• ISTE Island to Close February 28

30th January 2012

ISTE Island to Close February 28

This is not an announcement, but rather a call to contribute to re-imagining ISTE in Second Life.

ISTE Island HQ in Second Life

Many of us in the educational communities in virtual worlds have heard rumblings over the past few months that ISTE is revising its level of financial support for its activities in virtual worlds. Historically, that has been made manifest through generous ongoing payment to Linden Lab for a region called ISTE Island. Indeed, there was one long run where ISTE maintained four separate regions in Second Life. The virtual heyday, as it were. The realities of today’s economy requires organizations to rethink financial commitments, and ISTE has done so.

As of the last day of February, 2012, payments will no longer be made to maintain ISTE Island, and ISTE Island will no longer be.

Andy Wheelock, aka Spiff Whitfield, currently Lowly High Grand Poobah of the Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments, has been leading a task force (yes, we do call it that) to investigate options. The group has coalesced much like any SIGVE group has, more or less come together on its own as interested parties have responded to calls for discussions and collaboration. Some configuration of the group has met a half dozen times over the past several months. Andy alluded to all of this and made the collaboration document available for one and all in the closing paragraph of his open letter in the recent publication of January 2012 issue of Virtual Education Journal.

Last week we met at the campfires on ISTE Island, for somewhere around the 5th or 6th time, to discuss our findings and preferences, this time with Jennifer Ragan-Fore, the revered original catalyst for ISTE Island in the first place. Here’s a pic from that gathering.

In the spirit of sharing, I “call to comment“–either here at this post or on the document itself (which you should by all means read before you make your own suggestions or comments either here or there). Do you have any notions about how SIGVE should go about best use of a $500 per year budget for a space in Second Life? Now’s the time to share them. A decision must be made by the end of the first week in February.

Please put Friday, February 27, all day and night, on your calendars: There will be a party. There will be fireworks. I’m putting out tissue boxes the day of. This morning, I set out a notecard dropbox at the welcome table at ISTE Island Headquarters. Do you have fond memories from your own experiences at ISTE Island in Second Life? We’d like to hear them. Feel free to comment here or type out your reminisces at your leisure, paste them into a notecard, and drop them in the box at ISTE Island in Second Life. It looks like this:

I’m working on an image repository we will have open by Feb 1 for collection of ISTE ISLAND MEMORIES, along with a wiki page at SIGVE for recollections, reminisces, and reflections. Sigh.
Thanks in retrospect for all you have shared with all of us at ISTE Island over the years. Thanks in advance for your sharing over this next month. Keep the faith, whatever it is for you.
Crossposted from Oh!VirtualLearning!
Written by Scott Merrick

posted in ISTE, metaverse, SL Events | 0 Comments

29th August 2008


If you’re planning to attend the SLCC in Tampa, Florida (or inworld in one of the many venues that will be hooking up to it) next week, you may be confused by the multitude of internet presences. This is a hands-built event, and the history of its Web iterations reflects that. Its online “face” started out with a WordPress blog, moved to a  new address that basically revised its WordPress design but maintains the blog look and aspect; and then, to my mind thankfully, blossomed into a very tidy and comprehensive wiki. That’s the one you want, ya’ll.

Let me be very clear: This is NOT a criticism, only an observation, and an attempt to highlight the process by which beginning efforts can, with community collaboration (and in a very short time) become extraordinarily rich and helpful. Useful linkage means everything to busy people. This site has it!

The SLCC Wiki!

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Written by Scott Merrick

posted in conference, Events, metaverse, Opinion, SL Events, SLCC | 0 Comments

8th January 2008

Immersive Virtual Telepresence – Size Matters

Today I had one of those moments where several random experiences coalesced into a vision of virtual proportions, an epiphany of sorts about immersive virtual presence.  I was sitting in the Cisco Executive Briefing Center in San Jose, California testing out their Cisco Telepresence system when this occurred. 

Cisco Telepresence

The Cisco system uses large flat panel displays to realistically place remote meeting attendees around a real world table.  The rooms and tables are all of the same color scheme, so the effect is quite convincing (see the picture above).  Microphones are mounted in the table in front of each participant, with the sounds projected into each virtual meeting space spatially correct for the seating positions as they are displayed to each participant.  Unless you have experienced this technology it’s difficult to understand just how realistic these meetings feel, right down to the tapping of fingers and occasional coughs of the participants. 

The other day I was reading an interesting article in Scientific American Mind entitled Touching Illusions.  The article mentions the concept of ‘visual capture’, also known as the ‘ventrilloquist effect’.  This concept simply states that given a strong visual cue combined with sound, the brain will associate the sound with the visual cue.  When visual inputs conflict with other senses, vision tends to dominate.  This effect can produce some very convincing illusions of perception.  

Over the past 15 years I’ve participated in many video conferences.  This technology continues to improve, and over the years all of the visual stutter and lag has been removed (back when this technology was new this stutter made some people motion sick).  At my school district we have several Polycom conference room video conferencing units that we use in the Pacific Rim Exchange project with Kyoto, Japan.  I’ve always felt that there was something missing in the video conferencing experience using this type of equipment.  Until today, I never knew what that missing element was.  

I now know that the missing element is size.  When I am in a video conference the images of the other participants are usually tiled on a widescreen HDTV.  In this format the meeting participants range in size from a few inches tall to maybe a foot in size.  When I am running around in a virtual world like Second Life, those I am sharing the virtual space with are doll sized at best on my desktop monitor.  Even in a virtual world like There.com, where the avatars lip synch and simulate body language, the realism is lost to the size of the avatars.   

Over the break I had one of our computer labs open at our Technology Center.  Students involved in the PacRimX project came in to work together, and to share building techniques they’ve picked up in their use of Second Life.  We have a large projection screen in this lab.  Inside of an hour one of the students asked to use the “big screen”.  The students traded off using the teacher computer over the rest of the week to teach the others from the large screen.  As educators using Second Life, this is already something we are very familiar with.  Why does this technology have to be limited to instruction?

LCD projectors are now sub-$1,000 devices (many are now approaching the $500 price point).  This is what we were paying for high end desktop monitors only a few years back.  How much more immersive would Second Life be if we were interacting with life sized avatars?  An LCD projector and a white wall is all that’s needed to make this a reality.  We got a peek at this on the recent CSI:NY episode Down the Rabbit Hole

CSI:NY Second Life EpisodeA short list of other requirements will be necessary before this technique can be fully exploited with Second Life.  First, and most importantly, we need a way to lip synch our voices to our avatars.  The spatial voice support is already there and quite effective with a good set of headphones.  In the CSI:NY episode Gary Sinise appears to be using a 3Dconnexion Space Pilot to control his avatar.  I purchased a Space Navigator and found that with the current drivers it’s only possible to control the Flycam function in Second Life, not your avatar’s movement.  This is great for producing smooth flycam Machinima, but not yet usable for avatar movement as depicted on CSI:NY.

Until my personal experience today with the Cisco Telepresence system I had no idea of how important scale was in the total immersion of a virtual experience.  The Cisco system as pictured above costs approximately $300,000 for both sides of the table (list price including furniture and installation).  There is no reason this model could not be adapted to virtual learning environments in Second Life at a relatively inexpensive cost using off the shelf technologies. 

If you want to get really excited about this, take a look at the Sanyo PLC-XL50 announced in Las Vegas this week at the Consumer Electronics Show. This new projector can project an 80-inch image from only 8 inches away from the wall.  The price is currently cost prohibitive at over $3,000.  But like all technologies, that price will fall over time with economies of scale. 

Adding life sized scale to our virtual worlds can take this technology to the next level for education in the not too distant future.  All we have to do is think outside of the monitor.

~ Stan TrevenaQuidit Oflynn

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8th January 2008

Creating the language to articulate Virtual Learning with community

Salamander Project logoHey SLED dogs! (and cats – of course, yes, we embrace all types here :)

How exciting to kick off the new year in virtual teaching and learning with this new community blog! Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sarah Robbins for getting this going – yeah! The need to have leaders in the community is palpable as new educators discover and add their own incredible creative energies and cumulative impacts. Sarah certainly fills a much needed niche in the rapidly transforming ecology of Second Life…. Indeed, it’s about niches that I’d like to make my first post:

I think 2008 will be a watershed year for 3D Virtual Worlds on the practical and potential applications for improving the world. This, based on the trend and other authors’ impressions. I would like to highlight the idea that while the continuous technical innovations in Second Life and other virtual world apps (River City, There.com, DarkStar, etc.) are breathtaking – the social adaptation and use of these innovations is also getting to be a real eye opener (insert list of awesome things going on in education across the metaverse here – or, uh, see Desi’s neat list above THIS entry). The challenge is – and will continue to be – for us to keep abreast of the rapid technological advances and stay informed of how the community is applying these innovations. We have a real need for forums such as this to keep us informed of changes on the horizon that will make for real differences in the way tomorrow looks for us. Aggregating and interpreting the news, informing us of changes within and across the increasing number of virtual worlds, and – what I see as paramount – creating a common language for educators in 3D Virtual Worlds to articulate efficiently what they mean, who it works best for, and how these learning environments may transfer (or not) to real-world settings is a complex and not well-defined task. Even while it’s so very important.

Within Second Life, there are a lot of niches within the education community being filled by visionary and hard-working professional educators – like Sarah – and by organizations (like NMC and ISTE) to build capacity for us to utilize these 3D worlds for teaching and learning. We have here, like the dot.com era of online learning, a need for experimentation and leadership to collaborate, even loosely, toward developing the appropriate DNA to occupy this new ecology. Someone to invent applications and tools (e.g. Eloise Pasteur and Jeremy Kemp), someone to model inspiring applications of teaching and learning (e.g. Desideria Stockton), someone to figure out how to induct newbies with grace, style, and innovation (e.g. Fleep Tuque), etc., etc. I’m not intending to make a list of who’s who (that would take a loooong time and would still be rather incomplete) – but rather, I mean to point out these examples in that there seems a set of niches that needs to be filled within this larger ecosystem for us all to evolve in a transformative way along with the assumed speed at which these 3D Virtual Worlds are changing, innovating, and interconnecting. Each “SLED Niche” being identified and occupied by a hard-working, technology wielding and visionary educator – working on the faith of their vision and without the clearest picture possible of what everyone else is doing.

The SaLamander Project – which we’re coordinating at The Center for Advanced Technology in Education at The University of Oregon – is a project that I hope will fill one of the niches needed by the SLED Community:

a) What ARE the best examples of teaching / learning builds in Second Life? — by what criteria?

b) Where do you FIND these examples?

SaLamander is a project that aims to create a community of Second Life educators – ALL of them, hopefully! – to identify WHAT is useful in Second Life for teaching and learning and to place them into categories that other educators may find most relevant. To do this, we have four interconnected elements:

  1. The SaLamander Sloog HUD: a free HUD that SLED community members may use to identify and describe learning materials.
  2. Sloog website: The HUD provides you each with a personal list of your own SL Education sites and tags
  3. SaLamander Community Wiki: The Sloog website feeds the Community Wiki – which provides a growing database of SLED places for people to check out, discuss, and vote on…
  4. MERLOT: the SaLamander Community members that vote the “best” SLED materials (ranking votes allowed one time per registrant for each SaLamander entry).

Here’s a 1st version of our video demonstrating the SaLamander Process…. Hope you like it! and we REALLY want your feedback!

~ Jonathon Richter / Wainbrave Bernal

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