Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our first venture into Second Life together, and a reminder about Facebook

Sarah Stewart initiated an impromptu meeting in Second Life this arvo - just for those who wanted to get their head around it a bit before we look at it more seriously the week after next.

Carolyn (pictured), Bronwyn, Sarah, Yvonne and I met up and just happened to bump into Aaron Griffiths from Nelson Marlborough Institute. Aaron's SL name is Isa Goodman (as in is-a- good-man :) and he briefly told us a bit about the NMIT project and SL generally, as well as helping the newbies get used to moving around and the like. Isa's a legend at helping people get used to SL, as well as a programmer and builder of environments in SL. He built NMIT and other places.

Pretty soon conversation moved to the "what can we do educationally in SL?", so with the little time we had left, and for those that weren't having technical issues (sorry Carolyn), we visited Virtual Hallucinations - a project from UCDavis designed to simulate everyday life for a schizophrenic. I was mighty impressed by it the first time I went through, but as Sarah pointed out - she was having a hard enough time just moving about in there before being able to appreciate the simulation, so as with all these things we need to have a good grasp of the tech before we can leverage the learning through them.

Isa started talking to us about the extensive community base in SL - much of it educational. (Well, all of it educational I 'spose - depending on your definition..). Isa pointed us to the Kiwi Educators group - who meet up in SL every Sunday to tour new venues or "sims" (simulations) as they're called. This Sunday they are meeting up to tour the new IBM sim.

You can subscribe to Aaron's blog to get updates on New Zealand projects in Second Life and the activities of the Kiwi Educator's group. I'd highly recommend connecting with Aaron and his work if you are at all interested in the potential and early adoption of simulations, virtual meeting spaces, machinima, 3D virtual worlds or any of the seemingly infinite applications for this platform.

More photos of our first meeting can be viewed here. Remember that we will be looking at Second Life as a platform for online learning communities starting week after next.

This coming Monday at 7pm NZST
(that's Monday 6am UTC for our international followers), we will be hearing from Ellen Stewart, a young New Zealander who uses the social networking platform Facebook to stay in touch with international friends. Ellen will help us consider the question of whether Facebook has a sense of community within it, if it is or could be used for learning, and some suggestions on how we might consider facilitating learning through platforms like Facebook.


Aaron Griffiths said...

Was great up to meet with you all yesterday though it was obviously frustrating for those experiencing technical difficulties. Being at the outer edge of technology and at the higher end of bandwidth and graphics requirements virtual worlds do require fast broadband connections and good graphics cards to have a smooth experience. That said newer, off-the-shelf models have adequate power to handle the graphics requirements but a good bb connection is a must for the data transfer required.

I would reiterate Leigh's point that learning to navigate and use the GUI well is a must before venturing out and about and does take a bit of time. There were a number of places I would have loved to have taken the group yesterday but knew the tour would be coloured by their inexperience. Not only avatar movement but the ability to use the "camera", instant message, text and voice chat (text obviously having its Leet speech) communicate across distance (group IM and voice), teleport, join groups, friend other users, use landmarks and inventory, etc. The list could go on. At its basic level the Second Life client is a computer application and it does take some time to acquire the skills to use it fluently. Once these are learnt however the inworld experience is so much more rewarding especially given that many of the educational "builds" do require some dexterity in terms of configuring the client, navigating the build or using the camera.

I would however encourage you all to get through the learning curve. The trip is definitely worth it. I'm not an advocate along the lines of Second Life being the be all and end all of education by any means, but firmly believe (as do hundreds of other educators around the globe) that there is a huge potential for virtual environments in terms of education. That potential is nowhere near being realised yet but the first steps are being made. I'd avidly suggest you all come along for the ride *smiles*

Just a small correction to end: I'm a consultant to NMIT and am not "from" there, but work independantly in SL. I work with a number of inworld educational groups from New Zealand and overseas on different collaborative projects.

Aaron/SL: Isa Goodman

Carolyn McIntosh said...

Wondering if there is a little name confusion here. I was not able to get to this session so wondering if there is another Carolyn that was able to attend or was this someone else? Perhaps a virtual Carolyn?
I did have my own rather strange SL experience which I have written in my blog.

Aaron said...


Have read your blog and thought I'd respond here. Not being a member of the class group I feel it a little inappropriate to comment all over people's blogs. You raise a lot of interesting questions to which I'd comment as such.

I'm assuming the experiences you describe were on Orientation island. If so remember that everyone there (or nearly everyone) is a newbie. Possibly they had no idea you were chatting to them as they so caught up in the interface and what they were doing that they didn't see your chat text. It fades off the screen quite quickly so unless one is aware of that its easy to miss. Most older users will keep their Chat History window open (Ctrl H) so they can see who has chatted to them if they were preoccupied.

As you say yourself you possibly you didn't waste as much time as you thought. You learnt to walk, fly, chat, play video, use an animation (dancing), dress (I guess), change appearance maybe, etc. If the application you were learning was Word or somesuch and you learnt to bold, italic, indent, set styles etc., most would say you had a useful learning experience.

Do remember too that Second Life is not just an educationally focused environment. It is in many ways its own world and as such harbours as many flavours as our own green earth. Many users could be said to actually "live" there in a more real sense than they do offworld and whilst not agreeing that that is a good thing, I'll not stand in judgement of them for it. I have friends in SL whose lives are enormously enhanced by participating in this world. To be able to dance for the first time ever, albiet virtually is an uplifting experience for many here. A good friend whose face is disfigured by years of surgery, can walk down the street looking as pretty as she did before the cancer started its work. I could go on but you get the point. What I would ask you all is please do not be too quick to judge from your initial experiences. Look past its quirkiness, its faults and your inexperience and give it a little time. The possibilities virtual worlds offer may become more apparent.


Aaron Griffiths said...

By the way Leigh... turn your (Edit/Preferences/Graphics Detail) Texture Detail: up to High, your Lightimg Detail: to Nearby local lights and revert your sun to Region Default and Koru at dusk looks like this.

A large part of the experience that I see for builds that work in Second Life (whatever the context)is immersion in the environment. The Koru meeting area is one of those places where the environment is being designed specifically to provide an immersion based on little touches of "reality"; fireflies and torchlight (at night only), morning mist, rays of sun through the pongas at sunset etc. However it is based on users setting a certain level of graphics capacity for their client. With the settings that are obvious from your picture you are missing out on a large part of that experience.