Monthly Archives: October 2008

Doug Anderson: The Creative and Educational Possibilities of Virtual Worlds

Doug is an artist and IT guy, and a Junior High School art teacher.

Is Second Life the next big thing?.


We live in a multipolar media age.

The only next big thing is lots of little things

Second life has about a 90% fall-out rate.

Notion of economies in Second Life. Limited resources and economy engenders creativity and innovation.

By end of talk…

Will know architecture and structure of Second Life.

Understand virtual worlds as part of a long intellectual tradition within Western Thought.

Why public spaces succeed or fail in Second Life.

What Second Life is good for

Understand current trends in popularity, use, and tech development within this medium

Second Life operates on –

Client-server model.

You have to wait while Second Life serves up something you are trying to pull in.

Tool set for building objects.

[We went through pretty much all of this at our TwTT on SL last spring.]

Edward Castranova book “Synthetic Worlds.”

Ars Memoriae – virtual worlds are related to this concept.

-the “method of loci” or art of memory
-Using a memory palace to organize info
-ancients practiced this spatial organization of memory and information

Piranesi and the architecture of imagined spaces.


-the codifying of shared imagined spaces
-attempts at defining rules of virtual spaces
-precursor of first computer games

Remote Collaboration –

-meeting spaces
-serial design
-water cooler/chat room

Visualization –

-fast sketching in 3D
-multiple iterations of same design
-data as place

Art and Performance –

-a conceptual realm
easily disseminated/omnipresent

Identity, Culture, Ethics Lab –

-form the inside out
-freeing of appearance from identity
-chat room with a view

Pitfalls –

-was first hour exp of creating avatar good? It is too much, too soon for new users
-limited support for new users
-identified as a priority by Linden Lab mgmt.
-if you build it, they won’t come – unique geography in SL – actually the geography metaphor doesn’t function in SL
-think of SL as movie studio back lot
-much in SL is event driven, not object driven
-kind of like teaching at the mall, everything you do is within a proprietary space
-anything you create in SL is your intellectual property, what you make remains your own property…
-mindless pursuit of verisimilitude
-geography fallacy
-simulation over utility

Best Practices –

-sandbox model
-have an event driven model, a schedule or a curriculum, otherwise you won’t have critical mass of learners
-make sure you have tools that allow you to bring content from outside (moodle – course mgmt software, free; sloodle)

Trends –

-sculpted objects – can soon make more soph. objects
-voice chat
-75% of users, outside of US

Tech challenges –

-concurrency – can’t have too many on SL at one time
-interoperability, hopefully will be able to port avatar with you to other sites
-reliability, can lose stuff
-competition – open source version available; seeing efforts for browser-based worlds
-relatively few core SL believers who spend on average 8-30 hours/week – the rest phase out of SL quickly

Doug then took us on a tour of SL Princeton space – it looks gorgeous, but what’s it for?

Takes a long time for client to grab objects from the asset server.

Showed an art project – many blocks in the shape of an egg, each of which will house video content.

Then two of his own pieces.

Mark Frydenberg: Mashups and Web 2.0 in the Information Technology Classroom

Web 2.0 at a Business University:


Advances in tech enable new software tools for collaboration and sharing

Teaching IT Concepts Through the Lens of Web 2.0


Appreciate, Participate, Investigate, Communicate, Collaborate, Create.

Students have already been on Facebook – so they have been using Web 2.0 tech and haven’t necessarily known it.

They will look at RSS, Twitter, Skype, Ning, Google Docs and Spreadsheets at the same time.

Really wants students to create own web tool. Then introduces mahsups.

Mashups are a web 2.0 construct. Take data from one application and use it in another.

Use a mashup engine, then can run it in your web browser.

Teaching Programming Concepts Visually:




Wanted students to create Web 2.0 apps that use data that they already have access to.

Microsoft Popfly:

-developed for non-professional products division

-visually build real-world applications without code

-went into Beta Oct. 17th, 2007

-Share on web site, blog, or Facebook.

Intel Mashup maker

Google has one as well

Yahoo Pipes – more complex programming skills needed.

Mark decided to go with Popfly b/c no specialized skills needed.

Had to talk about XML, RSS – where data resides. How can Facebook display your friends, flickr, etc.

Web services

Service oriented architecture

Could learn about objects, app development

“Living in an Object Oriented World”

Flickr Blocks

For Popfly – you need a windows live ID or a hotmail account. Also need Silverlight.

In popfly – left-hand tool bar provides a selection of block you can use.

Open a block, type in a search term: skyscraper – then search gives data from wikipedia. Can separate out form and content. Can view raw data.

then can go to display block – find carousel display option, then link it to wikipedia. Can isolate where you want image to come from – select “thumbnail.” Then it creates a spinning carousel image set of skyscrapers. [It looks rather nice, quite impressive.]

[Can extrude data from sites and recombine in your own visual display.]

Can take “Virtual Earth” – mapping. Wikipedia gave lat-long for skyscrapers. In Virtual Earth can create a map with actual accurate locations and visuals of the skyscrapers.

There is a lot more you can do, with all of the various types of blocks. This is a very shiny {Firefly} technology and easy to use.

Can have very complicated block arrangements utilizing many functionalities.

Can take data from different sources and combine it, seemingly infinitely.

Took 4 class hours on Popfly capabilities –

1) Images

2)RSS feeds, Text processing

3)Facebook, Maps, Geo-Tracking

4)Extending popfly – create a border for your popfly block; create a mashup with the largest number possible of unique blocks.

Created a guide for students and faculty about creating Popfly mashups.

Mark created 9 tutorials for microsoft’s popfly web site:

Students got to see what it was like to build software apps without knowing any code.

Important to have proof of concept. That your idea is technically feasible.

Q and A session: 11:30 – 12:00

Any questions that have not already been answered.

Q: How do you deal with retention policies for faculty and students for blogs?

A: They don’t set any limits. They can access blogs after graduation, after course completion.

Q: What type of exp do you have with various open-source software out there? What success and failure stories do you have?

A: Mark – big fan of wikis. Uses Blackboard for the stuff that Blackboard is good at. (and he’ll leave it at that). Doesn’t like limitation that students cannot post to announcements. Mentioned a site: (correct?) you can create social networks among students, extend it across different courses, etc. Didn’t want to give students too many places to go to for information. PBWiki, blogger, etc. already in use. Adding one more seemed ill-conceived.

Trent – VUE: visual mapping. Also from Tufts. Nice tool, especially for people who process visual relationships well. Open source.

Another valuable site: Ning. Use it to create a social network.

David – one of the things that failed at Tufts: developing a social network site – ecolinkup. Spent a year developing this system, generated a beautiful website – but when they launched it – it failed miserably. Main reason: there was no reason to go to the site to start a network. Spark however might work – because it is social networking by stealth. Many reasons to go there to get or add information.

Q: How would you encourage faculty to encourage them to use Web 2.0 tech.

A: Evan – show them. Just show them the tools. Once you take them through it, they develop greater comfort with the tools.

Trent – faculty developed projects over the summer – varying degrees of complexity. Trent interviewed them and then posted it on their website. (We should definitely try this – audio podcasts? And images of what the faculty have done. And links.)

David – a series like our TwTT – helps bridge the gap between technologists and fauclty because faculty present their projects.

Trent – MIT broke apart tech support units into people who keep things going and those who innovate new projects. This has been successful. If a unit has to do both, then innovation suffers.

Mark – Video tutorials. They are relatively easy to use. He recommended the following sites: Camtasia and But you have to get a sense of what the needs are.

Q: for David Grogan – why did you say third-party sites are a worry.

A: David – because we can’t support them, the third party sites, and we don’t know what will happen to the content if significant changes are made in the platform.

Q: Has there been much evaluation/assessment of these tools?

A: Trent – rephrased the question – what impact have these sites had on learning? They can track student engagement, but measures are based still on the old model of assessment. So what do we do with assessment in the era of tech innovation? Mainly what we can do is measure student engagement. They are interacting in ways they never used to, to how does that facilitate learning? [Still – in my opinion – his answer belies one of the main obstacles to integration – that it is still difficult to prove empircally with revamped assessment models that the tech is having a positive impact.] The assessment models rely mainly on qualitative and hence subjective measures.

An audience member added that it all has to be planned and implemented intentionally and thoughtfully.

Evan – they are bringing in an ethnographer to do surveys/interviews/focus groups. [I love this idea]. This individual will hopefully identify successes/failures in the models.

Tehmba added in that Yale is focusing on bringing people to our CMS because it is value-added. We can synthesize information that is appealing and will bring people to our site within the Yale system. Rather than bringing down the fist on people going to Google, etc.

Lunch break…

David Grogan: Spark Web 2.0 Tools for Communication and Collaboration

[My notes here are totally sketchy. Apologies. Hopefully I will be able to get the PPP slides for the blog. Themba Twittered this – his notes may be better than mine.]

Spark is a suite of web-based tools for communication that support teaching, research, and other co-curricular.

They hope Spark will be a Tufts-based localized network of people and ideas.

How is spark being used?

Q – can guests have accounts? They hope to make guest accounts available.

You can create as many wikis and blogs as you want in an account.

Spark allows one to break out of LMS (LNS?) model. People who don’t like Blackboard or other CMS systems.

Must allow for LDAP integration

Must allow for customization

Must have robust API.

Must have access to source code and database.

No plans as of yet to license Spark suite.

Available features:

Blogs, wikis, podcasts, forums, maps, media, web meetings

Blogging: Will be moving from Movable Type to WordPress, but will offer both for people who don’t want to migrate to WP.

Spark wiki based on confluence – you can turn your wikis into websites so you aren’t stuck with the wiki aesthetic. Showed the Dept. of Ed. site.

Very cool wiki with many capabilities. Intuitive interface

You can annotate video in a private protected system (unlike YouTube – which makes videos public).

Highly recommended and and “Yahoo Types.”

Spark has a virtual Machine for servers/services. Content storage is separate.

Geolocation enabled in maps function.

Podcast tool – they didn’t like iTunes because of copyright issues, so they came up with their own tool. Metadata and tagging is compatible.

Technologies and platforms under the hood:

Talented developer – has a temlate for just about everything.

-Use central tools and resources.

Don’t bother with authorization themselves. They use LDAP directory. Only authenticate for non-Tufts users.

-Typical tool development effort – code mainly JSP some JavaScript, servlet, etc.

-1 – 1.5 programmers when dev. new tool. 2 mo. to develop a new tool

-JSP, Tomcat, MySQL, YUI, JIRA, SVN, et.

-secret release – when it’s tested and polished – they do a beta release, then total release as 1.0.


-Media Markup uses Adobe Flex…. slide disappeared.

Future Directions:

-more Ajax

-reducing LOC for tools

-stick with existing tech

-want automated testing.

-there will be a new Spark interface – brought up the new look – nice, more segmented page.

-bring activity to the front

-start connecting people and content


How does material arrive on the page? It will be automatically generated by RSS feeds.

Is there the goal of promoting this more? Workshops for students and faculty? What about the funding? Is it Provostial?

Yes – they do train fac and students. Yes, they get a budget from the university – and they are a university-wide service, including professional schools.

Evan Blake: Virtual Worlds and Education

Virtual environments where education can be fostered beyond face-to-face model.

MIT study – students when not on MIT campus feel a greater disconnect from “Mother Ship.” There is something about being physically on the campus that makes them feel more connected. This is a major roadblock for any kind of distance learning or study abroad. At MIT they are thinking of ways to bridge the gap.

Evan has a fine arts background. He then got into tech stuff and eventually into virtual worlds. (our Yianni!!)

He tries to create a common denominator between MIT community and virtual worlds.

MIT community when afield – either international, on business domestically, or just having office hours not on campus – what can connect and afford a continued sense of community?

Evan asked how many of us have been in Second Life or any other virtual env. – at least 90% of those in attendance raised hands.

Evan set up a lecture space where anyone can come and meet and work together. The rest of the SIM is broken up into different parcels. Media lab – identifying cultural projects – how can you transfer identity of a real environment (dorms) into a virtual space. The Residence Halls on MIT campus have very distinct identities – how can they translate them into virtual environment.

Built a virtual version of their physical Office of Education and Tech. They built it to scale. He can port video feed from his Macbook into the conference room. Demo’d this feature. he mentioned the video lag – due to satellite relay, etc.

Can bring in websites, still images, other video.

Program at MIT UPOP (undergraduate practice opportunities program) – 2 year program. Juniors given a company that was then bought out by a sports apparel co.

Learned that this practice (virtual world) can be applied to real world events.

Students and faculty were skeptical but not scared away.

The system needs improving:

-video lag

Streamline the approach

-replicate the interaction – they hadn’t thought about the type of interaction they wanted. Don’t want to need a tech person sitting there through the event to shepherd the use of tech.

-reintroduces the importance of space into discourse.

Evan wrapped up.

Trent asked if there were any questions.

What are other e-portfolio platforms? Elk is one, Digication by RISD (Trent says this one is very good), ELGG, and w/in Sakai (OSP).

Another question about being at a cultural moment or tipping point.

[Here’s a Zen koan for you, coined by Trent: “ubiquity is not universal.” Hmmm. Food for thought.]

A question about building the spaces in Second Life – many colleges don’t have resources or knowledge to do this, so do you have to build a virtual equivalent to the actual room? Evan says that there are certain types of interaction that require a analagous virtual structure to then again facilitate the interaction occurring there. You need enough cohesiveness to allow individuals interacting there to recognize that this is a space that facilitates the type of interaction taking place there. Not total realism, but enough referentiality to allow recognition is required.

Tech question: Good Logitech mic for $30 was ideal for picking up enough audio with echo cancellation.

Another question about how much time it takes to build these virtual spaces. Answer: there is a learning curve, but it’s not impossible. It gets easier with each item built.

Question regarding how this tech flies with students in different learning environments. This individual supports a campus where the average age of a student is 39 and the tech budget is very limited.

What kinds of skills and training does Evan have to be able to build these structures in Second Life – got a degree in computer animation. But jumped into Second Life blind. He found it rather primitive in comparison to computer animation. He learned as he went along. There is a great database online for doing things in virtual worlds.

NERCOMP: Trent Batson, What is Web 2.0 and What Does it Mean for Education?

Trent Batson is a Communications Strategist at the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology.

He started off the session by stating that the term Web 2.0 was only coined 4 years ago. And yet now, many campuses are developing “cloud computing” and virtualization, which is one aspect of Web 2.0. Most web 2.0 sites are social in nature and others fully integrate with other web 2.0 applications – Flickr photos being accessible from many other sites (Facebook, etc.)

World Wide Web consortium is working hard to come up with specifications for the next iteration of the web (Web 3.0) – meaning searches within various ontologies.

For Trent, Web 2.0 is a cultural moment – when we move away from print. Phone books, NYTimes, etc., are accessible on the web. Also describes the cultural tipping point – when technology has reached the escape velocity.

Trent asked how many of the audience members are Academic computing – about half. Trent asked in order to drive home the point that there was a time when AM&T had to really push the tech. That isn’t the case any more.

Question isn’t getting faculty to use technology, but how to apply tech in unique ways.

Virtualization is redefining the service delivery – we don’t have to worry about doing the upgrades ourselves. The company provides the upgrades.

Trent sees his new role as pushing for institutional reform. We have an educational system that does not promote the advancing tech capabilities. We have to change the model of education in order to maximize the usage benfits of tech advancements. Whole systems of assessment, grading, and the whole way that we teach and learn have to be examined with an eye to ways the tech can benefit and expedite. Right now, we are still stuck in the mode of faculty talking to students as the key way teaching and learning occur. We have to get out of that particular mode in order to maximize advantages of tech.

Introduced a book: Opening up Education

People coming up with alternative methods for students to learn. Gap year, study abroad, active learning, etc.

Active learning approaches, open learning approaches are appropriate for information tech advancements.

Evidence-based learning – actually based on many threads – visible knowledge thread – Randy Bass (and?) – if people brain-stormed on their computers in chat rooms – sync’d instructor could pop in to various chats and SEE what people are thinking.

Shadow assessments (?)

Many teachers are moving toward more active, collaborative learning.

E-portfolio movement is part of this. Trent has been very involved. Majority of universities have at least a committee talking about e-portfolios.

There is this push to move towards gathering evidence. E-portfolios encourage a different method of assessment. Students had some control over the grade they got at the end of the term, because they had control over the evidence of their learning – the e-portfolio.

Because of the e-portflio movement (evidence-based learning, etc.) education is changing. Pedagogy actually means “teaching children” – teacher-centric, directionality. What we actually would like to do is “Androgogy” – adult education. This shifts how we teach adults, based on the scholarship in this area. Totally different teaching and learning methodologies are required. We relate our teaching to the students’ experience. Scaffolding knowledge.


Can do collectivion, reflection, selection, presentation

Mix in Web 2.0

Continuous non-segmented learning


Current higher ed enterprise does not fit, nor is it sustainable, in the current knowledge culture.

Higher ed has been trying to move towards active-learning, student-centered models for years

Now, the tools and expertise to move to evidence-based learning are in abundance

The cultural technology saturation that is Web 2.0 makes the change possible.

NERCOMP – Using Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning

Hi from Norwood, MA! and the Four-points Sheraton where the latest NERCOMP SIG is shaking down.

Themba Flowers and I are both attending the above listed SIG.

The schedule for today is as follows:

-Trent Batson, MIT: What is Web 2.0 and What Does it Mean for Education?

-Evan Leek , MIT: same as above and Second Life

-David Grogan, Tufts: Tools for the Entire Tufts Community

-Mark Frudenberg, Bentley: Mashups in the Information Technology Classroom

-Doug, Anderson, Cats Paw Comics: Building the Virtual Campus: The Promise and Pitfalls of Learning in Virtual Worlds.