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:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/TOLC%20Mountain%20Campus/97/121/21

The University of Texas System Site:
http://tuelearningcommunity.com/

Virtual Learning Community Initiative Site:
http://tuelearningcommunity.com/vlci/

Invitation to TOLC SL Initiative Site:
http://trccommunity.edb.utexas.edu/groups/secondlife/

Texas Regional Collaboratives Site:
http://thetrc.org/trc/

Dr. Keith Mitchell’s Bio pdf:
http://thetrc.org/trc/download/keith_bio.pdf