Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

My Logic is Cold in Idaho

coldlogic at the University of Idaho 1

Most newcomers probably don’t know about the grand days when a lot of colleges were experimenting with Second Life as a teaching tool for various subjects (mostly computer oriented), and even as the first steps in a virtual form of distributed education.  After all, if you could get the classroom out to the students instead of the students coming to the classroom, so to speak, the options for teaching your subject could grow exponentially.1

Most of the colleges have left, sadly, except for perhaps an occasional computer-science class taught by a rebel, unreconstructed professor or two.  A few remain, though, such as the University of Western Australia, and, here in the United States, the University of Idaho.  Idaho’s campus actually covers five regions, and was designed with some care for looks in many areas.  Where I am here is near the center point of the complex, and I’m wearing a goodie that just came out from neve, the new label offered by coldlogic.  It’s perhaps not the perfect top to wear as the days go cold — which they’re doing with a vengeance here in RL Alabama right now —

Tingling with antici…pation? Turn the page.

Academic Survey for Second Lifers: New World Notes

New World Notes logo

From New World Notes comes an invitation to participate in an academic survey — which we’ve seen a fair few of lately, including one on purchasing habits and reasons inside the virtual economy.  This survey deals with a variation on that old question that has plagued many a psyche, not to mention a conscience, since we started going through Second Life:  Am I really interacting with a man or a woman on the other end here?

New World Notes: Virtual World User or Gamer? Please Take This 5 Minute Survey for an Academic Study on Male & Female Avatars

Read Ham’s article carefully.  There are two separate links, for those who are men in real life, and for those who are women.  Click the appropriate link to continue.  The survey itself will ask you if you prefer to use a male or female avatar in world.  (No personal information is gathered, such as name or E-mail address.)  The questions look a little peculiar, and seem to be focused on avatars who participate in sword-and-sorcery RPG areas.  (I wonder if it was originally meant for World of Warcraft players?)  Beyond that bubble, it looks quite straightforward.  Hamlet has promised a writeup when the results are released.

Newbie Starter Resource from Strawberry Singh

The ever-gracious and ever-lovely Strawberry Singh has published a starter guide for Second Life newbies at her blog.  It’s a very useful item for someone trying to get their feet under them, and could even offer a few tips for us oldsters of 3 or more years’ duration in world (grin).

Thanks to New World Notes.

M Linden Replies to NWN Article on Discovery Island Building Tutorial Problem

In my article last week, I noted how the comment of a reader of the New World Notes article on the new “first hour” experience for newcomers to Second Life sent me to check the place out.  I found it to be the fact:  no mention of building, and no basic tutorial on the subject at all.

Hamlet Au went deeper on the subject and asked Linden Lab about the matter.  Petra Linden replied that the Lab is planning to add an area for build basics in the future; and, in a comment to the story, Mark Kingdon (M Linden) adds that, since the design of the islands is modular, more areas can be added while keeping the “natural flow” of the concept in place.

It’s good to know that the Lab is taking note of this so quickly.  As I said in my own comment to the article:  “Without something to let the newcomer know distinctly that building [is] possible, and to let them experiment at least briefly with it, at least some percentage will never know what that Build item on the menu bar is all about. Without new content creators — and new creators’ ideas to keep the pool fresh — Second Life builds would eventually stagnate.”

New Welcome and Discovery Islands Missing Important Things for New Avatars

I’m one of several Residents that went exploring yesterday.  After reading Ham Au’s article on his visit to the new Welcome and Discovery Islands for new avatars, I went ahead and created an alt account to investigate on my own.  (You can see pictures of some of the six areas at New World Notes.)

The whole idea of revamping the welcome regions is to give the newcomer training and tools to get going in Second Life, and to retain them — the great problem.  It goes hand in hand with the reworking of the viewer to version 2, another move to get and hold new accounts.  And, to a certain degree, the job gets done, especially when the new experience is compared to the jungle and game settings on some of the old Orientation Islands.  (I came in through a Scholar’s Island myself, and so didn’t have all those distractions.)  With a little practice, you can pick up the basic functions of movement, flying, chatting and camera control — all the main things that a newcomer needs to know to function in avatar society.  And apparently, according to Pete Linden (in Ham’s article), retention rates improved during testing.

But I also went into my mentoring shtick without announcing who I am — not that I’m exactly an SL celebrity, or would want to be; and, of course, these newbies wouldn’t know jack about me or this blog.  And I discovered, as Marianne McCann had noted in her comment to Ham’s article, that there was no visible mention of how to build content.  I also found no notes of how to change appearance and clothes or wear attachments, and no explanation of the Linden dollar economy.  Ham says that there are videos with tutorials about the Discovery Islands, but they did not seem very obvious as things that played, and I never got one going.  (In the Lab’s defense there, I think I need to update QuickTime on my computer.)  I didn’t even find a mention about sandboxes; and you cannot rezz up anything on the ground there — not even packaged gifts from the Lindens themselves.  And I found just as many questions from newcomers as I ever have seen.

I’m not sure that this new welcome system works.  Yeah, the old official welcome islands had descended into hell on wheels with griefers and spammers thick on the ground.  But my first impression (and probably my only, depending on a chance for return) is that a newbie gets less information here than they did before.  I’d rather direct them to jump in at someplace like the Trinity College orientation ground in Dublin region, at least at the moment.  That, plus maybe a corps of greeters who can answer newbie questions consistently and in a friendly manner.  I think this would do a lot more for retention in the long run.  I plan on dropping in again, if I can teleport onto one of the islands as a “well-aged” avatar, and see what happens then.

Time, of course, and apparently increased concurrency, as well as a growing Grid economy, will tell the final tale of whether this new system works well.  In the meantime, I’m getting ready to answer a lot of newcomer questions….

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UTexas System Prepares to Experiment with SL

Just released on the Big Blog:  the University of Texas system — 16 campuses worth of universities — plans to start experimenting with Second Life.  It doesn’t look like they’ve built anything yet, but college campuses in world are often interesting.  And, from a more practical view, this shows that SL is far from dead, far from being a non-practical venue for serious work.  Universities and libraries seem to flock to the Grid, even while the naysayers make more announcements of the Imminent Death of the Grid Expected.

Bravo to UTexas, and welcome in world when you arrive!

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Saint Leo U. Gains New Students Via SL

Writing from Gulf Shores, Alabama….

A quickie note of an interesting item from another blog:  the SLENZ Update speaks of Saint Leo University in Tampa, Florida, gaining enrollments based on their Second Life regions.  Remember that AT&T commercial from the late 1980s, with the university professor lecturing on music styles, and the student from across the continent signals in to ask a question?  We now have the implication that something like this may actually happen, based on the fact that students are enrolling for classes based on the potential for distance learning of a virtual-world.

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MSM Notes Use of SL as a Medical Training Simulator

With thanks to Dusan Writer….

Most blog readers know of the medical training community’s use of Second Life as a simulator for training nursing and doctoral students in techniques.  You can duplicate many situations in world that a budding doctor or nurse might encounter, especially in a RL emergency room.  The only thing missing is the smell.  (Which actually might provide vital clues; but Philip’s Krazy Krew hasn’t come up with an olfactory simulator yet.)

Notice is now being given by the mainstream media.  Discover magazine’s Web site is running a two-page piece on simulators at Imperial College London, with notes from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and Dartmouth College’s Hitchcock Medical Center.  The article gives kudos to the technique from various advocates, noting the ability to simulate many situations (including some difficult or costly to recreate in a more physical simulator room), low cost, and the ability to debrief groups of students following a session.

Does Second Life have no future?  Or is it rather the beginnings of the future?  I’m reminded of the episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation where Worf is assisting Keiko in giving birth to her first child, following an accident in space to the Enterprise.  Worf is a little ham-handed at it, and admits that he’s only done the process in a holodeck simulator; but I think you can put this down to (a) asking a Klingon warrior to help a woman give birth, and (b) asking a man to cope with a woman in conditions of discomfort the man will never understand (grin).  This is still early days, but it’s working quite well for both Second Life and the hospitals, according to reports, and I think we’ll hear more about these processes as the years roll on.

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Holocaust Museum Plans Second Life Exhibit on Kristallnacht

A piece of virtual-world news linked to the Real World — and that should not be ignored by anyone….

The MedC2.org blog reports that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum plans an in-world version of its exhibit on Kristallnacht, set to open next week.

The project was inspired by a separate effort from the summer of 2007 with Global Kids on the Teen Grid that asked a group of high school students to conceive of an interactive space around the event. The teens produced a design document that Involve has now interpreted and brought to life. Users take the role of a journalist investigating what happened on the Night of Broken Glass, listening to testimony from Holocaust survivors and examining artifacts in a ransacked section of a city.

Read their article for more information, please; but I can add this myself in a related commentary:  I have been to the Holocaust Museum in real life, the year before I moved to my current home in Alabama.  I have seen the exhibits and the evidence.  And I can state, with utter conviction, that any who insist the indignities, brutalities and atrocities committed upon 6 million Jews, and 4 million more people besides, did not happen, are either willfully blind, choosing to bury their heads in the sand against the screaming cry of blood and history — or viciously perverted in heart and nature, and trying to manipulate the historical record for their own ends.  The blood of those lost souls cries out from the ground against us, and compels us to remember these events, so that the evil shall never again be repeated.

If one person comes away from this exhibit with an understanding of what happened that night, and what that night led up to, then the quality of the Museum’s work will be good.  Please attend if you have any chance.

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Connie Arida Picture Part of SIGGRAPH Presentation

I forgot about this when I was told; now I’m making up for my silliness.

Connie Arida — Connie Sec on Flickr — informs me that one of her photos was chosen for inclusion in a presentation at the 2008 SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles back in August.  The presentation, by Sarah Tariq and Louis Bavoil of NVIDIA, focused on “Real-Time Hair Simulation and Rendering On the GPU.” Basically, it was a discussion of the progress made in simulating the texture and movement of hair in 3-D environments such as game platforms; and Connie’s photo was used, I gather, as an example of hair in Second Life.

The session was sponsored by NVIDIA; and Tariq has also posted a video online talking about the subject, possibly from the above session.  Connie says that the pair are “evangelising” their technology to Linden Lab at the present time.  Who knows, but that we may see technology like this simulating our favorite coiffures in the future?

Photos used by permission of Connie Arida.

Connie’s picture used by Tariq and Bavoil is photo 1 above; she remarked to me that she finds it curious they chose that particular photo, as it is one of her retouched portraits, and therefore not a very accurate portrayal of what actual hair texture in SL is like.  A more normal picture is number 2 above, which she calls Inner Life on Flickr.

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