Category Archives: Communication

Open Source Second Life

One of the criticisms sometimes leveled at Second Life is the proprietary nature of the platform. However, for quite some time work has been progressing on an open source server, OpenSim (the client has been open source for some time now). I know of a few people using OpenSim in education (either instead of or alongside Second Life), but one of the major issues for the future of the education market might be the challenge of creating large grids of connected OpenSim servers linking together many universities.

Particular problems might be in sharing avatar details or transferring objects (while respecting permissions, rights and roles) between different servers. Interestingly, according to Linden Labs VP of Technology, this is a service that Linden Lab themselves might one day provide for the OpenSim community. As related here in a Reuters interview.

Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh

The second Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh (DIS:E)

When: August 12, 2008: 14:00 – 18:00
Where: Edinburgh Intenational Conference Center

This year’s symposium will be co-located with the Edinburgh Interactive Festival at the prestigious Edinburgh International Conference Center.

The purpose of DIS:E is to create a dialogue between practitioners, thinkers and policymakers, to discuss issues concerning the interactive entertainment industries now and in the future.

This year the focus on DIS:E will be on education and training.
- What skills and knowledge does future developers and artists need?
- What is the purpose of academic training?
- Are we educating artists for self-expression, or should the needs of the industry be imperative?
- How can innovation be fostered by educational institutions? And what should the relationship between academia and industry be like?

As the Scottish government has recently announced it is placing game design and development on the national curriculum, what impact may this have on the interactive entertainment industries in the future?

Keynote Speaker: Professor Richard Bartle.

UK Universities on iTunesU

Three UK universities have started adding materials to iTunesU. I’ve not looked back at iTunesU for a while, but when I did previously I was very disappointed with the very poor browsing/search capabilities. Not at all helped by many of the lectures/podcasts failing to include descriptions of the content beyond the course name and “Lecture 1″, “Lecture 2″. Not being able to search for all content in a particular area was a big minus – the blame split somewhere between Apple’s iTunesU and the universities providing the content.

This news is enough to make me look again – the Open University material in particular tends to have very high production values, and will likely include a lot of video materials. Will try to report back when I have the chance…

Angling for educational attainment

I wrote previously  that some solutions to lack of concentration in class might be found in ways other than introducing computer games Рmost notably simply by changing what children eat Рby providing a proper breakfast or from healthier options during the day.

Now today a story from the BBC in Wales reports on a school that has seen great benefits in concentration and attainment by introducing angling – fishing with rod and line:

A school for disadvantaged children in Powys claims fishing is helping its pupils overcome their problems.

Teachers at Brynllywarch Hall School said the pastime had improved pupils’ temperaments, computer skills and mathematics, and boosted confidence.

The report did not say whether any attempt had been made to compare the results against those achieved with Sega Bass Fishing on Ninetendo.

Grade Guru – Facebook for learning?

While Facebook started off as a social networking platform for students only, it never really had much of a focus on supporting learning – and has had relatively limited take up as a collaborative learning tool (which may even be tailing off as more adverts and controversies over privacy and IP ownership occur).

Courtesy of Shona Mullen of McGraw-Hill I had a peek at ‘Grade Guru‘ yesterday – a new social networking app focussed on note sharing and collaborative learning.

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Game Playing and Asperger's

Should have blogged this last week…

Skewed coverage of academic report in the Dire Mail (sorry, Daily Mail) : Computer game addicts warned they could start behaving like autism sufferers. Of course the report warns no such thing, as discussed here at Spong: Daily Mail muddles cause and effect .

According to Spong, the original paper basically imagines a line ranging from ‘autistic’ to ‘not autistic’, and notes that game players (along with the likes of engineers!) are found closer to the autistic end of the line than non-gamers.

Alan Kay at TED

If I hadn’t fallen behind again on my RSS feeds, I might have had this last week… but I just realised that TED happened again this year – a few weeks ago, and now the videos are all online. It’s easily possible to spend a day just watching the TED videos – and I can guarantee that it wont be a day wasted, with so many fantastic thinkers and do-ers gathered together and sharing their ideas. Homepage for this year’s event is here.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally caught up with Alan Kay’s presentation from last year!.

The presentation includes some brilliant demonstrations – and quite possibly should be required viewing for everyone involved in education… with simple demonstrations which show that its quite achievable to get 6 year old children to manage to work with differential equations! (Though perhaps without the jargon)

His talk features children’s use of simulation for experiments (with e-toys) and also touches on the OLPC laptop.

How real are virtual worlds?

I’ve posted my lecture from today onto Slideshare – the topic was ‘How real are virtual worlds’? The obvious answer is that they aren’t real in the slightest, except of course that they touch heavily on real lives. (This is by no means a new observation of course… I mention a few books which you could refer to for more depth in the short short slideshow)

It’s also available at GoogleDocs here (where the links work) , though I hope to add audio to SlideShare soon.

One major theme of the lecture was to highlight that real life entering virtual worlds is really just an extension of the way that the internet has entered real life. Much as we can trade, chat or even meet loved ones on the internet, so the same can happen in 3D virtual worlds – despite some media coverage its less of a new phenomenon than it may seem (at least in some of the ways in which it affects the lives of those who use it). Internet addiction and cybersex were features of news reports years before World of Warcraft or Second Life…

The Google VLE

Yet to address myself to the defense of the VLE I hope to do… but today Google relaunched JotSpot as Google Sites – and it is now in effect a Google web content-management system (CMS) for building your own branded corporate or group intranet and internet sites. It includes many of the typical features of a virtual learning environment too… so does this mean that a VLE can be a Web 2.0 application? Does this mean we can calm down a little on Web 2.0 vs. VLE debate – or will it be another application people will cite as signaling the end of the university VLE?

Note on terms: CMS can also mean ‘Course Management System’ which is the same thing really as a LMS (Learning Management System) or VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).

Edit: I should also give credit to TidalBlog which alerted me to the re-launch a few hours before I got the email from Google.