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).