Archive for January, 2007
If my avatar already needs a personal time management and calendaring tool, then he certainly needs a laptop also, correct? A discussion on the SLED listserv caught my eye; Beth was talking about having had an in-world laptop created for her students.
From these laptops, students can email ANYONE (in or out of SL), access WebCT (or any CMS), go to our class blog, class wiki, flickr, Google,etc (there are like 20 links). He can custom design each laptop with your links and with your school logo. The laptops can be any color. He will place the vendor wherever you want it, as well, so students can purchase the laptops right on your land.
Following several emails from other list’ers expressing interest, Beth offered a demo, and since I was teaching that night, she even offered to meet up in-world to demonstrate this tool, and the scripter even dropped in for a visit. It’s a very nice tool with several interesting features that I want to highlight and discuss followed by a few details about the background on and availability of the laptops and a few thoughts for the Real Life Education (RLE) community.
There’s two basic functions of the laptop; clicking on the screen accesses web-based links which the instructor has selected to be included in the learner’s “library” of resources, and clicking on the keyboard makes available several interesting communication tools. In this particular instance, the links accessible from the laptop’s screen included several college-specific websites like the home page and the WebCT portal, a number of news sources, and Web 2.0 tools used by the course. The communication tools include the ability to send email from inside SL to other in-world addresses or web-based email; I was able to send email FROM my avatar to my regular gmail account! And, it’s possible to receive emails in-world only; sending emails directly to the avatar laptop! Not only that, it’s possible to access the in-world laptop via the web, without logging on to SL. Via the web-interface, it’s possible to send and receive emails from the Av-laptop, and the av-laptop will even tell you who is nearby in-world, without you having logged in to SL! It’s definitely a useful tool with interesting educational applications, including the ability to post an external blog entry via email from in-world.
The $100L Laptop Program anyone?
A couple of issues and ideas. . .
Currently, the laptops are not open source; if you want to customize the laptops or add content, you must contact the developer. That’s not an entirely bad thing, and Neo doesn’t charge a great deal for the laptops per student (about $5US ~ $1000L). And, he clearly does excellent work; as soon as I’m able to get back in-world, I’ll post a slurl to his storefront. With that said, there’s a definitive need, I think, for the education community to develop an open source version of this tool that relies on customizable and dynamically updated data, or for others who have created in-world computers to develop an educationally-centered tool priced as low as possible ($200-$300L ~ $1US).
Second, the in-world laptop I saw in the demo is based upon the SL Pear Computer platform and tools. The Pear Computer store is available in world at Porcupine (196, 31, 147). The store and their blog may be of interest: http://sl-pear.blogspot.com/
Finally, other SLED List’ers contributed other ideas and questions of interest. Intellagirl asked if the laptops could be automatically updated with new content and suggested a “binder” of sorts. Previously, she’s used a collection of notecards with links and information that were based upon the originals she possessed. By creating the dependent set of notecards, it’s possible for an instructor to update their copy which then cascades to each of the learner copies.
How often do learners in a Political Science or Government classroom have the opportunity to engage in an authentic Civil Protest in a safe environment? Can you imagine taking learners on a “field trip” to participate in a protest? Probably not. Second Life changes that, however; from the 3pointD.com blog,
My father is in Washington today, where there’s a huge march to promote peace and protest the troop build-up in Iraq. If you want to get involved but you can’t make it to DC, there’s a series of events scheduled in the virtual world of Second Life to accompany the real-world schedule, culminating in a March on SL’s Capitol Hill on Monday. The events are being organized by members of SL NetRoots and will be held at RootsCamp on »Progressive Island«.
Monday’s march on SL’s »Capitol Hill« takes place at 2:00pm SL time (5:00pm Eastern), when marchers will gather on Progressive Island. The event will be documented, so wear your best prim tie-dye. For more information, contact Ruby Glitter (aka Ruby Sinreich of Lotus Media) or errcheck Hicks in-world.
Certainly, the SL march on Capitol Hill will not provide the same sort of environment and learning experience that the RL march would for learners, but the SL March provides an accessible opportunity to participate in a real protest that has meaning in the physical world. SL or RL doesn’t matter, the protest, whether a person or their av marches, is a protest. Given the nature of the issue at hand, the SL protest will assuredly offer opportunities to engage other like-minded individuals in political conversation. Also, given Reuters SL Bureau lead by Adam Reuters (Pasick), there will certainly be press coverage which will transcend the virtual world, reaching into the physical one.
The Real Life Education (RLE) Community in Second Life will be tragically and ironically fragmented if we continue our current “scheduling” and “calendar-itis” habits. In short, SL offers an in-world search feature to help residents find events in which they’re interested; the problem, to me, is that RLE Groups are not using the feature. Instead, they are creating their own web-based calendars in services all over the web. Second Life CAN bring us together, but if we continue to fragment the information that facilitates our meeting, networking and collaborating, we’re limiting ourselves as a community. That’s both tragic and ironic, especially since there’s a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
In the past week, I’ve diligently watched and searched the SL global events listing, and the RLE events are few and far between. At the same time, I have also been watching blogs and other feeds via a news reader and have noticed a good 10-15 RLE events that have occurred or will be occurring in the near future. If we do not, as a community, make an effort to use the in-world events tool, two things will occur to inhibit the collaborative growth of RLE in SL.
First, educators trying SL for the first time will find a virtual world that seems to severely lack RLE content and opportunities. If new educators dropping in-world for the first time stick around more than a few days, what are they going to use to search for RLE events? They’re going to use the in-world events calendar, and what are they going to find when searching for RLE events? Nothing appealing. As of this moment, there are 92 events in the education category scheduled as much as a month into the future: February 27. ONLY TWO of those are RLE. New educators will leave if they find only prim building and BDSM in SL on the list of “educational events.” The wonderful events available in Google Calendars spread across thirty different blogs are absolutely useless in that regard.
Second, educators that are intent on sticking around and learning and finding as much as they can – like myself – will be incredibly frustrated with searching the web seven times over
to find the scores of web-based calendars that have or will be created. At the very least, if RLE events are not scheduled via SL’s integrated tools, our ability to network and collaborate will be artificially and unnecessarily constrained.
The most frustrating issue for me, currently, is that Linden Labs facilitates the use of BOTH in-world and web-based calendars, but the RLE Community is not using the available tools. If you want a web-based calendar of just your events to put on your website, it’s possible to schedule those events in-world and have a web-based calendar generated automagically. And, by doing the manual entry in-world, residents searching there will be guaranteed to find your event. Here’s the process:
- Create your events in Second Life originally; when you do, use some sort of a unique identifier for your group: a combination of letters and/or numbers that don’t occur naturally in language.
- That information will be ported automatically, as are all Second Life events, to Eventful.com.
- With an account at Eventful.com, you can create a personal or a group calendar that will automatically add public events scheduled via the website based upon the keywords you specify. “What” is your unique identifier, and “Where” is Second Life. Violin! You have a dynamic, automatically updated web-based calendar for all of your in-world events.
- Not good enough? Don’t like the Eventful.com interface or features? A google hack? (yeah, I know… me too). Go to your Google Calendars and Add Other Calendar and point it to the iCal format/feed of your Eventful calendar. ! You now have a Google calendar that is also dynamic and automatically updated as you add or modify events in-world. You can then use the RSS/iCal feeds for the calendar as well as the embedded HTML code for putting the Google Calendar into your website.
Try it and see. I created a TUi – Second Life calendar at Eventful calendar which automagically adds events with “TUi” in the title (what) and occurring in Second Life (where). I then created the TUi Calendar from my Google account by pointing to the iCal format of the Eventful calendar which enabled a Google-style web-based calendar and the ability to embed that HTML Google calendar into a website (see below). I didn’t have to go that far, however; I could have just used the Eventful embedding feature. Second Life CAN bring us together, but if we continue to fragment the information that allows us to come together, we’re limiting ourselves as a community. That’s both tragic and ironic.
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France in the 18th century, who was beheaded before the French Revolution, will visit Second life Library and the “Throne Room” on Info Island II . . . Marie will tell her story and introduce you to the people in her life during 18th century France. A young woman born at the wrong place at the wrong time, she will share her story from her point of view in an eighteenth century French environment with life size pictures of the people in her life. Contact Lorelei Junot for more information.
This event highlights two capabilities of Second Life of interest to real life educators. First, SL can credibly enhance role playing for educational purposes. I look forward to seeing, “hearing from” and perhaps interacting with a virtual representation of Marie Antoinette. Second, SL enhances the accessibility of subject matter experts; I’ve alluded to this capability before, but it can be summarized in this instance with a question, “How often do college or K-12 classrooms have access to an individual with enough in depth knowledge to assume the persona of a historical figure?” Not often, so I hope the event takes advantage of the opportunity to truly underscore the unique capabilities of SL in real life educational environments.
I’ve been looking for a calendar feature in-world that would allow me to keep track of upcoming events that I’d like to attend; I need a way to mark the events of interest as I encounter them. As I searched, I came across a couple of in-world tools: one wasn’t developed well enough and was hard to use and the other was 800L to purchase. However, I stumbled across an article in the Second Life Knowledge Base that is very useful: all events scheduled in Second Life are automatically ported/sync’ed with the online calendaring system at Eventful (www.eventful.com). Gauging from the number of user-generated calendars and groups, it doesn’t appear as though many users are taking advantage of the service even though it allows users to mark or export SL events to del.icio.us, digg, Yahoo calendar, Google Calendar, Outlook, Rabble or iCal!!
I believe this is a tremendous collaborative, networking tool for real life educators in Second Life, and with hope that it will be a useful and well-used tool, I have created a Group Calendar called Real Life Education Events in Second Life. This calendar is designed to include (a) openings of new sims by educational institutions, (b) educational conferences or meetings held in-world, (c) publicly available course lectures, or (d) discussions or meetings focused on the use of Second Life to facilitate Real Life education. If you search Eventful for SL calendars or groups, please pay particular attention to the word Events in the title of the group I’ve created; there are a couple of similarly titled groups/calendars that are false starts I had with the service. Group members can collaboratively add events to the calendar; anyone is welcome to join the group.
Adding events to the group calendar is quite simple. Since all SL events are added to Eventful, it’s possible to browse the list of ALL in-world events categorized as Learning, Education. Clicking on an event relevant to Real Life Education – as the image posted with this blog entry shows – allows users to (1) link directly to the in-world location of the event via a slurl, (2) add the event to a calendar including: eventful, Google, Yahoo, Outlook, Rabble or iCal, and (3) indicate they are watching and/or going to the event.
Even better, each group calendar also has an RSS feed; enabling user subscriptions via news readers/rss aggregators. If you’d like to subscribe to the Real Life Education Events in Second Life, the RSS feed is available at http://eventful.com/rss/groups/G0-001-003671779-1. You can also add the calendar to your own web page, and you’ll see the feed from the Group Calendar in the right hand column of this blog.
I have several specific ideas for using the capabilities of Second Life to enhance the teaching and learning experience in Health Science learning spaces – virtual, online, hybrid or face-to-face. Some of those ideas focus on “micro-simulations” – scenarios that focus on very specific skills related to the health sciences.
One such micro-simulation – dubbed IV Starter for now – focuses on the skill of inserting a syringe into an artery for the purpose of starting an IV or drawing blood. It’s difficult to put all of the details down in text, so the video capture, while of a very rough, manually controlled prototype created by an instructional designer (not a proficient SL builder), demonstrates the concept.
Learners are presented with a model of a forearm and of a syringe or IV needle (please excuse any terminology errors – I’m not a subject matter expert). Given a proficient builder, scripter, avatar skin designer and texture developer, the models can be created to be quality representations of the RL elements. The forearm should include internal features as well: arteries, veins, perhaps muscle, nerve and bone tissue. The purpose of the activity is for learners to demonstrate the ability to manipulate a syringe at the appropriate angle and insertion point to properly access the artery.
The arm model could be created to allow varying settings to control the level of difficulty: transparency of the skin, size of the artery, “angle guides” for the syringe, and level of distracting detail. The syringe could be scripted such that avatars may pick up and control the orientation of the syringe to the arm to ensure the correct angle. And, given a particular point on the artery and the point of the syringe, scripting should be possible to evaluate the angle of the syringe in relation to the artery at the moment the two collide.
Further, given Second Life’s ability to transfer data to/from the web, upon engaging the simulation, learners could be asked to submit their names, and their activities and attempts with the simulation tool could be recorded for assessment and re-training purposes. Ultimately, such an in-world simulation, particularly if it’s Open Content as it should be, could provide an inexpensive tool to supplement other clinical preparation work. Once developed, the scripting logic could be reused for other health science related simulations.
Sloodle seeks to combine the Second Life Virtual Environment with the Moodle LMS; from the Sloodle website, “Blocks in Moodle become 3D objects in Second Life. Chat logs, objects and Second Life snapshots become contributions to the Moodle classroom.” Available from that site, Jeremy Kemp and Daniel Livingstone outlined many of the possibilities and logistics in a whitepaper titled Putting a Second Life “Metaverse” Skin on Learning Management Systems. The Sloodle development team announced today that the sloodle.com site has reached 1000 users, and there’s an in-world SL group for those interested in the LMS – search SL groups for Sloodlers. The mutual integration of the two platforms certainly is significant for educators, but the feature of Second Life that makes Sloodle possible is perhaps more critically significant.
In my opinion, the most significant innovation offered by the Second Life environment may have a profound impact on education, but I believe it is often overlooked by many educators since it’s technically oriented. Jeremy Kemp highlighted the llHttpRequest feature in his 2006 educational review of Second Life, The SimTeach 12: The Who, Where, When and How of Second Life as a teaching tool in 2006. Number 2 in Kemp’s review, llHttpRequest is a scripting tool that allows Second Life objects to request information from and deliver information to web-based databases. That feature, according to Kemp, is unique in the history of immersive platforms.
llHttpRequest makes online, database driven applications and tools feasible as solutions to support content needs in Second Life. For example, a virtual, Second Life Clinical Simulation can be database driven as described previously in this blog. Activities in Second Life can be noted and passed to a content system for assessment purposes; ostensibly, discussions taking place in-world can be passed to a web-based discussion forum. A series of interactions with SL objects, like the Clinical Buttons, can be recorded and stored in an online database to reveal a learner’s engagement of an authentic learning process. The llHttpRequest function in Linden Scripting Language (LSL) offers expansive educational opportunities.
While the technical implementation of llHttpRequest may be beyond many educators, it is important for the teaching community to be aware of the possibilities and functionality of the tool since it will enable and support many creative ideas generated by teaching faculty.
First is Clinical Simulations using an interactive, case study data set “worn” by an avatar. It’s difficult to put all of the details down in text, so the video capture, while of a very rough, hard-coded prototype written by an instructional designer/technologist (not a subject matter expert), demonstrates the concept.
At least two people, using their respective avatars, participate in the role play simulation: one as the Nurse and the other as the Patient. However, the innovation with Second Life comes as each avatar “wears” their role by dropping onto their avatar a case study folder that draws on data and images stored via the web and/or Second Life. When the Patient wears the case study, the shape and clothes of their avatar are changed to match the description of the patient in the study: relative height, weight, age etc. The case study folder is programmed to provide the Patient with notes describing their symptoms which supports their ability to offer specific details through the role play experience, and the case study folder also attaches to the Patient interactive “clinical buttons.”
Clinical Buttons, as I’m calling them, are small prims (basic second life objects) with programming that provides certain interactions and medical options when touched. For example, a right arm clinical button may offer, as the video shows, the Nurse several options when she touches (clicks on) it: check blood pressure, draw blood, give injection or start I.V. The programming for the button includes subsequent options and results as well, when appropriate: i.e. if drawing blood, for what purpose will it be tested? and, when tested, what are the results?
The optimal implementation is for the programming in each Clinical Button to be generic as possible by pulling all menu options, choices, subsequent tests and test results from an Open Content web-based database. This may enable a wide range of very powerful features. First, professors will be able to create their own case studies and content by filling out web-based forms that interface with the database. Second, faculty would then be able to browse the database to identify specific case studies pertinent to their course content. The case study folders can be programmed to listen for a case number once it’s been attached to an avatar: allowing learners to select specific, assigned case studies. Fourth, using images and sounds uploaded to the web or to SL, the simulations can return as results an image of a burn or the sound of the lungs breathing rather than a textual description by the simulation or by individuals participating in the role play.
Certainly, I do not assume that this is a completely original idea on my part; my ego’s not that confident ;-) However, I have searched the web using a variety of keywords and phrases to try to find any similar works in progress but have not been able to locate this sort of clinical simulation. I did find a video from a 2005 presentation that demonstrates the clinical role play possibilities, which is an element of the simulation I have in mind. Also, the SimTeach SLED discussion forum contained an October 2006 post that described a virtual hospital project that is/was looking for others working on medical simulations. And, I encountered a YouTube video of a build of a clinic along with numerous mentions of abnormal psychology simulations in Second Life. With that said, if you’re working on a project similar to this one (or any others I didn’t mention), I’d appreciate an email and a slurl to the in-world location.
From time to time, I am going to take the opportunity to highlight another blog that I think may be exceptionally useful to real life educators working in and with Second Life (i.e. Central Piedmont).
Penn State University’s Educational Technology Services’ blog – Penn State Virtual Worlds – offers two critically important resources/pages for educators:
- SL Initial Project at Penn State – the project charter for PSU’s work in SL including a rationale for and description of the project; the project scope, sequence and timeline; and the year one project budget.
- SL Educational Possibilities at Penn State – a whitepaper-type description of educational applications of Second Life within the PSU environment with headings including: general educational uses of Second Life; discipline specific uses of SL; possible general learning outcomes; factors for use; preparation time and tips; assessment; technical issues and requirements; and other educationally-related logistics issues.
Those two pages alone are worth the look for any educator or institution exploring or wanting to explore the use of Second Life to facilitate real life education.
How many WebQuests exist on the web? I imagine that number is quite large, and the collection of existing WebQuests can be an incredible resource for applying Second Life technology to enhance learning spaces. San Diego State University illustrates the possibilities in their SL Meadowbrook campus through a SL/Virtual/3D rendering of a webquest published by Lubbock ISD called Meet the Immigrants.
The information card accompanying the location indicates that the space is: an example of adapting a WebQuest to a 3D virtual environment. It is designed for learners to access in two class periods. Class period 1: Log on, orient themselves and choose which immigrant character type they are going to research. (Independent internet research on chosen roles). Class period 2: Log on, get files and become that character and join in a round table discussion around the central campfire, synthesizing and comparing the experiences of various immigrant populations throughout United States history.
The SL Quest version of this exercise presents a virtual diorama with four different settler groups represented by a male and female avatar standing in front of their respective “home” positioned around a central campfire: Chinese Immigrants, New Mexico Conquistadors, Oregon Trail Settlers, and Pilgrims. Each of the eight avatars includes an Avatar-Giver script which allows any visiting user to physically transform “themselves” into a respective settler including avatar shape, hair, and clothing.
This virtual transformation of an existing instructional strategy may enhance the learning process in a couple of ways. First, the virtual diorama further assists learners with the visualization process which increases the salient qualities of the experience. Second, the added visualization also makes the role play more authentic as learners assume virtual costumes as they participate in the campfire discussions. And, of course, the second life version also further enables: additional enhancements to the 3D environment, distance learning, out-of-class engagement and collaborative opportunities with learners beyond the local classroom.