Monday, December 15, 2008

About Connectivism

The simple Common Craft style video below provides a clear explanation of connectivism. I believe it's an important learning theory for educators everywhere to understand in this digital age. I first heard the term some time ago and remember googling and reading the wikipedia entry. Then I read this article by George Siemens titled "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. The quote below is from a paragraph in the conclusion of the article.
Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.

And here is an ELI Podcast session from Jan 2008 titled "Connectivism" presented by George Siemens. Would love to see comments on this. How important is this theory? How valid?

The Networked Student

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TED Talks: Philip Rosedale: Second Life, where anything is possible

This video from TED Talks is worthwhile for those wanting to better understand Second Life and virtual worlds. I'm linking to it rather than embedding it here because the comments on the TED Talks page are worth reading.

Rosedale makes some strong statements at the end of the video on how he believes that virtual worlds are the future of the Internet. That's still difficult for most of us to imagine. Research reports projecting significant growth in virtual worlds over the next few years have been published by Strategy Analytics and Gartner . This blog post "The Future of Internet Is Virtual Worlds. Or Is It?" takes an opposing viewpoint.

I personally don't know whether virtual worlds will be the future of the Internet. Seems it would be awfully difficult to predict with how quickly technology is developing/changing. But I do believe virtual worlds will have an important part in the future of education. Those in higher education can take a look at my post on the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Educause on virtual worlds.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Interview with UIUC GSLIS Student on Librarians and Second Life

A UIUC graduate student, Sue Bergren (Sue Karillion in SL), wrote yesterday asking if she could interview me for a paper she was writing as part of a practicum in SL this semester. She explained that she had attended my online presentation at the Virtual Librarian Conference , was reading my blog and had some questions. I was glad to answer as it caused me to reflect on what I've been doing and where I'm headed. Thanks, Sue!

How can librarians provide value in a virtual world? - As a librarian, what do you do in SL? - Would you give me some examples of what you do?
I think we need to keep our eyes on the mission of our libraries and work to that end while in Second Life (SL), and by doing so we will provide value.

I am an academic librarian and according to my library's mission statement we are "to support the instructional programs and research activities of our institutions by providing access to information in a variety of formats, and to provide instruction in the use of traditional and new information resources and technologies." I see SL as many things, including another format of information. Most everything I do as a librarian in SL lines up with my library's mission statement.

As a librarian I do a variety of things in SL. This past summer I assisted a professor from my institution in teaching his first class in SL. I researched the best resources for helping his students to get started in SL and then included those in a wiki we developed for his class. I was given a skydeck to develop above some land we leased and went about setting up an office building with resources I felt would be helpful for his students. I created tutorial posters and an informational display on education in SL. Most importantly, I assisted students with their information needs in much the same way I assist students needing help with library databases. I met with students and the professor inworld when requested and built strong relationships with all.

Finally, I collaborate with other librarians inworld and volunteer on the reference desk at Info Island International once per week. The professional development and networking potential (global networking at that!) was something I did not immediately value and which I now find to be incredibley valuable. A whole new world has opened up for me. I've always wanted to travel and meet others from around the country and the world. Not only do I do that in SL, but we share and collaborate in ways that simply are not possible in 1st life. I attend information literacy discussions 2-3 times a month on Infolit iSchool Island hosted by Univ of Sheffield faculty/lecturer, Sheila Webber. I attend professional association meetings without putting a dent in my university's travel budget. I meet, work and play with librarians and educators from around the world on a regular basis. Sometimes when I leave these meetings I walk away ( or teleport usually) and think about events I've attended in 1st life. Events/conferences for which I spent money for travel and paid to attend, and I marvel that my experiences attending events inworld tend to be as good and many times better. I learn and grow in Second Life.
(Click the small square w/arrows in right corner to enlarge & see descriptive info and again to go back.)

How long have you been using SL? - Why did you choose SL over some of the other virtual worlds?
I have been in SL since June 2006, but was not very active at all during my first year. SL was less developed at that time, there were fewer orientation options, and I struggled with learning the technology. I did, however, see the potential and as an early adopter I kept going back until I eventually became comfortable.

I chose SL over other virtual worlds because it is currently the most developed, especially in the area of education. This may change with the many VWs in development. I explore other VWs at times and work to keep abreast of VW developments.

What are your plans for the future?

Now that I'm known at my university as the "SLibrarian," I am the go-to person for anyone who has questions on SL from profs to students to administrators. I will continue to do my best to assist with any questions/needs they may have regarding this newer technology.

I am also working in SL with other librarians on ways we can best work to serve others and each other in SL. I belong to the American Librarian Association (ALA) group in SL as well as the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) group in SL.

I am currently working on a project that involves creating inworld educational subject guides using an inworld/outworld tool called Sloog. In the same way that librarians create subject guides for web resources, there is a growing need for such guides inworld. I hope to share about this project at an ACRL in SL meeting in the near future and recently lead a discussion on Infolit iSchool Island on this topic.

Lastly, I am working on a couple of other non-profit ventures in SL. There are so many opportunities to be involved inworld, I find it can be difficult to say no to some of them. SL is an excellent way for early adopter librarians to keep abreast of emerging technologies and to take a lead role in the brave new vitual worlds of our future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

An early morning tweet led me to this and it's really worth a look.
From the Center for Social Media website The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education
This guide identifies five principles that represent the media literacy education community’s current consensus about acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials, wherever and however it occurs: in K–12 education, in higher education, in nonprofit organizations that offer programs for children and youth, and in adult education.
And here is yesterday's Chronicle post on this. It will be interesting to see how folks respond. I've only scanned the guide but I think the info shared in the video below makes a lot of sense. Though it sure can be difficult to make everyone happy when it comes to copyright & fair-use...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Digital Storytelling? Look to Second Life

Today is my day off and I have a long to-do list (and this blog post was not on it). Included on my list was to attend a Metanomics Series interview at NMC campus in Second Life from noon-1pm. I did that and for the first part a woman named Alanagh Recreant shared about UTHANGO Social Investments and Virtual Africa in Second Life.

Of course links were shared to further information on Virtual Africa, which I decided to check out. One thing led to another and before long I found this video which I feel compelled to share. There is a 2 plus minute segment in this video on Virtual Africa. But that's not why I'm sharing this, though worthwhile. I'm sharing because this video is very well done and an example of yet another educational use of virtual worlds. From the website:
"Life on Life" is a 13-minute docu-narrative produced inside the virtual reality platform SecondLife, composed of vignettes narrating one avatar's path through her first year in the metaverse. From magical safaris and artificial lifeforms to hackers and virtual suicide bombers, the real world plays itself out around her in virtual space, and Life passes through with hope and wonder intact! The film explores an intersection of the first and virtual worlds--the drawbacks and the potential.
"Life on Life" has been accepted to the Cambridge Int'l Film Festival, UK, had a scene screened on, and has been promoted by the virtual worlds projects and presses: Orange (France Telecom), Dancing Ink Productions, Babel News, Koinup, Rockcliff University, New World Notes and Thank you to each of these!

I've been interested in digital storytelling since attending the SLEDCC 2008 Conference in Second Life (SL) this past September. The session where I was introduced to digital storytelling in SL was related to work being done by Peggy Sheehy (SL: Maggie Marat) and others with teens in Teen SL. Their work incorporates a broader array of media than the narrative video above. I never did blog about this experience, partly because I couldn't quite figure out how to articulate the impact it had on me. It turns out she and others presented at other conferences during the past summer and a blogger (and SL friend of mine) Chris (SL Topher Zwiers) wrote an excellent post on this on his MUVE Forward blog titled "Ramapo Islands: Quality Learning in Second Life."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The ALA, Libraries and Second Life

The American Library Association Virtual Communities and Libraries Membership Initiative Group (ALA VCL MIG) is pleased to announce its first ALA SLymposium to be held in the virtual world of Second Life(SL) on ALA island on Saturday November 8. There is no charge for the event. I'm posting here to encourage library workers to register and attend.

The recent growth and development by the global public and education community in SL means that our roles as library workers may be evolving. There are information needs in virtual worlds (VWs) that parallel those needs in real life. As an academic librarian, who is active in SL by both supporting faculty from my university who teach in SL as well as volunteering weekly on the Info Island International reference desk, I feel I benefit greatly from my involvement (as do those I serve). Here is a link to the ALA in Virtual Worlds wiki which includes additional links to information.

In future blog posts I'll also be writing on the activities of the ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) in SL Group, of which I am a member.

The ALA island was developed in 2007 and there are events and discussions held regularly. The photo included here is from a recent discussion on ALA Island. Oberon Octagon, ALA Island Manager (the tiger avatar in the closeup photo), talked about ALA Island and what it can do for us. One new project the ALA is working on involves assisting those library workers who are new to SL with orientation needs. Proper SL orientation is important for all newcomers and I was glad to hear this.

For those who may be wondering how committed ALA is to SL, here is info I copied from the ALA Staff in SL Group Charter
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 65,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.

Our presence in Second Life marks a commitment to virtual membership by the members of ALA Staff.

This island was made possible through a donation by San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science.

I'm glad to see the ALA is following the virtual worlds movement and willing to support library workers on the cutting edge. Time will tell just how successful SL will be. For now it is by far the most developed VW with the largest presence of library workers. As more library workers become involved in SL, more ALA staff involvement/support will be supplied. Attend the ALA Slymposium if you possibly can and see for yourself what is happening with libraries/library staff and Second Life.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Augmented Reality-Closer to Mainstream?

Augmented reality has been around for some time, but Bruno Uzzan, from Total Immersion makes statements in the video below that cause me to think we could begin to see this technology in the main sooner rather than later. Be sure to watch the entire video, it gets even more interesting towards the end.

I'm still processing ways in which virtual world technologies can and are being used in higher education, and the timing of that phenomena. As the video above shows, augmented reality & virtual wolds work well together. The combined technologies could be used in a number of creative ways in higher education and in our every day lives. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Virtual Librarian Conference October 2008

October 1-2, 2008, I attended and presented at The Virtual Librarian Conference. The conference was held online and delivered via Adobe Connect.

My presentation was on the role of the academic librarian in virtual worlds. The focus was on my experiences as my university's main academic librarian in SL. I will embed my updated slideshare presentation here for those who are interested. My original presentation was 14 slides. Since it involved application sharing of a flickr slideshow I had to turn some of those snapshots into ppt slides so the presentation would work without the app sharing. Hopefully this will make sense to viewers of my Slideshare presentation. (If you see formatting problems in the embedded ppt below, please click the title link to watch on the Slideshare site.)

My Session took place on Day 2 of the conference and though I have attended many webinars using Adobe Connect, Elluminate, etc., I had never presented using one of these programs. That alone was a good learning experience for me. Since I decided I wanted to use application sharing in the middle of my presentation, I was stretched a little further by learning how to use some advanced features.

The conference attendees were made up of a little over 80% librarians along with a few educational technologists, etc. Many attendees freely participated in the discussion via comments and questions using chat which always adds value to the presentations.

There were four separate sessions each day including a panel discussion during day 1 made up of four people including Barbara A. Galik, Executive Director, Cullom-Davis Library, Bradley University (aka Puglet Dancer in SL). I was glad to see this and I enjoyed hearing the different viewpoints on the panel.

I recently interviewed Barbara Galik (Puglet Dancer, as the interview took place in SL) regarding her role as an academic librarian in Second Life. At the time I did not know she was the Bradley Univ library director or that she was the main person responsible for the Bradley University presence in SL (things I discovered during the interview). I find that I learn much by following trailblazers like Barbara, Lori Bell and others who presented and contributed during the conference.

It was helpful to learn more about the history of the Alliance Virtual Library during day 1 of the conference from those who founded the project and were involved from the beginning. Lori Bell and Abbey/Rhonda Trueman did a nice job explaining how this amazing project came about and how it is progressing. Joe Sanchez gave an interesting talk about librarianship in virtual worlds and the work he is doing in SL with students from the University of Texas at Austin. Here is a blog link for Joe on the Educators Coop in SL, which I have visited in SL and will continue to follow.

Day 2 of the conference was equally valuable. Jeremy Kemp of SJSU has considerable experience teaching and learning in SL and has accomplished excellent work inworld. From Sonja Plummer-Morgan, a public library director from Northern Maine, I learned about some of the administrative issues around building a library presence in SL and the great work she is doing with her library and as a volunteer for other organizations. And finally the conference ended with Matt Krull's presentation on "Creating Educational Tools in Second Life for Libraries.” Matt is a creative and talented individual. Educators in SL would be in trouble without people like Matt- people who understand the potential of virtual worlds and have the know-how to develop tools to help us fully utilize all VWs have to offer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Educause Review - Sept/Oct 2008 Virtual Worlds - Must Read For Those In Higher Education

I've barely finished reading half of this Educause Review volume, but felt I had to post something here to get this out there.

If you work in higher education, whether you're staff, faculty or administrator - it's important that you read the articles in this volume. It's important for the present and the future of higher education.

I regularly run into people in higher ed who have not heard of the phrase "virtual worlds." I just don't think we can afford to not know any longer. In the past I've considered what others in higher ed have said to me about how Second Life is not for everyone. And it may not be. But the fact is, virtual worlds will be an important part of the future of higher education.

My university and many others regularly talk about how we need to engage students in the teaching and learning process. Virtual worlds are an excellent tool for this purpose.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Virtual Worlds and the Future of Business Education

I attended an informative 3.5 hr conference yesterday in Second Life (SL) titled "Virtual Worlds and the Future of Business Education." I was curious because I've been seeing more signs on campuses in SL lately for MBA programs. Here's the link - it was a very good conference, well worth my time (day off). The speakers were excellent and the backchat and tweets were valuable too. There were 80 inworld avatars attending and the conference was also streamed live on the 2D web.

Pathfinder Linden (of Linden Labs, the company behind SL) even answered a question I asked on when SL will allow for shared applications (it's coming!). As a librarian this would increase the usefulness of using SL with students. Not all educators see why this request is important but for librarians it can matter as we demonstrate to students how to use specific databases. If you are a prof who is using SL to teach students it probably wouldn't be important as SL already allows for collaborative work using Google docs inworld.

A couple of points that stood out for me were by Anne Massey, Dean's Research Professor and Professor of IS at Kelley. One was on the hype cycle and where SL is now and if you click the snapshots here to enlarge you will see the chart. I recently read an article on this, which came to the same conclusion. The other point was on the seven sensibilities of SL. Things that all who spend time in SL understand, but which can be difficult to explain to those who have not experienced SL much themselves. Briefly the 7 sensibilities in which she referred - sense of self, death of distance, power of presence, sense of space, capability to co-create, pervasiveness of practice and enrichment of experience.

Another point made by Anne Massey and Sarah Robbins (aka Intellagirl) had to do with how the usefulness of SL is what's going to drive adoption and what will get people over the ease of use hump. That really resonated with me as in my early days of SL my realization of how powerful of a tool this virtual world could be, especially for higher education, was what kept me going at times. And of course the usefulness of SL is growing almost daily. This is partly due to the innovative work being done in SL by very creative and talented educators and technologists.

Of course there was specific focus on business education here, though I found most of what was shared would be applicable to many disciplines. One reason I heard that business education makes sense in SL is because of the need to connect globally and the ease in which people can do that in virtual worlds. Also businesses are finally figuring out how to use virtual worlds. Here's a link to a 2008 O'Reilly Radar Report titled "Virtual Wordls: A Business Guide" for those who are interested.

Bottom line, Second Life and other virtual worlds are here to stay. Forward thinking universities and colleges who understand this will reap the benefits of being early adopters of these platforms. Especially institutions that are struggling with tight budgets, this a way to benefit greatly for minimal cost.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Second Life Education Community Conference - SLEDcc 2008 - Friday, Sept 5 Highlights

I attended as much as I could of the SLEDcc 2008 conference in Second Life (SL) this past weekend. I'm still processing what I learned, how I was impacted, and finding it difficult in some ways to put into words. Mainly I'm afraid I won't do justice to some of what I want to share. I'll try to give a brief acct. of the highlights for each day on what I was able to attend, and I'll write a separate post on one session that had an emotional impact on me. I'll post once for each day.

Friday - Due to my work schedule, I was only able to attend two events this day - First, the opening session: Education in Second Life with presenters Claudia Linden and Pathfinder Linden, the two main Lindens (from Linden Labs (LL), an American company and creator of Second Life) who are assigned to education/educators in SL.

The opening session keynote was streamed to three locations inworld. And the streaming video did not work - huge disappointment and rough start to the conference, which had me more than a little worried about how things would play out the rest of the weekend. We were quickly provided with Ustream and Veodia channels to watch the keynote live on the web. But of course, those of us who spend time in SL all know that that is not the same as being with a group of avatars in SL watching streaming video all together. Having said that, the content was there - Folks from around the globe heard that LL very much desires to work with educators, to do whatever they can to make SL a place where schools, colleges and unviersities can truly thrive. Both presenters assured us that LL is committed to listening to our concerns, prioritizing them based on our most pressing needs, and doing all they can to make SL an excellent teaching and learning environment. They also flattered us - pointing out that much of the most creative and innovative work taking place in SL is being done by the education community. I know this to be true.

The second presentation I attended Friday was by Sheila Webber aka SL Sheila Yoshikawa. Sheila is a faculty member from the Univ of Sheffield and someone I have been getting to know in SL and admire. She is an expert on information literacy, is widely published, blogs regularly here and here, and has created a beautiful island in SL filled with valuable resources, which she willingly shares with all. On top of that she offers discussions open to all almost weekly on her island, which I greatly benefit from professionally. Here is a link to Sheila's slides from her SLEDcc 2008 presentation, which she uploaded for us to slideshare. Her presentation was excellent and her research is always interesting so take a look.

Tomorrow I'll blog on the poster session I presented at the conference as part of the "Best Practices in Education" session held for three hours Saturday morning.

Here is a link to the wiki page for this conference, which now includes links to photos and volunteer videos of some of the RL sessions. I am hoping that someone was assigned to create a machinima of some of the inworld events, I'll keep an eye on YouTube for that.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I am continually amazed by the levels of creativity I see in Second Life. It doesn't matter whether you love or hate Pink Floyd or the message here. What matters to me is that Second Life is a platform where this form of expression can take place. And it will only get better. I am so glad that I can be a part. Incredible that some still do not see...

Thanks to all who contributed. And thanks for the machinimatography, editing, and sharing, Gary Hazlitt/Hayes. Wonderful work by all, I can't stop watching it...looking forward to the long version.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Second Life and iPhone - Gotta Get One of These!

Well I was really wanting to wait until Android devices were released so I could check them out before I went out and bought an iPhone. And especially when I found out here that the brand new iPhone will still not allow copy and pasting of links, and still does not allow one to edit Google docs. What kind of Blackberry killer is that if it won't do those basics tasks?

But it's going to be difficult to hold out much longer. Unless I hear of a great Android device being released by this weekend, I may very well have to head to my favorite Apple store and purchase an iPhone. Because today I found out that Second Life (SL) runs nicely on the iPhone using a new Teleport app made available recently through iTunes. And it's no longer just a prototype thing I saw a few months ago, it appears to be the real deal.

Check out Dr. Barbara McLain, Professor University of Hawaii-Manoa blog post on this from yesterday complete with photos.

Not only that, I just watched this YouTube video (not best quality and dry, but it's informative) on how the app works to remotely connect and access your desktop anywhere via WiFi or EDGE/3G. It appears I can access everything on my desktop using this app because it's a VNC client! Can't wait to see what other amazing apps are developed for that thing. I think Google really blew it by taking too long to get Android devices on the market...too bad, really.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Creative Educational Use of Second Life

This video is a 2008 Atom Award finalist. It's about the journey of a property from book to stage to film to Second Life. And the value of each medium is clear.

This documentary devised and edited by Gary Hayes and co-produced with Physical TV.

Title of this 9 min. mini-documentary: SECOND LIFE -Best Multi-Modal Production Thursday's Fictions

From the YouTube More Info:
"Thursday's Fictions is a fantastical parable about reincarnation by Australian writer Richard James Allen which has evolved over almost twenty years to become a cross media work for the stage, the page, the screen and most recently the new media creative platforms of Second Life (a 3D online immersive interactive story world) and machinima (cinema made inside a games engine)."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Future of the Internet - Lawrence Lessig, Joichi Ito and Phil Rosedale

This video is not the best quality. However, there are some important topics being discussed in this 19 minute clip. I have heard all three of these men before and respect their opinions and find them knowledgeable in their fields. In this video they discuss things like copyright, Creative Commons, Second life, Virtual worlds, 3D, mobile devices, government, the Patriot Act, spectrum, etc.

I decided to post it because these topics are tied together in so many ways and are definitely important to the future of the Internet. Since watching I have a somewhat better understanding of the big picture than I did before. It also left me feeling a bit more unsettled about the future of the Internet.

And I am still fuzzy on the whole wireless spectrum topic and not sure I will ever understand even though I've read many articles. It's a bit too geeky for me. For this topic, I would have liked each person to have had a little more time to speak and provide more in-depth explanations.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Over 50 Virtual Worlds - 7 Minute Video Overview

I am always surprised when someone tells me they have never heard the phrase "virtual worlds (VW)" or "Second Life (SL)." At the rate these worlds are being developed, I expect that most people will have heard within the next year. And of course if the projections are correct, there will be close to a billion virtual world users by 2018.

Gary Hayes presents a nice (very short intro) overview in this video. The quotes used are great, and notice how many of these VWs are targeted to preschool and elementary school age children, currently the fastest growing segment.

2008 METAVERSE TOUR-The 'Social Virtual' World's A Stage - A Film by Gary Hayes © Personalizemedia 2008

From the publisher's "More Info" link:
"Over 50 virtual worlds featured including:
Second Life, HiPiHi, Kaneva, Twinity, ActiveWorlds, LagunaBeach vMTV., Habbo, Google Lively, FootballSuperstars, Weblin, AmazingWorlds, CyWorld, Whyville, Gaia Online, RocketOn, Club Penguin, YoVille, Webkinz, BarbieGirls, Prototerra, IMVU, Spore, vSide, Tale in the Desert, SpineWorld, Stardoll, The Manor,, ExitReality, Vastpark, Qwaq, PS3Home, GoSupermodel, Grockit, Croquet, Metaplace, Coke Studios, Dreamville, Dubit, Mokitown, Moove, Muse, The Palace, Playdo, Sora City, Voodoo Chat, TowerChat, Traveler, Virtual Ibiza"

An anthropological introduction to YouTube - Michael Wesch does it again

I've been a fan of Michael Wesch and his work since his first Web 2.0 video over a year and a half ago. He presented this at the Library of Congress, June 23rd 2008. I was shocked when I saw that it was 55 minutes long since most of his videos are under 5 minutes. But you know, some things are worth the time, and this is one of them.

If you work in education I think it's especially important to understand that there is a digital revolution taking place. The participatory culture that so many have embraced has changed and will continue to change how we live, work, learn, etc. Watch his video below to see if you agree.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Second Life, YouTube, Podcasts & Online Learning

This morning I took a survey on Second Life (SL). The survey is for research which has been approved by the University Review Board at East Carolina University. When the survey was finished, I was taken to what I felt was a valuable website and video worth sharing. The information here will be most valuable to those in education who are involved with, or considering, online education in any form.

As the reference & distance services librarian at my university, I have been heavily involved the last few months in developing a presence in Second Life. This week I completed a course from Boise State University titled "Teaching & Learning in Second Life." And I am currently assisting a professor from my university with a group of doctoral students who are using SL to learn about the religious and educational communities in this virtual world. I have learned a great deal the last few months and will reflect on my experiences further soon.

For now, I'll just say that I believe East Carolina University is on the right track.

I'll also add that I believe more than ever, based on my recent experiences, that virtual worlds will be an important component of the future of online learning.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today's Second Life CEO Post & Education

I have been too busy to blog lately so I've been keeping a Google doc of links to some excellent news stories published recently on SL. I'm linking to this post today because every link I had saved to blog about is included in the post linked here and more.

Today the new CEO of SL, Mark Kingdon, wrote a post titled "My First Two Months at Linden Lab."

Mr. Kingdon makes strong and verifiable comments on education in SL, which I'm happy to share and which confirms what many educators involved in SL believe. Below is the section from the post linked above on education. The entire post is interesting and a worthwhile read. It includes links to some other recent noteable articles on SL including info on the big topic of interoperability from the IBM/Linden Lab partnership. There are plenty of hard facts in this post. Yes, he shares his enthusiasm and some will say bias as well. But who wouldn't.

Using the virtual meeting environment for education is an even more exciting killer app. Dozens of universities are buying land from us or working with other inworld providers every week and the pace is accelerating. Seventeen of the top twenty universities in the US have land in Second Life.

To keep track with what’s happening in education in Second Life, check out the SLED Blog. A list of recent news stories are below

* The Christian Science Monitor discusses how students from all over the world are able to study abroad through Second Life.
* Government writes how government agencies like the center for Disease Control and Prevention are increasing their presence in Second Life to increase public awareness.
* CNET reports that the San Francisco Exploratorium will be streaming live footage of a Solar Eclipse in Second Life expected on August 1st.
* The Industry Standard reports that Cigna will try to make health education more accessible by creating its own island in Second Life.
* discusses how the British Computer Society has launched an e-learning specialist group in Second Life.
* The Dallas Morning News presents an article on using Second Life for higher education.

What makes Second Life so amazing for these things is the interaction between students and between universities. Voice is the key enabler. With a headset, residents can talk with other residents just as they would in the real world. With the 3D spatial voice in Second Life, residents can walk from one conversation to another as if they were actually hanging out before or after class. Serendipitous conversations just aren’t possible with other forms of online learning, teleconferences or videoconferences.

And since I'm highlighting the education/educators section of this post, I'll go ahead and include a snapshot of one thing that's been keeping me so busy these days. As explained in the post here, many universities are offering classes to students in SL. This summer I enrolled in a 3 credit hour intensified course from the Boise State University Education Technology program. My course is titled "Teaching and Learning in Second Life." And that's what I've been doing the past few weeks. That along with working full-time and assisting a prof from my own university with a course offered to doctoral students in our university's Education Program. More on that next week after my BSU course if completed.

The snapshot above (click to enlarge) I've included here is from my class fieldtrip today to Monash University in SL. We toured the facility and spoke with the owner/builder responsible for the work they are doing there to teach students the Chinese language and culture. It was one of the best examples I've seen yet of effective use of a virtual environment in teaching and learning.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Educational Spotlight Rountable in Second Life

I attended this roundtable event in SL yesterday. It was held in ISTE's brand-new four-sim auditorium (click photo).
One official count was 143 attendees (amazing, and the sound was excellent). There was very little notice that this event would be taking place, my understanding was that it was put together in about 24 hrs (try that in real life (RL)!).

It was moderated by Sarah "Intellagirl" Robbins, PhD Candidate, Ball State University and author of Second Life for Dummies.

Panelists included:
Suriawang Dapto (RL: David Warlick) from
Kathy Dryburgh (RL: Kathy Schrock) from
Maggie Marat (RL: Peggy Sheehy) from
Bernajean Pinazzo (RL: Bernajean Porter) from
Eric Reuters (RL: Eric Krangel) from the Reuters bureau in Second Life
Westley Streeter (RL: Westley Field) from

Sarah posed the following questions, which panelists answered and discussed with the audience:

* What is the biggest change in education you would attribute to technology?
* What is the biggest change in your own work that has been influenced by technology?
* How has technology changed the way you define "learning and teaching"?
* How has Second Life changed the way you teach and/or learn?
* What one tech innovation would you wish for? How would it change education?

This event was interesting, informative, and well run. And it was also encouraging for someone like myself and others like me. Folks who see the potential of virtual worlds. People who are excited/stimulated/encouraged by what is taking place in Second Life, especially related to education and educators. People who see Second Life not only as another teaching tool, but something more. Something that allows us to connect in ways we have never been able to connect before - globally, quickly (as occurred here) - a way not only to enrich our experiences with immersive learning opportunities, but a way to collaborate with others on a deeper more immersive level.

It can be difficult to explain. Social networks are nice, and learning management systems can be useful, but SL goes beyond, far beyond. It allows us to socialize and work/create together - to produce things which in turn others can benefit from and build upon.

Second Life is not perfect. There are issues related to stability, ease of use, and the ability to run SL on light weight machines (cell phones/handheld devices, inexpensive computers, etc.). These issues are being addressed. I have learned to be more patient, and I have learned that SL is worth it. I left this presentation feeling hopeful and excited about the future of virtual worlds. They truly can have a positive impact on our world (and for me, they already have).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Second Life for Augmented Reality - Wow!

Just when I think I have a clue about what's happening with technology, I see something like this and realize I have no idea how technology will change our lives in the next 5-10 years.

For more info on this research project visit AR Second Life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sun Microsystem’s Project Wonderland and Immersive Education

The event was packed and many educators, myself included, could not get in to Sun's build for this launch. Instead SL sent us to nearby regions. A bunch of us from the Immersive Education Group, were sending IMs to each other trying to figure out ways to fly around and get in some other way. Someone who was able to get in was sending IMs back to us with a play by play account of what was taking place. Kind of like a twitter event feed, and it was definitely better than nothing. I didn't give up though and every five minutes I tried the slurl to the event again. Five minutes before the end of the event, I got in. It was so packed, and so much lag, that I could barely move, but managed to get this snapshot taken.

Here is a link to a good blog post on VirtuED from someone who made it in and was able to then go into Project Wonderland. This post includes snapshots in Project Wonderland so you can get a good idea of what it looks like as well as links to important info.

I'll be following this as it develops, and will eventually post my own thoughts once I have time to check it out further.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Education Grid launches with Project Wonderland in Second Life

Here is a link to the SLED (second life educator's) calendar event for this meeting in Second Life tomorrow (Fri. 6/20/08). Click on the link for the 1:00 PST event listed there and you will also find the slurl to directly teleport to the event. If you are seriously interested in attending, I would get in a minimum of 15 minutes early, maybe earlier.

For those who are interested in knowing more about Project Wonderland (scroll down to see some good videos & articles on this) - My friend Topher has done an excellent job of providing background info on Project Wonderland on a recent post on his MUVE Forward blog. He also provides a comparison of SL/Project Wonderland. Thanks, Topher/Chris!

Hope to see you in-world at this event tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Innovative Educator in Second Life

Steve Dembo is a genius. I won't go into detail about what he did, I'll simply link to his blog post titled, "Cell phone + Web cam + Second Life = Magic" and you can read his explanation and judge for yourself. More of a proof of concept at this point, but it's apparent it can be done and should only get easier.

If you're an educator who has spent much time in Second Life (SL) you'll quickly see the value. As the distance services librarian at my university, I can tell you that the ability to do what Steve accomplished is critical for those of us using SL to work with distance ed students.

IMO, Linden Labs (the company behind Second Life), should pay him for what he came up with, or maybe hire him.

This is another example of the incredible innovation taking place in SL and virtual worlds in general, much of it being lead by educators. It will only get better.

Monday, June 16, 2008

About My Second Life Avatar Gender Identity

My avatar's gender in Second Life (SL) is male. I look to be in my twenties and my skin is blue. In real life (RL) I am female, caucasian, and a baby boomer. But I didn't start out with a male avatar in SL, I started as a female. So what happened? And why do I remain a male avatar?

My first avatar was a large overweight female (I had not even considered making it male, though I did think about possibly being a furry (animal like avatars). I made myself large because I had seen videos of anorexic and voluptuous looking female avatars and was not interested in being either. Within my first three months of joining SL, and after spending little time in-world, my female avatar had run into two rather negative incidents. (Note: This was before the advent of private orientation islands, where new SL residents currently can be more safely oriented in SL.)

Simply put, one incident was verbal rudeness from a female avatar and the other incident involved being physically accosted by two creature type characters. Neither incident was major, but they both bothered me. After the second incident, I wondered to myself whether they would have occurred had I been a male avatar. Would I have been treated differently if my avatar's gender was male? This lead me to experimenting with my avatar's gender. What took place after participating in SL as a male avatar (or my perception of that) has led me to remain that way, at least for now.

In my opinion, from my experience thus far, a male avatar is no safer from griefers than a female. But I discovered something along the way during this experiment as a male that I had not anticipated. I began to feel that I was being listened to and treated differently. That what I had to say meant more than it did as a female. I have no data to prove this, it's only a feeling, but as someone who has been around a good many years in a female form, it's a very strong feeling. And since I've never taken on a male identity before in RL or SL, it is unlike anything I've experienced.

A little background on my RL female identity: I am and always have been a bit on the ADHD side (some may say more than a bit). I personally see this as an asset, but the benefits are not apparent to all. One thing I have always had to work on is listening and waiting my turn, especially if I feel passionate about something. As a youngster I was told that my behavior was not appropriate, and at times I was told it "was not lady like." I still remember wondering what exactly that meant.

As a male avatar I have attended and participated in many events - presentations, discussions, and classes in SL (I must admit here that I did little of this as a female in SL. My comparison is more with my RL experiences as a female vs. my SL experience as a male).

At first I just listened and did not participate at all. I had a lot to learn still about SL and about how people interacted in-world. Slowly I began to participate. A question here and there, a comment now and then. Some would bring no response, but others would cause avatars around me to comment or ask me questions. I remember how at first I found that surprising and how, eventually, I began to feel that I had something to say that was worth hearing to some. Eventually I began to receive private IM requests from others to help or to become involved, and even to take the lead in some situations.

This felt foreign to me. It was around this time that I began to feel that I was experiencing things differently and felt it was connected to my avatar being male. And as I began to develop relationships with some of the RL people behind the avatars, I felt more sure than ever that I was being treated differently. With males, I sensed that we were on a more level playing field, there seemed to be a new level of camaraderie, and maybe more respect. With females, I sensed greater acceptance.

I know I have used the words felt or feel a number of times. I know I could be completely wrong in my analyses here. But I know how I feel, and whether my perceptions are skewed or not doesn't really matter.

Posting this info here is partly an attempt to fully disclose my RL self to some in SL whom I have come to know and respect. To attempt to make amends perhaps. I have met some wonderful RL people in SL. Very helpful, smart, and kind people. I never meant to be dishonest about my identity, and I apologize to any reading this who felt I was. I will be linking to this post from my SL profile, under my 1st Life tab, where I also uploaded a RL photo of myself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Virtual Worlds About To Explode?!

I ran across something new recently. I've been having trouble believing some of the stats out there on virtual worlds (VW), especially those that show users close to a billion in the near future. Partly it has to do with the definition of VWs.

Check out ExitReality. (Note: if you have a mac computer you will be disappointed to learn that you currently can not run this on a mac.) Take a look at the sites that ExitReality is currently compatible with. I have a mac so could not run this yet on a computer, but I was able to find some flickr screenshots on this as well as what's found on the ExitReality site.

The reason this is of interest to me is because I have been wondering how VWs were going to hit the mainstream. Until I saw ExitReality, I figured the numbers would grow from the growing gaming/virtual world maket. The virtual worlds for kids market is projected to see especially strong growth.

If ExitReality takes off with facebook, bebo, MySpace, etc. users, virtual world user numbers will explode. Or will they? Could new technologies like this, which the ExitReality site calls an "enhanced 3D, multi-user, immersive messaging environment" end up taking away from the heavy duty VWs like SL? Or will VWs become more like these 3D environments. Sort of a Second Life lite version, without all the crashes and steep learning curve? Time will tell.

The other 3D technology I recently discovered is weblin (again, not yet with a mac, though you can visit sites where other weblin avatars are hanging out using weblin lite). Or check out this short YouTube demo. I'm less sure about this, but the fact that one can have their avatar on any website where you meet and interact with other avatars is fascinating to me. I really just discovered this one last night and went from the weblin site to YouTube and watched the weblins hanging out there. I was pretty amazed. Again, I'm talking about this in the context of virtual worlds/avatars (3D) entering the mainstream and eventually becoming ubiquitous.

On the Second Life Educator's Listserve (SLED), there have been more postings recently on interoperability amongst virtual worlds. This will be important for growth in the true VWs. After looking at ExitReality and weblin, I pictured my SL avatar teleporting from SL to Wonderland to Croquet, and maybe sooner than I thought.

What do you think? Are these fads that will disappear? Is this a trend that's here to stay and can we expect even more surprises related to virtual worlds and 3D environments in the near future? I believe we will see some amazing things. I'm not at all sure what virtual worlds (3D) will look like or how they will work in the future, but I believe they are here to some form or another.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Reflection: An Academic Librarian - Leading My First Discussion In Second Life

This post is a reflection on my experience leading a discussion on InfoLit Island in Second Life (SL). Here is my original post: "An Academic Librarian-Leading My First Discussion In Second Life."

All in all, the discussion went well. It was well attended and I received positive feedback. Most valuable to me was what I learned from the experience. I had already attended a number of events and discussions in SL so I was familiar with the chat discussion format. I found that attending/participating in a dicussion and leading a discussion using chat are very different experiences. I found it both challenging and rewarding.

I knew I couldn't fully prepare because you never know what will happen in SL. Sometimes there are technical issues (and a couple of attendees did crash during my discussion). And sometimes people show up in the middle of a discussion and want to know what is being discussed (that happened too). But usually there are core folks who attend because they are interested in the topic and really want to learn something. You have an opportunity to share what you know and to learn from others who attend.

So how did I prepare? Well I spent more time than I want to admit researching the main tool I would discuss, the Sloog HUD (an in-world social bookmarking tool much like I also spent a fair amount of time looking into the Salamander HUD.

Next, I created my notecard in SL and sent that on to Sheila Webber, the island owner, so she could set up the poster, etc. in the building where we would meet (the notecard is what the attendees receive when they touch the poster and is all about the topic I chose titled, "Expanding/Enhancing Information Literacy Using In-World Tools.").

I then wrote some notes that I would share with those who attended using Google docs so that I could copy and paste into the chat text field as I lead the discussion. I figured that would help things move along a little smoother. And it did, but it also hindered some as I had to be sure to keep track of where I was in my notes and keep track of the questions people were asking, and greeting people who arrived late and so forth. I also thought the notes would help me to stay on topic, and they did serve that purpose, though with discussions of this type you also have to follow the attendee questions to a degree. And that's not as easy as one might think.

One of the main problems I had was that I rushed things. I was concerned about not covering everything. I really wish I had allowed more time for people to continue writing where they were from and for questions and input from the attendees.

The biggest mistake I made had to do with timing as well. After about 25 min. into the 1 hr. disucssion, I asked whether the group would like to walk outside to get one of these tools themselves from the vend machines I had brought. I was excited about having them do this (it's always fun to get free things in SL), and I still think it was a great idea, but I really wish I had continued for 20 more minutes and then at the end offered them an opportunity to get a free Sloog and Salamander HUD. It was tricky to get everyone back in the building. I should have known better because if you gave me a new tool in the middle of anything, I too would be playing with it the rest of the time.

Once folks were back in, the questions had a lot to do with how the HUDs worked. This information was included in the help notecard that comes with the HUDs, but of course most had not had time yet to read those. So anyway, I did not really get to cover as much as I would have if I had waited until the end to share the tools.

So now I know I would do some things differently if I ever lead a discussion again. And I also feel I gained confidence in leading this way. The more time I spend in SL actually doing things, the more confident I feel. Even non-techie folk like myself can lead in virtual worlds. It's really a matter of being willing to spend the time to learn how things work. And a willingness to take risks, and maybe make a fool of yourself at times helps. I found that since I could hide a little behind my avatar, that it wasn't quite as nerve wracking as giving a presentation to a group in real life. But it was close. And I feel like I gained confidence through this experience that will help me with real life presentations as well.

Here is a link to the chatlog (transcript) of the discussion. Here is a link to Sheila's blog "Adventures of Yoshikawa" post on my discussion (check out her whole blog by clicking on the home link towards the bottom). A copy of the notecard as a pdf that was handed out from the poster can be found here as well, along with a slurl link to her InfoLit Island in SL (in case you want to visit). This one also contains some good snapshots of the event. I was too busy to take any myself that day. Though I will include one here I took the night before while getting ready.

And here is a link to the Information Literacy Weblog post on my discussion, that Sheils Webber co-authors along with Stuart Boon. I so appreciate all Sheila's hard work in providing a venue for discussions on her island. I've learned a lot from her and recommend her information literacy discussions to all.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Skeptical Educator? Second Life & Education

“Inside the Lab” Podcast, a Discussion on Education in Second Life" (transcript incl)

I know a lot of educators who are skeptical about Second Life (SL) and virtual worlds (VW) in general. And rightly so. I was one such educator, and I know how the skeptics think. And I still tend to watch with a critical eye as virtual worlds are sprouting from everywhere now, and educational uses of these worlds continue to develop.

VWs like SL are still in the early stages of development, and the technologies being used are newer, so there are tech problems and challenges, which can be frustrating.

Having said that, I have spent enough time, and participated in enough discussions and classes in SL to say that I am convinced virtual worlds are here to stay. And educators as a group are contributing in some of the most innovative ways.

Lastly, I will say this - if you're an educator wondering about SL, I would recommend you take a look at the link I've included above. I would listen to that just released podcast and/or take a look at the transcript (you can get the links to sites that way).

But I wouldn't stop there. I highly recommend you create a Second Life account and then spend some time there, (20-30 hrs. minimum attending educ. events, classes, tutorials, networking, etc.), and then judge for yourself. That part is key. One can not fully understand how teaching and learning in SL is very different from other online forms of teaching/learning without experiencing it yourself. I am more convinced than ever that it is just not possible any other way.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sloog - A Great Tool for Users of Second Life

Tomorrow I will be leading a discussion in Second Life (SL), which I posted earlier here. I'll be talking about a number of in-world tools and ways that information professionals can use these tools to assist with teaching and learning in SL.

I want to share a bit here on one particular tool, the Sloog HUD. For those of you who are familiar with the very popular social bookmarking tool,, Sloog works in a similar way, only it's used for in-world resources - to tag places, and avatars from within SL. Later on, from the Sloog website, you can easily search your saved data based on those tags (keywords). The website can also be accessed from within SL by clicking on the Sloog logo on your SL screen and having the website open up in-world.

I am using this tool for myself in-world in much the same way that I use for all my bookmarks. And as with, there are many ways one can use this tool to assist with teaching and learning. Users of Sloog will soon see connections to others who are tagging the same types of places in-world - users with the same interests, which those familiar with Web 2.0 understand oftentimes lead to opportunities to find people, research and places that one may not have found otherwise.

This summer I will be assisting a prof from my university with his class in Second Life and I intend to create a list of SL in-world resources for his students using a unique tag for his course. So along with the tags I use to describe the places and avatars I recommend or the prof requires the students to visit, I will also include a unique tag of GFUEDFL, which I created based on my university and the course program.

Since most of the students in this class will be new to SL, and since SL takes a while for new people to feel oriented and comfortable, I believe this tool will end up being useful in many ways. When students access the sloog website link I provide them, they will be able to click on the GFUEDFL tag on my Sloog page of SL places, and the entire list of places they need to visit for their course will appear. And there is a nice simple button for them to click on for them to easily and directly teleport to each place within SL.

Now here's the best part- Sloog is still very much under development. Very soon their website is going to be transformed (within 1-2 weeks). It will be much, much better, and will include some very smart features, such as notes and comments. This will allow for a number of other possibilities as students begin to tag their own resources and share and collaborate in new ways. Each user will have a user profile where they will be able to access their tagged places, avatars, comments and much more.

Finally, the Sloog team has been great (btw - Sloog was created by MosiMosi World out of Barcelona). They have been most helpful and seem genuinely interested in working to make Sloog a most useful tool. One of the staff, Anibal Shui, has gone above and beyond in helping me both in-world and via e-mail. Anibal went so far as to travel with me to different regions when I ran into a problem at one point, and helped me to understand more about how SL works and what was happening. I can't tell you how great that was and also how well that demonstrates one of the advantages of SL. As in the real world, the person helping can actually take you there and show you!

I am including here a snapshot I asked the Sloog team to take along with screenshots they kindly provided me to share with others about their, very soon to be made public, new Sloog website. BTW - if you are using SL, the next time you are in-world, you must check out the Mosi Mosi build. That is where the team meets, and where the snapshot of the team was taken, and it's a very cool and wonderful place. And it's where you can obtain the latest copy of the Sloog HUD yourself. So give Sloog a try- grab your Sloog HUD and start slooging!

An Academic Librarian - Leading My First Discussion in Second Life

Here is the event announcement from the SLED (Second Life Educators) calendar (click to enlarge). I am excited about this opportunity. And though it is an informal discussion, I have been regularly attending these weekly information literacy discussions in SL for some time now and always learn something useful to my work as an academic librarian. And most enlightening for me, in some ways, has been that the majority who attend are not from the USA. These discussions have helped me to consider information literacy with a broader perspective. I'm thankful for that alone.

About Sheila Webber,(the Infolit iSchool Island owner) - She is a Senior lecturer (i.e. a faculty member - most faculty in UK universities aren't called professors!) in the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield, where she has taught since 2000.

Sheila has been a wonderful role model for me and gracious enough to invite me to lead one of her discussions. I am learning a great deal from her - not only about information literacy, but about teaching and learning in Second Life. Here is a link to her shared information literacy blog, and here is a link to a bio, which includes some of her many publications. And that doesn't include her work in SL. You will want to take a look at her "Adventures of Yoshikawa" blog for that.

I do not know how she finds the time to accomplish all that she has. I am inspired by what Sheila has done as both an information professional and a SL resident. She saw the potential in this wonderful virtual world to take teaching and learning to the next level, and she is giving it her all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Beautiful Music - Akito Kuramoto in Second Life

I don't know much about classical music. And why one would want to attend a live concert in SL may be hard for some to understand. All I know is that it was a wonderful time. The music, the lovely setting, the audience - everything was perfect. I will do this more often.

The program: - Concerto No. 8 in A minor for two violins, by A. Vivaldi (1678-1741)
- Sonata #1 for 2 violins by J-M Leclair (1697-1764)
- Adagio in G minor, by T. Albinoni (1671-1751)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm An Official Second Life Librarian!

On May 11, 2008, I began serving as volunteer reference librarian for the Information Island International reference desk in Second Life. I serve there on Sundays from 7-9:00 A.M.

My first week's shift was pretty quiet. I had a great helper- a veteran on the Info Island ref desk, a nice guy, and major techie from the UK, Karl Nostram.
The next week was busier and quite a learning experience for me. I was on my own most of the first hour and it was pretty quiet. Karl stopped by to see how I was doing and we were having a nice chat when suddenly we had three visitors all with challenging questions. I started working with the first person, an academic from the UK looking for government and non- profit organizations in SL. Karl worked with the second person who had a SL technical question. Karl eventually sent out an IM to our Alliance Library Staff group to get help with a question. In no time at all three more librarians arrived to help. The questions were soon answered, we all visited a bit, and it was time to go.

By the end of my 2nd shift I realized that I have a lot to learn about working with this challenging global population. Working and learning in Second Life has already been a great experience. And quite different from my real life reference librarian experiences. Volunteering here and spending time in SL in general, has motivated me to learn more about the people with whom we share our world. And I know my abilities and understanding in SL will improve as I seek to answer challenging questions.

Stop by and see me if you're ever in-world! I'm Robin Mochi, the tall blue man :-) It really is a whole new virtual world - come join us!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator - Premiers on Cinemax

A Second Life machinima video titled, "Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey"premieres Thursday, May 15 at 8pm/7C Check this link at Cinemax Reel Life for viewing information.

What's remarkable is that this is creating a fair amount of buzz on the web and I suspect will draw even more mainstream interest in Second Life and other virtual worlds. I can see college students being interested in this series, many who may not yet know what SL is about. We'll see. But these machinima videos are very good and Cinemax has posted their own copy of part 1 and part 2 on YouTube already.

Here is the version of the first episode posted on YouTube in April 2007

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wide-Range View of Second Life/Video & Review

In my last post I shared a link to CEO Philip Rosedale's congressional presentation video on Second Life (SL), which admittedly shows the very best of SL. I will attempt to present some balance by posting a link to a wider ranging view of SL.

This link is to a Four Corners (Four Corners is Australia's premier television current affairs program) freely available episode on SL, first broadcast in March 2007, titled "You Only Live Twice." This is a quality site with links to additional information.

Note: This film is also available for purchase through Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Films Media Group (FMG) and available on many college campuses titled, "You Only Live Twice: Virtual Reality Meets Real World in Second Life" The FMG version comes with a warning: "Contains mature themes and explicit imagery." (The "sex" section is a small part of the report and was, in my opinion, well done and I thought helpful for people to understand how the "rampant sex" that is often mentioned regarding SL, is a very separate, optional part of the SL experience. If it would offend you to see a cartoon-like penis then you may want to skip this section.)

My review of "You Only Live Twice" - I thought it was well done. The reporter worked hard to present a rounded view of the types of users and activities taking place in SL. However, two areas that were not emphasized much were education and non-profits. Of course this report was produced a little over a year ago and those two areas have seen significant developments during the past 12 months. That brings me to the Clay Shirky interview in this report. I'm a fan of Clay Shirky, and have read many of his publications. His viewpoints on SL were shared by many a year ago. I would be interested in how he feels about SL now, and whether his views have changed any since the number of active SL users has increased since his interview in this video. (I log in daily and can not remember the last time I saw less than 50K logged in simultaneously and as high as 63K. And the number for the last 60 days is always above 1,200,000. Again, it's been over a year since the interview, but definite growth as far as active users is the point.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

What is Second Life?

Last week two people told me they had never heard of Second Life, nor the phrase "virtual worlds." So for those who are not familiar with Second Life, the link to the video below is the best introduction I have found thus far.

The first-ever Congressional hearing on virtual worlds took place on April 1, 2008 in Washington, D.C. Linden Lab® CEO Philip Rosedale testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

"Second Life®: Making the Real World a Better Place" is the title of this 7 minute professionally produced video that Rosedale showed at the hearing. Some will say Rosedale is idealistic, while others will argue that he sees and understands the potential of innovation and imagination. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Future Virtual Worlds - Interoperability, Mobile Devices & Higher Education

There have been some recent developments regarding virtual worlds related to interoperability and mobile devices, which I believe will eventually impact higher education.

Mobile devices and eLearning is a hot topic amongst educators, and for good reasons. If you aren't familiar with that, please take a look at this post. It will become increasingly important to be able to run virtual worlds on these devices, though this is all in the very early stages.

Below are links to reports that keep me very interested in SL and Virtual Worlds in general. I have mixed feelings about some of these announcements, which may be due to a lack of understanding. I will continue to closely monitor the developments and hopefully gain insight along the way.

On Interoperability - From New Media Consortium, February 26, 2008 - "NMC Launches Open Virtual Worlds Project" "In launching the Open Virtual Worlds project, the NMC will build on its extensive presence in Second Life and add to the services it offers educational institutions with a suite of services aimed at those who need a secure extensible platform or simply prefer an open solution. Open Virtual Worlds will be a new project housed within NMC Virtual Worlds, along with its extensive Second Life project." I'm still trying to figure out exactly what this means. I have concerns over the increasing number of virtual worlds and interoperability seems like it could only be a good thing. But then there are the private/closed versus public/open virtual spaces, and I'm very uncertain over what this may mean in the end.

In this next article, from Virtual Worlds News, January 9, 2008 Interview: Samsung Building Consumer Electronics for Virtual Worlds, the importance of interoperability for mobile devices becomes apparent.

And lastly, below are links to articles on Second Life and virtual worlds running on cell phones/mobile devices. Some of the links include videos of devices that already run SL and I'm sure in 2008/09 there will be many more. This is most important for those universities who have already begun using iPhones or similar devices for eLearning. As educators continue to expand their presence in virtual worlds, it will be important for students who use mobile devices for eLearning to be able to access their virtual world learning environments with those devices as well. Again, eLearning in the US is in the very early stages, but this is an area expected to see much growth in the future.

Samsung Takes Second Life Mobile

Video: Comverse Brings Second Life to iPhones

And here is Second Life streaming to your mobile phone by Vollee

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Virginia Tech Memorial in Second Life

Early this morning, on the anniversary of the tragedy, I visited the Virginia Tech Memorial. I was moved. I was alone at first, then I met someone there who seemed to need to talk. She lived a block away from the campus and her daughter will be a freshman there in the fall. I listened to her. Her avatar stood near my avatar and we looked at the photos of the students together. I told her I was sorry for the tragedy. She thanked me for listening. I felt something that came very close to what I would have felt in real life in the same situation. And to be very honest, I don't think I would have felt comfortable enough in RL to have been there for her in the same way.

Sometimes I find it difficult to articulate how Second Life is different from other technologies. This is the type of experience that may help some to better understand.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Virtual Worlds & Higher Education - Update

An earlier post, Educators, Second Life, & Higher Education was an attempt to explain my thoughts and progression in Second Life. I've also posted on immersive education and other virtual worlds. I follow these trends as an educator in higher education because I believe they will continue to develop and could play an integral role in higher education, especially for distance learners. As the distance services librarian for my university it is important for me to stay appraised of these developments. And traditional undergrad campuses may also benefit from offering some courses in virtual worlds as an appealing choice for students who prefer to learn in more immersive learning environments.

Many in higher ed are also following the growth of online learning. The Sloan Consortium report, "Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning" is available if interested. Of course online learning has taken place for decades now, but the platform used has typically been various types of learning management systems. These systems have been adequate in the past, but many learners could benefit from the more immersive learning environments available via virtual worlds.

I have been following virtual worlds in general for some time and have wondered which virtual world will end up being best suited to the needs of educators. Sometimes those thoughts have caused me to hesitate when it comes to being more fully engaged in Second Life (SL), currently the most developed virtual world (VW). There are many VWs in the works, some have been in development for many years and still have not publicly launched. A large amount of resources are being used to develop these VWs. Some have a strong focus on education, others on business applications, governments and non-profits, social networking, etc. There is a lot of momentum at the moment, and I believe in the next 1-2 years there will be significant developments. And I could be wrong, but I believe virtual worlds will eventually become commonplace within higher education.

Second Life includes many diverse communities. These communities are being closely monitored by businesses, educators, etc. to learn which are growing and best suited for the SL environment. Though SL was publicly released in 2003, and there was incredible growth for a period of time, it is still being defined and developed by the founders and users alike. Will SL end up being the best platform for higher education? I'm not sure but time will tell. I do know that there is a surge of creative activity taking place at the moment in this area. Educators of all kinds are seeing potential in SL that was not as apparent until recently. Partly this has to do with innovative technologies that have been recently implemented within the SL environment. Developments by Linden Labs like voice, along with third party applications being developed by technologists in higher ed and others has made a difference and should continue to enrich the environment.

I've been visiting islands and educational institutions in SL. If interested here is a link to "My Second Life Adventures" on flickr. I recommend you click "view as slideshow" and be sure to click on the center of the first slide so the description for each slide shows.

There have been other recent developments regarding virtual worlds. Some are considered quite important and significant by many who are tracking the virtual world phenomenon. Later this week I will share links to recent news reports on some of these developments.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Virtual Worlds - Testimony House Subcommittee -Must See!

This morning New Media Consortium's (NMC) CEO Larry Johnson (aka Larry Pixel) joined CEO Philip Rosedale, Second Life creator and founder of Linden Lab, and other leaders to testify before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, for a hearing on “Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium.” This was a significant historical event.

According to this NMC Campus Observer site post "the hearing will explore safety issues and the use of real currency in virtual online worlds, as well as the growing presence of educational institutions, non-profits and other real-world organizations in online virtual worlds."
I just finished watching the testimony and it did exactly that and more.

If you have questions and/or seek a better understanding of virtual worlds, this is well worth watching (note: the first 1-2 min. is blank). It is long - approx 2 hours, and I was never bored. It is quite interesting and informative, a nice presentation of SL by the CEO, and excellent Q & A towards the end. Really, well worth your time. Make some popcorn, sit back and be informed, entertained, and amazed.