Archive for May, 2007
If you are going to the NMC Summer Conference, happen to be a baseball fan and would possibly be interested in taking in a Minor League Baseball game at arguably one of the best minor league ballparks in the country, email me at topher (at) muveforward (dot) com. The ballpark appears to be within walking distance of the conference center. Ideally, I’d like to meet up with a group at the conference to go to the game Wednesday evening.
A quick post to provide links to resources focused on this past Friday’s Second Life Best Practices in Education conference, and in particular, the sessions about which I’ve commented. Including these and others, the conference team also has put together a page of links to blogs, news articles, pictures and videos focused on the conference.
- Sarah “Intellagirl Tully” Robbins’ keynote focused on engagement of learners via Second Life.
- Jonathan “WainBrave Bernal” Richter’s SaLamander Project
- Ken “Kenny Hubble” Hudson’s keynote describing Loyalist College’s SL experience.
- A video montage of photos by Professor Lilliehook.
- SLCN.TV‘s archive video footage of sessions & interviews from the conference
- Interview with Desideria Stockton
- Fleep Tuque
- Intellagirl Tully
- Kenny Hubble
- Pirate Shipman
- Globalkids Bixby
- Virtual Bacon
- Decka Mah
- Kathy Dryburgh
- Lyr Lobo
- Maggie, Victoria and Kevin
- Wainbrave Bernal
- Xirconnia Morphett
Chris Collins (SL: Fleep Tuque) from the University of Cincinatti presented preliminary results of research she has conducted: An Observational Survey of Educational Institutions in the Virtual World of Second Life.
Wanting to identify “what was out there” Chris (and colleagues?) began identifying and locating institutions with a SL presence. They started with the 186 institutions listed by the SimTeach Wiki with the goal of locating the presence of each institution to discover common, best practices for Campus builds. They were able to locate only 76 of the institutions listed in Second Life, and they found many institutions in Second Life, using SL search functions, that were not listed by the SimTeach Wiki. As they reviewed the various campuses, they observed how many institutions are implementing their SL presence and discovered a number of what they believe to be best practices.
- Traditional Learning Spaces to Exploratory Builds. Not many campuses are breaking the mold. Many of the learning spaces represent familiar learning environments including the replication of actual, RL campus venues. The interesting builds that divert from established norms were by institutions that had been in SL for a longer period of time. Educational institutions appear to engage an incremental building process. They begin by replicating the familiar: buying a little plot with a building and a sign. After a period of time, they expand and explore more.
- Naming of Land Plots. Label and name plots of land with recognizable, commonly understand name(s) associated with the institution. “Nothing stymied the research more than the name of the plots and islands.” Chris used her own institution as an example; the University of Cincinatti’s area is labelled UCit – the department for which Chris works. That name is meaningful to those within the institution, but non-UC SL residents interested in finding the University’s SL campus likely will not search for UCit, and searching for Cincinatti does not help find their SL campus.
- Signage & Information. Not all institutions clearly identify or mark their campus, and in many instances, they could not determine if or where classes were being held, judging by the assets available on the land site. They discovered that footpaths may be important to provide visual cues directing visitors where to go and what to do. Greeting note cards were common at campus entry points and provide useful information describing the space and the projects on the campus. Informational signs are important throughout the campus.
One of the most useful signage and information strategies I’ve personally seen, but not mentioned by Chris, is the Guided Tour Chair. EduNation and The Gene Pool both have the resource, and both are incredibly useful to visitors.
- Leverage Existing Resources. Not many institutions provided links in SL to existing web-based assets. A few linked to their campus newspaper or perhaps the institution website, but many did NOT link to press regarding their SL campus.
- Navigation. While it did not exist on most campuses, the presence of teleport buttons, systems and menus throughout the campus certainly provides a more usable space for residents.
- Sandboxes. “Everyone” has one.
- Office Space. Virtual office space for faculty and staff were common across a lot of institutions. The survey revealed a variety of uses for virtual office space typically falling into two categories: (a) personal introductions such as pictures, personal information, and interests or (b) resource distribution center for common, static materials like FAQ’s, HowTo’s, and tutorials.
- Social Spaces for Learners. The research team didn’t expect to find and was not originally recording this element; however, they discovered Dance Clubs and other social spaces on many campuses.
- Alumni Outreach. They found a good number of institutions reaching out to Alumni: even soliciting donations. Campuses create a social space for alumni to keep in touch with one another and faculty.
- Sporadic Media Use. Currently, most media use is nothing more than music on parcels for aesthetic purposes. Instructional video is not common, and when it is available, it’s typically about using SL or a marketing video of some sort.
All of the information Chris presented was incredibly useful, and it was a fantastic presentation given that all of her preparation time was dominated by organizing the conference itself. I am looking forward to seeing the data and results, in particular the institutions they found, land coordinates, and contact information.
Sarah “Intellagirl Tully” Robbins presented her keynote focused on the concept of learner engagement and the promise SL holds for improving that engagement. As expected, the main room was standing room only with the server being full; I was able to take in her presentation via an overflow venue thanks to SLCN.TV’s broadcast.
After discussing the importance of learner engagement, including work by Chickering & Gamson and Rovai, Intellagirl suggested this equation as a means of understanding how to create a sense of community.
Self-Disclosure and Bonding (Cutler)
+ Sharing Enjoyable Experiences (Duck)
+ Sharing public spaces (Goffman)
+ Mutual Respect of differences (Graves, Gibbs)
She then spent time highlighting how Second Life very capably supports each of those elements, and perhaps uniquely so compared to on-campus or web-based environments. A couple of thoughts.
The concept of engaging learners, as she defines it, assumes a more collaborative environment where learners are given more control over their learning experience. Intellagirl described the rhetoric course she teaches via SL as not having a specific classroom with the specific learning activities being developed by the learners: they are given goals and allowed to determine how to achieve those goals. As she admitted, that is a very challenging way to teach, and I suggest that it can fall apart at the seams very quickly. Such a framework requires learners willing and able to assume primary responsibility for their own learning, and it requires faculty familiar with instructional strategies and tactics to facilitate such a learning experience. Generally, I think many educators already participating in Second Life have that experience and familiarity, or they have a perspective and tendency to learn and understand those skills very quickly.
What happens, however, when the scope of Second Life implementation within institutions begins to include learners and faculty not familiar with more open-ended approaches to learning? How do we prevent a web-based read the assignments and take the quizzes course from becoming a Second Life read the assignments and take the quizzes course? Is it better to have bad Second Life instruction or no Second Life instruction?
I think my answer to that question to this point has been based on my experiences with web-based instruction. I believe many institutions have trudged ahead with web-based instruction, good or bad, simply because it’s in demand and “the thing to do.” I’ve argued that it’s better to have no web-based instruction than to have bad web-based instruction because I believe bad web-based instruction is often worse than bad face-to-face instruction.
We’ve continued to move forward assuming the technology – the web – would begin to influence the way faculty and learners teach and learn. However, after observing the five year, unchanging existence of web-based read the assignments and take the quizzes courses, I know the technology has not transformed the way we teach and learn in far more instances than it has. Successful transformations have been facilitated by early adopters or instructional specialists and veteran faculty working hard together; I think there are more bad examples of web-based instruction than there are good. I don’t know if I’m a realist or a pessimist.
That’s the basis of my concern regarding where education in Second Life may be headed. However, after listening to Intellagirl and Kenny Hubble’s keynotes, I’m beginning to think Second Life may have the capability to truly be a technology capable of transforming how we teach and learn. It will take me time beyond this post to figure out why.
Ken Hudson (SL: Kenny Hubble) of Loyalist College in Canada presented the first keynote of the conference. I believe the archive of his address may be available at SLCN.TV, and it’s worth viewing. The session was FULL; the main room was standing room only, and from what I understand there were fair crowds at the overflow venues as well. (more pictures here)
Ken provided a fantastic overview of Loyalist College’s experience, to this point, in Second Life. There were several things he described which I believe are informative to other institutions perhaps beginning to establish their Second Life presence.
First, Loyalist College started with a 1000 square meter parcel that Ken set up rather quickly at EduIsland. He quickly seized an opportunity to use a smaller piece of land on a larger, educationally related development. This allowed an initial presence which they announced via a press conference, attracting national attention in Canada, and they were able to do conduct their first instructional use of the space as well.
Having a campus in Second Life is one thing; it’s entirely another thing to have real live students using it as a learning platform.
Loyalist College began their build by replicating campus buildings; they utilized student groups from the college (particularly architecture students) to begin creating a learning space: Loyalist College Amphitheater. This clearly represents a traditional learning space right down to the included “hand-raising” chairs designed to enable learners sitting and raising/lowering their hand to ask questions. I’ve been rather vocal about recreating such traditional spaces in Second Life. Even their initial goal, as he described it, is one that I’ve cautioned against: Twenty journalism students would use SL for small group discussions that used to happen in WebCT. HOWEVER, as Ken continued to describe the instructional activities engaged by their faculty and learners, Loyalist simply used the traditional space as a jumping off point for faculty and students. While the first several sessions simply recreated traditional learning interactions, by the time the course was over, they had guest journalists, researchers and editors join them in world, and one of their students garnered an internship with the Second Life News Network. That’s quality use of the Second Life environment.
Soooo…. I’m beginning to think that building a traditional space as the first College venue may be a good step; it provides familiarity and continuity for residents when first using Second Life. And, ultimately, such traditional uses of Second Life may begin the institution’s SL presence, but it doesn’t have to summarize it.
If you litter in Second Life, you’re littering. If you shoot someone in Second Life, you shot someone. If you have sex in Second Life, don’t do that in the classroom.
Loyalist College has and is willing to share a list of the basic skills they believe learners neeed before they will be able to fully engage the SL environment. This only confirmed my assumption that this is a necessary activity, despite a debate to the contrary on the SLED Listserv. When I have access to Ken’s slides or training materials, I will make information/links available here as well.
Other Loyalist notes and projects of interest:
- started marketing through SL. An international student established a Study in Canada pavilion and offered sessions describing the opportunities at Loyalist College. Within a week or so, they connected with 80 individuals across 26 different countries and received one application to the College.
- created a partnership with Brown University – highlighting the opportunity for inter-institutional collaboration via SL: Open Source Museum of Open Source Art.
- currently in the process of building Loyalist College Island.
- developing for the Fall semester a Youth Detention Facility Simulation: a twelve person detention center for role play within their criminal justice program. A similar project is underway within their Mental Health program.
- developing a Podcast Cinema, a movie theater type venue, which will allow learners to scroll through and watch College related podcasts: tutorials, course content and marketing materials.
- recreated, and improved in the process, a student lounge area called the Shark Tank Pub; while it takes the same name of their RL campus venue, the SL version is an underwater venue surrounded by sharks. dance floor included of course.
I sincerely hope to have the opportunity to get back in touch with Ken in the future as my institution plans to establish its SL presence.
After attending the first session of the SL Best Practices in Education Conference at 2AM (CDT) and catching another 1.5 hour of sleep, I attended and moderated the session by Chris Swaine (SL: Chris Eggplant) which actually delivered by his colleague Susan Kelly: Validating and recognizing skills – a core competency framework. Chris & Susan, or at least Susan, work for National Institute for Adult Continuing Education in the UK; the session focused on work published at sleducationuk.net
The topic focused on the notion of developing core competencies necessary for SL residents to properly engage the environment. Chris proposes, as noted in his whitepaper, that the SL education community work toward:
- A set of agreed technical competences for residents, learners and practitioners.
- Supporting guidelines on good pedagogical practice.
- An agreed consultation process to identify the competences and guidelines.
- Accreditation and/or benchmarking for these competences.
In short, Chris simply suggests that we collectively identify core competencies and principles of quality pedagogical practice in Second Life and move toward benchmarking those levels of skill and performance.
I believe, perhaps assume, most educational institutions are, should be or will be engaging the exact ideas Chris suggests. The notion is not groundbreaking; what’s encouraging with the proposal is the early timing of it. I’ve expressed before my primary concern is that we – my institution (and indeed many others) – will make the same mistakes we made with web-based learning: teach now and plan, manage, and assess quality later. Quality teaching and learning doesn’t typically happen organically; it can, but often it does not particularly when new media and technologies are added into the learning environment. Institutionally, we need to define what we believe to be quality teaching and learning via Second Life and provide the resources and scaffolding/support/training to make it possible.
With that said, a community-wide effort to identify the core competencies for SL faculty and learners will facilitate quality instructional use of Second Life; that will benefit the entire community.
The Second Life Best Practices in Education: Teaching, Learning & Research Conference kicked off at 2AM (CDT) this morning. If nothing else, it was two things: a marathon and a rousing success. I’m going to blog a few thoughts about several different sessions, but I want to take a moment to comment on the conference itself.
Combining the complexities of running a conference with the complexities of Second Life made this, to say the least, a tremendous challenge. From my experience, it was fantastically organized, managed and presented with tremendous professionalism. I’d like to echo appreciation expressed by the NMC Campus Observer for the organizers:
- Marlene Brooks (SL Zana Kohime)
- Chris Collins (SL Fleep Tuque)
- Doreen Pugh (SL Veritas Variscan)
- Beth Ritter-Guth (SL Desideria Stockton)
Truly a fantastic job!! There were specific aspects of the conference that were particularly impressive to me personally.
Security and moderators were well organized. Neoznet Watts, who I’ve met through Desideria, helped coordinate the security; moderators and other security staff were assigned to a group and had permissions to eject any single individual. There were a few issues with security with one well known report of a griefer and a lesser issue in another session: a Skypecast used as Plan B for audio delivery was “crashed” by a mischievous visitor asking off-topic questions.
The SLCN.TV productions were nothing short of amazing, in my opinion. Having the foresight to plan overflow locations is one thing, but the SLCN.TV broadcast of keynotes and other popular events was tremendous. Honestly, the broadcast was comparable to a news broadcast you’d expect from a standard news station; it caught me by surprise, but knowing the level of expertise of many SL residents, perhaps it shouldn’t have. SLCN.TV will be making the SLBPE 2007 Archives available from their site in the near future.
The opportunity to support the event by moderating a session was enjoyable. I moderated the 3AM session (5AM for me) by Chris Swaine/Eggplant, Validating and Recognizing Skills: A Core Competency Framework. Again, the organizers did a fantastic job of informing moderators of their role via detailed notecards.
The ingenuity of the group was enjoyable to observe. From rolling restarts to difficulties with audio/video feeds early on, the community adapted and found workarounds very quickly. For Chris Eggplant’s session, his colleague Susan Kelly had to step in at the last minute to present for Chris because his car had broken down on his way to the office. Then, the audio was not working; Susan quickly fell back to a SkypeCast as a Plan B, and an attendee to the session, Baldric Commons, quickly set up an audio feed at WorldBridges.net to allow everyone to easily listen to the presentation.
The final report is that there were 1300 UNIQUE AVATARS that attended the conference across all venues! And, reportedly, but unconfirmed, Phillip Rosedale attended a portion of the conference as well. The crazy sleep and session schedule I kept was well worth it; a few photos are posted here.
The Best Practices in Education Conference begins tonight, in about 6 hours (2AM CDT). There are reportedly over 800 individuals already registered with that number climbing by the hour. The buzz on the SL Educator’s mailing list is increasing dramatically. The program schedule promises to provide interesting presentations throughout the 24 hour long conference with a good range of topics: teen grid, quality instruction, case studies/examples, and engaging administrators .
My personal, tentative schedule is (all are CDT):
2:00AM – Breaking Loose: Educators at Large
5:00AM – Validating and Recognizing Skills
6:00AM – Developing Communities of Learners & Practitioners
10:00AM – Drawing on Second Life to Enrich the First Life
11:00AM – Keynote
3:00PM – Keynote
5:00PM – Graduate Student Social
6:00PM – Two Years of Introducing Educators to Second Life
8:00PM – Creating a Community of Practice – SaLamander Project
11:00PM – Observational Survey of Educational Institutions
It promises to be a hectic, sleep-deprived night and day; I hope to help out by moderating the 2AM session. I also hope to blog regarding each session, so you may see a flurry of posts to this blog in the near future.
While the excitement is great, I encourage, no, I implore all of you to enter Second Life with eye towards critical discourse. If you are attending an in-world conference, social, or gathering, don’t be afraid to challenge those speaking on Second Life. Question everything! Education needs your critical eye, your critical insights. It doesn’t need a massive following! If you have been in Second Life for some time, don’t let the new people just follow. Force them to challenge and engage us in new ways so we are all walking side by side.
I believe this perspective underpins a great deal of my concerns regarding how educational institutions are engaging Second Life: many questions and subsequent answers are being overlooked in favor of rapid implementation. Are we critically addressing the critical questions? What are we collectively doing to address questions surrounding: security, finance & purchasing policies, identity & privacy, quality of instruction, and acceptable use policies?
According to the Middle East Times , Maldives (a small island country in the Indian Ocean) opened the first virtual embassy in SL. Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said that the virtual embassy
offers another channel for us to provide information on the country, to offer our viewpoint on issues of international concern, and to interact with our partners in the international community.
For educators, virtual embassies coming online in Second Life (Sweden’s is expected in the next week or so) offer a range of potential opportunities:
- Simple research regarding countries via virtual field trips to embassies and/or interaction with embassy representatives.
- Language study and practice through conversations on SL embassy properties.
- Case studies of international political issues through live, virtual question and answer sessions with embassy representatives.
- Role playing based upon research conducted via virtual embassies (anyone else ever play or dabble in Diplomacy or NationStates?)
I know embassies currently offer materials to inform the world citizen regarding their country – which could be classified as an “education” department within the embassy, but how many embassies currently support education through specific curriculum designed to support political science, geography, world history or language instruction?