• 13 Tips for Virtual World Teaching

12th January 2008

13 Tips for Virtual World Teaching

BrightIdeasCampus Technology is the glossy magazine for university IT managers and technology wonks. This January story does an excellent job of laying the concepts out cleanly.

Don’t look now, but multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) are gaining momentum as the latest and greatest learning tool in the world of education technology. How do you get started with them? How do they work? Arm yourself with these 13 secrets from immersive education experts and educators, and you, too, can have real success implementing these new tools and technologies on your own campus.

Campus Technology coverpageThe thirteen tips:

  1. Understand the Basics
  2. Explore Your Options
  3. Observe
  4. Collect Best Practices (with a plug for simteach.com)
  5. Try It Out
  6. Plot Your Curriculum
  7. Make It Different
  8. Make It Fun
  9. Make It Count
  10. Be Inclusive
  11. Be Available
  12. Encourage Exploration
  13. Keep Growing

~ Jeremy Kemp | Jeremy Kabumpo

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11th January 2008

US News & World Report – SL for Higher Ed

SpotlightA Second Life for Higher Edhttp://www.usnews.com/usnews/v3/images/global/usn-logo.png
A virtual world offers new opportunities for teaching

When Prof. Jeremy Kemp entered the classroom to find a student transformed into a giant bowl of Jell-O, he didn’t bat an eye. “I remember one class when a student arrived in a gorgeous monarch butterfly costume complete with gently fluttering wings and bulging eyes,” says Kemp, assistant director of the virtual campus of San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science.

~ Jeremy Kemp | Jeremy Kabumpo

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10th January 2008

Forrester: You can get work done in there…

Opinion“…within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions.” Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds

~ Jeremy Kemp | Jeremy Kabumpo

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10th January 2008

Technorati Baseline

SpotlightWe are off the radar to start…
Technorati Ranking 10-Jan-08

~ Jeremy Kemp | Jeremy Kabumpo

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10th January 2008

Creating Authentic Experiences

by Beth Ritter-Guth/Desideria Stockton

CMN 112 @ SUNYLive

Alan November is one of the best speakers I have ever had the privilege to hear. His “Teaching Zach to Think” tour was amazing, and his call to provide “authentic learning” resonates somewhere in my soul. At the end of last semester, students in CMN 112 (Professional Presentations) at LCCC had the good fortune to speak to educators in the SUNY system. Marcius Dowding and Crash Tibauld (SUNY) organized the entire conference, and the students became “experts” on learning in SL. They were honest; some liked it, and some hated it. The ones that hated it cited the top two reasons we all know about (technology curve/frustration and lack of personal contact). But, after their presentation, all of them thought that the notion that we could present to faculty 6 hours away was rather cool and, indeed, a cost saver for organizations.

My personal challenge this semester is to create authentic learning experiences for students. Syllabi are posted here. In SL, we are building an all-out ghost town for Spoon River Anthology, working on the Cryptology Project with Hiro Sheridan, and working on an interactive multi-media poem (“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou) using magic scripts, WAV files, and student voices. All classes are open to the public, so please feel free to stop in and “be a student” at any time.

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10th January 2008

First Life Event: Boston Digital Media Summit

If you’re in Boston or nearby don’t miss the Boston Digital Media Summit. The topic this time around is “Enabling the Age of Immersive Education” and the speakers are some of the best: Henry Kelly of the Federation of American Scientists, the beloved Larry Johnson of the NMC, Julian Lombardi from Croquet, and Kevin Roebuck of Sun Microsystems.

With hands on workshops for Second Life and other spaces it’s bound to be a great time. Click on the pic for more info and to register.

mssrobbins.jpgSarah “Intellagirl” Robbins

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9th January 2008

What We Do For Fun

My students always ask me if I go to clubs in SL for fun. Heh. As if I had time to go clubbing! Sir Ken Robinson, in his awesome speech at TED, does a funny little bit about academics dancing off beat at the disco. I don’t see many avatars dancing around in SL, but maybe there is a secret club for all of us? In any case, Sir Robinson’s speech about creativity in schools is wonderful.

So, in addition to watching nerdy great stuff on YouTube, I DO try to have fun with students in SL.How?

We go chair hopping.

What on earth is chair hopping??? Simply stated – it is the BEST way to pick up all sorts of free junk from around the grid. You wear a little HUD ball (0x-DOS HUD – IM me if you want one; they are free). Once you have it on, you tap the center and open your IM history. It shows you where all the chairs are that start with the first letter of your name. So, for me, it will show me all the D chairs. I teleport (using the SLurl in the history), right click, sit on the chair, and get a cool and funky gift. Now, be warned…some gifts stink. But, my assistant, Daliah, SWEARS by this ball. She gathers all sorts of things for Literature Alive! builds. She packages up the good clothing and furniture (the full perm stuff) and adds it to the School Store for students and professors.

The lucky chairs are a free and fun way to travel around the grid with students. If you want to check out all sorts of free stuff AND see some lucky chairs in action (and pick up a HUD), stop by the School Store or IM me. In my free time, I am usually hunting for chairs with Daliah and one or two students!

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9th January 2008

What’s Your Favorite, Secret, Make Me Look Like a SL Super Hero Menu Item?

With all these great new education posts on this über great new blog site, for some reason I decided to aim for something more nuts and bolts to blurt out.

As much as I love the environment of Second Life, the software interface of the client makes me want to tear out my hair and scream, and send someone a pile of Donald Norman and Edward Tufte books. But that’s another blog post.

Although I’ve been in SL for almost 2 years this March, there are still a whole bunch of things in those menus I have no clue what they do. For example, today I was stumped because I was seeing a red tint on every texture that was a video screen… only on my Mac. It was only via some replies on the SL Educators list (they always come through), I noticed I had inadvertently checked Beacons Always On under the View menu.

Oh sure, I know exactly what that is. Yep. Beacons.

But eventually, with practice, poking around, or more likely, someone else telling, you begin to know a few subtle things you can do via the menus that can elevate your SL Intelligence Quotient (well at least among the general populace), and next thing you know, when you tell someone else, they are thinking, “Wow, this CDB Barkley character knows his stuff.”

So here’s two of my favorites. But before I spill the beans, I’m hoping readers will add theirs in via comments. I know you know more than me.

Both of these require activating the Debug and Client menus, the goodie box of menu obscurity. You do this via the four fingered combo – ctrl-alt-shift-d (ctrl-option-shift-d for macs). Just knowing this elevates your interface stature.

The first has to do with taking pictures in Second Life. Of all the things I do, photography is my most favorite! I love the parallels to RL photography (again another blog post). I save 99% of mine to my disk, and like most avatars, I started by using File -> Take Snapshot (or Cmd-Shift-S). The downside is your avatar makes that goofy camera animation and you generate that shutter sound to everyone around you:


and that sounds just says subtly… “noob”. I was doing this at a performance, and my thoughtful and immensely knowledgeable college Ravenelle Zugzwang gave me this tip.

Under the Client menu, activate the option Quiet Snapshots to Disk.


And now, when you want to take a photo, use File -> Snapshot to Disk (or Ctrl-~). Aha! No more silly two armed salutes, no more disturbing the peace with shutter noise. You can take photos and no one but you knows it (But hey, don’t go peeking in private places, ok? Be nice).

And secret menu tip number 2 deals with the annoying slumping over of your avatar when you are not doing anything in SL. This happens all the time in presentations, I’ve seen both speakers and attendees droop over because they are either riveted listeners or they left the computer to make a milkshake or water the plants. But I also needed it for some of our live video streaming, and I need my cameraperson avatar to stay standing awake for an hour.

So here’s how to keep your avatar from slumping and going AFK (unless you do so explicitly). It’s a triple buried menu item. Go to Client -> Character -> Character Tests and make sure Go Away/AFK When Idle is unchecked.


Never slump again. (That tip too came from Rav.)

So tell us- what’s your best secret menu trick? I want to know!

Alan Levine / CDB Barkley

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9th January 2008

“Simulation Developer” a career to watch

US News and World reports: “The growing ubiquity of broadband connectivity is helping entertainment, education, and training to incorporate simulations of exciting, often dangerous experiences. For example, virtual patients allow medical students to diagnose and treat without risking a real patient’s life. A new computer game, Spore, allows you to simulate creating a new planet, starting with the first microorganism.”

And isn’t it telling that many folks who read this blog have one of more jobs listed in the Best Careers of 2008? Second Lifers seem to cluster in:

  • Curriculum/training specialist
  • Editor
  • Higher education administrator
  • Librarian
  • Professor
  • Usability/User experience specialist

~ Jeremy Kemp / Jeremy Kabumpo

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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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