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.
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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.
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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 http://slurl.com/secondlife/Educators%20Coop%201/121/95/22
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 Kiva.org ). 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 Kiva.org 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.

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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.