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.