This weekend I saw the future. Not that itâ€™s the long term future by any stretch since things seem to be moving at warp speed anyway. But there were a couple of technologies on display at the â€œNew Media Literacies in Learning Landscapes Conference” in Charlottetown, PEI that had me feeling like that giddy little geek that sometimes pops up when everything around me is feeling new again.
The first isnâ€™t really all that â€œnewâ€, but it was the first time Iâ€™d taken part in a live video stream of one of my presentations thanks to Jeff Lebow of Worldbridges.com (and edtechtalk.com) who was there to record the proceedings. I should say that on Friday when I gave a short tech pep talk to a group of about 50 7th graders who are embarking on a most excellent online archiving project about PEI, it was very cool to tell them that folks from as far away as Australia and Abu Dhabi were watching us live. And then yesterday for the conference with about 40 island teachers, we had at one point about 25 viewers â€œin da houseâ€ to watch and take part by text chatting questions and having that more and more ubiquitous back channel chat going on throughout. (The best was when Jeff told me Clarence Fisher had been watching while doing his dishes as I raved about his work during my keynote. Kinda scary, but cool.)
Jeff used about a hundred miles of cables, numerous headsets, cameras etc., but he streamed the whole thing through Ustream.tv which, if you have a camera, a mic and a fast connection, you can start â€œbroadcastingâ€ live from wherever you are in like maybe 3 minutes. (And so of course the new model is to Tweet â€œHey Iâ€™ve got a show starting in 15 minutes! Hereâ€™s the link! Come participate!â€ Mercy.) The mind reels with the possibilities, and Iâ€™m actually to do a first â€œbroadcastâ€ interview Q&A from the audience on Tuesday if I can set it up. (Iâ€™ll be sure to Tweet it from willrich45.)
Now I know that streaming per se isnâ€™t all that bleeding edge any longer, and really neither is the whole Second Life in education discussion, though there is much there that still needs to be worked out. But what Dave Cormier (who with Bonnie Stewart were running both the archive project and the conference) showed us in terms of a new Second Life â€œhackâ€ (for lack of a better word), was pretty mindbending. OpenSim uses the Second Life interface (which Linden Labs released to developers last year) but allows you (wait for it) to serve up your own world on not just the server of your choice, but (wait for it) even just your local computer. Want a world just for your classroom that isnâ€™t â€œout thereâ€ on the Second Life server? Done. (Read more about it in Dave’s post here.)
And get this. Dave said that while this is all still in alpha and very thin, within six months weâ€™ll probably be able to take our own local worlds and selectively connect them to other local worlds, building communities just among those that we want our kids to interact with. From our desktops. Thatâ€™s what heâ€™s working toward in the project heâ€™s doing with the PEI kids. They are going to build their own archives in their own local worlds and then invite other school worlds in to show them around and teach them about the history of the island. Private tours, so to speak.
Iâ€™ve struggled with Second Life for a lot of reasons, and frankly, I havenâ€™t stepped a virtual foot in there for about six months. But what I saw and heard the last couple of days just started my brain really exploding with the possibilities. OpenSim sounds like itâ€™s building toward an easier, safer, more convenient environment than where Linden is going. And you can do it without the downside that comes with the open grid or even the teen grid to some extent.
Weâ€™re not quite there yet with either of these technologies, but this weekend, you could just feel it coming. That is whatâ€™s so much fun. Almost as much fun as spending time with Sharon Peters, Rob Patterson, Stephen Downes and Harold Jarche and some other great educators trying to make a difference. Good stuff.
Technorati Tags: technology, secondlife, learning, education, streaming
Chris Yeh says
Glad that you enjoyed your Ustream experience. Please thank Jeff for me, and try it again soon!
Chris Yeh, Ustream CEO
Ryan Bretag says
As someone that spent a lot of time in Second Life but left for some of the reasons you mentioned above, this is quite exciting!
MUVEs offer tremendous potential in the classroom and maybe, just maybe, this will offer a means to using Second Life and all of its advantages without many of its drawbacks.
Thanks for the information.
Harold Jarche says
I think I now have the incentive to dive into Second Life [I mean OpenSim]. Great to finally meet you in person, Will.
dave cormier says
Great to have you here dude,
I see that Harold is using the NML_UPEI tag… so many things i forgot to do. It’s funny… like most things you do in life, it’s real easy to criticize people for not doing everything right when you’ve not tried to do it yourself. Conferences are hard work (or course… bonnie did most of the hard work).
i’m all about opensim… we should hook you up! Will Land.
Brad Anderson says
I agree it is amazing what new technologies such as uStream and Second Life are doing in the world of education. As a current college student in education, this is the first semester where I have had a professor incorporate technologies such as these into the classroom, and the exciting thing is the best is yet to come. The days of students of being taught by one educator in the front of the classroom are coming to an end. Now we have the ability for students to learn from hundreds of the best teachers throughout the world, without having to leave the classroom.
Sofia Penna says
Hello! I am a member of Dr. Stearns ENG 506 class at SUNY Cortland. I feel a big sigh of relief coming on as I read your news on Second Life, which makes me much more comfortable about promoting it in classrooms. My main concern has been safety and content focus. Making Second Life more local and private seems to put out both of those fires for me. For safety purposes, I think parents will be much more relieved to know that their children are connecting with pre-selected, closed communities. In terms of focus, I think having more authority on which communities our students will connect with is key to keeping them geared toward classroom goals.
At present, I can’t help but feel puzzled by the safety page on Teen Second Life at http://teen.secondlife.com/parents/safety. I never understood how a simple list of safety tips can really prevent dangerous situations. Are our teens really reading and abiding by that list? I believe they need an extra safety net, such as the one Dave Cormier proposes. Thanks for the information & updates. Sofia Penna-Rittenhouse
Sharon Peters says
Your last line resonated with me – trying to make a difference. The conference and project are excellent models for a new approach to education. We have been talking about flattening the walls of the classroom for months, years even, but over the weekend we could SEE it happening right in front of us. Students and teachers who were in the room became aware that they were not only the audience but they themselves had an audience! In spite of being a demographic group that is largely insular (they literally live on an island), they could sense a connectedness to those who “come from away”. This has important implications for a group that often feels on the fringes technologically.
Kudos again to Dave Cormier and Bonnie Stewart for their vision and chutzpah for pursuing this project. They have worked for well over a year to get the grant funding, raise interest, develop a framework, explore tools and environments, tackle university and school board politics, and get down and dirty with the hardware aspects. Now they are off and running with the fun part – watching students become enthused and engaged in an authentic project that validates their identity and shares their small world with a much larger audience. WOW! Wish my kids had this exciting opportunity!
Amanda Y. says
Like Sofia, I am one of Dr. Stearns’ graduate students who is thrilled by the implications of these technological gems in classrooms for students, who are yearning for authentic engagement with authentic audiences. Safety is an understandable concern; allowing educators to take more active roles in shaping the level of safety for their students’ digital work and play can provide other educators, parents, and community members with the confidence to move forward with integrating technologies such as this into curricula.
This is certainly exciting stuff!
Bonnie Stewart says
Will, it was wonderful to have you here in person, and I’m glad we were able to release the giddy little geek within. 🙂
The Living Archives project is exciting indeed, and – while we’re still getting ready for primetime viewing, and thus there isn’t much to see at the site just yet – the input of the online educational community is really helpful in terms of our development too.
Kate F. says
I am also a member of Dr. Stearns’ class and I am excited about the safe uses of technology that you experienced with these students. It’s great to hear about students having the chance to create something real for an actual audience and that they are able to do this in a digital world that was selected for them.
Jonathan Wolfe says
The potential for faster and more personal ways of communicating over wide distances streteches as far as the human imagination can conceive. Look at how far we’ve come since the invention of the telegraph! It is very easy to envision a future where holographic images are sent instantaneously anywhere in the world, and we can virtually partake in personal conversation with people thousands of miles away. Imagine the possiblities of having a class in your own home, where you sit around a table with students from many different countries, whose physical bodies are not there, and whose languages are translated without delay in the very timber and tone of the voices in which they speak. Sounds like Star Trek, but I don’t think it’s very far off.
Mandy M. says
I am also a student in Dr. Stearns class, and I have personally never used Second Life, but if you are encouraging future explorations of this virtual world, I feel compelled to check it out. I have discovered that everything you suggest in your book (Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts) as ways to incorporate technology into classrooms, are very appropriate and useful ideas. I am excited to see how I may use Second Life for this purpose, especially if it is something that is becoming increasingly popular among teens. I want to be able to relate to and know my students, and perhaps being familiar with Second Life will enhance our relationships.
Further, as internet safety continues to evolve, I think most people will feel better about allowing students to access these programs in school settings. However, I also agree with my peer, Sofia, who stated that safety for teens has to be an active rather than passive process. I think she may be correct in assuming that most teens skip over the safety page. This situation must be remedied to ensure that students take the time to understand internet safety and take appropriate precautions, so I can also appreciate all the initiatives towards enhanced security for teens.
Thanks for the great blogging.