Discovered Skoolaborate

February 18, 2008

Was browsing through a mail list post on SLEDT and followed a link to Skoolaborate:

Skoolaborate is a global project that uses a blend of technolocies including, blogs, an LMS [learning management system, e.g. Blackboard, Moodle], wiki’s and ‘virtual worlds’ for collaborative learning of both teachers and students. By providing a common place to learn and share ideas, educators can leverage the power of new media to engage students and provide opportunities that might otherwise not exist. Using a group of islands in SecondLife, Skoolaborate helps students to collaborate on social action projects that benefit students who are less privileged than themselves. These projects integrate curriculum and digital technologies into collaborative global actions.

The idea of social action projects sounds very relevant for GP. However, there are lists of requirements and ‘minimum commitment’ you can find here. Still, that doesn’t stop us from learning from their experiences. The blog has been in existence since July last year, so the amount of material to sift through might be just right.

Also stumbled upon Schome, which looks terribly interesting. But I must get ready for my lesson soon.

Advertisements

The Weekend Lit Review #2

February 16, 2008

One of the questions Mark and I have been exploring is whether to use Teen Second Life or the main grid. One important assumption I wanted to challenge is that we can’t use Teen Second Life if we teachers can’t enter the grid. The examination of this assumption only makes sense if we have some idea of a lesson in mind. The lesson I’ve been thinking of involves the students going on a guided tour of the virtual world and reflecting on it, and this has been done before. The research we will do based on these activities will add to the pool of qualitative data already out there about the whole experience. The challenge for us will be to produce an informative analysis based on our observations of the students’ responses to their virtual world experience. But before we even get there, we’ve got to produce some material to guide their exploration of the teen grid, if that is what we’ll be using. The teen grid is a really appealing option to me at the moment because of the common concerns about safety.

Brainwave: We can work around the problem of classes with numbers of students larger than the number of working terminals in the computer lab by having pairs in which the more computer savvy person is in control of the avatar. The same arrangement can be used with students who are older than 17 years. Though it’s probably less fun being the back seat driver, these participants should be conscious of this factor in their reflections and try to imagine how the experience would be like if they were in control instead. In summary, some students can play observer roles and reflect on their experiences in this capacity.

Back to the idea of the guided tour itinerary for the teen grid. Since we older people aren’t allowed on the teen grid, we have to depend on second hand reports of interesting places therein. Some teens have been blogging at the Global Kids blog as recently as 12 February, earlier this week, posting pictures, videos and reflection that look pretty good. According to this SimTeach wiki article, Global Kids operates on an open estate model, which means that our students can visit their campus. A list of open estates is included in the article.

For the main grid, Intellagirl‘s got a list of places favourite nominated by her readers. Might need to explore those as well, if we decide to work with students 18 years or older.

I also landed in the Social Simulation Research Lab in SL today after following some link (had trouble retracing my steps). Found a paper entitled ‘Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) in the new media classroom‘ on one of the shelves. The paper by Aaron Delwiche had this abstract:

Recent research demonstrates that videogames enhance literacy, attention, reaction time, and higher-level
thinking. Several scholars have suggested that massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) such as
Everquest and Second Life have educational potential, but we have little data about what happens when
such tools are introduced in the classroom. This paper reports findings from two MMO-based courses in the
context of situated learning theory. The first course, focused on the ethnography of on-line games, used the
game Everquest as a vehicle for teaching research methods to 36 students in an undergraduate
communication course. The second course used the game Second Life to teach the fundamentals of videogame
design and criticism. Synthesizing comments from student web logs with data collected from followup
surveys, the paper highlights key findings and offers concrete suggestions for instructors contemplating
the use of multiplayer games in their own courses. Recommending that potential virtual environments be
selected on the basis of genre, accessibility, and extensibility, it is suggested that game-based assignments
are most effective when they build bridges between the domain of the game world and an overlapping
domain of professional practice.

The use of an MMORPG to teach research methods sounds exciting for Project Work. Synthesising comments from students’ blog entries sounds good too, and we have seen students’ blog entries on SL Teen on the Global Kids blog. Criteria were suggested for evaluating the suitability of a virtual learning environment. The WWW version of the SL Library where I found the article is here.


The Weekend Lit Review #1

January 27, 2008

This is not actually the first lit review I’ve done over the weekend, but heck.

This weekend I looked at the following areas:

  • Demographics
  • Alternatives to Second Life
  • Fun stuff in Second Life

Demographics and alternatives to SL

I downloaded and installed There.com and tried it out for a bit. I must say the world There looks prettier and the interface less clunky. This Computer World article written in August last year compared There.com with Second Life. Here’s a summary:

Similarities

  • Basic concept of people designing and operating their own avatar in a shared, persistent 3D space
  • Movement and social interaction (i.e., walking, flying, chatting, making friends, etc.)
  • Platform of standard PC systems

Differences

  • User interface – There.com’s UI takes up less screen space
  • Search – There.com sends the user out to a browser window
  • Apparent wide use of Voice over IP in There.com, which is an added feature for premium accounts which cost a one-time payment of $10
  • There.com aims at a younger demographic; doesn’t allow non-PG content

NB: According to this Reuters article, Coca Cola was leaving SL for There.com late last year. This Forbes article explains why a few others are leaving as well.

Besides There.com, a long list of other alternatives were listed and presented with a video from each virtual world in this post on the Second Life Games blog. One key insight from this article are the 3 things Onder Skall the writer consider the most important features of SL that underlies his analysis:

  1. Real money must move in and out of the “virtual” economy freely. RMT (Real-Money Trading) is designed in, not forbidden by TOS.
  2. Users must be able to create unique content and retain ownership over it. Things like scripting and accepting uploads are important here. Multimedia is a bonus. We must be able to control the rights to our content.
  3. The world must be persistent, and the users able to change it. Residents like being able to build the world themselves, and don’t need somebody stepping in and erasing their work.

Reading the list made me realise that these things aren’t exactly important to the project I have in mind. However, on further deliberation, the idea of identity is linked to having a persistent world with persistent avatars, and the content – in-world objects, scripts and appearances – are essential to identity. One might want to critique these forms of expressing identity, but the fact remains that these things are important here.

K Zero, a consulting firm on ‘virtual world strategies’, provides comparisons in other aspects. It places the various virtual worlds on an age v.s. content creation plot. It also offers an explanation for the popularity of Second Life:

Firstly, it’s the first virtual world to attract media attention and therefore brands, so promotion has been a key element. However, the ability to create content appears to have had a major role in attracting take-up. The presence of an economy and a commercial environment (being able to buy and sell) also has greatly assisted adoption and therefore an older audience profile. The presence of content creation appears to be attracting a older type of person. This is clearly demonstrated by the difference in ages between Second Life and There.com. There positions itself more as a social hang-out and less about creation.

The age demographic differences between Second Life and There.com are further elaborated in another article by K Zero, together with a comparison of their gender demographics.

Fun stuff in Second Life

There’s been quite a bit of bad press about the sleaze factor on the adult grid of Second Life. But a quick look at the Second Life Games seems to suggest there also good clean fun to be had, with blog categories like ‘rides’ and ‘cool builds’. Then again, there’s also a ‘sex’ category. And it seems that the Games Park (owned by Onder Skall, the owner of the blog), located in a Mature district, is gone. I checked out the link to the location and it was up for rent.


CNN Future Summit – Virtual Worlds

January 17, 2008

Broadcast on CNN International in June 2007. Posted on YouTube by Nick Yee (see this page).


Eduserv Foundation

January 16, 2008

Found a post about a Second Life in Education meeting in the UK. The slide presentations from the day were put up on Slideshare.

Links from the slides to explore:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Eduserv%20Island/97/41/30

The last link is for Theatron 3:

  • ‘constructing 20 historic theatres in Second Life
  • ‘creating an extensive, content-rich range of research-based virtual environments
  • ‘generating highly innovative, interactive teaching and learning resources’

Croquet?

January 16, 2008

No, not the ball game… It’s yet another alternative to Second Life I mentioned in a previous post.

This post dated July 2007 pits Croquet against Second Life, but back then Croquet did not have a distributable application.

Demo video from the Croquet Consortion website:

The Croquet 1.0 Release SDK can now be downloaded.

Elsewhere, it’s been said that Second Life will transform Internet, browser tech By 2017.


Or how about extracting the 3D instead?

January 16, 2008

Someone put the following comment on a blog post about second life as an OS:

We can export builds from SecondLife and put them into other game engines or work with them in 3DSMax or your program of choice.

We make a LiveCD called D-GiG that you can run that lets you deploy quickly your own simulator and configure it from your web browser that uses Linux.

It’s all free, open source.

DGiG LiveCD OpenSim based simulator:
http://wiki.magrathean.ca/index.php?title=DGiG

Videos of sim exporting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7Vz0fzWj2o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRMDhY_bFDU

Another way of working around the bandwidth, internet connection issue?