Well the SLENZ project is finally up and running and is really the main reason why this blog hasn’t been updated for way too long!
The core development team met a few weeks ago to set out the arrangements, understandings, roles and general pattern of the project. It was an inspiring meeting in which we all met for the first time in real life, although we had all met in SL. One major outcome of the meeting was the agreement that we needed an official, impartial communicator – particularly blogger – for the project. Johnnie Wendt’s (aka John Waugh) name came immediately to mind as Isa Goodman and I had known him for a long time in SL and I had had the pleasure of meeting him once for a wonderful coffee in downtown Nelson as he was passing through! John took little persuading to join the team and the SLENZ blog was born, with its first entry on Aug 1st to coincide with the real start of the project.
Work was already underway on gathering and absorbing resources for a major literature review focusing on the pedagogy of virtual worlds as well as on other’s experiences of teaching and studying in that environment. That work is continuing and is proving to be an exciting challenge. As yet there is still little peer reviewed literature on Second Life or virtual worlds and of course what there is, is often very out of date by the time it is published. We have to be careful not to place too much weight on such studies, despite their provenance, just as we have to carefully assess informal literature. At the TELSIG conference, there were some interesting comments from Mark Brown on the rise of the ‘amateur’, particularly through the ease of online publishing, and how dangerous relying on such anecdotal information could be. I am constantly reminded of that admonishment when trawling through the amount of online information about education in Second Life. However, I cannot ignore the fact that a huge number of valuable insights and a large amount of incredibly useful information based on practitioner’s experiences and reflections are contained in these informal publications. While such literature may not be rigorous in the usually accepted sense, we cannot afford to ignore it!
Last week saw the first of the project steering group meetings. It was so encouraging to know that we had such a supportive and friendly governance group. Drawing together senior managers from 4 ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics), the TEC (Tertiary Education Commission) and 2 of NZ’s biggest corporate presences (IBM and Telecom) and with a link to the University of Canterbury – this is a group of people who know what they are talking about! It is going to be fun working with them!