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Virtual University Collaboration: ENCKE

The Australian Digital Futures Institute is powering on with its work in virtual worlds. Coming up in a few weeks is their 2-day ENCKE Virtual University Collaboration (ENCKE isn’t an acronym, but a comet bringing change).

The details:

This unique event will begin with an intensive two day in-world meeting. Over the following 4 weeks some of the main ideas and concepts for virtual teaching, learning and meeting spaces developed by participants will be constructed on the new virtual university island (with assistance from professional SL builders). Then over the next 3 months participants will be able to book and use these spaces for their own teaching and learning sessions, role plays and meetings. During this time there will be informal follow-up and evaluation meetings. Traditional conferences last a few days and allow for ideas to be presented and for some follow-up discussion to occur.

The plan is to have the virtual university island(s) as an ongoing collaborative and space to allow for construction and testing of applications of virtual world technologies to university teaching and learning. We welcome your ideas and suggestions for this and future events.

When: 27 & 28 October 2011, 10am to 5pm Australian EST

Where: On a new Second Life island (slurl to be advised)

Registration: The fee to participate is AUD$325 (inc. GST) and includes the conference and related workshop, tutorial, demonstration and tour session plus 3 months access to the constructed spaces. It is expected that participants will have a SL avatar and have acquired at the least the basic skills of interacting in a virtual environment. The event is limited to 50 participants. We do expect the event to be fully subscribed so please register early to secure your place.

Check out our scoop.it page: http://www.scoop.it/t/virtual-university-education-in-virtual-worlds/

Registration available at: http://adfi.usq.edu.au/encke.html

Popularity: 1% [?]

Multiracial Identity in Second Life: survey participants sought

Passing on a call for survey participants from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. To participate you need to be from a multi-racial background. The full details:

This is research conducted by Dean A. F. Gui (Second Life avatar, Hartwig Valerian) for research into multiracial identity in virtual worlds. Your participation is voluntary and identity kept anonymous. The only pre-requisite is that you have an avatar in Second Life (http://secondlife.com) and that you consider yourself from a multiracial (more than one racial bloodline) background. Additional enquiries may be sent, via note card, directly to Hartwig Valerian in Second Life, or emailed to ecdafgui@inet.polyu.edu.hk. Thank you and I look forward to your prompt responses.

Until further notice, all participants who submit a completed survey will receive 100 Linden dollars sent to their Second Life avatar, but only if avatar names are spelled correctly in the consent portion of the survey, and only as Hartwig Valerian is able to generate the funds… so please be patient! 8-)

Please click on this link to complete the survey: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGlqRGRVRjdqdVBRNG9RWk1mR3c1ZUE6MQ

Popularity: 1% [?]

Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2011

Monash University’s Debbie McCormick dropped me a line over the weekend to ask if I could post a heads up on VWBPE 2011. Obviously it’s something we’re more than happy to do, so if you’re an educator or interested in education and virtual worlds, read on:

Greetings Fellow Educators,

“You are here” – well many of you are, but there’s still room for more!

Last year was a year of change and many of you are transitioning to new and exciting teaching spaces with mixed feelings (was that tactful enough?); but regardless of where you are practicing and what you might think about those who shall not be named, we are still a community so don’t let those changes prevent you from participating in your community.

The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a community conference; it is YOUR conference, and your chance to share your experiences with the rest of your community (wherever and whatever that community might be).  We have already received some excellent submissions but we would like more!  The Call for Proposals (papers, workshops, posters) has been extended to midnight 15thFebruary, 2011.  All that’s required is a 50 – 100 word abstract (full papers optional) that:

·          Indicates how your work illustrates best practices in education

·          Indicates the outcomes/learning objectives participants should expect from your sessions

·          Describes how your work might be applied to a particular or multiple sectors of education, i.e. K-12, large universities, community colleges, adult education, etc.

Tell us how you learn and teach. Tell us your stories of what works well and what can be done better. Where does learning happen for you?  Who do you teach? How to you engage learners? Why is learning within the virtual important to you? What is the key learning you want to share with others?

The VWBPE is a free conference, organised and run by  committees of volunteers from K-12, colleges and universities from around the world.  While most activities will happen in Second Life (Linden Lab have kindly donated 20 sims) presentations and field trips can be scheduled for other parts of the metaverse – contact Kavon and her team at proposals@vwbpe.org for more information.  Likewise, while the main language of the conference will be English we welcome submissions for presentations in languages other than English.

As a community conference we are always in need of extra funds for activities such as providing transcribers and recording the sessions for viewing after the event; if you know someone who would like to be noticed by more than 2000 educators at the premier virtual worlds education conference then please direct them to http://www.vwbpe.org/calls/call-for-sponsorship..

You are already here – so come be part of the discussion and bring your friends.

http://www.vwbpe.org/calls/2011-call-for-proposals

Debbie McCormick

VVWBPE 2011

Chair – Marketing and Communications

Popularity: 1% [?]

Journal of Virtual Worlds Education: inaugural issue

Just a quick heads-up of the launch of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Education. Published by The Center for Virtual Worlds Education and Research, there’s a mix of research and discussion papers covering a wide gamut.

Check out the main JVWE website or view the first issue here.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Virtual Mine: environment education at its best

Virtual Mine is “an educational 3D environment, game, and educational curriculum for teachers, students, and anyone who’d like to learn more about mountain top removal, coal fired power production, alternative energies, and the amazing music and culture in the Appalachian mountains”. Which sounds a little staid on the surface, but the reality is an engaging and immersive education experience. I attended the launch tour this morning alongside around 35 others, mostly educators and developers, to see what was on offer.

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Independent Television Service, the Virtual Mine consist of an entire island in Second Life. After equipping a hard hat and HUD, a series of processes can be controlled and viewed. Whether it’s tree-clearing, the removal of the mountaintop for mining, or balancing the nearby town’s energy needs with the environmental impacts of the mining and cola-fired power station, it’s all covered.

Have a brief look for yourself:

This is the sort of build that tends to shine a very bright spotlight on the opportunities virtual worlds provide for education, including environmental education. That said, one of the tour participants made a humourous comment during the ‘turn off all the unnecessary lights in the town’ exercise, asking that we shut down the region’s server in the process to truly save some power.

Some of my other snaps from the launch tour:

Tree clearing simulation


The blasting begins


Coal-fired power and its town impacts


Turn off the damn lights!

Congratulations to the developers of Virtual Mine and the wider support team. You can find out lots more information on the project here.

Popularity: 1% [?]

(Mini) Review: Virtual Worlds – Learning in a changing world

Australian educators Judy O’Connell and Dean Groom have collaborated on a tidy tome called Virtual Worlds – Learning in a Changing World. Aimed squarely at educators who haven’t had any extensive experience with virtual worlds, it provides a concise overview of the current state of play, its implications for educators, and a comprehensive set of links for people that want to explore further. It’s a virtual worlds primer for a cohort of professionals who dually need the most insight into the area and who are likely to drive the substantive momentum in the field in coming years. In that aim, this book achieves what it needs to in a way that a lot of other publications in the field could do well to emulate.

You can purchase the book for AU$19.95 from the ACER website. Or – fill in our reader survey and if your name is drawn we’ll send you a copy as your prize – just specify that’s the prize you want in the appropriate section of the survey.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Why Second Life is already second-best for education

The announcement by Linden Lab in the past 24 hours that their discounting of pricing for educators and non-profits would cease in January 2011, has engendered the expected level of outrage. And rightly so, given the critical mass of educators that have generated significant outcomes for Second Life. In fact, it could be argued that it’s only the good news stories generated by the non-profits that have helped offset some of the negative aspects inflated by parts of the mainstream media and others. The comments section below the announcement is well worth a read: even taking out the initial emotion, the overwhelming attitude is that it’s time to downsize or move on. Of course, the migration to OpenSim grids is already well underway, for a range of reasons.

As someone who follows virtual worlds pretty closely, I thought I understood the specific reasons for the move from Second Life fairly well. However, I only got the full picture over the past month, when I needed to explore options for my own education-related build. Without boring you with detail, I’m looking at conducting some research that will involve some fairly complex simulations. When I wrote the proposal for the research, I was already assuming that Second Life wouldn’t necessarily be the platform due to cost constraints (and this was before the price-rise announcement). That assumption was confirmed after some detailed discussions with a number of people, including someone developing a number of education-related projects including one aligned with my own proposal.

Based on those discussions and my own observations, here’s the key reasons I’ll not be working in Second Life for my education project (and most likely using either Unity3D, OpenSim or both):

Content creation: Although SL provides some great scripting options, the learning curve is significant and there’s minimal support for defacto design and modelling platforms. This leads to the need to either hire an SL builder or give up a significant chunk of time to learn a scripting language that’s not transferable elsewhere (except in some respects to OpenSim).

Structured learning: There is minimal ability in SL to guide avatars through particular experiences. Heads-up displays can work to some extent, but the scene-by-scene capability of Unity3D is head and shoulders above.

Reliability: ignoring historical challenges, the fact remains that down-time in SL is totally at the mercy of Linden Lab. A standalone OpenSim grid or a Unity3D installation aren’t as susceptible.

Client: SL being still being a standalone client makes it a bigger challenge to use for education that a web-based client. That may change in the medium-term but it’s a deal-breaker for purposes where dedicated PCs aren’t an option.

Ease of use: One of the key weaknesses of SL is it’s ease of use, particularly for new users. It’s something that has improved and will continue to improve. Although competitors aren’t markedly better, they certainly aren’t worse.

I want to make an important point: Second Life deserves to continue to grow and I’m still confident it will, albeit with a very different focus to what it has now. The decision on education pricing fits the wider business model as it now stands. Even that is fine, if it’s based on confidence of a new market and unshakeable faith that the current shortcomings of SL will be overcome soon enough. On the face of it, that market isn’t apparent and the improvements still seem a while away.

I’d love to hear from educators / non-profits at the coalface. Emotions aside – have you started considering moving away from Second Life, and if so why?

Update: Linden Lab have made a follow-up statement with a rather interesting take on things.

Popularity: 3% [?]