oh, yeah.  Why aren’t we talking about that?”

John Lester (formerly Pathfinder Linden) Gives Keynote Opening Address

For long time SL peeps, one of the highlights of the conference was John Lester‘s keynote opening address.  Formerly known as Pathfinder Linden, who did much to promote the education and health care communities in world, John appeared as his original avatar from the SL beta (the first one!) days, Count Zeeman.  John’s keynote was unfortunately one of the ones marred by the technical challenges, but he talked about the biological responses that humans have to our virtual experiences.  He gave an example of a teacher who brings her students in world and right off the bat has them jump off a mountain.  The students feel fear, vertigo, and all these physical reactions, they don’t know if they’re (their avatar) is going to die, they don’t know what to expect.  The physical reactions we experience in virtual spaces are due to our brains having evolved to think in, navigate in, and respond to 3D data, we have entirely natural responses to 3D cues, it activates our lymbic system just as if we were standing on a physical mountain.  Ok maybe to a lesser degree, still.  🙂

Of course, we’re missing key components of physicality in virtual worlds, particularly the non-verbal cues of body language, posture, etc.  John reminded us Snow Crash fans that in Stephenson’s novel, the thing that made the metaverse take off was when it incorporated the natural body language of those who were jacked in, so we’re not yet at a point where I yawn in real life and my avatar yawns as well, but that’s where we’re headed.

I’m not sure if this was just my take or John’s, but there was some conversation that augmented reality is likely to top into the mainstream before virtual worlds, since handheld devices are already ubiquitous and the super-smart-phone genre like Droids and iPhones are becoming more commonplace and affordable.  John mentioned the augmented reality windshield GM prototyped that I tweeted about the other day (woe the day our windshields get hacked!) and we talked about a future where our HUDs were not just on the screen but in our contact lenses.  Good stuff!

In terms of governance of virtual spaces, the issue is that our current system of laws and courts are processes that move so exquisitely slowly, and yet the pace of technological change is accelerating at an ever faster pace.  How are we to govern spaces that our current systems are not even remotely equipped to understand, let alone arbitrate?  And that, of course, was the key question of the conference.  It was great to see John and despite the audio glitches, it was great to see him in world again.

Keynote Panel:  The Politics of Virtual Engagement

Next up was the keynote panel, which also had a rocky start on the technical end (again, not the fault of the conference organizers!) and I didn’t get to show my slides so I’ll embed them here:

I’d hoped to talk about how we can look at the small scale governance issues already cropping up at the institutional level, like in higher education, and then extrapolate how those issues will affect the larger ecosystem of institutions participating in virtual world spaces, but the tech issues got our timing and things off to a rocky start, so I’m not sure how much came through.   In any case, the “Politics of Virtual Engagement” at my university are just one example of many, but I think there are lessons to be learned.  For example, virtual world evangelists and people like me trying to introduce the concept of virtual worlds to academia have to have a deep knowledge of our institutional culture.  The needs of our student population are different than the needs of faculty, which are again different from the needs of administrators and staff.   The trick is trying to weave those needs together into virtual spaces and experiences that tap into what can only be done in virtual worlds or that virtual worlds do better than other platforms. People have to see how this technology meets their needs before it can scale up.  This is as much true for every other domain – business, non-profits, online communities – as it is for higher education.

And the questions and issues raised by the students, faculty, and staff at the University of Cincinnati are likely to be echoed across the spectrum of institutions who move into virtual worlds.    This technology forces us to renegotiate long standing and entrenched boundaries that DO exist in the physical world, but are highly permeable in the virtual world.   What can we learn from early adopters who are already negotiating these shifting boundaries to make it easier for the early majority?

I also think virtual worlds expose the limits of our creativity and imagination in ways that are.. somehow less obvious in the physical world.  Give a teacher the freedom to work in any kind of learning environment they can imagine rather than a traditional classroom, and you’re bound to get some blank stares.   And who can blame them!  They aren’t accustomed to having that kind of freedom and flexibility, and conceptualizing the actual SPACE in which learning takes place is not in their knowledge domain because in the physical world, someone else designs the classrooms.  And it isn’t just teachers, students, staff – it’s also me!  The plasticity of virtual worlds gives us tremendous freedom to create settings and experiences that can’t be replicated in the real world, but our imaginations are not yet caught up to the possibilities this technology makes possible.

I feel that way even after participating in virtual environments for over 15 years at this point.  Every day something new shakes my world and hints at possibilities I hadn’t even considered.  It’s fascinating stuff.   And I think in the long term, all the other issues – who owns your data, privacy issues, conflicts over copyright and IP – these issues don’t have simple black and white answers, the inter-relationships forming between individuals and individuals, and individuals with institutions, and institutions with institutions, and scaling all the way up to encompass the global digital community and ecosystem, these things are so complex, and emerging and evolving so quickly, I just can’t imagine that our existing institutions will survive in anything resembling their current forms.   I guess we’ll see!

Real Laws in Virtual Space

There were two speakers in the next panel who made a lasting impression on my overwhelmed brain.  Joshua Fairfield, Associate Prof of Law at Washington and Lee School of Law, and Gregory Lastowka, Professor at Rutgers School of Law.   This post is already getting long, so I’ll sum up quickly.  Joshua’s main point was that we are spending an awful lot of brain cycles worrying about how RL law is going to impact virtual worlds, and not enough time thinking about how the rules of virtual worlds would be horrific if implemented in RL. Good point!  From my quickly jotted notes as he was speaking:

Imagine IP licenses embedded in our toaster, our clothing, our cars, as we do have constraints on our use of virtual property. What then?   On privacy, we all know from the Bragg case sued Linden Lab, LL has ALL communications from people in world, all IMs, they were able to pull up IMs from years before.. All of those convos can be sometimes must be made available without a search warrant, no probably cause required. The essential irony – we go to escape and are under constant surveillance. Cell phoen tracks you through GPS whereever you go.  So the question is, are we losing our personhood?  Personhood, once property and privacy are in trouble, personhood will follow. We are a social network in our selves, the social networks we use are coming to OWN that tangle of connections that we are. We will hand over our personhood when all aspects of our behavior, posessions, creations, and communications are owned by .. someone else.

Gregory Lastowska’s talk was also good, again my raw notes:

Virtual Worlds as a separate jurisdiction.. virtual law as separate rules of physical jurisdiction. Play spaces are governed by a separate set of rules, we can look at different human societies, say the rules pertaining to education, religion, or family, they are sort of “special spheres” of human interaction, so there may be some precedent for game worlds, but that isn’t the trend we’re seeing, the courts are treating them just like web sites, so not seen as separate sites of jurisdiction which may not always be the right way. David Post, Jefferson’s Moose, hypothesize different laws for cyberspace. If we were to look at the internet and copyright law, we never would have developed our copyright law as we did because much of it doesn’t WORK as applied to the internet, the net is constant copying, every microsecond there are violations, and when it comes to financial importance, lawsuits, Napster etc. you see the general trend is to limit the growth of the technology in order to serve the copyright law, and that seems ,.. not good.

SO – if this were a separate space, what kind of law would we have?

Second the point on augmented reality, separate from VW issues? We will see some issues from VW will also be issues with augmented reality, primarily the difference between the customer/client and the owner/server operators, as we move towards cloud computing, balance between tech and law, Lessig’s Code..

Got interrupted, work phone call.  Then a meeting and I missed some of the next panels.  Bummer.  🙁

Virtual Self Governance

The last panel was about how communities existing in virtual worlds govern themselves, and I was really excited to talk about my own virtual community, Chilbo, in this setting.   Here are my slides from that presentation:


Now strangely, it seemed that one of the other panelists was upset that I had slides, that I talked specifically about how the Chilbo Community formed and was governed, and especially that my last slide invited people to visit and explore our town.  Frankly, I thought that’s what everyone on the panel was going to do, per the instructions I received from the conference organizers, so I’m not sure exactly where the miscommunication occurred.   If I wasn’t supposed to talk specifically about Chilbo, then I’m not sure what the point of the panel was!  Further, the other panelist also seemed to disbelieve my statements about our experience.  I didn’t expect any of the content I presented to be .. inflammatory or controversial, rather I thought the point of the discussion was to talk about some of the specifics of how different in world communities form, govern themselves, and use the tools and platforms to self-organize.

Perhaps I misread the tone of the other panelist, but I felt distinctly defensive after a bit.  As hard as it may be to believe, yes, we do actually mostly govern by consensus and no, acrimony, arguments, and strife are not very common – in fact, it’s quite rare.  That isn’t to say there are never any disagreements, just that differences of opinion or conflicting interests seem to be resolved with little fanfare and few fireworks.  I confess, I know very little about the inner-workings of CDS.  I’ve very pointedly made an effort to let the structure and processes of governing Chilbo evolve out of our specific culture, community, and needs, rather than trying to emulate or model it after something else – because in some sense, though human communities are obviously not new, the thing that IS new is the who’s, why’s, and how’s of how we have all come to be together in this particular virtual world, in this particular region, at this particular time.   Though as Rose Springvale said, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel (a good point!), I think we also have to give ourselves the freedom to imagine new ways of self-governing to break out of systems of governance that were developed in a pre-digital age.

In any case, I’m not suggesting that the Chilbo model is perfect for everyone and maybe wouldn’t work for any community but our own, and it isn’t even as if I understand exactly how or why it seems to be as successful as it is at constraining the discord that often appears in online communities, but for whatever reason, it seems to be working for us on a lot of levels, and so my goal was to share about our experience.  That really shouldn’t have offended anyone’s sensibilities, I don’t think.

Overall, I felt it was a great conference and I was sorry to have missed a couple of the panels, but I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did and many thanks to all the folks who organized, attended, and participated.


10
Feb 10

On Fear of Blogging: Optimist: Speaking with your Digital Voice: Part 1

This is one of those self-indulgent, reflecting on my own blogging posts, so if you hate that sort of thing, stop reading now.

Wherein the Optimist Wins the Internal (Eternal?) Debate:  To Blog or Not To Blog

A friend and I recently got into a heated debate about blogging.  The context isn’t important so much, but it made me reflect a bit about my own blogging.   (Though I do wonder if I am alone in thinking that sites like Slashdot and the DrudgeReport – no matter how they may have started – are not “blogs”. They are or have become news sites, and news sites are not the same thing as blogs, in my mind.)

What is a blog anyway?

First, I had to separate out what _I_ do that I consider to be blogging.  Is Twitter a blog?  People say it’s a “micro-blog” but it rarely feels that way to me.  It feels more like a group IM conversation with an archive instead of a reflective piece of writing.  I think my core definition of blog includes that – a reflective piece of writing is a main feature of the vast majority of blogs.  It may reference other sites, it may incorporate different kinds of media, but the essence of the “web log” is a person logging their thoughts, experiences, results, art, images, whatever documentation that can be submitted to the “web log” system, so that others can learn and share from our experiences, so we can learn from the experiences of others, and so we can contribute some part of ourselves to .. well, the world – the world wide web log system, the internet, the metaverse – whatever you want to call it.

This is my blog.  This is where, when I can, from time to time, I try to share something of interest to the world.  Whoever’s listening, whoever’s reading, whoever shares a passion for the same things I do – here’s the stuff I’m working on.  I’m trying to “web log” my work, parts of my life, parts of my family, parts of me.  I don’t get as much time to do it as I wish I could, I’m not nearly as skilled at all the different forms of media as I wish I were, and I often self-consciously worry terribly about what people will _think_ of what I say or what I do – but I want to try to share my stuff with people who might care, and I want to have a web log for myself, so I can go back and reflect on what I’ve said, reflect on how my views have changed, or remember why it was that I chose some path that didn’t work out at all like I intended.

A “blog” to me is personal.  This blog is personal.

And in this age of .. such rapid change, with all notions of privacy being challenged, of a time in my life when I wear so many hats I couldn’t print a business card that would fit, when my work (which I personally define as attempting to study and help provide answers to the questions:  What’s happening on the internet and particularly in that part of the internet they call “virtual worlds”?  What implications does it have for education and for society as a whole? What or which of these tools are most effective for teaching, learning, sharing ideas, and instigating positive change?) is studying a rapidly, constantly dynamic phenomenon that I can only study by doing and being involved in to understand the technology well enough to study it..  What part of my life or my work is personal?

Isn’t ALL of it personal?

Is that a stupid question?

Why teachers, professors, and educators should blog

I try in my workshops to talk about how a technology can be used, for teaching, for personal discovery and learning, for organizing distributed workforces or volunteers, for communicating with constituents – but essentially, I don’t know if any of it makes sense until you’ve done it yourself – for yourself.  It’s hard to understand the real power of a “web log” until you’ve done it and seen how much it improves your own learning.

For every instructor or faculty member who has asked the question – why would _I_ want to blog?  That would be my answer.   We talk about experiential learning, and reflective writing, and all the appropriate buzzwords, but in terms of a tool that really truly enhances and promotes experiential, self-reflective learning, I almost can’t think of a better tool than a blog.  Telling a story, to yourself or someone else, and creating or finding the media, creating the narrative, and sending it .. out there, into the big world of all the people in the world having a conversation or sharing in the big web log system, is, frankly, a thrilling experience.  Or it can be, it should be.  The ability to create something, share something, document some part of your experience, communicate with others who share your passions, create an archive for yourself to learn from too – it’s journaling in the 21st century.  All of the great forebears of science, philosophy, and human knowledge recorded their experiences, publishing research is the heart of academia, and the web simply provides a better way to do it.

The “blog” – no matter how far they stretch the term in the media – is a reflective piece of writing that exists for its own sake or ties together all of the elements of an “entry”  that is thrust into the global web log system of human knowledge.  When you put it out there, you’re talking to everyone, anyone.  You’re talking to the person who is reading it now, and the person who will read it tomorrow, and all the people who will read it in the future to come.

What do you have to share with the world of now and the world of tomorrow?  What do your students have to share?

Education, at its core, is about training people to think rigorously.  It is about teaching people how to distinguish between signal and noise, correlate data, understand cause and effect, think broadly about the implications of our choices, and contribute something meaningful to society as a result of this training.

Speaking with your Digital Voice

To me, this is the beauty of blogging, of twittering, of connecting..  Watching the “web log” and learning from it, seeing my experiences echoed in it, recognizing and appreciating the art in it, applying what I take from it (to my own life and to my work), these things make blogging and participating in the conversation worth the investment of time.  The reward, the return, is enormous.  The power of finding the information I need or want when I need or want it, of finding the people I need or want when I need or want to talk to them, running across information I didn’t even know I needed – this stuff has changed how I work, how effective I can be, how many people I can reach, teach, learn from – it allows me to be my own teacher, my own guide, and still find the wisdom and the guidance from others whenever I am receptive and ready to learn from them.

Podcasting, videos, virtual worlds, blogging, twitter, social networks, social media, wikis, YouTube, they’re all elements of the same thing – using your digital voice to speak.  It is simply another mode of human communication, one with many implications for changing society in the future, and every student, and every teacher, should learn to speak with their digital voice.  When you do, the results of what you share are better indexed, searched, and located, which allows others to find you and you to find each other so that between you – between us – we can do a better job of.. whatever it is we want to do (or need to do).

Using our Digital Voice to Solve Real (Big) Problems

The people of the world seem to agree – global warming is real.  The people of the world seem to agree – solving the energy crisis is one of the great challenges of our time.  The people of the world seem to agree – giving every child an opportunity to live, grow, and learn in safety is a priority.  The people of the world seem to agree – actually on quite a number of things.  And what we disagree about, what we argue and debate about, the choices we make in our real lives as a result of our experience or nature or knowledge – the web log system is one way we are working it out and looking for answers, looking for solutions, or maybe just the right questions.

Everyone I know these days is saying and thinking, “There has to be a better way of doing things.  The world seems like a mess.”   We, as a people, have unprecedented power to reach each other, learn from each other, and work together using our digital voices.  Why aren’t we using it to solve the big problems ourselves?  Why does it seem everyone is waiting for Them to come up with the answers?  Institutions, governments, NGOs, charities, your boss, the board, the People In Charge.

I’ll ask again – why aren’t we solving the big problems ourselves?

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that not enough people with not enough of the right skills know how.  I don’t know how, myself, I’m trying to learn.  I’m trying to understand how my own actions help or diminish my own cause(s), I’m trying to understand how best to leverage my time and my resources to help solve common problems – or is that ridiculously naive?

A Bad Addiction or Addicted to Empowerment?

Maybe I’m just addicted to the fire-hose, watching the next generation’s version of the boob tube on endless repeat except there’s no repeat – just a steady stream of fresh data, fresh experiences, fresh laughter, fresh music, fresh conversation, fresh opportunities, fresh challenges.. all of the stimulation, freedom, creativity, joy, efficacy, acceptance, and .. empowerment.. that I feel quite denied in the “real world”.

I can’t afford to drive all over and pay for concerts.  I don’t have the right credentials to help plan cities or communities or spaces in the real world.  I don’t have the right wardrobe to attend certain kinds of functions.  I don’t have the capacity to hop-skip around the world to meet a colleague for coffee and chat when I have time.  But I can do all of these things online.  I can practice at any number of things that relate to people, to creating, to  planning, to experimenting.. with virtual things instead of physical things.  Virtual resources are, electricity permitting, infinite.  Time is not.  Talent is not.  But if I need to get people together to help me solve a problem, or create a community, if we collectively are going to solve the really big challenges of our time, I’m more convinced than ever that we’ll need our digital voices to do it.

That’s my optimistic answer for why you should blog, why I should blog, why my mom should blog, why teachers should blog.  I dunno if that’s right though. The pessimist wins some days.


12
Nov 08

Superstruct: Inventing the Future – 2019

Screaming 3D Bootstrapper Csven Concord had been pinging me for weeks about the Superstruct game organized by the Institute for the Future. I finally got a few hours to take a look at it and was stopped cold at the very first mission of the game: describe yourself in the year 2019. Not a fantasy you, but you you, where you think you might actually be. It took me three days just to accomplish mission #1 to make my profile.

My efforts to get into the Superstruct mindset were somewhat hampered by the technology being used. Not sure if it’s just my PC or that I’m using the FF3 browser, but I continually have to relog into the site over and over just to navigate around (is it not tracking cookies properly or what?) and the framing they use makes it hard to grab direct links to specific content. With some trial and error, I finally got to Cven’s Screaming 3D Bootstrappers Superstruct page, and managed to add myself to the S3DBers wiki page, and saw a call for help under the heading “Young Farmer’s Outreach”:

Request: “we need 3d VR environments that mimic the reality of a farm/ranch so that our young farmers can share their skills”

So the idea is that it is the year 2019, and five major superthreats are having devastating effects on human populations. To play the game, you create or join Superstructs (groups) to address one or any of these threats by using your unique talents, resources, and perspective to generate ideas, stories, videos, websites, pictures, or anything else that helps us imagine how life would really be in that situation and what solutions might really work to address the problems we face in this fictional reality of 2019.

In my imaginary 2019, the Chilbo Community has grown tremendously into a large, global community in the metaverse. To deal with the Ravenous superthreat – where major disruptions in the global food supply chain threatens the world with starvation and lack of healthy, nutritious food – the Chilbo Community has established a virtual garden to allow farmers and scientists from anywhere in the world to help people learn to grow their own gardens. In this fictional world of 2019, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ReDS) has also forced many cities and populations into Quarantine, so the Chilbo Community Garden might be especially useful for those stuck in quarantine zones where access to food supplies may be dwindling. By using virtual world technologies to connect people who cannot visit one another in real life, we can spread information about sustainable farming to a larger audience, use the 3D modeling capabilities of virtual worlds to create roleplay scenarios, display equipment and demonstrate techniques, and reach populations who are isolated because of possible contagion.

To flesh out this idea, I worked with some Chilbo residents to actually build out this garden in the Chilbo Nature Preserve in Second Life, and recorded a machinima clip to “report” on our progress in the year 2019. This is only the second machinima I’ve ever made, so pardon the amateur execution.

When I think about the future of education, I wonder why we don’t spend more time doing THIS kind of work. I wonder if we’re teaching students the skills they need to really evaluate information on the web in context. For example, in the process of “playing” this game, I came across the ReDSNet Project website. Now, this website is so well done, so realistic, it would be easy to think ReDSNet was real. How many students would have the skills to read for content AND context and eventually discover that this is a fictional website? How many students would have the creativity or skillset to create a fictional website that was so convincing? How can we use these types of .. roleplay scenarios to build digital literacy skills that really WILL be useful in the year 2019?

I wish I’d had more time to spend on the Superstruct game/concept. It was really a fascinating, thought provoking exercise. And even if the machinima still doesn’t make any sense to anyone but me, I enjoyed the experience, I spent some time seriously thinking about my own future and where I _want_ to be in 11 years, I got an excuse to practice my machinima skills, and I strengthened some bonds in my network, personal and professional. Quite an accomplishment for some crazy collaborative game on the intarnets that I only had a few hours to play.


24
Oct 08

08A_15COMM429: Video Games Better Than Real Life?

This post is for Prof. Jenning’s Communication & Technology class. If you want to comment, please comment back on the class blog so Prof Jennings sees it! – Fleep


19
Sep 08

CCK08 – Suggested Reading & Collage About Education in Second Life

(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 2000 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.)

Suggested Reading for CCK08 & CCK08SL

Not that those of us in the CCK08 course don’t have plenty to read and keep up with already, but I’ve received quite a number of questions about the Second Life cohort of the Connectivism class. If you aren’t sure what Second Life is, what virtual worlds are, or why they might be applicable in a connectivist context, I think Sarah Robbins-Bell‘s article Higher Education as Virtual Conversation might be a good text to read.

She writes:

We know that the demographics of Facebook, Digg, Fark, and World of Warcraft are the same as the general demographics of college/university students. So, why don’t we see the same levels of participation in the social media that are used in the classroom (typically, learning management systems) as are evident in the social media that students engage in voluntarily? I think the problem is that our pedagogy often isn’t ready for an increase in conversation.

She goes on to examine the specific characteristics of virtual worlds and how they are manifested in the Second Life platform, a good primer for those who aren’t familiar with it, and continues with an analysis of how these platforms can facilitate an increase in conversation and dialogue – between and among students, students and instructors, and students and the world. More than just conversation, she demonstrates how they can be used to facilitate active and participatory knowledge making (and some things we SHOULDN’T do in virtual worlds that can shut down that kind of knowledge making).

A persistent world offers persistent learning opportunities. It is up to the instructor and the student to define and explore what kind of activities will be useful for the learning goals of a particular course, but it’s possible that many of those goals can be accomplished in the community at large rather than in a delineated space intended for “learning.”

Second Life Education Multimedia

If it’s still hard to imagine what kinds of educational projects are taking place in Second Life, Claudia L’Amoreaux (SL: Claudia Linden) gave a keynote yesterday at the Holland Open 2008 conference in Amsterdam, accompanied by this beautiful and rich Vuvox collage called “Open Mind”. Take the time to explore it, it contains many types of embedded media.

Hopefully a few minutes with these resources will give some sense of what the Second Life cohort is on about in the Connectivism course.

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19
Sep 08

EDUCAUSE Review: Back to (Virtual) School

I’ve been a bit deluged this week with last minute preparations as the start of the new school year approaches, but I wanted to take a moment to post about the September/October 2008 issue of EDUCAUSE Review.

EDUCAUSE Review

If you have any interest whatsoever in virtual world technology and how it is being used for education, I highly recommend taking a look at this issue. I felt so honored to have been asked to contribute an article (Looking to the Future: Higher Education in the Metaverse), but feel even more so now that I’ve had a chance to read all of the contributions by my colleagues. They write about theoretical and practical questions we all should be asking, describe a wide variety of use-cases across many disciplines, and give us thought provoking glimpses of what the future may hold, as both teachers and students, individuals and institutions. It’s good stuff!

land iguana

I should also mention the web bonus section that includes several examples of works in progress, including a spot about the University of Cincinnati’s Galapagos Islands project in Second Life that I’m working on, as well as projects that I frequently tour with faculty in my workshops, such as the NMC Campus, Genome Island, and the University of Michigan’s Wolverine Island.

It’s really great to see the work of so many friends and colleagues highlighted – especially when I know how much effort, thought, and preparation has gone into their projects – and I hope it will inspire other educators to take the plunge into this fascinating and complex space.

Many thanks to all who lent their support and advice when I was wrestling with my contribution!

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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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14
Aug 08

Hype Cycle and James Paul Gee “Building Worlds”

Gartner Emerging Tech Hype Cycle – August 2008

Virtual World News alerted me to Gartner’s latest “Emerging Technology” Hype Cycle analysis, and I was a bit surprised to see where they placed public virtual worlds, particularly in relation to Web 2.0 and wikis.

Gartner shows wikis far out in front of Web 2.0 generally and Web 2.0 and public virtual worlds neck and neck. I don’t think I agree with that analysis if applied to an educational context. Based on my experience in the field, I’d have put Web 2.0 and wikis much closer together and before the peak of Inflated Expectations, and put virtual worlds even further behind. I’ve added some other educational technology markers for comparison (again, this is based on my own “anecdata”).

Where would you put these markers based on your experience?

RezEd Interview with James Paul Gee

If you’re involved in education and virtual worlds and haven’t yet joined RezEd, take a minute to do so now. They’re creating not only a really terrific community, but also a very rich repository of resources, information, interviews, and best practices. SLEDcc has a group that you can join, but I’ve been very impressed with the quality of their podcasts and best practices guides.

James Paul Gee - image courtesy http://rezed.org

James Paul Gee - image courtesy http://rezed.org

This week they interviewed James Paul Gee, author of the seminal book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (a must read). In the interview, he discusses how video games and virtual worlds can be used to help address some of the major deficiencies in modern educational systems – letting learners produce the lesson content instead of just “taking it in” and how virtual worlds help kids develop complex literacies through experiential and situated learning. Good stuff!

Podcast is 23 minutes long, and is worth the listen.

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5
Aug 08

Thought for the Day: Secret Worlds

Image courtesy of xkcd comics.