pICTsl Farm Update

I haven’t been posting here, not because I haven’t been doing pICTsl Farm related work, but because it’s been more about my dissertation than not and as a result I’ve been posting about that here.

What’s new around the Farm? Well Amy Schmitz Weiss in Journalism and Media Studies, has moved in as a neighbor at Meadowbrook, taking over the space were Camp Comet was. Amy’s interested in exploring SL to bridge the distance gap with a partner school in Mexico and look at ways it can be used for role-play simulations in journalism education.

Sabine Reljic’s Center for Social Presence is also next door where  Willow Shenlin SL, leads regular discussions on social presence in virtual worlds.

We redesigned a part of the Farm into a beach club, yes a beach club :), and had a grand opening party on January 8. There was a great turnout. The focus on fun with the beach club is an attempt to get faculty into SL and experience it in a low stress/low stakes way.

I attended a web presentation of Project Wonderland: Toolkit for Building 3D Virtual Worlds, 0.5. and was impressed with the developments since last year. Wonderland is experimental technology, a community and not a product, which puts it in another league than SL. We’ll continue watching the developments in Wonderland and the Opensim, and maintain a presense in SL too. As with most universities, things around here move incredibly slow, there’s time.

Virtual Halloween Party: Learning can’t get much more fun!

When: Friday, October 24, 2008
Time: 8:00 – Midnight (PDT)
Where: SJSU SLIS Second Life Campus

This is a great opportunity to have FUN learning about Second Life. If you’ve heard about Second Life, spent time there or not, have an avatar or not, this is a low stakes opportunity to get a sense of the virtual world imagined and created by it’s users.

The host, San Jose State’s Jeremy Kemp, is a very active and enthusiastic Second Life educator. I’m sure he’s designed a great event.

For more info, head on over to the SDSU CDI blog, where I’ve posted too!

Hope you can make it!

Wisdom from the past – fast forward to the Beach Club

I ran into one of our IT Security Officers the other day in the ladies room. She overheard me talking about the the pICTsl Farm’s and the new Beach Club and we got to talking about Second Life and technology in general.
Unlike me, she’s been working in IT and with computers for 30 years. She told me that way back when it was hard getting folks to use computers. They weren’t sure why they should, what the benefit would be, since as far as they were concerned everything was just fine the way it was.

She said it was games and fun things to do with computers that got people into using them. Even in the workplace, people were encouraged to play and play around with computers.

That was a great story, I thought. It confirmed my intuition. Beach Club here we come! Hoo!


Coming Soon – Faculty/Staff Beach Club

Situated behind the SDSU campus and next to the Library, the new Faculty/Staff Beach Club will be a one of a kind in Second Life. A Beach Club, you’re thinking?? What about learning how to teach in SL?

During the Gustav crisis, we received a request to use our SL facilities in case New Orleans’ schools might need emergency locations to conduct classes. I thought, “now that’s a resourceful idea.” I mention it because it reminds me that people create their own uses for technologies and that’s what we’re continuing to do.

We’re going to elevate the entertainment and social value of Second Life and push aside for near future the fact that Second Life is an educational technology. (Read this post and this post for more on SL as an educational technology.)

The Beach Club is about hanging out in SL in our casual San Diego kind of way. It’s about having a fun place to meet, chat and do Second Life kinds of things. It will have the usual SL and real life amenities such as indoor & outdoor lounging areas, a campfire, swings. Swimming, diving, water sports (e.g. jet-skiing, sailing, canoing), music, dancing and cocktails, a gift shop and informational counter.

It’ll be open and available 7/24 to all SDSU faculty and staff. Students are welcome too. If it sounds like play, that’s what we’re inviting you to do. But don’t be mislead  into thinking that’s all it’s about. Are you working on an international project?  With a team of folks spread across the country?  Second Life & 3D environments are used more and more as places to meet, when distance and time is a concern.


Wonderland 0.4 – Demo video

What to notice
It’s helpful to understand that Wonderland has been envisioned as a platform for working/collaboration across distance. It provides a more immersive experience than you could achieve with current available technologies such as video and phone conferencing, web-conferencing and chats.

Two things to consider in a virtual environment are its capacity to facilitate users achieving specific tasks alone and together and its effectiveness at compensating for the missing sensory and contextual information we take for granted when we’re face to face.

The first point is not difficult to address. We call it task analysis, which means you break down a task into small components (sub-tasks) in order to understand how to design learning it. It gets tricky when you must also consider sensory and contextual information needed. We easily recognize the barriers to learning created by a classroom with fixed seating, inadequate lighting or instructional equipment, the same holds true in a virtual environment. Most of use use classrooms, we don’t build them. And we may walk into a technologically sophisticated room like our Learning Research Studio and have to learn how to use it technically and pedagogically.

So lots of things to think about.

Watch this video and you’ll see how Wonderland developers are designing for accomplishing specific tasks as well as compensating for missing sensory and contextual information. For example, when an avatar is speaking his body gestures and his name title (above his head) pulsates. This facilitates verbal communication and compensates for some of the visual information we have when we talk to people face to face. What else?


It’s Wonderland & the pICTsl Farm for Faculty Development

When one thing leads to another, you have to go with it. Human resource challenges and our general consensus that AW is rather last year’s VW model, and Wonderland is potentially tomorrow’s model, we’ve made some decisions.

I’ll continue participating in the Wonderland/Immersive Education development community as a user and potential content builder. Cathy (Mari) will likely start snooping around there too.

Jon Rizzo (ITS), who’s becoming conversant with SL building and likes to play, has got a parcel on the Farm to play on in his free time (if the surf isn’t up :)).

We’re brainstorming on the design and content of a faculty development “outpost” at the pICTsl Farm. (We may call it something else).

In keeping with the initiatives goals, on top of the trends, and aware of our institutional readiness to accommodate vw technologies, we’re going to continue to provide faculty development in this domain and wait and see otherwise.

The faculty development outpost, or (maybe we’ll call it a barn) will be the only one of its kind in SL. Our emphasis is on using SL to introduce faculty to being and working in an avatar-based, 3D environment.

This parallels other work we’re doing with the Library, ITS and CTL, introducing faculty to social software. The main difference is that while web 2.0 seems to have reached its tipping point, web 3.0 is still “out there” for most folks.

I don’t see an avatarized version of psych 101 in the near future.