Category Archives: SLENZ

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.

SLENZ Project Development Roadmap – Background

This section provides a little background to the Development Roadmap. Please see the other postings for details of the three main phases.  If you would like a copy of the whole document please leave me a message and I will get it to you.

The Framework.
We considered that essentially the initial design and development of a project lent itself to three major phases outlined below. Each stage of each project would progress through all of the phases. Continue reading

Phase 1. Develop the Conceptual Understanding

Purpose:

This provides high level view of what the the project should achieve and why, the scope, the context, the participants, the method, the budget and the timeframe.  It may also include the measures by which success may be evaluated. In general it answers questions of the nature of – what is the general purpose of the project, who will be involved, why are we doing it etc.  Continue reading

Phase 2. Develop the Learning Narrative

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of the learning experience and the activities that it contains.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

Building on the work of the previous phase and using the Context Summary as a base, this phase will identify and describe, in some detail, the actual learning activities that will take place in support of the specified learning outcomes. One major purpose of this is to identify the resources that will be required.

Continue reading

Phase 3. Develop and Implement the Technical Design

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of all the resources required by the learning activities of the stage both those in and out of SL.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

The purpose for this phase is to ensure that all resources needed to create the learning experience are identiifed, designed effectively and constructed.  Based on the learning activity or activities identified in the Develop the Learning Narrative phase, and on the list of required resources derived from that, this phase is primarily concerned with the questions around ‘How will we fulfill these requirements?and documents the final answers to those questions. It thus considers the design of all the resources that are required for the final construction both those that will be built in SL and those that won’t.

Continue reading

SLENZ Project Development Roadmap

Much of my time over the last few weeks has been concerned with attempting to bring together disparate needs and views into a workable process for the development of a learning experience which is primarily but not completely delivered in Second Life. The process has been tough at times! but then the task is complex and there is very little previous experience or best practice reports to draw on.

Continue reading

Catching up with SLENZ

I was horrified when I saw yesterday how long it was since I made a posting on this blog!  I can only blame it on having been so busy with the SLENZ project that I haven’t had time to write about it.  John Waugh has been blogging about SLENZ though and many other related things too 🙂

It has been an exciting time for the project.  We had a number of excellent proposals for pilot projects to be supported by SLENZ and great difficulty in choosing the two that we would work with.  We were very tempted to go with three pilots but our Project Steering Group, very wisely I am sure, encouraged us finally to go with only two! At least that way we know that we can fund them!  The pilots will be announced tomorrow and I am looking forward to working on them……after all the talk and the preparation, it will be soooo good to finally be building something real!

The literature review is almost complete and is with two external reviewers – we await there feedback with great interest.  It was a real challenge to try to bring together useful literature especially when there is so little as yet published in ‘academically recognised’ publications.  We made the decision that we had to include many non-traditional courses of information, such as blogs, mailing list postings and personal communications.  Even though they are not peer-reviewed as such, they include so many useful thoughts and guides to good practice, that to ignore them would have rendered the literature review fairly worthless in terms of informing the project.  It was particularly noticeable that much of the published research, although only a year or so old, was already out of date in terms of the where the technology is currently at.  It became clear, to me at least, that the lag between the conduct of research and its publication (often a problem in IT generally) is a major issue when attempting to gather valid data on a very rapidly evolving technology.  I wonder if there is a way of creating a ‘peer-review’ equivalent for blogs! It may be exactly what we need.

Speaking of believable blogs and bloggers,  I am always impressed by Steven Warburton’s Liquid Learning blog and try to check it out as frequently as I can.  His current posting, while both amusing and highly pertinent (I immediately recognised the herding cats situation he described!) gives some very useful ideas on how to ensure a successful tour of SL.  Compuslory reading if you are thinking of doing the same!

An opportunity for NZ educators…..

Today saw the issue of a very special request for proposals! Special if you happen to be interested in teaching in Second Life that is, and especially if you are currently teaching in a New Zealand tertiary institution.  The SLENZ project was set up to design, develop, build and pilot learning activities that could add educational value to the experience of NZ tertiary students. In order to do this, the project team needs to work with at lest two groups of NZ tertiary educators, preferably spread across the sector and with access to a reasonable number of students (not too many and not too few!).

Today the SLENZ team issued their call for proposals from educators who would like to work with the development team.  Full details are here .  Realising that there may well be individuals out there with a passion but, as yet, no community, the SLENZ team are happy to help put individuals in touch with each other in the hope of creating a working team.  So if you are interested just get in touch with either Terry Neal (terry.neal@blendedsolutions.co.nz) or with Clare Atkins (clare.atkins@nmit.ac.nz) or of course just leave a comment on this blog and I will get back to you 🙂

John Waugh has also posted about this today on the SLENZ blog.

TELSIG – 2008

I am currently attending the Tertiary Education Libraries Special Interest Group’s (TELSIG) biennial meeting In Palmerston North – once again, a friendly interesting conference with some very interesting speakers, particularly Ass Prof Mark Brown of Massey University views on emerging trends in eLearning and some useful information on such things as recent developments in NZ copyright law and institutional repositories.

Not a conference that I would usually have attended but one where I had been invited to coordinate to session on Second Life in education and its potential for libraries in particular. Having been given a 2 hour session, we managed (with valuable assistance from Tim Darlington and Rob Mooar – thanks guys!) to create a truly inter-world presentation!

I provided a short overview of Second Life using in a standard form (i.e. powerpoints and speaking to the RL audience) but then it got interesting! Having mentioned the value of real time interaction, we were able to move almost seamlessly to Jo Kay in Sydney or rather to Jokay Wollongong on Jokaydia in Second Life. With the assistance of Timothy Greig‘s avatar Aramis Maginot, we were able to project Jokay on to the screen while she showed us around the Jokaydia islands, talked to the audience about what we were seeing, and answer questions put directly to her. Impressive technology indeed!

We then moved to Emerald Gerant (in real life Kathryn Greenhill of Murdoch University in Australia) for an insight into libraries in Second Life and for a quick view of what Murdoch are doing. The audience was also treated to a little view of themselves as Timothy had taken a photo of the conference which he then uploaded to SL and which Kathryn then used to decorate a cube which revolved beside her as she was speaking! She had also arranged for her webcam view to be projected into Second Life – cool!

At the end of her talk, Emerald then teleported to Koru where Aramis Maginot was waiting to present his slides both to an inworld and a real world audience while Timothy provide the voice over in the conference room transmitted back into Second Life. His talk based on the work from his Master’s thesis was very interesting and hopefully he will find time to give us some help with the SLENZ project.

I finished up with a very short conclusion on the future and our SLENZ project plans. By far and away the most complex technical presentation that I have been involved with, and I am still a little in awe that it worked with so few glitches!

Everyone seemed to have found the presentations interesting and thought provoking and much of the rest of the day and evening was spent answering sl questions! Exactly what I had hoped for!! Sure hope some of you will find your way into SL!!

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

Polytechnic staff
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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. “