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 Carina on 07 Mar 2010

DaiLaoShi Yifu: Immersive Educator, Adventurer, and Entrepreneur

DaiLaoShi YifuDaiLaoShi joined Second Life in August of 2006 and wasted no time immersing herself in all SL has to offer.  She realized that in order to really understand Second Life, she would need to own land.  Her fearless entrepreneurial spirit led to the three sims she owns today, including a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, Cocoa Beach, and land in the Educators Coop.

She first heard of the Educators Coop in June of 2007 with an event they were holding at the time.  DaiLaoShi came to the mesa, met with the originators of the Educators Coop, and rented her first 512 x 512 parcel during the second round of land grab.  She chose one alongside the mesa and made it public to all, allowing her to meet many different kinds of people since her parcel was one of the few places that were set up to visit.  Owning land, she claims, completely changed her experience in Second Life.

Before she introduced me to her Educators Coop parcels, we first visited Cocoa Beach, her sim which boasts not only shops and a night club, but a castle, romantic hideaways, a shipwreck, little red school house, music mansion, amusement park rides, and so much more.  MerfolkDaiLaoShi brought me to the marina, handed me a mermaid tail, and we swam beneath the sea to her underwater Greek-inspired mer-environment.  The environment, one of two she has for merfolk,  is overseen my Poseidon himself with statues of hippocampus, angler fish, and even a giant clam cradling a pearl.

After the tour of Cocoa Beach, DaiLaoShi showed me her Texas Hill Country Ranch where we went horseback riding.  In order to ride the horses, you need to be a member of the Cocoa Beach Music Group, but once that is taken care of, you can ride along all the trails of the sim.  If you need to fly to get to another part of the sim while riding, there’s no need to dismount.  When in flight, your horse will sprout wings and fly you to where you need to go and even gallop across the water.

Horseback RidingWhile riding our horses, side by side, through the beautiful Texas Hill Country, DaiLaoShi shared her professional passions in Second Life and the focus of her doctoral dissertation: finding and categorizing instruction and instructional design in Second Life.  DaiLaoShi ultimately envisions a sim with 16 parcels, each representing a different form of instruction in Second Life.  At this location, a teacher that is new to SL can actively participate in the different forms of instructions, educating themselves on how best to use Second Life for their classes.  As DaiLaoShi enthusiastically pointed out, there are many different ways to use SL to teach.  Many first think of a transmissive approach with auditorium-style seating.  But Second Life can also be used for conversations in the round or immersive experiences like learning in a 1920’s Harlem Brownstone.  Another example DaiLaoShi gave was teaching and learning in a sandbox, providing a fully team constructivist learning experience, which also allows synchronous and asynchronous teaching opportunities.  DaiLaoShi also touted the ingenuity of the College of Scripting, Music, and Science which is an 8-story tower that walks even the most basic beginner all the way to becoming a master scripter.

College of ScriptingMany have explained how difficult it can be to surpass the SL learning curve sufficiently so that it does not interfere with student lessons.  According to DaiLaoShi, it depends on who you are teaching though.  She noted that younger students – those used to navigating video games and online environments – pick the material up quickly and are then bored since Second Life does not provide entertainment directly the way a game does.  On the other extreme are her students who have had no video game or online experience, making the simplest functions, like walking, flying, or chatting, monumental obstacles that take extra teaching TLC to navigate.

A self-proclaimed member of the “gaming newbies,” DaiLaoShi also got involved in Second Life to become a “doer” as opposed to a “watcher.”  She kept hearing about virtual worlds and video games and decided it was time to give it a try herself.  When she began the journey towards her Phd, she initially wanted to create an MMORPG for U.S. History.  However, once she became involved with Second Life, she realized it would be a better platform for her dissertation.  Once again, DaiLaoShi became passionate about the education opportunities in Second Life and provided more examples.  She asked me to imagine what The Magic School Bus could do, if it were in Second Life.  In Second Life you can go back in time, visit other planets, hold atoms in your hand and build molecules.  DaiLaoShi even mentioned a video game remake that a friend had created in Second Life of Asteroids wherein the player is actually standing on the surface shooting the asteroids as they fall from the sky, as opposed to the old 2-D version.

DaiLaoShi has also noticed an influx of the 50+ crowd into Second Life and she’s excited about exploring potential ways to pass knowledge from the “greying crowd” to the “gaming crowd”.  Many corporations are losing their older experienced employees to retirement and budget cuts; opting instead to hire fresh graduates with seemingly more education, but less experience and lower salary requirements.  While these decisions seem sound in theory, in practice the experienced employees leave with vast amounts of institutional knowledge leaving corporations informationally bereft.  An Instructional Designer by trade, DaiLaoShi was once contracted by a large oil company to research this very phenomenon.  Under the guise of having someone be able to do the job as a temp, she was asked to suggest solutions.  She provided solutions, but the contracting company did not implement them.  She suggested an interactive map that would bring up the forms and regulations needed to do each individual job, as a means of controlling the quantity of institutional knowledge loss whenever restructuring occurred.  Instead, the corporation opted for training, and 2 years later they are still struggling to regain what they have lost.    Administrators make the incorrect assumption that knowledge is in some repository or artifact, when it is actually in the people.

Instruction design happened upon DaiLaoShi by accident through personal need.  She chose to homeschool their five children, but was unhappy with the instructional materials available to homeschoolers in 1987 when she began.  After twenty years of homeschooling, she implemented many curricular changes.  After the last of her children were in highschool, she went on to get her Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Technology from American Intercontinental University and then went straight into the phd program of Education in Instructional Design for Online Learning at Capella University where she is currently working on her dissertation.  She is slated to graduate this year.

DaiLaoShi has and continues to bring her expertise of instructional design into the classroom, in and out of Second Life.  She designs how to make use of technology and education and she plans to continue teaching instructional design for both higher education and corporations.  She currently teaches in the IT department at the School of Undergraduate Studies at Capella University, a fully online institution.

At its core, instructional design is the intentional matching of learning theory and instructional theory to the instructional problem at hand.  With roots in the World War II era, instructional design takes into account the learners and the location of the learning.

Teddy BearDaiLaoShi doesn’t just design instruction in Second Life.  She is also quite the experienced builder.  She gave me a tour of her 6 parcels on Educators Coop 4, most of which she uses as an experimental sandbox for her latest ideas.  She even graciously gave me a beginner’s building lesson.  She is currently trying to make a teddy bear that will flop back into a sitting position when placed back on the floor.  You can see the progress of her teddy bear by visiting her sim.

DaiLaoShi has also offered to help with the upcoming First Annual Bluewave Virtual Conference in anyway that she can.  She has extensive experience event planning in SL, including participating in Second Life’s 5th Birthday and organizing the largest Second Life event to date – a fundraiser encompassing multiple sims and seventeen hours of non-stop music and entertainment.  DaiLaoShi proclaimed that Bluewave’s life, approach, and her part in the creation of the Educators Coop really made a difference in her life, and she would like to give back by contributing to this conference in her memory.

When asked how she came about choosing her name, DaiLaoShi explained that it is a phonetic pronunciation of a phrase in Chinese.  DaiLaoShi had the wonderful opportunity to teach a workshop in China one year, and the students there referred to her as DaiLaoShi which means “teacher professor.”  She loved the nickname and so kept it when she created her Second Life avatar, but it does admittedly cause problems.  Many assume that she is a fluent Chinese speaker (which she is not) and some won’t speak to her at all assuming she doesn’t speak English.  To rectify this situation, she created DawnRyder Wycliffe, which is the avatar she uses most of the time.  You can find DawnRyder Wycliffe at Cocoa Beach most evenings, as Cocoa Beach has music events seven days a week.

In “real life” DaiLaoShi is Diana Odegard Brauhn.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, a Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Technology, and is completing her doctoral dissertation.  She currently teaches at Capella University.  Professor Brauhn lives on a ranch with her kids’ cats and dogs, 3 horses, and about 20 cows and calf longhorns in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin.   For more information on Professor Brauhn, and to view some of the papers written for her phd courses, visit www.dianabrauhn.com.

Published by Carina on 01 Mar 2010

RxTopGun Clip: Too Sweet!

RxTopGun ClipRxTopGun Clip has been in Second Life since late 2007.  He became involved because he wanted to do research with Dr. Alan Combs (SL: PunGently Writer) and Dr. Combs mentioned SL and how it had a great 3D atmosphere.  RxTopGun attended a talk about Second Life by another professor around the time he signed up.  He was quite impressed with the ability SL lends to create from the ground up and the options SL offered to create ideas and projects.  Dr. Combs encouraged RxTopGun to “login and go” and he most certainly did.  Shortly after entering Second Life he joined the Educators Coop and has been actively involved ever since.

In Second Life, RxTopGun was hoping to learn about how SL could be applied to the Pharmacy School curriculum.  He knew there had to be a way to provide pharmacy students with options to learn material besides the normal powerpoint and as PunGently put it, “a talking head.”  RxTopGun wanted to embrace and experiment with the experiential learning that SL could provide.

RxTopGun devoted lots of time and effort learning all the technology that takes place in SL and the environment thoroughly.  He wanted to ensure he would be able to produce the multitude of ideas floating around in his head.  Now a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) student, RxTopGun designs and builds the scenes for PunGently’s classes and a project called CSI: Austin.  CSI stands for Clinical Scene Investigation.  The project is not only a build, but it is a model, and a hidden connection.  As a team, PunGently directs the students and provides an opportunity for RxTopGun to be creative.  RxTopGun devotes his time and energy to coming up with new levels of interactivity within their college, although RxTopGun does admit it is hard to get others involved with SL’s steep learning curve.

CSI:AustinCSI: Austin is designed to give pharmacy students an experiential CSI experience, though it can be applied to all areas of education through adaptation.  Ideally, when educating in SL, you want to use both the resources that SL provides and those found online.  When you get “the best of both worlds,” it is referred to as the  Immersive, Interactive, Second Life & Web, Environment, Training Model or IISWET model (pronounced Too Sweet).  By utilizing the amazing resources that both have to offer, you can far exceed notecards and blue boxes and save some money while still being able to teach.  It does not hinder the educator by having to learn how to code in SL to get critical information and it tracks the usage of the “off the grid” website to help facilitate learning.

One technology does not replace the other they are both symbiotic at this juncture.  The web is unable to mainstream an interface like SL with the widespread ability that SL offers.  In addition, SL is not conducive for using the web due to parcel media restrictions and other constraints of the software which is in the process of being developed to provide these features.  Why though do students have to wait on either medium to come out with a single best solution when it has been there the entire time?

RxTopGun Clip interviewBy using the IISWET  model you can create effective and interactive environments that truly are informative and can be quickly implemented.  With this method, you would never need to use a notecard every time you want to “give” a student another part of the case or another interview that was made.

Users can incorporate java(TM), ajax, Google(TM) documents, collaboration, and most importantly using both the web and SL to your advantage.  After all, isn’t the whole point for the student to learn what you are teaching?  IISWET  provides a great and familiar bridge for new users who use the web as they can pickup and adapt SL to their class much faster.  When the day comes that SL does enable all web features seamlessly and you can do everything in world there will be no need to redo all of your material…because it has been there the entire time.

Until then, RxTopGun continues to get creative and push the boundaries of both technologies, giving students what they crave in a creative and interactive form.

Here is an example of RxTopGun and CSI: Austin implementing the IISWET model.  In a CSI: Austin experience, a student gets presented with a clinical case – such as toxicology.  The student will “get the facts” as if they had arrived on scene.  The students then viewed a short “setup” movie to set the scene.  They then literally fell into the scene and had to use their knowledge of toxicology, SL, critical thinking, and resource utilization to come to help the patient out.  This “saves” the patient from the toxin they came in contact with thus allowing the student to react real-time to a situation without any concern of a real individual actually getting hurt.

Rx DesignsIn addition, RxTopGun also worked with North Lamar and Quercas Minotaur to design the previously mentioned Nereus Project, sculpting the research vessel and many of the under water items.  RxTopGun is always ready and willing to lend a hand with 67,000 items as supplies or helping to build something from scratch.  He funds his generosity towards the Educators Coop via his shop, Rx Designs where he sells bridges and piers, with over 500 unique customers and over L$90,000 in sales.  Help support RxTopGun by visiting Rx Designs.

For those who are SL building challenged, RxTopGun advices to practice as much as possible – advice Chade Villota gave him when RxTopGun first came in world.  RxTopGun also advices to learn as much as you can and look online for how to break into building.  For those interested in sculpting prims, learn how they are made first.  If can understand the overarching concept, then everything else will be much easier.

RxTopGun fashioned his name as follows.  The Rx in dedication to his field of pharmacy, TopGun for flying into the danger zone of SL, and always doing his best.  If RxTopGun’s previous and current projects are any indication, he was most assuredly aptly named.

RxTopGun simCurrently, RxTopGun is restructuring an island for the upcoming First Annual Bluewave Virtual Conference in May.

In “real life” RxTopGun is 27 year old Jason Haislet, finishing up his Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree.  He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his dalmation.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 25 Feb 2010

Video – Project-based learning

This is the second video in a three part series about my Spring 2009 course. This video features students discussing their final projects in Second Life where they had to partner with a third-party client in Second Life and create a project to help them meet their organizational goals. Two groups choose to host events as fundraisers, Under the Sea and Horns for 100K while a third group worked with a role playing group to get a better understanding of what community can mean in a virtual world. I hope you enjoy this video and as always, i welcome feedback!

P.S. follow me on twitter @joe_sanchez

Published by Carina on 21 Feb 2010

Gadget Loon: Charting the Course of Experiential Learning

Gadget LoonI had the auspicious pleasure of interviewing Gadget Loon at New Mexico State University’s Aggie Island, where the NMSU Geography Department hosted what is the first known GIS Day event held primarily in a virtual world.

GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.  More than 80 countries participate in holding local events such as corporate open houses, hands-on workshops, community expos, school assemblies, and more.

Gadget’s students met in NMSU’s Island learning community to share projects and posters demonstrating their GIS class activities with attendees in both the real and virtual worlds. Students were available throughout the day to describe their projects and help educate those not familiar with GIS about the technology. The event was mainly designed for university educators interested in the use of Second Life as a venue for teaching GIS but was open to everyone.

GIS Day PosterFor GIS Day, Gadget’s students were assigned the task of displaying examples of their actives using GIS to analyze or communicate some information.  Geography matters – that’s the GIS motto!  Posters began with the term, “GIS means…” and ended with such eye-opening statements as:

  • Never seeing the world without a rainforest
  • Building safer communities
  • Saving the forest from fire

This was all done using a piece of software called ArcGIS – which usually retails for $19,000 by the Environmental Systems Research Institute or ESRI.  ArcGIS is a digital geography system that allows one to analyze maps, combine maps, measure elements on maps, find the shortest path between two points, establish good places for land uses, predict fires, or anything else within the confines of imagination.

Gadget appreciates the ability that SL provides to get students from a variety of places together for classwork.  SL also provides a certain anonymity due to the avatar allowing some to open up and answer when they would otherwise be mute.  He also enjoys the ability to create shared intellectual spaces and landscapes.  Gadget has been bringing students into SL for four semesters of learning.  His classes have evolved from traditional lectures to experiential exercises to a complete suite of tasks including Sunday night review sessions.  And Gadget’s educating exuberance doesn’t stop at students.  He also helps other instructors (gratus) for beginning and advanced courses.

So what are geographic information systems?  In short – anything that can be mapped!  From topography to ants, and houses to ideas, absolutely anything that can be tracked geographically may use GIS technology.  A geographer’s primary task is to explore, describe, explain, and predict spatial patterns.  Climatology, for example is often taught in geography departments as meteorology.  Geographers are the data support structure for all things that might be mapped including the military, intelligence community, homeland security, and commerce.

GIS Day BannerGadget Loon is  a GIS Specialist and Associate Professor at NMSU where he teaches Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), GIS Institutional Design, Geodatabase Design, and Landscape Ecology.  He puts a lot of energy into learning how to use virtual worlds like Second Life as a venue for teaching GIS concepts and ideas.  His research areas are effective methods of GIS Education and rapid environmental assessment methodologies in arid environments.  Gadget also write textbooks and tradebooks on GIS – the latest of which is GIS for Dummies.  Currently Gadget is writing an article entitled Second Life as a Surrogate for Experiential Learning and writing a chapter entitled Subject Matter Content Creation for Second Life Delivery:  Teaching GIS in Second Life in the book Multi-User Virtual Environments for the Classroom:  Practical Approaches to Teaching in Virtual Worlds.

To access Gadget’s latest articles, visit:  http://visualcv.com/akadrgadget

Gadget Loon CertificateGadget began his Second Life journey in March of 2007.  He had been taking a class in NMSU’S first Online Teaching and Learning Certificate Program called Fostering Online Communities.  At the time, he’d already had a Graduate Certificate of Online Learning in addition to his PhD in geography.  Gadget’s foray into the Educators Coop was through his attempts at learning how to use SL for education.  He had been interacting with another who knew of the Coop and suggest that he speak with North Lamar and Bluewave Ogee.  Today, Gadget can’t enough on the subject or stop writing about it.

In addition, Gadget is also part of a group of 4 professors that just received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a prototype environment (perhaps some in a virtual world) that will allow for the seamless sharing of geographic data, information, and expertise.

After touring the GIS Day displays, Gadget then showed me NSMU’s Library complete with a Geography section.  NMSU’s geography section connects directly to the live campus library, making it eminently functional.

So why the name Gadget Loon?  Due to Gadget having written the Fundamentals of GIS textbook that his students use, as well as GIS for Dummies, his students became intimidated and wouldn’t speak up in class, obstructing Gadget’s ability to educate them fully.  So, one day, Gadget came to class with as many electronic gadgets as he could possibly attach to himself.  He proceeded to teach his class as usual until finally one of his students pointed to the assorted electronic paraphernalia and said, “what’s with all the … um … ummm,” to which Gadget replied, “Gadgets”?  The student replied in the affirmative and Gadget responded, “Didn’t you know my nickname was Dr. Gadget” and the name stuck forever more.      At the conclusion of this light-hearted tale, Gadget released scores of Inspector Gadget emblazoned bubbles into the NMSU library.  Would that my camera had been fast enough to capture the scene before the bubbles popped on the library shelves.

Dr. Gadget’s story was inspirational, his sense of humor uplifting, and his dedication to engaging his students on a higher level of learning a beacon of light in a sometimes dim and repetitive educational world.

In “real life” Gadget Loon is Dr. Michael DeMers, Associate (not-for-long) Professor of Geography at New Mexico State University.  He has a Bachelors of Science in Earth Science and Biology and a Masters of Science degree in Geography from the University of North Dakota.  In addition, he has a Masters of Philosophy degree and a PhD in Geography from the University of Kansas.  Gadget is also an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments and teaches Intermediate Second Life for Educators via the Sloan-C group.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 17 Feb 2010

Second life Learning Curve

Last spring I shot video interviews of my students talking about various aspects of Second Life. I collected about thirty minutes of footage from each student and from those interviews I created a series of three five minute videos. Each video focuses on a different aspect of learning in Second Life; the learning curve, project based learning, and what makes learning in SL different. As a recap, I taught a course called Working in Virtual Worlds as an undergraduate Information Studies course. The class was scheduled as a face to face course but we primarily met in Second Life. Students worked on a variety of projects where they engaged members of the Second Life community in a variety of activities.

This first video focuses on overcoming the learning curve in Second Life. Over the years I’ve conducted quite a bit of research in this area and i wanted to provide an avenue for current and potential teachers in Second Life to hear directly from students about their experiences.

I hope you find this video useful and I look forward to hearing your comments. I will release the next two videos in this series over the next three weeks.
Warmly,
Joe Sanchez

Published by Carina on 13 Feb 2010

Quercas Minotaur: Marine Scientist Extraordinaire

Quercas MinotaurToday we highlight the work and ingenuity of Quercas Minotaur.  Quercas hails from the University at Texas Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, Texas, which is near Corpus Christi.  With his orange skin, green hair, and the companion koi that can always be seen swimming around his head, it is clear that Quercas has an unrivaled dedication to marine science.

Quercas came to Second Life in the fall of 2008 through none other than our beloved Leslie Jarmon (SL: Bluewave Ogee).  He teaches to the main campus from 200 miles away via an admittedly awful video link.  While visiting the main campus one day, he decided to stop by their Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment (DIIA) where Leslie worked to see what aid they could provide.

The DIIA integrates the resources of three university centers to enhance teaching effectiveness, support innovative technology-enhanced learning, offer a comprehensive portfolio of instructional support services, provide and expand assessment methods, and coordinate Web-based outreach efforts. So Quercas walked into the office and asked for help.  After explaining his situation, he was told that Leslie was “the one to talk to” and so he did.  Twenty minutes later Quercas was born.  Leslie enthusiastically introduced Quercas to Second Life and all it has to offer.  She also introduced him to other key members of the Educators Coop, like Eero Enzo, who uses SL in one of his design classes.

Leslie, Quercas, the previously touted Chade Villota, and other Educators Coop members gathered several times to brainstorm innovative ways that Quercas could use SL to communicate better with his distance students.  These sessions led to the creation of his island and the virtual oceanographic expedition.  Eero had his class design and build the content of the island based on Quercas’ specifications.  External programmers were brought in to make the RV (research vessel) work realistically and the island was used in Quercas’ class entitled Human Exploration and Exploitation of the Sea.

In the course, Quercas was able to test the RV, the students learned to build in Second Life, and the island itself was used for office hours.  Leslie created a questionnaire to track the effectiveness of the project.  Her intent was to have an entry questionnaire and an exit survey, but sadly she passed before the exit survey could be completed.

Quercas’ main research is on the biology and ecology of symbiotic associations in plankton.  The particular group he works with has blue-green alga that live inside a one-celled plant called a diatom.  These diatom float around in the open sea.  The symbiont can take nitrogen gas and turn it into proteins.  This process is very important in understanding the flow of nitrogen in the sea.  Since nitrogen is always linked to carbon, it is directly connected to how CO2 moves from the atmosphere to the ocean.  It’s all about global change and the climate-change issue.  Quercas is currently growing the beast in culture to understand what it needs to survive, and a 27-day research cruise is planned for this summer and the following summer in the Gulf of Mexico to study how the Mississippi River affects these creatures and the process of nitrogen-fixation.

Teaching in Second Life was an exciting and educational experience for Quercas.  SL allowed him to connect with his students on a level that was previously unattainable.  The students also found him more accessible since they could reach him during office hours in Second Life where Quercas was actually able to help them solve problems in the data analysis.  The virtual oceanographic expedition also proved invaluable as the students learned unexpected lessons from the interaction.

This summer, Quercas is teaching a course for non-science majors and he is once again interested in using Second Life to enhance the experience.  Quercas learned a great deal from his first adventure in Second Life teaching.  He has many ideas on how to reduce the degree of the SL learning curve, and increase the realism and applicability of the experience for his students.

Research VesselDuring my interview, Quercas graced me with a tour on the RV.  The vessel smoothly pulled out of the harbor and into an ocean teeming with life and more importantly – data!  Quercas lowered a device into the water  known as the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth).  The CTD sampled the water at a pre-determined location and sent back continuous data as it descended.  The data is set up on a 1×1 degree grid covering the entire ocean.  Information collected by the CTD is publically available from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  As the RV slowly glided through the water – just as an actual RV would move – the CTD constantly shared information with the students in the form of green scrolling text.

In order to execute the assignment, students were broken into groups called expeditions.  Each expedition had to plan the cruise around 10 sample destinations, and then coordinate their data with the other students.  Data collected included latitude, longitude, depth, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, phosphate, silicate, and nitrate.  The information is expressed in a specific format so that the students can export it to software for analysis.  They then use the data to produce graphs, contour plots, and other visual interpretations to illustrate features in the ocean.

When asked if there were anything further he would like to add, Quercas simply stated, “I miss Leslie.  She was  a force of nature.  A gentle one, but quite powerful and huge in her presence.”  Experiences like those of Quercas, his students, and those of us in the Educators Coop would never have been realized if it weren’t for Leslie Jarmon, her dedication, and fervor.  Once again, we raise our glasses – virtual and otherwise – in tribute to her.

In “real life” Quercas Minotaur is Dr. Tracy Villareal, Professor at the University of Texas, Department of Marine Science.  Dr. Villareal earned his PhD. at the University of Rhode Island, and his B.S. and M.S. at Texas A&M University.  He has been teaching since the early 90’s and encourages questions and contact at t.villareal@mail.utexas.edu.

Published by Carina on 08 Feb 2010

Chade Villota: Pioneer for SL Accessibility and Educational Reform

Chade VillotaIn the spirit forging ahead and “keeping it real” we want remind ourselves, and each other, who we are and why we got involved with the Educators Coop.

We begin our reflective journey with Chade Villota.

Chade has been with the Educators Coop since its beginning.  He may very well have been the first member and is almost certainly the first tenant.

He is no stranger to Second Life and virtual worlds.  Chade has been in SL since April of ’07, and has been involved with 3D virtual spaces for almost 9 years as a natural outgrowth of his interest in online multiplayer spaces.

His interest in online multiplayer spaces began in the early 90’s in text based worlds working on MUDs and MUSHes.  Chade became involved with the Educators Coop through the Embodiment Research Group where he was working with Bluewave Ogee.  They announced the Educators Coop project and its goal to help educators make the transition into virtual worlds.

Chade currently works with the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities and so he channeled that knowledge and passion into Second Life and the Educators Coop.  He is working to help make SL accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.  His work on the board of Virtual Helping Hands makes this possible as they’re in the process of rebuilding Accessible Guilds and Club Accessible.

One of their latest projects was the creation of  a virtual German Shepherd guide dog named Max, who can also appear as a cane or completely incognito as a ring for those who choose not to share that they are using an assistive device.

Max has  scripting that tells the owner where they are.  The owner can also tell max to follow, find, or read – among other commands.  Chade also created Marco/Polo scripting which annotates a 3D space.  Max can read the description of an area and tell the owner what’s there based on the description.  Assistance devices like Max make it possible for the owner of a region to tie descriptions to locations.

For example, if you teleport into a region with Max, he can tell you who is there and, if desired, to speak to someone or bring you to them.  Max even does text-to-speech and clicks mouse buttons.

To learn more about the completely free and innovative Max and the Virtual Helping Hands organization, visit www.virtualhelpinghands.org.

In the Educators Coop, Chade primarily helps other members with building and scripting.  He also works to reform education in Second Life; encouraging educators to use and explore all of the possibilities of a 3D virtual space instead of merely recreating more traditional transmissive classrooms.

One exciting example of his assistance with Second Life education was for a project at UT Austin’s Oceanography Department.  Chade designed a simulator to help the students learn  virtually, thereby avoiding the cost of taking research vessels out to the Gulf of Mexico.

In Chade’s simulation, a harbor was recreated complete with salinity, dissolved oxygen, plankton, temperate, wind, air pressure, and any other scientific element the students may need to measure or observe.  In addition, Chade designed instruments that would read the models and display them in real time.  This allowed the students to practice real science; collecting and managing data, making hypothesis and then testing them.  Chade is eager to show other educators of possibilities such as this one that they may use all that Second Life has to offer.

In “real life,” Chade Villota is Dr. Nathan Lowell, professor at Morehead State in Kentucky and currently working at the University of Northern Colorado.  He achieved his M.A. in Educational Technology and his PhD in Educational Technology with concentrations in Distance Education, Instructional Design, and Interactive Media.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 07 Feb 2010

Introducing Carina Gonzalez

I want to introduce you to Carina Gonzales, she is a graduate student pursuing her Masters of Library Information Science inthe School of Communication and Information at Rutgers. She is working with me on an independent study about social media and she will be a guest contributor for this blog throughout the semester.

Carina has a BA in English with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, though she spent much of her time in the music building singing opera.  In addition, Carina penned an undergraduate thesis entitled, “The Language of the Night: An Illumination of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Science Fiction” which led to her founding a free critique service for speculative fiction writers called The Zen Pen.  Carina works full-time at The American Boychoir School where she runs their social software and website.  Carina currently lives in Branchburg, NJ with her husband Mike, her daughter Emma Rose, her Portuguese Water Dog River, and her Standard Poodle Zen.  For more information about Carina, visit her website at: www.librariancarina.com or find her in Second Life Carina Gonzale(s)

Published by Joe Sanchez on 25 Nov 2009

Remembering Bluewave Ogee

Bluewave Ogee
Dear Friends,
With sadness I regret to inform you that a wonderful and kind soul, Dr. Leslie Jarmon aka Bluewave Ogee passed away last night (11-24-09).

As many of you know, Bluewave has been undergoing chemo therapy for cancer of the lymph nodes the last year. On Friday she was placed in hospice care at her brother’s home in Austin, Texas. She has been surrounded by family and friends. Last night at 8:30PM Leslie passed away.

I was able to spend the weekend at her side, she was in good spirits, jovial and at peace. We spent alot of our time reminiscing about Second Life and the Educators Coop. She loves all of you and she wanted to thank you for all your work and collaborations over the last few years. I asked her if she had a message to share and she replied

“tell them its been REAL”

Rx has built a site where we will keep a permanent memorial for Bluewave. Please visit and in the spirit of collaboration, add a few prims : )
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Educators%20Coop%205/63/98/44
Warmly,
North Lamar / Joe Sanchez

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