Archive for the 'Second Life' Category

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 Joe Sanchez on 08 Mar 2010

Video- What makes Second Life different

The final piece of my three part video series featuring student reflections about Learning in Second Life is now available.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 26 Oct 2009

Checking In

It has been a while since I’ve been able to blog due to a cross country move and new job. This past summer I successfully defended and submitted my dissertation “Becoming: The Evolution of a Learning Organization in a Social Virtual World” (abstract at the end of this post) and in September I started a tenure track position in the School of Information and Communication at Rutgers in New Brunswick. Now that I’m finally settled I will be updating this space more frequently. In the upcoming weeks I will be posting links to a three part video series about teaching in Second Life that features interviews with previous students and discussions about their learning experiences. I will also be sharing details of Leslie Jarmon’s HUGE Second Life initiative through the University of Texas System. For those on Twitter you can follow me @joe_sanchez

–Dissertation Abstract below —
Becoming: The Evolution of a Learning Organization in a Social Virtual World
The Educators Coop is a group of forty-two educators, researchers, and librarians that are interested in learning how to teach and conduct research in the social virtual world of Second Life. This naturalistic inquiry examines how the group utilized the virtual environment in order to meet their goals during a six-month period in 2007.
Members of the Educators Coop exhibited three key behaviors that helped members accomplish their goals of learning how to teach and conduct research in Second Life. Members 1) engaged in a continuous knowledge spiral involving the transfer of tacit and explicit knowledge; 2) were supportive of each other’s ideas; and 3) participated in social networks that often extended beyond the virtual world. Members of the Educators Coop used the virtual world as a complimentary piece to their Real Lives; there were not any synthetic or virtual aspects to their relationships.

One goal of the study was to identify the culture created by the members of the Educators Coop using Choo’s (1998) definition of group culture. Members of the Educators Coop created and participated in a group culture where they 1) articulated a group identity; 2) displayed a common set of beliefs; 3) performed a pattern of behaviors
leading to a leveling of social status; and 4) shaped a group teaching philosophy. The culture of the group created an environment of support, acceptance, and mutual respect for one other’s professional work.

The second goal of the study was to observe and understand how members of the group would alter their virtual environment in order to better perform their work. Members of the Coop altered their environment by creating coordinated weekly events in order to maximize their opportunities for group collaboration. They also used the affordances of Second Life to create a community art space that encouraged a creative and playful environment for interactions. More surprisingly though, the environment altered the members of the Educators Coop as they began to feel embodied by their avatars and the virtual place of the Educators Coop became a real life working space.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 29 Apr 2009

Student Second Life Event: Under Water Fun

Student Second Life Event
The second group from my Spring 2009 course will be having their final project event on Thursday April 30 from 4 – 6 SLT at the Utwig Sim. They have been working with the great folks at the Music Academy Online who agreed to let them use their island for the event. During the event they will submerge the entire sim by raising the water level to 100M (normally 20M) and have diving and other water activities. The event will feature the live band Friendly Fire and D.J. Autumn Beaver and is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Student Second Life Marketing

As part of their marketing campaign the students made an appearance on the SLCN show Music Academy Onlive. The students did a great job discussing their project and talking about the experience of being learners in Second Life. A video of the show is available at My students appear after the first guest, about 8 minutes into the program. They are easy to spot since they are wearing their diving gear. Benton, the host and founder of the Music Academy Online, also interviewed me for a short segment. It follows the segment of my students.

UPDATE: My students that held the Longhorns for 100,000K fundraiser surpassed their project goal. They raised over $111,000L during their event and donated close to $450 USD to their selected non-profits. Way to go Team!!

Published by Joe Sanchez on 02 Mar 2009

Second Life Report published

Implementing Second Life: Ideas, Challenges and Innovations

In October i wrote an issue of Library Technology Reports about some of my research in Second Life. The Issue, Implementing Second Life: Ideas, Challenges and Innovations is now available through the ALA TechSource Bookstore. In the report I identify the Second Life learning curve and how the learning curve creates barriers to student learning. I also discuss ways that i have designed curriculum to overcome the learning curve with specific examples from K-12 – higher education. A former student of mine and my current TA guest authors a chapter about libraries in SL. Her chapter is one of the few pieces I have read that that pushes back against some of the common held beliefs about building a library presence in SL. The editor of LTR says

In this issue of Library Technology Reports, virtual world virtuoso Joe Sanchez takes us beyond a mere exploration of Second Life and looks at the history of virtual worlds and how educators have used them as tools for learning in the twenty-first century. Sanchez extensively and objectively explores the pros and cons of using second life for both educators and librarians, and a chapter guest-authored by LIS student Jane Stimpson examines several examples of public libraries who have established a Second Life presence. Topics covered include:

A Social History of Virtual Worlds
Public Libraries in Second Life: Expanding
Service to the Virtual Environment.
Pedagogical Applications of Second Life
Barriers to Student Learning in Second Life
Understanding the User Experience in Second Life
The Second Life Learning Curve

To read more about the report visit TechSource

Published by Joe Sanchez on 04 Dec 2008

C.A.S.E. grant public viewing

This Thursday 12\04\08 at 5SLT my students and I will be hosting an event in SL to show the projects they have completed this semester. Earlier this semester my undergraduate class was awarded a C.A.S.E. grant from the Jimmy and Roselynn Carter foundation to promote community engagement in SL. Each project completed this semester has a community engagement focus. The
Four projects are:

Problem: Physical, social and political disasters are often so geographically and culturally remote that people who might help fail to appreciate the nature and extent of the situation.
Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, multi-player, virtual-world game to simulate life in Darfur, wherein survival is the object and famine, displacement and armed conflict are the opponents. Game players will realize how much is taken for granted in peace and prosperity and how important even small contributions can be in a disaster. Another project provides a virtual “ride” that helps participants understand the work of the nonprofit website Nothing But Nets.
Problem: An Austin (TX) nonprofit reaches out to needy individuals in
rural Texas, but the cost of covering long distances reduces the effectiveness of the organization.

Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, virtual world extension of the agency’s operations that would make it virtually costless to operate remotely. But rather than trying to envision every conceivable combination of circumstances and program a software solution that covers all of them, the UT student solution engages the nonprofit staff as avatars, thereby incorporating all their experience and troubleshooting skills. Further, client avatars can characterize their needs far more accurately and far faster than a “checklist” of options. The combination eliminates travel and remote operation cost without eliminating the skilled human intervention of the non-profit’s staff.
Austin SafePlace
Problem: Austin (TX) SafePlace is the nation’s largest shelter for victims of domestic violence. Training new associates at SafePlace is “baptism by fire” because the problems trainees face are “live” and often overwhelming.

Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, virtual world simulation of SafePlace where the avatars of trainees can learn to diagnose and deal with problems from hypothetical cases, safely apart from the actual operation of the shelter. The result is safe training for SafePlace. Plus, the students plan to hold a fund-raising “gala” online where participants from around the world can use “Linden dollars” to purchase necessities for shelter clients, then UT students will convert the “Linden dollars” to actual cash and purchase the items.

Please join us if you can and help celebrate the work of the students. The event will be held on Educators Coop 1
Hope to see you there,

Published by Joe Sanchez on 10 Oct 2008

Virtual Worlds Expanding Real World Views

Last week after making the official announcement to my students that we had been selected to host a Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant competition in our class I planned on devoting an entire class period to discuss service learning. I asked Leslie Jarmon to give a talk about her Alley Flats project and to discuss the impact it has already had for the community. She agreed and expanded the talk to incorporate a tour of the Non Profit Commons. During the tour she provided my students an opportunity to explore the NPC to find organizations or communities they might be interested in. One of the places we spent time at was Kiva (micro loans ). I’m copying a blog entry from one of my students to share her thoughts about the experience

A Cause for All Means
October 3, 2008
Visiting the Non-Profit Organization island in Second Life had really shown me that a sim could really be used in positive ways. Throughout all the risque features and socialite parties in Second Life, it was such a wonderful thing to find some light through it all. It was a light that reached out into reality and actually affects the lives of real people. Such a light was this island and in this, one of my favorites was Kiva and its cause. I enjoyed see the faces of real people, real people that we can actually help through the awareness provided by Second Life. The Kiva office in Second Life did serve its purpose as a real physical office would in the real world, to create awareness and connect two worlds of people. It is the connection between these two worlds that Kiva provides that serves as the link between two people that transcends all barriers. It really touches my heart that I can help real people help trying to get by in life. I believe that the awareness and promotion of Kiva was very perpetuated especially by the help of Second Life. In fact, thanks to this visit to Kiva from Thursday, I decided to visit and will help to donate a loan to a farming community in Cambodia, which is where my family is from. The people in this picture look a lot like my relatives who have passed away due to the Cambodian Holocaust, otherwise known as the Killing Fields. So seeing that I can contribute some way to these people, who probably have survived the Killing Fields, just as my parents, brings a smile to my face. I am always all for a cause so great and I’m glad to see that there are more non-profit organizations promoting their cause through Second Life. It always makes me see even more that Second Life is really a sim of the real world in that just as there is always bad in the real world and in Second Life, you can also always find good within.


There were similar reflections posted by students last week many of which involved action on their part. Its surprising to me to see that one experience can set change in motion. If this last week has been any indication, I can’ wait to see how the students answer their service learning challenge.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 11 Sep 2008

Play between voice and chat

So Hurricane Ike looks it will be hitting Texas pretty hard. I have several students that will be affected by IKE especially those from the Houston and Galveston areas. We decided to board up our condos on the Educators Coop island…I think doing this gave them a chance to express their concern for their families and friends and to feel a little closer to home

ready for IKE

Today’s readings were excerpts from T.L. Taylor’s Play between Worlds and Castronova’s Synthetic worlds. As usual my students loved reading Play Between Worlds and it seemed like they wanted to read a little more of it. I think they really connect when they read about virtual friendships extending into “real” relationships. Many of them had experienced that before. T.L. also seems to expose preconceptions about gender that many students have. Many seemed surprised to find out that T.L. is a women.

In my course i require student’s to have voice capabilities for a few reasons. First, i have a difficult time typing for 1 1/2 hours and anyone who has chatted with me in SL or any active readers of this blog know how frequently i have typos. Second, I want my students to be able to communicate effectively with their project clients which means they need to able to switch between voice and text chat seamlessly. Last semester was the first time i required voice capabilities and students ran into some unforeseen obstacles.

During class time we switch between text and voice chat pretty quickly. Usually I’ll start the class with voice as i introduce the readings or explain the format of the day. WHile I talk students usually ask questions or type comments into the text chat. I usually answer in voice unless i need to give a url or slrul. The discussions usually begin with me asking an open ended question and the first couple of students responding with voice. As they respond other students will use chat to add their comments or reactions. At this point I usually type a question into the chat window to keep the discussion going. What i typically see is that students will respond in text up until something either needs to be clarified or a student wants to tell a story. I also find it easy to type quotes from the readings into the chat window where i can then ask for reactions.

An entertaining but insightful chat exchange about Text Chat vs. Voice from the students of INF 315e
Reading discussion
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: and yeah I’d rather chat than use voice chat
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: why
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: Just seems weird
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: voice seems easier
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: It is
[2008/09/11 9:47] VT: i like chatting better too
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: but it’s a little awkward
[2008/09/11 9:47] VM: i agree voice chat kinda weirds me out
[2008/09/11 9:47] SS: i suppose you’re right
[2008/09/11 9:47] OF: I say like a lot when im describing stories so thats why i dont wanna use voice, but i had to cause typing is too tedius when telling stories
[2008/09/11 9:47] FW: like how we haven’t even been voice chatting now
[2008/09/11 9:47] DP: Exactly
[2008/09/11 9:47] TB: because you speak without getting any feedback like nonverbal cues
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: You can’t tell if the person is being annoyed by your or left his computer as to real life
[2008/09/11 9:48] OF: lol
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: So you don’t know how to really talk
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: just my opinion
[2008/09/11 9:48] SS: you cant tell when people are joking in chat
[2008/09/11 9:48] DP: I think joe left his computer
[2008/09/11 9:48] OF: lmfao
[2008/09/11 9:48] BW: so who is going to break the awkward silence now then?
[2008/09/11 9:48] You: ok, these are all good things to blog about : )
[2008/09/11 9:49] DP: You can tell when people are joknig in chat

Published by Joe Sanchez on 13 Aug 2008

TeenGrid project SXSW Panel

Stem Skytower aka North Lamar
The last few weeks I’ve been working with Girlstart
on a summer camp in Teen Second Life. My Teen avatar is pictured above, Stem Skytower is the name. The camp attendees included 19 high school juniors the first week and 23 the second week. The girls came into TSL without any experience. Following a 4 day curriculum based on my undergraduate class, the girls were able to create extraordinary exhibits about women in technology, girls in gaming, and other STEM (science technology, engineering, math) topics.

I’ll be posting more about the projects and the data we collected in the process. My initial reading of the surveys show that this curriculum once again breaks the Second Life learning curve.
Fat suits created by GirlStart Teens
We submitted a panel to SXSW (South by Southwest SXSW) so if you have time I’d appreciate a vote : )

Gaming as a Gateway Drug: Getting Girls Interested in Technology

Wanted: Girl Gamers! It’s not just about playing, but using play to ignite a crucial spark. This session will explore how educators, parents and the community can use video games to attract girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
vote here

Published by Joe Sanchez on 27 Jun 2008

ALA 2008…Day 1

American Library Association 2008 Annual Conference

After a late night participating in the ITEA conference in Second Life I have finally arrived in Anaheim for the American Library Association Annual Conference. This is the largest conference these eyes have ever seen. I’m not sure how many people will be attending but the Convention Center and surrounding Hotels (plural) are all being used for various sessions and meetings. The conference starts on saturday but many people are already here and there must have 15 attendees on my flight from Austin heading to the conference. The ALA 2008 wiki is nice way to get a glimpse of the size of this conference.

Tomorrow from 1:30 – 3:30 I will be hosting the 5th Annual Forum on Education. The forum will focus on Service Learning and will feature a celebration of our ALA Editions book The Service Connection: Library and Information Science Education and Service to Communities. A few authors (including me) will present a synopsis of their chapters as we present our ideas and examples of service learning. My chapter is called “Real World Learning in Virtual Spaces: Service Learning 3.0”.

After the book chapters we will hold a researchpalooza where 12 Master’s students will tell us about their service learning projects in 90 seconds or less… Once they have all shared their projects we will break into a traditional poster session followed by facilitated small group discussions. I posted the abstracts of each project on the ALA wiki if you want to browse through them. The forum will be in the Hilton hotel, California Pavilion B.
the forum agenda:
1:30 – 1:40 Introductions and ALA welcome
1:40 – 1:55. Celebration of Service Learning Book
1:55 – 2:10 Emerging Leaders Service Connection
2:10 – 2:30 Researchpalooza
2:30 – 3:00 Poster Sessions
3:00 – 3:15 Small group discussions
3:15 – 3:30 large group discussion

and these are the questions we will use for the facilitated discussion:

1. What is your biggest “take away” form this Forum? In other words, what information will you take home and share with your colleagues?

2. In what ways can you integrate Service Learning projects into your library, classroom, or curriculum?

3. What is one thing that surprised or impressed you about the types of Service Learning projects presented?

4. What does Service Learning mean to you?

5. Are any Service Learning projects similar to a project you are currently working on or recently completed at your library? How do the two overlap? If they do not overlap, do you see a way that a current project can be turned into a Service Learning project.

6. In your current role as a library professional, library educator, library administrator, or library student, what types of Service Learning projects are you interested in? How can you integrate your personal interest with a Service learning project?

7. Two connections I noticed between Service Learning projects and ALA initiatives are …..

Saturday I will be part of a panel focused on virtual worlds, i’ll post more about it tomorrow…check our Sweet Suite
Sweet Suite front

The Sweet Suite balcony

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