Category Archives: NMIT

To use or not to use…..Viewer 2

I have just read this very interesting post from Sitearm discussing the pros and cons (well pros mostly!) of using Viewer2 with new student users of Second Life.  It certainly gave me food for thought as I reflect on my own experiences of teaching in SL this semester.

Our course this semester was taught partly in RL by me (on campus in the computer lab), partly in SL by a staff member (from a remote location)  and assisted in both places by a third on-campus staff member.  Each of us had our own ‘preferred viewer profile”.

I have yet to make a successful transition to V2.  Apart from early trials I have used it only when I have had no other option and it has not yet become intuitive for me.  I am still at the “where do I find xxxx?” and ‘grrrrr this sidebar!” stage.  A long term user of the old viewer, I eventually moved to Imprudence as I explored OpenSim and began the laborious process of exporting objects from Second Life.  My colleague, like Sitearm, saw the writing on the wall for the old viewers and made a conscious decision to learn and use Viewer 2 from its early days.  Although he also uses other TPVs particularly for exporting to and accessing OpenSim grids, he is an experienced and comfortable user of V2.  Our assistant has only ever used V2!

The students themselves came from two quite different programmes and with different levels of technical ability.  In  addition, some students from the IT degree programme had their own dedicated laptops (on which they have administrator rights) while the others only had access to the institutional computers (unless they downloaded at home on their own personal machines) which were locked down and ran only V2.  Just to complicate the issue a little more, some but not all of the IT students had already used Second Life and had v1.23 or some other TPV installed.

While it was clear that most of the students would be using V2, I chose not to enforce it as the ‘only’ viewer – partly because of my own preferences and partly as we would have no need for the additional functionality – moap for example. So at any time when an inworld class was happening, it was not unusual to have some students using V2,  some using v1.23, some using a different TPV and on occasion some switching from V1.23 on their laptop to V2 on the lab computer depending on what they were trying to achieve in Second Life.

Chaos? Maybe but nothing that seemed too problemmatic.  Yes, I struggled to help some students with basic V2 UI issues and yes, it was sometimes confusing for my remote colleague not knowing which viewer a student was working on but in general, it was a non-issue.  I liked to see the diversity in the classroom with those students who had a choice making their own decisions about what to use for which activity.

In the future?  I think it will depend on the students themselves but as next year’s offering will take us beyond Second Life into other virtual world grids I think I will be looking to have one of the TPVs as our ‘default’.  However, I have realised that I personally should update my V2 skills *sighs – perhaps I will come to love it!

Would love to hear your ‘viewer in the learning environment’ experiences!

VLENZ is born….

Ever since the last few months of the SLENZ project last year, we have been hoping that we would be able to keep the team together in some way and make good use of all the good things we learnt and the skills we acquired.   Being a group of educators and virtual world enthusiasts scattered throughout New Zealand the obvious way to do that was virtually but we also needed an RL presence that would allow us to chase funding and gather donations.

Virtual Life Education New Zealand more usually known as VLENZ was conceived by the SLENZ team members and supporters as the natural successor to our successful project.  Thanks to the generosity of NMIT, we were able to pay the necessary fees to establish VLENZ Inc as an incorporated society which had its first AGM tonight.  Now the officers are confirmed we can register for charitable status which should be forthcoming in a few weeks.

We knew from the beginning that VLENZ would need to operate primarily within the virtual environment and various changes to the standard incorporated society rules were made to recognise that society members would meet as avatars rather than face to face – quite a challenge! At the AGM which I chaired tonight we needed to ensure that all the records were kept according to our rules,  particularly  those concerning attendance and confirming that the avatar truly represented an RL individual who was a voting VLENZ member. At the same time of course we had to protect the privacy of our avatar members in line with the SL Terms of Service.  I think we achieved it and I am left wondering how many others have been faced with this challenge and what their experiences have been.

But it has been worth it! We now have an officially constituted society  that is committed to exploring, supporting, mentoring, advising New Zealanders on as many aspects of education in MUVEs  as we can manage.  We have a broad skill set, a ton of experience and cartloads of enthusiasm and we are ready to boldly go!  But most of all we share a common sense that the use of multi -user virtual environments will  change forever the ways in which we teach and learn.

Wellington Railway Station

Thanks to some exciting and innovative work by my colleague Rollo Kohime (aka as Mike Baker of NMIT’s Visual Arts team), Koru has sprouted a new and rather interesting build over the last few months.

Wellington Railway Station on Koru

Wellington Railway Station on Koru

Mike is currently studying for his Masters in Art and Design, majoring in Dance and Video through the Auckland University of Technology. His project, “In the Company of Strangers” comments on how strangers negotiate the parameters of meetings, exchanges and conversations in urban spaces. The build, which utilises Mike’s own photographs, blog entries, comments, soundscapes and which will include his video, explores this in one urban space, Wellington Railway Station. The effect is mesmerising and highly immersive. Take a trip to Koru to contemplate the existence or not of some of the boundaries between the virtual and the real, and those between strangers. If Rollo is there, he will happily chat to you about his work in progress and he plans to have a more public display of himself working in Second Life during the Nelson Arts Festival.

Wellington raliway Station - Interior

Wellington raliway Station - Interior

Watch this space for more details on this!

or you can visit Mike’s blog for more information or to leave your comments. Below is a SLURL to Mike’s build on Koru: And if you come visiting feel free to look around the rest of the island too, listen to the tuis or the morepork and if you are really lucky you may catch the whale song in the bay. http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/86/77/22

Live NZ music in SL – NZ Music month begins

Mandosam Carter\'s First SL Performance

What a party! It may not have lasted that long but it was a huge buzz. The first time we managed to stream our own live music from Nelson, New Zealand into the Kauri grove on Koru. (OK nothing new for SL but new for us!).  The occasion was a surprise Kiwi Educators party for Isa Goodman’s 2nd rezday (He’s now one of the terrible twos!) and we used it as a reason to finally make the music happen! What a great start to NZ Music month.

Toddles Lightworker kindly lent us the use of his streaming account, Thelonius Ra was the engineer and Mandosam Carter played guitar, mandolin and sang and oh we all danced! A very big thank you to everyone.

We all danced

So will we be doing it again? Oh yes! We have PLANS. We hope to have Mandosam again, other musicians too, and eventually we hope to offer SL as a live performance venue for students on the RL Diploma of Contemporary Music Perfomance here at NMIT. And wouldn’t it be great to be able to offer the winners of the Smokefree RockQuest a gig in SL as one of their prizes? How about it Pete?!

So once again a special thanks to all those who put up with my nagging and made it all happen – it is very much appreciated – and tired though he was I hope Isa liked his little surprise. We wouldn’t be here today without you Isa – so a very BIG thank you to you too!

SLENZ Project

I was preparing for our Kiwi Educators meeting in Second Life tonight and found that the asset servers are complaining yet again and refused to save my notecard with info on our BIG project. So I decided to post it here instead.!

Would love to hear from anyone who is keen to assist us or be involved in some way or another. You can IM me in world, email me or just leave a comment here!

Engaging with Second Life: real education in a virtual world

In September 2007, Terry Neal and I (Clare) managed to bring together four polytechnics with the backing of IBM, to apply to the TEC encouraging and supporting innovation fund for NZ$500,000 to investigate the use of virtual worlds in tertiary education in NZ. We made it clear that although we were interested in the concept of virtual worlds in general, that Second Life would be the one that was the practical one to investigate.

At the end of March 2008, I received a letter with the magic words, “This application is innovative in terms of the virtual environment and is a platform for the future. Full funding is approved”. I still haven’t quite got my head around it!!

Terry and I are now negotiating the contract with TEC and nothing is final until that has been done – but we see no reason why the project as we originally envisaged it shouldn’t happen!

This note is just to give you some initial information – we will definitely keep you updated as things change.

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Who:

(At the moment – others may join us later – let Arwenna know if you are interested!)

Contractors
=========
Project Manager: Tere Tinkel (Terry Neal)
Design/Develop (mainly!): Isa Goodman (Aaron Griffiths)
Research/Evaluation : ?? (Ben Salt)

Polytechnic staff
===========
NMIT: Arwenna Stardust (clare.atkins@nmit.ac.nz) – Project Leader
Open Polytechnic Silel Volitant (John Green)
Otago Polytechnic: Leroy Goalpost (Leigh Blackall)
Dacary Dumpling (Carolyn MacIntosh)
WelTec: Toddles Lightworker (Todd Cochrane)

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What:
These were the parts of the project that we put into the original application

The project has seven parts:
• a literature review to better understand the potential of MUVEs for adult education and how others are using them internationally
• work with ITPNZ forums and stakeholders to identify suitable learning outcomes in which to use this technology
• the four partner ITPs design learning experiences to achieve the selected learning outcomes and discover or develop resources (‘builds’) within SL to support the designed learning experiences
• train staff from across the ITP sector who teach the selected learning outcomes
• pilot the learning experiences with learners from across the ITP sector
• evaluate the learning from the phases of the project
• share the learning and resources on Te Pane Takiao.

and we suggested that while the literature review would help determine the criteria for choosing learning activities, we would also take into account three of the ITP sector priorities:

• sit within qualifications which are level 4 or above
• increase literacy, numeracy, or language levels
• sit within advanced trade, technical and professional qualifications.

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When:

As soon as the money starts arriving! Seriously though, we are expecting to make a start at the beginning of Semester 2 – mid July 2008 and finish in December 2009. Most of the design and development work should happen Jan – May 2009. June – July 2009 will be about helping staff to get teaching in SL, and then the actual trial in July/August 2009.

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How:

This is where Kiwi Educators will come in I am sure! We will be asking you to help us identify good learning activities, perhaps help us build design and test them, later on perhaps helping us to introduce the new staff to SL if you are keen, and helping us to spread the word in your own insititutions. Even if you aren’t currently working at an ITP you might be interested in making contact with your local one (any ideas are very welcome!!). At present the NZ SL community is pretty small and the more connections we can make and the more support we can give the better I think.

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Where:
Much of the in world activity will be taking place here on Koru – so expect to see changes here later in the year and also to watch the place become more lively!

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Why:
Well I am sure you all know the reason for that!! Otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far! But my personal opinion is summed up in the conclusion of a paper that I have just had accepted for the ICCMSN2008 conference at Uni of Otago in June –
I say that I believe ” …that our current pedagogy at all levels will be profoundly altered by the possibilities that virtual environments offer. Teaching in virtual environments may never completely replace face to face teaching but it is likely to absorb and overtake the current approach to e-learning. Current MUVEs may shortly seem crude and slow but the work of the pioneers in these environments may well be laying the foundations of new disciplines, a new pedagogy and a new direction and culture for education in the 21st century. “