Archive for May, 2010

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.