Mane (CRIN 604)

         Digital tools in education

April 30, 2010

(Webinar) Second Life: My own experience

Filed under: Second Life — mepada @ 9:02 am

Webinar: Learn Central May 5, 2010


The phone call:

Two years ago now, a professor in the Law School, Stacey Rae Simcox, who teaches a course called Crime and the Internet contacted me about the possibility of supporting and helping her with a technology tool she wanted to use in her classroom: Second Life. At the time, not being a gamer (yet), I had not been exposed to virtual worlds, multi-users games, avatars, and the like.

I decided this sounded like a very interesting project so I embarked myself in this new adventure.

Let’s do it:

After downloading  the game and creating an avatar (I made sure my virtual self is taller and had a smaller nose!), I attended the tutorial offered in the Help and Orientation Islands and once I “graduated” took off flying into new lands.

I learned very quickly as mentioned in Risk and Responsibility: A Self-Study of Teaching with Second Life (SULLIVAN, 2009) that one “must be willing to leave their comfort zone, to tolerate a certain level of chaos and ambiguity, be willing to take risks and willing to be wrong”.

Oh my, how true this statement is! Second Life is in many ways, just like our first life. It is a society with its own set of rules and guidelines. I had to learn to walk, run and fly! I had to understand the way avatars communicate (via mic, and/or chat).

I had to learn which places to go and which to avoid.

I realized I had to get money (via a job or buying lindens with a credit card) in order to purchase and own things.

I discovered that there is an appropriate dress code in some venues and that I can’t just change clothes (which implies I get naked) everywhere.

I also found out I can attend wonderful music events, visit replicas of real-life museums, teleport myself to cities and countries I have never visited in my first life, speak a foreign language with other avatars, discuss professional topics with others in the field, and much more!

The class:

After my initial experience with Second Life I called Stacey Rae and told her I was on board!

We conducted several meetings to plan and organize the virtual sessions.

We checked with IT to ensure a room and enough headsets.

We also requested availability of enough broadband to avoid clogging our network.

I asked one of our IT tech support staff members to be there for additional support.

Most of her students have never heard of SL(or virtual worlds for that matter) so this was a new experience for them.

  • First meeting: 9/22/08
    • We took her students to a lab and asked them to bring their laptops (they downloaded SL before that class period)
    • We met for class and opened SL. They were asked to create their avatars.
    • Then we all m et in the Orientation Island to learn some basic SL skills.
    • Following that activity Stacey Rae teleported the whole class to a “freebies” store to buy clothes.
    • Once they chose what they wanted to wear, she assigned several activities:
      • To go to London and take a ride on a double-decker bus.
      • To go somewhere they always wanted to visit.
      • The second half of the class was spent in San Miguel at their police department.
      • The chief of Police and some of the force’s officers greeted us and took us to a conference room where we all took our seats.
      • The chief of Police introduced the class to SL’s Terms of Service, griefing, stealing, banning of avatars, and other related topics..
      • His presentation was followed by a Q&A session.
  • Second meeting: 10/10/08
    • The second time we met we met at the East Carolina University campus (ECU)
    • They lent us their space in order to conduct class.
    • Their sat on floating chairs and Stacey Rae had access to a classroom podium.
    • Students discussed the assigned articles for that day and shared their feelings about holding class in SL.
    • One of the students, who was not in VA at the time, joined from Spain.
    • Students got a chance to raise their hands and ask questions during class.
  • Third meeting: 2/9/10
    • This time we met at the Law School.
    • We experienced connection issues so the group was split into two groups and one of the groups was taken to another class.
    • Stacey Rae assigned someone to be their coordinator and she communicated with him via a headset.
    • The students spent some time buying things, going places and dancing!
    • Afterwards we met at a different police department.
    • The chief of police introduced some new topics such as virtual rape, child pornography, how to report abuse, etc.
    • Here again, students had an opportunity to ask questions (via mic and/or chat)

Lessons learned:

  • Benefits:
    • Engagement: The level of participation and engagement was very high. Students became very curious about this new environment.
    • Most students learned the basics fairly quick. They were able to navigate the land and communicate with other avatars without incident.
    • A new way to deliver information: Stacey Rae was able to recruit help from experts in the field of crime in a virtual world, bringing validity and confirmation to the curriculum content.
    • Experiential: Students not only learned by doing but they were also able to transfer that knowledge within SL and apply it towards new experiences.
    • Constraints:
      • Headphones: Not all students had headsets and we had to find a way to either borrow and/or purchase headsets to distribute to all her students.
      • Chatting function: Some of the students used the chatting feature within SL to talk about non-related topics. Students oftentimes do this in other classes. The difference in SL is that we can actually see these social interactions (via local chat feature)
      • Broadband issues: Connections became very slow when  all the students try to login into SL at the same time.
      • Interface: Not all the students were thrilled to be attending class in SL. This medium does not fit everyone’s learning style.
      • Goofing off: Some students had a difficult time staying on track. They wondered into other lands and established connections with avatars not participating in class.


The face to face interaction seems to generate an intuitive experience with the other people involved, to a degree unmatched by email, instant messaging, or telephone.

The professor can illustrate points visually as well as verbally with minimum effort.

For example, a chemistry professor’s animation of an excited electron, or a simulated discussion with a fictional or historical personage are two examples of the advantages of teaching inworld.

Distance learning becomes much more feasible when students from around the world can log in and interact as if they were sitting next to each other.


Despite an excellent support team, the grid is periodically down because of attacks, server failures, or bugs.

Sometimes, the time it takes for users even with high-bandwidth connections and powerful graphics cards to render a scene can be slow enough that conversation lags or objects fail to be drawn properly.

Users with older machines, or those who can only access Second Life with slow connections, can find Second Life nearly unusable.

Followup conversations:

I approached several of Stacey Rae’s students after class to ask them to share their own thoughts. Most seemed to have enjoyed the experience and were facinated with Second Life (and virtual worlds). These students expressed to actually have learned something new about crime and law in the Internet. They also stated that they were unaware of the complexity of SL’s terms of service and the serious consequences that occur when breaking these terms. They would welcome additional class meetings in SL.

A few told me that SL just was not their “cup of tea” and had a difficult time relating to a virtual environment. They found SL difficult to learn and were not sure of its relationship to the course.

Overall, I believe Stacey Rae is on the right track and I hope she  continues to introduce and expose her students to SL as a way to understand Internet Law.

(Webinar) Second Life: Overview

Filed under: Second Life — mepada @ 8:38 am

Webinar: Learn Central May 5, 2010

My session description:

Ready for a Second Life? Learn more about this 3-D interactive virtual world and find out how K-16 academic institutions are discovering innovative and creative ways of integrating this technology in their classrooms. Mane “Sideways” plans to share with you her own experience and will also talk about lessons learned!


  1. Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003, and is accessible on the Internet.
  2. A free client program called the Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars.
  3. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world (which residents refer to as “the grid”).
  4. Second Life is for people aged 18 and over, while Teen Second Life is for people aged 13 to 17.
  5. As of January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered.
  6. Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows a resident to build virtual objects.
  7. There is no charge to create a Second Life account.
  8. A Premium membership (US$9.95/month extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member’s avatar account. Premium membership allows the Resident to own land.
  9. Avatars may take any form users choose (human, animal, vegetable, or mineral) .
  10. An avatar can walk, run, jump, fly, and teleport from one place to another!
  11. To find places to visit an avatar can use the search feature and/or use exact coordinates.
  12. Residents may choose to resemble themselves as they are in real life, or they may choose even more abstract forms.
  13. Avatars can communicate via local chat used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance or global instant messaging (known as IM) for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group.
  14. Second Life has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). Lindens can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art.
  15. L$ can be purchased using US Dollars and other currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab, independent brokers or other resident users. The ratio of USD to L$ fluctuates daily (over the last few years they have remained fairly stable at approximately 250 Linden Dollars (L$) to the US Dollar)

Second Life states that Virtual worlds solve many of the challenges faced by educational institutions. Some of those challenges include:

  • Economic pressures from budget cuts.
  • The rising cost of education, and
  • The fact that educators are obligated to creatively “do more with less”.



What are some academic institutions doing in SL?

  • Distance Education
  • Presentations and Discussions
  • Historical Recreations
  • Simulations and Role-Playing
  • Multimedia and Games Design
  • Language Learning Practice

In SL instructors can deliver/offer:

  • Information
  • Immersive environments
  • Data visualization
  • Simulations
  • Building tools
  • Collaboration
  • Social interaction
  • Discussions/ conferences

Some common academic uses are teaching classes and building libraries.

To teach a class in the virtual Second Life world, referred to as inworld, teachers/faculty rent or buy space.

They can also buy or build models of the subject they intend to teach, and invite the class to meet partially or entirely in Second Life.

Some teachers/professors encourage their students to explore Second Life and interview other residents about their experiences.

A few students are developing thesis material from specific aspects of the environment.

If you are familiar with Moodle: A class that is being taught through Moodle, an online course management system, can have its own presence in Second Life, with Sloodle. The Sloodle system provides inworld classroom space, resources, and tools that connect directly to Moodle, adding a new dimension to the power of online education.


At the College of William & Mary Second Life is not a widely adopted (or encouraged) tool.

However, Second Life is used by many other colleges, universities, and libraries. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University for example, have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

Language Education

Language learning is the most widespread type of education in virtual worlds, with many universities, mainstream language institutes and private language schools using 3D virtual environments to support language learning.


Second Life residents express themselves creatively through virtual world adaptations of art exhibits, live music, live theater.


Live theater is presented in Second Life.

In 2009 the company is producing scenes from Twelfth Night.

In 2009, the TLE theater company began producing full-length plays in Second Life, starting with The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in February, and followed by Candida by George Bernard Shaw in April.

In December 2008, The Learning Experience, a not-for-profit virtual education campus in Second Life, staged its first live theater events with the production of two short plays, A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnár and Porcelain and Pink by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The SL Shakespeare Company performed an act from Hamlet live in February 2008.


Second Life is used for scientific research, collaboration, and data visualization.

Examples include SciLands, American Chemical Society’s ACS Island, Genome, Nature Publishing Group’s Elucian Islands Village.


The goals of Literature Alive! are to help faculty create ethical and immersive learning environments that provide “added value” to students in composition, professional writing, and literature courses: to help students use the resources of a 3D world to add to the depth and breadth of understanding literature; to foster a community of open access educators dedicated to the sharing of teaching content; and, finally, to promote a lifelong love of learning through a lifelong passion for reading. Literature Alive! in Second Life was born in December 2006 as a voluntary effort and continues to exist on a voluntary basis. By working collaborative with others, modeling virtual citizenship, and securing land grant and linden sponsors, Literature Alive! has produced over 30 literary projects in Second Life.

Innovative teaching:

Harvard’s ground-breaking class, Cyber One: Law in the Court of Public Opinion. This course is an attempt to create a class that includes Harvard law students, extension students, and the general public, all with different expectations and degrees of involvement.

The New Media Consortium. This is the largest education project in Second Life.


  • Global Kids (Global Kids became the first nonprofit to develop a dedicated space for conducting programming in the virtual world of Teen Second Life (TSL). Within TSL, the organization has established Global Kids Island, which hosts interactive, experiential programs for teens from around the world. Specifically, Global Kids is conducting intensive leadership programming for youth, bringing youth from its New York-based programs into the space, and streaming the audio and video of major events into the world. Global Kids’ work in TSL is conducted in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, UNICEF, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the International Criminal Court, among others.)


  • California State University, Chico (This Second Life location is used as a hub for students of California State University, Chico. Located next to the CSUC School of Social Work, this parcel is dedicated to creating a community of learners engaged in the direct instruction of topics ranging from teacher education to calculus)

  • Georgia State University (Five Points, the public sim for Georgia State University, is designed for instructors who are involved in teaching and learning in Second Life. Highlights include areas for meetings or small clases, a sandbox for building, and a bookstore with self-help on SL topics and organized landmarks for finding educational spots.)

  • Loyola Marymount (Loyola Marymount Virtual University is an effort to construct a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary university in the 3D Internet. Currently it consists of a central arrival area and 4 sims reflecting different disciplines involved in immersive education activities: LMU Psychology Island, LMU Language Island, LMU Engineering Island, and LMU Computer Science Island. Future plans cal for the expansion of the virtual campus to incorporate additional colleges and departments within the university)

  • The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State World Campus is the online campus of The Pennsylvania State University. All World Campus students earn their Penn State degree or certificate completely online. We are using Second Life to give our online and distance learners a way to connect with each other and experience campus traditions in an online environment)

  • The Ohio State University (Minerva is the teaching and research space for the Department of Women’s Studies at The Ohio State University. This island may be inaccessible when classes are in session)

  • The University of Akron – my Alma Matter! (Here you will find excellence in the breadth and quality of our 300 academic degree programs, and in the highly talented faculty who will help mold you into a critical thinker. Here you will find a metropolitan setting that places you in the heart of a dynamic, regional economy, and in sync with the pulse of business, government and the community. Most important, here you will discover energy, in the high-tech classrooms of our new academic buildings, in our new Student Union and Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and among the 200 student organizations on campus)


  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
  • International Spaceflight Museum (NASA):
    • Starward hosts exhibits and events about real-world spacecraft, rockets, and space travel.
  • NMC Campus:
    • This is an experimental effort developed to inform the New Media Consortium’s work in educational gaming
    • This July (2010), thirty stellar K-12 schoolteachers from around the United States will participate in a four-week, National Endowment for the Humanities-funded, summer institute in Oaxaca, Mexico, offered by the Wired Humanities Projects, University of Oregon. The Center for Learning in Virtual Environments will collaborate in the creation of a simulated “Virtual Oaxaca” that will enhance these experiences. The participants will anticipate their experience together by building a virtual environment between April and June. Once in the field, in July, they will use the space to capture and display the journey as it unfolds, engage students from around the world to participate, chronicle what they are learning, and represent and remix their findings with the public.
  • Life Sciences Building:
    • The Center has several exhibits including a large caffeine molecule and an X-ray view box among others.
  • Middletown:
    • Ball State University Libraries obtained funds from the Institute of Museum of Library Services to construct the Middletown Studies Collection Library and Archives, a virtual reference library and exhibition space in Second Life.
  • Cyber One (Harvard Law, 2007): A class entitled ‘Law in the Court of  Public Opinion’, portions of which are being taught in Second Life. The main part of the class is only available to Harvard Law students, but students of the Extension School will be able to experience videos, discussions, and lectures in-world at Berkman Island. You don’t have to be a current student of Harvard Law to attend the Extension class, however, as enrollment is open to the public.
  • Rhetorica (Center for Distance Education University of Alaska):
    • Rhetorica links work blogs, events, and other resources shared by the Design Team at the Center for Distance Education, University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Second Life has twice, in 2007 and 2010, banned a California educational institution, Woodbury University, from having a representation within Second Life.

On 20 April 2010 four simulators belonging to the university were deleted and the accounts of several students and professors terminated, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Professor Edward Clift of Woodbury University stated that their campus “was a living, breathing campus in Second Life”, that included educational spaces designed mostly by students, including a mock representation of the former Soviet Union and a replica of the Berlin Wall.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the virtual campus did not “conform to what Linden Lab wanted a campus to be”

Tizzers Foxchase, an administrator of the virtual land group for Woodbury University, provided the Herald with a copy of the virtual eviction notice:

Linden Lab has continued to find inappropriate uses of the Second Life region “Woodbury University” under your control. On the 16th of April, you were informed of problems with the activities taking place in the region. Many members of the Woodbury University group (which controls the region) have been detected before and after that date causing severe problems in Second Life, in violation of the terms of service. These problems include incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts. Due to the ongoing problems, Linden Lab has no option but to immediately close the Woodbury University region. If you believe that this notice has been sent in error, or that the details of this incident have not been adequately examined, please address your concerns in an e-mail to Sincerely yours, Customer Support Linden Lab 945 Battery Street San Francisco, CA

February 15, 2010

Second Life: VSTE, Presentation on Internet Filters

Filed under: Internet filters,Second Life,VSTE — mepada @ 9:47 pm
Tonight I (well, Mane Sideways) attended this presentation, which proved to be an eye-opening experience.

Here are my notes:

Presenter: Craig Cunningham (First Life) “Dewey Jung” (Second Life). He is an educational philosopher and technologist.

Most schools favor some form of filtering.


  • Which words can we type in and which words are “inappropriate”
  • Cuba: Government controlled systems
  • Chicago Public School: A Siren goes off when an “inappropriate ” site is accessed (applies to students and teachers)
  • Schools filter due to CIPA (Children Internet Protection Act, which passed in 2001) I only requires blocking: Child pornography and adult sites.
  • US: Local control – dependent, however the presenter has not seen a School Board making filtering decisions.

Major filtering methods:

  • All words, phrases with the exception of those on the “white list”.
  • All words, phrases on the “black list”.
  • Certain words, phrases, images typed by the user.
  • Ports used for services such as games, email, voice-over, etc.

Great Britain and Australia: Federal Government makes filter decisions.

 Russia: State level makes filter decisions.

Presenter “Dewey Jung” would like to see everything un-blocked! Purpose of education is to educate not restrict. Students should be provided freedom to inquire.

Huge problem with filters:

  • Software determines what content is harmful.
  • They overblock.
  • Only some people may find content unacceptable.
  • School curriculum subjects and valuable information gets blocked.
  • Schools end abdicating their educational responsibilities to corporations.
  • Equity issue: wealthier students go home and access much of the info blocked at their schools (poorer students do not have this choice)
  • If a site is unrecognized the software/tech person bans it.
  • Schools can be open to lawsuits by parents (teachers and admmin can be sued)

What can be done: Teachers’ unions should be pro-active about this issue.

Getting around filters:

  • Some kids are becoming more tech savy and know how to bypass filters.
  • Use
  • Use (YouTube)
  • Right click on an image and copy/paste url intothe browser
  • Use mobile versions of Fb or MySpace
  • etc.
  1. There is a disconnect between principals and students.
    Our schools are not preparing our students for the 21st Century.
  2. Presenter agrees we should block pornography but not social networking sites.
     “In a playful context kids seem to have and almost infinite capacity for learning”
    “Better theories of learning are embedded in the the video games…than in the classroom”
  3. The National Research Council makes an analogy between swimming and the internet (and its apps): Swimming pools are dangerous to children. We can put up fences and locks and these help but by far the most important thing we can do is teaching them to swim 🙂
  4. We should aim to:
    Create a climate of trust
    Accept that students will make mistakes
    Build a “Walled Garden” (social media) with teacher supervision

Pics of the event:

February 1, 2010

Second Life: VSTE, Book discussion

Filed under: Second Life,VSTE — mepada @ 10:43 pm

It is 8:00PM on 2/1 and I am sitting at a meeting in Second Life tonight (VSTE island).Very interesting!  The conversations are being conducted via mic (voice) and text messaging.
The moderator just sent us a link to a Google Docs  document that we all had to open. All the participants are writing something down …synchronously (within Second Life)!  She also asked us to click on a page of the novel being discussed (Blood on the River) – displayed in our SL site. A quote from this page appeared on my local chat window.
Next the moderator asked us to telport ourselves to a different part of the island (to the Sandbox) where she described a tool called: conceptualizer 0.7 (a 3-D graphic tool) which we learned to use to write text and create nodes.

Great experience!

Hope to go back!

Here are some pics:

Discussing the novel Discussing the novel

Learning to use the conceptualizer Creating nodes and writing text

Putting it all together Putting it all together!