Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education Opens

VWBPE Social IslandToday is the first day of a four-day conference of and by educators, for educators and for anyone passionate about the possibilities of virtual worlds in education, commonly known as VWBPE. For the past 5 years this conference has been held in Second Life only; this year, with the theme, “Beyond the Stage,” it opens up to include OpenSim (JokaydiaGRID) and Cloud Party. With over a hundred different topics spread across three virtual worlds, not to mention dozens of poster exhibits and a number of different ‘tracks.’ It even follows up with MOOCs afterward to keep the momentum going and inspire continued experimentation in virtual worlds.

We at =IcaruS= encourage you to attend. It’s free and features presentations by respected researchers and leaders in their fields, from around the world. The poster exhibits are widely varied in expression, creative and packed with information. And, if you haven’t done it already, you can make your first exploration into other virtual worlds with visits to Cloud Party and JokaydiaGRID.

To find out more about this annual event, visit the website at http://www.vwbpe.org. Review the schedule and read the available information about accessing the other virtual worlds, beyond the stage of Second Life.

An Epic VWBPE 2012

Last Saturday, the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference wrapped up, with attendees taking away new inspiration, fresh ideas and a sense of excitement about changes in education trends and the role of virtual worlds. This year’s theme was “Be brave, be creative, be EPIC!” Indeed, volunteers and educators alike were seen wearing their most heroic and unique looks.

The free conference opened with a Dragon Parade on Social Island. Dragon avatars were distributed freely to anyone who wanted to join in. It was fun, if executed a little differently. A typical parade consists of a march along a designated route; a confetti-strewn path showed marchers the way. Dragons can fly, however, so many used the shortest route between Point A, the start of the parade, and Point B, the dance floor up on the mountain, to fly back and forth, laughing, teasing and enjoying themselves immensely.

VWBPE 2012 Dragon Parade Start

Presenters talked about a broad range of topics. Many centered around furthering the use of various types of virtual environments and tools in education. Very exciting new developments were shared, like the use of Minecraft or World of Warcraft gaming in the classroom, and taking virtual worlds beyond the classroom on mobile devices – indeed, there were spirited discussions of the pros and cons of “gamification” of education.

In the weeks prior to the conference, iSkye volunteered her mentoring skills and was assigned two presenters to assist in preparing their presentations. One presenter was an English gentleman working in Japan; the other a Spanish-speaking linguist from Valencia, Spain. She was pleased to observe that both presentations were well received. She assisted others in various ways throughout the three-day event and attended a good number of the presentations.

Dafydd Beresford at VWBPE Central AuditoriumMontse Veyrat at CAVE

Leon went to a workshop at the conference. Virtual world notables were in attendance throughout the conference, from Pathfinder (John) Lester of ReactionGrid to Pooky Amsterdam to Secondlie (in his usual sharp-tongued satirical form).

Cooper Macbeth and Ute Frenberg introduced a revolutionary, 3D approach to learning mathematics that lets the brain “see” complex concepts within minutes; it was tested on students as young as five with impressive results. Conference-goers were treated to a “sushi bar” demonstration over a series of four workshops during the conference. More than a few gasps of “Oh, wow, this is FANTASTIC!” were heard, to the presenters’ great satisfaction.

Educators submitted into contests the interactive posters and machinima they had created with their students; attendees were encouraged to visit the posters and view the machinima selections, then vote on their favourites.

There was much talk of engaging students as active participants in learning, with teachers as stewards – even “Lorekeepers” – essentially getting out of the students’ way. There can be no more “one size fits all” approaches to teaching, or learning. A tool is worthless if a person cannot use it, and so there was emphasis on ensuring that virtual worlds and online learning are accessible to all learners through the application of Universal Design concepts and other methods.

Bubbling over with enthusiasm at the close of the conference, people expressed a desire to compare notes on their progress after they’d returned home, and a few online discussion forums cropped up. There is even an online “course” to expand on the ideas shared at the conference. Frequent exclamations of “See you online!” were interspersed with farewells at the close of the event. As they went their different ways back to the physical world, it was a delight to see inspired education professionals exhorting each other to:

Walk all EPIC...and stuff

Education in 3D

A number of universities have leveraged the potential of Second Life as an online education venue. State University of New York – New Paltz is just one of those institutions of higher learning with both virtual and physical locations.

SUNY New Paltz, Landing PointSUNY New Paltz, Academic ClearingSUNY New Paltz, Classroom
SUNY New Paltz, AquariumSUNY New Paltz, Campus Night ViewSUNY New Paltz, Campus at Sunset

Educators are finding other places across SL to develop resources, find tools, meet colleagues from around the globe, and even have classes inworld. One intrepid educator is Nana Chingseng of SUNY-New Paltz. As part of a graduate level course, her students attend classes in the =IcaruS= Parthenon Gallery building in Second Life, to have a normal discussion in a 3D virtual setting and ultimately carry out an inworld project. They met for the first time last week, and while there were the usual first-entry glitches, the class itself went marvelously and the students appeared to enjoy this virtual learning venue.

iSkye sat in on the first sessions to help if needed. The choices of avatars by the students were widely varied, from a flying boat to humans to canines. There is no limit to one’s creativity in Second Life except one’s knowledge, which is easily remedied with the availability of mentors and in-world classes – all freely available.

SUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's ClassSUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's ClassSUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's Class
SUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's ClassSUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's ClassSUNY New Paltz - Nana Chingseng's Class

We’re pleased to do our small part by making available a venue for educators and students to take advantage of the possibilities and applications of a 3D virtual world for online learning.

At =IcaruS= we have some very useful tools for educators; we’ve listed a few of them below. Consider visiting our inworld shop for a ‘close up’ look, or you can find them (TRANSFER or COPY version available) on the Second Life Marketplace at the links below.

  • =IcaruS= CyberSlide
    • Slideshow/presentation modes
    • Owner only control/anyone can advance slides
    • Each slide can also give items – notecards or objects
  • =I= NetConnect Low Prim
    • Show Your Social Media Connections in SL
    • Pre-sets and ability to create custom social buttons
    • Be Connected Across the Metaverse
  • =IcaruS= SmartArt / SmartArt Lite
    • Customisable transitions
    • Easy to configure
    • Use for display of information or art
    • Three different frame styles

=IcaruS=, Art and Art Education in SL

If you come to visit =IcaruS= House in Magna Carta, Avalon Town, you will see a new building on our property. It’s the =IcaruS= Parthenon Art Gallery building. Situated on the hill overlooking the river, the Neo-classical style building will be used as a virtual classroom and art gallery by students at SUNY-New Paltz, under the guidance of their professor, Nana Chingseng.

=IcaruS= Parthenon Gallery, View from Castle=IcaruS= Parthenon Gallery, View from River=IcaruS= Parthenon Gallery, Inside

Since we are located in a community of artists, we want to show our support for the arts and encourage students to explore the creative expression possibilities of a 3D virtual world. The students may put on an exhibition toward the end of their semester. Watch for news about that in a few weeks – the display will be open to the public.

There are a number of excellent in-world teaching aids available. We have one, the =IcaruS= CyberSlide which is a combination presentation tool, slideshow and item giver all in one handy and easy-to-configure device. While showing any given slide, educators can have students click on that slide to receive an item to supplement the instruction; it can be an object or notecard that is specific to that particular slide. We have a working demo of the CyberSlide in the =IcaruS= Art Gallery, just inside the main gate, and if you’re interested in purchasing one, it is available on our SL Marketplace shoppe.

We continue to show selections of art in our own gallery inside the castle. Visitors are welcome any time.

=IcaruS= Art Gallery

Second Life’s 8th Birthday: Days and Nights

Our SL8B exhibit celebrating the magic of collaboration transcending space and time is coming together! One of the demonstrations maps the day/night cycle across the earth in real time.

Imagine taking a globe and cutting vertically from pole to pole on just one side and carefully peeling it like the skin of an orange, then flattening it out. It would look something like this map. Here, the curved light and dark regions illustrate the areas of night and day as they are right now – this is the magic of time in our world, wherever we live.

Real Time Day/Night Map

In Nature, things happen in cycles, like the days and nights. They happen because of the way Planet Earth moves around the Sun, with a full elliptical revolution taking one year, about 365 days. At the same time it revolves around the Sun, the Earth also rotates on its own axis, giving us periods of light and darkness – our days and nights. A full rotation takes approximately 24 hours, moving 15 degrees per hour. The side of Earth that faces the Sun is in daylight, while the other side is in night, and every hour, the Earth rotates counterclockwise another 15 degrees – which is why you see the sun rising in the east, setting in the west. This is all just science, but… to us who live on this planet, it’s a magical thing to greet the sunrise in the morning and watch its fiery farewell in the evening.

In Second Life, a single day is comprised of 3 hours of daytime and 1 hour of night, which means a real world 24-hour day is equivalent to six SL days. A lot can happen in a day!

The SL8B celebration officially opens on 20th June at 10:30am SLT; be sure and visit our exhibit at http://slurl.com/secondlife/SL8B%20Spellbound/100/30/22