Archive for year 2008
I really do not intend for this blog to turn into a “Wesch-groupie” site ;-) However, much of what he says and does strikes a chord with me and compels me to think and write.Professor’s Wesch most recent post highlights a video recording of a guest lecture he delivered last month (June) at University of Manitoba. I’ve watched about half of it to this point and will post more thoughts in this space in the near future, but I wanted to pass along the link at the moment. His guest lecture includes some of the comments and themes he shared in his keynote at the Educause Learning Initiative’s annual meeting back in February; I strongly recommend the hour plus it will take to listen to Dr. Wesch’s reflections on the “crisis of significance” and the approaches and tools he’s used to actively engage his students.
a “virtual experience,” allows users to create virtual representations of themselves, then decorate their own virtual rooms, invite friends to that room
I checked the substantial number of SLED related blogs I have in my reader and noticed there’s not yet been much written on it. Of course, Fleep Tuque (RL: Chris Collins) has already shared a few thoughts.
I’ll be looking into it more, but after a quick glance, my first impression that a “virtual experience” is drastically different from a “virtual world.” Once I have an opportunity to explore more closely, I’ll share more thoughts.
A rare instance of simply passing along news from another site, but the news warrants it, imho.
IBM and Linden Lab have announced that research teams from the two companies successfully teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another. It’s an important first step toward enabling avatars to pass freely between virtual worlds . . .
The full story is available at the Second Life blog.
There’s been growing interest by educators in MUVE’s other than Second Life: OpenSim, Project Wonderland, Qwaq, Croquet etc. This past week, I (again) attended the Sled Roundtable that AJ Brooks (pictured left in suit, RL: AJ Kelton) hosts each Tuesday at Montclair State University (3:30 SLT). The focus of the discussion was Project Wonderland and other open grid/source alternatives to Second Life, and on short notice, Alan Levine (SL: CDB Barkley, pictured left in red) joined the group as a guest speaker. The conversation, for me, confirmed a few thoughts I noted previously, pinpointed perhaps the primary purpose of Wonderland, and ultimately helped frame the virtual environment landscape a little better while perhaps providing a longer term answer to the question I asked back in December.
First, Alan confirmed several of my initial thoughts regarding Project Wonderland. When asked how Project Wonderland is different from Second Life, Alan commented that Wonderland “is NOT a user generated world” (his emphasis) and that “3d objects can be built in outside tools (Maya, etc).” For me, this confirms the my initial impression that Wonderland may not support collaborative, real-time building efforts very well, and that the Second Life build tools are more accessible (both in access and learning curve) to a broader audience. Alan also confirmed that (a) Wonderland is still very early in the development process, using the term “alpha-ish – maybe beta” to describe it; and (b) the ability to customize Wonderland may be beyond the reach of many institutions since, as he noted, “doing anything custom calls for some serious java skills.”
Second, Alan’s comments help to pinpoint perhaps the primary function and purpose of Wonderland. In describing the benefits of Project Wonderland, Alan said that it “can be more ‘controlled’ – run behind firewalls” and “connected to authentication services” plus “it is more built on the ability to collaborate” through “application sharing.” And, when asked if it was “more like Qwaq” – Alan responded that Wonderland is “IN function like Qwaq” (as opposed to the design or underlying development standards, I guess). Wonderland is particularly well suited to “share any app you run on a desktop . . . co-browse web sites . . . work on shared apps together . . . and there are some interesting potentials for connecting to other net apps.” However, “each server is its own world” and Alan was “not sure if there is a central avatar/identity manager.” For me, all of that suggests that Wonderland is ideally suited as a virtual meeting space – moreso than it is a build and content delivery space; the application sharing, telephony & voice communication tools and private chat capabilities enabled by a server platform that can be more controlled, run behind firewalls and connected to authentication services all point to a tool intended for supporting business-centered collaboration – even within the higher education industry.
The bigger picture I take from this and several other recent conversations is that virtual worlds appear to be falling into one of two types. Second Life, Active Worlds, and There are content class virtual worlds. The usefulness of content class virtual worlds is the user/resident generated content; SL is designed around the ability to build, share and interact with virtual content. Many of the tools to support business and collaboration have been slower to develop in Second Life: voice communication, in-world web access, etc. In contrast, Qwak/Croquet, Project Wonderland and IBM’s proprietary Metaverse are business class virtual worlds. Project Wonderland focuses on the ability to support business needs: application sharing, integration with existing authentication services & business data platforms, voice communication, and business class scalability etc. And, as perhaps expected, it doesn’t emphasize the visual experience; Alan noted that “the avatars are, well ugly,” and as noted above, it’s not as easy to deliver robust content within Wonderland.
The long term question will be whether the current business-class virtual worlds will begin to develop content-class type capabilities or vice versa. Until that happens, I believe educational institutions may realistically engage Project Wonderland AND Second Life but for drastically different reasons and unique purposes. Of course, the issue of which business or content-class virtual world is the “best of class” remains to be answered. Given the NMC/Sun partnership, Wonderland may be the best option in the business class, particularly for educational institutions, and at the moment, Second Life is likely the top option in the content-class for secondary and post-secondary educators and institutions. I do wonder about the extent to which elementary education may or could be using virtual worlds targeted to the under 13 age groups (Webkinz World etc).
As a final note, I’d again like to recommend AJ Kelton’s (SL: AJ Brooks) regularly scheduled Sled Roundtable on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30SLT on Montclair State CHSSSouth (slurl). This group is routinely attracting 35+ Sleducators for very active discussions on pertinent topics.
I’ve been following the work Dr. Wesch has been doing at Kansas State for the past year or so, and he’s released the full length (16:20) video of his Spring 2008 class’ experience with the World Simulation. The video is significant from a political and cultural perspective, but I believe it is also critically important from an instructional design and pedagogy perspective as well. I’d certainly enjoy heairng more from Dr. Wesch regarding the World Simulation in regards to:
- interactive experiences for large classes
- large learning communities
- simulation design & development
- authentic assessment
I typically don’t repost items directly from other sites; I prefer to tag those to resyndicated feeds (check the sidebar), but this short clip from The Simpsons is perhaps worth reposting. I noticed it while reading effectivedesign.org by John Curry, a friend and colleague.
This evening, I was bouncing through my Google Reader checking for a few feeds I haven’t caught up on in a while , and specifically, I wanted to move the GeekDad blog from Wired further up my list of feeds and catch up a little bit. It’s one I typically read for personal enjoyment, but tonight I noticed something that had my mind jumping with educational possibilities – at home with my kids or in formal learning environments.
Initially, I stumbled across an interesting post about Legos. One pointed to a post at Gizmodo with a video tour through LEGO’s “Secret Vault” that contains almost every LEGO set ever released – unopened and unused. It was an interesting trip down memory lane ;-)
Then I came across GeekDad’s post about the LEGO Digital Designer. That jump will tell you more, but in short, the Digital Designer (a free download as far as I can tell) makes it possible to design your own LEGO bricks and/or use the collection of over 700 bricks to design and build to your heart’s content. But, that’s not really the cool part. Once you have finished your build, the software will generate a parts list to create a custom kit to purchase – thus allowing you to then receive your custom set and build with real LEGO’s the same thing you built with the digital designer.
I can imagine really entertaining, authentic, creative, problem solving possibilities all the way up through undergraduate classrooms (a great, fun introduction to architecture?) Definitely worth a look.
Episode 3 of MUVE Forward The Podcast is available (length 18:36). In this episode I discuss (ramble) through ideas and thoughts regarding legal issues educators should consider when working with learners via Second Life (and virtual worlds in general). As always, the recording is definitely rough since it’s recorded via a cell phone while driving through rush hour traffic. I do not have professional production values! It’s all about the information.
In advance, a quick note of appreciation to AJ Brooks (RL: AJ Kelton) for the weekly SLED Roundtable he hosts on the Montclair State Island. One of those weekly meetings prompted this thought thread. And, a quick disclaimer – I’m not an attorney and do not claim to be one in any shape, form or fashion (and haven’t slept at a Holiday Inn Express recently either), so if you’d like a professional legal opinion, please contact your institution’s legal team.
Summary of topics:
- FERPA (U.S. Federal Law, Family Education Rights & Privacy Act)
- Copyright & IPR (copy bots, potential issues with Linden ToS – note below)
- Safety (griefing, cyber-bullying, sexual harassment, virtual to real world acts)
- Finance & Purchasing Requirements (institutional policies & guidelines)
The court case I mentioned but for which I couldn’t remember the name was “Bragg v. Linden Research.” The brief details are described in Wikipedia. The case was settled out of court, so the issue didn’t reach a public conclusion to set any precedent; I do believe the case hints at the issue I highlight in the Terms of Service in the podcast, and it likely will surface again at some point in the future.
Overall, I believe physical world laws and existing, institutional Acceptable Use Policies may be capable of governing the first three issues, but institutional guidelines, policies and requirements may have to be revised or amended to accommodate the use of institutional funds to purchase virtual “products” and, particularly, virtual currency. This may be more of an issue for institutions which are publicly funded by taxpayer dollars.
Listen for more details!
Visit the Blogger’s Hut (slurl) and vote for one of the four nominated blogs by clicking on the appropriate white bar. If you are inclined to vote for MUVE Forward, it’s the bottom of the four bars.
The other blogs nominated are all worth a read; I was glad to see that I already had each of them subscribed in my RSS collection ;-) In addition to this blog, nominated blogs are:
Project Wonderland – the Open Virtual Worlds project by NMC and Sun Microsystems – was highlighted by both a pre-conference workshop and a concurrent session. I attended the concurrent session on Thursday. All of my notes are available in the archive of my live blog, and Brett Bixler of Penn State also blogged about the session and project.
My comments here will focus on comparing Project Wonderland and Second Life. My primary interest in virtual worlds other than Second Life is whether or not they have capabilities to suggest they could or should supplant Second Life as the “MUVE of choice” for instructional activities.
Project Wonderland does offer several intriguing features that are particularly useful within learning environments. First, it natively supports live application sharing via X Windows; the session demonstrated the application sharing capability using what appeared to be the Windows Calculator. While there are limitations (only certain applications are supported), the capability still appears to be well ahead of anything I’ve heard suggested or planned by Linden Lab for Second Life. Second, as described by Dr. Jordan Slott, integration with business data is important, and it is very scalable. That provides unique advantages given opportunities to integrate enterprise management systems with the backend of a virtual environment platform. Third, the integrated telephony features to Wonderland are, in my opinion, truly impressive. It is possible to dial a call directly from within Wonderland; the caller on the other end of the line is represented in-world as an orb-shaped avatar. That avatar can be picked up and carried around by an in-world avatar and/or handed off to any avatar as an object; that makes it easy for teleconferencing and switching from multi-party to person-person private phone conversations.
Unfortunately, I believe there are several issues surrounding Project Wonderland that make it less attractive than Second Life at the moment.
First, Project Wonderland does not have in-world building or scripting tools; it utilizes what Dr. Slott referred to as an “Art Path” for building, and a scripting tool will not be available until a Fall 2008 release (assuming it stays on schedule). Wonderland uses existing tools like Maya, Photoshop, Blender or Gimp to develop objects and textures to be imported into the environment; they do have a World Builder that provides more rudimentary build tools, but it still provides a develop and upload type process whether than in world building tools. I prefer the in-world building tools of Second Life for two reasons. First, they allow in-world, real time collaborative building among avatars that Project Wonderland doesn’t seem to support very well. Second, despite the many complaints regarding the Second Life in-world build tools, I believe they make building more accessible to a broader audience; many more educators are capable of learning the Second Life build tools compared to those that will be able to learn 3D development tools like Maya or Blender. Dr. Slott did indicate that the 0.5 release of Wonderland – anticipated for Fall 2008 – will have a simplified art path, but I don’t believe that includes in world build tools that are less difficult to learn and use than tools like Maya, Blender, Gimp or Photoshop. For the long term success of Wonderland, I think it will be important for it to offer in-world build tools in addition to supporting 3rd party tools.
Second, as an open source project, Project Wonderland is being designed with less capability than Second Life and an intentional and necessary reliance on the open source community. Certainly, open source tools can provide a robust solution that’s ultimately configurable and ultimately affordable, and once it has matured, the development community is of tremendous benefit. However, the growth of any development community takes time (I estimate at least 1.5-2 years), so I think that makes Project Wonderland a longer term consideration as a realistic alternative to Second Life for most institutions. And, for any organization other than a research university, it seems unlikely that the programming proficiency necessary to customize or add features to a virtual world environment will be immediately available. So, until the development community has matured and stabilized (perhaps 3+ years out) and barring catastrophic changes or events at Linden lab, I believe Second Life will and perhaps should maintain educator’s preference in regard to virtual worlds for at least the next 2-3 years.
With that said, with the interest in and growth of virtual worlds combined with the development of Project Wonderland by a partnership between the New Media Consortium and Sun Microsystems, the project could certainly move much more quickly. And, there are other issues (interoperability) which could intervene and have a significant impact as well.