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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Second Life Take Over Rumors...

Here is an interesting rumor and a potentially large game-changer in the virtual world space. It is rumored at the web site metaverselyspeaking web site that News Corp might be taking over Second Life.

Here is a quote from the article.

Rumours are rife inside the Lab at the moment of the prospect of a takeover which will see News Corp. adding Second Life to their already wide-spanning media portfolio. The inside scoop is that the new viewer and new user experience had to be rolled out quickly as a condition of any deal, as the potential new owners want to be sure that SL will not suffer from stagnant members, as News Corp. found after their acquisition of MySpace.

But please be careful with rumors. As it was rumored a while ago also that Microsoft was buying Second Life and it would no longer support SL on the Mac.

So while I haven't seen any official notice or indication that Linden Labs is shopping around Second Life or that anyone is purchasing the product, the rumors do seem to be adding up. Most of the time rumors are based on some shred of truth so...perhaps Linden is shopping around Second Life?

Keep your ears and eyes open and let me know if you know anything!

Thanks to Mal Burns, Mark Oehlert and Clark Quinn for the heads up via twitter.

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PCAR Presentation Resources

The other day I gave a presentation to PCAR on the topic of improving presentations. Here are some links to some resources that may be helpful.

So, Interactivity by Design is an older book and not specifically geared toward a slide show (it is focused on designing visually appealing e-learning). But it is well written with wonderful examples. I strongly recommend it if you are creating PowerPoint, Keynote or e-learning presentations/training.

Here is the presentation that uses the final "story" presented in the session.

Also, here are some great online resources;

Garr Reynolds Top Ten Slide Tips

Avoiding Death by PowerPoint

Four Ways to Improve a Presentation

How Cognitive Science Can Improve Your PowerPoint Presentation

Go over to Slide Share and search for "worlds best presentation" examples.

Here is one:

Check out this short but helpful video.

Check out the book from which the above video is based:

And here are some handy tips on SmartArt for PowerPoint 2007.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Controller, We don't Need No Stink'n Controller

First came the Wii-Motes which revolutionized video game controllers. Now we have Project Natal which makes your entire body a controller. Sure, we had an early attempt at this technology with Sony's EyeToy but it was a little clunkie and never really caught on.

But now Microsoft has teamed up with Steven Spielberg for an interface that is truly natural. The only real way to check it out is to play the meantime, check out these videos.

Here is the Project's web site.

Check out previous posts on the subject of controller-free interfaces:

Get People Moving...have them play a Video Game

Interface be Gone


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Monday, March 29, 2010

Historic Fears and Views of the Technology of Television: Sounding the Same Alarm As Modern Technology

Here are some great quotes about television...apparently it was seen as being just as disruptive to society as video games and the internet are today. So when we hear all those warning signs and signals, we may want to think all seems to go through the love/hate curve.

Here are some quotes taken from Time Magazine's History of Television

Television is all the talk—and all the talk is big. Its enthusiasts are sure that it will eventually (maybe sooner) make radio as obsolete as the horse—and empty all the nation's movie houses. Children will go to school in their own living rooms, presidential candidates will win elections from a television studio. Housewives will see on the screen the dresses and groceries they want, and shop by phone. Television's future, says Jack R. Poppele (rhymes with floppily), president of the Television Broadcasters Association, "is as expansive as the human mind can comprehend. Television holds the key to enlightenment which may unlock the door to world understanding."
Television: The Infant Grows Up
May 24, 1948

During 1948, U.S. television showed every sign of being a young monster. In one year, TV's formless, planless growth has caused seismic-like cracks in the foundations of such industries as radio, movies, sports and book publishing.
From Young Monster
Jan. 3, 1949

As the clock nears 8 along the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday night, a strange new phenomenon takes place in U.S. urban life. Business falls off in many a nightclub, theater-ticket sales are light, neighborhood movie audiences thin....For the next hour, wherever a signal from an NBC television transmitter can be picked out of the air, a large part of the population has its eyes fixed on a TV screen
From The Child Wonder
May 16, 1949

As a better-informed public has demanded more and more information about current events, TV news programs have changed from loss leaders and have begun to start paying their way. And as the networks have made the most of them, news shows like Cronkite's have become one of the most important and influential molders of public opinion in the U.S.
From The Most Intimate Medium
Oct. 14, 1966


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Friday, March 26, 2010

VenueGen Announces 3D Meetings for "Everyone"

Virtual world provider, VenueGen, recently came out of private Beta to a public Beta (whatever that means) and loudly announced their virtual meeting platform.

They call it both visually appealing and easy to use. It has been described as a lot more than Cisco’s WebEx meeting platform, and a lot less than Linden Labs’ Second Life virtual world.

A man and his avatar.

An interesting as aspect of the platform is that you can create a 3D avatar by loading a picture of yourself and the avatar will tend to look like you as shown above.

To get started in VenueGen, you don't need a download. You just need a browser. And a minimal amount of cash. VenueGen will charge subscription fees of $90 per month for all meetings up to 10 users. If you want meetings for up to 25 people, you have to pay up to $490 per month. For 55 people, it costs $990 per month.

Interestingly, the market for 3D virtual learning spaces for corporations is estimated by Research 2.0 to grow to $8 billion in annual revenues in 2014. So it is predicted to gain momentum.

Check out an interview done with VenueGen CEO to see the platform in action for yourself.

Check out these two articles for more details.

DEMO: VenueGen lets businesses stage quick and easy virtual meetings

VenueGen Moves To Commercial Beta


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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Creating Assessment Questions that Measure Performance

While knowledge assessments have become more and more popular both in business and academia, there are still issues with the creation of valid and reliable test questions. It is imperative that an assessment item actually measure knowledge and potential performance.  The goal is to create a test question that is linked to the objective of the training and that measures the right level of learning.

The most effective method of ensuring a valid test item is to ensure that the questions and the desired responses link back to the course objectives. A good method of doing this is the three column chart as shown below:

Performance Criteria
Inspect a vial and accept or reject based on three critical criteria.
When given a vial, the employee will be able to correctly accept or reject the vial based on three evaluation criteria within 4 minutes with 100% accuracy.
Given an image of a vial that can be rotated on the computer screen, the learner will be required to indicate if the vial should be accepted or rejected with 100% accuracy within 4 minutes which are counted down on the screen.

Using this type of chart, you can distinguish between different types of learning when you create your assessment items. You can tell if you are testing at one level but the objective is at another.

For example, you may want to distinguish between a learner’s ability to memorize a concept and the learner’s ability to apply the concept.

An inappropriate question for the above task would be “Identify the three criteria that lead to the rejection of a vial.” In this case, this question is asking for identification and not application of a skill. Just because a learner may know the three criteria, that doesn’t mean he or she can apply that criteria.

The test question must ask the learner to apply the concept, not merely repeat the memorized criteria. Do not ask the learner to identify the three success criteria when you really want them to apply the criteria. The level at which you are testing must match the level at which you expect the learner to perform. When this happens, the questions are valid.

Other Assessment Resources

Test Creation Tips

Thought Unit

Job Aid for Writing Thought Provoking Questions

**ADDITION Steven Just's Testing Best Practices contains a wealth of information on creating effective assessments, a must read.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Improving Life Through Video Games

A couple of interesting positive video game stories.

An engineering team at Rutgers University have modified a popular home video game system to help people with cerebral palsy improve hand functions.

According to ScienceDaily in the article Modified Home Video Game Shows Promise for Improving Hand Function in Teens With Cerebral Palsy a team has modified a Sony PlayStation 3 Console, a virtual glove and customer software to provide exercises and activities to improve hand and finger movement. Here is some of the article:
Based on early experience, the system engages the interest of teens with cerebral palsy and makes it convenient for them to perform the exercises they need to achieve results," said Grigore Burdea, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Rutgers Tele-Rehabilitation Institute.

Each system communicated via the Internet to allow the Indiana and Rutgers researchers to oversee participants' exercise routines and evaluate the effectiveness of the systems. The system is an example of both virtual rehabilitation, where patients interact with computer-generated visual environments to perform exercises, and tele-rehabilitation, where patients perform exercises under remote supervision by physical or occupational therapists.

In another story, researchers at University of Granada in Spain found that video games can have a "positive effect in a child’s educational development and academic performance, when used in moderation."

The study investigated whether attitudes of users toward video games and how they use them have a significant impact on certain cognitive tasks. The researchers specifically targeted brain skills in spatial intelligence, self-efficacy and academic performance...

The researcher of the study, Angeles Llorca, thinks that video games can represent “a very useful pedagogical tool” to encourage self-efficacy, a variable that improves academic performance. Therefore, it is necessary to encourage parents, teachers and advisers to get acquainted with this type of entertainment technology, which they should consider as part of visual communication. Likewise, motivation of children to play video games should be used as a pedagogical tool in the field of education.

Check out the article Video Games (in Moderation) May Help Teens for yourself.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Q&A With Student from King's College

From time to time, I get questions from students who have an assignment to speak to someone in the field. I think those kinds of assignments are wonderful because they link pre-professionals and people learning about the field with people who have been in the field for a while. Those types of introductions and relationships keep the "old timers" fresh and introduce new ideas and ways of looking at things to the people asking the questions.

Here are some questions and my answers from a student at King's College.

1. As a professional in the field of Computer Mediated Communications, when did you first realize the massive potential of new technology? How did you initially go about utilizing the technology?

The first time I realized what technology could do for learning was at an internship at a place called "Applied Science Associates." I had gotten the internship at, unbeknownest to me at the time, an instructional design company. I was asked to do quality control on a computer-based learning program. The program was very elementary. It was a screen with one question, in green text with multiple choice responses. I knew even at this crude level, that learning could take place. This was also the time when "virtual reality" was getting a lot of press. I thought if the two combined, the learning potential would be unlimited.

Then, a short-time later in graduate school we were introduced to an early version of HyperCard a computer-flip card program that allowed for linking and branching, then I knew that online learning would be revolutionary and that it was just a matter of time. I learned as much as I could in graduate school about designing instruction.

A short-time later at a company called Telesis Computer Corporation, I was able to purchase an early authoring tool called IconAuthor. While the tool was complex and detailed, it held such promise for computer-based instruction. I realized back in the late-1990s that PowerPoint had the potential to be an effective authoring tool.

In fact, at my interview at Bloomsburg University, I mentioned that I thought PowerPoint was going to become formidable authoring tool. Of course, at that time, the faculty laughed at me and thought I was crazy but time proved that PowerPoint could be used as an authoring tool (see Articulate). You can learn more about how I got started in the field from an interview I did with Chip Ramsey at Intellum.

2. Your book, "Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning" highlights an often overlooked fact about video games and other technological devices: their educational value. How do you explain such important values to "non-techies?"

Trying to convince non-techies of the learning potential and value of video games for learning is a daunting task. Especially when you have professors at some universities, destroying computers and banning them from their classrooms reinforcing the fact that traditional academic institutions are "out of touch" (as a I mentioned in my post 20,000 US Hackers Wanted...Creating the Computer Elite (or Failing at it))

So it is a real up hill battle. The best method I have found is if you can draw a person in with a demonstration and show them that learning is occurring. Then let them play the video game and experience the learning that occurs for themselves, that is the best way to convince someone. Of course you can also point to numerous studies and the fact that the military has been using games for centuries to teach. Remind them that the visual cues of games, the need to think quickly, the immersive qualities all create an effective learning environment. But the bias against video games runs deep and is visceral. I just keep in mind that at one time calculators were the equivalent, they were evil devices that robbed learners of their capacity to think. Educational institutions have almost gotten over that bias the future...they'll get over the video game bias as well. Especially when organizations like the National Science Foundation are backing video games for education.

Additionally, I positioning video games as a piece of the learning process, not the entire learning process. We know from research that distributed practice or learning a little bit at a time is an effective method and that video games can play a role in that process. I never think one learning method is the only method, I really believe that multiple channels for learning are most effective.

3. You have blogged and spoke many times on the program Second Life, which we are currently in the process of registering for in class. One of your most recent blog posts talks about the importance of customizing your avatar. How do you view the relation between an avatar - someone's online personality - and their real-life perception of themselves? Is the "sense of self," as you refer to it, different in people utilizing 3-D environments such as Second Life and other video games?

Traditionally, the big difference between video games and a metaverse like Second Life is that in a metaverse you are were interacting with other people who were controlling the avatars that you encountered. Now with many video games, you can play against others who are inhabiting the same "game space" as you and so the line between playing a video game character and playing an avatar in a metaverse if blurring. In a game, you are typically playing a character in a "story" in a metaverse you are playing a version of yourself interacting with others. So the difference is in a metaverse, more of you is in the avatar since it is not a character.

As you customize your video game character or your avatar with whom you are meeting other people in a metaverse, you are vesting part of yourself into the environment. When you interact, you feel as if you are interacting on a more personnel level.

4. How, in your experiences, has education evolved with the implementation of technology? Do you feel enough educators, from elementary to university levels, are well-versed enough to properly use it in the classroom? Where, if anywhere, is such instruction lacking?

Education is the last great institution untouched by technology. For years, technology has been taught as a separate item from other subjects. You take a "computer class" but you never really used technology as part of an Art, History or English class. That concept is slowly starting to change but not very quickly. Online education, ironically pioneered by for-profit institutions, is slowly becoming more and more of a game changer. With more access to broadband and more credibility given to online education, education will start to evolve. Adding pressure is the untenable costs of higher education. The era of online, technology-based education is heading toward our institutions at an increasing velocity. So teachers, college faculty and administrators must fundamentally re-think educational models. That isn't happening. The educational model we have in schools from pre-school to PhDs is the same model we used in the 1800's. We need a model where education is intermingled with life experiences and students are not divided by subject or grade but by interests.

As we need fundamental changes, traditional organizations are retrenching (unions) and administrators and we see a backlash against technology. The same sort of thing happened when factories were automated and when knowledge work became automated. I'm not saying automation is good for the sake of automation but what I am saying is that we need to add more technology into our educational mix and make it more fundamental and core than just a couple of electives. As society embraces technology for everything from bill paying to looking up healthcare information, our educational institutions must change the classroom-centric model to be more learner-centric at all levels. This is a rethinking that few are undertaking. Institutions primarily exist to perpetuate themselves and no institution is better at it than education (except maybe our government).

The problem is that too many people see technology as the answer and miss the need to intelligently apply instructional strategies with the technology. You can't have effective instructional technology without carefully designing it and crafting it so learning occurs. So many early ventures in technology-based education were technology-centric and then need to be changes to being focused on delivering instruction effectively.

5. What does the future of CMC hold? In your book you mention the importance of workplaces adopting technology to suit their needs for training, organizational development, etc. What values must people take away from instructional technology to fully adapt it to such environments in the future?

The future is just now beginning to be explored. With augmented reality applications and interactive applications like Xbox's project Natal the future is exciting and limitless. What we need to take away from instructional technology are three things.

First, never forget the instructional part what makes instructional technology effective is the proper application of instructional strategies to aid and assist the learning. Blindly implementing technology does not equal learning. It must be applied intelligently.

The second is that just because something has been done in a certain way for centuries, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be changed. As the world moves and changes so should education. No model is unassailable.

Technology is a tool and we should not become enamored with it. Use technology to reach an end goal, not as the end goal itself.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Out and About: Past and Upcoming Events

Here are some blog postings, presentations and up coming events that I am trying to keep track of so I decided to put them all in one place.


Recently authored a blog entry at titled Add Online Simulations to Your Organization’s Instructional Toolkit. I have been blogging over there for a while about technology, check it out.

My presentation with Tony O'Driscoll at the Virtual Worlds's Best Practices in Education conference is available on so check out the presentation, Learning in 3D: A New Educational Dimension.

My post Nine Information Alternatives to the Now Defunct Training Magazine was number one in elearninglearning's Top 40 eLearning Articles and 5 Hot Topics for Early March post.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, March 23, 2010: Presenting at an AdvaMed event called Employee Training Under FDA Scrutiny: Creating and Maintaining Robust Training Programs. I will be speaking on the topic of "Selecting the Appropriate Training Approach: Delivery Decision- Making."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010: Presenting a webinar to the members of the MI AECT chapter from 7:30pm - 9:00pm (1hr presentation, 30 mins discussion) titled "Learning in 3D."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010: Presenting a PowerPoint webinar to the PA Coalition Against Rape.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010: The Department of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg is having an open house for potential students.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010: Presenting on campus about the use of the MediaSite platform.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010: Presenting with Tony O'Driscoll on the topic of Learning In 3d: Adding A New Dimension To Enterprise Learning And Collaboration with the Training Network. Register Here for the free webinar.

Wed, Thurs and Friday, April 14-16, 2010: Bloomsburg University's Corporate Advisory Council Conference. My favorite event of the year!! This year we hope to stream it live!

Wednesday and Thursday, April 20-21, 2010 I am on a panel with a couple of blogging pros to talk about learning with New Media. At the Meridian Learn and Know user's conference sponsored, of course, by Meridian Knowledge Solutions.

Thursday and Friday, May 6-7, 2010: Kaplan EduNeering Knowledge Summit. Speaking on the topic of Learning in 3D and having a live book signing (private event.)

Tuesday May 11, 2010: Webinar (for fee)called Avoiding Death by PowerPoint for Lorman.

Sunday to Tuesday, May 16-19, 2010: ASTD International Conference.Speaking with co-author Tony O'Driscoll on the topic of Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration on May 18 from 1:45 to 3:00 PM. Hope to see you there stop by and say "hello."

May 24-25, 2010: Technology Assisted Learning Conference with co-author Tony O'Driscoll on the topic of Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration. Hope to see you there stop by and say "hello."

Tuesday-Thursday, June 1-3, 2010: Presenting a workshop with Dan Daniel Bliton at the 6th Annual Innovations in E-Learning Symposium titled Strategies for Enterprise Learning in Virtual Worlds.

That is far enough in the future for the time being. Please, if you are going to be at one of these events, stop by and say "Hi" I like to meet people and hear what they are doing with learning technologies.


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Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education: Learning in 3D Presentation Now Available

Tony and Karl discuss their ground breaking book, "Learning in 3D"

The recording of Tony and Karl's presentation from the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference is now available on Best Practices in Education Channel. While you are there, check out the other awesome presentations.

And even though they mis-spelled my last name, they still did an awesome job of capturing the presentation. In the presentation we talk about the middle chapter of the book, Chapters 3, 4, and 5 and even a quick discussion of the last chapter

Check it out at Learning in 3D A New Educational Dimension.

Here are our slides from the presentation.

View more presentations from kkapp.

The content for the slides and our presentation at the VWBPE conference was excerpted from;


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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Looking for Ideas on How to Measure Virtual World Learning

I'm looking for some help on this. I have a couple of ideas, about measuring virtual world learning but would love to have input from others to learn how they are assessing the learning taking place in virtual worlds, please comment on your blog and then link in the comments of this blog any ideas or examples of how you are assessing learning in 3D Virtual Immersive Environments.

Here is my preliminary thinking on the topic:

Evaluating learning outcomes in a 3D Virtual Immersive Environment (VIE) should not be done in the traditional fashion of a paper and pencil multiple choice assessment. Using a multiple-choice assessment for 3D learning is like using a yard stick to measure the amount of steam produced by boiling water. You cannot possibly obtain an accurate measurement. See my discussion with Sherry Engel on this topic in her blog post Learning in 3D: Measuring the Impact.

Learning in a 3D VIE is meant to be experiential. While it is possible to craft 3D environments to teach facts and declarative knowledge, the real power of these virtual immersive environments is to allow learners to experience concepts, solve problems and work on skills like negotiation, sales acumen and team work (so called “Soft skills”).

Assessment of knowledge gained in terms of concepts, problem-solving and soft skills cannot be accurately measured with true/false or multiple choice questions. They need to be measure using different techniques such as rubrics and performance-based checklists.


One way to construct a rubric for assessing in-world activity is to create a hierarchy of desired skills. The lowest level (and fewest points) is the minimal acceptable behavior or activity from a learner. For example, if you are teaching sales skills, it might be the opening used by the learner to begin a sale. The learner might say “Hi, my name is Juan” that might be the minimum and the learner received 5 points.

The best opening might be “Hello, my name is Juan Hertz and I am from ABC company and I’m here to talk to you today about maximizing your company’s revenue by minimizing idle inventory, do you have a few moment?” and the learner would receive 25 points.

When observing the learner role-playing in an authentic situation, the instructor assigns a skill level to the behavior and the skill level is associated with a score. This can even be done when asking learners to create content in-world. For example, you might teach a lesson on sustainability in home construction and then ask the learner to build a “green” home in a virtual world. Then the students could be assessed by the instructor walking around the green home and checking observing the sustainability element the learners included such as solar-panels, tankless hot water heater. If they included the minimum, they would receive a low score. If the integrated the elements together and carefully thought through the design, they’d receive a higher score.

The key is to design the rubric as a way of moving a learner from the state of minimal knowledge, to the state of mastery. The skill involved in creating the rubric is to understand how learners move from basic skills to the level of mastery.

Performance-based Checklist

A checklist can be used when observing the learner for specific behaviors that can be seen or not seen during an activity. Such as, “Did the officer ask to see the driver’s license?” or “Did the student check to ensure the safety guard was locked before attempting to operate the equipment?” These performances can be taught in 3D virtual spaces and then assessed either in the space as the learner runs through a simulation or, more appropriately, have the assessment occur in the physical world to note the transfer of skills and knowledge from the virtual to physical world.

Performance-based checklists can be assigned points to each item (weighted if necessary) and calculated based on how many of the items on the checklist were properly completed by the learner, they can be timed as well to see if time requirements are met.

Assessing learners in a 3D VIE should use techniques similar to assessing the learners in a physical location. You want to assess transfer of learning, ability to perform the right tasks and the ability to critically problem-solve. Two methods that help are rubrics and performance checklists but there are more.

How are you assessing learning in 3D virtual worlds, I’d love to hear some ideas?


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Best Educational Piece on How the Banks Hid Assets (NSFW)

Here is a great "story" or an analogy of how the banks move monies around as told by John Stewart of the Daily Show. I think his story of being Jonco provides an "easy to understand" version of the shell games going on at Wall Street.

The technique of comparing personnel and corporate allowances with money is a great educational technique.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK because of all the swearing. It would be funny without the swearing but...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
In Dodd We Trust
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Reform


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Encourage Avatar Customization in a Virtual World Class

Customizing Abbott Bundy.

When first introducing learners to a virtual immersive environment (VIE), it might seem like a waste of time to allow learners to customize their avatar. You might be tempted to think "hey, just pick a male or female avatar and let's get going to the 'real' learning." Don't.

Don't ignore or "brush off" the fact that personalizing an avatar is a big part of the 3D virtual immersive environment experience.

I've talked about the importance of this before in You Are Your Avatar, Your Avatar is You. As research indicates, people become very vested in their avatar, this vesting needs to be accommodated in the entire process of having learners enter a virtual world.

Conducting an activity of avatar customization at the beginning of the virtual world on-boarding process helps learners to more easily customize their avatar and avoid frustration with trying to find the right “hair color and length” or the right outfit and look. It also teaches the importance of the “Sense of Self” when learners are participating in educational experiences in 3D environments.

The "Sense of Self" is a huge advantage that 3D environments have over 2D virtual classrooms and as designers or developers of 3D virtual world instruction, we need to leverage the 3D capabilities of customization to fully engage participants and to give them a sense of being immersed in the learning. Otherwise, we are missing a huge opportunity of allowing our learners to emotionally invest in the learning.

It is a very good idea to allow learners "personnel" time with their avatar. If you want learners to become invested in the learning and in their avatar, they need to spend time customizing and making their avatar a personnel reflection of who they are. Here is an exercise I use in workshops and classes to allow learners time to customize.

1. Gather learners in a single location within the virtual world.

2. Provide the learners with instruction on avatar customization.

3. Allow learners to customize their avatars (provide tips, hints and ideas, even clothes).

4. Provide learners uninterrupted time to customize their avatar.

5. Have the students “show off” their avatar.(a kind of fashion show)

6. Ask why they chose certain attributes in the customization process and what it means.

7. Show them how to change outfits or looks and save their existing look. They can become frustrated if a look they "love" disappears.

*Note:This is not a male/female thing. Everyone likes to customize their avatars and needs to so they can create a necessary connection.

ADDITION: Check out this entry by Rich Mesch discussing the being a Tourist in the Uncanny Valley which talks about how realistic an avatar should look.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reflective Learning in Virtual Worlds

A critical element in virtual world learning is the opportunity for the learner to reflect upon his or her experience. As a designer of a 3D virtual learning experience, you need to design part of the learning experience to include time for the learners to re-envision what they experienced and add meaning to that experience. Expert facilitators can make that possible by asking the right questions such as:
  • What did you feel as you went through that experience?
  • Where did you encounter trouble?
  • At anytime was your thinking not clear?
  • Did anything confuse you?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What skills did you apply?
  • What do you wish you knew how to do when you had that experience?
  • What would you do differently next time? Why?
  • To what degree, if any, where you confused, frustrated or angry? (or other emotion)
  • Where was your focus during that exercise?
Keep in mind that the debriefing process can be important for both a synchronous learning experience as well as an asynchronous experience. So as you are designing a 3D learning experience, ask your self these questions to help focus the exercise to include a robust and meaningful debriefing session:
  • Who Conducts Debriefing?
  • What Will be the Focus of the Debrief?
  • Will it be one-on-one or include the entire class?
  • How Does Instructor Observe?
  • Is the Debrief Provided in a Written Format?
  • Where does it take place?
Debriefing after experiential learning is a great way to make the learning "stick" and, if possible, take the time to teach learners how to conduct their own debriefing after any life learning experience and you will be providing them with an invaluable tool in their job as a life long learner. __
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Monday, March 15, 2010

I Have Seen the Future of Conferences...and it is 3D!

Terrence Linden discussing the new 
Second Life browser at VWBPE conference.

If you missed the Virtual Worlds' Best Practices in Education Conference, you missed not only a great conference with really good content and presentations, you missed a glimpse into the future of conferences.

The conference took place entirely in the virtual immersive environment of Second Life with a venue of presenters from around the world. Take a look at the conference agenda to get an idea of the breadth and scope of the event.

Marty Snowpaw (SL) Marty Keltz (RL), one of the organizers of the event told me that over 5,000 avatars attended the two day event. As Marty said to me, "the conference is rolling a long with record breaking attendance." I was in a session with Terrence Linden (SL) that had over 70 attendees and the session that Tony O'Driscoll (RL) and I conducted had about that many attendees as well. 

The in-world event had posters sessions, tours, exhibits, social events and presentations just like a face-to-face conference and groups like the US Airforce were present to discuss what they are doing in virtual worlds in terms of education and collaboration.

If, for one minute, you think virtual worlds are going away, this conference has proved that notion dead WRONG. The conference reinforced everything I believe about virtual worlds being the future of online education. Anyone still doing 2D virtual classrooms is quickly going to be left behind.

Here are some pictures I took of the conference, our slides from the conference and a link to one of the videos from a session.

Terrence Linden discussing the fact that
60% of top universities are in Second Life.

One of the advantages of conducting a conference in a virtual world is that the attendees can become immersed in a very non-traditional but effectively moving environment. I attended a session where the moderator, Jenaia Morane (SL) Jena Ball (RL), introduced attendees to “The Uncle D Story Quests” created by The Virtual Worlds Story Project by asking the learners to change their settings to night time, gather around a virtual camp fire and to think about their impressions of HIV and write them on a notecard.

Here we are gathering around the camp fire.

Setting the environment to "night" 
to enjoy the story by the camp fire.

The US Airforce is doing a number of projects in Second Life and actively involving the community. The presented on the topic of" The Rise of Avatars in Loosely Coupled Social Networks for Military Learning Innovations"  and discussed how the virtual environment is engaging learners and changing behavior.
Andy Stricker (RL)  Spinoza Quinnell (SL)
Distributed Learning Architect Air University 
discusses learning in a virtual world.

For our presentation, Tony and I met up in the "green room" or speaker ready room for some instructions, a sound check and to meet with our moderator. From a speaker and attendees perspective, the conference ran smoothly, was well coordinated and had a great overall vibe. The community is so lively and active.
Tony and Karl prepare for their Learning in 3D presentation.

Karl talking about the alignment of sensibilities with design principles.

The venue for the Learning in 3D presentation.

Tony making a point about 3D learning
 archetypes described in the book.

A look at the audience listening to the Learning in 3D
 discussion at the VWBPE Conference.

Here are our slides from the presentation.

View more presentations from kkapp.

The content for the slides and our presentation at the VWBPE conference was excerpted from;

Another fascinating element of a virtual conference is the ability to create experiences and interact with the audience in ways not possible in Real Life. For example, at her presentation Lesley Scopes (RL) Light Sequent (SL) (a contributor to Learning in 3D) presented on her Cybergogy model by creating a model right on stage. Check out her entire presentation.

Audience members look on as the model being 
discussed is built right in front of them in 3D.

Conducting conferences without having to fly across the world, by providing 3D presentations and interacting within a virtual world will be a large part of the future. Ironically, this weekend, as I was preparing for this conference, I got an email from a client who said that her travel budget for a conference she wanted to run this summer was cancelled and did I have any ideas on an "innovative" way to run a conference without travel...yeah, I think I just might.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

20,000 US Hackers Wanted...Creating the Computer Elite (or Failing at it)

In the future, experts predict that wars will be fought both in physical places, like Afghanistan and Iraq and in cyberspace such as the recent attacks that have allegedly originated in China on NATO and the European Union computers searching for secret intelligence material. In fact, Edward Castronova, in his book, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Gamespredicts in the future battles may occur between virtual armies for virtual territory and that countries must begin to train "soldiers" how to fight as avatars. And interactive role-play games like America's Army certainly blend the 3D-cyber world and physical world training-type activities. There have already been stories of terrorist armies attacking residents in Second Life and of terrorists using these spaces for practice of physical world attacks.

So the need for hackers is not trivial. Unfortunately, the rate at which the US creates elite hackers is, at best, anemic. Back in 2007, I attended a keynote address by Dr. Peter Joyce of Cisco Systems who predicted a shortage of Information Technology workers. He provided statistics like an "estimated 1.5 million new computer and IT related jobs will be needed between 2002 and 2012" and concluded that there will "be intense competition for top talent in the field. He was spot on.

Recently Newsweek ran an article titled Educating Elite Hackers. In the article, the stated that "the number of elite cybersecurity experts needed to protect and traffic this area for the government and the private sector is dangerously inadequate" and estimated that only about 1,000 elite hackers exist in US and that 20,000 are actually needed.

What is an elite hacker? Someone who can think outside of the box and who has "wicked" computer skills. The article gives an example:

In a cybersecurity simulation (called "Netwars"), the 240 contestants were required to hack into 12 servers. Each server was worth points and whoever had the highest tally at the end of the game would be declared the winner. But instead of going from server to server,one young hacker named Michael Coppola decided to hack the scoreboard and give himself the most points. Naturally, he won. "It wasn't part of the initial plan," he says. "I just happened to come across the vulnerability and decided to focus my time on that."

Contrast that need for out-of-the-box thinking about programs and computers with two stories.

One from a blog entry I wrote in 2007 called Hire That Kid! where a kid had placed cheat sheets, answers to test questions and even a clip from "School House Rocks" on his own MP3 player to cheat on an exam...clever use of the MP3 player and, as a result of the major infraction, the school immediately banned MP3 players disciplined the kid. They disciplined him for the very behavior and thinking that would make him an elite hacker. In fact, In fact, the kid who is clever enough to understand the value of the information contained in the School House Rock songs, download them from the internet and put them on an MP3 player for a test is EXACTLY the kind of person we need...opportunity lost.

And now, so called "enlighten professors" at universities like at George Washington University, American University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia are banning evil laptops from classes because they lead to a "world wide web of distraction"...hey professor...maybe your class is just BORING. Or, more realistically, the laptops are not integrated into the lessons effectively. If you are going to insist on lecturing on and on from notes or PowerPoints created years ago...guess what? Kids are going to tune out because they use computers EVERYWHERE else, integration, not banning is the solution.

How we are going to create elite hackers when the use of laptops is looked down upon and is actually banned (and the trend, incredibly, is growing).

The Newsweek article states that part of the problems is that we have academic programs that don't produce the kind of people we need.  Part of the problem is that the U.S. stopped funding computer sciences for about 10 years and a part of the problem is that until recently we really didn't understand just what kind of people we needed. Read "THE PROBLEM IS THAT EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS HAVE NOT KEPT UP"

Now enter the huge de-valuation and de-prioritization of education in the United States and we now are incurring serious national security threats. Brilliant programmers --who should be defending cyber space--are, instead,  creating ridiculous and ultimately flawed financial models that did nothing but rob money from unsuspecting marks (yes, we are not investors, we are marks).

So when the economy tanked, the US jobless rate soared to over 30% in some areas and the need to educate our citizens increased dramatically, huge systemic problems in the educational industry were revealed.

We have a flawed educational system on many levels. Examples? A Rhode Island school fires all its teachers for inadequate peformance and in Kansas City 26 of 59 schools are shut down because of economic problems and costs keep going up with no corresponding results. Students are graduating with increasingly high debt and without needed skills. See Huffington Post's continuing story Majoring In Debt. And see the mini-protests across the country because of cuts in education (I call them "mini" because the anger that should be generated at the robbing of educational opportunities in this country and the education bubble we are now experiencing should be causing riots, car flipping and broken glass (you know...they type of behavior exhibited after a big sports event), not sit-ins, rallies and marches).

So what do we do to create the computer elite.
  • Stop banning computers and electronics in the classroom
  • Create computer schools where students come everyday and learn to hack
  • Sponsor hacking contests
  • Support ethical hacking computer program (update our current computer programming courses)
  • Create learning environment that are unconventional (returning to the past does not move us to the future.)
  • Bridge the "haves" and "have nots" in education, give every child a laptop for goodness never know where the next genius is coming from.
  • Get really UPSET over the dis-investment in education in the United States.
Support programs like:
The Information and Communication Technologies National Center in Springfield, MA (sponsored by NSF) The Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technologies Center in San Francisco, CA (sponsored by NSF) The Convergence Technology Center in Collin County, Texas.

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