Published by Joe Sanchez on 14 Oct 2014

No longer updating

The Educators Coop  is a snapshot of work completed between

April 2007 – May 2010.


“It’s been real” – Bluewave Ogee

Published by Carina on 25 Jun 2010

Togashi Jun: Library Designer

Togashi Jun is a librarian at the University of South Dakota who came to Second Life three years ago to experiment with library displays.  The University of South Dakota Libraries have been undergoing major reorganization. There used to be two libraries in one building: ID Weeks Library (main library), and Lommen Health Sciences Library. The libraries were merged into one, which freed up space on the first floor of the building where the Lommen library used to be. Under a new dean, the librarians at the University of South Dakota are now moving to bring other student services into the building in a move to make the library even more of a center piece on campus.

Some of the services that will be brought in are the writing center, the IT help desk, the career development center, the math help center and supplemental instruction, academic advising, and tutoring. With this many new services coming into the building there was a need to design the physical space. The space is being designed in the traditional method with an architect doing the preliminary design.

Togashi thought this would be a good opportunity to promote the use of Second Life by developing a 3D model based on the architect’s plan and sharing that with various constituencies around campus. The university has not developed a SL presence yet, so he needed to scale the model down to roughly the size of a tiny avatar.

Initially Togashi attempted to establish a scale and manually place all of the objects. When this proved too frustrating, he scanned the original layout of the library and brought the texture into SL and put it on a 50 x 50 megaprim. He built the walls, pillars etc. according to this plan.

When the new plan was available, Togashi was able to then quickly adjust it to reflect the new design. When the dean introduced the plan to the library, Togashi was in the background walking through the model to each part of the building as she talked about it. Most of the new construction will be glass walls, and Togashi was able to represent that in SL by using a glass block texture.

In addition to using Second Life for library design, Togashi is excited about the capabilities for bringing the internet into SL with the new browser.  He hopes it will revolutionize library presences in Second Life.  Now, instead of linking catalogs, librarians can bring them directly into SL.  These capabilities will also improve the use of Second Life for conferencing and community, which are Togashi’s favorite part about SL.  He is looking forward to a day when using Second Life for conferences is common place, particularly if the economy continues to make travel for conferences difficult for professional educators.  Togashi would like to see more library associations develop, or at least make use of, spaces in SL.

Previously, Togashi had been working on using holo technology to make displays that would change to make greater use of space.  However, thanks to the new browser’s ability to put a web page on any surface, the possibilities are literally endless.  Togashi believes this is a significant step towards creating a 3D internet.  For example, a library could potentially have a bookshelf displaying books and, depending on which author was selected, the books could change to display actual book covers, showing people the real resources.

Togashi heard about the Educators Coop through another organization, joined right away, and has owned land with the Coop ever since.  His main involvement with the Educators Coop has been keeping an eye on how libraries are developing in Second Life.  He also presented at the Brick & Click Symposium last fall, and an article was published in the proceedings.  Togashi also works with Indian Studies and the local Indian Community in South Dakota as a liaison to the American Indian Studies Department and is responsible for the book selection in that area.  There is also a Native American center where he holds office hours once a week.

The name Togashi Jun is a combination of Togashi’s wife’s family name, and a role-playing character he created long ago.

In “real life,” Togashi Jun is Dr. David Alexander, the Digital Access Manager (an academic librarian) at the University of South Dakota.  He manages the interlibrary loan and serials departments, plus work with maintaining the university’s electronic resources.  Togashi has a BS in Business Administration from Truman State University, a MA in Asian Civilizations, a MA in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa, and an EdD in Adult and Higher Education from The University of South Dakota.

Published by Carina on 08 Jun 2010

Metaphor Voom: Multi-Dimensional Educator

Metaphor Voom was interviewed in one of his creations – the Ensemble Pavilion on one of the Educators Coop sims. The pavilion was created as part of a grant from the National Science Foundation for computing education. Metaphor is responsible for the social networking part of the project, called Ensemble.

When one arrives at the pavilion, they are presented with three arches. The arch is a metaphor for the Ensemble project, as one is walking into and through passageways when they use social software. There are several floors to the Ensemble pavilion. The first floor is the original part of the pavilion where sits a slide viewer providing an overview of the project. The green arrows on the side of the viewer allow the user to navigate the presentation.

Ensemble is a new National Science Foundation (NSF) National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Pathways project working to establish a national, distributed digital library for computing education. Their project is building a distributed portal providing access to a broad range of existing educational resources for computing, while preserving the collections and their associated curation processes. They want to encourage contribution, use, reuse, review and evaluation of educational materials at multiple levels of granularity, and seek to support the full range of computing education.

Initially, SL was to be only a key part of the social networking component of Ensemble. However, the Ensemble Pavilion in Second Life instead became a virtual mirror of the Ensemble website, and it became an Ensemble portal with tools, communities, and collections all its own. The Ensemble Pavilion is the portal to their portals, and it is only available in Second Life.

What Metaphor ideally wants to create in Second Life is the visualization of ideas and how to make a curriculum three-dimensional. Being a “visual kinda guy,” Metaphor naturally saw how Second Life could be used as a graphic organizer. As he stated, “seeing relationships is one thing, but putting yourself inside the relationships is another.” Metaphor wanted to help students “see and be inside” the relationships between and among ideas. For Metaphor, learning, thinking, and interpreting are not linear practices. They are instead multi-dimensional living metaphors that Second Life can animate, while simultaneously encouraging the students to be part of the construction of the ideas and the environment.

Metaphor came to Second Life about three years ago just for the purpose of giving dimension to his curriculum, and his ideas have come to fruition on Glasscok Island for Digital Humanities and Visual Culture. Supported by an internal grant at Texas A&M University, the idea was to create a space for those educators not in the agricultural or mechanical areas. Glasscock is instead a place for the humanities and visually-oriented staff and faculty.

One of the courses that Metaphor teaches at Texas A&M is called Contemporary Visual Culture. This semester, his students were all given apartments in Second Life which they were encouraged to decorate themselves. The students then had to create and display ads from magazines that they interpreted following a methodology from the class. In each ad was a notecard explaining their interpretation. Their work then became part of the landscape in which they live. In addition, Metaphor’s classes are held in a wide variety of places including rooftops, sandboxes, and auditoriums. This creative atmosphere allows the students to be active participants in the construction of the physical and pedagogical landscape. It helps his students change and challenge the ways we think about teaching and learning in real life. Indirectly, the students learn about marketing as well, but the focus is on the interdisciplinary discourse of visual culture. In addition, because all of the work is at all times available to the public, the students can view and assess each others work, which is an essential component of constructivist learning and guided inquiry.

In order to get and keep his students in Second Life, Metaphor dedicates the first few weeks of the course just to navigating SL. He wants to ensure that none of this students drop the course due to technophobia. Before the semester even begins, Metaphor sends his incoming students some basic information via email and encourages them to log 20 hours of SL time before the semester starts. On the first day of class, all of the students are asked to log-in and meet Metaphor in the classroom. By that time, Metaphor and his students have been emailing back and forth about the basics of Second Life for quite a while. Once in SL with his students, Metaphor demonstrates some Second Life tricks and moves, but otherwise, they are fairly comfortable at that point. He makes sure that his students understand that his course is not “about” Second Life, but instead merely uses the SL environment, just as a biology course would use an auditorium. In fact, most of Metaphor’s students are not distance learners – they are students he meets weekly face-to-face. By the second week of class, Metaphor’s students have to meet a set of expectation and have mastered some basic skills within the context of assignments. The first assignment is due the third week, and so by that time students need to know how to upload images and make notecards.

Metaphor first heard about the Educators Coop from a posting. He thought the Coop would be a great place to work out his ideas for Second Life and his curriculum. The first two years of his involvement in SL, his department covered the costs. However, parcels are like potato chips – you can’t just have one – and so he has rented more land every year, opting to cover the expenses himself. After acquiring his first parcel of land, Metaphor taught himself how to build and script.

In addition to teaching in Second Life, Metaphor also uses SL for personal causes. Metaphor hopes to use SL to combat the global water crisis with the help of the TAMU Water Project. There are 5,000 children worldwide who die every day from water-related diseases. Metaphor works on appropriate technology, using clay, sawdust, and silver, that kills 99% of water-borne bacteria. The filter uses a clay bowl, and a five-gallon bucket that sits inside it. One to two liters of water are filtered through the clay per hour, rending water-borne bacteria inert. This device is used all over the world, including Texas. There are 50,000 people in Texas who do not have adequate access to clean water in their homes, and so this project is even being implemented in Texas A&M’s backyard. He uses SL to beta test the design of the filter and to bring awareness to the cause. TAMU’s sister facility is in the Dominic Republic where filters are being created and driven to Haiti. Metaphor works on TAMU with several people worldwide, with the help of the interdisciplinary team working on it at Texas A&M, and consultants at other universities.

If you ever have the chance to meet Metaphor Voom in SL, you will see that he tends to ware a black t-shirt with the name “Henry Box Brown” written across his chest. Henry Brown as a slave in 19th century Virginia. One day, his wife and kids were sold and sent to various places around the country. Naturally upset by these events, Henry decided he would do anything to stop being a slave, especially now that he would never see his family again, and so he and a white man that he knew devised a plan. The white man package Henry in a box and mailed him from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia, PA. It took 29 hours on train, boat, and cart, ½ of which Henry was upside down. Despite the odds, Henry arrived safely; he mailed himself to freedom. This touching and innovative story always inspired Metaphor and so he wears that t-shirt in homage to this hero.

The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research SLURL:

Ensemble Pavilion SLURL:

TAMU Water Project Site

Ensemble Site:

The National Science Digital Library Site:

Published by Carina on 02 Jun 2010

TracyR96 Sorbet: Bringing International Home

TracyR96 Sorbet’s primary work in Second Life involves a project called Hungry Decisions. The project was inspired by one of her master’s degree students, and today involves more than one student and another faculty member. The project provides students with the opportunity to see what differences exist in student perceptions of third world countries. Some of the students will experience Hungry Decisions via a “static” web site, while others will experience the concept in Second Life.

TracyR96 Sorbet teaches in the agricultural communications and journalism program at Texas A&M University. The program is basically a journalism program with a specialty in agricultural sciences. Similar programs exist in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, and Nebraska. She teaches primarily in a traditional classroom, but once Hungry Decisions is fully functional in Second Life, she will be bringing students in grid. TracyR96 is currently building components into her classes to successfully introduce students into Second Life. TracyR96 also teaches magazine production, photography, and graphic design for print.

Hungry Decisions is TracyR96’s pioneer program for a USDA-CSREES (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service) grant project that she is leading which will use Second Life to teach crisis communications. Texas Tech teaches a graduate level crisis communications course each fall semester. Crisis communications is the process of planning how to share information in the event of a disaster related situation. Organizations and communities develop crisis communication plans to prepare for working with the media and sharing information with the pubic. The ultimate goal is to determine if virtual worlds can provide students with a better “experience” related to globalization and international work. So many of TracyR96’s students just read case studies or listen to others experiences, but they don’t get to participate in cost-prohibitive international travel. Hungry Decisions provides experiential learning for the international journalist on a budget! The hope is that Hungry Decisions will create a stronger emotional and psychological response for students as compared to video or static case studies. These types of opportunities can also bolster general student interest in traveling abroad.

A “typical” experience for a student first logging into Hungry Decisions is a tree-based simulation. Most students will only go through 2-3 times, faced with various choices, and each choice will have difference consequences. The crisis communication project will involve students throughout the semester. Basically the students will be given some information and they have to choose a role – male or female. Then they are told a portion of their life story, which ends with a choice. That choice is made by touching an object which will teleport them to the next decision. For example, if a student begins in the village, and chooses to leave their community and move to the city, they will be teleported to the city section of the sim. This is where the next part of their experience will begin.

TracyR96’s appreciates the combination of creativity and interactivity that Second Life brings. She can make things happen and let her students experience them without causing world havoc. TracyR96 would love to recreate a “safe” hurricane just for the experience it would provide.

When TracyR96 first came to Second Life, she was just an interested observer for the first 6-8 months. Her university does currently have a program that introduces faculty to Second Life and one of the speakers, Metaphor Voom, teaches a photo class and uses SL as a component of the course. Since TracyR96 also teaches digital photography, she was interested in how she could get involved as well. Thanks to Metaphor introduction, TracyR96 became involved with both Second Life and the Educators Coop.

TracyR96 found acclimating to SL as a teacher to be a very different experience than as an observer. There is an additional pressure on educators to develop the materials needed to make it worthwhile for the students to succeed in Second Life, and it can be quite difficult (and rare) to find the time to do so. She also found her students reluctant to try something new; the initial fear is very real. To overcome this, TracyR96 makes sure her students have a purpose. You can’t just say “hey you need to try this new technology.” People seem to get overwhelmed if they don’t have a reason or goal to accomplish when they first enter SL. For the graduate students, TracyR96 had them research locations they could visit during a presentation, so they were able to search for specific criteria while in Second Life. Another faculty member invested in a scavenger hunt script for his students.

Another concern that TracyR96 has about bringing students into Second Life is that her technology-based students will be turned off slightly with the education component. People today are so used to the 3-D effects and extreme graphical capabilities of games and movies. If Hungry Decisions appears “cartoonish” then the learning experience may be devalued. This is a concern that is shared by TracyR96’s colleagues as well. Either way, TracyR96 is looking forward to the variability in the avatars reflecting her students’ personalities. They will get to show their classmates how they see themselves, which could lead to greater self-confidence in the “classroom” and with assignments. On this topic, TracyR96 and her team are hoping to work with our educational psychology department as we develop instruments for our research.

TracyR96 created her name on an admitted “newbie mistake.” Her first name is Tracy, and ’96 is the year that both she and her husband graduated from Texas A&M. She chose Sorbet in honor of the dairy farm she was raised on.

In “real life,” TracyR96 is Dr. Tracy Rutherford. She holds a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University, an MA in Speech Communication, Rhetoric & Public Affairs from Texas A&M, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Leadership from Texas A&M.

Hungry Decisions website:

Published by Carina on 25 May 2010

Veritas Raymaker: On the Affordances of SL

Veritas Raymaker first logged in to Second Life in 2006 to coincide with the first Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference. This is where he met Bluewave Ogee and North Lamar who ushered him into the Educators Coop. Though the time difference makes it extremely difficult to meet with other members of the Coop (Veritas hails from Singapore) he remains loyal and inspired by Bluewave and North’s vision.

In those early days of the Educators Coop, Veritas had the opportunity to help Bluewave from time to time when she organized introductory talks to faculty about SL. Such talks invited members of the Coop to demonstrate their work or talk about their work in front of RL audiences from Second Life. These evangelical efforts brought faculty and residents together, helping all involved appreciate the affordances of Second Life.

The interview for this article took place on Veritas’ sim, a former Celtic roleplay location that he purchased for its geomorphological authenticity. The sim is presently designed to be a Field Studies Centre for geography. Veritas did a bit of terraforming, but has tried to keep the sim as-is, honoring the original efforts. While Veritas’ primary interest in Second Life was geography, he was quickly able to see how the third dimension (plus other affordances such as social collaboration and user-generated content, and ease of visualization) would help overcome many challenges which geography teachers face, such as problems of scale, field-trip logistics, etc.

Although Veritas’ roots are in classroom teaching geography, he is presently a researcher in the Learning Sciences at Sinagpore’s (presently sole) teacher-training institute. Right now, his education work in Second Life is primarily due to a $70,000 grant that he was thankfully able to secure with several schools in Singapore to help with curricular development using SL for several subject domains, such as chemistry, geography, and mother-tongue languages. While studying for his EdM, Veritas undertook David Perkins’ notion of affordances and disaffordances. This understanding of affordances has driven his approach to curricular development in Second Life, with respect to different subject domains. For example, although he doesn’t directly advice them on this, the Department of Education in Singapore (called the Ministry of Education) leverages scalar visualization for chemistry and immersive roleplay to promote authentic communicative opportunities, for mother-tongue languages. For geography, there are several ways in which the affordances may be leveraged, which can be viewed via videoclips on Veritas’ blog.

This year, one of his most recent insights about education in Second Life (and possibly with regards how different cultures interpret the affordances of the platform) is that some teachers see SL as an e-textbook, but others see it as an e-workbook.  Those who see it as an e-textbook, have been asking for resource development within SL to support learners’ conceptual understanding through ways such as “getting up close” to otherwise abstract (be they in terms of time or space) notions, such as the tectonic forces and vulcanicity. Those who see it as an e-workbook, see opportunities to use SL instead for expressions of learner misconceptions and preconceptions. In other words, Second Life allows learners to surface these misconceptions which would otherwise have remained tacit or implicit in “regular” classroom lessons.

Veritas has more affinity and empathy with this latter view, and is trying to encourage teachers to appreciate the latter. Essentially the dichotomy boils down to “who populates the world, for whom.” So, an e-textbook view would be “curriculum developers populate the world with content which allows the learners to “immerse” themselves in. E-workbook view would be “curriculum developers populate learners’ inventories with content, and learners subsequently populate the world, and through these populations of the world their tacit misconceptions of the subject domain are surfaced.

Veritas’ work is still in its earliest stages. The grant was (literally) a couple of years in coming, so they’ve only just started their collaboration (between Veritas and the Ministry of Ed and schools).

Veritas feels that the other major contribution that he’s made to the education community in Second Life is what he calls his Six Learnings framework. This framework was conceptualized by Veritas to help teachers and school leaders have an easy understanding of the affordances of SL so that

(a) they don’t get taken advantage of by the plethora of third-party vendors who are vying for their school funds (Singapore schools are provided with lots of funds and the autonomy to disburse them, by the Government)

(b) to help them not over-reach themselves, and

(c)not be too blinkered / strait-jacketed in pursuing one line of curricular design (the conceptual opposite of (b).

In addition to his formal education pursuits in Second Life, Veritas also wears the hat of a greeter. He co-designed and helps out at an orientation area for newcomers to Second Life. Most newbies come through Orientation Island, but for some time now Linden Labs have allowed private estate owners to design and manage their own orientation experiences, called Community Gateways. Veritas helped design and volunteers at the Gateway to the SS Galaxy, which is a full-scale, full-service cruise liner in Second Life spanning three sims. The orientation gateway is off limits to avatars older than 30 days, in order to provide the newbies with a safe environment.

Veritas Raymaker designed his name based on Harvard’s motto of truth.

In “real life” Veritas Raymaker is Dr. Kenneth Y T Lim, an Assistant Professor at the Learning Sciences Lab, of the National Institute of Education (NIE) / Nanyang Technological University (NTU). His work involves researching the potential of computer games and other forms of Interactive & Digital Media in education. Veritas/Kenneth also teaches geography and social studies at the NIE. His students include those studying for a Diploma-in-Education, Post-graduate Diploma-in-Education, as well as in-service teachers who are pursuing a Masters degree. Before Veritas/Kenneth came to work at the NIE, he worked in a variety of education settings, including a military school, an independent school, a neighbourhood school, and junior colleges. He also spent three years at the Curriculum Planning & Development Division of Singapore’s Ministry of Education, where he developed the thinking skills package for geography. Veritas has a masters degree from Harvard in Education Technology. His doctoral research was in adolescent semiotics and spatial discourse, and was undertaken at the NTU. His blog – voyeurism – is his way of documenting the journey of his research in this field.

Veritas’ Blog Voyeurism:

Veritas’ Six Learnings Framework:

Veritas’ CV:

Veritas’ Doctoral Thesis:

Published by Carina on 12 May 2010

Larry Klugman: Virtually Teaching Teachers

Larry KlugmanLarry first became involved with Second Life about a year and a half ago, directly via the Educators Coop.  After joining the program at UT, he heard about their involvement in SL and was ushered in by North Lamar and Bluewave Ogee.  They suggested he join the coop to see what others were doing with education in Second Life.  As a former Apple employee, Larry has always been a fan of exploring new technologies, so he was eager to explore.

Larry Klugman now runs the TOLC Mountain Campus in Second Life, which is an education sim purchased by the University of Texas at Austin Center for Science and Mathematics Teaching.  The campus supports K12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators participation in the University of Texas System Wide Virtual Learning Communities Initiative (VLCI) by hosting presentations, discussions, and demonstrations regarding technology enhanced learning activities.

TOLC Mountain Campus hosts the Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC) for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, which is a state-wide teacher professional development program at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. The TRC initiative is a program of the UT Science and Mathematics Education Center.

Avatar Larry Klugman is the island administrator.  All others who would like to use the island meeting areas to address STEM education issues are welcome to sign up for events which will be marketed to  their TRC state-wide  science/math community as well as to others.  If you are interested in using TOLC Mountain, contact Larry Klugman.

Ultimately, Larry’s goal (and that of TOLC) is to use their Second Life resources to support community building and professional networking with STEM educators in Texas. They want to help educators use Second Life as a resource for professional development by helping them with the basic skills required to attend meetings and STEM related exhibits in Second Life.  TOLC reaches around 17,000 STEM teachers per year with professional development.

Larry built the TOLC Mountain Campus with a “retreat feel” to act as home base for K12 teachers exploring professional development opportunities.  Paid for using industry dollars from organizations such as Toyota, AT&T, El Paso, and Shell, the TOLC Mountain Campus is actually just one smaller part of a larger online community.  TOLC even has a NING network that members are encouraged to join. They use the NING network to post announcements and support resources. TOLC’s NING network has over 1400 teachers sharing effective practice and other web based tools.

TOLC is at the recruiting phase of their initiative.  They are just getting started and are hoping to add more K12 Texas STEM teachers soon.  So far, TOLC has 60 training sites throughout Texas which are a collaboration between local districts, universities and education service centers.

Participants in TOLC’s opportunities have one of several meeting areas to choose from, three of which are nestled in the mountains.  To keep costs down, many of the areas are created entirely from modified freebies from Zebra and the New Media Consortium.  Vistas include TOLC’s West Mountain, the Emerald Forest, and a cozy campfire.  TOLC even has a sandbox 700 meters up for attendees to learn how to build.

As many other educators have stated, overcoming the SL learning curve is always the first obstacle to bringing anyone into Second Life.  Larry is combating the learning curve by creating an online tutorial; a short course with a built-in assessment of SL skills.  The tutorial will be available online, outside of Second Life, so new users can learn in an atmosphere that is already familiar to them.  When finished, the tutorial will ultimately include screen videos and everything an avatar needs to know about the new viewer.

In “real life,” Larry Klugman is Keith Mitchell, Ph.D.  He is an educator at the University of TX Austin, involved in professional development for science educators in Texas.  He manages online support of their professional development programs and is exploring SL for that purpose. He administers the TOLC Mountain Campus sim which provides a home base for Texas K12 STEM Educators participating in the University of Texas system wide Virtual Learning Communities Initiative. Their sim is one of 50 sims in this system.  Larry/Keith previously taught high school science for ten years, spent four years at the state department of education in Texas, eighteen years in technology integration and multimedia publishing with Apple, and has now been with UT Austin Ph.D. in Science Ed. for four years.

TOLC Mountain Campus SLURL:

The University of Texas System Site:

Virtual Learning Community Initiative Site:

Invitation to TOLC SL Initiative Site:

Texas Regional Collaboratives Site:

Dr. Keith Mitchell’s Bio pdf:

Published by Carina on 12 May 2010

Black Kelley: Professional Sandboxer

Black KelleyBlack Kelley has been in Second Life for almost three and a half years.  He originally came to SL because he needed a past-time that was quiet enough to do while his daughter was sleeping.  However, he quickly became involved with scripting and has since found many other SL interests, including live music.

Black became involved with the Educators Coop when he met Bluewave Ogee at an education meeting, attended by some of the Lindens.  At the time, Black happened to be looking for some land (which he currently uses mostly for building) and the idea of being surrounded by other educators intrigued him.  A math teacher himself, he naturally gravitated towards scripting and building and to this day tends to spend most of his SL time in sandboxes around the grid.

Acorn LauncherSome of his SL building and scripting designs include an object that will move along the phase space of a differential equation and an Acorn Launcher.  The latter is an acorn bazooka that will shoot an acorn at a target.  As the once elected target of Black’s device, I was able to experience the Acorn Launcher first hand. The Acorn Launcher was created via a project for a combined calculus and physics course.  The idea was that the students had to figure out the velocity necessary to hit an object.  Black appreciates the freedom SL gives him to find both fun and serious mathematical applications.  He works to show his undergraduate students how math can be applied in Second Life.  Two of his students, that are engaged in an independent study in SL, are currently doing a statistics project with a focus on the economics of Second Life.

When asked, Black agreed with his colleagues that getting students engaged in Second Life can be difficult due to the steep learning curve.  Most of his students have only heard one side of what Second Life and other virtual worlds can provide, so he not only has to break the stereotypes, but get the students to value SL and learn to navigate it.  In addition, he ultimately wants his math students to learn to write and manipulate code.  One would think that math students would be quite interested in this application of mathematics, but surprisingly Black finds a lot of resistance from his students when it comes to code.  Black’s students that have an interest in computer science or the computation of math find scripting in Second Life enjoyable, but those students whose mathematical passion lies in theorums and proofs find it a bothersome barrier.   Black, however, firmly believes that math majors in general really need to be convinced that being able to program is important.

interviewWhen Black first decided that he wanted to bring students into Second Life, he didn’t even worry about what his administration would think and dove right in.  His colleagues simply were not interested, and so he piloted the project alone.  His colleagues had difficulty understanding that the strength of teaching in Second Life is the ability to transform the environment; to create.  It is not simply yet another social software tool or a “fun” way to share power point presentations.  In Second Life you need to let the students explore and “do their own thing.”  You cannot control people in Second Life, and that can be scary for some teachers.  There is a large body of work on experiential learning and mathematics, yet math is sadly often left out of the more creative lesson planning opportunities.  Black recognizes that the extra work necessary to make mathematics engaging and applicable is hard, but its definitely worth it.

Since Black enjoys teaching so much, and is often found in sandboxes, he is always willing to help anyone with a question.  He often gets questions and tries to help whenever he can.

Black Kelley came upon his name by simply switching his real life name, which happens to be Kelly Black.  He knew that he wanted to use Second Life for education and thought the familiar name would be easier for his students to identify.

In “real life,” Black Kelley is Dr. Kelly Black, a professor at Clarkson University.  He has a ph.d. in numerical analysis and his research focuses on scientific computing.

Published by Carina on 08 Apr 2010

Eggshell Burks: Center Stage

Eggshell BurksEggshell Burks came to Second Life in early January of 2007.  After being in Second Life for about a year, she began looking for fellow educators in SL and found the Educators Coop.  At the time, the Educators Coop was offering land parcels and many opportunities to learn more about teaching in Second Life.  Eggshell joined because, although she was teaching for a small school district in Washington State, the school wasn’t quite ready to add Second Life into their curriculum.  Eggshell was implementing Second Life into the classroom on her own and could use some support, which the Educators Coop members were more than happy to supply.  With the help of the Educators Coop, she was able to continue doing her research and tap their resources of teaching and learning in virtual worlds.

Eggshell Burks is an English and theater arts teacher at the high school level.  She quickly saw how well Second Life lends itself to production and production-oriented people.  Eggshell had been teaching for 19 years when she moved from Seattle to New Mexico and was finally afforded the luxury of experimenting in Second Life with her students.

shakespeareTo begin, she went through the University of Washington’s virtual worlds certification series last year.  She then went on to learn to design immersive learning environments and today she teaches Second Life skills to students so they can create their own learning.

For example, Eggshell entered one of her immersive displays in a US Federal Government contest in Second Life.  The guidelines were to submit builds that were learning/training in nature.  In Eggshell’s build, students can use several forms of media, can collaborate on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and ultimately make a machinima of themselves reading as avatars and acting out the roles.  There are even costumes in the tower, students can link to Zeffirelli’s balcony scene on YouTube by clicking the balcony railing, and all of the scripts are on notecards in objects.  Eggshell’s innovative presentation won her third place in this competition.  Congratulations Eggshell!

standingIn addition to her work in Second Life, Eggshell Burks also works in Teen Second Life with the World Affairs Council by teaching building skills and designing an immersive environment based on Afghanistan.  Eggshell got her start in Teen Second Life by first working with a company called Red Llama who hired her to teach SL skills to teens in a community center in Seattle.  Red Llama had been working off a Gates Grant for technology in low income communities.  So, Eggshell underwent the rigorous screening process to get her avatar into Teen Second Life.  In order to teach in Teen Second Life, one must be affiliated with an education group, submit to a background check, and are limited to only one sim.  After her work with Red Llama, Eggshell went on to work with Youth Ventures on Global Kids island working with incarcerated youth on individual projects before finally ending up with the World Affairs Council working with youth on council topics.

When asked how she deals with the inevitable Second Life learning curve, Eggshell stated that you simply must build the curve into your lesson time frame.  You must be prepared that people aren’t going to know the simplest things and you have to take the time to teach them the basic skills, or people will quickly become frustrated and think negatively about Second Life.

studentEggshell’s favorite part about teaching in Second Life is the amazement expressed by students when they seen the potential for their own learning in Second Life and the potential for their own creativity. For example, Eggshell met a student who was doing his senior project in Second Life.  His teacher had set him up on Ed Tech Island where he’s building above the sim a futuristic hydroponic greenhouse to show eco/food sustainability.  By manipulating the environment, this student can test all of the variables affecting the greenhouse without having to build it in RL.

When not teaching youth in Second Life and Teen Second Life, Eggshell also offers her skills to adults interested in learning.  She teaches adults – usually University of Washington students – how to build in Second Life.

Eggshell Burks got her SL name through total free association.  She had just made her avatar and had no inclination that she would actually be staying in Second Life.  That morning, she had eggs for breakfast and it was the first thing that came to mind, so she named herself Eggshell.  The last name was at the top of the alphabet on the Linden list and thus Eggshell Burks was hatched.

Published by Carina on 31 Mar 2010

Lorri Momiji: Librarian of the Future

Lorri MomijiLorri Momiji came into Second Life in 2006 – the same year that the Alliance Virtual Library started practicing librarianship in grid.  Lorri is a library and information systems (LIS) educator and former librarian in RL, and so her initial interest in SL was both in terms of how she could use the environment to teach her LIS graduate students, and to understand what libraries and universities were doing in Second Life.

Since her introduction into Second Life, Lorri has brought three classes of LIS graduate students (in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 fall semesters) as part of a class called Virtual Reference Environments.  In her class, students work within Second Life learning to build, or attend lectures such as the one held by the head of reference at Second Life Libraries.  Another guest speaker the students had the pleasure of meeting manages Imagination Island, Rachelville, and the Kansas State Library in Second Life.

Some of the students created projects in Second Life, such as building collections or working in the reference service.  Others chose projects in different environments outside of SL, such as running social media sites, working in SMS texting services, or other types of reference services.

Lorri was one of the original members of the Educators Coop.  She saw a notice about the organization in Second Life, came to the open house, and there met North Lamar and Bluewave Ogee.  Lorri already had a cottage at Imagination Island/Mythica, but she wanted a place with more prims for her students, so she opted into renting parcels from the Educators Coop.

Lorri BuildWhile not a self-proclaimed builder, Lorri does dabble and recognizes the importance of building skills in Second Life.  She learns enough to teach others the basics.  While on her four parcels at the Educators Coop, Lorri shared a gadget for creating sculpties that one of her student assistants is using.  The gadget can, for example, take a photo and create a sculpty based on it.

In addition to bringing college students into SL, Lorri also teaches fellow members of the Educators Coop on occasion through workshops.   In one such workshop, Lorri shared her research on librarians in Second Life.  In another session, she demonstrated the use of another gadget that makes shaped prims automatically.  With this device, instead of having to shape every prim by hand, you can instead just click a button to get the basic shape going.  The item not only saves time, but is useful for showing students how to build.

Making any point of the learning curve easier to traverse is crucial to succeeding as an educator in Second Life.  As other educators have mentioned, the learning curve to enter Second Life is fairly steep.  Lorri shared the same experience with her students and felt that the learning curve never really ends.  Every short-cut or trick-of-the-trade one can use can make the difference.  For example, she now presents all of her Second Life lectures in both text and audio.  She is also learning about incorporating gestures and animations into her lectures.  In addition, she makes the Second Life component of her classes optional, to ensure that the students involved really want to take part in the virtual world experience.

Lorri PosterThe experience the students have is broken into two live class sessions.  The first day is about learning the basics of Second Life, such as how to move the avatar around and how to navigate the grid.  The second day is about scripting, building, and more advanced skills.  When it comes time for presentations, Lorri encourages participation and assessment from all of the students.  This allows the students to share and reflect on what they have learned by reviewing each others work.

In addition to being an educator in and out of Second Life, Lorri sat on two panels at the ALA Virtual Libraries and Museums Conference:  Lis Educators and The Future of Libraries.  She’s also written two articles about Second Life, librarians, and teaching.  The first article, published by the Journal of Virtual World Research, is about how librarians answer questions in Second Life.  The second article is about teaching in Second Life and will soon be published by the International Journal of Virtual World Personal Learning Environments.  Lorri is currently writing a paper on the professional librarian identity in Second Life.

Lorri Momiji is involved in both the librarian and education SL community and was also part of the team that worked on her university’s Second Life island.  She works and teaches in these spaces.  As part of her research to build these spaces, she looked at fifty different libraries in Second Life, how they operate, and how they were built.  Some libraries are immersed or “embedded” libraries.  These facilities fit right into the roleplaying culture surrounding that particular community.  The librarians assume avatars that match the roles and appearance of the sim.  They serve their communities in a way that is most familiar to that community.  This goes a long way to improving the trust between the librarian and the patron.

Lorri EditIn RL, people automatically trust other people that are similar to them in some way.  Children trust children, adults, prefer adults, and people of the same language will tend to go to each other for help and information.  It is no different in Second Life.  Information providers that Lorri interviewed talked about trust and how they realized their appearance could impact trust.  How they looked or how they dressed increased or decreased their approachability to the patrons in their particular community.  For example, an avatar that wears glasses is assumed to be intelligent, even though no avatar ever has any need to wear them.  The librarians make sure they look approachable yet professional to ensure they are taken seriously.

The world of reference in Second Life is certainly different than in the RL.  Primarily because most reference questions in SL are about Second Life.  Even the most practiced librarian can find themselves struggling to answer reference questions because they are suddenly faced with an entire new field of information.  Unlike the real world however, universal translators have completely removed the language barrier from the field of librarianship in Second Life.  And a librarian can get help from another librarian instantaneously by just sending an instant message (IM) or TPing (teleporting) that librarian in.

In her Research, Lorri also stumbled across the natural tendency in Second Life for the creation of circles.  in the RL, a perfect circle isn’t easy to make.  We tend to build our structures in squares and rectangles, especially since we have to abide by the rules of gravity.  In a world where gravity is adjustable, and the creation of a perfect circle is simple, so much of Second Life creation revolves around circles.  Even our speech in Second Life is circular.  In RL, the laws of physics teach that sound is emitted conically from the source, losing projection depending on a variety of factors.  In Second Life, sounds emits in a perfect circle from the speaker, lending perfectly to the circular coliseum-like seating we so often see in Second Life presentations.  The librarians in Second Life have taken the laws of SL physics into account, making their reference desks and areas circular as a better fit for their virtual world.

In “real life,” Lorri Momiji is Dr. Lorri Mon,  an Assistant Professor teaching librarians at Florida State University’s College of Communication and Information.  She holds a PhD and a Masters in Library Information Science.

Published by Carina on 16 Mar 2010

Sheila Yoshikawa: Pillar of Inquiry-Based Learning

Sheila YoshikawaSheila Yoshikawa came to Second Life in May of 2007.  She attended one of the many events hosted by the Educators Coop where she met North Lamar and discussed their mutual affiliation with information schools.  Already an experienced land owner by then, Sheila had no need to rent Educators Coop land, but she still joined the group and invited North Lamar to lead a discussion on her sim instead.

Sheila Yoshikawa is a UK educator at the University of Sheffield in their Department of Information Studies where she teaches students pursuing their Bachelors of Science in Information Management.  Last semester she successfully brought in 34 freshman students in her Information Literacy class into Second Life on a rotating schedule.

Getting her students into Second Life was no small task, as SL was not “really” accepted by her administration and is not on their “managed desktop.”  Therefore, SL was only accessible to the students via their department computer lab, which is closed on evenings and weekends.  However, both Sheila and her students persevered and together accomplished some innovative learning experiences.  Even if that meant Sheila had to unlock the computer lab for the students late at night.

Office chatProviding sufficient access to the computer lab was only one obstacle Sheila Yoshikawa and her students had to overcome in order to commence learning in Second Life.  Many of her students were new to SL and virtual worlds in general, so the basics of navigating Second Life had to be addressed first.  Those that were used to virtual worlds found the graphics wanting, compared to the latest games on the market today.  The computers available to the students were also sub-optimal to the performance requirements for Second Life, decreasing graphic presentation, and increasing lag.  This led to obvious frustration for a generation used to immediacy.

When speculating how Sheila would circumnavigate these issues the next time she brought students into SL, she thought it would be helpful to build relationships for the students with others in Second Life ahead of time.  This would make the students more comfortable.  Without a guide, SL can be overwhelming and quiet if you don’t know where to go. A guide might shorten the learning curve and increase enjoyment and learning.  It is quite difficult for one teacher to do this with 34 students alone.

posterIn the students’ study of information literacy in Second Life, the students focused on two key elements.  First they exhibited Power Point slides on models of the “7 Pillars of Information Literacy,” effectively giving lessons to the public on information literacy.  The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy was the  initial task of the Advisory Committee on Information Literacy (then the Task Force on Information Skills) of the Society of College, National, and University Libraries or SCONUL.  As a result of the committee’s work, the “Information skills in higher education: a SCONUL position paper” briefing paper was produced in 1999. An important part of the paper dealt with the Seven Pillars model of Information Literacy, which has since been drawn upon in a number of curriculum developments.  In real life, the students had learned about the 7 pillars as a 2D pantheon of information literacy, but in Second Life, Sheila was able to present it to them as a navigable 3D structure.

signIn addition, each student performed a “critical incident” interview with a patron.  A critical incident, or CI, is a time when that person needed information in Second Life for one reason or another.  It is the beginning of the information search process.  Following an inquiry-based approach, the students took the information from their interviews and proceeded with original research and data gathering.  The research was then analyzed as part of an assignment on information behavior theory and they were assessed on their performance as interviewers.

In other words, the students had the opportunity to study human information behavior immersively and experientially with people from around the world.

Overall, the student’s reaction to the experience was positive.  Most found it “quite cool,” but for many it was unfortunately just another assignment competing for their time.  Sheila noted that, as college freshmen, many were overwhelmed by the college experience in general, especially living away from home.  This preoccupation, coupled with the workload from other classes, did not provide a relaxed and exploration-encouraging atmosphere engaging the students in a way that was meaningful to them.

chatWhat the students did find the most engaging, however, were the critical incident interviews.  They considered the real life interaction with patrons from around the world refreshing compared to the transmissive “pretend research” they felt they had always done in school to that point.  Here in Second Life they were seeing theory in practice, candidly, and in real time.

Assessment, for the educator, was more successful in Second Life as well.  Previously, the students were given an essay to write on information behavior, which of course takes hours to grade, is more difficult for students for whom writing is not a strong suit, and are easy to plagiarize.  However, the assignments in Second Life were easier to grade as it was visually apparent whether or not the students grasped the theoretical models by looking at their displays.  In order to “succeed” in the assignments, the students had to apply the theories they learned, allowing them to do what they had been reading about.

sky platformAnother interesting assignment partaken by Sheila’s students was to fill an information void regarding the swine flu epidemic.  The students were to address the problem of how to “get the word out” and then orally present their findings back in the RL traditional classroom.  In addition, they posted slides of their findings in Second Life which were made available to the public.

Sheila also teaches a Masters level class in Second Life.  The class of 20 students is called Educational Informatics for students looking to achieve a Masters of Science in Information Management or a Masters of Science in Information Systems.  In Sheila’s master level classes, the application of Second Life is more obvious, but the students actually spend less time in grid.  In addition to attending the recently completed Third Annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, the students are living immersively in a village that Sheila created for them.  Each student gets their own home, which they themselves claim.  The scripting of the village was designed by Black Kelley while Sheila contributed elements such as a nearby pool, and a beautiful pink glass dome.

These locations provide more than just aesthetic appeal.  The students can visit these locations and record chats and then publish them online.  It’s a space where they can record their thoughts as in a diary.  To visit the Educational Informatics Village 2010 at Infolit iSchool, visit
ferris wheelIn the Educators Coop, Sheila Yoshikawa was instrumental in a project wherein different educational areas were created around the sim.  Joined with Lorri Momiji, Black Kelley, and Piratelionecu Humphreys, they created a fun fair area.  Sheila specifically contributed to the surrounding woodland of the area, a sky platform, and work on the ground level.  While riding on the ferris wheel, Sheila explained the purpose of the project.  The idea of the fun fair was learning to move and do things cooperatively.  For example, to use the ferris wheel, one person has to stop it so another person can get on it.  Not to mention the fact that people who are terrified of heights – as Sheila herself admitted – have the opportunity to experience the beauty and joy of a ferris wheel.

picturesSheila’s favorite part about Second Life are the colors and shapes of the world.  The landscaping, the clothing – everything – are manipulative tools for an educational environment.  A photographer in real life, Sheila  sells her photography in grid.  To see her photography visit,  Sheila also loves the diversity of the people in Second Life.  She claims to have had so many meaningful connections with the people she’s met here and has learned so much from those interactions.

In “real life,” Sheila Yoshikawa is Professor Sheila Webber of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Information Studies in the UK where she teaches undergraduate, graduate, and phd students.  To learn more about the adventures of Sheila Yoshikawa in Second Life, visit her blog at:

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