Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education 2011 panel

On March 17-19 the 4th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (#VWBPE11) will be taking place in SL and other Virtual Worlds such as OpenSim, World of Warcraft, Eve Online and Club Penguin.

The VWBPE is is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants in all virtual worlds to share current research,  teaching, and learning practices in 3D virtual environments. This 53 hour conference will provide opportunities for sharing and further understanding virtual world technology, and will focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education. According to the VWBPE-website this year’s conference is about people, the community, and it’s about being together;

This year’s theme is You are Here. The divide between what is real and what is virtual is a state of mind. We learn everywhere and you are already here.

Here is all around you:

  • Here is where we find the great successes and even failures.
  • Here is where we expand our borders.
  • Here is where we touch what is important to those we teach.
  • Here is where we learn and live and play.

I have been attending the conference for a couple of years as an observer, which has been very inspirational, and I highly recommend anyone interested in 3D Virtual Worlds to participate in this amazing, free event! :-)

Furthermore, this year I have the great pleasure of doing a panel discussion together with 3 SL friends and colleagues: Chimera Cosmos, Spiral Theas, and Gann McGann.


First planning session on my holodeck with Gann & Chimera

Our session is entitled: Hats, HUDs, Wands and Weather:  Building Activities for Engagement in Second Life. One of the things we all appreciate about SL is the fun and playful parts of this environment, which could include changing the avatar’s appearance and using different types of artifacts – e.g. in our first meeting Chimera couldn’t help but show off one of her magic wands ;-)


And in fact after Gann and I left, Chimera used her tornado stick on the holodeck as seen in this photo from Chimera’s KoinUp stream:


Chimera’s koinup

While the user-controlled ability to change both the environment and one’s appearance definitely is an important part of SL, we as educators are also concerned about the kind of activities that can promote, facilitate, and not least sustain engagement in teaching and learning in an environment such as SL.


Gann, Spiral, Chimera and I discussing the call for VWBPE in our second meeting

We all have both positive and a few negative experiences with teaching in SL, and so in our panel we have decided to focus on activities that help overcome some of the barriers for meaningful, and sustained engagement in SL as stated in our proposal:

There are numerous barriers to engagement in virtual worlds. First, new residents must become familiar with the interface. Beyond technical considerations, the nature of their early experiences will determine whether and how quickly they will build an identification with their avatar and a reason to stay. Without this, it is likely that their interest in further engagement in the virtual world will lessen and their participation will drop off. A sense of presence and identity through embodiment and immersion is an important contributor to ongoing and satisfactory participation in the world and finding the motivation to continue to return until the technical and navigational thresholds are surmounted. This roundtable will discuss the essential acts, the “ah-ha” or Eureka moments, the triggering gizmos, features, activities or places that inspire students or colleagues (and have inspired us) to continue to participate.

In other words, what works to help new residents pass these technical and navigational thresholds? The speakers will share their own stories drawn from their work with students in higher education, business people, health professionals, and education colleagues. Presentations will include demonstrations and audience participation.


Spiral and I chatting under the Blue Thinking hat before our third panel meeting


Identity issues are very important in SL – and we will be showcasing Identity-cubes as part of the session

As mentioned above Gann, Spiral, Chimera, and I will be sharing some of our experiences, but we are also very much hoping to hear from the audience, and so we hope You will join us :-)

Update
We will be presenting Friday, March 18th from 8AM-10AM SLT (16-18 Dansk tid) – Building South, Room South Auxiliary, and the rest of the schedule can be found here

Also please note that even though the conference is free, you need to register in order to participate via this link. By registering you will be helping the organizers plan out resources to ensure the conference runs smoothly and that there is allocated enough space to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to participate.

/Mariis

For inspiration here are three posts I wrote about VWBPE last year:

First day impressions

Second day impressions – part 1

Second day impressions – part 2 – this one also includes my reflections on Chimera & Spiral’s 2010 session

In-world presentation @ “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0” conference

Friday November 5th, I was invited to speak at a Polish organized in-world conference about “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0“.


Conference site at the Second UMCS island

The conference was organized by colleagues from different departments of Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskie – some of whom I’ve previously worked with in the EU funded research project COMBLE. I was very pleased to get the opportunity to talk about some of my findings, and there were some great questions and comments on especially immersion and media convergence.


Talk about the new assessment method I implemented in my 3rd research cycle.

As promised to the participants, I’m hereby uploading my presentation.

Special thanks to Raf Moczadlo for inviting me :-)

/Mariis

SL presentation in the Danish Ministry of Science

On Friday October 15th, a total of more than 200 museums, churches, exhibition halls, galleries, political institutions, and other venues will open their doors in connection to the annual “Night of Culture” that has been a Copenhagen event since 1993. As part of this event, the Danish Ministry of Science has asked me to participate by presenting research, teaching, and learning in SL.

The event will run from 6PM until midnight (local time), and I will be in the Ministry together with one of my MIL-students, Inge Knudsen, from Business College, Horsens.Inge is a highly experienced SL educator and builder, who has run in-world courses on English, Chinese and Cultural Understanding among other things and last year she won the Danish Research Network’s annual Innovation Prize because of her work in SL.


Inge and I discussing part of her presentation for the “Night of Culture”.

In-world we will be accompanied by MIL alumni, Per Christensen and two of his close colleagues, Nicolai Green Hansen and Erik Hansen – all from VIA University College. Per and his colleagues are currently preparing for a cross-cultural collaboration with a Chinese University on their island Innovative Learning, where it is also possible to see and experience another build that last year won the Danish Ministry of Education’s annual e-Learning award.


Nicolai and I discussing part of their presentation for the “Night of Culture”.

We are all still in the process of planning this event, and there are several challenges. The Ministry has put together an extensive program (in Danish) including lots of interesting activities all night. This means that it is impossible for Inge and I to foresee how many guests will find their way to our presentations. Last year approx. 1000 guests participated in the Ministry’s activities.

We have two rooms at our disposal, and so far we’ve planned for one of them to be the “Teaching and Learning Room”, while the other will be the “Presentation Room”. In the “Teaching and Learning Room” planned in-world session with Inge and Per will run twice the hour, and guests in this room will be able to participate via guest-avatars. In the “Presentation Room” several computers with logged in guest-avatars will enable guests to explore and participate in different in-world places/events covering education, business, art, music, RL rebuilds and not least places/builds NpIRL. Inge and I will oscillate between the two rooms, and in between scheduled sessions, we’ll be available for questions and discussion of the many, different research, teaching, and learning potentials of a medium like SL.

We are also in the process of preparing note cards covering all sorts of topics, events and locations – and I encourage other SL residents to send me (Mariis Mills) suggestions of interesting locations/events. The entire event will take place from 9AM – 3PM SLT. Putting together a program for a 6 hours in a row event is quite daunting, and I personally find that the biggest challenge lies in trying to convey a sense of meaning of SL for RL-guests just passing by…

When we’re done planning, I’ll update this post with SLurls to locations where it will possible to join us in-world.

/Mariis

UPDATE – program

Most of the activities are directed towards the RL guests visiting the Ministry – and they will be in Danish. However, Inge Qunhua will do her sessions in English too, if anyone asks her. Inge will teach the audience how to introduce themselves in Chinese and there will be general lessons in understanding the Chinese culture.

Inge’s sessions will take place on her Island, Danish Visions. The first session starts at 10:30 AM SLT, and she will repeat it every hour until the last one at 2:30 PM SLT.

In between Inge’s sessions there will be live music and other activities on her Island.

For those interested in the Danish VIA-session please have a look in the group “Kulturnat 2010”, where you find all sorts of notices with LMs and further details on the in-world program.

In one of the two rooms in the Ministry, we will, starting at noon SLT, be streaming from Pop Art Lab, Claus Uriza – and later on we’ll visit The Yard Club, where there will be “Open Mic” with Torben Asp.

SLurl to Pop Art Lab

SLurl to The Yard Club

Second Life Community Convention 2010

For the third year in a row I’m hoping to participate in the annual Second Life Community Convention (SLCC10). This year the convention will be held in Boston, August 13-15.

As usual the convention will be organized by SL users, bringing together new and old residents in a mixture of business, education, non-profit and not least the music and art scene.

This year I’ve submitted a proposal for the educational track entitled “Contradictions that make perfect sense – remediation strategies for problem based blended learning in SL”, and so I hope to get the opportunity to present and discuss some of the ideas I’ve been working on as part of my recent stay at UC Berkeley.

In any case the convention is a definite must-go, a unique opportunity to connect with old and new friends. If there’s any one event that has influenced my PhD work, this is definitely it! Given that research in 3D virtual worlds still is a rather limited research field it is always a pleasure to connect with other educators and innovative thinkers from various parts of the SL community :-)

/Mariis

UPDATE
Much to my surprise (and regret) my PhD-supervisor has instructed me not to participate in any activities as I should focus on writing my dissertation. I therefore had to withdraw my proposal and will not be attending this year’s SLCC :-(

#vwbpe 2010 – 2nd day impressions (part two’ish)

Continuing my reflections on the 2nd day of the VWBPE-conference the next session I participated in was on “Rapid Development of Interactive Educational Content in Virtual Worlds: From Analysis to Evaluation”– a panel consisting of DoctorPartridge AllenFirery Broome, Quincy Solo Sherman Gustafson, who shared their experiences with content development. The panel spoke of their work with “Immersive Learning Simulations” (ILS) and the premise was stated in the abstract, which can be found here in the programme;

Emerging technologies in Immersive learning, like Second Life, afford us significant opportunities to explore new mechanisms for educational interaction, but they also present us with a wealth of new challenges. A common theme with the adoption of such technologies is that we are recycling older technologies rather than genuinely leveraging the tools and resources exposed by the new technology. This panel is composed of people who have been confronting this challenge, and working diligently to embrace both the new immersive learning technology and to fully utilize the new features and facilities inherent in those technologies.

I always find it highly inspirational to hear other instructional designers talk about their approach and their theoretical foundations, and a couple of things struck me in this. First of all there seems to be growing consensus on using the term “immersive” to describe the main affordance of technology/media like Second Life. I understand the need to distinguish Second Life from other types of virtual teaching and learning environments, but I find the use of “immersive” somewhat problematic. If by “immersive” we simply refer to a sense of “being in a place” as opposed to the less concrete “space” concept, I agree that virtual worlds like Second Life can promote this sense, but it is only a potential, not a given. I’ve had students in all my in-world courses that didn’t feel immersed at all, but this is also a matter of how you define “immersive” and something I’ll return to in later posts. Secondly, I agree with the panel that there are two major strategies for the technology/media adoption namely “recycling” and “genuine leveraging the new affordances” – two strategies that I refer to as respectful vs. radical remediation and have incorporated in my model for 3D-remediation of people, places and practices.

When describing their work the panel referred to the ADDIE model, one of the most common instructional design models that resembles the classic Action Research cycle of planning, acting, observing and reflecting – especially if continual feedback is applied i.e. through the use of RAD.

After I started writing this post my Mac broke down again – this time apparently for good – and sadly I hadn’t taken any backup of my vwbpe-photos or notes, so the rest of this will be based on memory (hence the ‘ish in the title).

The next event “Learning in 3D: A New Educational Dimension” with Abbott Bundy & Wada Trip was something I had been really looking forward to. When I did my first lecture on SL back in the fall 2007 I relied heavily on the work – primarily blog postings – of both Abbott & Wada and I’ve been following them on a regular basis ever since. Based on the abstract for the session it was clear that they would talk about their book “Learning in 3D. Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration”, and since I haven’t read it, I found it quite interesting – the session is archived here on Treet.tv.

Afterwards Abbott wrote a post on his experience stating that he had seen the future of conferencing – in many ways I tend to agree that participation through 3D Virtual worlds can replace RL participation, but I think it’ll be quite some time before the larger part of at least the academic society will follow and it also requires a whole new outlook on identity validation. So many people I meet tell me they would never take an avatar serious. Essentially Abbott & Wada talked about instructional design, principles and practices and demonstrated a model they’ve come up with and I definitely need to have a closer look at that. They also mentioned Light Sequent, who also contributed to the book and who wrote a Masters Thesis on “Learning archetypes as tools of Cybergogy for a 3D educational landscape: a structure for eTeaching in Second Life.” It is worth noticing that they use the word archetype in a non-jungian way, and more as some sort of  characteristic traits of pedagogical practice (building blocks i.e. instructional strategies, methods for facilitating learning) – a bit confusing, I think, but I need to read the book to learn more…

Another much anticipated session was conducted by my two friends Chimera Cosmos & Spiral Theas, who presented their work with “Learning in a Virtual World: Using SL for Medical Education” – slides can be found here. There’s also a recording of the session here, but as you can hear the sound wasn’t terrific, especially Spiral’s voice was breaking up. Based on a pilot study on Continuing Medical Education, that they did together with colleagues and 14 participant family practice physicians (described in an article here) Chimera & Spiral presented some interesting results and also showed us how they had been experimenting with the use of mock avatars in role-playing. At a certain point Chimera logged in (via another computer) as the diabetic patient, Mariana Hexicola and started communicating with the audience. From the post Spiral wrote afterwards it was evident that they deliberately wanted to show, not just talk about, the things they had implemented in the pilot study.


Pictures kindly provided by Spiral show the overweight, diabetic patient, Mariana interacting with the Professor as part of the pilot study.

The study proved some highly interesting results with participant improvement in clinical skills, but what also was fascinating, was the participants’ rating of the experience in SL as they all agreed that the experience was superior to other online methods, and the majority felt that the SL method was as good as, if not better than, f2f methods. Having read the above mentioned article, I’m quite sure that the success stems from a very deliberate instructional design strategy, which addressed the participants’ needs not only as learners of a particular subject matter, but also as users of SL. Even though it is a small study, I think it supports the growing body of studies done by especially natural scientists in virtual worlds very nicely, and the article is well worth a read even for educators in other fields.

After this, the next session I wanted to attend was on “Creating a Positive First Hour Experience“, which of course is highly relevant, but as the presenter decided to do his session in text only, I decided to skip it. SL simply doesn’t appeal to me without voice … I might as well read a regular text in my own pace. Instead I decided to get some sleep before attending the last session (at 5 am in Denmark), which was by another friend of mine, Tab Scott who has been actively teaching and researching in SL since 2005.

RL Tab is Director of Creative Research Lab at Montana State University and Tab presented some of the many projects the lab has been involved in since 2005 and also gave some hints as to where they are heading in the future – there’s a recording of the session here. A central keyword of the CRLab is collaboration, and when Tab first entered SL is was to investigate whether SL could be used as an environment to support collaboration, and well they’ve been using it in teaching architecture and arts classes successfully ever since. One of the many things I appreciate about Tab’s philosophy and approach to using SL is that he doesn’t see it as a stand-alone technology. Now, first of all there’s a very pragmatic reason for that, namely the stability of the environment. As Tab mentioned using SL back in 2005 (and even when I entered in 2007) could be really frustrating due to technical issues, constant updates of the viewer, maintenance etc. The stability of SL has improved a lot, but there still is a risk that you or your students will have technical problems, so a backup plan is highly recommendable. (i.e. Chimera and Spiral had Skype as backup as part of their instructional design). But I think a more appealing reason for not using SL alone stems from the fact that even though the core of the environment is 3D, the more interesting uses (naturally depending on your goals) often come when combing it with other 2D technologies such as SNS, shared documents and streamed media and at the CRLab they work with the concept of PLE’s thus trying to ensure that the students become media literate in a broader sense. Given that most new users find the learning curve in SL pretty steep, I think it makes perfect sense to include some more familiar technologies that also can help reduce the alienation some new users experience.

At the CRLab collaboration goes way beyond university and even state and county boarders, and another of Tab’s points was that we as in-world educators need to help each other validate the use of SL. I agree and I think that even though educators have been tirelessly using SL for many years now, it still is an emerging technology and in my point of view we have yet to pass the early adopter phase. Someone in the audience, who had been using SL for three years, mentioned that his problem wasn’t to get the students to use SL, but rather the rest of the faculty – and this is definitely something I can relate to.

Having a conference like this vwbpe – with proceedings expected in May 2010 – certainly is a good way of spreading the message and thus hopefully convincing more educators to at least have a go at using SL. I spent two great, inspirational and meaningful days participating in this, and my only regret – just like at RL conferences – is that I missed so many other interesting sessions. But unlike most RL conferences, many of the sessions were recorded:

All sessions on Treet.tv
All sessions on Metaworld

/Mariis