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A Virtual World Educator Badge

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Badges are a hot topic in education these days.    Edutopia has a list of badges you can self-select or apply for,  Mozilla’s Open Badge Project provides an infrastructure (still in Beta), including code, for the designing, earning and issuing of … Continue reading

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Online Teaching and Learning: From Independent Study to Immersive Collaboration

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I come across an article several times a week that describes a K-12 district or a state’s efforts for offering the opportunity  for students to “learn online”.  Higher education has been involved with online/distance learning for a longer period of … Continue reading

As The Virtual World Evolves

Many virtual worlds require the downloading of a particular viewer to access the virtual world and to interact with it.  Some require nothing but the web, a browser and a current operating system.  Jibe is one of those worlds which I was able to visit recently.

Walking amongst giant chickens in JIbe. They clucked and pecked but I survived.

The look  is similar to OpenSim or Second Life and the feel is like these worlds in MouseView, kind of takes getting used to.  Creating in the environment seems less laborious than the virtual worlds  I typically visit.  The creation/building tool, available as a free add-on, is reminiscent of what you see in a typical graphics program.

A flat terrain in JIbe is "brushed" with hills.

Changing the terrain is as simple as painting with a digital brush. Adding a field of ferns was a s simple as dipping the brush into the “fern” paint and then brushing the terrain in with ferns.

Ferns "painted" into the terrain do not require individual placement.

I  got the feeling that the creation and building within this web-base world was simpler than in the virtual worlds requiring a special browser.  The interaction was not as smooth or easy for me.  It seemed a little unstable but impressive that any of it could be done on the web on my Macbook Pro in Safari.  Perhaps the potential lies in the limitations and lack of complexity.

The Jibe Tools.

The registration was simple (name and password),  avatar selections are reasonable and there is an asset store with objects for free and for purchase.  The items can be imported into Jibe and placed, moved, and rotated as desired to complete the environment.

A Cart from the asset store is duplicated and added to the environment.

The simplified interaction and limited choices in this web-based world reminded me  of the new “basic” browser in Second Life.  Both types of virtual worlds are changing, maybe to accommodate an audience maybe to make a profit, maybe because people have a natural inclination to improve and change what they have.  For whatever reason, the end user will ultimately benefit.

Architecture for the Virtual Environment

When people build in the virtual environment they create structures that resemble ones in the real world.  Buildings, offices, houses, castles and classrooms have standard walls, doors, windows, and furnishings that replicate the real world.  Perhaps it is because building what we are familiar with provides a frame of reference and feeling of comfort. In her blog,  Avril Korman refers to Virtual World architecture as virtuatecture and discusses this desire for a home that looks familiar.

Virtual world “physics”, almost limitless creative possibilities, and avatar abilities suggest a more innovative architectural approach.  Accommodating avatars who transport or fly in for a meeting requires a space that can be easily accessed with wide doorways, minimal walls or open rooftops.  You can still have the familiarity of RL spaces with the added benefit of virtuatecture to accommodate the unique qualities and possibilities of the virtual setting.

The rooftops at CLIVE in Second Life allow for easy access.

The buildings at CLIVE (Center for Learning in Virtual Environments) are generally standard looking buildings, with the exception of large openings in the rooftops for avatars to be able to fly in and exit easily.

The iSchool classroom on Mellanium in Reaction Grid

The iSchool classroom on Reaction Grid is an open air classroom, easy to access via either a teleport or flying in, yet the space is somewhat traditional with the students desks in rows facing the instructor station and presentation area.

These two spaces illustrate the best of both worlds.

A wide ramp helps avatars to make their way into Gridizens market on Reaction Grid.

Rails keep an avatar from falling off a steep ramp.

Another feature to keep in mind is the ground  (stairs/ramp) access to a facility.  In real life we typically have stairs with a narrow ramp for wheelchair use.  In a virtual setting avatars generally do better with wide ramps or rails with narrower ramps so they don’t fall off.

XSS Bucky Fuller on Mellanium in Reaction Grid and Museum of the Globe are two builds that take full advantage of the attributes of virtual environments.  This virtuatecture looks unlike what we would encounter in the real world yet it works effectively in the virtual setting with large attractive spaces that can be reached via teleport and used in a variety of ways.

XSS Bucky Fuller in Reaction Grid

Museum of the Globe on Second Life

Visual Arts in The Virtual World

The virtual world is of course a visual art in and of itself, but there is potential to provide learning experiences in a virtual setting that would otherwise be impossible in the real world.  In my experience, the world of visual arts can be brought to students to consume in 4 ways.

First the traditional way of walking around a museum and looking at the art.  One of the most extensive museums in the virtual world that I have seen is the Dresden Museum on Second Life (Dresden Gallery 120,128,26), which houses 750 masterpieces of European art.  An avatar can walk around the museum  and see the famous art, clicking on it to get information as it is desired. This method of learning about the art mimics a strategy used in the real world.

An avatar floats down Rumsey's Map Museum tower

The second method takes the display and viewing of works to a different level, literally.  Here an avatar can view a large collection of artwork in a “museum”  that can be traversed only in a virtual setting.  A wonderful example of this is the Rumsey Map Museum on Second Life ( Rumsey Maps 2 (193,201,715)).  The avatar visiting this museum  can fly through a tower to view the extensive map collection, stopping to click on any of interest to get additional information.

The third method of  learning about art in a virtual setting involves becoming a part of the art.  Art Box (Klaw 5,21,46) on Second Life has selected pieces of artwork with human subjects.

An avatar becomes a part of a famous piece of art in Art Box.

Participants are provided an opportunity to choose a painting and then click on a poseball to become the subject in the art.  The owners offer props and costumes for some of the art work.  Laguna Beach California has a real life, annual art show reminiscent of this strategy of enjoying art.  Actors dress and pose while backdrops and lighting are used to duplicate a painting in real life.   In the virtual setting the participant gets to make the art selection and become a part of it.  Certainly more immersive than just looking at it.

Sitting in Van Gogh's room. The builder created an elongated room to ensure groups of visitors had a correct view.

Finally, an avatar can visit a location and be completely immersed in the art.  In the case of Arles (168,23,29) on Second Life.  This amazing sim allows avatars to walk around Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings as they may have been seen by the artist.  The paintings are a 3D form and allow complete interaction.  An avatar can climb one of the famous yellow haystacks, sit in a cafe and enjoy the “starry night”, or even sit in Van Gogh’s bedroom.

The many museums in the virtual environment  each have policies regarding the use of the images they display.  It is best to experience them by visiting the location.

The places described here are not available to students under 18 years of age, but the methods may be used to create art locations in the Opensim grids so that students may interact with art and thus learn about it.  Better yet, students may become the producers and create these environments with art work in the public domain or even their own art work.

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Consumer and Producer

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Frequent questions regarding Virtual environments in education are “So what does a student do in a virtual world?  How/what does a student learn?”.   What students can do falls into two categories, they can consume content and they can produce content. … Continue reading

Hello Virtual World!

MultiUser Virtual Environments (MUVEs) designed for the educational community allow participants to engage in this environment.  Participants

• Interact with content (other participants, objects, activities)

  • Select a representation of themselves – an Avatar
  • Explore the environment
  • Communicate with other participants
  • Use and interact with objects
  • Analyze data

• Create content

  • Collaborate with others to accomplish a task
  • Gather information to perform tasks and solve problems
  • Plan and implement projects
  • Develop activites