The Virtual World of Gifted Kids

Following my last past on virtual worlds and their place in the learning environment in our schools, I was pleased to learn from James Corbett about  an Irish initiative in primary schools that also provides a source of inspiration to us ‘downunder‘.

Daynuv is  an Irish social enterprise working in partnership with GiftedKids.ie in  primary schools  to bring virtual worlds into education. Not surprisingly, they are seeing some tremendous results.

At the Gaelscoil Eoghain uí Thuairisc in Carlow, Ireland where lessons are taught in Irish they are implementing the use of 3D technology for the learning support of gifted children. This is the first time that this technology has been used in Ireland to teach part of the school curriculum. The interactivity and detail of the 3D technology means that anything you can do or build in the real world can be replicated in this virtual world.   The Virtual World of Gifted Kids.

Now that their pilot program has been a success they are  planning on rolling the project out nationwide in 2011 and  will be  looking to make links with schools internationally. They use Opensim too,  which has the  advantages of the Hypergrid protocol which makes possible the option to teleport ( have  virtual field trips) between schools. Using Opensim, schools can safely collaborate with each other, and grow their virtual networks at a pace that suits their student’s own learning needs.

It’s  great to see groups and organisations helping to promote virtual worlds learning environments!

Virtual Worlds are genuinely real spaces for learning

The school year is rushing to an end. Amazingly, we’re soon closing off the first decade of the new century that was going to be our hallmark of innovation and change. We promised ourselves we would put industrial models of schooling behind us.

For some this leap into new modes of learning is more than they can take on. For others it’s the natural extension of what learning has to be for our connected, mobile-enhanced learners.

I hope the next decade brings magical things for us all.

One thing we know is that we need to bring ‘out of school’ gaming and virtual worlds activities into the daily learning cyles of our students. We need to bring back the connections between school and home, and be prepared to provide environments that are authentic to the technology use of our students.

Here’s an article titled Virtual Worlds are genuinely real spaces for learning which I’ve had published in the recent issue of Access, the national journal of  the Australian School Library Association.   Have a read!

Thank you to my various friends and colleagues who so willingly shared their knowledge and information about their own explorations of virtual learning environments.

Learning in a changing world series is out!

It’s been rather slow in the making, but finally the new series commissioned by ALIA and ASLA is available to order from the ACER shop online.

The Learning in a Changing World series addresses how the process of learning is evolving – including the array of resources available in the digital age, changing curriculum, and the different teaching strategies needed in order to use new media and technologies.

The Learning in a Changing World series presents the core areas for teacher librarians and school leaders to consider for 21st century learning: the digital world, virtual worlds, curriculum integration, resourcing, and the physical environment. All are essential elements to enable and empower our students to be lifelong learners and active participants in our society.

I was lucky to work on the first two books in the series with my good friend Dean Groom.  Books like the two we worked on can never stay completely current – but then they are not ‘how to’ guides so much as ‘why you should’  and ‘why you can’ guides. There is enough thought provoking information for readers to leverage and  help innovation and change in their own schools.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate

Our students are involved in an ‘architecture of participation’ – creating, adapting and sharing content. While for them this learning is a comfortable multimodal conversation, for us this change is revolutionary. Schools and school libraries have many challenges to address to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices. As we begin to understand the importance of these seismic shifts, we come to the realisation that we are being challenged to un-learn and re-learn in order to grant students access to 21st century learning.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate is written to provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks go to  Michael Stephens for generously  contributing the Forward to this work.

Virtual Worlds

Each year there are more and more avatars in rich virtual environments. These immersive worlds – where the world within the screen becomes both the object and the site of interaction – are on the increase, matching the promise of technology with the creative minds of our students. Educators, keen to incorporate the evolving literacy and information needs of 21st century learners, will want to understand the opportunities provided by MUVEs, MMORPGs and 3D immersive worlds, so as to be able to create more interactive library, educational and cultural projects. The challenge is to accept that these interactive environments are here to stay and that schools can, and should, embrace learning in virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds will provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks to Peggy Sheehy for generously contributing the Forward to this work.

Join us in the Second Classroom: Educators Learning in Virtual Worlds and share your virtual learning journey!

Others in the series

Other volumes in the series include Curriculum Integration , Resourcing for Curriculum Innovation, and Designing the Learning Environment.

Enjoy!

A new look to your Second Life

Second Life Viewer 2, now in beta, is the next generation of Second Life viewers that makes it easy to explore and socialize in Second Life with a familiar, browser-like experience, enhanced search, and fully integrated web-based media capabilities. Test Drive Second Life Viewer 2, Now in Beta by downloading here.

Web 2.0 in Libraries – 2D and 3D

Thanks to Sheila Webber for providing a constant flow of information related to libraries. Her Information Literacy Weblog provides real up-to-date gems year after year – she saves me time I must say!

I have also always enjoyed Sheila’s photography that provides a nice contrast to the steady information flow.

Two recent posts to worth picking up on:

2D Libraries

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) launched two new guidance toolkits at the annual SLIC Further Education Conference, on 3 December. One of them was A Guide to Using Web 2.0 in Libraries. Add this to your report collection/bibliography!

3D Libraries

Event in the virtual world, Second Life.

When: Monday 14 December 2009, 8am-9am SL time (for

times elsewhere see http://tinyurl.com/yff6e96 )  (oops, I’m not likely to make a 3am meetup!)
Where: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Infolit%20iSchool/127/244/21/
You need a SL avatar and the SL browser to participate

Kim Zwiers (Kim Holmberg in RL) “Researcher, lecturer, entrepreneur” from Abo Akademi, Finland will give a presentation (in voice) and lead a discussion (in text chat).
See http://kimholmberg.fi/tag/library-2-0/
http://www.slideshare.net/kholmber/presentations

Mixed Reality Presentations

I’ve just picked up some information about Mixed Reality Presentations that might be worth checking out. The [Zone] Touch Screen Media Television with Searchable YouTube and Fl… is worth testing.

What’s special about this in-world media TV?

James O’Reilly explains:

“You can substitute the uploading of Powerpoint texture slides into Second Life for L$10 each, and stream a Flickr slideshow into Second Life for presentation purposes for free. When in standby mode, the default screen can be replaced with your own picture by dropping a texture into the contents of the TV. This thus enables mixed reality presentations using Flickr as repository”.

That’s cool!

Second Classroom explores ReactionGrid

Dean & Judy in ReactionGrid

Judy+Dean@ReactionGrid

A bonus of ‘school holidays’ is the opportunity for me to actually have more time to engage in exploration of teaching and learning developments – and this term break was no exception. In fact, the timing couldn’t have been better! The SecondClassroom team got busy, and went exploring new virtual environments for learners.

With a host of online buddies,  Dean Groom and myself  – the Second Classroom duo – had the golden opportunity to explore a wonderful new virtual landscape that has emerged as a real contender in the options for schools wishing to put their toes into pool of virtual opportunities. ReactionGrid, managed by an intrepid, highly experienced professional team keen to provide the kind of service that we all like – personal in nature and professional in all transactions.

ReactionGrid is a virtual 3D environment, that uses the OpenSimulator platform. Think SecondLife, but think less traffic, more focussed on education and learning for business and education – and in a PG environment.  A recent interview with Kyle Gomboy, CEO of ReactionGrid, published at the Metaverse Journal explains:

we’re focused on education and business and have laid down rules similar to those environments and have created a culture here that accepts that in order to be able to bring managers, school administrators and others inworld, they need to experience the medium safely. So we’re hiring former teachers, architects, estate managers and more to help us as we grow on thisparticular world.

Their partnership with Microsoft verifies for me that ReactionGrid is an important new space for educators.

Do read the whole article to get a feel for the developments at ReactionGrid. Keep in touch with developments by following Kyle (Dr_Manhattan) on Twitter.

I’ve had the chance to chat with Kyle, Chris and Trevor in the leadup to submitting a proposal to NECC2010.

Jokaydians @ ReactionGrid

Jokaydians @ ReactionGrid

So far I have been inspired by what we have found, and the benefits of OpenSimulator for education are obvious. The multiplicity of options for local hosting or hosting on their servers is great. A particularly appealing factor is the cost – affordable for any school, even with tiny budgets. In addition there are no complications with access – students and teachers are free to join and get involved in a school virtual learning adventure.

Steve Collis has gone so far as to draw up a 5-year Plan for Virtual Worlds & Integration with Moodle! Steve has demonstrated so well for schools in Australia that integrating a virtual worlds component into mainstream learning actually works! It’s worth reading about the school’s experiences.

The first demonstration of the power of using ReactionGrid for a school project was shown by Vicki Davis and her Digiteens. I visited their work on ReactionGrid and have been inspired by the flexibility and focus on learning.  In fact, if you’re wondering how ReactionGrid works,  take a quick look a the videos from the Digiteen Dream Team: ReactionGrid. The video tutorials might be just the thing to kick you off on your own virtual adventure!

To find out how to log into Reaction Grid with the SecondLife client, or other client options check out Logging into ReactionGrid.

We’re keeping a close eye on ReactionGrid developments at SecondClassroom, and have had a number of new members join the Ning once they realised that something hot! was under discussion.

Jo Kay and the Islands of Jokaydia have helped Australian educators begin to understand and explore ReactionGrid.  Check by to find out when the next meeting scheduled! Jokaydia@ReactionGrid is a great place to start your learning adventure.

Dean and myself – the SecondClassroom duo – won’t let this new opportunity slip by. We know that all educators should be learning about 3D virtual worlds.  Soon enough there will be 3D web access to these environments – but for now we must continue to play and learn together in these new environments.

Keep an eye out for a project or two that might emerge via SecondClassroom.

Check out this video and see what EducationAu has to say about Virtual Worlds in Education.

Second Life Curriculum Resources

Global Kids, Inc. is an internationally recognized leader in using digital media to promote global awareness and youth civic engagement.

The Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program integrates a youth development approach and international and public policy issues into youth media programs that build digital literacy and STEM skills, foster substantive dialogues, develop resources for educators, and promote civic participation.

Global Kids’ Second Life Curriculum is a key component of Global Kids professional development services. They cover everything an educator or student would need to know to use Second Life, whether on their own or within an educational setting. At the same time, it teaches global literacy skills. Components of the curriculum can be used as hand-outs to develop specific Second Life-specific skills or within a broader educational program designed to teach such subjects as science, film-making or literature.

Get copies of the books from Lulu.  Second Life Curriculum Resources.

Teen Second Life – Wascana Island

A quick tour of some of the places on Regina Public Schools’ Wascana Island on the Teen Second Life grid. It shows some of the places for gatherings and meetings as well as showcasing two “in-world” projects that are currently (2008-2009) on display.

Soundtrack: Moderato – Alexander Blu (Creative Commons)

I can only dream! about virtual worlds

When it comes to change, I’m a person who is not comfortable with taking time about it all. So since starting at Joeys I have been brimming with optimism for the opportunity to ‘get digital’. Lots of new things began to happen as the year progressed, and we made some wonderful advances in our thinking and in the things we are doing.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Peggy Sheehy invited me to Suffern Middle School for the day, on my recent trip to New York City. My ever-patient husband, Martin, was heard to say “You want to do what? take a day out of your 5 days in NYC and work??”

Needless to say, work it was not!

Peggy Sheehy has been leading the way for many years,  demonstrating the power of virtual worlds for learning! Based at Suffern Middle School, Peggy leads the Ramapo Islands initiative, and if you haven’t been reading her blog I suggest you start watching it now. Virtual worlds are the future as learning becomes wrapped in interactive and immersive 3D environments.

It was totally amazing to visit Peggy, meet the Principal and staff, and participate in some introductory classes – new kids launching themselves into Ramapo Islands. Peggy very kindly brought forward some lessons so I could see and participate.  How natural it all seemed! How easily the kids understood what it was all about! In one period these kids were dressing their avatar, walking and flying around, talking with friends, and playing  – the favourite experiment was sliding down the large water slide. If this all sounds like a lot of fun and games – it was! But don’t for a minute assume it was wasted time.

Read Peggy’s blog to see what happens after these first lesson as students become more involved with virtual learning opportunities that teachers create at Suffern Middle School. Peggy writes that they will soon be tearing down the virtual walls and opening Ramapo Island to collaboration with other Teen Life education projects.

I rode the train back to New York City, and wondered how long it would be before I could do such exciting things.