Published by Carina on 25 May 2010
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’ Doctoral Thesis: