3D Virtual Worlds: Flat Classroom Conference

On March 6, 2011, in Collaborate, by DavidDeeds

Ni hao from China! I’m David W. Deeds, the IT Manager/Teacher for Changchun American International School (CAIS) in Jilin Province…not far from the North Korean border. I also humbly serve as the Clive Roberts Fan Club President, Asia Division. Clive has asked me to write about 3D virtual environments here on Digital Learning World…and I’ve agreed to do so, obviously…it’s an honor and a privilege…etc., etc. OK, enough with the introductions…and kissing up…on with the story.

My first post…yes, this one, try to keep up…will be about the Web 2.0 Boot Camp sessions I conducted on 3D virtual worlds at last weekend’s Flat Classroom Conference (FCC) in Beijing. Wow! Sitting here in my quiet home office it’s almost hard to believe all that activity took place just a few days ago. I wrote an entry about it…realized it wasn’t really appropriate for DLL…and so used it to resurrect my long-comatose blog, inDeeds: www.indeeds.com. Yes, the FCC was genuinely that inspirational…you’ll get a sense of why after you’ve read my piece. The FCC’s website: www.flatclassroomconference.com .

Students designed educational technology solutions to kids' problems.

Students designed educational technology solutions to kids' problems. Photo courtesy of FCC/Julie Lindsay.

But on with 3D virtual worlds. I gave two presentations…one on what CAIS is doing with Second Life (www.secondlife.com) … the other on how we’re using OpenSim (www.opensimulator.org). Via the FCC ning (www.flatclassroomconference.ning.com/  … worth checking out, although be advised if you live in China you’ll probably need a VPN to connect) I had specified readymade avatars so my sessions could be as hands-on as the rest of the conference. And indeed, when I gave the Second Life presentation, I had FCC people inworld with me..via avatars they’d created themselves! It’s OpenSim that my FCC colleagues were/are most interested in, though, and rightly so.

Until this past January, Second Life was exclusively for adults…and if you work in an international school like me, your students are..well, not. We’ve had teachers inworld for a while…Changchun is rather isolated and so our instructors use Second Life to attend meetings, talk with other instructors…professional development activities, in other words. Web 2.0 tools are for connecting, communicating and collaborating…”The Three C’s” were repeated so often at the FCC it was like listening to monks chanting a mantra…and you can’t get much better than Second Life for this, for adults anyway. Now kids 16 and up are allowed onto the main grid…and so I’m taking DP (high school) and MYP 5 (middle school, like grade 10) students inworld. We’ll make Second Life the basis of our DP Information Technology in a Global Society course as of next year.

Many readers of DLL already know that there’s a struggle of sorts to see which platform will be the standard for education. Make no mistake about it…OpenSim will win…in fact, maybe it already has. I’ll be writing more about this later…even if you teach at a college/university, I personally maintain that you’d be better off with OpenSim, although maintaining a Second Life cybercampus also has its advantages if you can afford the time/money to maintain both…like CAIS. It’s primarily a matter of control over what happens…you simply have more with OpenSim. Don’t just take my word for OpenSim’s ultimate victory…consult Maria Korolov’s Hypergrid Business ezine’s article on choosing a virtual environment: www.hypergridbusiness.com/2011/01/how-to-pick-a-virtual-platform-revisited/ . And while you’re perusing HB, check out the article Maria wrote a few weeks ago on what CAIS has been and is up to: www.hypergridbusiness.com/2011/02/china-school-goes-3d/ . The article provides an excellent summary of WHY you should want to get yourself and your students inworld if you haven’t already.

And HOW do you go about getting your turf, using Second Life and/or OpenSim? Glad you asked. Clive asked me to test the SlideShare embed code in DLL…yes, it works…so here are my FCC PPTXs with all the information you need to go cybershopping for your very own 3D virtual world. Take a look at the slides and let me know if you have any questions. Judging by reactions from folks at the FCC, the slides provide not only a useful overview of the platforms but also sufficient detail (some might say copious!) regarding three different vendors for each and how you can compare offerings in order to make decisions. I’ll get more into what you and your kids can do inworld in my next post, as well as how you might choose a solution depending on your particular circumstances. Now if you look at the slides and your reaction is: “Dave, I have no idea what the heck you’re talking about,” don’t worry…I’ll divulge all later. ;)