Transcript of "112607 Higher Education Metanomics Transcript"
NOVEMBER 26, 2007
ONDER SKALL: Hello everyone, and welcome to another session of Metanomics, part of
the Metaversed series of events that we hold in conjunction with Cornell University’s
Johnson School. With us today is Chris Collins, known in Second Life as Fleep Tuque, and
Benn Konsynski, whose avatar is called Rejin Tenjin in Second Life. They will be more
properly introduced and interviewed by Professor Robert Bloomfield of the Johnson School
at Cornell in just a moment.
The main sponsor of Metaversed Island is The Otherland Group, making sense of virtual
business. I’d also like to take a brief moment to thank the sponsors of the Metanomics
series and of all the Metaversed events. They are Kelly Services, Sysco Systems, Saxo
Bank, Generali Group, SAP, and Sun Microsystems. And of course, none of this would be
possible without SLCN, who are the best ones to talk to when it comes to working with video
in virtual worlds.
Avatars across the grid at all event partner locations can join the conversation by joining the
Metanomics group. And also remember to join the Metaversed group for all future
Metaversed business events. If you have any questions for our guests today, you can send
them to me directly. My avatar’s name is Onder Skall. Education in virtual worlds has been a
central issue since they came into popular use. Our guests today are experts in the area. So
without further ado, I’d like to introduce our host, Robert Bloomfield of Cornell.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thank you, Onder Skall. And welcome everyone to another
session of Metanomics, the first of what I hope will be several sessions where we explore
how virtual worlds might change the business of education. The goal of this session is just
to get us started, and to talk about what educational institutions are currently doing in
Second Life from two people who are very actively involved. We have with us today Chris
Collins from the University of Cincinnati, and, Chris, welcome.
FLEEP TUQUE: Hello, hello.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. You wear many hats. Let’s see. So you work at the University
of Cincinnati, leading the Second Life learning community. You are the ambassador to
Second Life of the Ohio Learning Network. Let’s see, and University of Cincinnati
Instructional and Research Computing. Those seem to be the big things you’re doing in RL.
And then you’re also moderating a Second Life list serve. So that is a lot of different hats.
Before we get into talking about what you’re doing, I love your name. Every time I type it or
hear it or say it, Fleep, it makes me smile. I just have to ask: where did that come from?
FLEEP TUQUE: It’s actually--my first internet handle back in 1994 was Deep Purple
because that was what was on the radio when I had to pick my first user name ever. And
friends used to call me Fleep Turple when we were being silly, and the name just sort of
stuck. So I’ve been Fleep on the internet for about, what, twelve years now.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, well, it’s a very memorable name. But I’ll probably be
calling you Chris for most of the show. I hope that’s okay with you.
FLEEP TUQUE: Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So tell me how you got into Second Life.
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, I’d been a part of the MUD BBS community in the mid ‘90s. So
virtual world communities, even when they were text-based, were kind of a big thing. And it
was actually my MUD BBS and then of course we graduated to video games like World of
Warcraft and Everquest. And it was one of those folks who sent me an invite to the Second
Life beta. And at the time, my computer was kind of slow, and I didn’t have a very good
video card, and didn’t really see the potential. So it took me another year or so to come back
and really get into it. But it actually came from another virtual community, believe it or not.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So you’ve been doing this a long time. Okay. And let’s see, Benn-
REJIN TENJIN: Welcome. Thanks.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Benn, you are the George S. Craft Professor of Business
Administration at Emory’s--and I’m always unclear how to pronounce this--Goizueta
REJIN TENJIN: Goizueta.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Goizueta Business School. And so you’re in the Decision and
Information Analysis Department. And you’ve been at a few different schools teaching, I
guess, at both Arizona and Harvard. So actually, let me ask you the same two questions:
Where did you get your unusual name in Second Life, and what brought you here?
REJIN TENJIN: I was raised in Northern Indiana, an area that is called ‘da region labeled
around there. So when I saw the Tenjin name and selected that, I just put Rejin in front of it:
R-E-J-I-N. So it was easy to remember.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, I was excepting a Japanese influence story or something.
But I guess I’m going the wrong direction. And what got you personally into Second Life?
REJIN TENJIN: As with Fleep, I’ve been involved and monitoring these technologies
emerging for quite some time. I was involved in virtual reality activities with stereoscopic
lenses in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. And also, I monitored the MUDs and the online worlds
that were emerging at the time: Imagination in the West Coast and The Palace in the East
Coast, and Larryland and other renderings that were emerging in the early ‘90s. So I’ve
been monitoring it for quite some time as well, anticipating that the technology would catch
up to the aspirations.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So let me ask you, how close do you think we are now, then, to
the technology catching up to the aspirations?
REJIN TENJIN: I think we’re in very good stead right now. I’m very impressed with the
progress of the last three or four years and the emergence of capabilities both from the
gaming environment, but also from the civil attitude that emerges in some of the current
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So now, Fleep, you are probably in the best position of maybe
just about anyone in Second Life just to give us a sense of what all is going on. I mean, we
sometimes see numbers thrown around of how many educational institutions are in Second
Life, but it’s not clear how deeply they are involved or how many people, how much they’re
doing, and what types of things they’re doing there. Could you sort of us give us a lay of the
land of what particularly higher education is doing in Second Life?
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, it turns out that that’s a kind of tricky question to answer because,
well, in April and May a colleague and I, Nancy Jennings, wanted to do a survey. We were
getting ready to build our own University of Cincinnati Island, and we weren’t exactly sure
what was the best thing to do with the space that we had. And we thought, “Why not go take
a look at what everyone else is doing?” And we discovered that there are a couple of
stumbling blocks to finding even all of the educational institutions in Second Life. Some
things like they’ll name their lands crazy things maybe based on their university mascot or
something. And if you don’t know exactly what the land is called, it may be difficult to find.
So we started with the link from Linden Lab’s own website, the SimTeach Wiki, and we
found that 170 institutions were listed either there or something that said university in the
search tool in Second Life. And we started teleporting to these places to see what everyone
was doing. And we found that 71 of those institutions actually had land in Second Life. And
remember, this was in April and May of this year, but already that’s changed. And a number
of other institutions have come online. So it’s changing day by day.
And we found that most of those institutions, like 68 to 70 percent--something like that--were
physically located in North America with Northern Europe not far behind--20 percent there.
And we started looking at what institutions were doing based on what we could observe on
their campus location. And for those of us who are familiar with Second Life, you know that
sometimes it can be like explaining to someone that there’s this really fantastic class going
on, and all of this great energy and synergy is being created, and then taking someone in to
see an empty classroom: you don’t necessarily see from the artifacts left behind what all is
But we thought that there was some value to at least look and see what campuses are
building, what educational institutions seem to be doing based on the spaces that they’re
creating. And we found a lot of really great stuff. We found that many of the campuses in
Second Life devote space to student socialization. So we found beaches and bars and
dance clubs and all kinds of creative--coffee cafes and even restaurants. Things like that, in
addition to the classrooms and auditoriums and galleries and libraries and things that you
could think of as a more academic setting.
And then in May, we also had the Best Practices in Education Conference, and we were just
completely blown away by the response. I think we expected maybe a couple hundred
educators were here and seriously looking at this. And we found that our email box just got
over-flooded. We had 1400 RSVPs and people come to the event. So I think the breadth of
the individual exploration--so individual faculty members may be doing serious work here
without institutional support, in addition to the actual institutional groups that are using
Second Life and exploring what’s happening here.
And at last count, as far as I know, we’re looking in the range of about 200 institutions world-
wide at this point.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I’ve heard similar descriptions of how many companies
there are in Second Life and what they’re doing. And one of the things that regular viewers
of Metanomics will have heard many, many times that, “Well, these companies come in, and
they build a beautiful ghost town. There are a few people there for a little while, and then
you’re just left with an empty shell, and there’s not much activity there.” Do you have a
sense that universities are avoiding that problem and actually keeping avatars on their
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, when we visited places--some of the work we were doing in the
evenings, which may not be in-class time--but I think that location in Second Life is
dependent upon the people and activities that are happening there. So I think campuses
probably face many of the same challenges that companies face. It’s all about the events
and what you’re doing, what draws people into that environment. You can create some sort
of asynchronous learning objects. You know, there’s a project called the Salamander
Project where we’re looking to sort of categorize learning objects that sort of stand on their
own and people can use. But I think campuses are facing many of the same issues. You
can build a beautiful space, but if there’s nothing to draw people there, then they won’t
come. I don’t think that educational institutions are really facing that problem though,
because from what I’m hearing and reading, if you read the sled email list, faculty are very
engaged; their students are engaged. And they’re having activities both on their campus
locations, but maybe more interestingly they’re doing research and projects out in the wild of
Second Life. So maybe they’re not on their campus; maybe they’re out in Second Life
exploring and doing research there as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Very interesting. Benn, so you’re one of these professors who
has taken your school, Emory, into Second Life. Can you just tell us specifically what you
guys have going on? [PAUSE] Let’s see, did we lose Benn? [PAUSE] Let’s see, is it just
me? I’m not hearing anyone. Chris, you still there?
FLEEP TUQUE: Yep, I’m still here. I don’t hear Benn either. We may have lost him on the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, Onder, if you can check that out. It’s possible Benn is
muted and is talking away and doesn’t realize it. Well, okay, I will stick with you, Chris. And
let’s go on and talk a little bit about what you see as being basically the biggest
opportunities and the biggest challenges for higher education in Second Life.
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, I think there are many, many opportunities. And there are some sort
of obvious applications. I know some of the first things that I noticed and saw, “Oh, this
might be good for universities and schools to get into.” Things like providing a place for
distance learners to meet.
Distance learning is really on the rise at least in the U.S. And one of the complaints that
students of distance learning programs have is that they feel isolated and don’t feel part of a
class kind of environment. And obviously, all of us who are involved in Second Life now
realize how much of a benefit it is to be able to visualize another person. And even if it isn’t
an exact replica of them, you get that sense of co-presence. And that carries across too, to
collaboration and research. I think Second Life has taught me, if nothing else, the
educational community here is very collaborative, and very giving and willing to sort of talk
and see how the class that you’re teaching might interface with the class that I’m teaching.
And you have this visual component of meeting one another and being able to sort of build
on the fly and draw graphs or whatever to demonstrate your concept.
So I think for distance learning and for collaboration across institutions and disciplines--and
other things like language learning, cultural studies, and even more innovative things. Like,
I’m seeing--I can’t remember which school now; they’re having their journalism students--
they’re sort of imbedding them in Second Life and maybe having them intern with a Second
Life newspaper. That’s an experiential kind of learning exercise that I think it can’t even be
replicated unless you go out and get the job in real life. So I think those are some of the
And the other thing that I think doesn’t get mentioned enough in talking about application in
Second Life, beyond teaching your discipline and talking about whatever your course
content is, there’s also a benefit just being exposed to this technology. I think educational
institutions across the board, even in kindergarten and grade school, are thinking about
what this new digital media stuff is, and how to bring those digital media literacy skills to
their students. And you come into an environment like Second Life, and you’re suddenly
exposed to the entire Second Life culture, which is very net savvy. So in addition to Second
Life, you’re using things like Skype and voice override P technologies and blogs and Wikis
And we see that faculty--people who may be using email, but not particularly tech savvy,
maybe they have their syllabus on their course management system, but they don’t have a
blog. You know, the faculty member comes in--
REJIN TENJIN: Fleep?
FLEEP TUQUE: Yeah, uh-huh?
REJIN TENJIN: No, go ahead. Finish that.
FLEEP TUQUE: So we see that faculty members are coming into Second Life. And they
become a learner again themselves and start to interface with their classes in different
ways, and they start to pick up additional technology skills. And I think that those are very
REJIN TENJIN: Let me--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You ready to cut in?
REJIN TENJIN: Yeah, I’m sorry. I was muted, and it would not un-mute. And I am now un-
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s okay. Do you want to react to what Chris was just saying?
REJIN TENJIN: Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, great.
REJIN TENJIN: I want to pick up on that just for a minute because it so reminds me of the
period of 1994 with the internet per se. And I feel like we’re at that same stage here. This is
very much like the internet in ’93, ’94. And you had the global schoolhouse emerging with
the see you see me, and Maven, which was integrated for voice on that so--in ’94, we were
doing some of those innovative things that brought kids from all over the world together in
educational forums. It was very primitive technology, and we were learning and running a lot
of experiments. And I see that same thing happening now. The common mistake we often
make is to bring our RL practices into SL too readily and not try to think of the most effective
leverage of that.
And I think to pick up on another point that Fleep was talking about earlier, was the issues of
the schools and universities in the space. They are as many and varied as they are with the
dilemma of websites. When you have a presence, to what end is that presence used? And
some of them are in the world for identity and image. They create a campus of their existing
environment or even their future campus aspiration. And that’s all pre-matriculation. That
has external promotion and also promotion to the prospective students. The students are
Millennials now that are coming in, and Millennials are often expecting to be wowed or
understand that their prospective schools has a future reach. And so some are putting a
presence in and are finding that it’s an important part of promoting to Millennials. So even
pre-matriculation there are many missions for a presence in the world, let alone the
matriculation period when they are in the school, are associated with the school during a
pre-degree. And then also the issue of life-long learning and alumni relationships and things
like that come into play.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So Benn, you were talking about the importance of not just
importing this stuff we’re used to doing in the classroom into Second Life, but actually using
the medium in the best way and coming up with something new that takes advantage of it.
Do you have any specific examples in mind of things you’ve seen done well?
REJIN TENJIN: I’ve seen examples that sort of hint at that future. A part of things you find
like very large meetings like this can work well. Very small meetings work well. The historic
classroom groupings don’t often work well, especially if you try to take advantage of
mobility: moving groups from one place to another is a disaster waiting to happen. Looking
for seizing attention and retaining attention.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you just tell us a little bit about what Emory is doing and
plans to do?
REJIN TENJIN: There are two things to mention and briefly discuss. The first is the class
that we have entitled Virtual Worlds and New Realities, which I am co-teaching with the vice
provost of international affairs who is a political science professor. And we are very
interested in the social norms commerce practice, but also politics and law in the metaverse
and looking at several virtual world environments. Conniva(?) and Second Life are the ones
we are mainly concentrating on looking at. And we’re after sort of a triangulation of three
things: the technology and infrastructure and capabilities, the commerce and societal
practice, and the third is politics and law issues that relate to behavior and exercise of those
The second thing would be the island that we have set up is called Simsim, S-I-M-S-I-M.
Invite everyone to visit the island. It has four quadrants to it, and four different purposes it
serves. The first is an area called the virtual hatchery that is used to display branding
assets. So right now, for example, there’s an exhibit related to our Cartooning for Peace
exhibit that happens to be at Emory right now, and will be a rotating exhibit.
The second quadrant is sandbox and virtual learning environment that has a variety of tools
and assets and meditation and planning centers for the students to learn about aspects of
the world: building and scripting and things like that. A third is a virtual business and virtual
government center where we’re planning on posting best practices that we see on virtual
government and virtual business practices. And the fourth is one of the main reasons we
started was a partnership with Society for Information Management in CIOs to expose them
at the events Practices Institute to look at emerging technologies in RL as well as in
practices in SL.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now, forgive an accountant’s question here, but I’m wondering if
you are tracking metrics to see sort of how successful your efforts are, how many people
are going onto the island, and so on.
REJIN TENJIN: We are monitoring the traffic onto the island and distinct traffic. And it’s
been much higher than I thought. So some word is leaking out even without us promoting.
So there’s some sort of vial exchange. We have a great partnership with several
universities. Our adjoining island world is ITworld that Blake Stringfellow from University of
Houston operates, and it’s right next to Baler. And also, Georgia State is putting an island in
on the other side of it. So we’re building a small archipelago of like-minded faculty. For the
most part, these are IS-related faculty within business schools within universities. So it’s sort
of an island of itself.
FLEEP TUQUE: I think for our island, first of all, we chose very deliberately not to make our
island public. So we have a small spot that’s open to the public on EduIsland. So traffic
statistics--we are measuring, of course, our student and faculty use, but we decided that
this--at least at the University of Cincinnati our goal was really to have faculty and staff
evaluate first what they thought of the potential of learning environment.
So I think some colleges and universities dive in and immediately start providing services to
their students on their island. And actually, Benn mentioned the statistic or he mentioned
that he thought that some of these institutions were using their presence in Second Life to
advertise for new enrollments. And I was really surprised because in our study we found
that less than half of all of the educational locations that we surveyed actually had a link to
their main institution website or to the a page that specifically solicited enrollment of new
So I think what we’re seeing is that some institutions are coming into Second Life and
having a very public sort of PR student service advertising presence, and then there’s
another group of us, which I would include University of Cincinnati in, that we’re more doing
more of a soft launch. We’re not really doing this for the PR. We really want our faculty and
staff to sort of get in and get their feet wet. And a lot of those institutions aren’t public
because they’re not advertised. And just as another side note, Simsim is one of those
schools we wouldn’t have surveyed because I didn’t know that it was a university.
REJIN TENJIN: Exactly. And that’s part of the reason too in part because we don’t
necessarily--we want to build it and earn the right to label it from the university standpoint.
We want to commit the public service. And certainly, as we relate to the business
community, that’s why we’re public is because we certainly want the business management
community to get some exposure to the possibilities here. And then some part of the island
is relegated to the students with build privileges only for the students that are enrolled.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Listen, we’ve got a bunch of questions that have come in, and I
think I’d like to pose those to you. Before I do, let me just mention to those of you who are
out there listening, first, feel free to type backchat into the Metanomics group chat window.
Gives us a sense of what you’re finding interesting and maybe when we should be moving
on to other topics. And if you have specific questions you’d like to pose the panelists, you
can IM Onder Skall, or you can take a risk and just pop it into the Metanomics groups chat
channel. But there’s not a guarantee I will see it. The best way is to get it to Onder.
The first question that I’m going to ask comes from Melbourne’s Writer. And he says,
“Higher education is on the main grid, but there’s also a mass of educational institutions on
the teen grid. And so what are the obstacles in the transition between the two?” And I’m
guessing, Chris, you would probably [know this?].
FLEEP TUQUE: There are a number of really interesting and exciting projects on the teen
grid, which of course I have never seen because I’m not on the teen grid myself. But things
like Ramapo Islands and Global Kids and the Pacific Rim Exchange. There are educators in
the teen grid working actively with middle and high school populations, and taking
advantage of these opportunities as well.
But you know, when you start thinking about things like high school students and even some
freshman university classes that may have undergraduates who are under 18, navigating
the split between the grids is complicated both from a technical perspective and a
curriculum perspective. And I don’t know, I think everyone’s still trying to feel that out. There
is from time to time rumors of maybe they’ll create an education grid or something like that. I
don’t know if that will ever happen. I’m getting a lot off feedback here--noise.
So I think that, when you’re looking to design a program or teach a class, you definitely
need to consider the age range of the student population you’ll be working with. Because as
of right now, to the best of my knowledge, once a student turns 18, they are summarily
ejected from Teen Second Life and brought into the main grid. And I’m not exactly sure how
that process works, but I could see that it would be disruptive for a class presence.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, especially for those seniors switching over in the middle of
the academic year.
FLEEP TUQUE: Yes, exactly.
REJIN TENJIN: I would certainly not like to see a separate education grid myself. I would
like to see lessons learned come from the teen grid. And there should be some lessons
shared especially with the main grid and the higher education because I think there are
probably more lessons learned from the teen grid than would be offered by a main grid side,
and certainly by the higher education community.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now, our next question is from Rose Springvale. And the
question here is, “Are there ways that non-educational sims developed by private and
nonprofit groups can coordinate with the educational institutional sims?” Are there
successful examples of that happening, and do you have some ideas on how we might be
able to take advantage of that?
REJIN TENJIN: I certainly think that is extremely important. I think too often we think of the
20th century model of education separated from training and learning. I think that just as we
mash-up in our web space, we can readily see mash-ups that create learning environments,
new hybrid learning environments that involve both the historic institutions and other
FLEEP TUQUE: I would definitely echo that as well. First of all, there is a nice cross-over
between a lot of nonprofit institutions in Second Life and educational institutions. Many of us
contribute on the same email list serves and things like EduIsland hosts institutions of both
education and nonprofit. And as far as business and education, there are so many
I think all of us are sort of facing some of the same challenges with the platform itself. And
as we discover things that work in one environment, they’re likely to cross over and work
well in other environments. And I personally am hoping to see a growth of things like
internships. So if a company wants to come into Second Life and explore creating a
presence here, perhaps some students who are working in educational projects in Second
Life may be able assist with that. I would love to see internships develop in that way.
And there are other partnerships as well. I know that our school, University of Cincinnati,
just recently partnered with Siemens to work on developing--they have an industrial design
modeling software. And some of their customers are starting to explore platforms like
Second Life, and want to turn their industrial designs, maybe an engine or something, and
turn that into Second Life prims. And they’re working with us, with the College of
Engineering, to write that software.
So I think the technology underlying these kinds of platforms, I think there will be lots of
opportunities for research and higher education to work together, but also in the experiential
learning process, letting students intern in your store. And maybe some of these big box
companies that are coming in and don’t have staff to stand there and greet customers.
Maybe students could do that work for them. So I look forward to seeing how that develops
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now, I have to say that sounds to me like really a pretty
traditional RL model that certainly business schools have been following for a long time,
working very hard to develop partnerships with corporations for student placement and what
is sometimes called practice-oriented or experiential learning. So it sounds like maybe one
of the advantages of Second Life is just that it provides another venue for that.
REJIN TENJIN: But also in some ways it provides the opportunity for new experiments to
take place and new partnerships. And it’s not just educational and corporate institutions, but
organizations of all kinds. We had President Jimmy Carter visit at Simsim just a couple
weeks ago. And he was very curious about the means by which we can leverage these
technologies for different forms of engagement and collaboration. And also he picked up on
a comment, after he visited on the island, is that they’re remolding the Carter Center. Why
don’t we have a model of the new Carter Center that people can look at before the new one
is in place? And started to pick up on looking at other forms of engagement, in that we also
visited at The Wall. I certainly encourage people to look at the island called The Wall that
has a nice set-up that we visited too, to look at different build characteristics and prim
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And that actually sounds like it leads naturally into a
question for Rejin from Evian Argus), which is, “Do you see Emory helping businesses to
understand best practices and actually facilitating e-commerce in the metaverse?”
REJIN TENJIN: I think the forms of commerce--as long as we look at it from core principles:
How do buyers find sellers? How do sellers find buyers? How do you match? How do you
describe products or offering of services to the market? How do you price things? How do
you discover price? How do you decide, settle, follow-on activities, follow-on services? All
those things can be examined in a whole different context in the virtual worlds. And so it’s a
great environment for discussion of principles of commerce practice and principles of
So it’s not unlike the science experiments of a new physics that we have by looking at
particle animation and new physics within different islands that we can do the same thing
with commerce. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is very interested in looking at how these
environments can facilitate the education on economic conditions, not only present, but
historic. What were the situations in the past? So we start breaking the barriers of time as
well, as--physics as well as commerce practice.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now that we’ve gone through all the hype and talked about the
wonders of virtual education, let’s talk about some of the challenges. And I’d like to start with
what I see as being one of the biggest challenges of higher education in virtual words, which
is getting the faculty in there, getting the faculty over the technological hurdle. Do you see
best practices on that front?
REJIN TENJIN: It’s the biggest hurdle of all. I think that there’s a high overhead for getting
involved. The reality, from a faculty side is, this is not going to contribute to tenure in its
current form. And so it has to be done with a different passion as you well know. And that it
certainly has to be a part of a commitment by the institution and a recognition and valuing of
the extraordinary effort. And the same goes for the students as well.
FLEEP TUQUE: I think--I’m working with faculty every day; that’s I would say the bulk of my
real life day-to-day job right now, is facilitating our faculty staff learning community and
giving presentations and training sessions. And I think a couple of key things that I have
found helpful in introducing is, first of all, to note and be honest about the shortcomings as
well as the benefits of a platform like Second Life, and being upfront that, hey, this is an
emerging technology. It doesn’t always work; it’s not up all the time; there are glitches. And
if you don’t set the expectation so high that they’re expecting to come in and fly in and start
teaching tomorrow, I think that helps quite a bit.
As Benn mentioned, certainly institutional support helps if you have the infrastructure in
place and the funding in place to upgrade your computer labs or upgrade faculty’s
computers in their offices, we find that some of the biggest challenges are just the most
basic hardware components. People need to have upgraded machines to access this. And if
you don’t take care of that, then all the rest of it doesn’t work.
But I think maybe even bigger than sort of the technical challenges and learning the
interface and learning how to operate in Second Life, I think the biggest challenge I’m
seeing is really a cultural one. Our students may be a lot more familiar with digital
technologies than our faculty are, and we can’t underestimate how overwhelming and
intimidating that can be to come into an environment where maybe your students take to it
like fish to water and you’re still walking into the walls. And how does that affect your
authority as a subject matter expert?
REJIN TENJIN: Absolutely.
FLEEP TUQUE: I think that one of the things that we can do, at least for me, someone like
me--IT staff and facilitators and instructional designers--is really emphasize that this virtual
world technology is taking place in a bigger context. You know the web two point oh?
People hate that phrase. But it is a phenomenon. The social networking is happening. And
there are so many opportunities for research. When Benn said this doesn’t contribute to
tenure, I want to say, “Why not?” There’s tons of research to be done in here. There’s tons
of papers and conference presentations to be done, and I look forward to facilitating that.
And if we can just get over the hurdle, the technology hurdle and the sort of expectation
hurdle, then what I’m finding is that faculty get in, and once they can get past the sort of
initial barriers, they see the same possibilities that we do. And they’re set to run with it. Our
campus is having a barn dance tonight, and a couple of faculty members from different
departments are bringing their students in, and they’re going to kick it up with some hay
bales. And I think that that demonstrates that it’s becoming part of our class culture when
we use it as much as it is our educational culture.
REJIN TENJIN: Let me add a couple comments here because first of all, toys become
tools. And you can’t just declare a toy a tool. And all too often we’re at that cusp of we’re at
a nascent stage; we shouldn’t inflate it more than it is and we shouldn’t denigrate it. You’ve
got the issue of the digital natives: the Millennials that are coming in that are more ready
than the faculty to immerse themselves here. And you have a faculty that are digital
immigrants themselves that find it an extra hurdle to immerse themselves in here.
The promise is huge, but the reality is such that, when I talk about the issue of its not
contributing to tenure in part because it’s difficult to find effective studies. From the business
standpoint, any study that says six out of eight dragons believe something is not going to
contribute to one’s tenure case. But you can build models and you can demonstrate a lot of
things that you cannot do in any other venue. So I see it as very important that we look at
the transition period of toys that are becoming tools. But we have toy players, native toy
players that need to lever their skills and we as educators need to contribute to them.
FLEEP TUQUE: I think I have to take issue. I’ve come to hate the terms digital natives and
immigrants because I’m working with people on the ground, day to day, and finding that yes,
there is a generational component, but it’s not the end-all be-all. I’m finding that there’s a
sub-population of students who are just as uncomfortable with some kinds of technology as
faculty are. And vice versa, I’m finding some faculty that take to it like fish to water and who
are heads and shoulders above their students in no time.
So I think the issue of a digital divide is a real one, and it affects across class lines as much
as it does against age lines. And that’s something that we as a society and as educators
have to look at and maybe be realistic about that, not everyone has these technology skills
even if they fit in the Millennial demographic.
REJIN TENJIN: It’s not just a demographic; it relates to the issues of--a portion of them.
There are always people off the norm. I’m just saying that the norm of a community that
says they’d rather give up their 20 things that are considered more important than their
iPods, that you have something that’s very different; you have a skill-set of intrinsic learning
that is not leveraged well in our educational community. So you can always find out-lyers in
there, but I’m talking about the larger groups. And the larger groups do exhibit the behaviors
of comfort and discomfort with approaching new technologies. So it is a mix.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: If I could press a little bit more on the digital divide issue, Chris,
you mentioned that one of the big issues that you deal with is just the hardware and getting
the faculty and the students the right hardware. And here, Second Life is a beast. It requires
a very good computer. It requires a very good connection. And if you’re using it in
conjunction with other programs that you have running in the background, then you really--
you’re talking about a lot of money. So there’s the cultural issue of the digital divide, but
there’s also simply the financial issue.
So since educational institutions are supposed to be as open and accessible as possible
across the economic spectrum--I mean this potentially--actually, Margaret Corbett here at
Cornell, who’s been using virtual worlds, active worlds for over a decade, is very opposed to
the direction Second Life is going, saying they’re basically shutting out half, two-thirds of the
potential student body. So do you have reactions to that?
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, I think that certainly it’s an issue that our university is facing in that
when we look at distance learning students, for example, as a population, we discover that
often those students most dependent on technology for the course offerings that they’re
taking have the least hardware and the least tech savvy from time to time. So that’s
definitely a valid criticism.
I guess what I would say to that is that educational institutions have to invest, and granting
institutions that we’re applying to--these virtual worlds are happening, and they aren’t going
to go away. The more we can increase access to them the better. And I think for a faculty
that are considering teaching in Second Life, definitely you have to consider that this should
be an optional activity. You can’t necessarily require a student to participate in something
that they don’t have the hardware to do. And institutions can also provide things like
computer labs that do run Second Life, though, that can be a maintenance nightmare with
the constant updates. That’s one strategy that we are using; we’re trying to equip as many
computers on campus and give that access to our students when we can. Benn, what do
you think about that?
REJIN TENJIN: I agree that we need to have the means of rapidly testing the environment,
testing network and the computing environment to make that assessment. In working with
the government of Singapore for example, when you’re establishing a new system, instead
of taking the lower common denominator, you bring up accessible labs, a library or an
arcade-type structure that allows people to get access. And you have to tolerant and
assume that everyone doesn’t have the same level of access to the environment. But the
key is not to reduce everything to the lower common denominator, but trying to raise the
boat for the market if you can. And there are ways of doing that. The digital divide doesn’t
have to be just a have and have-not situation. It has to be turned into an accessibility
challenge for everyone.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’d like, if we could, to move onto another issue which also came
up today here at Cornell, which is the limited attention span of today’s youth: those pesky
young people. Many of you will have seen in the news a guy has a book on the hazards of
multi-tasking, and we know that everyone’s doing 19 things at once and thinking about them
for eight seconds. This is a problem we struggle with in the traditional classroom. And I’m
trying it figure out whether virtual worlds are just going to create more problems or whether
there are ways that we can use this trend to our advantage. Is this something you guys have
thought about and see an answer to?
REJIN TENJIN: Let me comment a bit on that because the notion of immersion is the most
exciting element to me with the virtual worlds. This is the nascent stage of the browsers of
the future where we’re dealing with rich media that are very immersive, that capture and
engage multiple senses at once. And that’s a key part of the power. With that will bring more
focus. So there’s an opportunity for higher focus, and at the same time, augmenting multi-
tasking in a more focused fashion. I don’t see it as a negative and nor is this a remedy for
multi-tasking, but to bring it into a new venue that allows multiple senses to be engaged at
the same time. And it will lead to both better focused attention and better multi-tasking.
FLEEP TUQUE: I have to say that’s a really tricky question because I know for myself I find
myself having 15 blinking IM windows; I’m also in a virtual location; I may also have twitter-
up on another window. I find myself multi-tasking more in using Second Life because I’m in
multiple--I don’t want to say places--but multiple spaces, mental spaces sometimes.
Again, I feel like this technology isn’t going away, so the more that we can do to adapt to it
and figure out which strategies work well--and I agree with Benn; it’s the immersive nature
of this virtual environment that I think holds the most promise. And while I may have many
blinking things going on, the sense of being in this room with all of the people, I can see
them and I know that they can see me, and to me, that is as immediate as if I were sitting in
an auditorium. And that doesn’t go away even with my blinking windows. So I think it does
bring a different sense of attention to your interaction online than just say a text message.
REJIN TENJIN: One of the things that I worked on virtual reality was stereoscopic lenses
and binaural earphones and microphones was looking at the technology as a distraction
technology for children who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.
And looking at how these technologies allow them to engage and create a focus, a whole
new concentration is very powerful from that standpoint. In that case, immersion into a
gaming world or immersion into something that allowed them to have a different presence,
allowed them to distract them from other things is a positive element too. So immersion
works both ways: it works to mask out other reality as well as create an immersive situation.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s see, are we still talking about limited attention span? Whoa,
that’s amazing. I have a couple great questions here, and so let me ask these from the
audience. Here’s one from Sandy Enock(?). “Considering the recent moral panic in both
Europe and North American institutions about declining standards of education, grade
inflation, lowered standards, how can educational institutions insure that when using Second
Live they’re providing better education, not just another instance of technology over
pedagogy?” Sandy does not use the word fad, but it certainly would fit. So, Chris, what do
you see on that?
FLEEP TUQUE: Well, I think instructional designers like myself we’re always trying to
[SKIP] don’t want to say, “How can I use this technology?” “Here’s this new tool; what can I
do with it?” Instead, [SKIP] I have this goal: How might this technology help me enhance
that goal? So I want to increase engagement in my class about this particular topic: How
can this tool help me do that to sort of fit the technology to the goal instead of the other way
And I think that will be a challenge for educators. And that’s certainly one of the things that
we are looking at, and I think all educators using Second Life right now is assessment: How
do we assess the impact of this learning environment? How do we assess how well
students are gaining the information that they need based on this course material that we’re
using this environment to teach? And I think that that’s an ongoing area of study.
As to whether or not it’s a fad, I always say that it’s possible that Second Life could sort of
the Mosaic or Xscape. Those are browsers that we’re not using anymore, but they sort of
tipped the scales and started the trend. And I genuinely believe that things like virtual worlds
aren’t going anywhere. And the more researchers we have in here asking those questions
and measuring and assessing and really looking at it from an academic angle, I think the
better we can help inform the broader conversation about what these technologies mean.
REJIN TENJIN: I agree with Chris because, as I said, we’re very much in the stage like the
internet 1994. And I see the same kind of doubt discussion, uncertainty about it, what’s
faddish. We haven’t begun the kind of experiments yet that’ll create the whole new learning
environments that are a part of this. The biggest challenge is to think 21st century. And the
biggest challenge is to be looking forward on the educational practice, the way people learn
and adapt in the 21st century rather than trying to force-fit measures and metrics, especially
those of adult learning, which I think were frankly more 19th century than 20th century even.
So a key challenge is to build the measures and metrics and objectives against the 21st
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, we have time for one more question, and it’s going to be
mine because this is something that I’ve been thinking about a while. I’ve been on the list
serve of the serious games list serve. So these are people who are designing games for
purposes other than entertainment, primarily education. And there’s been a debate going on
for a while on this list about whether to use the word “game.” And I think that part of the
problem--I mean, the question that Sandy posed was basically: How can we get people to
understand that people are actually using Second Life seriously? I view that as a
substantive question, but there’s also the image question whether it’s dragons in fantasy
worlds or escorts in Second Life. I think there is a game taint, a fantasy world taint in these
worlds. I’m wondering if you see easy ways to get over that so that these virtual worlds can
be viewed as serious.
REJIN TENJIN: I think we have some challenges, but civility is a killer app. And the notion
of moving from a World of Warcraft and I think Ted Castranova’s talk was excellent--
interview that you had where he was describing the issue of the concomitant tension and
reward aspect that has a pressure reduction here. This is more civil and more
understandable by those in society who might be skeptical of the gaming environment. So
we have to earn that. But as I mentioned, the toys become tools. And it’s very important to
understand that we’re in that migration and evolution of things that often begin as toys that
do become tools later on.
FLEEP TUQUE: I think one of the things about Castranova’s talk in the last Metanomics
session that I found really interesting is I sometimes had difficulty applying his analysis to
my experience in Second Life because I don’t view it as a game. The only way I can make it
make sense is if I said, “Second Life is like the game of life. And the risks are that this is my
real professional reputation even though it’s in avatar form. And the risks are that I’ll look
like a fool, and the benefits are that I will really facilitate education.”
So I think when we use the term “game” to apply to Second Life, I personally want to draw a
distinction between virtual world games and virtual worlds because the connotation with
world is that it’s complex; that there is an economy; that there are nascent sort of
governments and communities forming; that there is business and commerce and education
and nonprofits. That’s what, of all of the virtual world platforms, why Second Life is the most
appealing to me personally is that it’s a world. It really is that complicated. And I think that
this is such a new technology we don’t necessarily have the terms or the lexicon
established. For a while there it was synthetic worlds and virtual reality and metaverse.
Nobody knows exactly what these words mean yet, and I think it will be up to us to sort of
help define what those things mean. So I look forward to seeing how that goes. Personally,
in my presentations, I say Second Life is not a game. It may contain games, but the platform
itself is a platform, not a game.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, we are actually out of time. I’m going to let Melbourne’s
Writer have the last word and response to this discussion. He types in the chat window, “We
are World of Talkcraft.” Which I think is probably how my students often view me. Anyway,
thank you very much, both of you, for coming on to the show. And so we have about two
weeks left in Metanomics before the term ends. And we’ll be picking up again in January.
Welcome to all of you educators who have joined us, many of you for the first time. I hope
you’ll be back. We mix business and education together. And I guess, actually, just real
quickly, Chris, can you summarize for people in the audience just good resources to go to to
get more information about education? There would be SLED and the wiki. Can you just sort
of run through a list?
FLEEP TUQUE: Sure. There are a couple of things. First of all, I would say if you’re
interested in education in Second Life, just do a search in the group tabs for education.
There are a number of great groups that will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in
Second Life. There are activities almost every single day that can put you in touch with
people in-world. And then there are a couple of really great web resources as well:
SimTeach.com is the website maintained by Jeremy [Kenth?], and they have some fantastic
resources for you there. The University of Cincinnati has a Wiki as well, where we try to sort
of collate all of the research being done. And there are a number of list serves that you can
join. And I think most of those are linked from the SimTeach.com Wiki. So those are good
places to start. Definitely I would say connect with other in-world educators. They’re the best
ones to sort of show you the ropes and let you know what all is out there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Chris Collins from the University of Cincinnati; Fleep Tuque
in Second Life. Benn Konsynski from Emory; Rejin Tenjin in Second Life. And this is Rob
Bloomfield; Beyers Sellers in Second Life signing off. Thanks everyone for coming.
REJIN TENJIN: Thank you.
[END OF AUDIO]
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer