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 08 Oct 2008

Student Build Challenge (video)

On Tuesday my students had to turn in their first collaborative build in Second Life. My instructions for the assignment are below (from an email)

In your teams I want you to create something with your land. You will need a theme, an entry point, some type of navigation, and something interactive or a “feature”. Think back to the tours, the water park had rides, Bear Island had an arcade, The classic car museum was a Museum, what will be your group feature? How will people know where to go? How will they know what to do? How will you make your place a “living structure”? We will spend 15 minutes in your space on Tuesday, October 7.

Some possible themes are:
The Future
Winter Wonderland
Small Town texas
The Presidential Campaign
A historic time period
wild west

We had a good time exploring their areas and and they learned some key skills through the process. 1) The difficulties of collaborating in a syncronous environment, 2) the Challenge of permissions in SL when sharing objects as a team, 3) thinking about “interaction” and “living spaces” in a virtual world (how do you design it), 4) hosting a large group of people (18 students + 5 guests). They did a good job and I was able to make a quick and dirty machinima of the their builds, enjoy

Published by Joe Sanchez on 02 Oct 2008

Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant

Its official, my Working in Virtual Worlds course has been selected by the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation to host their first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur Grant in a virtual world. My students and I are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation. Service learning has been a consistent theme in my Working in Virtual Worlds course and I’m proud to say the service learning component has been student driven. The official press release with details of the grant can be viewed here.

The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation has announced that the University of Texas will hold the first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) grant program for an online virtual world project that serves the community and contributes to student learning. This competition will seek to find the most innovative way for students to serve the community online in the virtual world Second Life.

I have a book chapter describing the Service Learning projects my students have completed in Second Life titled, Virtual Worlds: New Spaces for Service Learning that will published in In Service Learning: Linking Library Education and Practice The book is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2009.

In the meantime, if you want to see what i think is the best example of a service learning project completed in Second Life thus far, please visit the Alley Flats located on Educators Coop 1. The Alley Flats project was completed by Leslie Jarmon’s (Bluewave Ogee) students in the Fall of 2007.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 04 Sep 2008

Describe Second Life in one word

one word for Second Life (straight)

My students began logging into Second Life on Tuesday night and most of them have spent between 1-2 hours in SL. In class today (Thursday) i asked them to use one word to describe their experience so far. They came up with interesting words that reinforce the work I’ve done on the Second Life learning curve, particularly in regards to the user experience.

  • Boring
  • complicated
  • frustrating
  • addicting
  • awkward
  • malleable
  • tedious
  • porn
  • advanced
  • empty
  • ugly
  • friendly
  • overwhelming
  • As a caveat, I wanted my students to have a true first time experience so i had them log in to SL on their own and they started at orientation Island. For this particular course since one of our goals is to evaluate virtual worlds as a work platform it is important for me to have the students experience what an average user experiences when they first join Second Life. They need to understand why virtual worlds and SL in particular have such a low retention rate for first time users. If this class wasn’t an information studies course I would not have them go through (dis)orientation, instead I would have them start at NMC and I would be there to immeadiatly teleport them to my class island (Similar to the way we setup the Girlstart 4 day Teen SL camp)

    Why are these words important? First we need to acknowledge that the common perception around the SLED community that students will naturally (as in digital native…) love Second Life is a myth. This is my six semester teaching undergrads in Second Life and i can tell you that most students are disappointed with SL and they expect much more from SL than what is there. Students explained that the words “boring”, “empty”, “ugly” referred to the graphics, the “feel” of SL, and low polygon count of the world when compared to online games they have played. A few of them laughed at the “stretched-out” textures that were plaster all over the virtual world. Seriously, these students are not impressed by the graphics of Second Life in the same kind of ways that educators are. One student said, Sl looks a little better than Runscape but nowhere near early Everquest.

    This part is for Linden Lab… It’s been a few years now that I’ve been tracking the user experience of students and they are still saying the same things about the interface and client…Listen to these words – “frustrating”, “tedious”, “awkward”, “complicated”. The students were describing how difficult it is to leave orientation island and to understand the metaphors of an inventory, islands, welcome area, orientation area, base hair and prim hair, walking “into” the water..etc…

    Some of the positive things the students mentioned were “advanced”, “friendly”, “malleable”, and “addicting”. The students were amazed at the amount of user-generated content in SL and that people they met in SL were overall friendly and would give them things. They felt the ability to edit their appearance to be addicting and many spent way more time on that than they thought. Intrestingly, the students all the way back to Fall 2006 said they same things about their avatars and avatar customization became a key component in the design of a roleplay activity designed for an English course (picture below, paper here)

    Second life Avatars in World Literature

    Now for the last word…”Porn”…not much to say except to acknowledge that SL has a lot of porn and that as educators we need to prepare students to the likely possibility that at some point they will encounter porn in Second Life.

    At the end of the semester I will ask students to again describe SL in one word and I will report the words back on the o’l blog. It’ll be interesting to see if/how they change.

    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 10 Jul 2008

    Panel: The SL Student Learning Experience (7-9-08)

    Students in lab
    Tonight the students in my Working in Virtual class will present a panel in SL about their experiences learning in Second Life. The panel will begin with a short introduction and description of their projects. We will then break into groups for student led tours of their builds. Following the tours the students will participate in a Q/A session with the audience to discuss their experience in SL as learners. My students created three areas, a Quidditch arena, a Wellness Center, and a replica of an Austin bar and grill called Cain Ables. The students used half an island to build their projects and while they didn’t need the space they did need the prims… Below are pictures of their builds and an invitation to attend their event.
    cain and ables

    area over view Wellness center


    You are invited to attend a special Panel session “SL The Student
    Experience” to be held on Wednesday July 9 at 5:30PM at the Educators
    Coop 1. In this session students enrolled in the undergraduate summer
    course Working in Virtual Worlds taught by Joe Sanchez aka North Lamar
    at the University of Texas at Austin will discuss the student
    experience of learning in Second Life. The Event will feature samples
    of student work and a Q/A session with the students and instructor.
    This will be an opportunity to hear from the students’ point of view
    of the highs and lows, challenges and opportunities of using Second
    Life in a university course. Projects include a playable Quidditch
    game, a reproduction of Cane and Abels (real life bar and grill), and
    a wellness center.
    When: Wednesday, July 9, 5:30PM (SLT)
    Where: The Educators Coop 1
    Overflow Location:
    ** This event is free and open to the public; – Sponsored by students
    of INF315e **

    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

    Published by Joe Sanchez on 26 Jun 2008

    Learning Through Enquiry Alliance (LTEA) tonight in SL

    Tonight in Second Life or perhaps this morning (2am Central time) my friend Sheila Yoshikawa/Sheila Webber from Sheffield University will be hosting a RL/SL conference,LTEA 2008: Inquiry in a Networked World. I will be assisting with the SL portion of the conference as a moderator just in case Sheila runs into technical problems during the Real Life conference.

    Shelia has arranged for quite a bit of interaction between the RL and Sl attendees. Two examples are copy and pasted from her blog:

    00.00 – 01.20 (i.e. starting 8am UK time; 5pm Sydney, Australia time) Inquiry into IBL
    LTEA2800 in SL will start by mirroring the exercise that will have been carried out as the opening plenary in the RL conference: participants will share their ideas about IBL and identify questions or issues about IBL that they would like to explore. Photos and text from the RL conference will have been uploaded to the conference wiki ( and SL delegates will be able to respond to these ideas as well as producing their own ideas about IBL and (if they want) 3D representations. The outcomes from this SL session will also be uploaded to the wiki.

    01.30-02.20 (i.e starting 9.30am UK time, 6.30pm Sydney time) IBL in SL
    The session consists of an interaction between participants in the RL conference and participants in SL.
    Delegates at the SL track of LTEA2008 will lead discussion aiming to illuminate the possibilities for Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) in SL. RL delegates will participate via their own avatars or via facilitators and observation of the data screen. Participants may also compare their views of IBL, and reflect on the affordances of the RL and SL conference in developing these views. Lyn Parker (Maggie Kohime in SL) will lead the RL participants.

    I’m excited to be a part of the conference and to see how the participation between the real and virtual audiences occur. I have attend conferences in a face-to-face setting that streamed SL into the room and I have attended Second Life conferences where video streams of presenters were displayed to SL audiences. Sheila has put a lot of thought into creating interaction between the two audiences going beyond the typical virtual audience asking questions to the f2f. Here is a picture taken from the face-to-face conference of the participants drawing on the table cloths during lunch
    table cloth

    It will be challenge to stay awake since the conference begins at 2am my local time. It doesn’t help that I will be heading to the airport to fly out to ALA Annual conference at 6am….its’ going to be a rough night : )

    To register, email with your RL and SL name. You will be invited to join a SL group (as access to Infolit iSchool will be restricted to conference delegates)

    ITEA 2008 conference” alt=”Learning in Second Life” />
    Here is a picture of the Second Life session…I think this image of the SL users “visualizing” Inquiry based learning is fun to compare with the face-2-face table cloth drawings

    Published by Joe Sanchez on 29 Apr 2008

    Student Event: Second Life Idol

    Tuesday night from 6-8SLT a group of students in my class will be hosting thier final project; Second Life Idol at the Music Academy Online in SL.    They have 8 contestants, all Real Life singers who perform in Second Life lined up and ready to go. The event will be three rounds with audience voting to determine the winners. a 5000L prizer and an iTunes gift card will be given to the winner. During the event donations will be taken for the Relay for Life. Last Thursday the event was featured on the Music Academy Live weekly broadcast on SLCN.TV. A clip of the show is below.

    Watch the video


    Published by Joe Sanchez on 29 Jan 2008

    Teaching with Voice Issues

    USB head set

    This semester i am requiring my students to purchase a USB headset and mic so we can use voice chat in Second Life. Of course, when implementing SL nothing is as easy as it seems. As usual I look to Social Informatics as a way to analyze the problems. Social Informatics is “the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts.” In this case problems with voice chat arose even though the students had the proper equipment, networks, and access to Second Life. Only about 1/2 my students were able to use voice chat…so what happened?

    My RL classroom doesn’t have computers in it so when we have class in SL students need to find their own access. My instructions have always been, if your computer doesn’t work with Sl go to a computer lab or use the library, problem solved. But when you throw voice chat into the equation it shakes things up a bit. Most computer labs on campus are quite work spaces, students wear headphones and most talking is between two students who might be collaborating on a project. Talking in the labs, especially for students “playing a game” like Second Life is not tolerated. Some students couldn’t use voice because of the following scenarios:

    1. students who were on campus because they had class before or after mine,

    2. students who had to use a computer lab because their home computers couldn’t run SL

    3. students who don’t own a laptop but were away from there desktop computer that can run SL

    a student describes this on his blog

    Another downside of being in the lab was the fact that I couldn’t talk. I should probably try to find a place on campus where I can get a fast connection and talk at the same time. (Any suggestions? I don’t live on campus so I can’t go to a dorm room, and I can’t play from home since I have class immediately before this one).

    class in second life

    About 2/3 of the class could not participate in the voice chat because they were in a computer lab, using a library computer, or at a wireless hotspot on campus where they couldn’t or rather, they didn’t feel comfortable talking. Very interesting barrier to a technology implementation, a social barrier rather than a technical barrier. The institutional and cultural context within the University of Texas at Austin acted as a barrier to voice chat in SL. Cases like this lend support the idea that we need to base our Second Life teaching on actual uses of Second Life rather than possible uses of Second Life.

    Even with this barrier however, students reported that were more comfortable learning in SL compared to our face-2-face classess. Some quotes from their blogs are below.

    One thing I noticed about holding class in Second Life was that more than the usual people participated in the discussions that we have. It seems that the barrier of shyness or being uncomfortable with expressing one’s opinion was just taken away. The reason for this I think is because when class is held in the virtual world, most everyone is in a comfortable zone, for me it was my apt. (which was a good thing because I didn’t feel like being out in this cold weather lol). Since you are not physically there, and instead a virtual form of yourself is there, then you are more inclined to participate without any sort of anxiety or fear to speak out.

    Class in Second Life yesturday was really interesting in a fun way. I feel like i can open up and contribute more when i’m not in an actual classroom i think it’s because i’m shy in public. Having conversations through the computer is what our generation does though so i feel more comfortable that way.

    once we were in the virtual environment everyone was talking. Arguments flew back and forth. Side conversations were held. For the first time in the two weeks we have been meeting, Joe’s conversation was practically secondary to the class conversation.

    First off, I will say that the meeting was a lot more convenient and informative than meeting in a classroom. It was a big relief to be able to get an extra 1/2 hour of sleep.

    BTW, Leslie Jarmon and I were featured in an article titled Universities Use Second Life to Teach Complex Concepts in Government Technology Magazine.

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