Ascilite Day #1

So here we are with the official start of the Ascilite 2009 Conference. As I write this it’s late Monday morning in Auckland, but late Sunday evening back home in the UK. It feels weird blogging and tweeting about the conference, whilst people I know back in the UK are getting ready to go to sleep.

With a traditional Māori welcome we then launched into the traditional conference openings from the great and the good.

The first keynote of the conference was form Dr Scott Diener of the University of Auckland. He is an advocate of Second Life and described how he saw how Second Life was going to change education. He was very passionate about Second Life and its use in education. He demonstrated his island live to the audience.

Now I have talked about Second Life before and as you may know I don’t really “get it”.

I either seem to be the technology luddite with the red flag walking in front of the Second Life car, or maybe Second Life is not this life changing and social changing technology that many think it is.

Now it may be just me, for example I can see some real potential and benefits of Augmented Reality technologies, but don’t see similar opportunities with Second Life.

Of course this doesn’t mean I am right, but what do you think?

5 thoughts on “Ascilite Day #1”

  1. Oh – I agree with you James.

    I’m sure there is potential in 2L but right now I see it as the use of technology for the use of technology’s sake. Until more than a handful of educators see the ‘point’ of technology on it’s broader canvas (e.g. using bigger fonts and/or pictures in PPT; accepting that learners have individual and subsequently different needs) – 2L has no hope.

    We need our colleagues to see the Gorilla in this life, this reality before we start to promote any other.


    Glad you’re still enjoying the trip


  2. Dave chaired one of my sessions on SL at an RSC conference this year. Guess that was a “no sale” then, Dave 🙂 There have been enough examples of successful learning in virtual worlds now to prove they can be useful, but I think the jury is out whether it’s worth the time and effort. The individual differences between learners is an important aspect though, not all will “get it” or feel comfortable enough in those environments to learn effectively and this does need to be taken into account.

  3. Ultimately it probably isn’t going to be either/or (AR or VW or mirror world or …) but some kind of mashup. Avatars in some form will be in there though.

  4. I was initially excited about the edu possibilities of SL – until I saw how awful most things people have done in it actually are. The nail in the coffin for me though was an RSC event I attended where a real advocate of SL was waxing lyrical about how chuffed they were with running an online presentation by having the slides appear on their avatar (why for heavens sake!) and then went on to say that in their (enthusiastic) research, 90% of students didn’t engage with SL at all.

    Let’s look at that again – someone really enthusiastic about it had found that 9 out of 10 of their students didn’t get on with it. Hmmm. Surely there are already more than enough barriers to effectively conveying information to learners without culling 90% of them straight away before they even get to the subject matter!

    Sure, there are places for immersive environments and I can see that if you get SL, the spacial relationships between units of learning could help memory/understanding, but either the tech just isn’t up to drawing everyone in or there’s only a small number of people for whom ‘immersive’ really works – the latter means it’ll never work, the former means it might work eventually but not now.

    Either way, the business model of linden labs has been critiqued in the ecconomist and similar as fundamentally flawed – as I see it, it’s almost a Pondzi scheme relying on venture capital to prop up and a pyramid selling scheme for linden dollars where almost no new actual value is being added and some people are creaming off the real money some people/organisations have sunk into it.

    And don’t get me started on the hardware requirements, accesibility issues, business continuity planning concerns etc.

    …can you tell I’m not a fan? 🙂

  5. @Nick

    As you imply, there are many different ways to use VWs in teaching; it’s unfair to pick one in isolation to criticize without more context. Like saying, as some people do, “I didn’t like my avatar’s hair so it’s rubbish”.

    9/10 students doesn’t agree with most people’s experience. True it takes time to get up to speed but most students cope pretty well (90%?). All sorts of reasons they may choose not to come back (pressure of RL assignments; outside work; time spent with friends in RL or on Facebook). You would be complaining if they migrated to VWs en masse as well.

    I have no idea what your economics argument is about. Fact is that LL has been highly profitable for several years. That’s more than many other companies in the sector. True that there are scam artists in SL but that’s true in RL too. If you don’t like for-profit, then use OpenSim on your own hardware. I imagine the VC people are reasonably happy or they’d have pulled out by now.

    Hardware: quality of the experience may vary but it actually runs on netbooks.
    Accessibility: several projects improving the experience for disabled. Happy to provide details but I follow the blog of one blind person using SL and here is an inspirational video of another user:
    Business continuity planning: OpenSim.

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