Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

History of VR Through the Pages of OLDaily

This is a listing of OLDaily posts since 1999 on the subject of virtual reality, VRML, and the metaverse. Note that many of the links are no longer working.

The MediaMOO Project: Constructionism and Professional Commu
Www, Aug 13, 1999

MediaMOO is a text-based, networked, virtual reality environment (MUD) designed to enhance professional community among media researchers. Amy Bruckman and Mitchel Resnick Epistemology and Learning Group MIT Media Lab. Convergence, 1:1, Spring 1995. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

3D Anarchy
3danarchy, Aug 30, 1999

A tool for building and viewing virtual worlds linked to IRC chat. Nice, fast, but very beta. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Active Worlds
Activeworlds, Aug 30, 1999

Client and server software for virtual worlds in a MUD like environment. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Cardiff VR Page
Cm, Sept 16, 1999

Sites, people and related information about virtual reality (VR) [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Chaco Pueblo
Chaco, Sept 16, 1999

Multimedia MUD client turns a MUD into a VR environment. Cool. Too bad Chaco says they are no longer interested in supporting it. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Cosmo Player
Sgi, Sept 16, 1999

A fairly popular VRML client [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Text-Based Virtual Reality
Village, Oct 02, 1999

Essays, guides, and links to notable MUDs and MOOs. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Lesson 106 - Web 3D 2.0 - Part 1
Webreference, Nov 26, 2000

Beginning of a series of articles in WebReference on how to use Shout 3D to create virtual reality. Clearly written, good examples. Uattributed, November 20, 2000. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Case Western Reserve U. Turns to Virtual Reality at Its Dental SchoolCRLF
By Katherine S. Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 20, 2001

This is a good example of using simulation technology to provide practical training. Dental students at Case Western Reserve University now practice their technique on mannequins before pointing the drill at human patients. We all feel better for that. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Researcher Sees a Big Role for Virtual Reality in Distance EducationCRLF
By Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 21, 2001

The Chronicle discovers virtual reality. Oh ok, maybe not that bad, but that's how this interview comes off. And it sounds like Jaron Lanier - the scientist who (the article says) coined the term 'virtual reality' - sees VR as a tool for emulating the classroom over the internet, an astonishing lack of vision that can't really be what he meant. But he does say, "If I'm in a university environment, and I see a slacker kid falling asleep in the back row, I'll challenge them. And I think that that's absolutely essential. I'm really not comfortable losing that connection." But that's not the future of VR in education, is it? Tell me not. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Cave Of Dreams: Simulations in Higher EducationCRLF
By Susan Abdulezer, ConVerge, Jan 18, 2002

It seems like pre-history, but it was only eight or nine years ago that my colleague Jeff McLaughlin and I developed the Painted Porch MAUD, a multi-user learning learning environment based on a MUD (or, as most educators would say, a MOO, though a MOO really is quite different technically). I mention this because one of my pride and joys in the Painted Porch was a simulation of Plato's Cave - Jeff and I were philosophy instructors, after all. So it brings back fond memories to read this article which introduces the topic of simulations in education via the metaphor of Plato's Cave. And while, as the author observes, Plato spent a great deal of time trying to convince people to leave the cave of illusions, researchers today are developing increasingly realistic simulations with an eye to persuading all of us to spend more time in the virtual world. Hey, I'm OK with that. But I would not have made a very good Platonist. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

3-D Med School, Hold the Cadavers
By Charles Mandel, Wired News, Mar 07, 2002

A couple of high profile news releases for the CAVE virtual reality similator this week.

CRLFCRLFA new immersive simulation of the human body at the University of Calgary allows researchers to understand complex processes. "More seriously, though, Sensen says large sets of data from such subjects as gene expression can now be seen more clearly than ever. Currently, such genomic information is plotted into a cloud of points, something he calls 'unimaginative.'" The Calgary simulation is unique because it was designed using Java 3D outside the facility, freeing the system for other users and lowering development costs.CRLF [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence
By Jonathan Steuer, Journal of Communication, 42(4), 73-93, Apr 05, 2002

Written by an author who along with Lou Rossetto, Howard Rheingold, and others, co-founded, and later helped launch C/NET, this paper is a foundational document in the history of cyberspace. Yet it is not (to my perception) widely known, hence, its inclusion today. The author wrestles with three major concepts: virtual reality, which is the core of the paper, and its two component concepts, interactivity and vividness of media. I wouldn't, as Vin Crosbie does, accept Steuer's definition of interactivity as "standard" but I would say it is important: "Interactivity is defined as the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real time." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Simulations: Virtual Reality for Simulations
By Noel Vallejo, Certification Magazine, Jun 20, 2002

The examples in this article illustrate how testing online can advance far beyond multiple choice and essay questions. Simulations are viable testing mechanisms because they require that a learner actually apply the material learned in a practical context. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Reality Researchers Target Special Ed. Classes
By Lisa Fine Goldstein, Education Week, Sept 18, 2002

Interesting and fairly detailed article about the use of virtual reality to study and provide for the special education classes. With buzzing sounds and flashing lights, for example, researchers study what does - and does not - distract students. The VR classroom is also useful for teaching such basic skills as traffic safety. But it has to be done right: "We didn't want to make getting run over and killed entertaining in any way," he said. "We decided to have the [sound go silent], then the system crashes and must be rebooted while the student sits there and waits. So it is a frustrating experience, rather than exciting." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Your Views of the Next Killer Apps
By Jeffrey R. Harrow, The Harrow Technology Report, Nov 18, 2002

This is a great list of 40 potential 'killer apps' proposed by readers of the Harrow Technology Report. Some of them - such as virtual reality, altered reality, and voice interface, were expected. But the best ideas are in the area of personal computing. I really like the list submitted by Damon Turnbull: personal doctor, personal shopper, personal recorder, personal guide, and personal entertainer. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Project Entropia
By Various authors, Dec 16, 2002

This is very interesting. Entropia is a hree dimensional online environment where millions of users can interact with each other at the same time. But unlike other online communities, the virtual world will run on real cash. There are no access fees to enter the virtual world (much like casinos - heh) but no doubt plenty of opportunity to spend once you're inside. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Stephen's Web - 1997
Jul 10, 2003

Speaking of games, I had the happiest discovery the other day - has captured my personal site from six years ago, including a great deal of material I thought was long lost. Included in this material is the full set of background and discussion transcripts for a CADE seminar Jeff McLaughlin, Terry Anderson and I hosted on a MUD in 1996. If you follow some of the other links you can see the genesis of what is Stephen's Web today - following the Brandon link, for example, takes you to an early (1997) version of what would now be called blog software. The Certificate in Adult Education course from 1996 is present in its entirety. Clicking on Old Home takes you to my archives from 1997, displaying even earlier versions of my web page. None of the backgrounds display through but they can be retrieved, so I'm now in the process of reconstructing this lost material.

CRLFNow when I talk about learning objects today, you should always keep in mind my background. McLaughlin and I, along with István Berkeley (who also shared with me a passion for neural nets) and Wes Cooper, did a lot of work on MUDs in the early 90s - 1992, 93 and 94. I ran a MUD called Atahabsca MUD, which was removed from that university's servers in 1995, and Jeff and I collaborated on the Painted Porch MAUD, site of the CADE conference. When I think of an object, it is always with this in the back of my mind. On a MUD, everything is an object - the rooms are objects, the people are objects, the goblets are objects. They are things that are located in an environment which can be explored, examined, read, displayed, or whatever. This is still the mental image I have of objects, and the MUD gaming environment is still the model I keep in my mind for learning of the future.

CRLFI wish I could take everybody back ten years, back to the days when we were all virtual beings in a virtual world, with what we know today, and then talk about the potential. A lot has happened since then - people didn't want 'games' they wanted courses (like the CAE course), then they wanted course portals, then the concept of an 'object' was twisted and bent out of shape so that it came more to represent a chapter in a textbook than it did a next-generation learning tool. I wish I could show you my I Ching guru, the quests that I built, my simulation of Plato's Cave. Even today, the projects I work on are quite literally pulled back into the horse-and-buggy era of educational design. I can't stop people from thinking that learning is about universities, and that online is about the LMS or LCMS, but I can cling to the vision and wait for a more enlightened age. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Autism of Knowledge Management
By Patrick Lambe, Jul 10, 2003

Today's longish issue has a theme of sorts, though I don't know exactly what it is - something to do with the nature of objects, games and the new learner. And the futility of trying to move from the physical world of artifacts to the virtual world of ideas while keeping all your concepts, parasigms and practices intact. Anyhow, this item - dug up by Scott Leslie following up a reference in the Macromedia white paper - is a nice lead-in to today's non-theme. Like Leslie, I am uncomfortable with the autism analogy (people who are not psychologists should stay well away from the field). The point (completely ignored by today's learning object evangelists): "That there is a qualitative difference between the process of steelmaking and learning as a human experience laden as it is with emotive colouring, and nested in an intricate, ever-changing web of relationships, is not noticed, or it is ignored." Like I said, just the right note... [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

We Learning: Social Software and E-Learning, Part II
By Eva Kaplan-Leiserson, Learning Circuits, Feb 09, 2004

The second part of this look at social software in e-learning (the first part is here) looks at the mechanics of it: wikis, social network analysis tools, proximity tools and virtual worlds. It's a good discussion, but my recent experiences with Orkut have left me feeling empty - just as content is pointless without conversation, conversation is pointless without context. If the social network gives you nothing to do, then it's about as educationally useful as a wine and cheese party. That should not detract from your enjoyment of this paper, which is as good a survey as your'll get in two thousand words or so. It's just to say that social software needs to become something more. Via Maish. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Guerra Scale
By Tim Guerra & Dan Heffernan, Learning Circuits, Mar 23, 2004

You will notice, at the very bottom of the Guerra scale of levels of user experience, at the worst level possible, is PDF. So of course I'm going to cite this paper, no matter what else it says. After PDF, we get things like page turners, online tests, movement in text and graphics, multimedia, and eventually, full immersive simulations or virtual reality. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Worlds are Real Worlds
By Lisa Galarneau, Relevancy, Aug 11, 2004

Raction to an article in the Guardian about online worlds titled Get a Life. The author's point is simple, and one with which I am in agreement: virtual world are real. They are just as real, in fact, as the 'real world'. Like the author, I am more than a digital immigrant - I can't say I am a digital native, since the online world didn't exist when I was a child, but I grew up with the digital age, playing Pong when it came out, playing Adventure online, and more. I can say the virtual world is real because, like the author, I live in it. "The cool thing is that in the virtual world, I have lots of new friends from all over the world, offering me all sorts of perspectives that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and vice versa. Who can say that’s a bad thing?" [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Avatars Anchor Your RSS Evening News
By Micro Persuasion, Micro Persuasion, Oct 07, 2004

Funny. "WebNews.TV is a RSS news aggregator software application that pronounces both your feeds and comments on them with funny animation movies featuring avatars (virtual reality characters)." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Multisubculturalism: Computers and the End of Progressive Education
By David Shaffer, Jan 15, 2005

Mark Oehlert introduces us to the work of David Shaffer, another researcher who desperately needs a blog, an RSS feed, that will get the word out. Oehlert recommends some of his papers, but I started at the top of the list and landed on this one, an outstanding excursion into the realm of microworld, epistemic frames, subcultures and the educational philosophy og John Dewey. There are numerous insights in thsi paper worth reporting: the importance of diversity in learning and society, the role different educational goals ought to play in a theory of education, autoexpressive virtual worlds, and so much more. This gets to the heart of much of my own thinking: "Practice, identity, values, knowledge, and epistemology, I have argued, are bound together into an epistemic frame... epistemic frames are the ways of knowing with associated with particular communities of practice." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Oh, the Things They'll Know
By Jenny Levine, The Shifted Librarian, Apr 12, 2005

Jenny Levine points us to Runescape, a Java based virtual world. Accounts are free (there is some advertising and an upgrade to a subscription version) and the system is apparently used by thousands of people. I spent some time learning how to make fire and catch shrimp - essential survival skills in this world. Watch how the game leads you along, never pressuring, but always there to guide you. Nice. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A Virtual World With Peer-to-Peer Style
By John Borland, CNet, May 13, 2005

I'm sure every MUD designer has dreamed of something like this: a massive multiplayer role-playing game (MMRPG) hosted not on a large central server but rather on the individual computers of each of its members. You control your own part of the universe, and can go from there to explore the rest of the world. A lot like the web, but with the characteristics and interactions of an online game. Solipsis finally realizes that vision. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Multi-User Virtual Environment Experiential Simulator
Harvard University, May 31, 2005

A Multi-User Virtual Environment - or MUVE - is an online space where vistors can navigate in a three-dimensional visual environment interacting with artifacts and each other. MUVE's were pioneered in the late 90s by a company called Active Worlds. This page describes MUVE work being undertaken at Harvard. The summary is good, but even better is the links to a slew of publications on the research. Most of them are pretty short and there is a good deal of repetition, but the upshot is that a MUVE increases student motivation, which in turn results in improved learning outcomes. Or so the studies say; I think a test of this scale is too small to begin generalizing yet. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Network Bias
By Mark Hemphill,, Jan 25, 2006

Audio recording of a talk that sounds interesting. It is a "look at the way broadcasting holds critical sway in the virtual world (in spite of the amazing opportunities of internetworking)." There is a summary in PDF. It's dense reading, but the author draws us through a definition of broadcasting and distinguishes it from what may be called mesh networking. He then examines what he calls 'social conditioning' in these two types of communications of network. "Internetworking presents a convincing case by addressing many of these issues [of social control in broadcasting] specifically âx" by empowering direct forms of expression, two way communication, diversity, localized decision-making, resource sharing and so on." But we should take note, that neither social control nor bias are inherently absent from the network; we are given opportunities, not guarantees. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

My Virtual Life
Business Week, May 01, 2006

Article describing Second Life, with an emphasis on the developing economy of the virtual world. Nice spin on the whole free-market aspect of the game. As usual, the best reading is in the comments. For example, Rex Bligh writes: "SL gives people the opportunity to build self esteem and to accomplish things that bring accomplishment and satisfaction that can transfer to their real life. Most of those on SL are extremely supportive and encouraging and willing to help others." This, and not pseudo-market capitalism, is also my own experience of online worlds. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Safe Social Networking Sites Emerge
By Laura Ascione, eSchool News, Jun 14, 2006

I'm not sure what to think of these new 'safe' social networking services. Like Whyville, "an online virtual world that immerses children in a video game-like experience where they must manage money, make sure they eat properly." OK, nice. But if they're so good, do they need legislation pushing people their way? And how comfortable should we be about an environment that pushes online interactions in a certain (political?) direction. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Social Bookmarking: Pushing Collaboration to the Edge
By Joachim Niemeier, 7 Days, More, Jun 26, 2006

Social bookmarking, social networks - the discussion continues. Social bookmarking fosters collaboration in resource discovery. Also, harnessing collective innovation with web 2.0. Also, five sites you need to know in social networking. Miguel Guhlin links to the Wikipedia list of social networking sites. "MySpace shows 86 million users, Facebook shows 7 million, Bebo shows 22 million, and Flickr shows 2.5 million." You may also want to look at a blog from PARC called PlayOn, which looks at the social dimension of virtual worlds. FutureLab (via Scott Leslie) offers a longish look at the topic. Well written and clear, it defines social software (via Stowe Boyd and Clay Shirkey), looks at audio-visual and other implementations, and then asks, does learning change in an information society (hint: yes). MySpace, meanwhile, is used to spread information about Blackboard and to replace the Yearbook Committee. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

An Educator Discovers his SecondLife
By Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, Jul 19, 2006

Nice breezy description of Second Life from an educator's point of view. Terry Anderson notes that it requires a lot of computer power (he had to shut down other applications) and may require more bandwidth than some users have. he also comments, "Creating an educational environment in close proximity to enterprise focused on sex, rock and roll and gambling, presents a host of moral and ethical concerns." Of course, my thinking is a bit different: why would the emphasis be on 'creating an educational environment'? Why do people always want to build a 'campus' or 'school' in these artificial environments? I would rather want to know how we can make learning accessible to the people who use such an environment - on-demand sailing lessons, for example, available on the boat to people who want to learn to to SL sail. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Indiana University Forms a Synthetic World Initiative
By Brett Bixler, Penn State Virtual Worlds, Aug 02, 2006

Edward Castronova writes in an email "to announce the formation of a Synthetic Worlds Initiative within the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University." What's ineresting is that they are mounting what is essentially an in-game expedition (don't forget that quinine!) to investigate virtual worlds. Follow their blog at the Synthetic World News. Or better still, read the blog and find out how to join the virtual expedition. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Top 20 Educational Locations in Second Life (SimTeach)
By Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, Aug 03, 2006

If you are an educator browsing through Second Life (2L) and want to find some goot starting points, this guide is a good place to look. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual and Immersive Learning
Campus Technology, Aug 09, 2006

I really have mixed feelings about this. I remember looking at ActiveWorlds years ago, long before Second Life came to the fore. Neat, I thought, but rendering problems and a distinct lack of any applications spoke against further investigation. Now people are looking at these virtual environments in more detail, and even building life-sized virtual environments, as at Purdue, and though I still suppose they're a good idea, I am still hard-pressed to get excited about them. I mean - I have this image of a student rushing to school, rushing to her VR studio, opening the door - only to find herself in a (virtual) classroom. Yes, I like immersive environments - but the environments I've tried cost millions of dollars and are available only to the military and millionaire students. And they have no shortage of researchers interested in their needs. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

We Can All Be Radio Stations
By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Aug 21, 2006

Another item on the theme of content consumers becoming content producers, this short item outlines the process with a useful and intuitive Gliffy diagram and, of course, links. "Limelight provides us a username, password, and server to send our audio streams to. We get a cryptic looking URL we can use to plug into iTunes to listen to a live stream, or attach in Second Life as an MP3 stream URL. To make it easier for people to connect, we embed this URL in a playlist file." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Recent Posts Tagged
By Various authors, Sept 28, 2006

There hnas been a lot of media recorded here in New Zealand over the last week, and a lot of the video has been uploaded here, including something called One, by Alex Hayes (I haven't seen it yet), an interview with Teemu before he went back to Finland, Leigh Blackall talking with Rose and Marg on interactive podcasts, Steven Parker with Stanley and Jo Kay on Second Life. P.S. Steven (who has more video posted on his webiste) - it's too bad you had to leave us a day or so early, it was a real pleasure meeting you. Stay in touch. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Your Second Life is Ready
By Annalee Newitz, Popular Science, Oct 04, 2006

Well I made my first Second Life (aka 2L) character a couple of days ago (Labatt Pawpaw, if you're looking for me) and have been exploring a bit. Thus far what I am seeing looks a lot like the MUDs I used to enjoy, except that its graphical and has a lot more casinos. Anyhow, here's a Popular Science article about 2L. The article is pretty interesting but now I'm wondering if the 'Mitchell Kapor' mentioned in the article is the same 'Mitch Kapor' I know online. That would be pretty funny, to not know something like that. But naw, it can't be... can it? Ah, I get into such a muddle about such things. Via Penn State Virtual Worlds. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

MacArthur Funds e-Learning: $50M
By M. Cohn, Red Herring, Oct 25, 2006

Perhaps they were reading my coverage (the Tribune story is long gone, See this). Who knows? Anyhow, the MacArthur foundation is granting $2 million a year "for competitive research, writing, and demonstration projects." So my checque should be... oh, wait, they said competitive. Guess not, then, I am not of that political persuasion.

The grants have attracted some blog attention, with Harold Jarche taking a look and landing on the Spotlight blog, a group blog complete with a launch promo from Danah Boyd, all part of their (competitive?) Knowledge Network.

The grants were announced at a press release held inside Second Life and the winner of one grant, $240,000 will be going to Edward Castranova, an associate professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, who is developing a massively multiplayer online game called Arden: The World of Shakespeare.

Mark Glaser, meanwhile, cites Boyd extensively in his look at the grants, which becomes an article on whether the web is dangerous for kids. I think this Boyd quote: "the authorities [have] started to catch predators by posing online, so MySpace has become more dangerous for predators than for teens!"

Beth Kanter, a trainer and consultant, live-blogged the event; the result is a pretty good (and thorough) column. She asks, "One of the points mentions that this is a new field - digital learning and media and that it was a cross disciplinary field. Given all this potential change in education, what do we need to think about how all this applies to nonprofit sector?" This is especially relevant given the overtly commercial focus of most media.

There's a lot more coverage - you could build a whole new edublogosphere out of it. Tom Hoffman complains, "None of the 'edubloggers' seem to know a damned thing about it... nobody other than me seems to have anything to say about it at all." Of course, this was five days ago - it takes time for the blogosphere to respond. But how? Hoffman writes, "Time to start sucking up? Or turning on the heat? Collectively we've got a lot of Google juice to bring to bear in this participatory media environment."

[Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Sloodle - 3D Learning Management System
By Various authors, Oct 27, 2006

Well I guess it had to happen. Or, at least, to be proposed. This page is the development wiki for Sloodle - 'Second Life With Moodle'. "Imagine a Moodle course that, if you wanted, could turn into a proper 3D interactive classroom with all your Moodle resources available to your students in the virtual world." This is very doable, since you can import external objects (such as videos) into Second Life. To me, the greater challenge will be fusing an open source LMS into a commercial 3D environment. But hey, it might work! Then Blackboard will say it invented it. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Make as Big a Mess of My Second Life
By Brian Lamb, Abject Learning, Oct 30, 2006

I have been a bit sceptical of Second Life, and for similar sorts of reasons: "For one, my bent toward 'fast, cheap, and out of control' technologies has left me underwhelmed by top-heavy immersive 3-D environments." Then there's this, reported by Brin Lamb: "Four of the Lower Mainland's major post-secondary educational institutions will simultaneously open a virtual campus in the online cyberworld Second Life and a new real-world $40-million digital media school on Great Northern Way." Sounds great, but: "Tuition for this program is going to cost twenty grand per year." And I've heard this before: "Having students create their own learning environment 'is the future of educational research.'" So... [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Social Web
ZDNet, Nov 27, 2006

Steve O'Hear has a new job blogging about social software for ZDNet (one of my regular sources). Among the topics he has covered are Elgg Spaces, the new hosted service from Elgg, crime in Second Life, and the lawsuit wars involving YouTube and MySpace. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Nintendo's Wii Selling Out in Japan
By Masaki Kondo, E-Commerce Times, Dec 04, 2006

I think the deployment of Nintendo's Wii (pronounced 'wee') has many more implications for online learning than does Second Life (though I can imagine an interesting sub theme around the idea of Wii-enabled SL interaction). What makes the Wii revolutionary is that its wireless controllers send input to the program based on its location and movement, and not merely what buttons have been pushed. I've been watching people play with the Wii in the local tech shops. The interaction with the game is a much more bodily interaction, much more analogue. I think (based on what I've seen) that it will be especially popular with women and girls. I think the marketing has been pretty good. But this video will really give you a feel for the product (ignore the offensive title and comments). The Wii is the first of the gaming consoles that I actually want - now that's saying something, I think. (p.s. the two-handed controllers are called nunchuks.) [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

10 Reasons to Go Short on Second Life
This is going to be BIG, Dec 04, 2006

I have been less than enthusiastic about Second Life, and this article captures some of the reasons why. In fairness, here are some responses to O'Donnell's criticisms. To me, though, there are two major problems with Second Life. First, it's a single company, which means there's no democracy, no user rights, and therefore, none of the freedoms people online have come to expect. Corporations like it, sure, so it gets a lot of press. But it ends there. Second, though it appears because it is a visual web (as opposed to the more mainstream text-based web) it is only one way a visual web could work, and a rather boring one at that. There will be a visual and multidimensional environment that goes mainstream, but it won't be owned by some company and it won't simply be an online version of the real world. Think about it - all the ways people could learn in a multidimensional visual world and they recreate a lecture theatre? Sheesh. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Educators Explore 'Second Life' Online
By Albert Ip, Random Walk in Learning, Dec 18, 2006

See, here's part of what I don't get. You couldn't buy space on CNN to note the use of more generic technologies in learning. I don't recall any media push behind, say, the use of MUDs in e-learning, blogs in e-learning. Or mailing lists, or even things like Flickr or So how does Second Life rate such coverage? I still think that what really distinguishes Second Life from other technology is its marketing, the very big push it's getting from mainstream media. As Albert Ip says, "Yet-another-classroom is definitely a poor use of 'Second Life'." And yet that's what gets covered. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Creativity Costs Money in Second Life
By Graham Attwell, The Wales Wide Web, Dec 19, 2006

Pretty much my experience in Second Life (and yes, I've put in the hours): "the main education areas are pretty peaceful - no-one but me ever appears to be there. And pretty dull - a few notices and advertising for on-line courses -what is innovative in that. OK - I see some of the universities are developing on-line classrooms. But why?" And also: "The whole model of SL is a capitalist model and doing anything costs. This is not a tool for free public education." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Graham Attwell Needs to Take a Closer Look at Second Life
By Sean Fitzgerald, seanfitz, Dec 20, 2006

Article responding to the criticisms of Second Life offered by Graham Attwell, not successfully, in my view, but makes up for it by linking to the Second Life Education Wiki where you'll find Real Virtuality in your Second Life and beyond, a paper on Second Life and education, the Second Life educators' forum ("users have posted a total of 154 articles"), graduate student colony, info on private islands (you need one if you are an educational institution - "Islands are priced at US$1,675 for 65,536 square meters (about 16 acres). Monthly land fees for maintenance are US$295"), a list of organizations on Second Life, a bunch of stuff I have to be logged in for (and I don't like that bit about 'valid payment info on file for your account'), and a list of websites about education and Second Life. The Fitzgerald article is housed in another wiki.

Fitzgerald links to a more detailed argument against the sceptics, The Second Life Doubters Club, this article posted on the apparently anonymous Pacific Rim Exchange blog, which "will chronicle the development of the Pacific Rim Exchange island in Teen Second Life," where 'Teen Second Life' is a parallel world where adults are barred (except, presumably, administrators and Second Life sanctioned educators). I don't like the tone of the article; the first line, in response to a Danah Boyd article: "Add another doubter to the pack, how many people can fit on this bandwagon?" Bandwagon? This is one of those articles that refers to Shirky by his full name and Boyd only by her first name. And who insists that critics must be "someone who has either not spent time in SL, or has had a bad experience and now wants to convince the world that SL has no value and no future." There's no actual discussion of Boyd's post, which is unfortunate. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Youth Discussion: the Role of Adults within Online Teen Spaces
By Barry Joseph, Spotlight, Dec 27, 2006

When you start engineering social spaces, as the creators of Second Life are doing with their 'teen spaces', you start selecting for 'appropriate' philosophies. Global Kids (GK) is an adult presence in the teen space - the adults, of course, are screened with background checks. "GK seems likely to be spawned by the same people who create ESRBs (the rating board that attacks games with little detailed descriptions), MPAAs (the movie rating organization prone to giving ratings for speaking up about issues) and probably RIAAs (the music industry association known for blocking free speech and creativity) too." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

What Are Those Sheep-bots Doing?
By Chris Carella, The Daily Graze, Jan 05, 2007

Interesting and potentially useful in the long term. The article describes a research project to reverse-engineer Second Life in order to "make it open and readable like say, HTTP." It would be interesting to see whether the effort could derive some architectural features that would become like a vocabulary or protocol. What we would get is not merely a proliferation of tools that interface with Second Life but also a set of hosts (websites, whatever) that interact with those tools in some other Second-Life-like way. Alternative alt-reality, if you will. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Goes Open Source ...Sort Of
By Alfred Essa, The Nose, Jan 12, 2007

There's more on this, but I want to get it in: Linden Labs, the company that owns Second Life, is (in a sense) open sourcing its viewer. As Alfred Essa points out, that's a long way from open sourcing the platform itself, which is what we really need. I have long wondered why we can have a network of open source 3D realms, where we can jump from one realm to the next at will. That's what the old intermud protocol was supposed to be all about. It's almost tempting to try to resurrect some old MUD code to see whether a 3D layer could be added. Nightmare 3D Mudlib, anyone? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Predictions for 2007
By Lisa Neal, eLearn Magazine, Jan 16, 2007

eLearn Magazine's annual prognostication is out with the usual round of suspects. I like the way it begins, with Don Norman: "Finally, something might happen within the educational scene. Why? Because business leaders are now seriously worried." Elliott Masie jumps on next year's HD-TV trend with a meaningless buzzword: "a new model of High Definition Learning." Yeah, maybe when the viewers come down below the thousands of dollars. He also gets Web 3.0 into the same hyndred words. Sheesh. Michael Feldstein sees happy news coming from the Supreme Court (happy, that is, unless you work for Blackboard). Ray Schroeder is big on mobile learning, with a focus on Zune and the iPod. Well, maybe with iPod; Zune is nobody's favorite toy. Saul Carliner says "Experimentation in the design of e-learning programs will be more practical," but I see no good reason to believe that. Allison Rossett says, "Revolution is too strong a word for where we are today. Intimations, hints, glimmers, and possibilities-those words describe it better." Yeah, but hints and glimmers of what? Of... revolution, perhaps? Jay Cross touts the year of pull, the unconference, and cites Moore's Law. Me? "The internet is ripe for something new (and no, that something is not Second Life)." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: Technology Predictions for 2007
By Catherine Howell, EDUCAUSE Connect, Jan 23, 2007

Yes it's another 'future trends' article, but I like what seems to be (when compared to all the gee-whiz homages to 2L and mobile web we've been seeing) an almost contrarian set of "opportunity areas" - and a list that is surprisingly in accord with my own thinking. Identity, developer tools, and 'mobility no longer interesting'. Yeah. Because I too am "nonplussed" by the Educause 2007 Horizon Report. As Howell writes, "according to Educause, the 'significant impact' picks for 2007 are: User-Created Content; Social Networking; Mobile Phones; Virtual Worlds; The New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication; Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming." It's not simply, as she says, that "we are doomed always to lag far behind the crest of the technological wave." It's that it's a list that stridently follows the waves, even when there's nothing really there. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

My Second Life
By Jeff VanDrimmelen, EDUCAUSE Connect, Jan 24, 2007

Interesting. Description of a teacher's experimental forays into Second Life. "I was able to talk with other educators and bounce ideas off of them... all of this could be accomplished in an educational centered chat room, but somehow this was different." Great, right? Well, there's this: "I still probably won't make it back into Second Life anytime soon because I don't have the real need right now." And I worry about this, from a CNN article: "It's the ability to use Second Life as a platform for a whole new Net - this one in 3-D and even more social than the original - with huge opportunities to sell products and services." And more, as noted by PacRimX, "Linden hopes to control the standards for virtual worlds so that they become the equivalent of the HTTP and HTML standards that define the web." We had a standard, remember? VRML. What was wrong with it? Nobody owned it. We need to be careful, as I argued in 2000, to preserve our public spaces. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

eBay Bans Auctions of Virtual Goods
By Daniel Terdiman, CNet, Jan 30, 2007

eBay makes the right call here. Forget the dire prediction offered by this article, that "eBay may be effectively forcing players who participate in such trades into the hands of giant third-party operations that buy and sell virtual goods." The demand is created by the ease of selling on eBay and the ready market that the online sales site provides. Take that away and you take away a lot of the market as well. And although Second Life customers are not affected by the ban, eBay was probably looking at reports like this: The Liquidity Event (via Mark Oehlert). Basically, Second Life "land will likely become completely devalued and possibly even inaccessible except for further expenditure... because of a choice Linden Lab itself has already made, which is to open-source the server code and create the possibility for people to host their own virtual worlds." How much is virtual land worth if it's no longer scarce? D'Arcy Norman, meanwhile, crosses over to the dark side, offering criticisms of Second Life, echoed by Leigh Blackall. Not feeling so lonely over here any more. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Collaborative Building in Second Life
PacificRim Exchange, Feb 02, 2007

This video is a very good demonstration of how an environment like Second Life can be useful (and no, it doesn't have a single lecture theatre of video screen in it). (P.S. the author of this blog continues to remain anonymous - making me wonder whether it's marketing rather than a real blog. Certainly the gush gush gush reporting is uncharacteristic of a typical blog). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Universities Register for Virtual Future
By Stefanie Olsen, CNet, Feb 08, 2007

According to this article, "more than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life." I have been asking people what it is that appeals about Second Life, and the answer seems to be 'presence' (that should make Terry Anderson happy). OK, I see that, but how is presence in Second Life different than, say, presence in a chatroom? Or maybe it isn't - I've seen no real slowdown in chatrooms per se, it's just that nobody makes a big fuss about them any more. I think that what we are seeing is a return to the familiar. It's not just presence, it's environment. That's probably what bothers me about it, too. That kind of environment never did anything for me. All the capabilities and freedoms I got by moving online, I lose again when I'm in a 2L lecture. But maybe that's the way the teachers like it. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The News From Second Life: An Interview with Peter Ludlow
By Henry Jenkins, JournalConfessions of an Aca/Fan, Feb 09, 2007

Interesting set of interviews with Peter Ludlow (Part One, Part Two), who is both "muckraking journalist in Second Life [and] a professor in the department of Philosophy and Linquistics at the University of Michigan." The conversation is both fascinating and infuriating. I nod with agreement when Ludlow says, of the Avastar (a PDF-based Second Life newspaper), "They had an opportunity to come to this strange and fantastic new place where all the rules can be rewritten, and the only thing they could think of doing was coming up with a product that mimics meat space newspapers as much as possible." But I dislike the combative response to criticisms of Second Life. "Clay came along with some true, but very obvious and not so interesting observations about the 'Second Life residents' number... the interest of Second Life has nothing to do with the number of eyeballs it is delivering." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

SecondLife: Revolutionary Virtual Market or Ponzi Scheme?
By Randolph Harrison, Capitalism 2.0, Feb 19, 2007

People who renege on their obligations, banks that disappear overnight, gerrymandered exchange rates, and a completely unregulated investment environment. This is the Second Life 'economy' where (we are told) millions of dollars are being made every day. "SecondLife is a giant magnet for the desperate, uninformed, easily victimized. Its promises of wealth readily ensnare those who can least afford to lose their money or lives to such scams." Do read the comments for some raucous discussion. See also this item, which notes, "If you can actually collect your SLLs from your counterparty - which turns out to be an enormous problem - you can't cash them out for USD easily or profitably."

While I'm on this topic, it is worth noting that because Second Life is bogging down when it gets crowded (where 'crowded' means about 38,000 people - hardly the million the legends are made of) Linden Labs will be to "paying accounts". More and More. Maybe it's time to start selling those Linden dollars, hm? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Wii Report
By Boris Mann, B.Mann Consulting, Feb 19, 2007

I still think that the introduction of the Wii is a much bigger story than Second Life and possibly even bigger than mobile computing (though there may be some overlap between Wii and mobile). This article points to this, describing not only its use as a game but also the personalized Mii (virtual avatars for each user) to email to web access. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Two Great Tools
By Jennifer Wagner, Thoughts From A Technospud, Feb 21, 2007

I just got email saying my proposal to CADE/AMTEC has been accepted (good thing - it was the only paper submission I sent out this year!) so I'll be in Winnipeg in mid-May. This is a good time to take a break, as I have other travel plans as well: Toronto at the end of March, Boston (e-learning Guild) and Bogota for conferences in April, Holland at the end of May, Taiwan in June and Anaheim in October.

But right now I'm tired. I need a vacation. Don't panic, I'm not going anywhere - it's just I've lost the will to fight against winter and so will be posting out of the home office for the next couple of weeks. That will allow me to ignore my work and look at interesting things - like these two resources, one an alternative to second life, the other a social site for interacting with podcasts. Neat-O. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life & Voice - It Will Happen!
By Brett Bixler, Penn State Virtual Worlds, Feb 27, 2007

They can't handle more than 38,000 people at a time, forcing them to kick 'non-paying' customers off the service at peak loads, but they're going to have voice chat integrated by June, 2007? You know, what this reminds me of is AOL's original strategy - advertising like crazy, offering a service that they couldn't sustain, then turning around and using the hype money to buy a real business, which in their case turned out to be Time-Warner.

Meanwhile, we have a competing virtual world called Outback Online coming onto the scene. And what will happen, of course, is exactly what happened with social networking (and so many other services - it's like the business community makes the same mistake over and over), a set of 3D virtual world silos each trying to attract a market share. We'll go througn several years of this and eventually an open source effort, maybe called Open3D or something like that, will create a single-identity distributed version. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Learning in Immersive Worlds: a Review of Game Based Learning
By Sara de Freitas, Eccos Revista Científica, Mar 01, 2007

Substantial (73 page PDF) report on the use of games to support learning, including a section on Second Life. The report is well written and well documented but I am still uneasy with it, as it seems to me to take the perspective of the use of games by learning (eg., see the diagrams on page 36, and the conclusions on page 7 (eg. "Use of both leisure (commercial-off-the-shelf) games and proprietary games need to be embedded in practice effectively and in accordance with sound pedagogic principles and design."), which really seem to be in no way supported by the literature). Rather than using games in learning, I still think educators should be looking at how to use learning in games. Related: a greate example from GamaSutra of a game design document. As Clark Quinn observes, "they freely switch between lookup tables, flow charts, and other ways of representing their thoughts." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Frontier of Education: Web 3D
By Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Mar 02, 2007

This is the best post of 2007 to date. My feeling is that the Web 3D described by Vicki Davis here is a lot more likely to have legs than the weakly insipid Web 3.0 touted by the backers of the corporate semantic web. "The 3D web has really been around since the Sims went online and allowed people to virtually live next to each other. However, things like Second Life, Xbox live, Google Earth and World of Warcraft, are just beginning to show the power of networks and engagement of the 3D web. Now things like Moove and Kaneva are cropping up. The MetaVerse roadmap first met last year to discuss the 'pathway to the 3D web.'"

And more, "I think the next big browser will allow you to interact in 3D with any website. (Yes, Second Life is open source, but the environment is not!) Why should you have to 'join?' Shouldn't there be protocols and filters and standards for a 3D web browsing experience just like we have with a 2D experience of words and static photographs?" Quite right. And maybe that's what bothers me most about Second Life. It's not like they invented 3D. It's not even like they're taking it to a good place. They've basically hijacked the concept and advertised their way into prominence. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Thinking About 3D Web - or Is It Web 3.0?
By Alja Sulcic, iAlja, Mar 06, 2007

Reflections on Vicki Davis's recent post on Second Life and Web 3D. While nodding toward the educational benefits a 3D web will offer, Alja Sulcic says there should be open protocols and standards, that it should be more accessible, more cross-platform, and preserve the values of Web 2.0. "Ratings have no functional effect and you have to pay to give them? Hm, doesn't really sound like Web 2.0 to me." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Cool Cat Teacher Gets It - the Future of the Web (and Maybe Online Learning) Will Be 3D
By Sean Fitzgerald, Mar 06, 2007

Another response to Vicki Davis's post on Second like and Web 3D. Though it covers a lot of ground and is largely encouraging, this post mostly takes Davis to task for criticizing Second Life. Most significant is the following observation: "the 3D web may not be Web3D, it may be built on a completely different architecture using a completely different client. The X3D standards will have an impact, but may not win out in the end. One of the biggest drawbacks of VRML/X3D is that it does not allow for multi-user interaction, and I believe this social, collaborative aspect of 3D worlds is what has been driving their adoption." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

By Various authors, Farside Inc., Mar 07, 2007

I signed up for the Second Life Educators mailing list and it paid off in one day, as Gunnar Schwede posts this link. "This service allows you convert a Flash Video / FLV file (Youtube's movie,etc) to MPEG4 (AVI/MOV/MP4/MP3/3GP) file online." Even better, When you submit an url, it will download and convert to the video format. Then you can download the converted file. The the Flash Video to MPEG 4 converter is open source. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Worlds Shake-Up
By Stan Trevena, PacificRim Exchange, Mar 09, 2007

Stan Trevena points to and comments on a BBC article describing some overdue changes coming to the MMORPG world (for the rest of you - that's what online 3D looked like before Second Life grabbed all the media coverage). "Lord of the Rings Online is about ready to launch. It is very similar to World of Warcraft and has the potential to bleed off players from WOW." No kidding. A 3D world with something to do in it - what will they think of next? While we're at it, Emma Duke-Williams posts a list of 3D worlds. "We just seem to have drifted into SL exclusively." yeah. How'd that happen? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Some Real Data On Web 2.0 Use
By David White, TALL Blog / JISC, Mar 16, 2007

Survey, British-based, of 1400 respondents, on the use of Web 2.0 technologies. The respondents are self-selected, so expect the numbers to skew high. Even so, we get some useful data about the patterns of use. That iCal, for example, attracts only a smal percentage of calendar users, while Google Calendar, yahoo Calendar and Outlook are running neck and neck. We also see that World of Warcraft is a lot more popular than Second Life. Everquest, Chess and HalfLife are also more popular. And wikipedia is well used, especially by people with advanced degrees. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Piloting Second Life Voice
Penn State Virtual Worlds, Mar 21, 2007

Will voice work in Second Life? Here's a chance to try for yourself. Related: Australian universities in Second Life. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities
By Daniel Atkins, John Seely Brown, Allen Hammond, William, Flora Hewlett Foundation, Mar 26, 2007

Only a small percentage of Hewlett money is invested outside the U.S. ($12 million out of $68 million, mostly to Europe, Africa and China) and most of it is given to large institutions (who, IMHO, don't need the money) so I haven't paid strict attention to the foundation's activities supporting open educational resources (OERs) - though, to be sure, the agencies funded, such as MIT's OpenCourseWare and Rice's Connexions, have had a far-reaching impact.

Anyhow, about half this report is devoted to summarizing the Foundation's activities. Where it gets interesting is with this: "We are advocating investments to achieve more pervasive access to OER and are advocating an initiative aimed at deeper impact on learning. We advocate an initiative, building on OER, to create a global culture of learning. A culture of learning, or what some might call a learning ecosystem, is targeted at preparing people for thriving in a rapidly evolving, knowledge-based world... We now propose that OER be leveraged within a broader initiative-an international Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure (OPLI) initiative..."

The Foundation, in other words, should embrace Web 2.0. Sort of - the authors pile everything but the kitchen sink into the concept, including rich media, Second Life, virtual organizations, mobile computing and gaming. The report also suggests creating linkages with e-science and cyberinfrastructure (a 'grassroots movement', according to the authors, though "catalyzed by a landmark 2003 report from an NSF-appointed Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel, 'Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure.'" - uh huh).

There is no doubt some merit in the concept of the OPLI - it is, after all, very similar to what I recommended in 2005 ("the functions of production and consumption need to be collapsed, that the distinction between producers and consumers need to be collapsed") but in the details (p. 66 ff) there needs to be some hard (and critical) thinking. Why is Globus a model but Google not? Is repurposing the good idea it is made out to be (why not a new resource for each context)? When they say 'service-oriented', do they mean SOA, REST, or JSON? Is automated interchange a good idea? And why oh why would you allow resources that are manifestly not open to be called "open" on the dubious basis that there is "a continuum of openness." And is "smartly instrumented" just a way for the evidence-based people to sneak into the mix?

Hewlett, like I say, goes for the institution-based solution, and this report plays right into that (and the authors even offer to recommend funding candidates). OERs don't yet exist, and this report recommends a move away from them. Caution is warranted. Via Graham Attwell, who offers his own comments. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Alternate Reality Games SIG/Whitepaper
By Adam Martin, Tom Chatfield, IGDA, Mar 27, 2007

Scott Wilson links to this White Paper, now stored as a wiki, and comments, "I think I must be a bit unusual in the EdTech sector as I find ARGs fascinating and full of amazing possibilities, but find Second Life as being rather boring and lacking potential. Maybe I'm missing something." My assessment is similar, so I must be missing what he's missing. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Pelican Crossing Releases Blink 3D 1.1
By Press Release, Pelican Crossing, Apr 04, 2007

I'm not sure what to make of this - maybe that the difference between 1.0 and 1.1 is better publicity. Still, despite the lack of an open source version, the concept is too nice not to pass along: an application that is (according to the press release) "a complete system for creating interactive, animated and chat enabled multi-user 3D Web environments easily and without the need for programming skills." The White Paper, White Paper: The Metaverse 2.0, is certainly worth a read. The video is less impressive (you've seen one 3D scene, you've seen them all). See also the Pelican Crossing website. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Creating Second Life Content
By Richard Hoeg, eContent, Apr 04, 2007

The idea is good, and the web page links to tutorials on how to build a chair in Second Life, how to build a create a teleport link in Second Life (so ironic - in the old days of MUDs, teleport links were called 'portals' ("step through he portal to get to fantasy island"), which is where the idea and name of web-based 'portals' came from - now back in the multi-user environment they're called 'teleport links' again - with no sign of a name change in sight. Anyhow, the author should have used Flash video (or YouTube) instead of unreliable .mov videos. finally, note the way this instruction is being delivered - people may talk about 'online classes' (whether on the web or in 2L) but when they actually need to deliver instruction, they're delivering small snippets of content through RSS. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Brand Map
K Zero, Apr 05, 2007

What's interesting about this map of Second Life is that it illustrates in a way no number or words could illustrate, this 'corporate utopia' of the world consisting almost entirely of islands owned by corporations or other large organizations. When the entire universe is privately owned, the idea of a common area does not merely become moot, it becomes dangerous and subversive. Via Pacific Rim Exchange. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

I'M Ready for NECC Are You?
By Jeff Utecht, The Thinking Stick, Apr 19, 2007

Post with some good links to edublogging-type locations in Second Life (including Will Richardson's office), suggesting that there should be an edublogger meetup in 2L tied to NECC. Why would you need to tie it to NECC? I don't know. Just have the meetup (rolls eyes). Meanwhile, Andrew Pass obsevres: "It's got to be more than just an opportunity to chat about technology. I'm not a technology person and frankly I don't think that technology for its own sake is very important. It's got to help people accomplish an important task or it's worthless." Related: Trek museum in Second Life (and btw, Star Trek First Contact is the best ST movie, bar none). Related: Mark Wagner suggests an education grid in 2L. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

ACHUB - Arts, Music and Edu in SecondLife
By Various authors, PBWiki, Apr 24, 2007

Sometimes when posting a link I'm filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, setting up a wiki for arts, music and education in Second Life seems like a good idea. On the other hand, many of the pages aren't created. But on the other hand, they post the password to the wiki on the front page, which is cool. But on the other hand, they are advertising conference space on 2L 'for rent'. But on the other hand, they link to this Boycott Blackboard page. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Enhancing Learning Seminar
By Dan Seamans, Glass Houses, Apr 26, 2007

Summary of a Becta session on simulations and game based learning (hence this survey of teaching practices in Second Life). While noting that we still need more evidence about what students learn from games and simulations, the author mostly focused on examples including Schome (which is focusing mostly on Second Life, it seems), the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset, where students build their own games, and the Brain Training Game, which I'd love to try one day (you need a Nintendo though). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life University
By Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick, MSN Encarta, Apr 27, 2007

MSN Encarta covers 'Second Life University'. It's mostly upbeat - while nodding to some of the drawbacks (the learning curve, having to type in order to talk) it points to some of the oft-touted benefits of the 3D environment. Via Pacific Rim Exchange. It makes me wonder (because there's a lot invested in making Second Life appear to be a viable platform and the 'next web' - what happens if Microsoft buys Second Life? Could it keep the platform more or less proprietary and essentially take over the 3D web by integrating it with Windows? Yes - it could. Which is why the battle of ideas over Second Life is so important. And why we need to look at the alternatives to Second Life in a new light. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Sizing Up the Opposition
By Tom Haskins, growing changing learning creating, Apr 30, 2007

Let me, at some risk, draw a connection between two separate threads. On the one hand, there is this series of posts discussing the creation of School 2.0 (or Education 2.0) groups on Ning. What is the motivation for this? there have been some emails flinging around - I haven't taken part in this exchange - where people are examining each other's motivations. People are trying very hard to be civil but it's clear there are some hard feelings. Why draw people from open and public discourse, some are asking, into private places like Ning networks? See Ed Tech Talk for a list of links and discussion, including an audio recording.

I think that there's a couple of things going on. On the one hand, there's the desire to build an audience by being the first to pick something popular. That explains (in my mind) a lot of the push behind other things, like Twitter and Second Life, each of which has spawned its own experts. But the other is that these businesses are very cleverly tapping into a latent conservatism - one that serves their own interests and helps people feel comfortable in familiar surroundings. This is the thread that is captured in Tom Haskin's discussion. "When we are in favor of any change, we encounter those who favor stability. In these situations, it's tempting to misjudge the opposition and fall for their deceptive tactics. It's even possible to 'bark at the decoy' and miss where the real resistance lies." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Keyboard Shortcuts
Eduforge, May 01, 2007

For those of you that need them. :) [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Open Letter to Linden Lab
By Stan Trevena, PacificRim Exchange, May 02, 2007

This post reports on an open letter from Second Life users to the company that runs it, Linden Labs. Second Life is beginning to show some strains. People are concerned about their inventories disappearing. There are frequent search outages. The grid itself isn't stable, meaning that teleports routinely fail. The build tools are not working properly. And there are even questions about transactions and Linden dollar balances. These are, in my view, just the sort of problems to be expected from an overly centralized system. I'm not sure there's an easy way out for Linden Labs. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

SL Instructional Videos On YouTube
By Aaron Griffiths, Eduforge, May 04, 2007

As the title suggests, "a set of Second Life instructional videos on YouTube by Torley Linden." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

80% with a Second Life
By Dave Warlick, 2 cents worth, May 09, 2007

This is the sort of thing I think is just ridiculous. According to the Gartner press release cited here by Dave Warlick, 80 percent of active internet users will "have a second life" by 2011 - that is, they will be participants in a virtual world. If they mean 'will have tried it once' then maybe there's an outside chance. But if they mean 'will be an active participant', then there is no chance. Like the 'five laws' for participating in virtual world they also offer, the statement is not grounded in reality. "Behind every avatar is a real person?" Ridiculous - have they never heard of bots? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

IBM Executive Calls for Virtual Planet
By China Martens, PC World, May 09, 2007

According to this article, "Nick Donofrio, executive vice president, innovation and technology at IBM, hopes to encourage the creation of what he termed 'a virtual planet' where rival virtual worlds are more interlinked." This reminds me of the old days of Intermud. But this really only managed to accomplish cross-MUD communications. Packing your +50 Excalibur class sword from Frag-world DIKU to MediaMOO just wasn't on, really. Similar issues would exist in today's new commercial 3D worlds - could you bring clothing into Second Life from There? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

By Various Culprits, Website, May 10, 2007

Via Cogdog's Twitter, where he was simulcommenting my presentation on Second Life, an encyclopedia that's full of misinformation. And proud of it. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

PaperVision 3D - a 3D Flash Engine
By Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, May 10, 2007

What comes after Second Life? Well, you can be sure the developers at Adobe (Macromedia) haven't been idle. Mark Oehlert describes: "that shark you see was swimming around my head and I could use my mouse to look around a 360 degree arc as well as looking up and down..." Meanwhile, I love his new avatar. Reminds me of a conversation I had today, wherein we wondered why buildings in Second Life have walls. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Eduserv Symposium - Virtual Worlds, Real Learning?
By Richard Wallis, Panlibus, May 11, 2007

Good summary of the proceedings from yesterday's Eduserv conference on Second Life. My only quibble is that the advice, "Second Life is here, now - use it," does not recognize the existence of various alternatives, a number of which were mentioned by several panelists. See also this summary by Shirley Williams. And Kathryn Greenhill offers a really nice detailed summary.

Jo Kay stayed up 'til one a.m. to watch my talk and then was disappointed, not because she disagreed with me, but because the wanted to see more emphasis on the projects and the potential. Fine - and that's what the other five speakers provided. And if I hadn't raised the issues (which are genuine) nobody would have. Is that a fair waiy to treat people who are trying to learn about the technology?

Angela Thomas, meanwhile, posted a summary of the sessions as seen through Second Life. John Kirriemuir posted a number of screen shots in his summary. And see Andrew Stewart's longish commentary, to which I've added a comment clarifying part of my argument. Barbara Dieu also commented, saying that my criticisms should not prevent people from experimenting with Second Life. I don't think I ever said that - but I would certainly recommend caution before making a large financial investment.
Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Another Life Unexpurgated
By Jay Cross, Informal Learning, May 14, 2007

Jay Cross offers quite a good overview of the use of virtual worlds in business (and especially business learning) applications. "The thoughtful application of VW technology," he writes, "will significantly enhance the experience and transfer of learning." How? Co-creation, social sandboxes, and enriched experience. He surveys a number of companies offering virtual world services, including Second Life, There, Multiverse, and Forterra, among others, and looks at some implementations, including IBM, Apple and the New Media Consortium. "It is premature to invest a ton of energy in VWs," he says, but "we encourage you to dip your toe in the virtual water." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Top Ten Missing Features of Second Life As an Educational Simulation Platform
By Clark Aldrich, Weblog, May 14, 2007

See? I could have been a lot more critical of Second Life last week. By asking for thing like "Dynamic AI Characters, with which participants can repeatedly try new behavior to see how they react," for example. Or any of the other nine things Clark Aldrich thinks (reasonably) is missing from Second Life (I'd love to see a HUD). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Wii Love New Controls
By Stan Trevena, PacificRim Exchange, May 16, 2007

I think this could be interesting: making the Wii work with Second Life. Maybe I should Wii-ify my website. You can read the archives by gesturing with your numchuk. Yeah, I can see it now. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

De-Briefing the Symposium - Running a Blended Real Life/Second Life Event
By Andy Powell, eFoundations, May 18, 2007

Longish debriefing of the Eduserv event on virtual worlds recently held in London. It would be interesting to see more of this from conference organizers. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Top Ten Missing Features of Second Life As an Educational Simulation Platform
By Clark Aldrick, Weblog, May 22, 2007

A pretty good list, and it shows what a detailed attention to the design of games (Aldrich has been engaged in the creation of a glossary for some months now) can bring to the picture. Post-action review, for example, is a standard in sports and action games, yet wholly missing in 2L. I'd really like to see more NPCs in 2L as well (these would be required for a couple of suggestions). Right now it's like 30,000 people in an area 8 times the size of Manhattan - a bit empty. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Defining and Understanding Virtual Worlds
By Karl M. Kapp, Learning Circuits, May 24, 2007

Useful article defining and explaining some terms related to online vistual worlds, including MMOPGG, avatar and metaverse. The author's introduction of the term "massively multilearner online learning environment" (MMOLE) is to my knowledge new and is used to introduce a virtual learning world (VLW - that's my term) called ProtoSphere. This product, so new it's not even located on the web, is apparently offered by a company called Proton media. See other reviews here and here. Meanwhile, for open source virtual worlds, you may want to look at Croquet (which, I was told last night, is pronounced "Crow - Ket" - one of those mispronunciations that make most English speakers wince). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Technologies of Collaboration
By Gary Woodill, Weblog, Jun 13, 2007

Overview slide show presented to ASTD listing (and linking to) a variety of cpllaborative technologies. Useful, but pale blue on mini-PDF slides is not the best format for readability (I had to enlarge to 250 percent to read the links). The remarks in the blog post are interesting: "About half of the training professionals had used Google Earth, but almost none had tried Second Life. In fact, I had the impression that much of what I showed was completely new to most of the attendees." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Web 2.0 and Your Own Learning and Development
By Stephen Downes, Google Video, Jun 18, 2007

Today's newsletter is a bit late because - once again - a video project ran away with my time. This time, it was the content for a talk I'm giving to the British Council tomorrow. The audience will see the video in the morning, and then chat with me by Skype in the afternoon. I had really wanted the video to be more - I made it using Camtasia (my first with that software) and I wanted to add screencasts showing the Web 2.0 tools being used. But the audio track was attached to the PIP, which meant I couldn't cut from the webcam video to the screencam without losing my soundtrack - sure, it could be fixed, but not in the time I had. But I'll get better at this. I am also scheduled to appear at an event in Second Life tomorrow - here is the SLURL (SLURL stands for Second Life URL). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Efsym2007 Revisited
By Pete Johnston, eFoundations, Jun 21, 2007

Summary of a seminar inside Second Life I attended Tuesday, a follow-up from the one-day conference hosted by Eduserv last month. A couple of things surfaced: first, the use of a moderation system to manage the discussion was less than successful, and second, it was suggested that the Second Life venue didn't add anything over and above a plain text chat such as IRC ("who is looking at the avatars?" asked a participant, "and who is looking at the chat history window?"). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Blaise Aguera Y Arcas: Jaw-Dropping Photosynth Demo
By Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Jun 25, 2007

I don't like blogging stuff from TED because of their regressive admission fees policy. But you absolutely want to take the 15 minutes or so to watch this demonstration. This - rather than any Second Life experience - tells you what the 3D web experience will be like. Via Albert Ip. Tony Hirst, meantime, links to the same video as part of his presentation saying to Open University staff, in a nutshell, that "We ignore social networks and social technology platforms at OUr peril." I like the use of these examples to show people what's coming down the pipe long before it hits them. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Watch Out Second Life: China Launches Virtual Universe with Seven Million Souls
By Vic Keegan, Jun 26, 2007

The past tense used in the headline is misleading; the story is only about an announcement that a Swedish company has been hired by the Chinese to build a massive 3D world capable of hosting seven million people at a time. Via Bill Ives. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Metaverse Roadmap: Pathways to the 3D Web
By Jamais Cascio, Open the Future, Jul 04, 2007

What happens when the 3D web begins to interact with our usual ways of interacting with the world and each other? This report describes in detail the possible scenarios, from augmented reality to mirror worlds, lifelogging, political change and the transparent society. Lots of detail, illustrations and examples. Very comprehensive. The 28 page report is available as a PDF (multi-column, so it's a pain to read). Via Liberal Education Today. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Gnomes Rain From Azeroth'S Skies
By Tony Walsh, Clickable Culture, Jul 05, 2007

Something that hasn't come up a lot - yet: spam in virtual worlds. There is already a pretty well established history of advertising in video games (for But this is of a different order - the spam, in the form of corpse graffiti, was created by players, not game owners. This just raises the spectre of spam objects filling places like Second Life with advertising - and what's to stop them? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Woodbury University Island Destroyed
By Pixeleen Mistral, Second Life Herald, Jul 06, 2007

Second Life administrators at Linden Labs have removed an island owned by Woodbury University in response to "incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts." As the authors write, "the question of 'ownership' of virtual land is brought into stark focus here. Will Woodbury write off its investment in virtual real estate? Will the Lindens refund all or part of their payments?"

See also this interview Woodbury University's Edward Clift who says, "Universities should be made aware that Linden Labs maintains global surveillance on all the activities of their student members and monitors them both on campus and off-site." See also Nobody Fugazi, who writes, "A lack of transparency in the Abuse Report system makes this very difficult to assess from a community standpoint."

Meanwhile, Mark Wallace writes, "I'm sure the uses were inappropriate, but the problem is that they were not being undertaken by the owners of the land... LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they've handled the situation thus far." Yeah maybe. But when you look at the evidence and images displayed at Grid Grind (and more in the Second Life Times and also here), it's hard not to agree that "this was inevitable." More coverage from Virtual Worlds News.

On the other hand, check out this article, from a month ago: "Woodbury got it right. On the surface they have the 'campus' entity, but down below is the space for students... This has recharged my thoughts about the potential of Second Life. I think there is definitely an opportunity to offer compelling, interactive, creative environments for users, but it starts by leaving out all of our preconceived notions of 'libraries' and building something unique."

Of course, we have the Chronicle offering breathless coverage of the bad bad technology (they assigned two writers to it). "In the freewheeling virtual world Second Life, Woodbury has been deleted." Oh yes, the real world triumphs again! The Chronicle report is for subscribers only, but who needs it, with all this free (and fair-minded) coverage? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds
By Press Release, Blackboard, Jul 17, 2007

As the PDF says, "Blackboard is funding a single $25,000 (USD) grant for initiatives that promote the integration of virtual worlds into teaching and learning." This of course follows the successful development of Sloodle (PDF White paper) which integrates the open source Moodle LMS with Second Life. See also the Blackboard Connections website. See also this email. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

MUD Creator Richard Bartle On the State of Virtual Worlds
By Keith Stuart, Jul 18, 2007

I have always had - in the context of our online community - a unique perspective on things like Second Life because of my history working with Multi-User Dungeons (or Domains, MUDs). So I was especially pleased to encounter this excellent interview with the creator of the first MUD, Richard Bartle as he discusses, among other things, 3D virtual worlds like Second Life. Some highlights:

Why are people less altruistic in the new virtual worlds? "The virtual worlds are not as sophisticated. Yes, they have the 3D graphics, but what you can do in them as a player isn't as sophisticated as what you can do in a textual world."

Can virtual communities really become important? "Game worlds in particular are places of adventure and excitement, similar to the real world but apart from it. People go there as part of a hero's journey - a means of self-discovery (shh! don't let the players know - they think it's just "to have fun"). When they've grown as people and become the individuals they set out to become, they have no need to play any more."

Will Web 3D take off? "Text is very good at conveying information. You don't need a 3D environment to read text, and indeed it could get in the way.... Also, in an avatar-based virtual world, you're controlling a character... Do I gain anything from having to direct my character to read something I want to read? Or is it an unnecessary level of indirection?" [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A July 2007 Snapshot of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life
By John Kirriemuir, Eduserv, Jul 20, 2007

The title is pretty descriptive as the report surveys trials and discussions, though it doesn't really look into the problems (because initiatives haven't really scaled up yet) or the criticisms. PDF. Via Eduforge. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Wagering In Second Life: New Policy
By Robin Linden, Second Life, Jul 26, 2007

Well, there goes the Second Life economy. Linden Labs has just banned gambling and wagering in the online virtual world. This puts an end to the casinos users found scattered throughout the game. While addressing one issue, though, the move raises another issue - governance. Because the policy change simply came down from above, just like that - no vote, no nothing. There's going to be a lot of fallout over this. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

7 Ways Croquet Is Better Than Second Life
By Jeff VanDrimmelen,, Jul 30, 2007

Good post that argues that Croquet - the open source 3D multi-user environment - is better than Second Life. The most significant is scalability - each Second Life server can only handle 15-25 people (which is really quite astonishing). But Croquet isn't perfect - the author also points to some of the flaws, in cluding a code-base that isn't bug-free. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions On a Deserted Second Life
By Frank Rose, Wired, Aug 01, 2007

"There was nobody else around." He teleported over to the Aloft Hotel, a virtual prototype for a real-world chain being developed by the owners of the W. It was deserted, almost creepy. "I felt like I was in The Shining." Related: Karl Kapp describes a session in ProtoSphere (click under 'solutions' to find the unlinkable Flash page describing ProtoSphere). Dig the shirts and ties. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Which World for 3D Webbing?
By Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, Aug 08, 2007

I talked with someone from Sun about their own (Java based) 3D world servers. Meanwhile, this article also mentions Open Croquet and Multiverse. We are still a long way away from this being a useful technology but there's a lot of work being done in a lot of places. As Scott Wilson says, the thing abourt metaverses is, there is a lot of them. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Money Trouble in Second Life
By Erica Naone, Technology Review, Aug 10, 2007

"Well, there goes the Second Life economy." That was my reaction after gambling was banned in Second Life a couple of weeks ago. "Claiming it means the end of the economy is a bit premature," said a commentator. Hardly. According to today's report, following a run on Second Life banks, "the entire Second Life economy--which could affect more than 8.5 million players--is in trouble." Via Liberal; Education Today. Meanwhile, Second Life is still reeling from the drubbing it took as Chris Anderson explains the feeling of emptiness and why he gave up on Second Life. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Try Before You Buy
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Aug 13, 2007

Link to a pretty good video describing educational uses of Second Life. The URLs cited would have been better placed in the blog post (where people could lick on them) than in the video, though. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

E-Learning Market Update (August 2007)
Kineo, Aug 24, 2007

Good post that summarizes Adobe's decision to end production of Athorware and to support higher definition video in the next version of Flash (the company knows a strength when it sees it, I guess - more on this). It also looks briefly at social networking and what users want in an authoring tool. And this provides me with a nice generic post to mention a few things I've been saving.

Via Zeldman, Eric Meyer's CSS Sculptor allows users to quickly design CSS from one of 30 templates. Good, but would be better if it were free. Also, Google has launched a feature that allows you to embed maps in web pages. Nifty. Jane Hart, meanwhile, links to Tokbox , for providing video conferencing on a web page. Dan Colman writes about a surprising success, grammar podcasts. Also, researchers are studying how the plague would spread in World of Warcraft. One assumes it would spread the same way in Second Life, but you could buy a lab coat for $4.95 and study it on a private island. More on this. Richard Nantel writes about Pecha-Kucha, a tool that forces presentations to be no more than 20 slides long, and each slide of 20 seconds duration, for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Doug Belshaw has launched, his new consulting company. Norm Friesen offers a Canadian perspective on internet research methods.

Hey, this was fun. Maybe I'll make a post like this a regular Friday feature. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

OpenSim - Open Source Multi User Blah Blah (Sl). Dave Is in Love.
By Dave Cormier, Dave's Educational Blog, Aug 30, 2007

"OpenSim is a BSD Licensed Open Source project to develop a functioning virtual worlds server platform capable of supporting multiple clients and servers in a heterogenous grid structure." And Dave Cormier is sold on it. "The folks at Second Life said they wouldn't accept my pre-teens. They said that the 'conversation we had no longer applied'. I now have to thank them for forcing me to go out and find the open sourced alternative." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Avatars Without Virtual Worlds: an Alternative Platform
By Bryan Alexander, Infocult: Information, Culture, Policy, education, Sept 04, 2007

Sorry about the unscheduled deliveries of OLDaily this morning. They were the result of unscheduled system reboots while I had the 'send newsletter' window open. I promise that mistakes like this will happen again in the future. Anyhow, how do things like this reach 10 million users before I've even heard of them? Some days I think I'm plugged in, other days I really wonder. Stardoll is a site that lets you create your own doll. Or your own avatar. Bryan Alexander finds this gem: "We spoke with CEO Mattias Miksche in July to discuss the importance of avatars versus virtual worlds, and he emphasized the importance of identity and realism over immersiveness." Which raises the question, do avatars need virtual worlds? And the answer is, of course not. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

10 Future Web Trends
By Richard MacManus, Read / Write Web, Sept 06, 2007

I am inclined to agree with George Siemens when he says that these are not 'future' trends but technologies that are well under way and to some degree here today. Semantic web, artificial intelligence, virtual worlds... these, and related technologies, fill the pages of this newsletter every day. I've written my own version but with a foot much more clearly in the future. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Open Source Holo-Emitter for Second Life
By Brett Bixler, Penn State Virtual Worlds, Sept 12, 2007

It must be the philosopher in me, but I can't help asking about the ontological status of a hologram produced inside a virtual world like Second Life. Never mind questions like 'is it real?' or not - can it even be said to 'exist'? What is existence, if that exists? Could you get away with criticizing it because the hologram "doesn't look real?" What would that even mean? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Tablet PC Articles Available
By Alfred Thompson, Computer Science Teacher, Sept 14, 2007

I have always thought well of tablet computers, even though they've been overshadowed recently by things like Facebook, Second Life, and the iPhone. I still think they have a good future, and so I welcome this issue of the IEEE Computer magazine (this link, available only for a short time, is circulating inside Microsoft and HP, natch - if you don't get to it before they shut off the taps, send me an email). Anyhow, as the research here shows, tablets are being used for some useful applications - thinks like smart sketching, sharing digital ink in classrooms, and more. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Chronicle Spots the Dark Side of Second Life Usage
By Bryan Alexander, Infocult: Information, Culture, Policy, education, Sept 14, 2007

Bryan Alexander picks up on some more 'fear and trembling' coverage from the Chronicle, this time describing Second Life. "You see someone really playing out the self that they want to explore," she says. "It's not always who they want to be. Sometimes they can be exploring a dark side of themselves." Meanwhile, I've been following the discussion on the Second Life for Educators mailing list on a longer - and very negative - report by Michael J. Bugega in the Chronicle's hidden pages on Second Life. Chris Collins writes, "I'd characterize it as a scare article, and not very well informed." Raven Phoenix writes, " The short bit I was able to read is definitely geared to scare readers about Second Life. *sigh*" She adds, "I am having enough of a problem getting the word out to faculty where I am, already, without little-informed or misinformed media chiming in." I tell you - if the Chronicle writers opened up their pages for general public criticism, they probably couldn't take the heat. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Chronicle Fears Second Life, Continued
By Bryan Alexander, Infocult: Information, Culture, Policy, education, Sept 18, 2007

Bryan Alexander offers an extended review of Michael Bugeja's report on Second Life in the Chronicle of Higher Education, including a treat, a link to the author's homepage. Alexander is sharp in his criticism, wondering why "academia's news journal of record" can allow such sloppy, ill-informed writing. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Croquet Virtual World Demo
By Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, Sept 24, 2007

Mark Oehlert links to a short video demonstrating Croquet, the open source virtual world application. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

EduservCETIS 20Sep2007
By Various authors, CETIS, Sept 27, 2007

If you are interested in the use of Second Life in online learning, you'll want to access the slides and podcasts from this meeting help a few days ago summarizing the results of four research projects sponsored by Britain's Eduserv Foundation. The projects were: Theatre, Performance, History and Creative Pedagogy: Theatron's Second Life; Learning in Second Life; Modelling4All: Intersecting computer modelling, Web 2.0, and Second Life; and Learning Support in Second Life with Sloodle. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A First-Hand Look at a Chinese Second Life, HiPiHi
By Wagner James Au, Oct 01, 2007

Excellent article describing another 3D immersive environment similar to Second Life, a Chinese creation called HiPiHi (pronounced 'high-pee-high'). What's interesting is that this account brings with it a lot of cross-cultural currents - from the discussion of the Creative Commons licensing encouraged by HiPiHi to the hope for interoperability between HiPiHi and Second Life to the "Communist Party-style propaganda" urging newbies to "Build a harmonious world," and so on. Via Niko. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Reality EduTV and Open Second Life
By Will Richardson, Weblogg-ed, Oct 02, 2007

I had a fabulous time at the New Media Literacies in Learning Landscapes Conference in Charlottetown last Saturday. I have been very loosly associated with the online archiving project behind the conference (translation: Dave Cormier and I have chatted about it a few times and at one point filled a whiteboard full of notes). I think it's a great project, well worth doing. I have some really nice video from the conference - including Dave's presentation of OpenSim - that I need to process, but which I'll make available soon. Meanwhile we have Will Richardson's reflections. It's not really a post, but here are my notes about the tech used to produce this stuff, thanks to Jeff Lebow's presentation. Harold Jarche also posts about the conference. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Facebook Usage
By Andy Powell, eFoundations, Oct 08, 2007

Survey of what people do when they're on Second Life. Which is, mostly, to look at people's profiles and to look at pictures. What this tells me is that people are still in the 'browse' stage of Facebook - similar to the way people used to explore home pages in the early days of the web. This means that Facebook needs to evolve, because the browsing stage will end, and if there isn't something to engage people, they'll go elsewhere. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

NMC Publishes Results of Educators in Second Life Survey
New Media Consortium, Oct 08, 2007

Survey of educators associated with Second Life and the New Media Consortium. 100 percent of the respondents use Second Life (question 1) so this survey should be regarded in that light. That's why we see, for example, that 43 percent took a class in Second Life. And 33 percent of them own 'land' in the online environment. You need broadband to use Second Life; that's why only 1 percent use dial-up. But more interestingly, the most popular activity is 'wantering around' followed by 'meeting people'. So Second Life is still in the 'browsing' stage of use. Via Pete Johnston. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

IBM/Second Life Virtual World Collaboration
By Press Release, IBM, Oct 11, 2007

Linden Labs has taken what was probably the only path open to it - the development of open standards that will allow for interoperability between 3D virtual worlds. This virtually guarantees a robust open source virtual world server (and corresponding client(s)). The list of technologies that will be developed is impressive: 'universal' avatars, security-rich transactions (for the exchange of assets in and across virtual worlds), platform stability, integration with existing web and business processes, and open standards for interoperability with the current web. This is a deal they should probably have struck two months ago - when it could have been something like an acquisition, which would have rewarded Linden Lab's founders, and not just a partnership, which remains fraught with risk. Via Eduforge. Related: Chris Dede resurrects some old MUVE code to create the River City MUVEE. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Giving Your Facebook Profile a Second Life
By Alja Sulcic, iAlja, Oct 17, 2007

I guess it was inevitable that there would be a Second Life application in Facebook (just as interesting would be a Facebook application in Second Life - but I digress). But I will not be installing the application. Here's why: I was not able to choose my own name in Second Life, I had to select from a list. It is no part of my 'identity'. And so it doesn't become a part of my Facebook profile. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Educational Uses of Second Life
By Jo Kay, Sean Fitzgerald, Second Life in Education, Oct 18, 2007

This is a remarkable list of educational applicatiosn in Second Life - easily the most comprehensive I've seen anywhere - with descriptiopns, links and screen shots. You could easily spend the entire day with Second Life and this web page going from place to place (I've gone to a bunch of them). Related: Dave Pollard on SL as a platform for meetings. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

eLearning07 Conference Centre On Jokaydia!
By Jo Kay, NSW LearnScope Blog, Podcast, Oct 30, 2007

Starting in a couple of days is the E-Learning 07 conference (check out their use of protopage to provide a genuinely living and interactive conference web page). This link is to an introduction of the Second Life presence for the conference, hosted in jokaydia. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life: 20 Lessons
By Jeremy Kemp, Nov 06, 2007

Interesting presentation that not only sketches the role of Second Life in learning but also maps it against a dozen or so other sites for features such as players' creative capacity or the site's emphasis on collaborative behaviour. Good links on this. There's a bit of a tendency to represent Second Life as the pinnacle of online virtual world achievement, but the observations are nonetheless worth a look. Via Pacific Rim Exchange. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Education Wiki
By Various authors, Linden Labs, Nov 16, 2007

"Linden Lab's official resource for educators in Second Life." Contains links to lesson plans, a list of institutions and organizations in SL, competitions, mailing lists, and forums. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A Horrible Week On PacRimX
By Stan Trevena, Pacific Rim Exchange, Nov 21, 2007

Second Life has always tried to balance popularity and stability. Now with islands simply disappearing, things are looking very unstable. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Airplane Tracking in Second Life
By Daden Media, YouTube, Nov 21, 2007

I've got to pass along this video. The authors created a large floor-map of southern California in a room on Second Life. They then wrote an application that tapped into a web service providing the (time-delayed) locations of every airplane in the skies over southern California. This information was fed into Second Life as a formatted text file, and translated to become little tiny aircraft flying over the map, in the air. You can walk around the map and look at them, even reach out and touch them. As you watch, the map continues to update, so the planes move (in 60 second jumps). Fabulous. What a way to teach people how air traffic control works. Via Sean Fitzgerald. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Reflections On a DIY Streaming Experience
By Andy Powell, eFoundations, Nov 29, 2007

Video streaming in a multimedia environment is the new black. The solution we agreed on included the use of a basic Web-cam, a podcasting kit, two laptops (one for the streaming and one for Second Life - note that a very well spec'ed single laptop might have sufficed for both tasks but one wasn't available and using two felt like the safest option). I plan to do some of this sort of stuff while in Colombia next week, as well as from Malaysia in January. So stay tuned. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Getting Serious
The Economist, Dec 10, 2007

The Economist looks at the Facebook phenomenon. "It is a typical example of the colonisation of a new frontier," writes the author. "A few intrepid explorers stake out some new, unexplored territory. Before long the first settlers move in and start to look for ways to make a quick buck." And the Economist offers its usual advocacy of the free-market approach: "One way to deal with unwanted activity, in virtual worlds as in the real one, is to decriminalise and regulate it, rather than trying to outlaw it altogether." It's an odd advocacy, especially following a paragraph in which it is noted that "in May two players were banned from Second Life for depicting sexual activity between an adult and a child." The article is also noteworthy for having apparently copied a photo taken (and posted on Flickr) by Art Fosset. "Don't those people at The Economist understand CC BY-SA ??" he asks in an email post. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Augmented Evolvement Architecture
By Julia Pichler, Weblog, Dec 13, 2007

Julia Pichler introduces a new blog that will slowly, over the course of weeks and months, reveal a project about storytelling in augmented media. The project started with an introductory post a couple of weeks ago and has progressed through the introduction of Lila in Second Life, an avatar that isn't exactly the persona of her creator. Lila, you'll find, writes in the light text. The project also includes resources such as Ning and Facebook - see the full list in this post. It's complicated, but I really like the creativity, the visual elements (especially the drawings), and the multiple tracks. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Immersive Education: Education Grid
By Various authors, Harvard University, Dec 13, 2007

Harvard University recently hosted a event to highlight an initiative developing a "platform that combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms." There are suggestive diagrams on the site describing a layer of common code that will connect Wonderland, Croquet, Second Life and World of Warcraft. There is already a consortium of institutions that have joined this project. "Media Grid standards, technologies and initiatives (such as Immersive Education) are developed by an international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia and companies." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Two Dangerous Lessons From Second Life
By Dave Pollard, How to Save the World, Dec 21, 2007

The main thing to keep in mind is that the two lessons are not unique to Second Life. Here they are:
- We judge people, and assess their 'lovability', by their appearance;
- We are attracted to those who offer mystery, passion, attention and appreciation, even when that is unhealthy, insincere, needy or manipulative.
Why is this significant? Well, at least part of the appeal of Second Life is that it is not reality - we can all be beautiful and fashionable. That's OK - but we need to be clear that this, in turn, changes our perception of 'real life'. That, too, is OK, so long as we are not misled by this, so long we do not pursue in real life fantasy that exists only in Second Life. Language warning. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

20 Trends Defining Virtual Worlds in 2007
By Stuart Dredge, Tech Digest, Dec 24, 2007

Good summary discussing trends in the world of virtual worlds. Biggest take-home: "Us geeks talk about Second Life like it's the be-all and end-all of virtuality, but the kiddyworlds have way more active users. More importantly, a whole generation of children are growing up with the sense that virtual worlds are just a part of their lives - they don't even refer to them as virtual worlds." Via Technology, Education and the Future. Related: Second Life appears top have reached capacity, as these outrage statistics from the latter half of 2007 indicate. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Making a Space for Disruption
By Janet Clarey, Brandon hall Research, Dec 28, 2007

This is an interesting way to look at e-learning 1.0 (the old LMS) and e-learning 2.0 (the new social network). "I find myself having two entirely different conversations with people," writes Janet Clarey. "One conversation will be about creating tracking workers' competencies, addressing skills gaps, managing the pre-hire to retire cycle, developing learning plans, and matching gaps to learning interventions... The other conversation will be about collaboration and connections - how to use wikis, blogs, social networks, virtual worlds, etc. and it will likely flow into discussions around control and culture." But these aren't two sepaate converations - they're the same conversation, along a continuum. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Seeing Flowers Reproduce On Genome Island in Second Life
By Tom Werner, Brandon hall Research, Jan 02, 2008

This is a neat idea - replicating genome-based reproduction on Second Life, at a scale where people can see the mechanisms at work. Perhaps when they can see evolution at work on this scale it won't be so mysterious to people. No links or slurl with the blog post (tsk tsk), but you can see the demonstration here and read more about it here. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Open Sourcing the Museum
By Robert S. Stephenson, The Tech Virtual, Jan 07, 2008

This is an interesting project, using Second Life to allow people to collaboratively design museum exhibit prototypes. "It separates exhibit design from exhibit construction. By introducing Second Life as a rapid prototyping tool for exhibit design, this experiment makes it possible for individuals from around the world to collaborate on the same exhibit project. Using The Tech Museum in Second Life to showcase these exhibits designs makes it easy for museums to pick and choose what they will build in real life for their visitors. It opens the exhibit creation process up to the world at large." Here is more information and here is the Second Life SLURL. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Gouge Out Your Eyes with a Rusty Synecdoche
By Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge, Jan 07, 2008

One of the things that has troubled me about the 'network' way of thinking of things is its obvious coupling with what has come to be known as the 'free market' economy. Such as, say, the predictions markets discussed in this Cognitive Edge post. Not because I am against free markets, so much, but because free markets are demonstratively ineffective at certain points - such as emergencies, infrastructure development, and conditions of scarcity - and because the free market system as it exists today is terribly imbalanced, the wealth of the few being based on the oppression of the many. This article looks at some of those conditions.

Where many people go with this is in the direction suggested by Beth Kanter's post. Social networks, she writes, incorporate a "ladder of engagement", and these different levels of engagement change the nature of the contacts between members of the network, and hence, the nature of the network itself. And you see this sort of effect not only in Facebook causes, but also in the evangelism for new network technologies, such as Second Life and Twitter. Because these communities offer more than mere transaction, the value of the network to its members is increased - and so is their emotional attachment, which also feeds back into this same cycle.

Why is this important? Well, the free market is, in essence, a network of transactions. By setting up the network as nothing more than an exchange of goods for currency, no emotional attachment is created (except for those who develop a perverse love of money, like Conrad Black). Dave Pollard has been struggling to explain this recently, trying to embody a philosophy of love into community transactions. But this, I fear, takes us into an environment where all our transactions are group transactions, which carries its own risks.

Published concurrently with all this is a discussion from the useful weblog, Architectures of Control in Design, which looks at (as Scott Wilson summarizes) "the complex interplay of agents, systems and power structures." Wilson writes, "the discourse of control in education is very simplistic with a response of 'control = BAD'" such that "the common approach is one of either (a) denial, or (b) rejection, rather than (c) an effective intentional design." But this is simply to confuse intervention with control. When we look at the article, as it displays the many ways bench designers try to control the use of the bench - doing everything from shortening the bench to installing armrests to tilting the surface to discourage transients.

Only a couple of the benches depicted demonstrate any intention of helping, rather than controlling, transients. This bench opens to provide a place to store public food supplies for transients, bedding, and other survival gear. It's like the world depicted in Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire: a world in which free ford, health care and housing are distributed to everybody, regardless of need or circumstance. This is a network that is about something more than just transaction - a network based, not merely on getting, but also on giving. It creates a different sort of network, because giving is a more personal, more emotional, and more human transaction. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life and Education
By Sarah Robbins, Second Life, education, Jan 08, 2008

Here's a new educational blog for you, the Second Life and Education blog. Pretty much as the name implies. Looks useful and practical, for example, one of the posts up today described how to stop Second Life from crashing on the MacBook. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Immersive Virtual Telepresence - Size Matters
By Stan Trevena, Second Life and Education, Jan 09, 2008

Whn Rod said the Ottawa people wanted to build an Advanced Collaborative Environment (ACE room) here in Moncton, I was sceptical and noncommittal. Videoconfrencing had been done, it had certain capacities, and that was that. The ACE room we set up, though, confirmed for me the proposition in this post: size makes a huge difference in videoconferencing. When you're talking to a 1x1 square, that's one thing. But when the person in the video across the desk is life-sized, that's very different. There's real presence there. Add high-quality sound and multiple points of access and you have something worth exploring. It's still pretty expensive, though, and I won't get into how long it has taken for us to rebuild our ACE room after the move last year. But it makes me thing: I will bet dollars to doughnuts that size makes a big difference for virtual worlds as well. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Time Warner Invests in Teen Virtual World Gaia Online
By Matthew Nelson, ClickZ, Jan 14, 2008

Here we are seeing the expansion (explosion!) of 3D virtual worlds beyond Second Life. As this story suggests, Time Warner is investing in a "teen hangout" site called Gaia Online. This is just part of a wider trend: "Last month Coca-Cola migrated its virtual property to PG-13 world and Disney bought Club Penguin in August. The Gaia Online world claims to have approximately three million unique users per month, with members spending an average of more than two hours on the site per day." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Downescast 1
By Stephen Downes, Kaltura, Jan 28, 2008

So here's my Kaltura Downescast, with video stolen borrowed liberated from YouTube. Still some bugs in the system; I don't like the way it just starts up, I don't like the way it looks, and my attempt to introduce the coverage of an African e-learning conference was a complete failure. Still - you can edit this video, add your own content, make it do whatever you want. How cool is that? Related: Gill Salmon's video on designing in Second Life is one of a series of videos on e-learning being offered on YouTube by CorpU. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

That's My Mouse
By Alec Couros, Couros Blog, Feb 01, 2008

We will be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing in the future as people try to create the feel of Second Life on existing web pages. That's My Mouse creates a little avatar for each person on the page and allows them to interact. It's enabled using a Javascript on the page. It's pretty distracting and slower and more cumbersome than I would like. But it works. More from Mashable. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Learning Webvolution
Learning Circuits, Feb 04, 2008

I'm sorry - but 'webvolution' sounds like something Elmer Fudd would say. Anyhow, the authors offer a three-step process: "the first step is to learn the confusing terminology, jargon, and acronyms... the second step focuses on addressing and overcoming the resistance to, and misapplication of, new technology... the third step focuses on having learning and development professionals understand what makes virtual worlds so appealing to millions of people." Funny. I would do that in exactly the reverse order. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Winner: Make Your Very Own Virtual World with OLIVE
By David Kushner, IEEE Spectrum, Feb 04, 2008

The buzz is Second Life (as in Art Fossett's summary of an Eduserv event and Mark Oehlert's summary of virtual world related events) but the industrial strength virtual worlds engines are being created by companies like Forterra. "It's all happening through just one application, for medical training, of a new software package called On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment, or OLIVE. Developed by Forterra Systems of New York City and San Mateo, Calif., OLIVE creates virtual worlds for customers in health care, the military, and the media." Via Stan Trevena on the Educators Digest mailing list. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

ELI In Conversation: Second Life and Virtual Worlds - An Approach to Active Learning
EDUCAUSE Community Blogs, Feb 12, 2008

31 minute podcast from the ELI 2008 Annual Meeting. "The topic is Second Life and virtual worlds. How can virtual world participation help students become active learners? How can instructors approach virtual worlds with an eye toward their own curriculum. Are there any privacy or safety issues that must be breached in with getting your students on Second Life?" [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Experience the Flight Deck of the NASA Space Shuttle in Second Life
By Chris Clark, EDUCAUSE Connect, Feb 26, 2008

This is the sort of thing a 3D environment like Second Life does best. "This is a visual representation only - the controls don't work - but it is a compelling effect. The display uses a Virtual Reality Room (VRR), an immersive, photo-realistic environment..." Eventually, we'll see working versions of photo-realistic 3D environments, and we'll wonder why we liked the cartoons so much (and there will be, of course, hold-outs who say they prefer the cartoon...). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Welcome to iReport.Com From CNN!
By Various authors, Website, Mar 06, 2008

A writer on the Second Life Educator's mailing list pointed to this site. The article he wrote has long since cycled off the home page, but the site is worthy of a look in its own right. It should be widely noted as a phenomenon shortly. "Welcome to a brand new beta site for uncensored, user-powered news. CNN built the tools, you take it from there. All the stories here are user-generated and instant: CNN does not vet or verify their authenticity or accuracy before they post. The ones with the "On CNN" stamp have been vetted and used in CNN news coverage." This, my friends, is the future of news. It is also the future of learning. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Linden Labs' Second Life Education Blog - an Old Approach?
By Kerry Johnson, Mar 10, 2008

Linden Labs, which operates Second Life, has launched a new blog on the service. Kerry Johnson is not so impressed. She writes, "I wonder if an editor-facilitated, centralised information resource for a widely used service like Second Life is really necessary." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Current Reality and Future Vision: Open Virtual Worlds
By White Paper, Sun Microsystems, Mar 13, 2008

White Paper from Sun on Virtual Worlds that basically gets it right. "Today's virtual worlds represent the first phase of 3D Web. Dedicated servers running their own virtual worlds are to 3D Web what MySpace is to today's Web. In the future, 3D Web will be a network of virtual worlds that are owned by various entities. The success of virtual worlds will depend on factors such as openness, enterprise-strength platforms, vibrant communities, and a portfolio of services." Via Pacific Rim Exchange. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Conference Connections:
By George Siemens, Peter Tittenberger, Terry Anderson, EDUCAUSE Review, Mar 14, 2008

The current issue of EDUCAUSE Review is out and features this article on the future of conferences. "Technology as a tool for transforming practice in conferences is largely our focus here," write the authors. "Computers, mobile phones, podcasts, blogs, Second Life, RSS, Google Reader, and many similar tools afford new ways of interacting before, during, and after conferences." Much of what follows will sound familiar from an e-learning perspective: augmented conferences, blended conferences, simultaneous conferences, online conferences. The authors nod toward more radical adaptations, like unconferences and barcamps. The article is OK so far as it goes, but it tends toward how technology supports what people are already doing. I would have like to have seen how technology could change the conference dynamic entirely, as I have discussed in the past. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Server Not Going to Be Open Sourced Any Time Soon
By Doug Holton, EdTechDev, Mar 21, 2008

While the Second Life viewer has been open source for a while now, the key to an open 3D internet econology is an open source server. "It appears now that this server will not be Second Life. "There are a lot of cases of monolithic design and improper trust relationships between components that would need to be addressed." Now I took a lot of flack last spring when I criticized Second Life for being closed and noted that they couldn't open source without causing the Second Life economy to collapse. I challenged their representative, who insisted it would be open sourced. "Yeah, that's likely," I basically responded. Well - to all those defenders of Second Life, here it comes: I told you so. So where does the future really lie? Well there's Croquet and Project Darkstar along with OpenSim. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

MMC Island Opens to the Public
By Alja Sulcic, iAlja, Mar 25, 2008

Alja Sulcic writes, "I can finally announce the public opening of my company's first major Second Life project: the MMC island. MMC island is an extension of Multimedia center, the new media department of Slovenian public broadcaster (RTV Slovenija)." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Once Again Real World Laws Enter Virtual Worlds: Warcraft Bot Maker Sued
By Mike Masnick, TechDirt, Mar 27, 2008

The problem, of course, is that once one person figures out they can create a bot in a game like World of Warcraft, other people, en masse, decide the same thing. Which is why the technical approach recommended by he author results in an ever-escalating code war that can never be won. That's why people like the owners of World of Warcraft turn to the courts to discourage bot makers. The courts, though, are a poor remedy. bdecause they create law where none existed, and jurisprudence where there ought only be silence. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Emerging Trends in Serious Games and Virtual Worlds
By Sara de Freitas, BECTA, Apr 01, 2008

The 'emerging trends' are serious games (I really hate that term) and virtual worlds. Readers will appreciate the chart listing definitions and terms describing games (because, you know, we have to at all costs avoid simply using the word 'game' because pointy-haired bosses might not like it). That said, Sara de Freitas identifies the significant trends: not that they are 'serious', but that they are social and immersive. Also, she hits precisely on the point where games challenge traditional learning: "In the end, it would seem as though learning becomes less about the ability to reproduce standardised components of learning, and more about allowing individuals to inform and design their own learning interactions and transactions." PDF. More from BECTA's third edition of Emerging technologies for learning. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Virtual Classroom Project
By Konrad Glogowski, blog of proximal development, Apr 02, 2008

Konrad Glogowski writes about the launch of the virtual classroom project in Jo Kay's Jokadia Second Life island. "Over the next three months, I will invite individual educators to design and build their ideal learning space for use as either a virtual classroom in Second Life or as a prototype for a real-life classroom." I think limiting it to a 'classroom' is a bit of a lack of imagination; maybe the educators will stretch the boundaries. Leigh Blackall has joined the initiative. "Real life needs so much work, "he writes, "it is so wanting of good ideas implemented, and almost impossible to get new ideas tested!" [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Google Spreadsheet As Virtual World
By Tony Walsh, Clickable Culture, Apr 07, 2008

Interesting article that makes the point. If you try Google Spreadsheets with a friend you'll see what the author means. The service is a controlled multi-user environment withimultaneous usage by multiple persons, presence indicators, real-time text chat and unique, mobile avatars. Via Bryan Alexander, who adds, "There are many ways for Google Earth to combine with other tools to form virtual worlds. And that could be huge, when it starts happening." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Hands Free 3D
By Mitch Kaopr, Philippe Bossut, Kapor Enterprises, Apr 14, 2008

This demonstration got a lot of attention over the weekend. Mitch Kapor demonstrates software written by Philippe Bossut which enables hands-free navigation in Second Life. The interface is partially borrowed from the Segway - lean forward to move forward, lean back to move back. Nice. Found in a variety of places, including SLED Blog. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Worlds Management
By Various authors, Virtual Worlds News, Apr 16, 2008

Georghe Siemens picks up this great list of almost 100 child or teen-oriented virtual world projects. The list, though, is a bit awkward to work with - each entry links to an article in Virtual Worlds News that may or may not link to (or even name) the virtual world in question. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

This Just In: The Experiment Works!
By Robert Stephenson, The Tech Virtual Museum Workshop, Apr 17, 2008

I'm a bit late covering this (no fault of theirs - they emailed me ages ago) but I think it's still worthy of note. "The Tech Virtual Museum Workshop, launched in December, is Museum Director Peter Friess's grand experiment in open sourcing the museum's content development process. His idea, that is, is to fill the halls of a major museum with exhibits conceived entirely by outsiders, prototyped in Second Life, and licensed under Creative Commons for all to use." Robert Stephenson wrote to me to say that the experiment worked: "Three months after launch we have 154 members, 69 projects for exhibits, 42 exhibits built or abuilding in Second Life and four winners selected for installation in the (real life) Tech Museum." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Blue Book: A Consumer Guide to Virtual Worlds
Association of Virtual Worlds, May 05, 2008

This is a very useful resource, not simply because it makes clear that 'virtual world' means much much more than 'Second Life', but also because of the glossary and categorization system that informs this list of 250 virtual worlds. Descriptions are brief (not surprisingly) and contain links to the world web site. The document is PDF, but you have to download a zip file and extract it. Via Liberal Education Today. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Researchers Teach 'Second Life' Avatar to Think
By Michael Hill, Yahoo! News, May 22, 2008

This report describes inferences made by an artificial intelligence interfacing with people in a virtual world (it is rather much to say that it "thinks"). There is a long history of creating intelligences (known colloquially as 'bots') to operate in virtual worlds. I once posted an interview with a bot purporting to be a presidential candidate. Via Bryan Alexander. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Initial Impressions From the First Open Habitat Pilot
By Dave White, TALL blog, May 22, 2008

Short post reflecting on an interesting project: Dave White discusses the Open Habitat project, in which Art and Design students collaborate creatively in virtual worlds such as Second Life and OpenSim. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

By Various authors, RezEd, May 26, 2008

Just saw this today (thus proving that the internet is not only vaster than you imagine, the internet is vaster than you can imagine), RezEd, a "community for everything related to learning and virtual worlds! Each month we will feature inter-related podcasts, digital resources in the library, and featured blog posts." There's 335 members, more than I can add to my aggregator, but I'm following the 'featured blog posts'. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

An Interview with Tom Kuhlmann
By Clive Shepherd, Clive on Learning, May 27, 2008

This is a pretty good case study in how blogging can support a corporate e-learning product. The interview also helps learn a bit about Tom Kuhlmann, who is the VP of Community for Articulate and who authors the Rapid E-Learning blog. The blog is very popular because it contains good solid tips - such as this one on how to bring the web into the corporate intranet. "You waren't going to come to the blog and read about web 2.0 and Second Life..." says Kuhlmann. Fair enough. Shepherd's interview page is an example of just that sort of practicality, an elegant embedding of a YouTube playlist in a single interface (also plays fins in your RSS reader). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Facebook Platform Now Open Source: fbOpen Released
By Michael Arrington, TechCrunch, Jun 02, 2008

Well, let's be clear here. "Parts" of their application platform has been open sourced. But hey, they're still ahead of Second Life (which promised... when was it again? that they would open source their platform). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Worlds Wike
By Various authors, Website, Jun 05, 2008

From the presentation this morning. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A New Virtual World Winter?
By Bruce Damer, Terra Nova, Jun 23, 2008

I ran across this post at Terra Nova while doing some research for an upcoming debate about the future uses and the usefulness of Second Life and other virtual worlds (VW) in education. Bruce Damer asks "Is interaction in a VW that much more enriching and valuable than the simpler modalities available in other platforms? Will VWs ever really go mainstream? I continuously hear complaints about VWs not being worth the trouble, especially from people much younger and hipper than me (I am 46) who prefer much lighter weight forms of interaction. What does this portend?"

In his eighth point (of 8) he adds, "the "walled gardens" represented by multiple proprietary VW platforms guarantee a certain (high) percentage of failure in the near-term. All industries with a large number of small players using proprietary technologies soon undergo traumatic downsizing or consolidation with a few monopoly players emerging. Think of the telephone system and Ma Bell." You can also think of Blackboard and the other VLEs. Also, can anyone read those sentences without thinking about the VW Beetle first before getting the brain back on track? -BD [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Education Grid On Sun Wonderland Opened
By Tom Werner, Brandon Hall Research Blog, Jun 24, 2008

My colleague Tom Werner, who keeps close tabs on educational uses of immersive environments such as Second Life, has a post on a new open source initiative called The Education Grid. It is unusual in that the environment is hosted across the servers of four organizations, and is open for development in both education and business. It remains to be seen if this new immersive environment breaks the hegemony of Second Life. -GW [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A Conversation with Jean-Claude Bradley About Open Notebook Science and the Educational Uses of Second Life
By Jon Udell, Strategies for Internet Citizens, Jun 24, 2008

One of the many stories about Einstein is that one year a group of students complained to him that he had given the exact same exam questions as the previous year. "Yes," he replied, "But this year the answers are different..." I thought of this story while reading Jon Udell's post about "open notebook science" using blogs and wikis, and the educational philosophy of Jean-Claude Bradley of Drexel University. Prof. Bradley has little use for the classroom, prefering one to one interaction with students, and virtual worlds for group discussion. Having been in the academic world for much of my career, I know that this is radical stuff. -GW [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Opensim/Drupal Integration for Education
By Dave Cormier, Dave's Educational Blog, Jun 25, 2008

Dave Cormier has done some very bleeding-edge work in educational technology using the Drupal open source community management system as well as OpenSim (an open source version of Second Life). "Opensim is an opensource Multi User Virtual Environment. It allows you to have much of the functionality from something like Second Life, and you can host it on any server you like, or, if you like, on a desktop in your classroom." He is currently looking for help, so if you have any experience with OpenSim, contact Dave. - HJ [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Proving the Potential of Virtual Worlds
By Matt Rhodes, Business, Games: the Blog, Jul 02, 2008

I was part of a panel in Second Life on Monday, and what struck me was how it took place in a virtual lecture hall, and one by one, we all went up to the podium, showed some slides, and lectured to an audience of avatars seated in virtual chairs. We know how to bore you in a classroom, and now we know how to bore you online. I agree with this post by Matt Rhodes that "Second Life isn't the future of life online." It is a land of early adopters who love the technology, but are mostly using it as an analogue of what they would do in Real Life. Matt points to a company called RocketOn that "turns the entire web into a virtual world where your avatar travels with you." Perhaps we are starting to break the mold of old approaches using the newest technologies. Bertrand Russell said that "people like to die by the latest method." He could have been talking about Second Life. -GW [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Comments On Proving the Potential of Virtual Worlds
By Alan Levine, anonymous others, Stephen's Web, Jul 04, 2008

My negative comments on Second Life in my July 2nd post inspired several replies which rightly chastised me for being too one sided. Given that readers of the e-mail version of this newsletter don't automatically get the comments, I am reproducing them here. -GW

Re: Proving the Potential of Virtual Worlds
Alan Levine, July 2, 2008

The experiences you describe of "boring" replication are not a function of the potential of Second Life, but what people so far have used it for, much the same way people can blame powerpoint software for bad presentations. Its like blaming the technology of the circuitry in my television for the crappy shows on the screen.

Its easy to take potshots at Second Life -- the post by Matt Rose is based on a lot of data? supposition like "I think..."

Our organization has run 4 conferences in Second Life (ones people paid to attend) where the sessions were most certainly not sitting and screen watching, but where we had role play, active learning, content creation, 3D demonstrations, even out of control mashup dancing.

People are behind it all.

Re: Proving the Potential of Virtual Worlds
Anymouse, July 3, 2008

I completely agree with Alan and you can reference the conversation on the SLED list re "horseless carriage syndrome" too. SL is a platform for creativity in education, including giving students the lead if you so choose. If you want to recreate page-turning, well, that's possible too.

And, dear me, we're supposed to get excited about RocketOn in closed alpha. What about weblins, ExitReality, YooWalk, etc? My excitement quota is running low already. Sheesh.

Re: Proving the Potential of Virtual Worlds
Anymouse, July 3, 2008

So, let me see - you attend a panel where they choose to replicate something from real life and that constitutes a fault with the platform?

Have you visited, for example, Dante's Inferno in Second Life. I'd love to see you replicate the travel, the lakes of boiling blood, the burning sands and the like in a real life classroom. Does it work to teach the class? Absolutely, it empowers students to see the parallels between Inferno and Linden Hills in very strong terms.

I'm guessing since you've got an .ca domain you don't have a plethora of old abbeys, castles and the like, perhaps you should try visiting Tintern Abbey in SL - far cheaper for you than heading over to the real one.

If science is more your thing, perhaps a visit to Second Nature to see molecules big enough to climb on, or Drexel where you can see the molecules reforming as the reaction progresses, you can do this on a huge scale and co-operatively - things you can do IRL if you have a lot of time, money and specialist software or you can do in SL with a bit of co-operation between two professors who might never have met without Second Life to facilitate it.

If you'd rather life sciences, go visit Genome. Parts of it function rather like a museum, but the pooping llamas leave an impression, as does the giant cell, and the ability to rapidly replicate years of Mendel's work in a way that is far more engaging than any web-based simulation I've ever seen are all strong positives for the platform.

Second Life can replicate real life if you don't have the imagination to use it in other ways. It can do a million other things too, many of them things that time, money, travel, health and safety and other issues will just stop you doing in any real life classroom.
[Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Linden Labs and IBM Break the Metaverse Barrier, Teleport Across Virtual Worlds
By Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb, Jul 08, 2008

"Staff of Linden Labs, the creators of virtual world Second Life, and IBM announced last night that they have achieved the first recorded teleport of their avatars from one virtual world into another. Researchers from the two companies teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid to an OpenSim virtual world." This does seem rather huge, but in exactly which way is somewhat difficult to say right now. Maybe the best news is that the dissatisfied SL people (referenced in the post) will have an easier way for their avatars to escape from LindenLand. Any predictions on how much longer before my daughter's Nintendog can teleport from her DS game system to leave a little land mind on Education Island? -BD [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

New Distributed 3D Virtual Environment W/ Instructional Potential: Google Lively
By Janet Clarey, Brandon Hall Researcher, Jul 22, 2008

Interesting. Discussion on Google Lively: "A quick initial reaction: it's Second Life distributed." From Google: "If you enter a Lively room embedded on your favorite blog or website, you can immediately get a sense of the room creator's interests, just by looking at the furniture and environment they chose." Me? I don't think I want furniture in my blog. I'm just saying... [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Browser-Based Virtual World - WebFlock
By Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, Jul 26, 2008

This is a good find from Mark Oehlert. "WebFlock can help you realize your goals for a social, fun and immersive web presence. A basic implementation, which includes the out-of-the-box feature set, custom 3D avatars and 3D space, and 12 months of the application services fees, is available for under $100,000." Gak! [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Open Source Social Software
By Josie Fraser, SocialTech, Jul 29, 2008

As the title suggests, a good list of open source social software, including social networking platforms, social news, social bookmarking, video sharing, microblogging, virtual worlds, and lifestreaming. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

2008 Metaverse Tour Video: The Social Virtual World'S A Stage
By Gary Hayes, WebWorkerDaily, Aug 11, 2008

This is a fabulous video showing clips from roughly 50 virtual worlds applications (for those who think Second Life is it - this is required viewing). Author Gary Hayes notes, among other things, that "the 'layered-over-the-2d-web' version of these worlds such as RocketOn Exit Reality and Weblin show great usability and promise" and that "Many of these worlds operate without the hype we have seen with Second Life and have slowly been building up large communities. Beware any world that tries to launch on hype." He also links to a useful virtual worlds by sector graph. Via TonNet. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

First Impressions
By Darren Draper, Drape's Takes, Aug 13, 2008

Interesting take on edublogging by Darren Draper as he examines the first posts of numerous edublogs in contrast to what we know about them today. In my own case, the newsletter he cites, from 2001, is my first email newsletter and is only accidentally all about higher education; my 'first post' was made in 1995 (as you can see from this page) and is a transcript of an online conference in a multi-user vertual environment (yes, they existed before Second Life). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Bebo Is Forcibly Changing Usernames
By Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins, Mashable, Sept 05, 2008

I really hate it when sites mess around with user names. The way Second Life forces you to choose a last name. The way Google makes everybody a email address (to Google, I am now - how ridiculous!) - and this change by Bebo. Leave our user names alone! I don't go around changing Google's name to Gargle! or Bebo to Bobo. Or Second Life to Second Wife. My name is my identity; it is mine, and companies that mess around with it eventually see the last of me. Yes, even Google. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Can Second Life Be Used As a Reliable Corporate Training Tool?
By Gina Minks, Adventures in Corporate Education, Sept 17, 2008

The short answer, according to this post, is "no." Why? "If we were to use SL for training, we'd have to be sure that every time we held a training event, every student could log in and access the correct environment. Right now, there does not seem to be a reliable way to do that." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Classroom Project - Final Video
By Konrad Glogowski, blog of proximal development, Sept 18, 2008

Konrad Glogowski shares the 'final video project' from the virtual classroom project on the Second Life island of Jokaydia. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Teen Gaming Diverse and Widespread: New Study
By Bryan Alexander, Liberal Education Today, Sept 18, 2008

I found this report interesting, not only because of the statistics from this demographic (which places virtual worlds and sims at the bottom of the list) but also because of the way the different types of games are classified - a useful taxonomy. For myself, my favorites are sports games (EA Baseball and EA Hockey) and strategy games. The Pew study says that game playing is nearly universal among American teens. And game playing is social; "Although most teens play games by themselves at least occasionally, just one-quarter (24%) of teens only play games alone, and the remaining three-quarters of teens play games with others at least some of the time." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life Unconference at Jokaydia
By Judy O'Connell, Hey Jude, Sept 25, 2008

I don't advertise conferences (so please don't ask) but I feel readers would want to know about this event taking place in Jokaydia, in Second Life. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Download Edusim Alpha06 World Builder
By Various authors, Ning, Oct 06, 2008

I don't know why it needs to be edusim, but I like the concept otherwise. "Edusim is a free & opensource 3D virtual world for the school or classroom interactive whiteboard. Powered by the Cobalt project." Ria Rich Hoeg. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds
By Various authors, Website, Oct 09, 2008

You are a government agency experimenting with Virtual Worlds? The International Working Group within the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds wants to hear from you. Brett Christensen from the Canadian Forces writes, "The objective of the International Working Group is to learn more about the Virtual Worlds that are used by other countries, and to capture international best practices in Virtual Worlds (such as recruitment, embassy outreach). We also want to gain awareness of issues affecting Virtual Worlds in the long term, such as net neutrality, the cost of VW implementation and access internationally." To help this initiative, follow the link and give them your information. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Linden Labs Launches New Educators Pilot Program in Partnership with ISTE, Easing Entry Into SL
By Kevin Jarrett, Second Life, education, Oct 20, 2008

According to this article, "educators coming inworld (to Second Life) for the first time have a streamlined, educationally-focused starting point to guide them along the way." The author describes the "The New Educators Pilot Program (sometimes referred to in ISTE circles as the Educator's Experience Pathway)" which "begins with a dedicated sign-up form that guides a new user through the registration process." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Atlas of Cyberspace
By Various authors, Website, Oct 24, 2008

Alan Levine sent this to CCK08: "For those interested in maps, networks, visualization, just came across a link to a PDF version of Atlas of Cyberspace, representing a now defunct valuable web site at 'Now imagine a website in early 2000 that contains "visualizations" ranging from geographical ISP backbone networks, over 3D virtual worlds, to screenshots of the movies Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix. Imagine a website that featured Brad Paley's textarc, Judith Donath's PeopleGarden, as well as Ben Fry's master thesis Tendril." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Complaint? Students Don't Hang Out in Virtual Worlds After Class
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Oct 27, 2008

This is funny. in response to a complaint that students "don't hang out" in the virtual environment after the virtual class (apparently finding it boring) Karl Kapp comments "In the physical world (real world), not many students hang out in my classroom when class is not in session! So why do we expect it to happen in a virtual world?" I think that if the standard of interest to be matched by virtual worlds is 'the physical classroom' we are aiming pretty low. If the best online worlds can do is to match how boring the traditional classroom is, it has no future. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

O Brave New World That has Such Realistic Avatars!
By Richard Bray, Enl@ce Revista Venezolana de Información, Tecnología y Conocimiento, Oct 29, 2008

Here comes the comptition. "Nortel Networks has a different take on virtual worlds -- less fantasy and more reality. When the company offers its 3D 'web.alive' software to potential business customers sometime soon, the pitch will feature some important differences from online worlds like Second Life or gaming environments like World of Warcraft. Nortel is hoping that high-quality voice communication and easy integration with existing computers and networks will convince corporate customers that communication in a virtual world is worth the price." The Project Chainsaw blog could be more informative (subscribe to the RSS for full posts), but it's worth following. Here, for example, is a demo of the web.alive audio. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Revolution Will Be Syndicated
By Tom Woodward, Brian Lamb, Jim Groom, TechTicker, Nov 11, 2008

If you have the time, take a look at this hour-long presentation, a recording of a talk given in Second Life. As Jim Groom summarizes, "We'll be discussing the current Zombie state of institutional Web 2.0 fakery and the chains of expedient enslavement that bind us; exploring the means for surviving our current LMS malaise through imaginative resistance." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

What Happens When Google Kills Your Student Project: The Death of Google Lively
By Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Nov 20, 2008

Major price increases at Second Life. Google's Lively being shut down. Once again, we see the risk of putting our projects into the hands of private third-party entities. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

What Educational Question Is Second Life the Answer To?
By Niall Sclater, Virtual Learning, Nov 21, 2008

It's a good question. And I've nothing but good to say of an event where the organizer wears wings to the podium. Anyhow, you get a sense of the answer to the question from the subjects of the talks, which covered issues of presence, of play, of identity, and of social contact. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Reuters Closes Second Life Desk
By Bryan Alexander, Liberal Education Today, Nov 24, 2008

Don't want to say "I told you so," but... [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Serious Virtual Worlds
By Sara de Freitas, Eccos Revista Científica, Nov 28, 2008

Just as we have serious games - games that are no fun - so also we have serious virtual worlds. "The aim of the report then is two-fold: to provide a context for learning practitioners and policy makers, aiding with their understanding of virtual worlds and how they can be selected and used in tertiary education; and to highlight how learners, through greater empowerment, may play a different and enriched role in the process." The appendices are where this report shines, with a good vocabulary and a detailed list of virtual world applications. Thgere are numerous examples of educational functions of virtual worlds, and it's not all about Second Life, as a second on the Croquet community demonstrates. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Why's It Called Second Life When There's Nothing Alive There?
By Paul Carr, Nov 28, 2008

"Wandering around Second Life today is like visiting Blackpool in February; all sad empty shops, deserted car parks and the stench of loneliness - and the opportunity to buy a fake cock for two quid. Occasionally - very occasionally - you'll chance upon another depressed lump of sub-humanity, wandering aimlessly and wondering what wrong junction they had taken off the M6 motorway of their life to end up somewhere so desolate." Via Andy Powell. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

PlayStation Home
By Various authors, Website, Dec 30, 2008

There's a whole world of stuff out there behind the gaming platforms, such as Playstation of the oft-mentioned Wii. This website introduces PlayStation Home, a free interactive 3D community (looks a lot like Second Life) for PlayStation owners. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

3D Virtual Worlds Patented! Lawsuits Started...
By Mike Masnick, TechDirt, Dec 30, 2008

Just when we thought we were safe, a patent that should never have been issued on technology that was in common use results this week in a lawsuit. Yes, folks, the virtual world has been patented. Ridiculous. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Cobalt - Edusim (Downloadable Software)
By Paul Hamilton, Free Resources from the Net for (Special) Education, Jan 05, 2009

This - and not closed worlds like Second Life - is the way forward for 3D software: "Cobalt is a free and open source metaverse browser and construction toolkit for accessing, creating, and publishing hyperlinked multi-user virtual worlds. Powered by Croquet technology, Cobalt uses peer-based messaging to eliminate the need for virtual world servers and makes it very simple to create and securely share deeply collaborative virtual worlds that run on all major software operating systems." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Top 10 IT Trends for Higher Education in 2009
By Lev Gonick, Bytes From Lev, Jan 06, 2009

Another list. Predictions include a renewal of Second Life, the rise of e-books, streaming media, and HD videoconferencing. And this: "Proprietary course management systems are heading for a brick wall." Via Bill St. Arnaud. Also, see Derek Keats on the coming year in IT in South Africa. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

College 2.0: A Wired Way to Rate Professors-and to Connect Teachers
By Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 08, 2009

This article in the Chronicle tries to suggest that 'the most wired professor' on campus is the person who has 'the most hits on the campus Blackboard system'. Leaving aside the question of whether the administration should be tracking its professors' activities at that level, we are still left with the reaction: what? Hits on Blackboard makes someone 'wired'? What is this, 1999? The 'most wired' professor on any campus will use a wide variety of applications, some of which (like their Second Life sessions) don't even show up as web 'hits'. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Best of the Tech That Teaches
By Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC News, Jan 22, 2009

I read this week that BETT was "quiet." Not a good thing for a major educational technology conference. That said, the BBC news picks what it sees as the most interesting innovations showcased at the conference. Nothing you haven't seen before: a classroom in Second Life, the Intel Classmate, Microsoft Surface, face recognition, 3D modeling, and a portal (a portal?) for teahcres planning field trips. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Web 3D: Students Using OpenSim Reflect On the Pressing Issues That We All Ask About Using Virtual Worlds
By Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Feb 06, 2009

The video will start playing right away when you click on this link, which is really annoying. And the same video is posted twice - presumably this will be fixed by the time you see it. But do take the time to watch the video - it's great to hear students talk about their experiences (and don't miss the huge uncovered yawn at 1:56 and the first-bump at 5:40). Vicki Davis writes, "Listen to our terraforming team talk about our island, the uses of Open Sim in schools (We use and LOVE it!), and their vision of what they'd like to see happen. Also, hear the reflections of the other students about their work in virtual worlds." A second group of students comes in at about 8:00 and a third group at about 17:00. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Alberta University Takes Academic Cue From Video Games
By Shannon Montgomery, Globe, Mail, Feb 19, 2009

Newspaper coverage of Athabasca University's new virtual learning centre and its work on systems like Second Life. Some nice quotes from AVP Rory McGreal on games in learning: "What they do is they grab the students, they hold their attention, and the students learn." What's interesting about this article is the way the author needed to check with some source from a name university south of the border, apparently selecting at random "Vladlen Koltun, a computer science professor at Standford (sic) University" to make a comment. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual worlds in education and Moodle
By Alja Sulcic, iAlja, May 28, 2009

From the abstract: "The paper provides a basic overview of what virtual worlds are and how they can be used in education. We also provide a list of virtual worlds that are currently most interesting for educators, with a special emphasis on virtual worlds and tools which support integration with Moodle, a popular online learning management system. We conclude the paper with a brief overview of future trends related to virtual world use in education."
[Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Students Prefer Real Classroom to Virtual World
By Marc Beja, Chronicle of Higher Education, Jun 02, 2009

The first comment has the best reaction: "Let's see. 15 students in an on ground class with no experience in virtual worlds decide they prefer an on ground class. What a surprise..." I would add that it is important to recognize that students, as a demographic, are very conservative, especially higher up in the system. These are the people who have adapted very well to the current system. Why would they support change? I've said this before, that the best test of online learning is with the many people (the majority, actually, and the less wealthy) that the current system doesn't serve. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life, Education and Openspace
By Andy Pulman, Andy Pulman Edublog, Jul 02, 2009

There's trouble in the virtual world. Andy Pulman links to: Andy Powell Loses Faith in Second Life, Fuzzy Buzz on why Linden Lab needs to read Snow Crash again and Zonja Capalini on Openspace. Related, especially to the last item: OpenSim. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A learning community for teens on a virtual island - The Schome Park Teen Second Life Pilot project
By Julia Gillen, elearningpapers, Jul 10, 2009

I think a most readers will like this paper a lot, though I found the presentation stilted. It's a case study of an educational project for 13-17 year-olds conducted in Second Life. The authors found, "only approximately one quarter of students accounted for almost all time spent in Schome Park." The authors report that some student learning occurred and that they became more aware of the new role of teachers in such an environment. What I want to know, of course, is what the people who weren't captured by the automatic sensors and wiki logs (ie., the three quarters who didn't participate) were doing. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Edgeless University
By Peter Bradwell, Demos, Jul 10, 2009

The main thrust of this report is that "The forces now confronting higher education have been called 'a perfect storm. They are serious challenges. Universities must offer more varied provision to a growing number of students in an era when they can no longer depend on ever-increasing allocation of funds. These are challenges to institutions set up to cater for a different age." (p. 24) In particular, universities need to respond by reaching out. "Their reputations, networks and spaces are a driving force for research and collaboration. This is the way in which universities are becoming 'edgeless'. They are not disappearing, either into the virtual world or out of existence. They are present in new places, in new ways." (p.34) The good stuff in the report begins at page 55 where the authors discuss the details of managing an edgeless university. Additional commentary on the report from Leigh Blackall, George Siemens, Derek Wenmoth, Rich Hoeg, daniel Livingstone, Steve Wheeler, Brian Kelly and the launch event podcast from JISC. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

JISC Second Life guide helps lecturers teach in the virtual world
By Maggi Savin-Bade, Eccos Revista Científica, Aug 05, 2009

JISC has released a guide to Second Life. "Getting Started in Second Life answers some common questions like how to set up in Second Life, what the rules of the world are, how to plan lessons and how best to help students use it effectively for learning." It describes how to set up a character and move about, how to script objects in Second Life, how to facilitate learning, common mistakes and assumptions, and practical considerations (like reliability) for your institution. Pretty basic, but a sound introduction. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

MERLOT's new Second Life campus
Weblog, Sept 07, 2009

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) has for some reason set up a Second Life site. It looks like stacks of books. All I'm going to do is pass this information on to you ans wash my hand of it. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

By Dean Groom, Design 4 Learning, Sept 24, 2009

Think of this as Second Life in the browser. Use the mouse to point directions, the arrow keys on your keyboard to move (takes a bit of getting used to). Oh, I didn't see avatars or things that people created (and all the rest) but the main thing - the lushly detailed 3D environment - is there. Without a special Second Life browser. As Dean Groom says, "It might not look much here, but go and see how fast it loads, how graphically rich it is, how it deals with sound, runs on a browser, allows flash like interactions, and is already in commercial use on multiple consoles and even iPhone." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Lessons Learned from Creating a Social Networking Site for More than Just Socializing
Spotlight on Digital Media, Learning, Sept 30, 2009

As with other online resources (such as blogs, or virtual worlds, etc.) you can't just send students there and expect magic to happen. If you're going to use one of these sites in the context of classes or courses, then you need to created focused activities. Hence, the recommendations contained in this post and in the full report (PDF version) from Youth Media Exchange. For example: "Kids' interests need to be deliberately sustained and cultivated. Organizers sent personal emails to kids who participated more deeply. They featured exemplary youth-produced content. They sent periodic News & Updates." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Dress codes for avatars?
By Karyn Romeis, Karyn's erratic learning journey, Oct 16, 2009

OK, I can see the point about not wanting to have the company represented by scantily clad avatars. But is something to be address with a code, or with common sense? (Yes, those are the only two choices.) Karyn Romeis writes, "I can understand that a company with a virtual world presence will want to project the same sort of professional image online as they do face to face. But I also wonder how far they can push this. Will it just be about dress, or will people be restricted as to body shapes and accuracy of representation? Could a large, bald man be prevented from having an avatar that is a slim man (or even woman) with a full head of hair?" [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Find more to say in a virtual world
By Mike Solly, Nov 03, 2009

I've read this before, about other technologies. "Perhaps one of the most unexpected advantages of the virtual world is its anonymity – you can be whoever you want to be.... Languagelab's Kaskel calls this "character driven learning". The environment of Languagelab is now populated by characters that have developed and developing personalities and interact with learners as these characters." What we need to know is, not how SL compares to real life, but how it compares to other technologies. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Alternatives to Second Life (continued, again)
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Nov 25, 2009

More alternatives to Second Life, a continuation of a list started in 2008. Interestingly, one is from Nortel, "an enterprise ready, network secured virtual world platform designed to solve business problems of working together over distances in real time and the costs associated with travel and training on complex equipment or in hazardous areas." (I still can't believe Canada is losing Nortel; this is comparable in effect to Canada as Detroit's losing the auto industry in the 1930s would have been to the U.S. It should be a huge story here, but oddly, it's not.) [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Underneath Pearson's Poptropica
By Dean Groom, Design 4 Learning, Dec 07, 2009

Good review of Pearson's Poptripoca, "the virtual world that is the new black for pre-schoolers and primary age explorers." While Peason has been foscused in the mainstream on course manuals and books, experiments like this look at was to commercialize other aspects of education - such as this game that combines social pressure and micropayments to 'look better'. It also seems to have bypassed the filters that 'protect' schoolchildren. "The biggest reason Poptropica is popular in public school – DET have not yet banned it - its accessible. Kids are playing it. If you have kids in 4-11, then chances are they are playing Poptropica. You might not have noticed – it looks just like another cute platformer, but it is a social-network." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Virtual Worlds, Simulations, and Games for Education: A Unifying View
By Clark Aldrich, On Simulations, Serious Games, Dec 14, 2009

Are virtual worlds, simulations, and games for education all types of the same essential thing? I'm not sure I agree with this perspective, offered by Clark Aldrich, which depicts games, simulations and virtual worlds to all be more or less the same thing. However, Aldrich argues, "the ease with which players in a new virtual environment move from exploratory behaviors to more structured simulation structures also illustrates the connection among virtual worlds, simulations, and games." For example, "the aspects of computer game design, such as scoring mechanisms, scripted storylines, and competition-based motivation, can drive increased engagement in an educational simulation." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Whatever happened to Second Life?
By Barry Collins, PC Pro, Jan 05, 2010

It's desolate, dirty and deserted: is anyone still using Second Life? From this author's perspective, even if the site is still making money, the edge is gone. "Three years on, and the hype has been extinguished. Second Life has seen its status as the web wonderchild supplanted by Facebook and Twitter. The newspapers have forgotten about it, the Reuters correspondent has long since cleared his virtual desk, and you can walk confidently around tech trade shows without a ponytailed 'Web 2.0 Consultant' offering to put your company on the Second Life map for the price of a company car." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life isn't dead, but it's a niche
By Alja Sulcic, iAlja, Jan 06, 2010

I've been sent a bunch of Second Life links in the last few days, which I'll recap later. But I want first to highlight this post from Alja Sulcic, who begins, "I did spend a lot of time in Second Life, met many, many wonderful people in there, and I know what great things people are doing there," but adds, I also think it's fair to say that it is a niche service. It's great for content creators, artists, musicians, it's great for people with enough patience and perseverance to put up with the lag and other technical issues. But it's awful for the average internet user." This is my take as well. I know you and your group have a great thing going in there - but telling me that 50 people are doing something is simply not evidence that the service is widespread, viable, and forward looking. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Beyond Slidedeckophelia
By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Mar 02, 2010

So what are your options when presenting in Second Life? This is particularly relevant because I'll be presenting briefly at a conference in Second Life next week. If not the usual PowerPoint slides - which Alan Levine feels is "perversely wrong" - then what? Audio only? Really, that's the only practical alternative - it takes me maybe 15 minutes or so to make a slide, but would take days to create the equivalent 3D representation. Audio I can handle - but yeah, you need "that great FM radio voice." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Another 3D Virtual World Shutting Down
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Mar 03, 2010

Following Forterra and Metaplace, another 3D environment, There, is shutting its virtual doors. "There has closed registration, billing, and member program upgrades. Also, developer submissions are closed and rental processing will be stopped, so no more rent will be collected for neighborhoods, lots, or There homes. And, all purchases of Therebucks and member program updates... will be refunded in full." If Second Life can survive the downturn, it'll be in a good place. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

It's Easy to Throw Real Stones at Virtual Glass Houses
By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Mar 26, 2010

An enthusiastic, wide-ranging, well-illustrated and detailed look at events in Second Life. "I'm just coming off of a two day utterly engaging experience in what we do at the NMC as online conferences," writes Alan Levine. "These are not your webinar slideshow brigades - for 3 and a half years, we have run two to four conferences per year in a virtual world space, ones where people pay money to attend, and I can say first hand that the ones we have run are a completely different, and from what I have seen, more participatory experience from your typical web-based conference." Maybe that's the secret to creating engaging Second Life events - fee-paying subscribers. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

What is educational technology, anyway? A commentary on the new AECT definition of the field
By Denis Hlynka, Michele Jacobsen, Canadian Journal of Learning, May 11, 2010

OK, I agree with the authors that the AECT definition of "educational technology" isn't very good. (It was "the new definition" some time a few years ago when this article was written, but as it only appears online now we'll just call it "the definition"). Here it is: "Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources."

But the writers, arguing from the perspective of the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) manage to go one worse saying the definition goes too far, citing Jaron Lanier ("virtual reality pioneer") as saying "Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution round the turn of the 21st century. The World Wide Web was flooded by a torrent of petty designs sometimes called Web 2.0. This ideology promoted radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people." Really? Is that what happened? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Second Life
By Jack Green Musselman, Jason Rosenblum, Academic Commons, May 17, 2010

Aww - we built a Plato's Cave in a MUD in 1993, so it's a blast to see one now in Second Life. "Students who learn the Cave allegory can, of course, imagine how experiences in the world are like living in ignorance, usually by projecting themselves into the lives of the prisoners that Plato paints in The Republic. For example, students who read the Cave allegory might think that until they thought about their religious faith in college courses, they were comparatively uninformed or not yet really enlightened about how rich and robust that faith could be, much like Plato's characters until they climb out of the cave and see the light." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Here's Why You Should Enter the Articulate Guru Awards
By Tom Kuhlmann, The Rapid E-Learning Blog, Jul 20, 2010

OK, I can understand why Articulate would want to promote its own product, but if you really wanted to prove you're an e-learning guru, would you really want a canned course to be your showcase? If I wanted to enter an e-learning guru contest (does that even make sense? but I digress) I would show something like this site and point to the legacy of ten years of posts (well, I'd fix the broken links and finish the site redesign first, but you know what I mean). Or maybe I'd show the blogs and networks and seminars that comprised one of the Connectivism courses, which wasn't canned at all. Other things I would find very worthy are things like Ed Tech Talk, or Second Life Educators (SLED), or Edublogs, or Webheads, or Learn Central, or WikiEducator... oh I could go on and on. None of them are canned courses. All of them are much more worthy of 'guru' status.

Maybe I should just be done with it and have my own award. Once a year, one winner. No categories or product requirements or conditions. Just one award, for the best in education, period. What do you think? [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Applying 3D Virtual Worlds to Higher Education
By Eero Palomäki, Helsinki University of Technology, Aug 03, 2010

Nice and clear Master's thesis describing the applicability of 3D worlds in higher education. "A process model is developed that describes the process of producing a course that uses 3D virtual worlds as a tool. The model covers the stages before, during, and after the course. The model describes the environment, different phases, roles, provides ideas for creativity, and advices to avoid problems." Good synthesis of various materials, including tables of didactic approaches to environment, problem categories of using Second Life in education, etc. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

A Virtual World in my Hands: Running OpenSim and Imprudence on a USB Key
By John Lester, Full of Tricks, Oct 08, 2010

I really think people need to take seriously the possibilities inherent in the simple USB key (a.k.a. the thumb drive). Like, say, running an entire virtual world from one. This can be done now. John Lester writes of following "Ener Hax's wonderful blog, and a detailed explanation of her own experiences setting up and running OpenSim on a USB key.  I also found a blog post by Peter Miller (the creator of the amazing StoryMachine data visualization tool), detailing his own experiences. Finally I found Roger Stack's detailed research explaining in simple steps how to get it all set up." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Is Baby Duck Syndrome Holding Back Digital Literacy Development at Your School?
By Wesley Fryer, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Oct 17, 2010

I haven't seen the name 'baby duck syndrome' before, but the phenomenon it describes is something I've seen on numerous occasions. It afflicts not just teachers but almost anyone working with technology. As each new technology is unveiled, it attracts a flock of adherents, who imprint on it (it seems). Not only do they become advocates for the new technology, chiding people who have not advanced from the previous technology, they become hold-outs when something even newer comes along, converting only eventually and painfully. The condition isn't irreversible; I've seen people imprint on a number of different technologies over the years (I am one such, having imprinted on MUDs, then RSS and blogging, and in a different sphere, Basic, and then C, and then Perl). These days I could run down the list of people in the Ed Tech community and lable them by technology: blogging, Moodle, Twitter, Second Life, etc. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Academics Discuss Mass Migration From Second Life
By Jeff Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct 18, 2010

It looks like the lights may be dimming on the academic quarter of Second Life. The angst comes as Second Life has removed education discounts, thus posing a steep increase in costs for academic users. "Scott Diener, associate director for information-technology services at the University of Auckland, said his institution was 'very likely to move out of Second Life.' He said many longtime Second Life users are angry at the recent decisions by the company that runs the service, Linden Lab." Is it too soon for me to say "I told you so?" Via Richard Nantel. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010
By Shannon D. Smith, Judith Borreson Caruso, with an introduction by Joshua Kim, EDUCAUSE, Oct 25, 2010

"The idea of using the Internet as a giant storage drive in the sky has not taken long to catch on among computer users," write the authors of this large study of American undergraduate computer users. "Many of today's undergraduates are already cloud-savvy information consumers, and higher education is slowly but surely following their lead." The study also documents a shift in ownership from desktops to laptops, widespread use of library websites, presentation software and learning management systems, along with text messaging and social network services. Use of technology for course collaboration peaks at around 50 percent for online word processors and bottoms out at 30 percent for virtual worlds and second life. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Discussing 3D Learning Archetypes
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Oct 27, 2010

Karl Kapp writes, "A few months ago, Tony O'Driscoll and I teamed up with Daniel Bliton and Charles Gluck for a discussion of some of the topics of Learning in 3D." The videos, '3D Virtral World Learning Archetypes' and The 7 Sensibilities of 3D Virtual Worlds for Learning are definitely worth a look. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education
By Various authors, Website, Dec 30, 2010

Volume 1 Number 1 of the Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education is now available online. The journal appears to be free and open access; you can get the PDF version here, though it appears thar articles are only available in the one large full-issue PDF, which is inconventient for linking and reading. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Smoke Signals
By Marc Pesce, the human network, Jan 28, 2011

Today's theme, forcefully stated by Marc Pesce (the inventor of VRML and various other technologies still shrouded being the veil of patent wars): "Although Wikileaks successfully resumed its work releasing the cables, the entire incident proved one ugly, mean, nasty point: the Internet is fundamentally not free. Where we thought we breathed the pure air of free speech and free thought, we instead find ourselves severely caged. If we do something that upsets our masters too much, they bring the bars down upon us, leaving us no breathing room at all. That isn't liberty. That is slavery."

- Design Principle One: Distribute Everything
- Design Principle Two: Transport Independence
- Design Principle Three: Secure Everything
- Design Principle Four: Open Everything

If you wonder what I'm up to with gRSShopper and with PLEs and the rest of it, that's it. It is an agenda which is very much not popular with the people in power. I don't care. If people can take it upon themselves to stand in front of tanks, set themselves on fire or pray in the streets, I can take it upon myself to write a few thousand lines of philosophy and open source code. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Twitter is just another bloody MMORPG
By Dean Groom, Design for Learning, Feb 28, 2011

Deam Groom nails the analogy in one. "I see Twitter as a game of sorts. Searching for #edchat or whatever #conference is on today is questing. Choosing to Tweet is not that different from choosing to chase down honour points in Warsong Gulch. Sharing resources and bookmarking what you find is a version of the ‘need' or ‘greed' mechanic Warcraft uses to get players to make critical choices." He also nails the theorizing as well. "It is haughty to look down on games such as Warcraft or non-game worlds such as Second Life, and not to understand their rich history. From Multi-User (text) Dungeons to the beauty of Warcraft and Rift, game-designers have mastered that which education hasn't." Perfect. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

The Existential Ed-Tech Pursuit?
By Ian Quillen, Digital Education, Jun 30, 2011

I think people need to understand that this is normal, that this is not going to change, and to roll with it: "Whether or not educators are catching up with technology, they don't feel like they are... 'What [the findings] tell me is that because this is such a dynamic world out there, the end point keeps moving out on them,' Billings said at a Tuesday press briefing across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, site of this year's annual ISTE conference. 'The more they do, the more they're aware of how much more they should be doing.'"

What I think happens is that when a person first embraces a technology, he or she does so as an enthusiast - now this is fine, but being an enthusiast takes a lot of time and effort, and when the technology in question passes out of favour, as they all do, it's a bit daunting to work up the energy to become an enthusiast again with something new, to catch up with all those people who are already enthusiasts. You have to pick your battles. I was an enthusiast, for example, of Basic, then C, then LPC, then Perl, but not of C++, Java or PhP. I was an enthusiast of LMSs and Learning Objects, then blogging and RSS, and distributed MOOCs, but not of online facilitation, e-portfolios, Second Life, Twitter and Facebook, or competency frameworks. Not everybody can be an enthusiast, much less an expert, in everything. The key is to let go, to find something that works for you now, to embrace that, and to not worry about 'keeping up' (because people will be 'keeping up' with you!). [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Second Life is Dead - Prepare for an OpenSim World
By John Rogate, Marjon Klapwijk, Aug 15, 2011

Oh, hey, I don't want to say I told you so, but according to this presentation at a Sloan Consortium conference, "Linden Labs and Second Life are rapidly becoming a dying entity. Schools are flocking to alternative Virtual World solutions. Now there is a low/no cost and secure alternative to Second Life. OpenSimulator is a rapidly spreading alternative. Virtual Worlds are coming." Now that we are dispensing with the closed-world corporate version, perhaps we can now get on with the project of building a web of three-dimensional sites. Now that would be a bandwagon I could envision getting on to! Via James OReilly post in the e-Learning in Developing and Developed Countries Facebook group. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Games in 7 minutes
By Dean Groom, Design for Learning, Oct 31, 2011

Dean Groom recommends this video. He writes, "There are a lot of videos about games – this one is an excellent blend of theory and culture. When you’ve finished, create your own story at Massively Minecraft." I'd love to - if only I could find the extra hours in a day, and no, I'm not about to trade virtual hockey for Minecraft. Here's more from Dean Groom on Minecraft. And a well-spoken caution to scholars: "What I’d like to know, should our work not be seen as important or relevant is this … What have you created in the metaverse that we can learn from to correct our foolish errors to make the experience better for our players? [just supply the link]. Please avoid dive-bombing the work of non-scholars (whatever that means) from a lofty perch, as that position is somewhat of an assumption. The greatest sword fighter in all the world delivered pizza." Well said. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Is Land Sinking? Linden Lab Holds An Unusual Sale
By Avril Korman, Search Engine Watch, Nov 01, 2011

A land sale waiving setup fees may be the harbinger of much bigger problems at Linden Labs' Second Life, according to this column. Writes the author, "The big problems here that exist will not be solved by a short term land sale. In fact, they may only have exacerbated the problem... The ripples of this sale will be going on for quite some time. I'd say roughly six months to see how things shake out. I wish I could say that I think that overall this will have been a positive gain- but to be honest, I think that it may be a gigantic overall disaster." Via James OReilly on Facebook. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Dreamworks Wants to Animate the Web
By Tim Simonite, Technology Review, Nov 17, 2011

Maybe Second Life was just ahead of its time? It's tempting to say so when watching the popularity of sites like Minecraft and World of Warcraft. And now, two more indications. The first is an article about Dreamworks's desire to "animate the web." According to the article, "that push will start next year, when DreamWorks will start to spin out its latest 3-D animation technology into the world of the social Web. That technology was developed in concert with Intel." And in the other story, an OpenSim provider is announcing that subscribers will be able to montize their virtual worlds. In their blog, they announce the opening of public worlds and the beginnings of in-world commerce. Both items via James OReilly on Facebook. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

EdTechWeekly#209 - What are the big themes in Edtech?
By John Schinker, Jeff Lebow, Drew Mcallister, Dave Cormier, EdTechTalk, Feb 27, 2012

Good listen. "Echnology Integration Specialist, Drew McAllister joins Dave, John, & Jeff to discuss his efforts to share the big themes of EdTech with his staff as he transitions to a new position." Best bit: preparing a class to go into Second Life is just like preparing them to go to a pig farm. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

3D Virtual Worlds are NOT Dead, Dying or Disappearing
By Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Mar 19, 2012

In response to recent reports that 3D virtual worlds are dead, disappearing and dying we see this article from Kaplan asserting that they are not, in fact, dead, disappearing or dying. Perhaps the other reports should simply have written 'deserted' and left it at that. No matter. The article is uncoinvincing. Karl Kapp writes about the virtues of a virtual world ("there is a level of engagement that I have never experienced with 2D webinar software or even video conferencing") but aside from reporting on a class where he was a gues speaker,m he offers no evidence to support the assertion in his headline. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Connectivism: 21st Century Learning in Action
By John Barnett, Vance McPherson, Rachel Sandieson, University of Western Ontario, Apr 03, 2012

Poster (PDF) linking major aspects of a course 'Teaching in the Virtual World' offered within a connectivist framework ("Enhancing one’s knowledge is in developing new connections (neural, social, academic) more than remembering facts, ideas, or concepts"). Conclusion: "Relative diversity of the group was a source of growth, enrichment and cognitive dissonance — in short, each person was important to the learning environment." [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Yes, it is Bleeding Edge Week
Center4Edupunx, Apr 12, 2012

I can't keep up with all the new MOOCs being created, but I can point you to Week 4 of the Virtual Worlds, Games & Education MOOC. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

Future of Work: Musical Performance in Virtual Worlds
By Linda Rogers, hPlus Magazine, Sept 24, 2012

Interesting article on the use of Second Life to host virtual concerts performed by classical musicians. The author discusses the types and mechanics of virtual concerts, but the bulk of the article is devoted to the experience. The concerts offer musicians a valuable training environment, enabling them to practice before a live audience and keep up with works they might not perform frequently. And because audience members can text during a performance, it becomes more of a community event. This article is the first I've seen of hPlus Magazine; I've added it to my subscription list.

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University of Illinois at Chicago: Virtual Reality’s CAVE Pioneer
By Brad Grimes, Jan 30, 2013

Wow, this feels like a black from the past, reading about the CAVE - the first CAVE was launched in 1992. The idea was to create a fully enclosed virtual environment (similar to what we would today call the holodeck). This article talks about CAVE2, launched last October. "CAVE2 flat-panel LCD screens include micropolarizers, which, when viewed through stereoscopic glasses, ­create a 3D effect — or the illusion of depth — like that found in movie theaters showing 3D feature films."

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The End of the (MOOC) World is Nigh
By Matt Crosslin, ProPublica, Mar 01, 2013

I expect more of this sort of article in the months to come. There is an intuitive appeal to the argument. "Anyone remember Second Life?" asks Matt Crosslin. I certainly do - and I remember the pushback when I said (in 2007) that Second Life had no future. "When a tool or concept gets labeled disruptive before it actually disrupts anything," says Crosslin, "it more often than not dies out." OK. But to hearken back to my Second Life talk, here's what survives: software that features distributed ownership, open source, non-commercial, diverse and democratic, a place where we create our own worlds, where we can visit freely from place to place, and where we can create our own learning commons. Those parts of MOOCs that are closed, commercial and proprietary will indeed die off. And yes, the media hype will certainly fade; that's just the nature of media. But the original concept - massive, open, online learning - will survive, and will continue to be disruptive.

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Solicitation View for ADLBAA12001-0000
Aug 23, 2013

Interesting U.S. military request for research proposals to develop a 'personal assistant for learning' (PAL). "The PAL environment must allow the learner seamless access to a network of capable peers and/or mentors, and function across multiple platforms and environments (e.g., reality, mixed reality, virtual worlds, serious games, and simulations). It must assess and track performance throughout the learning process, whether formal or informal. Inherent system requirements include scalability and flexibility of platform and learning environment."

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"Which Technology Should I Use To Teach Online?": Online Technology and Communication Course Instruction
By Carolyn S. Carlson, Aug 26, 2013

I think there is value in this article, but it is so oddly put together that I'm not altogether sure what to make of it. A few things: first, the discussion of technology and media, which relegates m'media' to (essentially) delivery channel while making 'tchnology' mean not only content creation tools, but includes the pedagogy and teaching strategies, along with the kitchen sink. Second, the list of technologies (but not media) assessed: PBworks (wikis), Final Cut Pro, Adobe Audition, Facebook, Twitter, Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, Wimba, GoToMeeting, and Second Life. No blog tools, no LMSs, no office software. Odd. I can't imagine how Final Cut Pro ends up in the same list as Twitter, but there you have it. Third, the 'four dimensions' assessed: declarative ('what'), procedural ('how'), conditional ('when' and 'where'), and reflective ('why'). One wonders why 'who' didn't make the cut. Finally, fourth, the results, which assesses Final Cut Pro as "good" for all four dimensions, and Twitter as "best for reflective learning." Via Miguel Guhlin.

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Blocksworld Making Pretty Good Money for Linden Lab
By Wagner James Au, Aug 28, 2013

Second Life has pretty much vanished from the radar (I follow a few groups and a couple of lists just to keep in touch) but Linden Labs is not disappearing quietly. It has scored a success with a product called Blocksworld that resembles Minecraft and is playable on the iPad. It's a bit of a marketing switch for LL, shifting from selling 'islands; to colleges and companies to iPad apps to consumers, but in my view, the consumer play has always been the more stable long-term business model.

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Canaries in the Coal Mine
By Ellie Brewster, Oct 06, 2013

This is a blog post about the first meeting of a Second Life discussion group formed to discuss the videos of a distributed open collaborative course on feminism and technology. More information about the group can be found here. And more about the course can be found on the course website.

"Most of us are information workers," writes Ellie Brewster, "and there was a vigorous nodding of avatar heads when we discussed this quote from Wacjman: in creative industries, or whatever terms you use for these kinds of industries, that people are working extraordinarily long hours, they’re not unionized, they’re a perfect example of the blurring of private time and time for their employer, although they are self-employed and don’t think of it this way."

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Reviewing the trajectories of e-learning
By Grainne Conole, eLearning Brothers, Jan 15, 2014

Grainne Conbole offers a timeline history of e-learning with quite a bit of discussion for each item, ranging from learning objects to virtual worlds to MOOCs. I like the idea, but I would probably tell a different story. I'd draaw out the discussion of distance learning and learning media, mentioning (for example) Australia's School of the Air. Programmed learning should get its own section, because it was so influential. Videotables (and later, CDs) were important (and are the major reason we use the term e-learning instead of online learning). Bulletin Boatrd services were important in the late 1980s, and text-based interfaced (FTP, Gopher, IRC, MUD) were important before the web began. Between the late 1980s and early 2000s Usenet and mailing lists were very important forms of online learning. The learning management system predates learning objects. I would talk about the introduction of RSS in 1998 and the Open Archives Initiative, as well as the Budapest Open Access Declaration of 2002, all important forerunners of open educational resources (OERs).

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What All the Outrage Over the Oculus Deal Says About Facebook, the Brand
By Simon Dumenco, Gadgette, Mar 26, 2014

People are really upset that Oculus Rift (a prototype virtual-reality headset) has been acquired by Facebook. Oculus VR, the parent company, got its start on KickStarter via the contributions of some 9,522 backers (who receive none of the $2 billion purchase price). Now they and other supporters feel betrayed. As Minecraft creator Markus Persson, wrote on his blog, "I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook. Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven't historically been a stable platform. There's nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me. And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition." (Emphasis his.) And as Simon Dumenco writes, "it seems to me that various sentiments... that Facebook is creepy, untrustworthy, unethical, predatory and vaguely desperate... have gone mainstream." Language warning for numerous obscenities in this article.

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Assembling University learning technologies for an open world: connecting institutional and social networks
By John Hannon, Matthew Riddle, Thomas Ryberg, OptimalScholarship, May 07, 2014

Perhaps this is why I understand traditional academics less and less as time goes by: "many academics still prefer - knowingly or otherwise - to replicate the ‘real’ in the virtual world, rather than unfetter themselves from tradition and the familiar and create new selves, constructs, relationships and opportunities for engagement." By contrast, I feel myself and my work adapting and growing as technology grows. So do students, which creates a growing challenge to institutions. "The widespread adoption of social media among students brings shared interactional practices that does not match university arrangements for learning. This, we argue, invites reappraisal of the framing of established educational practices and the metaphorical work that precedes it." From the double symposium on Actor Network Theory.

I should add, quoting from the article: "There are three observations or upshots from these cases:

  • the shift to student self-organisation is consistent with the informal practices and rhetoric of social media, with its continual work of relating (liking, updating) and crafting an identity in a “personalised network”
  • the mobile practices of informal, self-organised learning challenge the metaphors of bounded (regional) learning spaces
  • student social media practices overflow the framing of institutional learning environments."

It makes me think of the comment in the introduction to the symposium about the templates that "tightly controlled how papers were formatted: the fonts used, margins and spacing and other things.. to stop you from doing some things, including exactly what we are doing here: using a different font, different margins with a different justification..."

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Oculus Rift: Freezers, smilers, grippers, swayers, screamers and freak-outs – resistance is futile
By Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Nov 17, 2014

I wonder how big systems like Oculus Rift will become. OR (I'll call it for short) is a virtual reality system that fits like a mask over the face. And as Donald Clark says, "Once you flood their field of view with a screen that has a high refresh rate with rock solid tracking so that your head movements mimic what would happen in that world, along with great audio – you’re there. That new world is your reality." I really should get me one of those. This article classifies OR reactions and provides a video of one person "freaking out" in the environment.

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Google's road to virtual reality begins with Cardboard
By Nicole Lee, Engadget, Dec 10, 2014

Donald Clark has been a vocal supporter of virtual reality and can be seen pictures displaying is passion for Oculus Rift. But this company, which was purchased by Facebook out of the hands of a very angry Kickstarter audience, may be facing substantial competition from Google. Clark may want to refocus his energies. In a 20% project that took off, Google's Cardboard regains some of the search giant's original charm while displaying a flexibility that is uncommon. The device is actually made of cardboard, some lenses, and a mobile phone. "Google is releasing new building specifications and tools for makers of its Cardboard headset, whether they're businesses like DODOCase and Knoxlabs or individuals like you and me.... mall businesses like I Am Cardboard and Unofficial Cardboard were formed out of just making and selling the Cardboard designs that Google open sourced."

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How Valve's secret meeting got devs on board with Steam VR
By Jessica Conditt, Engadget, Mar 15, 2015

If I had to place my wager on whether usable VR will be created by either sketchy Kickstarter start-up Oculus Rift or game developers Valve, I'd place my money on Valve? Why? Well, Valve didn't enter the world by betraying its supporters, it has a strong history of game development, and it has a 21st century management style. Plus, there's the Winnipeg connection, which means the [project has strong Canadian genes. Also, their stuff appears to work really well (after all, it it doesn't create nausea in the woman eight-months pregnant with twins, it probably won't create nausea in me).

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VR and consciousness – some truly freakish ideas
By Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Apr 16, 2015

I experience the arbitrariness of consciousness every day. I put on my glasses, and my whole world changes. More recently, I have enjoyed the altered consciousness of being completely immersed in sound by means of my MP3 player and some quality earbuds. We are conscious - we experience. The two are one and the same phenomenon (think 'morning star' and 'evening star'). The varieties of experience are the varieties of consciousness. And experience is, fundamentally, in the mind, and consciousness is in part a re-experiencing, in part an imagining, in part a sensory perception, and in part, as Charles Dickens famously said, "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato." At a certain point, when virtual reality becomes sufficiently real, it becomes cognitively indistinguishable from actual experience, and hence, equally powerful.

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We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life
By Patrick Hogan, Fusion, Aug 18, 2015

It's almost as though nobody could have seen this coming. Oh wait. "Most of these virtual universities are gone –– it costs almost $300 per month to host your own island –– but it turns out a handful remain as ghost towns."

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NASA shows the world its 20-year virtual reality experiment to train astronauts: The inside story
By Erin Carson, Tech Republic, Sept 17, 2015

This is a terrific article on NASA's use of virtual reality to train astronauts. A lot of the focus of VR is on skills training, but the article makes it clear that one of it's key roles is to give the astronauts a feeling of familiarity with the environment and to help them develop the right intuitions for working in a weightless environment. "There's a great advantage in just feeling as though the environment isn't entirely new. 'It means everything. It's not hard to realize that just beyond that thin little visor is instantaneous death. It's oblivion,' Wheelock said." E-learning (including VR) can prepare us far better than traditional instruction for such situations (indeed, the idea of teaching it in a classroom is laughable). So - to answer the traditional objection to e-learning - I wouldn't want to employ an astronaut (or a pilot, or a brain surgeon) who didn't use e-learning.

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Wearable tech expands new horizons in schools
By Alison DeNisco, Oct 24, 2015

The headline is misleading - the article is mostly about Google's Cardboard, a $16 set of cardboard goggles you can use with your mobile phone to see 3Dish scenes and videos using specially designed applications. Yes, schools are interested in this. "Thousands of schools in the United States, Australia, Brazil and the United Kingdom are piloting Google Cardboard’s virtual field trip software called Expeditions this year." The article cautions that "Teachers need PD before they can integrate virtual reality, fitness and other programs into lessons. If no funding is available, district tech leaders can ask a group of teacher leaders to collect training and curriculum resources." You can also get more expensive viewers if you want.

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Rosedale: I was wrong with Second Life
By Lukemary Slade,, Nov 05, 2015

Virtual reality continues to have believers, and at some point I expect it to become much more significant. This post features a summary of a talk by Philip Rosedale, who founded Second Life. In his talk Rosedale explains that Rosedale, was just too difficult (it could take as much as 40 hours to learn to do everything with only a keyboard and a mouse) and the environment itself was directionless; it didn't feature any game-like elements. Me, I didn't like Second Life's business model, and really disliked having to take someone else's name as my identity. But his High Fidelity open-source virtual reality platform  may fix all that, and he is expecting bigger things. This article forecasts a $120 billion market for augmented reality, and $30 billion for virtual reality, by 2020. More. That's a lot of money, but expect a lot of it to be taken by services like Oculus Rift, Microsoft's Hololens, and even Minecraft.

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10 Things I Learned From My 3D Printer: An Early Adopter's Diary
By Michael Lydick, PC Magazine, Nov 30, 2015

What I like about this story is that it's not just a story about being an early adopter, it's a story about learning. And it's not one of those "you can learn it in ten minutes" stories, it's a story about what it takes to learn something big, complicated, and unfinished. "It turns out that there's a "dark Web" of Thingiverse full of parts people have designed to make their cheap printers not only functional, but behave like the $2,000-plus models. There's an entire economy and community of people, not unlike the popular VR world Second Life, who are devoted entirely to upgrading and modifying printers..."

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Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015
By Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Dec 02, 2015

Every year Audrey Watters publishes a series of posts in December summarizing the year that was. This December is no exception, and she begins by recapping the (many) "Zombie ideas" that continue to come back year after year (you'll find it after the intro and after the links to previous years - keep scrolling down, it's there). Zombie ideas? These the learning management system, the idea that tech causes cheating, virtual reality (and cardboard), the transformative (or non-transformative) nature of ed tech, ed reform, the business of ed tech, and more and more automation.

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Create cognitive plugins for Minecraft with Bluemix, Docker, and Watson
By Kyle Brown, IBM Developer Works, Dec 10, 2015

OK, this is really really brilliant, but it will take a lot of brainpower to comprehend and even more to follow the instructions and make the whole thing work. But the concept behind what's happening here must not be passed by, and knowledge of some of the mechanics is essential to understanding the new world of applications programming.

So here's the concept: you can put the intelligence of a large artificial intelligence like IBM's Watson into characters or objects that inhabit a virtual world like Minecraft. This is not theory; this 4-part tutorial provides detailed instructions on how to do exactly that. "you'll see how to build a plugin that uses the Watson Q&A service to answer questions about diseases — and then how to combine that plugin with another third-party Minecraft plugin that adds infectious diseases to your Minecraft villagers. When you combine the two, you get a reason within the game to learn about how to diagnose and treat a disease, as well as how to do so." Brilliant.

Along the way, you'll learn about a number of relatively recent but important building blocks forming the new internet (think of it as the real web 3.0). First is Docker. "Docker allows you to package an entire running system — all the way down to the operating system — into a single, lightweight package (not surprisingly, called a container) that you can then move from place to place." Next is Bluemix, " to take your Docker containers and run them not only on your local machine, but also in the cloud for others to access." You do this using Cloud Foundry. The coding is done inside the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). Via Doug Peterson. P.S. Tony Hirst sends another example of running an app with containers.

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VR Is Almost Here: What Will I Need to Be Ready?
By Chris Stobing, How-to-Geek, Jan 06, 2016

Useful article. In addition to the two pseudo-VR systems available (Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR) actual Virtual Reality systems like HTC’s Vive (see more) and Facebook’s Oculus Rift will be available soon, along with the PlayStation VR from Sony and maybe Microsoft's HoloLens AR (augmented-reality) project. What will you need to run them? In a nutshell: a good computer with lots of memory, and a graphics accelerator card (yes, folks, you'll need a desktop) computer to put all this in. You'll also need space to play - anywhere from 8x8 feet to as much as 15x15 feet (5x5 metres). It will also be pricey. For now.

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Technology and the Imminent Disruption of Higher Education: Is Fear the Path to the Dark Side?
By David Wheeler, Academica Forum, Jan 14, 2016

Good article from Cape Breton University president David Wheeler examining some of the major trends in university education today. Here's a quick summary (quoted from the article):

  • Gamification - enhancing emotional engagement with learning
  • Rewards - from points and badges to certificates and degrees
  • Adaptive learning - from artificial intelligence to tutoring
  • Simulations - from apprenticeships to virtual reality
  • Social learning - reproducing the classroom and peer support online

One of the strengths of Wheeler's article is that he clearly identifies the impact of the trend on learning and provides examples of companies or applications that are innovating in this space. He also links back to a Guardian article from a couple weeks ago citing studies which show clearly the idea that knowledge is a web of associations, and not like disk storage or memory tape. And his message has a hard edge: "If an institution cannot support flexible, high quality, and competitively-priced learning journeys for students of all ages and backgrounds, then another institution will, and it may be based anywhere from Arizona to New Zealand."

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Virtual Reality on the Horizon
By Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 13, 2016

The original title of this item was "Despite the hype, virtual reality still years away from making a difference in higher ed." This seems right. We're still in the early adopter phase, where proponents " imagine a future in which students go on field trips around the world from the comfort of the VR lab, joined by tour guides who connect to the class remotely." But several thinks hold the technology back. Cost is one; headsets are still expensive. Movement is another, particularly when combined with oft-experienced "virtual reality sickness". But this, according to the article, is the time to get involved with the new technology. "It seems like a crucial time to jump on it, mold it, direct it and fashion it in a way we think serves our mission," says Anthony F. Guest-Scott.

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Will Virtual Reality Solve Your Real-world Problem?
By Lisa Minogue-White, Aug 22, 2016

The answer to this question is still mostly "no' but this business-focused article looks at some training scenarios - for example, a virtual “hackathon” space using Microsoft's “holoportation” technology. The article outlines a framework for evaluating the potential use of virtual reality (VR), "a model for analyzing dimensions of the learning need and how appropriate VR would be as a solution," with three dimensions: risk, sensory, and practice. "Seeing the world through another’s eyes can be a deeply powerful emotional experience; and because the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic stimuli of a VR environment are so immersive, VR gets you very close indeed to truly seeing through someone else’s eyes." See also this report about VR experiments at Stanford.

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On the value or otherwise of SAMR, RAT etc.
By David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, Aug 24, 2016

This is a topic that could occupy the rest of your day if you let it. Don't.


Here is the argument: "SAMR is not a model of learning.... SAMR does not relate to skills; it does nothing to develop the higher order skills of Bloom’s revised taxonomy: creativity, evaluation, analysis – the areas that we clearly need to focus on and develop with our young people." SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) may indeed may be derived from RAT (Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation). But the criticism is that SAMR lacks "a body of appropriate, peer-reviewed academic research, demonstrating the benefit of the SAMR model in improving outcomes for learners." Contrary to what the critics say, references to SAMR are to be found in peer reviewed literature - here, for example, or here, here, here, and on for several pages in Google Scholar (hard to find because 'Samr' is also a popular first name).

But all the above is pure straw man argument. Here's the real argument, as offered by Charlie Love: "the SAMR model degrades/demeans meaningful technology based learning activities and directs teachers to think of their use of technology as insufficient if it is not 'transformative'." And this version I've seen a lot. I've even used it. For example: "it is a waste of time and technology to simply use Second Life to recreate the classroom experience." Or "digital technology could be used much better than simply recreating flashcards for memorization." Against that Love argues, "the whole reason to bother with substitution/augmentation tasks is to gain the efficiencies of time, reduce the level of administration and reduce opportunities for learners to go down the wrong path." That's fine - but there is a ton of literature showing you can and should use technology to go beyond your original teaching task. 

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Learning in the Digital Age
By Michael Grant, Conference Board of Canada, Oct 14, 2016

This report from the Conference Board of Canada "explores the potential of e-learning in the Canadian setting." Most Conference Board reports are expensive (like this excellent Learning and Development Outlook from last year) but this one is free. Most readers of this newsletter will find the report very superficial, dated and quaint. It's not clear there was actually a literature review, as claimed - many of the (sparse) resources in the bibliography link to error pages on the Conference Board website (the references have other errors, including a '2003' article on MOOCs). The main points of discussion - whether e-learning should be employed, the quality of faculty-created courses, the nature of the LMS - would have been appropriate in 2004. Aside from a short discussion of MOOCs, there is nothing about modern e-learning: social networks, simulations and virtual reality, gamification, workplace support (indeed, workplace learning is all but ignored). The report contains three recommendations: reduce economic barriers, tackle institutional constraints, and adopt excellent practices. Well sure; we'll get right on that, once we get past this Y2K bug thing.

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Immersive Virtual Reality: Online Education for the Next Generation
By Peter Merry, ConVerge, Oct 18, 2016

A fairly light read with a decent number of links, this short article touts the potential of virtual reality (VR) to reshape education. Of course, if past experience is any guide, instead of creating simulations of ERs and submarines, educators will use VR to simulate the typical college lecture theatre. Anyhow, some references to projects here include: Project Sansar, a VR creation platform; High Fidelity open-source VR platform; Facebook’s social VR, and much more. See also CBC, In VR and AR, Computers Adapt to Humans.

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Facebook’s Social VR Coming Sooner than you Think
By Emory Craig, Digital Bodies, Oct 19, 2016

It's easy to forget that Oculus Rift and Facebook are the same company. We shouldn't. "According to RoadtoVR, Facebook’s Social VR platform for Oculus Rift is coming sooner than you think... maybe not this year, but 2017 sounds like a real possibility." Basically the technology combines VR scenes and individual avatars. The article notes "Quartz has a comparison of the avatars from F8 in April 2016 and OC3 in October."

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'Star Trek: Bridge Crew' finds a new frontier in VR co-op gaming
By Daniel Cooper, Engadget, Oct 26, 2016

I spent the summer of 1981 in a basement programming every bit of a TI-99 computer in order to build a Star Trek game. It wasn't much (but for the time it was great, with a strategy view and a viewscreen view and enemies that avoided being shot). You couldn't do a lot with a computer in those days, but this was always my objective: a fully immersive Enterprise bridge crew simulation. So, some 35 years later, for me, the future has arrived. Or will arrive, when I get to play this puppy.

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Art & Design Students Produce Virtual Reality Musical
By Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Nov 03, 2016

These are probably the same people who will be pioneering this art form professionally in a few years. Hands-on experience like this is invaluable. "As Michael Chaney, a professor of film and television and one of the faculty leads on the project, explained in a video about the production process, 'We consulted with the leading pioneers in this industry and we ourselves are becoming pioneers." It's worth visiting the project website, which gives you a far better idea of the project than this short article.

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4 learning and development trends for HR leaders to watch in 2017
By Tess Taylor, HR Dive, Nov 16, 2016

It's not the first 'end of the year' article (believe it or not) but it's early. Too early, in my view, but I digress. Anyhow, it makes four predictions, which I quote:

  • Video will continue to enable micro-learning
  • Millennials will continue to value learning and development as a prime benefit
  • Gamification and virtual reality will continue to enhance learning experiences
  • Mobile learning will continue to expand employee development goals

Well, *yawn*. All of these (very vague) things are happening now. If you're going to write an end-of-year article, try to be useful. How will video be enhanced in 2017? What impact will defining learning as a benefit have? What new features or types of gamification can we expect? How will be define employee development goals? Come on - if you're going to predict, try to actually engage with the topic.

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HoloLens: Making the impossible possible
By Peter Campbell, Pearson, Nov 21, 2016

When Avatar came out the 3D effect was pretty incredible. Now the same 3D effect in movies is ordinary, and you need to have some special reason (ie: CGI effects) to use it. I think things like the hololens are similar. Nurse interactions with patients, or archaeologists interacting with artifacts might qualify. Maybe even visualizations of mathematical formulae. But the normal classroom experience will not benefit from the 3D treatment. Via Inside Higher Ed, where Joshua Kim warns that the product Pearson is touting is more like augmented reality than virtual reality.

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Second Life's creator is building a 'WordPress for social VR'
By Nick Summers, Engadget, Dec 28, 2016

Virtual worlds and virtual reality are natural partners. So there's no real surprise that Second Life is looking to develop to support Oculus Rift and similar technologies. But getting the mix right is difficult - you don't want people to simply inhabit your environment, you want them to invest in it, to build it themselves. Hence, the WordPress analogy - what makes a blog worth reading isn't the software it was written with, it's the content that is written. But the other thing about WordPress is that each person had his or her own blog. Via The Blog Herald.

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VRLearn: Virtual Reality and Learning
By Bobby Carlton, Masie Center, Jan 06, 2017

Elliott Masie still understands branding as this 'VRLearn' report shows. Do yourself a favour, skip the user-hostile web presentation (unless you like simulated paper (complete with page-turning sounds)) and go straight to the 12-page PDF. Virtual Reality has a lot of potential, writes Masie in the introduction, but it brequires three things to grow: authoring systems, a marketplace of VR/AR learning content, and an assessment focus. According to the report, applications exist in hands-on occupations such as aviation and space, medicine and health care, military, sports and even warehousing. Related: THE - VR in Education - Don't believe all the hype.

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How Augmented Reality Enables Conceptual Understanding of Challenging Science Content
By Susan Yoon, Emma Anderson, Joyce Lin, Karen Elinich, Educational Technology & Society, Jan 12, 2017

We're on the verge of getting a deluge of papers like this: "we hypothesize that students acquire a more accurate understanding of the Bernoulli’s principle, a challenging science concept, by interacting with an augmented reality (AR) device." There's nothing wrong with that; we need to know whether games, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc., actually improve the user's understanding. But there's a caveat: if the study is going to generalize (as this one does) then it should have a large number of subjects. 58 students is not a lot of subjects (and dividing them by skin colour is utterly pointless). What I did like about the paper was the discussion of exactly how students get the Bernoulli principle wrong and how AR can address that. As a theoretical paper this is pretty interesting.

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3D TV is finally, blessedly, mercifully, dead — will VR follow suit?
By Joel Hruska, ExtremeTech, Jan 26, 2017

I wonder how many pundits predicted that virtual reality would be one of the big trends for education in 2017. I wasn't one of them. Virtual reality, though definitely cool, suffers from many of the same issues as 3D TV, as this article notes. "Like 3D, it requires expensive, personal peripherals. Like 3D, games need to be designed explicitly for VR in order to showcase the technology to best effectiveness. Like 3D, VR can cause nausea and headaches. Like 3D, working in VR has an entirely new set of best practices... VR is debuting as a gaming peripheral, and gaming is still much more of a solo activity than TV watching." VR has many niche applications. But it won't sweep through learning and technology this year or the next because, fundamentally, it can't.

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9 Top eLearning Trends of 2017 from 49 Experts
By Bryan Jones, eLearning Art, Feb 28, 2017

I amde a small contribution to this as one of the "49 experts". The top three over all were mobile, microlearning, and video. I can't criticize that list too much, except that I would have pegged it as the 2016 list, not 2017. My own predictions were mobile, subscription-based learning, and e-learning platforms. The full e-book (101 page PDF) is available but the textual content is pretty sparse. My full comments: "These are core trends, not fads like VR or blockchain. They reflect both the demand for wider (and cheaper) access, plus the rise of new distributed technologies that make it possible. The crucial (but non-sexy) word for 2017 is 'provisioning'."

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Immersive Education: VR Comes of Age
By Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Mar 03, 2017

I don't think VR has come of age yet, despite what the headline says, though it has taken some large strides forward. "The initial 'cool' factor isn't enough to sustain the market," writes Dian Schaffhauser. "As a recent FutureSource report noted, a big question is whether this new technology can be integrated deeply enough into the curriculum and help achieve specific learning outcomes in order to drive mainstream adoption." I think things can have an impact without being "integrated into the curriculum" (thing: Google search, Facebook, mobile phones...) but it does have to have a strong day-to-day use. So far, VR doesn't have that.

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What we’ve learned about VR ads after 100 millions impressions for brands
By Brad Phaisan, ReadWrite, Mar 10, 2017

It's hard to believe that virtual reality (VR) has already served 100 million advertisements, but there you have it. What have advertisers learned? Probably a lot more than this article tells us. But we do learn that "All data suggests that VR experiences gain higher attention from audiences. With higher engagement from audiences, brands can ensure that their message is delivered more effectively."

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By Kevin Ngo, CSS Tricks, Mar 15, 2017

Every day I'm online, it seems, there's a whole new technology to learn. Yesterday I was messing around with Bower, which has been around  a while but which I hadn't time to learn previously. Today it's on to WebVR. This article looks at Mozilla's A-Frame, a web framework for building virtual reality experiences. A-Frame is based on HTML and the Entity-Component pattern." There's a demo based on "a basic VR voxel builder." Think Minecraft. "The voxel builder will be primarily for room scale VR with positional tracking and tracked controllers (e.g., HTC Vive, Oculus Rift + Touch)." It also works on desktop and mobile - see the demonstration here, and play with it yourself by downloading code from GitHub.

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Virtual Reality: The next big storytelling medium?
By Stephanie Chan, Cisco | The Network, Mar 21, 2017

Would I pay money to see a movie in virtual reality (VR)? Oh my yes I would. According to this, "Upload VR reports that virtual reality is creating fans out of certain big-names like directors Guillermo Del Toro and Justin Lin. Lin, the director of The Fast and the Furious, also directed a Google 360-degree spotlight story called HELP." 

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Why VR Is Failing
By Rob Enderle, E-Commerce Times, Apr 14, 2017

It might be a bit early to say that virtual reality (VR) is "failing" but the arguments in this article are sound (and have been the basis behind my own caution to fully embrace the technology (as much as I really really want to)). "Where VR gets into trouble is in RPGs (role-playing games) and FPSes (first-person shooters). This is because when VR demands movement from the player, it gets not only less realistic but also dangerous."

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From Pikachu to Patients: The Rise and Rise of Augmented Reality
By Jeremy Miles, GP Strategies, May 22, 2017

It's an unusual "rise and rise" that includes a significant retrenchment, but that's what's documented here: "In 2012 AR, along with virtual reality (VR), was being hailed as the next generation technology to watch, with markets estimated at £600 billion (approximately $776 billion) by 2016. Today those estimates have been revised (reflecting passage along the Gartner Hype Cycle) to a more conservative $90 billion annually by 2020." Yes, there is a role for AR to play in online learning. But no, it's never going to be the whole. [Direct Link] [Wayback Link]

New post
By Matt Bower, May 26, 2017

Matt Bower refers to himself in the third person throughout this blog post introducing us to his work with the Blended Synchronous Learning project (see He introduces us to the idea of a "blended-reality environment" (which should really just be shortened to 'blended environment'). "Video and sound recording equipment captured activity in a F2F classroom, which was streamed live into a virtual world so that remote participants could see and hear an instructor and F2F peers. In-world activity was also simultaneously displayed on a projector screen, with the audio broadcast via speakers, for the benefit of the F2F participants." This makes sense but in my experience the key is to ensure the video is large enough to display near-life-size avatars or images, and to ensure the audio in each direction is of sufficient volume and timbre to be accepted as being an equal voice. The paper itself is behind a paywall at BJET but there's a (preprint?) copy at ResearchGate. [Wayback Link]

How Pokemon Go Went From Viral Sensation To Wasteland in Just One Year
By Jameel Raeburn, Complex, Jul 07, 2017

This item is for those ed tech writers (you know who you are) who jumped on gthe Pokemon Go bandwagon a year ago. Today, Pokeon Go is a wasteland, the Second Life of the AR world. Four out of five people have drop out of the game and this article explains why. The most telling of the reasons: there was no goal players were working toward, and it stopped being cool.

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Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?
By Holly Korbey, Edutopia, Jul 17, 2017

The answer is, it might. But it depends on how it is used, and we need to understand that it won't do all things. It won't if it's just a passive experience. This article cites Audrey Watters: “My question is always: How is virtual reality different from educational film?” And it won't if the VR experience is just a virtual classroom or (as pictured) campus. Virtual reality will need to be social and interactive, helping people create as much as concume, for example where "students can uncover the aerodynamics of a windmill through a VR headset, for example, and then apply their newfound understanding to build a windmill of their own." And it will help if it's not expensive, as is currently the case (and a problem) for virtual reality.

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DIY VR Viewer
By Richard Byrne, Free  Technology for Teachers, Jul 21, 2017

How much was oculus Rift again? OK, you're probably not getting the same quality of virtual reality, but you can't beat the price. "YouTube "celebrity" Roman UrsuHack offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer."

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AltSpaceVR Closes – What does it Mean for Social VR?
By Emory Craig, Digital Bodies, Jul 28, 2017

I think the main takeaway here is that multi-user social virtual reality (Social VR) is hard, and it can be expensive. I don't think this is the end for the genre, as the possibilities are too tantalizing. "AltSpaceVR was a sandbox that showed the potential of social VR. We learned a lot about how others behave in VR, and yes, more than a little about ourselves. We saw the promise of their Frontrow feature – how it could transform the virtual into an experience that was incredibly personal. The potential for education and entertainment was crystal clear."

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Virtual Reality and education: some thoughts
By Tony Bates, online learning & distance education resources, Jul 28, 2017

Tony Bates weighs in with some thoughts on virtual reality (VR) after a Vancouver VR Community event at Mobify‘s headquarters in downtown Vancouver. "VR is not just a fad that will disappear," he says. "There are already a large number of commercial applications, mainly in entertainment and public relations, but also increasingly for specific areas of training." True, but VR doesn't apply everywhere. "Most suitable educational applications are likely to be where the cost of alternative or traditional ways of learning are too expensive or too dangerous," he writes. He also argues thagt educational intent must be built-in. "VR may often need to be combined with simulation design and quality media production to be educationally effective." This pushes up the cost, again limiting the applications of VR.

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Mozilla, Aug 08, 2017

Mozilla has announced support for WebVR in Firefox for Windows (making it the first out of the gate). "WebVR provides support for exposing virtual reality devices — for example head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive — to web apps, enabling developers to translate position and movement information from the display into movement around a 3D scene." Now if I could add that to my Glitch homepage...

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10 Influencers Weigh In on the Future of Learning
CGS Blog, Sept 11, 2017

I was most interested in who C GS Magazine thought the "10 influencers" were (and on a more meta level, what counts as an 'influencer'). But I found it interesting to find that there were ten essentially different stories about the future of learning, including: virtual reality, branching games, skills and reskilling, positive work environments, the liberal arts, digital employees, transformational leadership, bots, data-driven learning, and influence on culture. Now I admit I rolled my eyes a bit at what is essentially a listing of the top 10 fads for mid-2017. You may find some useful resourcxes, though, among the books and papers listed for each.

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Photos of the Sky
By Tim Bray, Ongoing, Sept 19, 2017

Like Tim Bray, I've been playing No Man's Sky. The recent update is much improved over what was released last year, and updates have been added since (I turned it on yesterday to discover the mechanics of flying the space ship had changed). It's a simulation in which you fly from planet to planet, explore the planet, collect resources, and complete quests. The most recent version allows players to build based and recruit aliens (I have several working for me). As Bray says, it's easy, and that's a part of its attraction; it's very relaxing. But I'm also playing with an eye to the future. It's a fully generated environment, which means it's essentially endless, and it has the potential to be an immersive environment. It will also support interactivity between players. I can imagine playing it with a virtual reality viewer. That's when No Man's Sky makes the transition to something that's interesting to something that everyone's playing. 

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Bangladeshi ‘floating schools’ reinvent education
Sept 25, 2017

Duribg the Monsoons in Balgladesk a third of the country is flooded, making school attendance impossible. Flipping virtual learning on its head, a fleet of solar-powered floating schools has been launched to address the need. "Each morning, the elementary schools travel to different communities, picking up children along the way. The boats then docks and teach up to 30 children at a time. The boat schools also train adult villagers on children’s and women’s rights, nutrition, hygiene and other practical issues." This is the prmise of From Virtual to Reality. "While some first world countries have brought virtual reality into classrooms to study subjects like science, art and history, other schools are taking their classrooms into the forests or other natural settings."

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Design of Multimedia Teaching Platform for Chinese Folk Art Performance Based on Virtual Reality Technology
By Hong Li, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, Sept 28, 2017

This is a detailed article (13 page PDF) describing the theory, development and testing of a virtual reality system for the teaching of Chinese folk dancing. The system was required because traditional methods of teaching, which depended on instruction followed by practice, were not inspiring people nor encouraging them to engage in the art. "There is still a large space for progress, which is because that the independent learning ability of the students who had received traditional 'duck-stuffing' teaching mode for a long time has not been fully developed." Good case study with a lot to offer people developing similar systems.

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Bringing Mixed Reality to the Web
By Andre Vrignaud, Lars Bergstrom, The Mozilla Blog, Oct 20, 2017

Nice review of work foward mixed reality (XR) (which would include virtual reality (VR)  and augmented reality (AR)) in 2017 as well as discussion of "a draft WebXR API proposal for providing access to both augmented and virtual reality devices." Here's the review (quoted):

It's a busy time in the community for a technology that might be finally reaching it's potential. I'm sure developers and marketers will be careful not to over-hype. Even in a field which benefits directly from it like e-learning the applications are limited to specific cases.

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Virtual Reality as Possibility Space
By monika bielskyte, Medium, Nov 14, 2017

Here are some resources from a sidebar discussion on virtual reality in learning. The first, Virtual Reality as Possibility Space, suggests that "The advent of digital realities is an opportunity for us to rethink the way we could be experiencing information. We are leaving the glowing rectangular screens behind to step into computational space where the world is our desktop." But what there is isn't necessarily what we see. We need to ensure that our new VR worlds are humane, shared, collaboprative, and human. We project our ideas into the world (as in this world of dogs). And VR can project other people's images of reality back to us, creating and shaping those objects in our mind. As this third item notes, "Reality’s portrayal and depiction varies depending upon how it is being represented, and by who is doing or producing the representation of reality. It affects our ethical judgments about how to act and treat other people in the real world."

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The world’s slowest, most boring bus simulator finally has a VR version
By Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, Dec 05, 2017

Stuff like this is what makes the internet great. "After roughly 22 years, one of the worst video games of all time, Desert Bus, finally has a sequel. In very good news for anybody who hears "notorious game's sequel" and flinches, this new take, dubbed Desert Bus VR, is now completely free to own for PC gamers, whether they own a virtual reality headset or not... You drive forward for quite some time, with nothing in the way of turns or oncoming traffic to deal with. If you wanna add some "pizzazz" to the gameplay, you can reach with your hands for a latch that opens the bus's door, or you can drive long enough to see things like the sun go up, the sun go down, and the occasional bug colliding with your windshield." Yeah! And you can't just let it run on its own; it will go off the road. You have to sit there and drive the bus.

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EVE Online
By Mark Richard Johnson, Robert Mejia, Aleena Chia, Ian Gregory Brooks, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Jan 09, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this special issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research (JVWR) focusing on the massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) Eve Online. The game is set in space and is generally a free-for-all of space mining, pirates and corporations. The play and the politics become complex, as documented in Making Science Fiction Real: Neoliberalism, Real-Life and Esports in Eve Online by Mark Richard Johnson and Robert Mejia. Similar themes are explored in Scaling Technoliberalism for Massively Multiplayer Online Games, by Aleena Chia. Meanwhile, Ian Gregory Brooks asks Is Betrayal in EVE Online Unethical? Answer: yes. 

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Google And Lenovo Unveil The First High-Quality Stand-Alone VR Headset
By Daniel Terdiman, Fast Company, Jan 10, 2018

According to this article, "Google and Lenovo pulled back the wraps on their entrant into the stand-alone VR world, the Mirage Solo, a device that has all its computing onboard, and which is capable of positional tracking with no external sensors." These aren't available commercially yet, but it won't be long. Meanwhile, "HTC said it was focusing its stand-alone work on a device called the Vive Focus, which it plans on selling only in China."

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Making Virtual Reality a Reality in Today's Classrooms
By Meredith Thompson, THE Journal, Jan 12, 2018

This article shares "three vignettes of three different approaches: a social studies class in a suburban school district, a district-wide perspective from an urban school district and a class designed entirely around understanding and implementing VR for other classrooms." I like the virtual field trips idea where students create theor own trip on their own phone and then share the experience with the entire class. Pro tip: ""I make sure to tell the students to turn off their notifications before they share their screen with anyone.

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Will Augmented and Virtual Reality Replace Textbooks?
By Michael L. Matthews, Center for Digital Education, Feb 10, 2018

This article is over-stated, but I think it places augmented and virtual reality (AVR) in the correct context, positioning them as potential replacements for the traditional textbook. "Students and professors are now able to connect directly with current images, animations and entire visual learning environments that are fresh off the 'shop-room' floor from the workplace." But I think that the positioning of AVR as an equalizing agent is a bit misplaced. It gives "the ability for a class of diverse students to have an equal playing field," writes Michael L. Matthews. "In the era of textbooks, those who excel in memorization and linear learning styles easily outpaced the visual or conceptual learner."

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Crazy Microsoft Is The Best Microsoft
By Mark Wilson, Co.Design, Mar 10, 2018

Back in 2010 EA released a hockey game for the Nintendo Wii that featured an actual hockey stick as a controller. It was the greatest thing ever, and I spent hours - days! - standing in the dining room developing my career from Peewee to Pro. They didn't support it the following year and I lost interest. But it was a glimpse into the future, which may soon arrive with these Microsoft controllers. Because it's the U.S. they're really focused on guns, but the haptic musical instruments and the cane begin to show the true potential of modern interfaces, especially when combined with virtual reality. Maybe one day I'll be able to play haptic hockey again.

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Will these four technology trends change education in India?
By Shweta Sharan, LiveMint, Mar 11, 2018

The four technologies under discussion are virtual reality, learning communities (including MOOCs), AI tutors and big data. The four are obviously interrelated. “Today, the MOOC ecosystem has come a long way. We have active discussion groups, community meetups by the course, local hackathons, and hackathon tours by the course staff.”

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When virtual reality feels real, so does the sexual harassment
By Jessica Buchleitner, Reveal, Apr 09, 2018

We may have new technology but we have the same old problems: “unbridled misogyny that spawns from gaming anonymity.” As this article notes, this type of poor behaviour has a long history: "Julian Dibbell’s 1993 Village Voice article A Rape in Cyberspace; A decade later, reports of avatar rapes began surfacing after Linden Lab’s virtual world Second Life launched in 2003," and misogynist comments "while then-17-year-old Gittins was playing World of Warcraft". Then there's gamergate, which erupted in the 2010s.The problem, in my view, is that the perpetrators don't think the behaviour is wrong. There need to be consequences, so that they learn that it is.

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How to Soft Launch Virtual Reality in Schools
By Kipp Bentley, ConVerge, Apr 12, 2018

Short article with some advice that seems, on the face of it, obvious. Start with the cheap cardboard VR headsets and maybe have some students do demos for their classes. After experience with this, purchase one or two higher-end headsets and do some exploration projects. Have some students support those teachers who may be interested. Don't buy full-class sets of VR headsets; it's way too early for that. Maybe do some reading (some articles are listed at the end).

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WITHIN creates distribution platform using WebVR
By Judy DeMocker, The Mozilla Blog, Jun 13, 2018

It's still a novelty but we might be seeing much more virtual reality (VR) on the web soon using tech standards WebGL and WebAssembly. This is something that has been coming for some time with the development of the WebVR standards and the WebVR API. The experience will work with web browsers (I tested it with updated versions of Firefox, Chrome (which worked) and Internet Explorer (which didn't)) and also with VR headsets. Here's an example. But explore the Within website for a sense of what's to come - here's an immersive space experience, a taping of Saturday Night Live, and a song from U2. The key here is "is making VR content accessible to everyone, whether they’re watching on a laptop, mobile phone, or headset." Next: a shared group experience. There's (a lot) more to write about this, but for now let's just take a few minutes to admire.

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Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall
By Amitabh Varshney, Eric Krokos, Catherine Plaisant, Virtual Reality, Jun 17, 2018

The research being cited (15 page PDF) is about a very specific technique: memory palaces. The idea of a memory palace is to create an image in your mind, and to then associate each element of the image with something you want to remember. In the study, virtual reality is used to create a memory palace. This story says "people recall information better when it is presented to them in a virtual environment, as opposed to a desktop computer." Donald Clark says "This points towards possible improvements in efficacy, compared to 2D screens and tablets." All true - but we need to remember that the recall of a list of facts is a very minor part of learning.

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How three disruptive technologies can work together to change the world as we know it
By K.R. Sanjiv, ReadWrite, Jun 20, 2018

I think this basic proposition is correct: "In the digital journey, AI, IoT, and VR are all significant levers to redefine processes for both businesses and consumers. But it’s the combination of the three that will be the most disruptive." The acronyms stand for artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR). The question is, how will they be combined. Here's a sense of it: "IoT, for example, doesn't work on a hub-and-spoke model. Currently, the technology operates mostly on the IFTTT model — i.e., 'if this, then that' — but relying on AI instead will create smarter, more granular connectivity."

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Digital learning: distraction or default for the future?
Microsoft Australia Education, Jun 25, 2018

This post is about the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the classroom. The article references a survey from Barnes and Noble College saying "over 51% of students learn best through active participation, while only 12% are able to listen and learn well." It doesn't follow, though, that being able to "turn and study a model to their heart’s content" results in better learning. Being able to "do" something is not the same thing; it implies narrative, purpose, objectives, challenges or some such thing requiring the student to not only study but to actually practice creating or doing something.

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How Unity Is Building its Future on AR, VR, and AI
By Rob Marvin, PC Magazine, Jul 20, 2018

Unity has been around for a while - I've written about it before. It's "a democratized 3D creation tool for developing immersive content. There are Free, Plus, and Pro versions you can buy for monthly subscription fees, and it's royalty-free. So what you build with Unity is yours." As augmented and virtual reality become more mainstream, its importance is increasing. If you aren't aware of the basic concept of Unity and where it is headed, and if you are interested in learning technology, you should review this article to get the lay of the land, and in particular, how adding AI to the mix will have a significant impact in the future.

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Mixed Reality: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Teaching and Learning
By Sue Workman, EDUCAUSE Review, Aug 01, 2018

This article focuses mostly on the anatomy lab at Case Western Reserve University which is focused on providing virtual reality simulations rather than cadavers. It's also a bit of an advertisement for Microsoft's HoloLens. The virtual experience is arguably better than the real: " when students learn about human anatomy using a cadaver, they do not get the experience of looking at the living colors or textures, or seeing how organs function, or learning how blood actually flows." It's easy to over-hype the new technology, and we shouldn't, but this is again one more instance in which new learning technology goes a long way to replace the lecture and the textbook.

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BU, ACC developing virtual reality look at First World War internment camp
Brandon Sun, Aug 23, 2018

This is a part of our history that has to a large degree been expunged and forgotten, but during the first world war internment camps were set up across Canada to isolate "so-called 'enemy aliens' -  immigrants who’d come to Canada from countries that were fighting against the British Empire." The records of these camps were destroyed in the 1950s. One such camp was located in Brandon, not far from where I used to live, and this project will recreate the camp as an interactive virtual reality (VR) experience. Brandon University has a more detailed press release about the project. It is being co-developed with Assiniboine Community College. Here's more information about the internment camps.

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Explore the immersive web with Firefox Reality. Now available for Viveport, Oculus, and Daydream
By Sean White, The Mozilla Blog, Sept 19, 2018

Firebox announces anouther step closer to the immersive web (which isn't what we will all use all the time, but which will make for a really interesting experience some of the time). And they're beginning to comprehend some of the finer points of the new medium. For example, "the ability to search the web using your voice. Text input is still a chore for virtual reality, and this is a great first step towards solving that. With Firefox Reality you can choose to search using the microphone in your headset." In addition to clients announced here there are dev resources and a call for feedback.

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Surprising Ways AI Can Improve eLearning Accessibility
By Pamela Hogle, Learning Solutions, Sept 27, 2018

I don't thing the solutions are particularly "surprising" but I think the linkage between AI and accessibility is a good one. Pamela Hogle describes how AI can help with authoring, with translation and transcribing, with vision assistance (including reading and recognition), with voice commands, and with eye tracking to improve the VR experience, for example, through foveated rendering.

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Here's What I Covered In My 4 DevLearn Presentations
By Mel Milloway, Blog, Oct 28, 2018

Mel Milloway had a pretty busy conference. In his first session he has "the audience go through my Is It Edible? activity and guess what JavaScript was used." Thast's a nice way to do a "how do do it with Javacript" session. The second presentation showed "research on Design Systems and .. my own system for learning experiences." The third showcased "a game based xAPI enabled project" - you can play the game and see your statements coming in live via an embed on a blog post. Awesome. The final talk presented a "mock VR retail scenario that captures xAPI data." (p.s. check out the tab of this article when you move to another tab - there a lovely script that changes the title and icon to "Please don't go".)

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What Does VR Have to Do With Online Education?
By Laura Lynch, LearnDash, Nov 22, 2018

I remember when we first created multi-user online environments back in the early 90s. They were a natural to support learning online, we reasoned. The first thing we build, of course, were classrooms, field trips, and scenarios. We were terribly naive. Then along came 3D environment like Active Worlds and Second Life, and they seemed like a good idea for education. People right away built classrooms, field trips, and scenarios, and we laughed at them for being terribly naive. Now I'm reading about the potential uses of VR in education and seeing the talk turn to classrooms, field trips, and scenarios. What can I say?

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2019 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve
By Andy Hicken, Web Courseworks, Jan 02, 2019

I might have done this chart differently, but I like the way they've documented their process and made it harder to make a case against their hype cycle diagram. But where I disagree: they have blockchain right at the start, pre-hype, while I would have put it at peak hype a year ago. Learning analytics is still on the upslope, while I would have it on the downslope. VR is on the upslope and, again, I would have put it on the downslope. MOOCs are in the trough where they should be. AI might be peaking around now, or it might be on the downslope. This time next year people will realize they were getting giddy about applied statistics. Totally missing from the diagram: cloud, data, identity, open pedagogy, and agency.

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A Whole New World (of Learning)
By Josh Bersin, Chief Learning Officer, Jan 03, 2019

"While I hate to say it," says Josh Bersin, "the end of the LMS as we know it is coming." Instead, "What most companies are doing now is simply 'starving investment' in the LMS so they can spend their money on learning experience platforms, new content libraries, advanced VR and microlearning systems, and tools that help people share video and other types of information, collaborate and implement performance support. Products such as WalkMe, EnableNow (by SAP) and GuideMe (aka MyGuide), as well as tools such as Axonify and Qstream, can deliver training 'as needed' without an LMS, giving L&D leaders the option to shift their investments." (My parentheses and links; image: Axonify).

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VR and AR: The Art of Immersive Storytelling and Journalism
By Emory Craig, Maya Georgieva, EDUCAUSE Review, Jan 23, 2019

The item was the top listing in the EDUCAUSE most-read and most-watched EDUCAUSE Review blogs and videos in 2018. The bulk of this article is a listing of several immersive storytelling initiatives, including: a Masters project, The Wait, at UC Berkeley; a new Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies (ISET) concentration at Johns Hopkins; the Motion Capture Studio and the XReality Center at The New School in New York City; The Mobile Virtual Reality Lab at Florida International University; and a project called To Be with Hamlet at New York University. We are told that in the future immersive storytelling "will impact a wide range of disciplines." Not exactly a penetrating insight.

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VR cameras on the space station for your virtual spacewalk
By Emory Craig, Digital Bodies, Jan 29, 2019

OK, I admit, I'm linking to this because I love the idea of a virtual spacewalk and I want to try it as soon as I can! That said, reading through the article naturally brings to mind additional thoughts. Like: what if I want to move? How would they handle that? In space, you could move in a full 360x360 degree sphere of directions, presumable with some simple jet-pack controls (one of the reasons I like No Man's Sky so much is that it really allows you to move freely and fluidly through the environment). But capturing the video for this kind of movement would create a crazy amount of data! I imagine we would scale up to is, and full-motion VR would be quantified by some sort of 3d movement resolution scale. The lowest would be '2', which is what we get in Google Street View - forward and backward, or maybe '4', which is what we get at an intersection. Maybe '6' would also allow you to move up and down. And so on.

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Study Finds No Difference in VR Learning Outcomes Compared to Other Modes
By Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Feb 07, 2019

According to this study (4 page PDF) that compared VR with hands-on and computer-based activities in an astronomy class, there was "no difference across conditions in average levels of performance on a pre/post knowledge test." Now it should be noted that this is a small study in one particular class, and it would be improper to generalize based on these results (though the Campus Technology article doesn't try very hard to restrain itself). What's interesting, though, is that this result is consistent with the "no significant difference" phenomenon reported in the 1990s. But the real question facing VR (as it was facing digital technologies generally back then) isn't whether you can do the old things just as well, it is what new things can you do with VR that you couldn't do with traditional methods?

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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Education. Myth or Reality?
By Noureddine Elmqaddem, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, Feb 15, 2019

This paper (9 page PDF) makes the very good point that virtual relaity (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been around for decades and haven't produced any great revolution in education to date. So why should we believe recent pronouncements about the coming ascendancy of these old technologies. Noureddine Elmqaddem argues (with examples) that recent advances in these technologies will move them from educational myth to reality. "What has been said till now about these technologies does not show their actual potential. It is just scratching the surface of what they will allow us to do in the near future." Image: Wikipedia.

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'No Man's Sky VR' is the purest way to explore the universe
By Jessica Conditt, Engadget, Apr 04, 2019

I've been playing No Man's Sky since almost the day it launched and this is the upgrade I've been waiting for: VR. The game had a rocky launch; it was basically just a sketchy universe and some controls. But the potential was obvious even then. No, according to this report. this summer's update will include for virtual reality. "If the goal of No Man's Sky is to make players feel, full-stop -- then VR is the best way to play."

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The future of immersive education will be live, social, and personalized
By Amir Bozorgzadeh, VentureBeat, Jul 28, 2019

As its point of departure this article looks at VirtualSpeech, "a hybrid model that pairs VR with traditional course programs like e-learning and in-person training, affording users a chance to practice what they have learnt in realistic environments." The author's predictions are based on 5G mobility that "will allow high-fidelity VR and AR to be streamed to the masses in the frictionless manner in which the tech has always been ultimately intended." Usable 5G is still at least a decade away, however.

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Let's Play: No Man's Sky VR
By Ben Plays VR, YouTube, Aug 20, 2019

As readers know, I've been playing No Man's Sky for several years now. I have hundreds of hours of playtime. :) Anyhow, this week was a banner week because of the new release, called 'Beyond', which included a large number of new game features and - best of all - a VR mode. Now I don't have the VR helmet (alas) but it still plays on my screen, so I'm OK. This video, though, introduces the VR mode from the perspective of someone new to the game. Now this game is deep, there's a lot to learn and remember, and it will take a long time to master. So the gameplay and instructions are crucial. It has taken a while for the producers to get to this point, but you'll see from this video a lot of innovation and nuance. Maybe one day I'll do an analysis of No Man's Sky from a learning perspective, but for now, it's going to be my favourite for a long time (and I can't wait to get a VR helmet).

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Potentials of Fog Computing in Higher Education
By Arumugam Raman, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, Sept 30, 2019

This is a short paper that introduces fog computing to the world of educational technology. What is fog computing? It's like cloud computing, but closer to the end user, and tied more directly with the internet of things (IoT). In this way, it's similar to edge computing. "With Fog Computing, multiple users, gadgets such as automobiles, wearable gizmos, sensing units, wise gadgets, and organization can accept one another utilizing their very own Fog facilities," writes Raman. "Also, various mobile phones can additionally connect directly to every other. The information does not have to be transferred to the Cloud and even the base terminal." The result is much less latency, especially for VR applications that depend on the IoT.

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Pros and Cons of Virtual Reality-Based Learning
By Anthony D. Burns, Quality Digest, Oct 03, 2019

I think this is a good assessment of the potential for virtual reality (VR) in education. "VR does have many specialized applications in industry, such as large-scale flight simulators, remote medical surgery, and astronaut training. However, for business-related training of the average employee, it fails to add any real benefits over interactive 3D on a PC, phone, or tablet." The author notes that lower-quality VR may produce nausea, and that because it is totally immersive, VR has limited application in combination with other activities. Image: Digital Leaders.

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The Paradox of Self-Consciousness
By Markus Gabriel, Edge, Nov 11, 2019

Markus Gabriel outlines the position of 'New Realism', which on the face of it isn't as realist as we might thing. There are, he writes, two fundamental tenets. "Number one is that we can know reality as it is, in itself.... we know how things are. That's claim number one. There is actual objectivity." That's probably a common-sense sort of realism that most people hold. However, "the second claim... is that the world does not exist. What I mean by this is that there is no single unified account of all the facts." For example, there's no fact of the matter regarding whether "there are unicorns in movies." There's no fact of the matter regarding whether "objects in virtual reality are real." This challenge is deeper than it may appear at first glance. Can we know something if we don't know everything? Can we know anything about our selves if we don't know everything?

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A systematic review of immersive virtual reality applications for higher education: Design elements, lessons learned, and research agenda
By Jaziar Radianti, Tim A. Majchrzak, Jennifer Fromm, Isabell Wohlgenannt, Computers & Education, Dec 19, 2019

Because this was a 'systematic review' of the literature a lot of possible content was probably overlooked. Still, what content was studied was studied pretty thorogughly, those the small number (38)  of papers makes the statistical element of the study a bit unreliable. What we do find useful is the lists of learning content and application domains in which VR is being used, as well as the list of data analysis and research methods employed. The authors are critical of the fact that so few studies were based in learning theories (those that were tended to be based in experiential learning, which I guess makes sense). I'm not sure learning theories would be helpful at this point (if ever).

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The XR Association Releases New Guidelines for Social VR
By Emory Craig, Digital Bodies, Dec 27, 2019

These are not technical specifications but rather recommendations for rules and practices to govern behaviour in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) spaces (collectively known as 'XR'). Past experience in other virtual spaces such as discussion boards and social networks shows that disruptive and antisocial behaviour can escalate quickly. This document from the XR Association offers recommendations to help prevent that. "VR users may experience abusive behavior in a more bodily or visceral fashion. When building product tools, we should aim to create strong protection and reporting mechanisms, not diminish them, for a safer, more positive experience for everyone," it says.

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I Don’t Think I’m an EdTech Guy Anymore
By Dean Shareski, Ideas and Thoughts, Dec 30, 2019

Dean Shareski question the nature of the discipline to which he has devoted most of a career. I confess to having said in recent years that I don't think ed tech is a discipline any more, so I can identify with where Shareski is coming from. It has splintered, with the 'pure' ed tech focusing on, as Shareski notes, things like augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, coding, esports and blockchain. But there's also professional learning, global learning and digital citizenships, and I would add things like digital identity and open pedagogy. My focus has always been a bit different - my interest has always been 'online learning and new media'. But in the end, it doesnt matter how the communities form and reform. There's still alot to keep me interested.

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I ate a meal in virtual reality. Here’s what it tasted like
By Rene Brinkley, CNBC, Mar 25, 2020

This article is aimed at the business community, so it portrays spending $2000 on a VR meal as a good thing. But let's set aside crass greed and consumerism and look at the concept. The idea is that you view one thing in a VR helmet while eating something quite different. The result is that it messes with your experience, but in a good way. "For example, one dish appeared as a red sphere on a plate, and this cued the narrator to say, 'I think it tastes like the whistle that the wind makes through a door lock on a cold autumn afternoon.'" The main thing here is that VR allows us to expand our range of possible experiences, opening the way for new ways of perceiving, and comprehending, the world.

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Innovating on Web Monetization: Coil and Firefox Reality
By Anselm Hook, Mozilla Hacks, Apr 01, 2020

A few days ago I linked to an experiment from Firefox called Scroll in which readers paid a collection of content partners directly through the browser. "Not so fast," I said. "What about the rest of us?" We get the answer today in "a Web Monetization experiment using Coil to support payments to creators in the Firefox Reality ecosystem." Basically the idea is that you pay Firefox, and Firefox pays the content creators based on how much time people spend with them. I think this is smart - Firefox Reality is essentially a version of the web for virtual reality headsets, so the audience is limited, and the space is new enough you can still establish new habits (like paying for stuff). But it raises the sceptre of encountering “Error code 402 – payment required” warnings as we browse - exactly what we don't want to see online.

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Technology Virtual reality and augmented reality: overhyped or new industry standard?
By Celeste Martinell, Chief Learning Officer, May 29, 2020

One of the projects I'm working on for my day job involves the use of virtual reality. I still see VR and AR (collectively, XR) as niche applications, certainly for now, and probably for the forseeable future. This article mentions some augmented reality (AR) applications, such as "Opensight, a Microsoft AR-enhanced medical imaging product, which allows clinicians to overlay scans onto the patient and interact with the data in 3D. Similarly, Tradiebot developed an AR app for car mechanics that overlays the repair steps onto the physical car." Price is a factor in the limited adoption (I still cannot afford my own VR viewer), as are the limits on applications.

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Embracing the metaverse: Roblox’s ambitious vision for building online worlds
By Janko Roettgers, Protocol, Jun 15, 2020

A metaverse is "a persistent online world that offers participants a wide range of experiences and avenues for self-expression." This article is focused on Roblox, though there are others - Minecraft, Fortnite, No Man's Sky - that attract loyal and persistent communities. "The metaverse is inherently a social place. It's this shared experience. So your identity becomes important. This ability to be able to have social interactions and maintain and actually make friendships becomes super important. What the internet is for information, the metaverse is going to do for social connections."

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John Legend VR
By Jeremy Dalton, LinkedIn, Jun 29, 2020

This is a super-short LinkedIn post but I want to highlight it nonetheless. "Music icon John Legend performed virtually on Thursday with the audience attending through #VirtualReality and via a YouTube live stream." Now the important thing isn't his recording on YouTube (in fact, I just cancelled my YouTube music subscription because the quality was a significant downgrade from Google Music, which is going away). No, the really interesting bit is the "immersive, life-like experience" with "the technology provider behind the concert, Wave". More from VR Scout. Legend also did a VR appearance last month with Melody VR. Now while there are limitations - attendees saw an avatar, not a full VR John Legend, and audio quality remains vital - fully immersive VR is probably the long-term future of sports and entertainment.

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Groundbreaking research on use of Virtual Reality in school education. Australia leads the way
By Erica Southgate, EduResearch Matters, Jun 29, 2020

I'm not sure the claim about leading the way is accurate (I'm actually sitting in a meeting on developing VR industrial safety training as I type this) but the article does highlight some of the ways VR will be used in education. What's important in this description is this: "to get the best ethical and educational outcomes with emerging technologies we must carefully incubate these in schools (and not just resource-rich ones) in collaboration with willing teachers so that we can document incremental ‘innovation’ through ‘state-of-the-actual’ reporting."

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Champions in Higher Education of XR (CHEX)
Immersive Learning Research Network, Jul 06, 2020

This is a new consortium set up under the auspices of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) that "that brings together both administrators as well as faculty/staff grassroots leaders who are championing the adoption and use of XR and immersive technologies at colleges (and) universities" (XR, or eXtended Reality, is the combination of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality). The consortium advocates for XR growth, fosters collaborations, represents higher education in XR industry partnerships and collaborations, and identifies best practices. Image: Gourmet Sleuth, rice chex.

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Truth or Truthiness? Analysing a VR Study Using Gorard’s Sieve
By Mirjam Neelen, Paul A. Kirschner, 3-Star Learning Experiences, Jul 08, 2020

What I like about this article is that the authors state very clearly what their grounds for criticism will be (specifically, Gorard’s Sieve), and then apply these grounds to their treatment of a PwC study on the effectiveness of virtual reality soft skills training. This clarity makes up for any deficiencies in the article, as it makes the grounds for disagreement easy to identify. For example, the authors give PwC a 'zero' for fairness because "instead of replicating the linear approach used in the classroom and eLearning intervention, the VR intervention was non-linear and more interactive." They assert, "If you want to compare interventions, the design needs to be exactly the same!" Now I disagree with this. The modality matters; affordances matter. You can't do exactly the same things. And we could talk about that, but what I appreciate is how easy they've made it to identify this specific issue, one among several I would have with this post.

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iLRN 2020 VR Conference Production Design
By Heather Dodds, Tiago Martins Peres, LinkedIn, Jul 19, 2020

I found this presentation chatty with sometimes odd expressions (*) but it's a comprehensive look at a lot of the thinking behind the use of virtual words for online conferences and offers valuable insights and perspectives. It's quite a long read with numerous exampoles and illustrations and not to be mnissed if you're contemplating running like virtual reality events. (* "discrimination between online and virtual", "it’s visible clear lack", "ground base to go to", etc).

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Data Visceralization: Enabling Deeper Understanding of Data Using Virtual Reality
By Benjamin Lee,, arXiv, Oct 21, 2020

I've seen this item (11 page PDF) through a few sources now. The idea of 'data visceralization' is to take existing data and to represent it metaphorically in virtual reality. Thus, for example, different companies' income growth could be depicted as a 100-yard dash. Or the size of different economies could be represented as differently-sized planets. This paper tries out some different approaches and reports back on initial user experiences. Personally, I think data visceralization should be combined with haptics, so you can bop someone in the head with data when you really need to.

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The Rise of Virtual Worlds and Decentralised Lands on the blockchain
By Kate Vass, Galerie, Oct 29, 2020

I attended Bryan Alexander's session on VR and AR today. For example, there's what ASU is doing with their Dreamscape Learn platform. It felt a lot like the rise of Second Life again, except with more expensive hardware. Roxanne Ripkin asked about social VR, for example, AltSpace, which seems like a step forward. Of course, I am more interested in decentralized federated social VR. A quick search landed me on this resource listing a number of blockchain-based distributed VR networks, including for example Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, and The Sandbox.

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Virtual Reality for Experiential Education: A User Experience Exploration
By Christian Schott, Stephen Marshall, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, Nov 04, 2020

This post (15 page PDF) offers a discussion about user experience between six students and five staff who participated in a trial of a virtual environment developed for sustainable tourism education. The approach is described in this paper as experiential education (EE) and that's what the literature review surveys, along with a shorter discussion of virtual reality. The results are presented, naturally, as a 3D graph, with axes describing the experiential, instrumental and affective aspects of user experience (see illustration). The positive experiences included include a sense of place, sensory appeal, natural movement, learning enrichment, and comprehensive vision, while on the negative side users experienced motion sickness and hardware issues.

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What is OpenSimulator?
OpenSimulator, Dec 06, 2020

Worth noting: "OpenSimulator is an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols, see Connecting. Optional Hypergrid allow users to visit other OpenSimulator installations across the web from their 'home' installation or grid. In this way, it is the basis of a nascent distributed Metaverse." I haven't tried using it, but I wanted an example of a decentralized virtual world in my records.

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Interdisciplinarity and Teamwork in Virtual Reality Design
By Ole Molvig, Bobby Bodenheimer, The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, Dec 14, 2020

I think overall that this is a good article, but not without flaws. One flaw is the use of Internet Archive to serve embedded examples, all of which timed out when I was trying to view them. This I think is a but of a misuse of Internet Archive. Second, the authors write, "Which fields is VR best suited for? Up to that point, it was reasonably common in computer science and psychology, and relatively rare elsewhere." That seems surprising to me. I've seen VR used widely in medical education, machine operations (like, say, helicopters), and military, as well as wide use in computer games. That said, I agree with the authors that "it is difficult to create even moderately rich and sophisticated environments, without the development expertise gleaned through exposure to the computer science curriculum," which suggests a need for the model described in the title. Image: Luca Mollica.

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Long-term effectiveness of immersive VR simulations in undergraduate science learning: lessons from a media-comparison study
By Prajakt Pandea, Amalie Thit, Anja Elaine Sørensen, Biljana Mojsoska, Morten E. Moeller, Per Meyer Jepsen, Research in Learning Technology, Jan 18, 2021

Does the use and playback of head-mounted immersive virtual reality (iVR) simulations in a science course have an impact on student learning? It seems to me it would, but what does the research say? This study (24 page PDF) compares test results for students actually using iVR as compared to those merely watching the video playback. Not surprisingly, the iVR students outperformed their counterparts. This correlates with previous research mentioned in the article where students using iVR outperformed those using identical desktop simulations and text-based instruction. The study also considers the impact of iVR over time, in order to get past the novelty effect. All of that said, because of the very low sample size (n=24) the best we can say that iVR can improve student learning, not that it does.

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Virtual Reality in Education: Achievements and Challenges
By Arslan Hassan, EmergingEdTech, Feb 22, 2021

This is a brief article about virtual reality (VR) that won't really increase your knowledge if you're already in the field, but since I'm actually working on a VR project, I felt I should keep the subject alive in the newsletter. I still think VR is useful in learning mostly for nice subjects where full immersion is beneficial, and these will be environments where being able to recognize and respond to specific cues is essential - for example, being a pilot, being a surgeon, police, military and fire training, and similar positions. There are also some cases where motor skills can be developed in VR, but this depends on the tools and haptic feedback being reasonably similar to the actual environment (so, not VR alone). Cost is certainly an issue, both for content development and for headsets.

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Educators are not risk averse and complacent
By Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, Mar 19, 2021

One thing we saw with the onset of the pandemic was that educators were not prepared to use digital media and to teach online, this despite the twenty years of the development in the field they've had to learn and adapt, so there is an argument beyond anecdote to make that educators are risk averse and complacent. This observation aside, though, I am entirely in agreement with the tone and argument in this post, a criticism of a Times Higher Education article arguing that educators should jump on board with virtual reality. The context was a Fordham instructor who had a VR company create three learning scenarios for her, which she then tried out in her class on entrepreneurship. Every part of that context was (a) not original - I could point to dozens of similar experiments reported in the literature and the popular press, including work we're doing here at NRC, and (b) not scalable - most instructors can't just work with the president of a VR company, and can't indulge in the luxury of a technology rollout that stands a good chance of failing.

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Virtual reality in K‐12 and higher education: A systematic review of the literature from 2000 to 2019
By Heng Luo, Gege Li, Qinna Feng, Yuqin Yang, Mingzhang Zuo, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Mar 19, 2021

I am sure that it is a complete coincidence that this article appeared in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning the same day that ridiculous Times Higher Education article claimed educators are doing nothing in virtual reality (VR). In fact, over the last 20 years, as this article shows, a great deal of work has been done, and the technology and the discipline continues to progress. It's worth noting that "the majority of VR interventions reviewed in the present study were still enabled by computers or projectors and characterised by low levels of immersion, interaction, and imagination." There are good reasons for this, based on issues of cost and technology. Additionally, "VR interventions had a medium effect on learning, and the factors of discipline, level of immersion, and instructional design moderated the effectiveness of VR‐based instruction," which tells us that you don't get results simply by adding VR to a class. In particular, argue the authors, "researchers should shift their attention from VR technology to VR‐based instruction with a redefined focus on the effective integration of technology and theory."

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VR in universities a welcome addition, but not yet 'plug-and-play'
By Ryan Johnston, EdScoop, May 26, 2021

This is pretty much my view as well: virtual reality is "unlikely to be more than a complementary teaching tool for the foreseeable future." That said, "some of the biggest barriers to adoption that survey respondents listed — the prohibitive cost of VR headsets and compatible computer hardware, along with a lack of awareness about virtual learning — have since broken down." That's true - to an extent. But limitations to the modality haven't changed. And that's why (I think) this article focuses on pedagogical affordances. For example: Stanford's Jeremy Bailenson writes, "My avatar … can outperform me as a face-to-face teacher any day. It can pay perfect attention to every student in a class of all 200 or more." Well - no it can't. Nor is it like the illustration for this article. So, beware the oversell of VR and related technologies.

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Zuckerberg to investors: This metaverse thing will be expensive
By Janko Roettgers, Protocol, Jul 30, 2021

Although the main stumbling block for the metaverse (that is, augmented reality, virtual reality, etc.) is the cost of hardware (next up: smart glasses), the real expense will be in the development of a metaverse platform, or operating system, or whatever you want to call it. That's the gist of this article that focuses on Facebook but include any number of potential competitors. And there is a lesson in here for ed tech companies as well, as developments costs for educational content will also be high. I think there will be a lot of emphasis on shared resources and even open resources because no single educational developer will be able to bear the costs alone.

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How best do we teach kids about Holocaust horrors? Show them what it was like
By Jennifer Rich, Michael Haley Goldman, Sara Pitcairn, Hechinger Report, Jul 31, 2021

The time to have these conversations is now, before the technology is widely distributed. In this article we read about the lessons being learned by teams working on virtual reality (VR) representations of the Holocaust. "Historical accuracy is essential," they write, because "end users will assume that the experience is historically accurate." At the same time, sensitivity is required, they say. "Learning experiences must ensure that users aren’t thrust into a 'gotcha' scenario, made to feel unsafe or asked to play the role of a perpetrator or victim of the Holocaust." While these seem like reasonable suggestions, I think there will need to be much more fine tuning to ensure the impact of what students are witnessing isn't minimized without at the same time traumatizing them or overwhelming them. And this will vary from viewer to viewer, place to place.

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Virtual Reality in Education: How VR is Used in Immersive Learning
FutureLearn, Jul 31, 2021

This is an overview article describing "what virtual reality is, how it works, ways that it can be used within education, and why VR is perfect for modern learning environments." That last point might be debatable, and trhe article makes no particular effort to support it, but there's no doubt that there is an increasing interest in the subject. It's a good resource to use for people who haven't really been exposed to the idea of VR in education, but should probably be supplemented with more critical assessments as well.

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Commercial applications of quantum computing
By Francesco Bova, Avi Goldfarb, Roger G. Melko, EPJ Quantum Technology, Sept 01, 2021

NRC has recently launched a new Applied Quantum Computing Challenge program, led by Phil Kaye. I attended a number of his talks on the subject over the summer and can say, based on what I saw, that quantum computing is (a) a real thing, and (b) potentially useful. This article highlights the commercial possibilities of quantum computing. "The biggest promise of such computers," write the authors, "lies in solving large combinatorics problems.... combinatorics problems ask the question 'how many ways can this set of objects be combined?'" Which (surprise!) takes us straight into graph theory. Now while this work is all beyond what I've studied thus far (an advanced degree in mathematics would be helpful) I am nonetheless led to speculated about the possibility of quantum learning theories in neural networks, and hence, new ways of looking at learning in general. Alas, I do not have a second lifetime to devote to this...

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What Will Online Learning Look Like in 10 Years? Zoom Has Some Ideas
By Stephen Noonoo, EdSurge, Sept 16, 2021

So much of online learning takes place in environments like Zoom these days it would be a mistake to not think about where these are heading. This article gives us the perspective of three of education-focused Zoom employees at the recent company conference. What can we expect? "AI-powered translation is already in the works," the say (to which I say: it can't come soon enough). Also, more classroom management and instruction features, brought to you by Blackboard cofounder Michael Chasen (because the world doesn't have enough learning 'management' already). Also, augmented or VR integrations "offering 360-degree tours of museums or job sites like film sets." They also mention personalization, but nobody in the discussion seemed to know what that might mean.

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Busted: 5 top myths about VR and AR training
By Alex Young, Chief Learning Officer, Sept 28, 2021

I actually think it's far from proven that the five things listed here are myths, but it seems relevant to advance the discussion. For example, the investment in immersive learning is significant ($26.05 billion in 2020), and we should talk about that, but a large investment does not entail that it's not a fad. Also for example, it's probably an overgeneralization to say immersive reality "does" or "doesn't actually improve learning". The third myth rebutted is that immersive reality is "expensive and inaccessible for SMEs." Well, it is expensive. It may be true that "immersive learning almost always works out to be significantly cheaper than traditional in-person learning," which is also expensive. But that's not the only alternative. These are all issues that should be discussed, but they haven't been resolved just yet.

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VR, AR, wearables, and smart home tech are now mainstream, research says
By Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, Oct 05, 2021

This article summarizes a report from IDC (probably this one) asserting that "AR, AR, wearables, and smart home tech have passed the early-adoption phase and are all firmly part of the 'mass market.'" But there's 'mainstream' and then there's 'mainstream'. Would I be designing technology today expecting everyone to have an AR or VR device? No. These technologies are 'available' in the sense that you can go out and buy one, but while sales figures are expanding they are far from ubiquitous - we know that because the report is still saying things like "total value of three emerging categories of products... is expected to reach $372.1 billion by the end of this calendar year, and swell to $542.8 billion by the end of 2025. So, almost doubling, which tells me that at least half of the people who could be buying these products haven't yet.

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Ready Teacher One: Virtual and Augmented Reality Online Professional Development for K-12 School Teachers
By Stylianos Mystakidis, Maria Fragkaki, Giorgos Filippousis, Computers, Oct 19, 2021

This article (16 page PDF) describes "the pedagogical benefits of AR and VR as well as the rationale, design, development, and pilot evaluation results from an in-service teacher online professional development program (OPD) on AR and VR linked." The key was hands-on experience with the technology. "Teachers need to see what is possible and which products of top professional quality are available online while simultaneously realizing the pedagogical and emotional value of teacher-generated content for their own students."

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Minecraft: Education Edition Across the Australian Curriculum
Microsoft Education Blog, Nov 02, 2021

There has been a lot attention paid to Facebook being renamed to Meta and its corresponding focus on developing a metaverse. What is overlooked in this, I think, is the fact that Facebook is trying to catch up with other competitors. As Ethan Zuckerberg argues, the idea (and technology) for the metaverse has been around for a long time. We have Roblox out there aiming at a billion users with plans to "increase  investment  in  the  creator  community." And here we have Microsoft's Minecraft making inroads into Australian education. It isn't hard to build the 3D part of the metaverse, especially when you're building clunky heavy headsets like the Oculus. The hard part is building the content and the community and the network. But who would trust Facebook with that? Who?

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Everything you need to know about the metaverse
By Janko Roettgers, Protocol, Nov 14, 2021

This article doesn't have everything, of course, but it's enough for a quick update on the buzzword of the week. The metaverse is an embodied internet, where we can interact with each other using avatars, and it's persistent, meaning you don't start over each time you load it. Most importantly, though, it's not a single service or environment. It's a network, connecting people, services and places together. Most importantly, it doesn't exist yet, and may not exist for decades, but as we develop virtual reality (VR) like Oculus and augmented reality (AR) like Google Glass, we are building the basic hardware it will need to operate. This article outlines the concept and highlights some major players.

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Fostering Students' Cognitive Achievement Through Employing Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRL)
By Dian Ernawati, Jaslin Ikhsan, International Journal of Online and Biomedical Engineering, Dec 07, 2021

I studied titration and redox reactions in high school. Back then we'd use a pipette, into which we would inhale the liquid. Oh, for the days when safety meant nothing! Much safer methods are used today. But achieving precise measurements is still a skill that needs to be practiced to be learned (as we all learned watching Breaking Bad). This article looks at achieving that practice in VR using (heavy and clunky and, for me, too small) Oculus headsets. So did it work? Well, they remembered the names of things (hence showing 'cognitive achievement'). How about the practice? "Errors that arose during laboratory work due to reading data, turning faucets, or being contaminated by chemical materials were minimized."

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How Snap is sidestepping the metaverse
By Casey Newton, Platformer, Dec 08, 2021

Snap is a company that most people are overlooking, argues Casey Newton, but it has slowly been developing a solid foundation for augmented reality (AR) glasses that will eclipse its rivals. He makes a good argument. This, for example, is tantalizing: restaurants have been telling customers to scan QR codes to access the menu, but Snap has a 'lens' that displays what the menu item would look like on the table in front of you. "When I opened it up using Spectacles, I waved my hands to advance through the virtual goods: a burger, a sushi roll, a piece of pie. The donut looked realistic enough that I developed slight hunger pangs." Forget the bits that don't work yet. Focus on the things that are amazing.

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Ten tech predictions for 2022: what’s next for Twitter, Uber and NFTs
By James Ball, The Guardian, Dec 12, 2021

The topics James Ball writes about here, are relevant even if his predictions aren't. NFTs, for example, won't flame out in the way he suggests; they will meekly become obscure (in my view). Twitter won't get its act together, but social media (not just Twitter) will look for new revenue models to escape its toxic dependence on advertising. The gig companies (Uber, AirBnB, etc) will struggle to make money, because they have always struggled to make money, but with pandemic restrictions easing (vaccines make a huge difference) I expect a bit of a bounce-back.

Also, it's easy to predict things that have already happens (a common failing in these lists). It's a given that Jack Dorsey will focus on crypto because he has already started to do so (eg., changing the name of payment processing company Square to Block). The trick will be to make blockchain payments as easy as, um, tweeting. Similarly, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) have already had their moment, which makes the prediction that they will moot. And yes, people are trying to make VR a thing again, or should I say, meta.

Finally, why wouldn't podcasts and mailing lists continue to surge? The bottom has fallen out of the news media industry, and both podcasts and newsletters favour the low-overhead personal journalism model that allows people to make a living. What's most predictable is that traditional media or companies like Spotify will try to own it all but until they can nail down market exclusivity, they can only try.

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20 reasons why the Metaverse may not work out as we think it will
By Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Dec 22, 2021

Donald Clark has had a lot of experience in virtual worlds and it shows with this post. The post might be better titled '20 thoughts on the metaverse' as they range from fears about an economy run by Facebook to what happened when he entered Second Life as a female avatar. The most relevant point, to my mind, is the observation that we don't need all that reality in order to make an experience work. "Desirable experiences are not all about 3D fidelity... Media rich is not mind rich. We love a good podcast precisely because it is a stripped down, single media experience. It feels intimate, like being in that conversation."

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What Is “Presence” in VR, and Why Is it So Important?
By Sydney Butler, How-To Geek, Jan 03, 2022

I've always defined 'presence' informally as 'the feeling there's a real person at the other end'. Educators will be familiar with the concept of presence as described by Anderson, Archer and Garrison. This article describes 'presence' as "a feeling of being in a place other than where you are." presence is "the secret sauce that makes modern VR magical." What's significant is that presence isn't created by the medium, it's created by the perceiver. So we don't need 100% fidelity to generate presence, just enough of the key ingredients needed to convince the mind that we're some place talking to someone. This article looks a bit at what those ingredients are, like image stability and refresh rate.

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Metaverse - a look into the possible abyss
By Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Jan 03, 2022

I've already linked to the first two parts of this series, so I may as well cover part 3. In this post Donald Clark questions the web3-metaverse land grab. "The libertarian roots of Silicon Valley have outgrown their teenage years. They’re now greedy adults - they want it all." We've seen this scenario play out before, with the land rush, the Second Life land rush, and most recently, the NFT land rush. Before that it was casinos and forex and similarly greasy online enterprises. The new web3 world, notes Clark, is much more sophisticated than any of these. It will be of a lot of use. But let's not pretend that libertarianism will do anything other than make the rich people richer. To make web3 work, it will need to be owned - and managed - by the community. Not by Facebook.

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14 Predictions for Higher Education in 2022
By Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Jan 04, 2022

Some of these predictions - like "online education will become the norm rather than the step-sister of "traditional" education" - are a bit ahead of their time. Others - like "forget hyflex" - are well-reasoned and make sense. Still others - like "be ready for the unknown", "build off threads that are here to stay", "we should expect further disruption" and "look for the advantage" - are too vague to qualify as predictions. Others - like "move beyond Zoon into the Metaverse" - aren't realistic. Some - like "The campus leaders who have intentionally put students at the center of organization and system design will reap a great reward" - are no better than astrology. Finally, "integrating a bit of what could happen as well as what should happen" is great but not a prediction.

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Remembering VRML: The Metaverse of 1995
By Benj Edwards, How-To Geek, Jan 17, 2022

For those thinking that Facebook somehow 'invented' virtual reality and the metaverse, it is useful to look at this retrospective on the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML), developed in the 90s. Here's an article about it from 1995. Needless to say, VRML didn't catch on. "CNET wrote about VRML’s failure to meet expectations, saying, 'Bandwidth constraints, hardware limitations, and, worst of all, lack of compelling applications may make the 3D technology more virtual than real for the time being.'" Even though bandwidth and hardware are much imporved, I'm still waiting for the compelling application in 2022. Just for fun, I've made a page containing all the coverage of VR in OLDaily since 1999. Enjoy.

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Stephen Downes
Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada


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