METANOMICS: KIDS BUILDING DIGITAL BRIDGES
JANUARY 26, 2009
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hello, everyone. I’m your host, Robert Bloomfield, and on behalf
of Remedy Communications, Dusan Writer and myself, welcome to Metanomics. Usually
when we think of young people in Virtual Worlds, we think of entertainment. World of
Warcraft has been a standard setter in generating revenue and loyalty from the teen crowd,
while Club Penguin does the same for kids under ten. But, what about more serious uses of
Virtual Worlds? Education, social action, learning how to make a difference in the world and
perhaps how to make a living.
Today we turn our focus to some of these activities involving young people right here in
Second Life and its companion grid, Teen Second Life. Our guests are Barry Joseph, of
Global Kids, and David Klevan, of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Barry heads up
Global Kids’ efforts to work with disadvantaged youth through technology, while David has
seen the youth-initiated work with the Holocaust Museum in a variety of capacities.
Metanomics is filmed by SLCN TV in the virtual Sage Hall, right here in Second Life. Thanks
to my real life employer, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.
Special thanks also to Doug Thompson, founder and CEO of Remedy Communications,
author of Dusan Writer’s Metaverse. Remedy has taken over the management and
operations of Metanomics, leaving me with [AUDIO GLITCH] to point out [AUDIO GLITCH] I
and my guests are more animated then the usual Second Life avatar, that’s thanks to
JenzZa Misfit, who is animating me in real time, using her new product Avateer Pro. As I
mentioned last week, Remedy is currently looking for sponsors so if you’re interested,
please contact Doug directly at email@example.com.
I’d like to offer a very special welcome to everyone at our event partner locations spread
across Second Life. We have people at Muse Isle, Confederation of Democratic Sims, Meta
Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium and Orange Island.
Metanomics is kicking off Orange Island’s celebration of nonprofits this week, with special
events every day. You can see their website for more information.
This is probably also a good time to mention that there are also a lot of educational activities
since I think we have a fair number of educational viewers today. And so in case you missed
the blog posts on blog.secondlife.com or the announcements on the Second Life Educators
mailing list, the first annual Real Life Education Support Fair starts tomorrow. There will be
regions open as early--I’m sorry, actually it was yesterday, Sunday morning. You can see
the Wiki page, but there’s a lot of information and a lot of stuff going on there. So if you’re
interested in the topics today, my guess is you’re interested in the education fair.
I’d like to point out that we’re using InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit
local chat to our website and website chat to our event partners. Speak up, and let everyone
know your thoughts. Just so you know how important this can be, we had Daniel Voyager
pipe up last week when we were interviewing Philip Linden, Philip Rosedale, founder of
Linden Lab, and he asked, through ChatBridge, the very last question that Philip Rosedale
answered. He asked, “Linden Lab doesn’t seem to be doing anything these days for the
teen grid, or they’ve stopped sign-ups outside the U.S. They’re not doing resident events,
and now they’re thinking to merge the grids at some point. What do you think of that?” And,
Philip surprised a number of people by saying that Linden Lab plans to shut down Teen
Second Life and integrate kids under 18 into the main grid, which is now restricted to adults.
We had hoped to have Daniel on the show today, to talk about that, but unfortunately that
didn’t work out for technical reasons. It’s not easy to replace, Daniel, for the simple reason
that, if you’re on the teen grid, you aren’t allowed to be in the main grid. Either you’re under
18, or you’re over 18. So we do the next best thing. We have Peggy Sheehy, library media
specialist, an instructional technology facilitator at Suffern Middle School, part of the
Ramapo Central School District in New York State. For our On The Spot segment, Peggy
Sheehy. Peggy, welcome to Metanomics.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Hey, there. Happy to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, well, it’s great to have you on again. Last time we
talked--this was over the summer--you had brought 800 Suffern middle school students into
Teen Second Life and 18 fifth graders. What have you been up to since then?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Well, actually we’re up to about 1,400 student accounts, which is not to
in any way presume that there’s ever 1,400 kids logged in simultaneously. But, as the
classes graduated and went to high school and the high school classes are more blended
and more age levels needed to be brought in, tenth and eleventh grade as well, so we
actually do have that many accounts. And we have 45 formally trained teachers that actually
took a district-supported in-service in teaching in Second Life. We have a lot of teachers
who are also just dabbling.
The exciting thing that’s happened for us this year is, there’s some very creative thinking
with my superintendent and with some ideas flowing out of ISTE and the NEC conference
this year. We are looking at opening up one of our islands. How that’s going to be
determined and the specifics of that are still kind of on the drawing board, but we’re kind of
envisioning a virtual drawbridge of sorts because the piece that we’ve been missing since
day one on Ramapo is the global collaborative piece. We’ve been an estate unto ourselves.
And, although the kids are having wonderful experiences and developing wonderful skills
and we’ve enjoyed the benefits of the virtual identity within the realm of the schoolwork and
addressing different content areas, the piece that we’ve been missing, which I always feel is
a foundational piece of Twenty-First Century skills in learning, is that global collaborative
piece. So this is our first step towards opening up and having collaborative projects and
efforts with our kids and kids from other schools from around the world.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So let me just clarify this a little bit, when you talk about opening
up. As I understand it, in the teen grid, for the most part, people have secure regions and
you can go onto that region if you’re part of that organization, otherwise you can’t. Your
hope is to have an island, like there are so many of throughout Second Life that are simply
open and anyone who is allowed in Teen Second Life could go to that island. Is that what
you’re talking about?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Well, that’s my next round of the vision actually. Initially the first step for
us, because being the pioneers, we have to be very cautious that things do work well and
we don’t have a situation arise where the end result of that is other schools say, “See, it’s
not going to work. We can’t do it.” So our steps are baby steps. The first invitation will be to
other schools, and they will be schools that share our same security protocols. So we’ll be
inviting classes over. Ultimately, yes, we’d like to be a wide open estate and invite all kids,
whether they’re in the teen grid affiliated with an educational institution or not, to come in
and participate and collaborate and exchange information and ideas. But the first step is
going to be opening up to other schools.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me take this, I guess, to maybe the third step. And just so the
audience knows, we started a little late today, and part of that was because we were trying
to sort out how it might be possible to actually get under-18s and over-18s somehow to
interact in some way, which is very difficult given the terms of service. And, as I mentioned
at the top of the show, we’ve had a number of discussions on Metanomics just over the last
week during the show, in our group chat, on blogs throughout, about integrating the two
grids. How much of a challenge is it to have that 18-year-old age cut off and either you’re in
Teen Second Life or the main grid?
PEGGY SHEEHY: I personally think it’s a really big challenge because of the fact that next
year will be the first year that we will actually have a senior class in, and some of those kids
are going to be 18. And just facing the whole situation of, “Well, we’re on the main grid, and
we’re on the teen grid. And how do we participate simultaneously? And how we
collaborate?” I mean there have been very creative solutions from different places, even
some universities face that issue. But really, ultimately, what we need is either a new
educational grid where the age factor is not one of the contingencies where adults, parents,
students can interact, different grade levels, different interests, different content areas.
That’s one solution.
Another solution is to somehow make it viable that, if you are signed up as a student, you
have a different level of access and maybe a little bit more flexibility. Maybe those particular
estates that are labeled as educational institutions can allow that particular status in.
Greater minds than I are tackling that problem, and I do feel a solution coming down the
road, but right now, yes, it is problematic. And Daniel could have spoken very well to it, I’m
sure. I’m very sad that Daniel is not here today. He’s a remarkable young man. I’ve had
some fascinating conversations with him. His work is phenomenal. I hold his photographs in
Second Life photography up as the exemplar.
I have with me in the room some teens, some of my eighth graders, who are on the teen
grid as well as on Ramapo Island, who have befriended Daniel before he had left, and they
miss him terribly. They are willing to, via me, I will kind of work as voice squad today. But if
you have questions you wanted to address with them, they’re ready, willing and able, sitting
here in my office with me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. I guess one question I would ask is--I mean there’s one
issue of shutting down the teen grid, which I’m sure would be unpopular among the 1,400
students you have brought in. But another one which I’m curious about is really a separate
issue of letting kids in to the main grid, and I’m wondering how they feel about that. Is that
something that they would look forward to, that they would shy away from?
PEGGY SHEEHY: That’s what I’m going to ask them right now. How would you feel about
being let into the main grid? Is that something that’s important to you? And, if so, why is it
STUDENT 1: Could I speak? That would be very interesting, because the main grid is a lot
more complex than the teen grid, because on the teen grid you have teens. I mean I know
there are some adults on the teen grid, but you have teens running around everywhere, and
it’s not completely organized. On the main grid, you actually have professional businesses
and actual conferences going on. That’ll be actually pretty exciting.
PEGGY SHEEHY: All right. Are you able to hear my students?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, I’m afraid I am, and I’m not sure if that’s okay. But, as I
understand it, they were just talking to you, and I happen to overhear that.
PEGGY SHEEHY: They were just talking to me, and I am controlling my avatar so--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, you might tell them that the response we get from in-world
is, the main grid is organized, with multiple question marks. What are their favorite activities
outside the Ramapo Islands in Teen Second Life?
PEGGY SHEEHY: [NO RESPONSE]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Did I lose you, Maggie?
PEGGY SHEEHY: No. I’m just asking them the question right now.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Wonderful.
STUDENT 2: Shopping is cool.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Normally what they’re saying is, they use it for socialization, but they’re
also entrepreneurs. They’ve been forming businesses and sharing information and
knowledge with each other. Two of them are very involved in scripting. And actually one of
them had to leave. He had an orthodontist appointment. He’s actually very involved in
working on cross-Sim, not cross-grid, but cross-Sim communication. He’s working on it with
some people, some teens on the teen grid, and he’s hoping to bring that knowledge back to
Ramapo because we face the difficulty that the maps are disabled on private estates, so
we’re unable to open up our map of the six islands and simply click on an area to teleport
over to it. That is disabled.
So they’re looking there, actually working with other teens on the teen grid, to address that
problem, and then they will bring that information back, using their Ramapo avatar to try to
effect a solution to that. So they really are entrepreneurial. They are socializing. They do a
lot of playful things too as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, fascinating. We’re basically out of time, but I do have
a couple things I’d like to mention. One is that I have already gone through the background
checks and everything that would be necessary to get onto the teen grid because, over the
summer, we were hoping we could do a show within Teen Second Life. So, Maggie, maybe
we can work together to pull that off. So fair warning to Lynn Cullins, my incredibly
hardworking producer that, boy, that’ll be more work. But I’d love to see if that could happen.
PEGGY SHEEHY: I would love to make that happen as well. That would be fabulous.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m sorry to talk over you, but I’m aware of the time, and I just
wanted to say one more thing, which is that we actually stream this show. You can watch
this show live on the web at metanomics.net/watchnow. You could actually go back to your
classroom presumably and fire up the computer and let people see the rest of the show.
They can even chat in ChatBridge. They’re doing everything on the web, and I haven’t
gotten a legal opinion on this, but I’m not sure that that poses a problem regarding terms of
service because it’s web content. Anyway, I’ll leave you with that question.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Thank you. And we always tend to err on the side of caution because
we are the pioneers, and we definitely want to set the right example.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. I do appreciate that. Thank you so much for working with
us through these challenges to get a little interaction with the kids. And I have to say another
word slipped out there on the second question, which is “shopping.” Apparently kids like
shopping on the teen grid as much as the adults seem to like it here on the main grid. So,
Maggie Marat, Peggy Sheehy, of Ramapo School District, thank you very much for coming
again onto Metanomics, and I hope you can host me in Teen Second Life sometime in the
PEGGY SHEEHY: Thanks a lot. I look forward to it. We’ll continue to listen. Thanks,
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s turn now to today’s main guests Barry Joseph and
David Klevan. Barry is director of the online leadership program of Global Kids, an
organization committed to educating and inspiring urban youth to become successful
students as well as global and community leaders. Since it was launched in 2000, the online
leadership program has built a number of strong collaborative relationships with Microsoft,
with PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation. David is education manager for technology and distance learning initiatives, the
division of outreach technology for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which,
according to its website, is a living memorial to the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum stimulates leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide,
promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. So, Barry, David, welcome to
BARRY: Thank you, Robert. It’s good to be here.
DAVID: Thanks, Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now you two collaborated in 2007, by bringing together youth
who were interning at the Museum in Washington, D.C., and youth associated with Global
Kids in New York City, to let them create and curate their own exhibits and create animated
movies about Kristallnacht, the so-called Night of Shattered Glass, one of the most
historically important events in Nazi Germany.
We have a video. I’d like to start this off with a video that we have, that you guys made from
the Teen Second Life Exhibit. And so, Texas and Wiz, if you can cue that up, let’s take a
look and listen to this.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: What happens when teens curate museum content?
LYNN WILLIAMS, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: Since the Museum opened
its doors, young people from the local community have shaped the way we teach and learn.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: Teens from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and
teens from New York City Global Kids decided to find out just how.
DAVID KLEVAN, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: Being a museum ambassador
means sharing your knowledge and experience with others, both locally and globally.
MIRATA, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: Staff of Global Kids New York, teen ambassadors
and Museum staff met through Second Life, Skype and phone.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: We made drawings that illustrated different possible
MIRATA, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: Within a few weeks, we had discussed issues of
curation, both in the Real World and in Second Life.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: After a lot of discussion, we focused on the idea of a
bystander, and we honed in on the Night of Broken Glass for the basis of our build.
CHRISTIAN, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: We gathered information from the Museum
archives and put it in a design document.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: On the other end, we coupled with teens who made
our ideas into a reality. That is, a virtual reality.
TRAVIS: My name is Travis, a Real life Orca. I’m 15, and I’m a CEO of Digital Refinery, an
all-teen in-world development company. Digital Refinery and the ambassadors in
Washington, D.C. worked together over the course of the program. After several sessions,
their Second Life exhibition was complete. It is called Witness To History. We wanted
visitors to investigate the actions of ordinary people during the Holocaust, so they take on
the role of an investigative reporter. The assignment: find out what people did, what they
didn’t do during the Night of Broken Glass. You learn from the environment. Shattered
storefront windows, boarded-up stores, general distraction. But you also see people, like
clicking on the cutouts of human figures, you learn about the choices facing ordinary people:
Jews and non-Jews, kids, adults, students and store owners, as well as firemen and police
The synagogue is a sacred place for Jewish people. We wanted to show both before and
after Kristallnacht, to emphasize the destruction and loss incurred by the Jews in Germany.
Before leaving, we wanted visitors to reflect, discuss and write about what they saw. The
Museum’s Hall of Remembrance inspired us to make the space spare and introspective.
Visitors can share their thoughts by posting note cards to the bulletin board. Learn more
about the holocaust and genocide prevention and pick up a free T-shirt.
CHRISTIAN, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: So in the process, we learned a lot.
ANDRE, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: The project focused on things that we thought were
important, and then that, more than anything else, inspired us.
MIRATA, MUSEUM AMBASSADOR: I think the essence of what we wanted to convey
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: David Klevan, what was the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s
motivation for this collaboration?
DAVID KLEVAN: Well, it’s a great question. I’ll tell you. As you said at the beginning, our
mission is to educate and disseminate information about the Holocaust to memorialize the
victims and encourage folks who either visit the Museum or encounter our content and
programs to reflect on it. And the first time I was introduced to Second Life, it immediately
struck me as a fantastic platform both for experimentations in education. I was fascinated by
an online tool where you could learn kinesthetically as well as through other means. But
also a lot of people in the museum world were starting to talk about what the potential might
be for experiments in curation.
I’d met Barry and his colleague Ravi Santos at the Games For Change Festival in New York
City, and they’d impressed me a great deal. At times you can just tell when you meet
someone that their approach to education and working with young people is the same as
yours, and I learned a great deal from Barry. At the Museum, we have a long-running
partnership with the local D.C. community, mainly started out through the D.C. public
And, for a long time, we had been listening to young people who were helping us learn more
about how we could better serve the community, and this just seemed like a natural fit. So
that was really the motivation to get started on this, and I knew that Barry and the folks at
Global Kids would bring the expertise that we didn’t have, about how to work in Second Life,
how people learn in Second Life. And then, on our end, we could bring some expertise
related to the museum world and curation. And then we really just wanted to see, if we gave
young people the tools they needed, what could they create for them, for their peers and
possibly for others to learn about this history.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And, David, you took this further into the main grid, the adult grid,
with your Kristallnacht exhibit, which was launched back in early December. So it’s been a
couple months. Do you view that as a success?
DAVID KLEVAN: Actually, as a matter of fact, it’s been a success, I think, beyond my
expectations. We’re continuing to learn a lot and just the fact that teenagers were able to
come up with the design document that was transferable. Even though what was built on the
main grid was built by Involved Incorporated, it was using the same concept and design that
the kids had come up with over a year before. And since we launched it, we launched it in
mid December, as I’m sure you know from the vagaries of Second Life, it’s difficult for us to
get a good solid number on how many folks have gone through it, but we have a section of
our Sim where visitors can leave comments as they go through. And, from those, I’ve
learned a great deal about our visitors.
We had one visitor whose grandmother was a nurse in the U.S. Army, and she had found
some of her grandmother’s photos, which included about ten photos from Buchenwald after
liberation. We’ve had visitors who went through and said, “Is there a way to donate to the
Museum? I want to support the folks who created this.” And, truthfully, we hadn’t set up a
means for donation until I received that comment. Now there is a means for that.
A number of visitors asked, “Is there a group that we can join? Does the Museum have a
group? We want to learn about future projects you might have here.” And, again, I planned
to create a group. I hadn’t at that point, and that just lit a fire under me so now we have a
group. The name of the group is U.S. Holocaust Museum, so I encourage folks to join.
There are a number of other things. I mean it’s amazing the folks who have gone through,
who have family members who are survivors, who have expressed the fact that they don’t
know that they’ll ever be able to visit the Museum in Washington, D.C., and how excited
they are to be able to see this in Second Life. And the few times that there have been neo
Nazis or others who have been disruptive in the space, visitors have either alerted me or
have been there and been able to respond to it themselves. It’s an amazing community.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I find this discussion really timely because I was in New York City
doing a little work, and then I had the opportunity to go to a couple museums, the
Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it got me to thinking about just how
passive most museum experiences are. You walk, you watch and you listen. Because we
had the little audio guides. Your Second Life efforts and your collaboration with Global Kids
really turned that around because you were asking the kids to quite literally create and
curate their own exhibits. I’m wondering, David, do you see this as an example of a more
general trend that we can expect to see in museums?
DAVID KLEVAN: I think that you’ll see it as a trend in some museums, and I think you’ll see
it as a slow change, in all honesty. When you come from an institution where a great deal of
thought is given to vetting content and to making sure that everything is historically accurate
and where you have people, frankly, who are paid for their expertise to curate things and to
proofread things, it’s very challenging to hand over that power to so-called nonprofessionals.
I see enormous potential in Second Life because here’s a space where you can relatively
inexpensively mock up exhibitions. You can experiment with ideas that you may or may not
want to use in real life. And my hope is that we’ll see a shift where more and more museums
will be able to work with their curatorial staff, their exhibition staff, their education staff, to
experiment with exhibits years perhaps before they do them in the Real World. Trying them
out in Second Life. Getting ideas. Seeing how people respond. Allowing visitors perhaps
even to annotate it or help them build it. And then, based on that, doing what you want to in
real life and still keeping something unique in Second Life.
You’ve seen that shift, for instance, with the Tech Museum of Innovation. I know that the
Tech Museum did a very interesting experiment where they got groups of lay people
together to design things in Second Life, and then some of them I know they planned to
recreate in the Real World. I don’t remember whether they’ve done that yet or not.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. This is such a natural transition, I think, to an email
interaction I had with Barry over the weekend. Barry, you told me that the core game
mechanics of Second Life meshed very well with Twenty-First Century educational theory.
And, if you don’t mind my combination of quoting and paraphrasing here.
BARRY JOSEPH: Please.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: “The core mechanic of a game is essentially the thing you do. In
Pacman, you eat dots, and you avoid monsters. In Space Invaders, you shoot ships. In
Second Life, to the extent it’s a game, you build your self and the world around you, and the
narrative is a blank slate created by those who came before you.” That last part is a quote
because I really liked the way you described that. So I guess for those of us not steeped in
Twenty-First Century educational theory, why do you see that as such a good fit?
BARRY JOSEPH: Well, let me just add that the context for the conversation was talking
about what does one learn by being in a place like Second Life or Teen Second Life and
what one learns from games in general. Which isn’t to say Teen Second Life is always a
game, but at times it has game-like aspects. What one learns is from the core mechanic.
One learns from what one does irregardless of what those things often might be. So if the
core mechanic of Teen Second Life is about creating and building and making that world
around you, that in and of itself becomes a valuable learning.
And, to get more specific, to talk about Twenty-First Century learning skills, let me use one
program as a focus. Let’s talk about Playing For Keeps. That’s our after-school gaming
program, which is funded by Microsoft. Actually today we are launching--I’m hoping the URL
can be posted--the game the youth made in the teen grid. It’s called Consent. The youth
made a game that’s an immersive experience that challenges its players to make difficult
decisions while learning about six decades of medical racism, targeting African American
male prisoners. And, in this after-school program that met in the school, but in the
after-school hours, they spent the year learning about Second Life, learning about game
design and then learning how they could take a serious issue in the world and figure out
how to incorporate it into a game and specifically make that game, that simulation, be in
So when we talk about Twenty-First Century learning skills, what are they learning in that
context? Well, when you’re making a simulation, you have to identify the constituent parts of
a system and how they relate to one another, developing systems thinking. And that, along
with a number of other critical thinking skills, are part of the tool sets that young people need
today if they’re going to be successful in the classrooms, in the workplace or in the public
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Just to be clear, yours is primarily an after-school program. Is that
right? I mean this is in addition to traditional education?
BARRY JOSEPH: That’s right. Primarily Global Kids work is in classrooms after school,
around New York City. We also do work with youth that we never meet in person, such as
Daniel Voyager in Second Life. And, finally, we get to do distance learning with
organizations like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, who we worked with over the
course of that summer two years ago, but we never actually were there in person. Using
Second Life and using Skype, we were able to do it all remotely.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: The reason I ask about the fact that this is after school, I deal
somewhat with the educational community, and I hear a fair bit about the regulatory trends
and No Child Left Behind, which I would say is really going in the opposite direction, in many
ways, of what you’re describing, rather than a rather free-flowing, “create your own world,”
interact and empowering youth to create content and experience free form, unstructured
challenges. It’s much more, “Look. Here are our learning objectives, and we’re going to
grind you until you do well enough on the test.” Do you see this as a complement to
traditional education, or would you actually rather see more people doing within the school
things along the lines of what Peggy Sheehy, Maggie Marat, who was just on, are doing,
which sounds more like what you’re talking about?
BARRY JOSEPH: Well, Maggie’s work is certainly remarkable. It’s an incredible model of
what’s possible to do within the system. And we look at Global Kids work often as what’s
possible for doing what they call the informal learning space. But whether you’re talking to
Maggie or myself, our goals are the same. We want to develop young people’s ability to
think critically about the world and see themselves as powerful agents of social change,
being able to be a positive force in society. So we want to reach youth in an effective way
and reach the numbers.
Schools are where most young people are so we want to do things in schools. We just
actually released the evaluation of our Science In Second Life high school class, which was
a freshman-level high school class that we did last year, where youth were in Second Life
every day, with a teacher in person and a teacher from Scotland, teaching about global
science issues. That’s a little bit unusual for us because usually we work in the, as you say,
the after-school space because that gives us the freedom to really experiment and work with
new technologies in new ways that the standard-based system isn’t always so ready to
But even so, you find people, like Maggie, who are doing really innovative work within that
incredibly confined restrictive system. So last fall, for example, we released our Second Life
curriculum, over 450 pages of free Open Source lesson plans that anybody can use, and we
were finding that people were using it in all sorts of environments: after-school settings,
in-school settings. And really what we want to do, as people who can support other
organizations in their capacity building around using Virtual Worlds is help them figure out
what makes sense for them. Should it be after school or in school? Should it be Second
Life? Should it be Whyville? What kind of tools should they be using to empower the young
people, with Twenty-First Century learning skills, using IT technology?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m seeing a bunch of interesting questions from the backchat,
and so I’d like to run through these. A couple of the questions deal with race, and I guess it’s
been my personal experience that the main grid in Second Life, although it’s global, it
doesn’t seem to have a large proportion of African Americans from the U.S. or Blacks from
Europe. We have a comment. I think it was Joia Sands found it interesting that all the young
people in the video we showed were Black. And Prospero Linden asks what fraction of the
Global Kids students are Blacks. Barry, can you talk a little bit about the racial composition
of the kids you deal with?
BARRY JOSEPH: Sure. I think what we’re addressing here are larger issues around the
digital divide and how they relate to technology. When I first started the online leadership
program here at Global Kids almost nine years ago, a lot of people didn’t understand why
we’d want to work with young people to think about web design. Nowadays, to think about a
young person being successful and not knowing how to search on Google, or go research
on Wikipedia, doesn’t make sense to anybody. It’s clear that everyone needs to have those
skills. Virtual Worlds just came a few years ago, the latest new technology that are
becoming part of mass culture. And, a few years ago, you didn’t have the numbers, but now
we know that the majority of young people in the next year or two are going to all be in
Virtual Worlds. And the millions that are in a variety of Worlds early attest to that.
So what we want to do, as an organization like Global Kids, is, on one hand, reach out to
the youth who are currently in these spaces, but at the same time work with the youth we
work with face to face, who are not in these spaces, to bring them in. So many of the young
people who you see in the video are the young people that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum works with in D.C. and we’re able to then work with them to give them skills and
support them in ways that they might not have the opportunity to do. At the same time, we
want to work with youth who are already in these spaces, to build up their awareness
around these issues, around racism, sexism, homophobia, etcetera.
DAVID KLEVAN: Just to add to that, it’s important to note that just because they’re
teenagers doesn’t mean that they have any experience at all with Second Life. Something
that was a real eye-opener for me was that, really, the kids who worked on this project with
us, almost none of them had even been in Second Life before this project.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s doesn’t surprise me too much. Go ahead.
BARRY JOSEPH: I’m sorry to interrupt you, Rob. So our ability as educators to bring youth
into a space like this, where they really have to have an opportunity to experiment and fail
and have that be a learning experience, not a negative experience, like in school, means
that you need to have a space where it can be youth only. It doesn’t mean there’s not
educators there, like us, but we’re there to support them. We’re not there for our own
personal interests. And that’s why I think the comments that Philip made last week, which
he’s made in the past, but he made more clearly last week about the possibility of making a
mixed-age grid and having that replace Teen Second Life. Potentially revolutionary, both for
what it means for education in Second Life, as well as those who are interested in just
working with youth who are in their own space.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’d like to turn to the Teen Second Life discussion, but before we
do that, there’s another issues that I’d like to bring up, which probably both of you struggle
with, and that’s the issue of control in the following sense. I deal a lot with more of the
corporate community, the enterprise community, and they worry about sex. And I see that
there’s been quite a discussion about sex, pornography, in Second Life, in the backchat and
that it definitely causes some concern to corporations who are thinking about having a
Second Life presence and don’t want to be associated with that type of activity.
David, I’d really like to start with you on this because I think the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum, you must all be very sensitive to very tricky issues of public image, of racism,
anti-Semitism and just all sorts of very strongly held political, social, cultural beliefs. As you
move toward opening this conversation up and, rather than having people view passively,
you’re giving them a voice. How do you make sure you’re keeping the conversation under
DAVID KLEVAN: I know it’s a great question. It’s the challenge that I think any public
institution faces, if you really want people to meaningfully engage in dialogue about your
topic. And, in our case, we’re an institution, like I said, that’s dedicated not only to exploring
the implications of the history of the Holocaust, but also we’re very concerned with issues of
current genocide and genocide prevention, confronting hatred and anti-Semitism. You can’t
really engage people in action around those things, if you’re not willing to engage them in
genuine conversation. And the challenge is always keeping people on topic. We’re the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and so obviously whatever we do is going to be
rooted in this history.
And it’s a balancing act. What we have on our Sim right now, visitors can listen to audio,
view video, but really one of the only places where they have the opportunity to truly create
something unique is really in the form of text, in the form of a comment board at the end of
the exhibit. And, even there, when people post comments, they get reviewed before they go
up because we don’t want hate speech up there. We don’t want things that are going to be
there solely for the purpose of offending. Yet, at the same time, we don’t want to censor
things based necessarily on political speech, if it’s relevant to the topic at hand.
Tomorrow we plan to host a public program in our Sim, and we’re going to take questions. I
mean I think that Second Life, in many ways, is not unlike the Real World. If you don’t give
people a reason to keep coming back, they have no reason to come back. You want them to
be able to participate, and, when they participate, you want them to be able to participate as
fully as possible. I hope that someday we’ll be able to have programs where members of our
group in Second Life can actually build things together, and I hope that we get there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. I see we’re coming toward the end of our time, and I would
like to address the issue that I mentioned at the top of the show regarding Philip Rosedale’s
comments on possibly shutting down Teen Second Life. And something I actually see as
being a separate issue: possibly allowing the main grid to be open to all ages. At some
point, I’d love to get a lawyer on the show to talk about some of the risks of letting kids into
the main grid, but that’s another time. Right now I guess I’ll start, Barry, with you. I
understand you have some fairly strong feelings about the value of maintaining a World
exclusively for teens and not shutting down Teen Second Life. Can you talk a little bit about
your view on that?
BARRY JOSEPH: Sure, I’d be happy to. I mean, if Linden Lab turns Second Life into a
mixed-age grid--and I should pause a moment to say nothing is definite or clear at this point;
Philip just said it was a direction--but if Linden Lab does turn Second Life into a mixed-age
grid, this doesn’t mean we should presume that the need has passed for Teen Second Life.
In fact, I would argue that just the opposite’s true, that the promise offered by Teen Second
Life has yet to be realized. It’s essentially the difference between protecting youth and
supporting youth. I mean Teen Second Life was made for the former, to keep kids safe,
which is great, but focusing on nothing else sells them short in the end.
Supporting youth means recognizing, for example, that Teen Second Life offers youth the
opportunity to own land, to create and sell products, offer services and become civic leaders
and stuff like that. And some might say the same is true for adults in Second Life, and they’d
be right. But the difference here is that adults can do the same thing offline. Youth cannot.
Their ability to move and think as they choose are dramatically curtailed. In fact, where most
youths spend their days in schools, they’re not permitted to even go to the bathroom without
permission from an adult.
In Teen Second Life, however, they’re in charge of their own destiny. So as a result, the
possibilities for using a youth-led space, to learn how to shape their public personal and
their roles in society, in a safe way, are unprecedented. And, add to that the remarkable
constructive as possibilities for learning by doing. You have an unusual package for
developing Twenty-First Century leaders that we all need in our society, that are hard to find
outside this space.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And actually I notice here in the backchat, Rik Riel,
Rik Panganiban, who is one of your colleagues at Global Kids, puts in the backchat: We’re
running an online dialogue on rezed.org about the grid merge. So those who are interested--
BARRY JOSEPH: If you don’t mind my saying--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Go right ahead.
BARRY JOSEPH: --Daniel Voyager is the one facilitating the conversation, the youth who
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, fantastic!
BARRY JOSEPH: --supposed to be on earlier, but couldn’t be on. So if you missed hearing
his voice now, you can go hear it on rezed.org, r e z e d.org.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I’m just looking. We have a number of other questions
here. I see actually there are a lot of comments--I referred to No Child Left Behind, and that
fired up the educator crowd a little bit. So I’ll have to be careful.
BARRY JOSEPH: Yeah, they like to get fired up about that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, I’ll have to be careful when I mention that. Let me just look;
we’ve got a few other actions here. Well, I guess one thing I definitely want to get in before
we end the show is, tomorrow a big day for you, David, and the Museum.
DAVID KLEVAN: That’s correct.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you talk a little bit about that and what your plans are and
whether there’s any Second Life component to International Holocaust Remembrance Day?
DAVID KLEVAN: Yeah, absolutely. Tomorrow is International Holocaust Remembrance
Day. It’s the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This is memorialization that was
created by the United Nations, I think, about two years ago. Actually, no, in 2005. And we’re
going to be actually holding our first ever live program on our Sim in Second Life tomorrow
at 12:00 P.M. Second Life time, 3:00 P.M. eastern time. The program is going to be a
historian presentation called Reporting On Kristallnacht, Propaganda And The Press. And
Ann Mellon, who is an educator and historian at the Museum, will be giving a brief
presentation and holding a question and answer session about how both the German press
and the American press responded to the events of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
We, of course, also have a live program at the Museum here in D.C. at 11:00 A.M. And, also
for those of you in New York, like Barry and some of the folks up at Global Kids, we have a
traveling exhibition about Nazi medicine and race science called Deadly Medicine: Creating
The Master Race. And that actually opened at the United Nations Building today, and it’ll be
there through March 22nd. So we’ll have a number of things in the Real World, as well as in
Second Life, and I encourage everybody to join us tomorrow. Again, it’s an experiment for
us. We haven’t tried it before so we’re very much excited to see how this turns out.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I imagine that would be of considerable interest to the kids
involved, Barry, with your program, making the Consent game that explores some of the
similar issue that have arisen in the United States.
BARRY JOSEPH: Absolutely.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, Barry and David, thanks so much for coming on.
Actually, Barry, what’s up with you next? We have another minute for that.
BARRY JOSEPH: I appreciate the opportunity, Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, sorry about that.
BARRY JOSEPH: Let me share with you folks what we have coming down the pike. No, no
worries. Maybe just a few highlights because of time being tight. RezEd was already
mentioned, but for those who don’t know, it’s the hub for learning in Virtual Worlds, launched
last March in Beta. We just hit our fifteen-hundredth member this past weekend. Our twice a
month podcast series has coming up a conversation between Henry Jenkins and Mimi Ito, a
report on Panwapa. That’s Sesame Street Workshop’s Teen World, and our reports from
the Field Museum about how they’re using Virtual World strategies. We also are going to
launch in March our first quarterly in-world event, and we’re working with the Games
Learning In Society Conference this June, to have the first in-person RezEd conference.
I’ll also mention that, after 18 months, our D.I.D.I. Initiative will come to a close, which is our
partnership with Youth Adventure, funded by the Robert Johnson Foundation, to look at
social entrepreneurship around health issues. Our third year of our virtual video program is
in high gear. These youth who are making machinima around global issues are about to
pick their topic, and just this month their video from the first year trials were hit 10,000 views
And finally, our Second Life curriculum, which I mentioned, is available on rezed.org, and
that’s part of our capacity building program, to help organizations, like David’s and other
institutions, figure out how to use Virtual Worlds to achieve their mission, to help young
people become leaders of not just tomorrow but today.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great stuff. I thought I was busy. It sounds like you’ve got a full
plate there. So thank you, Barry Joseph, of Global Kids--
BARRY JOSEPH: Thank you, Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --and thank you, David Klevan, from the United States Holocaust
DAVID KLEVAN: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I hope we’ll see you both again on Metanomics. In the interest of
full disclosure, I guess I am just getting used to being a journalist. I probably should say this.
My aunt, Sarah Bloomfield, is the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum, and I figured I’d just get that out there, in case anyone worried that somehow
tainted my independence. But I wish you all the best of luck. And, Sarah, if David ever
shows this to you, hi, and we’ll talk soon.
So now we turn to the segment of our show called Connecting The Dots. We had hoped to
have Chris Collins, educator extraordinaire in Second Life, known by the name
Fleep Tuque. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend today. I’m hoping that we will post her
comments on a blog or get her on very soon. I will take this moment to mention something
else, which is a Call For Papers from the Journal Of Virtual Worlds Research. The theme of
this special issue is Virtual Worlds: Technology, Economy and Standards. This is a special
issue in which we’re looking to examine the often hidden relations between technology,
economy and standards in Virtual Worlds. The issue editors are Yesha Sivan, who has been
on Metanomics before, from Metaverse Labs Ltd. and Shenkar College; Jean Gelissen,
from Philips Research, and myself, Robert Bloomfield, from Cornell University; so
technology, economy and standards. You can guess I’m the economy guy. Jean is
technology. Yesha is standards and is actually heading up the mission.
From the Call For Papers, I’d just like to read a few little bits: Virtual Worlds are destined to
become big, big in the sense of meaningful, influential and making money for various
current and new players. Every aspect of our lives will be affected by Virtual Worlds. Beyond
being another medium, Virtual Worlds will be part of our regular lives. They’re going to
enhance, improve and better our quality of life, much like the internet. Virtual Worlds will
allow us to do traditional things more effectively and do other things anew.
So just a couple quick things I’d like to mention. If you’re wondering what some topics might
be specific standards or family of standards that could impact Virtual Worlds, economic
analyses of specific standards for specific firms, legal aspects of Virtual Worlds and then
moving more into the economics externalities of the economics of Virtual Worlds and the
Finally, I’d like to emphasize one last very important bit. The editors of this issue specifically
encourage short papers on specific examples, past, present or future. If you need to use
jargon or acronyms, please spell them out and explain. Assume readers are versed with
various aspects of Virtual Worlds, but not necessarily technology, economics or standards.
So I think this is something where we can have a lot, especially I know most of you,
because this is such a new environment for all of us, we’re working on our one particular
project. We’re working on overcoming one particular challenge or taking advantage of one
particular opportunity. That fits very well with short pieces that are being very specific.
These can be think pieces, essays and the like. So we ask that you submit an abstract or
expression of interest, limited to one page, by the end of March, March 30th, 2009. I do
hope that you will take us up on this offer and help us fill this journal with great stuff and
build up the academic content addressing Virtual Worlds.
Next week our guest list is a little bit uncertain, but we know of one guest so far,
Tony O’Driscoll, of Duke University, will be joining us, and we will let you know more details
as we get there. This is Rob Bloomfield, from Cornell University, saying goodbye, and I will
see next week. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer