072808 The Virtual Chalkboard Metanomics Transcript
METANOMICS: THE VIRTUAL CHALKBOARD
JULY 28, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to Metanomics. Today
we’re going to take a look at what secondary and middle school educators are doing in
Virtual Worlds. We’ll get today’s lessons from Kathy Schrock, administrator of technology for
Nauset Public Schools; Peggy Sheehy, Suffern Middle School library media specialist; and,
John Lester, director of operations in Linden Lab’s Boston office, known in Second life by
the absolutely wonderful name, Pathfinder Linden.
Metanomics is brought to you by Simuality, our primary sponsor, maker of SlippCat. We
also have four supporting sponsors: InterSection Unlimited, the Johnson Graduate School of
Management at Cornell University, Kelly Services and Language Lab. As usual, our live
venue in Second Life is the Muse Isle Arena, and we welcome everyone who’s at our event
partners across the grid: Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, the Outreach
Amphitheater of the New Media Consortium Educational Community Sims and Colonia
If this is your introduction to Metanomics, welcome, and we’d like to encourage you to join
our Metanomics Group and pick up a Metanomics kiosk. You can keep up with the show
and join in interesting chat conversations anytime. And, just like we do every week, we’re
using InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to our website and
website chat into our event partners. Backchat is your way of letting us know your thoughts
about what the guests are saying and to feed us questions and guide the conversation. Just
keep in mind that, wherever you’re watching the show, your local chat is public and will be
seen at all event partner locations and on the web. Please do speak up because that’s how
we know that you’re out there.
Before we move on to our main event, let’s take a few minutes to put Jennifer Ragan-Fore
On The Spot. Jennifer is the director of general membership for ISTE, the International
Society for Technology in Education, and overseas, ISTE’s special interest group program,
the Second Life project and the development of new member initiatives. In Second Life,
Jennifer goes by the name Kittygloom. Jennifer, welcome to Metanomics.
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Thank you. I’m really thrilled to be here. Thanks for inviting me
to talk about this very special member community.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, great. Well, I’d love to hear about it, but first, I just have to
ask: Whatever made you choose the name Kittygloom?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: I get asked this question all the time. Oh, to be able to go back
to that moment when I was signing up for a user account and spend a few more moments
on that. After college, I sort of wrote this twisted children’s story, and one of the characters
was named Kittygloom. And, since then, I just tended to pick that as my user name or
handle when I needed something that was anonymous and easy to remember. I just really
had no idea at that time that I would (a) be using the Second Life professionally and
(b) couldn’t go back and change my user name later if I wanted to. But actually I kind of like
the name because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember, and I think I’m the only person out
there who has it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, I’m sure that’s the case, and I will never forget you,
Kittygloom. From the ISTE website, I see that in about 18 months, your community grew to
over 3,000 members. So what exactly are your members doing in Second Life?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Our members are really working on so many things. I mean
with a community as broad as 3,000, they just are working on so many different kinds of
projects. I know you’re going to be talking with two of them a little bit later in the show, and
they have some great examples of how they’re using Second Life. But our members are
using Second Life to collaborate on Real Life projects. They’re learning best practices to
bring back to the classroom or their work on the team grid. They’re building their
professional network. Some of our members have even found jobs through other members
that they’ve met in here in Second Life. Many of them are really building their leadership
skills and sort of their service résumés. As they start groups, they organize conferences.
They lead their own projects.
I think the two biggest commonalities probably among our members are building their
professional networks and volunteering. Educators are really such a helpful, giving group,
and they’re so supportive of each other as they’re learning new technologies. At ISTE, we
have this core group of docents, who help new users. They promote ISTE. They make
connections among groups of educators, and they’re really the life blood of this project. And
they devote so many volunteer hours to this project, and, even if it’s really only an
occasional thing for some of our members, it really is a big part of their membership core.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m just thinking there are so many ways that people could be
coming into ISTE’s Second Life group. They could be ISTE members in Real Life, who are
coming in to Second Life specifically to interact more with ISTE. They could be people who
were already in Second Life, for nonprofessional reasons, and then realize there were
professional opportunities. Do you have much insight into where your membership comes
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: It’s really sort of all over the map. I think when we first started, it
was definitely a bigger group of people who were interested in education or technology but
weren’t necessarily ISTE members. As time has gone on, that number, that proportion has
really shifted up so I would say sort of anecdotally and with some smaller surveys that we’ve
done, probably about 75 percent of the people who are active in our membership group
actually is a Real Life member. Some of them have become members after finding us in
Second Life, and it just wasn’t something that they had on their radar; either they didn’t
know about ISTE, or they just didn’t think that we were kind of that sort of organization. And
so they were pleasantly surprised and have joined. But there is really a mix of people. Some
of them have found us because we’re promoting it to our membership, and some of them
already were in here working and sort of exploring before that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I assume that in the larger ISTE organization, your members are
not just teachers, but they’re administrators, library science professionals, IT. What is the
mix like in Second Life, and how does it compare to ISTE’s broader membership?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Well, ISTE, as an organization, really is very broadly focused,
which is both the challenge and the opportunity. There are a lot of different audiences for us
to please and reach out to and engage with. And, as you mentioned, we have tech
coordinators and media specialists and teacher educators and tech directors,
administrators, teachers, computer scientists. We also have corporate members and
leaders of other educational nonprofits. So when we first started in Second Life, we had a
really strong concentration of library media specialists and a really large higher ed
representation. As time has gone on, our base in Second Life really has expanded quite a
bit, so there’s pretty good representation across all the various roles represented in ISTE’s
Real Life membership, though I do think that media specialists and teacher educators really
do continue to be our two strongest groups in-world. Probably slightly out of proportion with
ISTE’s general membership.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now I’d like to change the subject just a little bit. You gave a talk
a while back, and you listed the ten lessons that you learned in using Second Life to build
this professional community. And one of your ten lessons was, “Be open to happy
accidents.” So is there a story behind that?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: I’m a big fan of Guy Kawasaki and his ideas about innovation,
and so this is sort of the “let a thousand flowers grow” concept. You may be surprised,
really, by what catches on or who adopts your product or project or how it’s use, but, if you
go with the ideas as they take roots, even if it’s unexpected, good things will sort of come
out of that. So when we first started in Second Life, we definitely had some preconceived
notions about what our members wanted and how they’d use an environment like this. I
think, in the beginning, we really thought the sole attraction would be professional
development. This was based on some really broadly focused surveying we had done the
year before, leading up to this project. But what we found really early on was that our
members desperately wanted to network and socialize and that those elements were at
least as important as the professional development applications, if not more so, especially in
those early days.
In the 2,000 responses that I received to those surveys initially, I don’t think there was a
single request for more networking opportunities or social interactions so we really thought
our assumptions were pretty data driven. But one thing that we did was, we were able to
respond pretty quickly to that being a need or a concern or a desire of the population. And I
think since those early days, there have only been maybe five or six weeks out of 18 months
when we didn’t host a social, and those were usually over things like holiday weeks,
etcetera. So you don’t always know what’s going to be popular or catch on, particularly
when you’re innovating. Some things really can’t be picked up on a survey because some
things are so new that our own reactions and behaviors can’t always be predicted. I think
the key thing that we did right in those early days was noticing that need and being nimble
enough and willing to respond to it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! That’s a great lesson that we can all take away, including,
I hope, my staff at Metanomics is paying attention to that as well. Now you recently were
involved with a big conference, the National Educational Computing Conference. I guess I’m
wondering what role ISTE Second Life played in that and how did you work with them?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Well, ISTE produces the National Educational Computing
Conference. I sort of start by saying that because everyone doesn’t always know that
because the names are different. This is a conference that ISTE produces and really is one
of the biggest things we do throughout the year. The whole staff, volunteers, members,
everyone sort of working towards this event. And a big part of what we do in the
membership team is to provide opportunities for our different member communities to really
connect, to share content and to be highlighted at NEC. And our Second Life group is one of
our really most active member communities, has a lot of visibility, usually at NEC. But this
year, certainly, they have the biggest visibility in a lot of different key ways.
In addition to just a whole host of sessions and workshops, our community sponsored
playgrounds for new users to learn about Second Life. They sponsored a lounge for
impromptu presentations and discussions and then several key mixed reality events
throughout the conference. We had an opening reception and a closing keynote, with
avatars mirroring the Real Life content and video streaming back and forth between Real
Life and Second Life. And then one of the really special Second Life projects related to NEC
this year was our recreation of the Alamo campus. We kind of like to create projects that
reference NEC’s geographic locations and, since NEC was in San Antonio this year, it was
just a really natural fit. And the project involved many volunteers, living history guides,
resources from the Alamo itself and key partnerships with the local PBS station and the
Alamo staff. And it was a really great way to get a lot of members and volunteers interested
in a project and being able to gain some experience in working on something that they could
then bring back to the classroom or bring back to their work in other ways.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! Great! What you’re doing sounds very exciting. I guess I
have two questions to close with. One is what should people be looking for coming out of
ISTE’s Second Life initiative in the coming academic year? And the second is if people
aren’t associated with you and want to get involved, what should they do?
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Well, I think we have a number of key initiatives coming up this
year. One of the things that we’re doing right now is, we’re having discussions with the
Alamo folks, the Alamo educational department, because they’re interested in continuing the
work we’ve done so far and being able to use it as an education and outreach tool for the
Alamo. So that’s a new model that we’re sort of exploring. We’re also in the process of
planning out our D.C. simulation since NEC is in Washington, D.C. this year. And there’s so
many good options for D.C., and we just really had some encouraging early stage
exploratory meetings. And we’re kind of looking at that whole model. ISTE is also the lead
sponsor for the education track of the Second Life Community Convention, and I’m serving
as a co-chair so that’s a big initiative coming up for us quickly.
And then we’re spending some time right now figuring out the direction of our own speaker
series, everything from logistics to sort of more philosophical discussions about the series
focus: Should the topics all be focused on Second Life, or do we use Second Life simply as
a delivery channel for any topics related to ed tech? And those are two very different things
with different implications for audience and tone and reach, so that’s one big thing that we’re
kind of tackling right now.
If people want to get involved, we have a social every Thursday night at 6:00 P.M. Second
Life Time. We have a speaker series usually every Tuesday night, but sometimes it moves
around. In the summer we’re kind of changing things up a little bit. And so those are two
great places to start meeting people, but they can also go to iste.org/Secondlife and learn a
lot of information sort of just generally about our community and now to get involved.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Wonderful! That was one of the more informative ten minutes of
my life, I think. You really pack a lot in there.
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: I was talking fast.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Jennifer, thank you so much for coming to--
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --our On The Spot segment of Metanomics, and I hope we’ll see
you back here. And good luck with everything you have planned for the coming year.
JENNIFER RAGAN-FORE: Definitely. Thank you very much.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s move on to our main event. We have three speakers
today. Kathy Schrock is the administrator for technology for the Nauset Public Schools on
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which she came to by way of being a library media specialist.
Kathy’s maybe more famous for her award winning website, Kathy Schrock’s Guide for
Educators, which has been around since 1995 and is now run in partnership with Discovery
since 1999. And Kathy is also the author of a number of books about education on the
internet and has received way too many honors and awards to mention here.
Peggy Sheehy is library media specialist and instructional technology facilitator at Suffern
Middle School, part of the Ramapo Central School District in New York State, and has
brought 800 Suffern Middle School students and 15 eighth grade teachers into Second Life
over the last year.
John Lester, Pathfinder Linden in Second Life, is Linden Lab’s Boston operations director
coordinating the growth of the Boston area office. He also leads the Lab’s proactive
education and healthcare mentoring program, acting as a resource and evangelist for
people using Second Life for teaching academic and healthcare research, as well as for
So welcome, all of you to the show. Here’s my plan for this conversation. What I’d like to do
is start off with the teachers, just to get a better sense of how Second Life is actually being
used for secondary and middle school education, and then we’ll bring Pathfinder into the
conversation as we move into best practices and policy. And I’d like to close by asking John
some questions about the role of secondary education in Linden Lab’s own business
strategy. So now, Peggy, let me start with you. Welcome to Metanomics.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Oh, good to be here. Thanks a lot for inviting me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Well, we have a packed house here. And, before we get
into asking you about education, I understand you were a professional musician. What do
PEGGY SHEEHY: Oh, you’ve really done your homework. Yeah, I was the singer in a
rock ‘n roll band for about [30?] years.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, well, that would explain that shock of hair that you have in
both your Real Life and your Second Life persona.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Are we going to be able to link to some music of yours then on
our website? Do you have any of that on your MySpace page?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Actually I’ve gotten so many requests for that, that we’re actually
working on that, getting that all out because it’s great fun to listen to. It really is.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m going to hold you to getting us some of that so that we can
put it with all the boring educational stuff. Now actually that’s not such boring stuff.
PEGGY SHEEHY: I’m glad you said it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. You’ve brought hundreds of kids and over a dozen
teachers into Second Life, which just sounds like an incredible amount of work. I’d just like
to give people a sense of what it is that’s worth all this work. I understand one of the things
that you’ve been working on is the Storykeeper’s Garden, which I’ve heard touted as a
middle school education project that would be impossible outside Virtual Worlds. So can you
tell us what this project is about?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Yes, sure. I’d love to. And actually the Storykeeper’s Garden is really
the most recent thing we did. Just to give you a little background, we concluded our second
year this June, and we’re starting our third coming up. We really did start with just looking at
curriculum and seeing what might transfer into the Virtual World authentically, and then our
next focus was to say, “Well, what can we not do in the Real World that we can do in the
Virtual World and really take advantage of the virtual platform?” And this last year, we really
landed upon something quite amazing. Through a series of wonderful synchronized events,
I guess you might say, we connected with Bernajean Porter, of digital storytime fame, and
she actually came on compass for a couple of days. We went through the traditional digital
When Bernajean does it, there’s quite a focus on getting into the emotional piece of the
story, really living inside the story and living the lesson learned of the story. What we
decided to try was rather than the usual mediums of presenting these stories of iMovies or
even podcasts, what we did was, we decided to try, with some of the kids, Machinima to tell
the story. And, with others, we created a 3D immersive experience where a visitor would
actually enter the story and experience the story through audio and visuals and text. That’s
what we call the Story World. That’s the project that we worked on, where we really felt like,
“Okay, we’ve now landed in something that could not be recreated in the Real World.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: How involved are the kids in, I guess really, all aspects?
Everyone who’s in Second Life knows how much work it is to build anything. We had
Bettina Tizzy on here a couple weeks ago saying she could barely rez a box. They’re doing
a lot of building? I mean, if they are, they’re pulling on just about every skill that I can think
PEGGY SHEEHY: Actually that’s the amazing part. I’m the visionary. My skills were fairly
limited. I didn’t know any scripting. Very minimal building. Then I, of course, passed on to
my students what I knew. That’s all they needed. We have a recreation of the Ivory Tower
on Ramapo Islands, which was donated to us, and some of the kids have taken advantage
of that. It’s self-directed. But we also had some guest mentors come in and give a couple of
scripting lessons, and the funny thing is the first year I would sit down next to a student that
was doing something really cool, and I’d say, “Hey, show me how to do that.” And they’d
say, “Okay.” And they’d take me step by step through it. At this point, I sit down with them,
and I say, “Hey, show me how to do that,” and they say, “No, you wouldn’t get it.” And that,
to me, is something to celebrate. That, to me, is okay, for years now we’ve been saying the
teacher has to move away from the sage on the stage, the guide on the side, but nobody
shows us what that looks like. Here’s what it looks like: It’s where the kids have taken over
ownership of their learning, and they’re invested in it, and the teacher does not have to be
as adept in the actual skills of the user interface. They’re still the facilitator of the journey of
the learning. So every time one of my students surpasses me on skill levels, and I really
can’t keep up with them, it, for me, is a cause for celebration.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now can you give us a sense of this [AUDIO GLITCH] like on the
Real World side? So do you have a dedicated laboratory? Are kids all on laptops in a single
room? Are they doing work from home?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Okay. Well, actually all of the above. Now I have to preface this
statement, especially coming from the four or five conferences I’ve attended where I’ve
gotten to speak with teachers from all over the world this summer. So I have to preface this
with the fact that, yes, I do know that I am extremely spoiled at Ramapo Central. We have
an amazing superintendent, very visionary guy, who’s really had a focus on technology for
quite some time. So we’ve got tons of hardware. We’ve got super bandwidth. So a lot of the
obstacles that your average school district is faced with, we’ve tackled them and
surmounted them. But, for the most part, the kids initially, for their first few forays into
Second Life, the teacher will usually bring them down to the library, and we’ll work on the
Macs, and I’ll team-teach with them.
But my second year, the teachers have been at this for two years now, they’re in their
classrooms which are equipped with Macs, working independent of me, creating lessons
and projects independent of me. It’s really just the first year I pretty much knew who to ask
to pioneer this from their interest in it, throughout the time that I was developing the
proposal, so I knew who to approach initially. But I have not had to sell this after that. The
teachers are selling each other, and the students are selling the teachers and each other.
So most of the time, they’re really just off in their own little buildings. We also have it up at
the high school now because my first class of eighth graders graduated so we have a lot of
building-to-building collaboration going on as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Thanks so much. Let’s move on to Kathy Schrock.
And, Kathy, welcome to Metanomics.
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now one of the many, many things that you do is that you’ve
created Lighthouse Learning Island, which is a Second Life build focused on professional
development. From what I’ve read, it sounds a little bit like ISTE. Can you tell us more about
it and what your plans are for that?
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: Sure, I’ll be glad to do that. I’m a big user of synchronous online
virtual environments, not virtual environments, but synchronous online environments such
as Adobe Connect. And when I first went into Second Life, of course, as we all do as
educators, we kind of hung around ISTE, and I realized that this would be something that
might benefit our school districts directly. So my superintendent who, as Peggy’s, is very
supportive, got himself an avatar and went in Second Life, and I explained what I wanted to
do. And he came out, and he said, “That’s fine, but we don’t have any funds.” So I used
state grant funds. All I said was “a synchronous online professional development
environment.” I didn’t think the state could handle Second Life.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I will have to remember that phrasing.
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: Yes. Yes, it works very well. Four school districts in southeastern
Massachusetts, we went together and purchased the island. And our goal was pretty much
threefold. The first thing that I wanted to do, I provide a lot of Real Life professional
development, and I wanted to bring some of that into Second Life. So our particular district
and my role at first was doing formal presentations, public service announcements in the
classroom, Web 2.0 tools in support of education, those kinds of things, and opening it up to
everybody in Second Life. We did not limit anything on our island just to our group. And then
I started noticing that it felt more comfortable in the environment, and we started getting
people after the presentations to get in small groups and have discussions and leave some
brainstorming behind so we could enhance the curriculum in the professional development.
The second part we tried to do was to help teachers as ISTE does, but just our particular
teachers in Second Life professional development, how to walk and talk and how to do
minimal building and minimal scripting. But we had lots of lessons on how to do those kinds
of things. The third thing that I did in my district, I had a professional learning community of
about ten educators, and they met for ten weeks in a row, and we met for an hour each
week. My goal was to get them up to speed in that ten-week period, to transfer them over to
the Teen Grid to work with students in a project. After the third week when I got them away
from the freebie warehouses and buying clothes and hair, we got into the pedagogy of using
Second Life for teaching and learning, and, by the end, they were very accomplished using
Second Life for teaching and, hopefully, for student learning.
So three of my teachers have gone over to Skoolaborate, which is an international teen
island. And, just right at the end of the year, we were able to get the first group of eighth
graders into Skoolaborate. We also just picked up--two educational service centers in
Connecticut are also on the island, and the Adobe education leaders, which I am one of
them. There’s about 114 of us, and we’re hoping to offer some Adobe product, not some
professional development in the product, but successful practices for using the Adobe
products on the island. So that’s where we are at this point.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! Thank you. I’d like to turn now to John Lester,
Pathfinder Linden. Pathfinder, welcome to Metanomics.
JOHN LESTER: Thanks. Great to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So as the mentor and evangelist overseeing education in Second
Life, what exactly do you do, and, more generally, what does Linden Lab do to provide
active support and guidance to educators?
JOHN LESTER: Well, one thing that we do a great deal of is what I’ve been doing for the
past 35 minutes here is listen intently to what the educators are doing in Second Life. Then
taking out of that type of a discussion ideas for tools and policies that we need to come up
with, to allow people to succeed in this environment, to allow the educations to succeed.
What I also do working in the Proactive Initiatives Group with folks focusing on education
and healthcare is listen to what people are trying to do in Second Life and help them in
terms of identifying best practices and sort of strategies for success. A lot of the work that I
do is the same what actually Claudia Linden does as well. I mean really all of the innovation
that we’re seeing is coming, obviously, from the residents in this area, and it’s really critical
to Linden Lab, I think, to be listening carefully, to be learning from what everyone is doing in
this space because all of the pioneering stuff is happening with what the educators are
doing on their own.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: When we talked the other day, you gave a specific example of a
case where you were able to tell a left hand what the right hand was doing. This was with
Emerson College and the City of Boston in the Hub2 project. Can you tell us a little about
JOHN LESTER: Yeah. What I tend to rant a lot about these days is the importance of
collaboration within Second Life. It’s really a very rich ecosystem that we’re seeing
developing, and it involves so many different people with so many different skill sets, yet
with overlapping goals. So about a year ago, some folks from the City of Boston contacted
me. They were interested in doing something in Second Life in recreating parts of the city
downtown, and they were interested in how to use Second Life to improve civic
engagement. And they said, “We’re not sure what to do. We’re thinking of buying an island
and exploring it and so forth.” And I said, “Well, there’s some folks at Emerson College right
down the road (which is a university in Boston), who are starting to look at Second Life, who
are starting to use it for similar types of goals.”
And I basically made some introductions, and now that has developed into a project called
Hub2, and, if you go to hub2.org, you can learn more about it. So basically it’s a project
involving Emerson College, also Harvard University now, and the City of Boston and the
Boston Redevelopment Authority, to use Second Life as an environment where citizens can
give creative feedback and can help basically design the improvement of their Real World
neighborhoods. So I think that’s a perfect example of when educational projects sort of
reach the next level in Second Life. I think it’s when people start collaborating with slightly
different perspectives on a common goal. And fortunately I think one of the reasons that the
educator community, in general, has just blossomed so amazingly in the past three years
since I’ve been at Linden lab is because educators and academics innately understand the
power of collaboration. People are constantly collaborating. You collaborate when you write
papers. You collaborate when you write books. And so I think there’s that nature; it’s in
people’s nature in Second Life to collaborate. And that’s what I think ultimately will drive
things to the next level is when we’ll collaborations between very multidisciplinary teams,
and the net effects of that, I think, will be amazing.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! Well, I think we’ve gotten from our three panelists and also
ISTE’s On The Spot piece just a good sense of how people are using and potentially can
use Second Life and other Virtual Worlds for education. Let’s turn to now some of the
challenges that people are facing here and some of the policy responses. The first that I’d
like to talk about actually is, issues with the Teen Grid. Peggy, you are doing your work with
kids under 18, and so you’re using Teen Second Life. I actually looked into doing this type of
show there so that we could actually be there with the kids and realized it was going to be a
tremendous challenge. All of us would need to get background checks, not just me, but the
camera crew and all the Metanomics staff, and then we would be stuck on that one island.
We wouldn’t be able to teleport to other islands. I can understand why Second Life has split
into teen and adult worlds, but that must pose some pretty severe challenges for you.
Peggy, can you talk a little bit about the nature of those challenges and how you deal with
PEGGY SHEEHY: Yeah, sure. I think first off though the mindset you really need to have is
that the Teen Grid is for teens. And we as educators are really guests there. And, if you take
that mindset, you kind of get less aggravated or the issues that you have to go through are a
little less troublesome when you realize that you really are there as guests to work with the
teens. In Ramapo, we are what is known as a private estate, which means that we are fairly
invisible on the Teen Grid. The accounts that we create for our students will only allow them
to log onto Ramapo Islands, and the rest of the teen grid cannot see us nor exchange
content with us nor communicate with us. This is a wonderful thing when you’re standing in
front of a school board, and you need to say, “Yes, I can guarantee that your students are
safe.” However, if our goal is truly 21st Century literacy--I mean I hate to use that worn-out
term, but for lack of a better--we’re missing out on this fabulous opportunity for global
collaboration. So that’s my goal: to come up with some way to get those walls down, even if
it’s just a shared island between the other educational states.
There are islands on the Teen Grid that are working with teens that are open. Islands such
as Global Kids and Eye 4 U Alliance, where the adults are primarily locked down to the
island, and they’re clearly identified as adults. However, the teens from the Teen Grid can
come and go as they wish, to work with them with different projects. So there are different
opportunities and different approaches that you can use with working with teens on the teen
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a question from Dancer Morris, who is, I think, on one of
our other partner locations, asking: What happens at the crossover? I guess you’re dealing
with eighth graders so probably not many of them are getting too old. But what about the
ones who are just turning 18 and get kicked out of Teen Second Life because of their age?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Actually we’re dealing with eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh grades now.
We have about 1,200 student accounts. Because, as the eighth graders moved up to the
high school, the foreign language teachers took advantage of Second Life as an immersive
environment for practicing language. And they decided that many of their classes had both
ninth- and tenth-grade students, so we gave the tenth graders their accounts. And then this
year they’ve all moved up a grade. So we’re going to have to be facing that challenge of
Teen Grid survival next year. I know that different people have tried different things, like by
having a main grid location for the 18-year-olds and over and a Teen Grid location and
trying to work them separately. But this is something we’re going to have to sort through,
finding a way to--if you had 20 kids in the class that were all under 18 and five that were 18,
you would definitely have to work that out within the boundaries of the terms of service with
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a related question from Veritas Variscan for
Pathfinder Linden: Are there any projects or initiatives for trying to bridge the main Adult
Second Life and Teen Second Life grids?
JOHN LESTER: Well, that is obviously an area that we’re very interested in because it’s an
area that, as educators, you’ve identified is critical. I think this is something that, as we
move forward, we need to really think about, and we need to get feedback from as many
different educators who have different ideas on the optimal way of working with students of
mixed ages. Obviously, from our perspective as a company, we want Second Life to be as
safe and as legal for as many people as possible around the world, and we want to make
sure environments are supportive and conducive to education and also that educators can
be successful as opposed to feeling like they’re constantly hitting their head against the wall.
So I would say this is really an evolving conversation, and I do mean conversation. We
really need to hear from as many different educators who are facing these challenges so
that we can figure out the best solution because this is pioneering territory. The whole
concept of using Virtual Worlds for education is something that everybody is, I think, figuring
out the best practices for as we move along.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Kathy, I’ve got a question for you as the administrator in the
group. At least you’re the one who has the word “administrator” in your title. I’m wondering
what would your advice be for educators pitching Second Life or just Virtual Worlds in
general to their administrators. And also a question: What’s harder, pitching this to the
administrators or pitching it to the teachers?
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: That’s a really good question. I agree with John that really the way
to sell this to a board of ed or a school committee is the collaboration aspect, especially for
this Teen Grid use. Once we showed our administrators and school committee members
what the Skoolaborate, which is also a closed estate, look like for the students and the other
students that they come in contact with and the projects that they’d be doing, they were
more than welcome to give it a try. Pitching Second Life to teachers is interesting. I tried to
get everybody to stay home one Tuesday morning and have the faculty meeting in their
pajamas, but no one wanted to do that. So having the ten of them together though and
talking about it at lunch, talking about it in faculty meetings, all kinds of things, it really raised
the awareness for everyone else. The students then, once we had the students in, they
were so excited. So I’m hoping that next year we get more and more teachers in Second
Life, at least from my district.
The other districts were very successful because they had ongoing projects where the
teachers were required to be in Second Life to meet. So that is another way to do it. All the
bad media about Virtual Worlds does impact decision makers, but all you have to do is show
them the positive impact on teaching and learning, and you’re all set.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now let’s talk a little about cost. So the newspapers this week are
filled with stories of budget deficits, particularly at the state and local level. So sports and
music and arts are likely to be cut in schools across the United States. Do you see
technology budgets under the knife as well? And do you think these would be sort of the first
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: I would imagine. Ours first last year was a grant. Coming up this
year we no longer have that grant so that’s we brought on these other organizations onto
the island to help fund the cost. The initial setup cost is more expensive than the ongoing
maintenance. It is a subscription like any other technology subscription, and when you look
at the value of this versus the value of another one, again, as a technology administrator,
you have to weigh which impacts the most students, which impacts student achievement the
most also. So I personally haven’t had to make that decision yet, but I’m sure those of us
that will have to make it will come up with some very good rationale to try to hold onto it as
long as we can.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now a related question. You talked about achievement. So
actually I don’t know who this question is for. Any of you could probably jump in. But when I
talk with for-profit enterprises, they’re focused on ROI. They want to know what the return
on investment is and ultimately something affecting the bottom line. And, of course, we have
business metrics. We know which ones to look at. So how difficult is it to measure
educational achievement in these Virtual World activities? What’s being done there?
PEGGY SHEEHY: I would like to jump on that one if I could since it’s one of my--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s Peggy. Right?
PEGGY SHEEHY: Yes. Yes. That’s pretty much one of my pet peeves is that I just spent a
couple of days at [JLS?] in the MIT media lab, and the discussions around assessment were
pretty fascinating because, as I see it, what we keep trying to do is assess these new
technologies and learning that goes on within the new medias with--we’re assessing 21st
Century skills with 19th Century methodology, and it’s just not working. Because the things
we want to measure now are the things that they’re learning within these new technologies
that are just not accurately assessed through these standardized tests and scantrons. The
way I assess things, I have surveys the kids fill out. The teachers respond to me that they
have never written at such a level of engagement. When you have kids logging in from
home when they’re sick, that, to me, says success. Now, of course, everything these days is
data driven so we’re in the process of inviting some people in, who are gathering data, and
they’re going to be working that through for us. But I see the kids’ involvement. I see them
invest in their learning. I see them taking ownership. I see them instilling rigor in this. We’ll
develop a project, and they’ll instill much more rigor in it than we intentionally planned. So
for me, the assessment is in the level of engagement and the way these kids are responding
to excitement in learning again.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And now No Child Left Behind is a U.S. law that is demanding a
lot of accountability and testing and specific measures and standardized measure of
achievement. In your discussions with administrators, do any of the specifics of that law
come into play in your work in Second Life?
PEGGY SHEEHY: One way that it seems to have an impact is that initially when I sit down
with teachers who take my course, the districts sponsors, an in-service course, and it’s like
a seven and a half hour introduction into Second Life. Initially the teachers look at me and
say, “Well, how am I going to find the time for this because I am so loaded down with
covering the curriculum for these standardized tests?” And what we explain to them and
what they end of seeing at the end of this course is, you’re not going to find the time for this.
You’re taking this two-week project that you’ve always done, and you’re simply moving the
venue into the virtual platform. It’s the same two weeks. It’s just a different methodology, a
different pedagogy. And, really, what the teachers have reported back is, I have one teacher
my favorite quote is that she said, “After using Second Life,” she said, “I don’t care how
deep the water is, I know how to swim.” So she was saying, “I am a seasoned veteran
teacher, and I can teach anywhere. Put me in an environment where my kids are engaged
and invested, and I will be successful.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s a great quote. I’d like to move on again. I believe any of
you could weigh in, but, Pathfinder, maybe you have the 30,000-foot view here. When I talk
with people associated with education in Second Life, I see lots of people from information
technology departments, staff members, administrators, library science, but not so many
sort of actual classroom teachers. And so I guess one, Pathfinder, I’d like to ask if you see it
that way as well. And, two, what do you think the answer to that is?
JOHN LESTER: Well, part of the challenge I have is just finding all of these people doing
these amazing things. So I really don’t know. I generally tend to see pretty much everything
represented from the education segment in Second Life. I see a lot of exploration. I’m trying
to get the 30,000-foot level here. I see a lot of larger evolutionary patterns that are
reminding me of the early days of the web, when there were initially a lot of exploratory
moments in the web as a new medium. In the early days of the web, people used the web
as a tool that reminded them of tools that they were already using, and so you had a lot of
people just recreating the same exact thing in the environment. I see a lot of history
repeating itself. I think we’re moving at this point from a stage of, “Wow! Second Life is cool,
and we’re just going to try something out,” to the stage of trying to quantify its efficacy as a
learning medium. And I think Peggy’s right on the ball in terms of our tools for measurement
are outdated. I think this is such a frontier on so many levels that I think everyone is still just
figuring things out.
Again, I’m going to come back to the whole collaboration thing though. I think the most
powerful things I’ve seen in Second Life around education are when people are coming at it
from slightly different areas of expertise. I think the lone teacher coming into Second Life
and building a classroom and wanting to do a class in Second Life is completely--it’s
laudable that they’re coming in and that they’re exploring, but I think it’s the wrong way to do
it. They need to get connected with other educators as soon as possible. I think, again as
we move forward, what can we as Linden Lab do in terms of giving people better tools to
find each other, to leverage the existing educational content in Second Life, which is
I was talking to somebody who was teaching chemistry, and I said, “You know the American
Chemical Society’s in Second Life. You could make that part of your curriculum.” And they
were like, “Oh, wow! I never even thought of that.” I think, again, it just comes down to
leveraging the different perspectives that these different folks have on the common goal,
which is ultimately teaching students and preparing them to be successful in the Real World,
and that’s really the bottom line.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So lots of businesses have come into Second Life and failed
rather flamboyantly, and educators seem to have succeeded. Pathfinder, what are
educators doing right, and what can businesses learn from them?
JOHN LESTER: Well, one thing is, they collaborate. They try something out, and, if it fails,
they talk to someone else, and they’re like, “Hey, did you try that? How did that work
exactly?” They share. They are deeply collaborative. They also realize that innovation is
truly an iterative process. You try. You learn. You try again. You learn. I think fundamentally
educators also take a longer view on things. They take a very long view because the stakes
that are at hand are the future of their students, the future of their ability to be successful in
the world when they graduate, when they choose their careers. And so I think educators are
very thoughtful, deeply collaborative. They realize that what they’re doing is an iterative
process. They will have to try and learn from their mistakes and continue to move on. That’s
why I think they rock in Second Life.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! So now, as promised, I wanted to close with some more
questions, Pathfinder, for you really on Linden Lab’s perspective. One of the things when we
talked recently, you mentioned first of all that you’re heading up the Boston office, and I
think we actually have a great picture of you looking very Linden Lab-esque, having fun with
folks there. You mentioned that you use Second Life actively in running that operation, and
the way you put it is, you eat your own dog food. So what have you learned from how it
JOHN LESTER: Well, like any pioneering technology, we realize we’ve got a ways to go.
But, yeah, we use Second Life every single day. Whenever there is a meeting at Linden Lab
that is critical, that is important, that involves a group of people, we meet in Second Life. We
have many regions that are actually accessible only to Lindens, and we use voice. We use
Second Life itself sometimes to visualize data in interesting ways. We have a variety of
meeting spaces ranging from what you would consider sort of conservative corporate to
floating mushrooms and castles in the sky. We’ve learned that we’ve gained a greater
appreciation too for all the work that the residents have done too because, when we’re
trying to build something on our own, we often go, “Huh. Has anyone made a really good
[insert anything here]?” And we’ll try to do something, and then we’ll go, “Huh. Let’s just go
shopping. Oh, wow! Someone’s already figured it out. Wow! Someone’s come up with this
We’ve also learned that place really matters when you’re just having a simple meeting with
folks. I think we’ve all at the Lab cultivated over time a huge distaste for conventional
conference calls, which are disembodied voices emanating from the middle of your head.
We’ve learned about all the incredibly positive things and about all the things that we need
to work on to make this system more stable and more reliable. And nothing really brings that
into sharper light than when we listen intently to our user base, to all of the residents. But,
by eating our own dog food, we make sure that we’re in the same boat as the residents as
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Final question before we close out our main segment. Since
M Linden, Mark Kingdon, the new CEO of Linden Lab, has blogged a couple times, the rest
of the Second Life blogosphere has lit up with comments about the state of the economy
and the state of Linden Lab and its corporate, nonprofit, educational and personal residents
and what they’re doing and how Linden Lab is treating them and viewing them as sort of
their future. So I’m wondering: Where do educational institutions fit in the economy and in
Linden Lab strategy?
JOHN LESTER: I think it fits right in the middle of what’s on our radar as critical, in terms of
innovative things that are happening in this space. Again, I believe it’s really an ecosystem.
The growth of businesses in Second Life, people creating products in Second Life, will
directly benefit the educators because then the educators will have tools to do even more
amazing things. The growth of even people doing things that are not purely for educational
purposes will benefit the educators because, if somebody creates an amazing region, there
may be educational applications for that the creator doesn’t even know about but that an
educator looking at it from an academic’s perspective will go, “Huh. You could really learn
something from this.” I think that’s one of the huge benefits of Second Life as a platform for
education is the fact that it’s full of so many people and so much stuff that you have this rich
environment from which you can create a curriculum that no one’s even imagined before.
And so, as we move forward with our strategy, we’re being clearer on areas that we see of
really amazing innovation. And, as we focus on all of them, there’s, again, this synergistic,
this ecosystem that involves all of them. And, in the end, I think all of them will be successful
as the others succeed.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thank you very much, Pathfinder Linden, John Lester, for
coming on the show. Thanks also, Peggy Sheehy and Kathy Schrock, for joining us. This
felt like the first hour of an excellent three-hour show, and I hope I’ll be able to get all of you
back over the course of the academic year, to see how things are working out for you. So,
again, thank you very much for coming on Metanomics.
PEGGY SHEEHY: Thanks for allowing us to be here. I really enjoyed it.
JOHN LESTER: This was wonderful.
KATHLEEN SCHROCK: Thanks, Rob.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you. So now we close out our show this week, as we do
every week this season, with a segment that we call Connecting The Dots, where I actually
get to just give my own views instead of asking other people for theirs. So my Connecting
The Dots segment today is edupreneurs.
Metanomics had the privilege of providing live coverage of an event this month with
Manpower CEO Jeffrey Joerres, Linden Lab founder and chairman Philip Rosedale, and a
number of other fascinating people whose names you probably don’t recognize. But one line
by Linda Applegate, of Harvard Business School, really resonated with me as I prepared for
my show today. Linda says that, at their school, they define “entrepreneurship” as “the
relentless pursuit of opportunity, without regard to the resources currently controlled.”
This type of entrepreneurship is exactly what educators need to be doing right now. Call it
edupreneurship. I actually didn’t make that word up, but I would like to broaden the definition
a little bit from Linda’s. Let’s do it this way: Edupreneurship is the relentless pursuit of
opportunity, without regard to the resources currently controlled by the educational
institution, without regard to the technology currently available to educators or their students
and without regard to the technology educators and students are currently comfortable
using. Now, in some ways, my point today is a response to discussions I had with one of my
colleagues at Cornell, Margaret Corbit. Margaret is the director of SciCenter.org, a wing of
Cornell and has been doing fascinating work, for about 15 years, supporting teachers and
students in virtual environments. Last summer in a series of meetings I had with folks at
Cornell, just as I was getting seriously involved in Virtual Worlds, Margaret repeatedly
emphasized the point that Virtual World platforms and, in particular, Second Life are
technologies out of the reach of many primary and secondary schools and are particularly
inaccessible to the underprivileged.
Now I don’t want to understate concerns about the digital divide, and naturally it makes no
sense to develop educational content and methods that most schools can’t use. But we
need edupreneurs who are going to figure out what these platforms will be good for, under
the assumption that the cost of technology will come down enough for Virtual Worlds to be
as common in education as websites are today. We can’t just think about the hardware. We
need some wetware resources as well. This panel discussion today, which includes a
technology administrator and a library media specialist, is decidedly lacking in one very
important player, the teacher, the regular classroom teacher. This is exactly what I see
happening also at Cornell and other universities around the world. Support staff and some
administrators have been willing to take the plunge, but not so many faculty.
Now the more I think about this, the more sense it makes to me. The first job of the
edupreneur is not to bring in the teachers. It’s to pave the way so that the teachers will find it
worthwhile to learn the new technology. The students, of course, are far more comfortable
with virtual environments. They are, after all, what Adam Sarner, writing in Forbes
Magazine, has called “Generation V”; “V” for virtual. He may have overstated the case to
sell a few more copies. I know I forwarded that article to a lot of colleagues. Especially at the
college level, I don’t think we need to be too concerned about the students’ current level of
comfort. Maggie and Kathy’s students today are the Cornell undergraduates in five years
and Johnson School MBA students not long after that.
If we’re going to be educational entrepreneurs, edupreneurs, we need to be thinking about
what we can do tomorrow, not what we can’t do today. Let’s not fight the last war or even
the current one. Let’s not make software for the last computer or even today's. Let’s stop
complaining about the limits of Second Life and the digital divide. Instead, let’s try to figure
out what we can do with the resources we don’t have yet.
Thank you very much for all of you appearing on and attending Metanomics today. The
backchat was absolutely wonderful with more questions than I could possibly get to. So,
hopefully, we’ll continue this conversation as the weeks and months go by.
Next week, August 4th, we have a great show on OpenSim and the architectural working
group. We have Zha Ewry, David Levine from IBM, along with his partner in that effort from
Linden Lab, Zero Linden. And that should be a fascinating show. We’re going to be starting
that out with Dusan Writer announcing the results of his contest for people to create a more
usable Second Life viewer. So he’ll be announcing the winner, and I’m really looking forward
to seeing how Second Life residents have used the Open Source code Linden has provided
to take the viewer a step forward, and, who knows, maybe even close the digital divide a
little bit. Thank you all for coming and watching, and, see you next week. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer