Oct2109 Metanomics Transcript


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Transcript for Metanomics October 21 with Leslie Jarmon from the University of Texas

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Oct2109 Metanomics Transcript

  1. 1. METANOMICS: BUILDING IMMERSIVE INSTRUCTIONAL EXPERIENCE AND LEARNING COMMUNITIES IN SECOND LIFE OCTOBER 21, 2009 ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is brought to you by Remedy Communications and Dusan Writer’s Metaverse. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I’m Robert Bloomfield, professor at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Today we continue exploring Virtual Worlds in the larger sphere of social media, culture, enterprise and policy. Naturally our discussion about Virtual Worlds takes place in a Virtual World. So join us. This is Metanomics. ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live audience at our studios in Second Life. We are pleased to broadcast weekly to our event partners and to welcome discussion. We use ChatBridge technology to allow viewers to comment during the show. Metanomics is sponsored by the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and Immersive Workspaces. Welcome. This is Metanomics. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome to Metanomics. I couldn’t begin to count the number of educators in Second Life, especially from higher education. You name the college, the university, there is a professor, a librarian, a staff member, maybe even an official presence here in Second Life, but not many have tried to do what Leslie Jarmon has done with the University of Texas. She has brought in an official presence not just for one person, one department, one college or one campus, but for the entire state university system. That’s 15 campuses along with the university chancellors. So it is quite the achievement. Leslie, congratulations, and welcome to Metanomics. LESLIE JARMON: Thank you, Rob and everybody, for coming. First let me offer a caveat here. It’s never one person alone in Second Life, is it? So there’s just been an incredible team, and I have to say a wonderful, bold responsiveness on the part of the chancellors of the University of Texas system to bring this all into place. And we’ll also just getting started so it’s not as though we’re all done yet. It’s a one-year program, and we’ve got about eight months left. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’ll be talking quite a bit throughout the hour about the fact that this is an infrastructure-building initiative, and it’s also, well as Leslie indicated, it’s a short-term project that, hopefully, will have long-term effect. Before we get into that, just a quick welcome to all of you who are watching on the web at metanomics.net or in Second Life at the Metanomics Sim here or any of our event partners. We’ll be tracking the text chat, so please keep those questions and comments 1
  2. 2. coming, and we’ll address them and have Leslie address them as we can. Leslie, I understand that the Second Life project is part of a grant from a university-wide call for proposals to transform undergraduate education. Can you just walk us through what you proposed? LESLIE JARMON: That’s exactly right, Rob. So the chancellors created an initiative which they called Transforming Undergraduate Education, just as you said, and put out a call for proposals around the whole state, to all 15 campuses. And just to clarify that, let’s clarify right now. Nine of those campuses are full academic campuses, with undergraduate programs through doctoral programs. Six of those campuses are medical and health-science center campuses, many of which you would recognize, for example, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. That’s actually a University of Texas campus. They have graduate students and researchers, of course, as well as the medical institutions affiliated with them. So the statewide system was sent to this call for proposals, and they asked for a letter of intent first, but they had some pretty strict criteria. The proposal had to somehow enrich the quality of the learning experience for the undergraduates and, at the same time, lower the cost of delivery of that instruction in some way, some innovative ways. This couldn’t be some old program that was being modified or revised. It also had to involve all 15 of these campuses so it had to be applicable and usable by the medical and health-science campuses as well as the academic campuses. And finally, it had to somehow encourage or support new collaboration among all of us. So these were the criteria they set. And my proposal, those of you who are familiar with Second Life, you can see how I could pretty much check off all of those boxes very easily. My proposal was that the system provide the virtual infrastructure to the 15 campuses, much as they did in the early ’90s with the advent of the internet, providing some infrastructure support, without directing or determining in any way which directions the various campuses would chart for their path, for their entry to the Virtual World. So in one sense, we have a very autonomous system with the University of Texas system. The campuses have their own mission statements. They have their own presidents and faculty and so forth. So the chancellors didn’t want to step on any toes in that regard. But we did want to use this possibility, this opportunity, to provide the virtual infrastructure complemented with training, information, resources, all of which would be deliverable during the first year. And I have to say, four months in, it’s already exceeded my expectations of where we would be now and what I could even have imagined. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I mean it’s not like you’re starting from scratch and there was no one from the University of Texas system in Second Life. To what extent are you actually just sort of trying to keep up with the people who are doing things on their own through Second Life at U of T, and to what extent are you out there trying to sell people, pitch new projects? 2
  3. 3. LESLIE JARMON: It’s a wonderful question, Rob. There were some pre-existing islands in Second Life already for some of the campuses. For example, the University of Texas El Paso already had an island. The University of Texas-Pan American down in South Texas, in Edinburg, had a wonderful island. The University of Texas campus up in Dallas had three islands. The University of Texas Austin had five pre-existing islands. But, for the most part, all of the other campuses--and I’ve probably left out someone--but, for the most part, all the other campuses had no previous experience with Second Life at all, not to mention any islands. Albeit when you introduced the show today, you referred to some of those pioneer professors, the individuals out there forging their way through the new frontier, the new virtual frontier. Of course, there were pre-existing individuals who were already in Second Life, but not as a department, not as a college and certainly not as a campus university. So for most of the people, it’s been a very high, fast learning curve. Once the proposal was awarded, we got notice in June of this year, mid June, I wanted to start the grant July 1 so we could really hit the ground running, put the team together the first month. The chancellors sent a letter to all of the presidents of these universities and asked them to please identify and appoint a campus lead who would facilitate and manage this year of exploration and discovery and entry into Second Life, and that’s just what they did. And these folks, I have to tell you, are just marvelous, and we’ll probably get to more detail about that in a minute. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have some questions already, and one of them comes from, I believe, Devon Alderton, which is, “Were the trustees hard to convince?” And I guess--so for you it’s chancellors? We have trustees, but I think you have chancellors? LESLIE JARMON: Yes. Every public university system and private systems as well have their own sort of hierarchical organization. Here at the University of Texas system, they’re chancellors, with a board of regents appointed by the Governor at the very top. But the chancellors are really the operational folks. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so they bought it. LESLIE JARMON: That’s right. I was on an ad hoc committee about a year and a half ago, and I’m not quite sure how they got my name, but somebody must have heard something about Second Life. I don’t know. The committee was called Serious Gaming and Education or something like that. And most of the folks at the table, they were all from the University of Texas system, mostly individual faculty, some IT or information technology staff, and most of the folks had had experience with virtual games. Wonderful serious games funded by DOD or Institute of Health or NSF or something like that. At the meeting, I just brought up, “Well, what about Virtual Worlds? What about online open-platform Virtual Worlds?” And not a lot of folks knew much about it. So in our second meeting, I asked one of the chancellors, vice chancellors, David Prior, who is in 3
  4. 4. charge of the nine academic campuses, very huge responsibility, if I could use the lunch break to do a live demo, and he agreed. And so we were all together at lunch, and I brought in, of course, Pathfinder Linden, some of my colleagues from the Educators Co-op, which my colleague Joe Sanchez and I co-founded a few years ago. Wonderful folks there. And then Troy McLuhan and some of our friends at NASA CoLab pretended to be rebuilding the International Space Station in the background and things like that, just to give them a taste of what this might be. And then at the end of the session, we took them to Dublin, teleported to Dublin, to drink a virtual beer and dance a little dance. That raised all kinds of questions around the table, particularly from the chancellor about cultural aspects, artistic aspects, social aspects of this Virtual World that is whole ‘nother domain of informal education complementing the more standardized or conventional kinds of educational curriculum we’re more familiar with. And then we didn’t hear anything for a long time, until the call for letters of intent came out just last January 2009, under this umbrella grant for transforming undergraduate education. So I’d have to say I think that vice chancellor David Prior got it right that day, as did vice chancellor Ken Shine who manages the six medical and health-science center campuses. They just got it right away. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s walk through some of the projects that are going on in Second Life. I think the one that I’d like to start with is--you’ll have to help me with the pronunciation here--Tracy Villarreal. LESLIE JARMON: Villarreal. Uh-huh. Tracy Villarreal. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And he’s an oceanographer and has an oceanography class. Can you just talk about what he’s put together? LESLIE JARMON: This is a marvelous example, everyone, and I really hope you do share this story back on your home campuses or in your states or wherever you’re from. Last spring semester, we had a design instructor, Riley Triggs, who--a design course, you teach your students, and you learn about the constructs of design. You’re supposed to learn how to create visual representations of any kind of knowledge domain. And I asked Tracy, “Well, what about marine science? What about oceanography?” And he said, “Oh, the domain doesn’t matter. The students have to learn how to do it for any domain.” So I said, “Well, what if we went to Second Life and that was their semester project, learning the concepts and constructs of design based on the learning objectives in your curriculum, but what they focused on was marine science?” And he loved the idea. He was one of those pioneer individual professors who’d been in Second Life, as had been Tracy Villarreal who is a professor of marine science here at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s actually located down in Port Aransas, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. So the two of them and the three of us teamed up together and got with our crew here at the Division of Instructional Innovation and Design, at the University of Texas, and really brainstormed together. 4
  5. 5. So what ended up, in a nutshell, was that Riley Triggs’ design class spent the entire spring semester learning design, but while they were building the underwater classroom and a research vessel in Second Life, that would become the classroom for Dr. Tracy Villarreal’s marine science and oceanography class which is being held right now in Second Life. So it gives a whole new meaning that we really couldn’t have done before to the idea of interdisciplinary collaboration and teaching where the class one semester in a different discipline actually builds the classroom for the class in another discipline. I think some of the images you’re seeing reflect that. So the students’ final project will be they’re collecting data. They’re learning how to use the sensors that the design folks and some of our wonderful scripters and collaborators in Second Life out there helped us all put together, and our team here at UT, which consists of our graduate research assistant Jessica Mullen and five amazing undergraduates on our team. They created the research vessel with the detectors and so forth, and the students are learning how to actually take samples of scientific data all in Second Life. And it’s part of the basic curriculum. So it’s a marvelous project. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So it’s highly interdisciplinary. One of the things that I find interesting is, this is one way to break out of the very siloed approach that most universities have, where the idea of having people who are in oceanography actually thinking about any sort of building or design or technical issues. Difficult to do in a university setting. Kudos on that. We talked a little bit about another case, which was the registrars. So this is out of the classroom and more on the administrative end where you have registrars meeting in Second Life, to do their jobs. Can you tell us about that? LESLIE JARMON: I’m so glad you asked about that, Rob. This is wonderful. Again, in their proposal, although the focus, of course, is on undergraduate education, included in the proposal are research activities, scientific activities of all kinds, as well as staff and administrative functions. We wanted to make sure that campuses felt that they could do anything with their three islands and that they included administrative staff in their discussions, in their training sessions, in their brainstorming. A case in point: At the University of Texas San Antonio, the president there appointed as campus lead the campus registrar, Joe De Cristoforo. So not only is he the registrar for the entire campus, and this is an academic campus with a full array of courses and students at all levels. He had already gone into Second Life months ago, as an individual--once again he’s a pioneer--and had gotten a little bit of land somewhere and started setting up, I think every two weeks they meet, meetings with other registrars from the other campuses. And what is so important about this is that it doesn’t always have to be about a class or office hours or discussion sessions, it can be that administrators begin to see the return on the investment for the time savings in creating new opportunities for collaboration and meetings and very basic pragmatic kinds of administrative and management activities that can be held in Second Life. 5
  6. 6. In a state as big as Texas, and I’m just being practical here, that’s a lot of nonproductive time spent traveling if you’re in a situation where you’re having to go from campus to campus, that’s just a lot of time and cost at a time with the economic downturn where-- we’re all looking for cost savings. So Joe De Cristoforo set up with six or seven registrars from the other campuses; they’ve been meeting in Second Life for quite a while, collaborating, sharing ideas, comparing notes and trying to improve their own systems. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a whole bunch of questions. I’d like to go back and get to some of these before we look at more cases. Olando7 Decosta’s asking, “Is the audience at large, the public, invited to any of the U of T activities in Second Life?” LESLIE JARMON: Oh, of course. Again, that’s a great question, Olando. I’ve been getting lots of emails, “Please, Leslie, send me the SLURL to the UT islands. Well, remember, a lot of these campuses and the campus leads had not even heard of Second Life until about six weeks ago. So in a wonderful collaboration partnership that Linden Lab very generously worked out with us prior to the grant being awarded, they appointed a _____ liaison to work with us and a special concierge to make sure--you know, we were purchasing 49 islands in one purchase, so it was a very big deal. Lots of spreadsheets involved. But all that collaboration went very well. But remember, these are new, undeveloped islands. Where the pre-existing islands existed at some of the university campuses that I mentioned before. Where they chose to do so, they were allowed to relocate and join this now large University of Texas system archipelago, but many of the islands have yet to be developed. We just haven’t had time. So again, every campus within our system is very autonomous, and they are deciding how they will develop the three islands. They may make some of the islands totally closed for administrative and research purposes. Other islands open to the public. Or, as many of you know, parceling out an island to different professors, different classes and courses where advents or conferences or final presentations might be open to the public. At other times, they may close them down to keep the students protected from griefers and so forth. But they’re all beginning to learn what it means to be estate managers, and we’re all learning and exploring and discovering together. So there’s a yes/no answer to Olando’s question. We have encouraged, however, every campus to reserve some land on one of their three islands as a public sandbox, at a minimum, to allow everyone to be able to come in. But remember, everybody, we’re at the beginning of a one-year project so most of the islands have yet to be developed, though I will say the campus leads have been coming up with some marvelous plans for what to do. I want to give a tip of the hat here to the medical and health-science center campuses, again, M.D. Anderson, University of Texas Southwestern, up in Dallas. They have really taken their imagination and their exposure to Second Life, taken that ball and run with it, so we hope to see some wonderful collaborations with other people outside of the University of Texas system. Really, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? And we open this 6
  7. 7. learning community, not just between the campuses, but to everybody. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So there are a number of questions that deal with, I guess, the confusion--I mean you’re an accredited university system, and then you’re also, to the extent that you open up to the broader community, Doubledown Tandino has a question which is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but he’s saying, “I’ve spent 250,000 hours in Second Life. Will those hours transfer into credits?” On a slightly more serious note, I see Jackie Rexen is asking about plans for distance learning, “Are there any plans for for-credit classes fully held in Second Life?” Do you see this panning out mostly as just a little bit of enhancement of traditional local teaching on the UT campuses? Or are you looking more at actually doing distance learning and providing people access to the University of Texas via Second Life? LESLIE JARMON: I think that these are wonderful questions, and, like everything else in Virtual Worlds, we’re at the threshold of really understanding, just beginning to understand, what this new Virtual World technology in an online, open more or less free platform is going to mean for all of us as human beings. I’ve kind of written about this as “homovirtuales”, a new dimension for human activity. So yes to all of these. Again, the different campuses have their different missions, and they’re pursuing different although related pathways. There is a tremendous interest in distance learning and extending or complementing distance learning classes into Second Life. The idea of just taking a basic traditional course and moving that into Second Life, in our pedagogical information and resources that we’re giving the campuses, we’re really encouraging people to understand that this is a different world. And when they do that, the data shows, and we have the data, as do many other people, that student engagement drops. They get bored. They get annoyed, and they give a lot of bad teacher reviews, the instructors. However, when the learning activities are designed creatively, using the affordances of Second Life, really folding in that experiential learning components and requiring the students to demonstrate their learning by building something or creating something or doing a public presentation, not just to their classmates inside a brick and mortar classroom, but to invited guests and experts from around the Metaverse of Second Life, who can give them critical feedback. When the learning activities are designed in those kinds of ways, the student engagement we know goes up. It increases. And when student engagement increases, the retention of their learning of course concepts increases. So yes to all of those, with a caveat that it’s very early, and we’re all learning and exploring together. Yeah. Does that help? ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. And I’ll just say the questions and the comments are coming fast and furious. What I want to do is cover a little bit, one more case study, and then we’re going to take our mid-show break, and, when we come back, it’ll be primarily Q&A. I’d also like to talk about research and metrics, which I know you are collecting. But before we get there, the last case I’d like to cover is, David Ford, at the Houston Medical Campus, is looking at pulling together some simulations of cancer cells. 7
  8. 8. As I understand it, the process by which you would do this is, in part, inspired by the simulation of a human ear and throat by Jim Ziegler, of Northern Michigan University. I believe we will have some images of that to show people. So just to be clear, that’s something done by Northern Michigan, not University of Texas. But can you talk about what it is you’re planning to do--or I should say Houston Medical Campus is planning to do looking at cancer research and education? LESLIE JARMON: Sure, and I thank you again, Rob, for asking that question. David Ford, he’s actually the campus lead for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which is one of the University of Texas campuses. There are two located in Houston. The other is the Health Science Center campus there at Houston. This is a marvelous process. Following some of the images--I hope you’re seeing those--that Jim Ziegler has created. He’s from Northern Michigan University, and he’s created with builders and scripters in Second Life--remember this is all about collaboration. I have a side note to remind me to say something about Jim in a second. So David saw some of these wonderful medical builds in Second Life, and there are many others, but these in particular, I think, captured his imagination. And, in their research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, he has already set up a collaboration. In fact, we’re going there next week to work with two high school teachers in the Katy Independent School District in Houston. One is a digital media class. The other is a computer science class. And the design students in the media class will actually be designing the anatomically correct and so forth--I don’t know all the specific details; this is not my language--of the cancer cells and the structure and the process. And the computer scientists will be learning Second Life language, the Linden language--scripting language, and actually be writing code to animate this dynamic model. And then builders and scripters in Second Life will take their designs, bring them into Second Life and actually bring these builds or simulations into fruition. It’s just a wonderful example of outreach in a vertical kind of way or horizontal kind of way beyond the boundaries of the brick and mortar M.D. Anderson school. And, if we have time, the last thing I want to say about Jim Ziegler is, we are in communication with Northern Michigan University right now, to invite Jim to become our first virtual visiting scholar here at the University of Texas Austin. He was running out of time he could stay on the land where he has those builds right now, and they’re just marvelous. So we have invited him to come be the first virtual visiting scholar, and we’re working out all the contract things about that, to move his build down to one of our undeveloped islands at the University of Texas Austin and begin collaborating with our wonderful Department of Communication and Speech Disorders and Sciences here. We have a big graduate program. He has a wonderful undergraduate program. So again, these examples begin to point toward, as many of you already know, the wonderful capacity to collaborate and break beyond the brick and mortar boundaries, not only of our campuses and campuses across campuses, but across states, and, of 8
  9. 9. course, across the country and the world. So we’re very excited about that opportunity, which has not yet been finalized, but we’re working on it. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, great! We’re at the halfway point of our show. To spice up our third year of broadcasting, we are this season splicing in excerpts of discussions from our archives. So we will be right back with Leslie Jarmon after we spend a couple minutes looking back. [VIDEO] ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: With Metanomics now in its third season, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our past shows and guests since September of 2007. With over 80 episodes to choose from, we chose some of the most interesting, engaging and occasionally contentious discussions. As always, you can see the complete episodes at metanomics.net or on our iTunes channel. ARCHIVE: HIGHER EDUCATION - NOVEMBER 26, 2007 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 9
  10. 10. 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 happening. 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. [END OF VIDEO] ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’re back with Leslie Jarmon, of the University of Texas, and we’re talking about the opportunities and challenges that this system sees in moving en masse into Second Life. Leslie, I’d like to start this last segment of the show by talking about research and metrics. The goal here, as I understand it, is not just to do things, but to collect enough data so you know what worked and what didn’t. Could you talk a bit about what you’re trying to do? LESLIE JARMON: Great, Rob. Yeah, the research component is very, very important to us so the design of the proposal is actually to collect data at three significant levels over the course of the year. The highest level or most meta level is collecting data at the stage of the system, that is to address the question: What does it look like when an entire public state system of higher education moves into a Virtual Worlds? So we’re collecting data on that since day one. We did rough pre-surveys of all the campuses, sort of the Second Life climate, which, in some cases, was zero, on the campuses before we started the grant. And then the campus leads and my team meets every two weeks in Second Life. And there were five questions that they address every week, and we’re tracking all of those. 10
  11. 11. Probably after December we’ll start gathering metrics on actual space and usage and object usage and participation and particularly, particularly collaboration across campuses, between campuses and with other campuses outside of the system. So in a nutshell, we’re collecting data at the system level, but we’re also collecting data at the campus level. Remember, these are 15 campuses, very, very diverse in nature, some simply because they’re medical or health-science center institutions, others because they’re academic institutions. So that already is a big difference. But also across the state of Texas, the different campuses have different levels of resources, different kinds of information technology support. They have different populations of faculty and students. And so those who decide to step forward and explore and discover and learn with us on their campus, on any given campus, can be very, very different. On one campus it might be engineers and art historians. On another campus it might be the nursing community that steps forward. So we’re collecting data at the campus level. And finally, although it’s not required, we have in place a pretty easy way for individual instructors at the campuses to collect data about the learning effectiveness, for example, of Second Life, for their course at the student level, at the individual course level, as well as research questions that individual faculty member may want. So we’ve moved beyond anecdotes. We’re collecting metrics and data at all three levels, and we then hope to be able to share that information, what have we learned, what obstacles did we face, how did we overcome them, what did we not overcome, what continues to be a problem and so forth. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thanks. We have a bunch of questions, one following up on what you were just talking about. Corcosman Voom is asking what lessons you have learned from other universities that have been in Second Life for a while. You’re not starting from scratch. Were you able to take what you learned from others’ successes and failures? LESLIE JARMON: That’s a wonderful question, and, again, as I said at the beginning, for me it’s all about collaboration and the extreme generosity of the educational community in Second Life. As I said, I’m one of the cofounders of the Educators Co-Op, and those members represent all different kinds of universities and campuses. Some are K through 12 teachers. I’ve learned so much from them, particularly not only at the level of the class, how to teach a class in Second Life or what seems to work and what doesn’t, but also taking a note, for example, from Ohio University. They have built a very representational kind of presence, in Second Life, of their campus. If you go to Athens, Ohio, and you walk across the campus, and then you log into Second Life, you will recognize some of the buildings in the space there. And that’s serving them very well, for a number of purposes: for development, for outreach, for recruitment to high school students and families. They can go to that Sim and see something that’s recognizable and not too far out or different, as they think about their child or daughter or son going to Ohio University. So there are many different tracks, 11
  12. 12. and we’ve learned a lot from everybody. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: This is also when you’re also supposed to say that you study all the Metanomics archives and have learned a tremendous amount from that. LESLIE JARMON: And I will say, about a year ago, I think, Rob, you interviewed Joe Santos and I on this show, and we talked about the Educators Co-op. It’s a wonderful website, everybody, so you can definitely go there and hear the various interviews. There’s so much to learn from the discussion sessions in 25 groups, which is all you can be in, and I’m having to switch one of those out every week because some new wonderful group is coming in. But we’ve learned from--SciLands. Please don’t let me forget to mention SciLands and the wonderful cooperation and collaboration with that marvelous consortium of agencies and organizations and communities of scientists and researchers and explorers in this Virtual World. They’ve been fantastic. We actually requested that our archipelago be located just across a little bit of water from the SciLands continent so that the population of people we’re going to be now able to bring into Second Life, whether that’s faculty, students, researchers, scientists or administrators, the first places they might fly to will be some of the incredible educational builds that are part of SciLands. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! Let me ask you about just a couple of the administrative difficulties that universities face. And the first one is about privacy. How do you maintain the level of privacy you need under various federal and state guidelines governing education? LESLIE JARMON: I assume that the questioner is asking specifically about FERPA and the privacy of students to their educational information and their private information. And so none of that is disclosed in Second Life. And when we work with training the estate managers and the campus leads from the different campuses, this is all dealt with in a very straightforward way. It’s absolutely imperative that we’re all compliant with FERPA regulations. At the same time, for example, if you take a final presentation in a class, that before a team of students may only have made their presentation to their classmates in the room and now they have the opportunity to make their presentation to experts and scholars and even another class maybe because in Second Life people teleporting in to see the presentations and get feedback from that, what you’ve done is enhanced the educational quality or enriched the educational experience for the students without violating their privacy or FERPA. But it is all something we all need to keep our eye on and pay attention to and be very careful always to be compliant with the FERPA regulations. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I know you’ve gotten some assistance from Linden Lab, and they wrote a press release about the University’s entry into Second Life. What have they done to ease your path here? 12
  13. 13. LESLIE JARMON: They’ve been really terrific. Pathfinder Linden was appointed as our initial liaison, and what that means is that I could call him on his cell phone when things started getting dicey. I want to give a tip of the hat to Brandon Linden, to George Linden, to Dee Linden and to Jay Linden. Jay does all the invoicing. And you can imagine 15 campuses ordering three islands each in this massive archipelago of purchase. So we just kept a very reasonable and calm but consistent communication flow with Linden Labs, and it’s worked out just seamlessly. The purchase of the islands went off great. The delivery of the islands, setting them up. We gave them an initial draft map of how we wanted things sort of laid out. That got done just very, very wonderfully. So the whole concierge service, all of the concierge service actually, at Linden Lab has been extremely helpful. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. Let’s see. We’ve got other questions. Here’s one from Valiant Westland, which is whether you see investing in virtual land and buildings perhaps lessening the University of Texas’s need to expand their real land and buildings. LESLIE JARMON: Boy! That’s a great question, and I have to say, though it was not specifically mentioned as part of the grant call for proposals, clearly one of the criteria, as I said, was lowering the cost of delivery of instruction, and that includes physical plant, hardware, energy consumption and everything else. So I do believe that this system and others as well--well, I don’t know what we need to do, but I would suggest that we keep our minds very, very open to discovering and understanding more about what Virtual Worlds mean to the human experience. And, if we’re able to provide and deliver university-level instruction to more people because of Virtual Worlds and we can invest more in faculty, we can invest more in content, we can invest more and redesign our pedagogical approaches this wonderful, experiential model that this particular Virtual World affords us and not spend that money on more parking lots and parking garages and buildings that, of course, leave a huge carbon footprint, I think we will see more universities using this space and, in a sense, be greener. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Donna Winsmore responded to Valiant’s comment by also saying that there is increased need for tech support, bandwidth, hardware, software and so on. I mean I have dealt with different groups, tech services for different enterprises, and it always seems like you’re either working with them or working around them. How would you characterize U of T’s tech services group? Are you working with them or working around them? LESLIE JARMON: I think that’s a wonderful question. And, again, it points again too that we’re working at the system level to provide the virtual infrastructure, but each campus is making its own choices and decisions about how they’re developing their entry into the Virtual World, how they’re going to develop their three islands. In some cases, it’s the IT person him- or herself who’s been appointed the campus lead. In other cases, we’re working with IT resources which may be less than on some campuses. So that tension is always there. Again, everybody, there’s never enough, right? 13
  14. 14. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Right. LESLIE JARMON: There are never resources or bandwidth or the computers or computer labs for all the things we want to do. But I will say to date, and we’re only four months into our one year, we’ve had wonderful collaboration across the board from IT units. And sometimes, I’ve been told this by some of the campus leads, it’s because it came from the system. Even though there may have been faculty on a campus in Second Life, trying to explore it, trying to take their students in, understand what it was, use it for teaching and learning or research or labs or office hours or whatever, it was when the chancellors made this very bold decision to provide the virtual infrastructure to all of the campuses system-wide, that that sent a different kind of message. Right? Because it had the authority and the credibility of the system behind it. So I think some folks maybe set up and sort of listened in a different way and perhaps now are perceiving those individual faculty members on their campuses in a little bit different light. Certainly respecting more their efforts to have been pioneers on their own campus, in this Virtual World, that now the system has validated. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: This is really changing gears, but Mercyblu Moorsider has a comment. She says, “I hope that education will be able to preserve the whimsical, eccentric aspects of Second Life, especially avatars. It would be sad to see everyone in a talking-head suit. Well, so here I am in my talking-head suit, but I’m certainly aware that there’s been concern among the non-enterprise users, as they see all the educators coming in and the business types coming in and want to make everything much more boring and real-life “businessy.” So I’m wondering, what do you see U of T doing? Do you think it’s going to be whimsical? LESLIE JARMON: Okay. Here’s how we are addressing that, and I know everybody’s doing this in different ways. As I said the complementary section to this grant, over half the money went to Linden Lab, to purchase all these islands, a huge investment, but a great return on investment there. The other part of the funding has gone to do training, provide resources and information. And, in that training, we are training trainers. We’re training estate managers, and we’re modeling hands-on in-service training for actual faculty at the different campuses. I’ll say it again, I must have said it ten times already, the theme or slogan or mantra of this entire initiative is virtual learning community, emphasis on learning. Our focus is on exploration. It’s on discovery. It’s on fun. We’re all learners again, which has a very joyful aspect to it. And, in our training for faculty, the hands-on for faculty, people say, “Oh, how should I make my avatar?” And my response is, “Well, you can make it into a refrigerator or a tree or a gift box.” One of the members of our Educators Co-op always shows up at meetings as a gift box. And, in the beginning, we wondered who the present was for, and then we realized it was Chris. So the playful, ludic nature--to be academic about it--of Second Life is something we have to explore. We’ve not begun, in my opinion, to scratch the surface of that whole 14
  15. 15. domain of engagement and the kinds of offerings that that lightness and whimsical spirit has for education, so we definitely are encouraging everybody to keep that open. Yes, I have on my business suit. I got a makeover. But we can all have so many avatars. We can look however we wish. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have time for one more question, and I’ll pick up a related one that just came in from Julala Demina, which deals with the other side of this. You’re bringing in a bunch of young adults to Second Life, a World that has lots of content that is usually viewed as inappropriate for students. How do you address that? LESLIE JARMON: That’s a wonderful question, and thank you for asking. Our administrators, that’s very often one of the early questions that they ask right at the beginning. I like to use the analogy of, well, it’s not an analogy, it’s the fact of whatever we do as human beings in the world, whatever kinds of intentions we have, hang-ups we have, interests we have in the world, many people who have access to the internet have found a way to realize those kinds of activities on the internet. And school systems and university systems around the planet, where there is access to the internet, have not hesitated to make that technology available to students, to use as a tool for learning and exploration and everything else. So whatever you find in real life, we find on the internet. And then I say, if we think of Virtual Worlds as simply a three-dimensional extension of all of that human activity from the internet into a virtual dimension, you’re still going to find everything that people have an intention to do, and so if we be sure and include our teachings of ethics and responsible behavior. Linden Lab already has an 18-year-old minimum age limit to join. And even though that’s violated sometimes. But just as we do when people are admitted to the University of Texas, they have an ethics agreement that students sign off on and are informed about and that kind of behavior. So I think we have to respect people’s ability to take responsibility for their own decisions and, at the same time, keep them informed that, yes, these things are out there and do with them as we do on the internet or in our own homes. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Well, thank you, Leslie Jarmon, for coming all this way to Metanomics Island and telling us about the University of Texas’s initiative there. So best of luck to you and to statewide university system. LESLIE JARMON: Thank you. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I should mention, as I’ll mention at the very end of the show, we’re actually going to be hearing more from the University of Texas and some researchers in a center studying brain science next week on Metanomics. So again, thank you, Leslie. LESLIE JARMON: Thank you so much, Rob, for having us here, and please keep your 15
  16. 16. IMs and your emails coming, and we’ll share as much as we can as quickly as we can. We have a small team, and we’ve got a lot facing us right now, but we are most excited about the collaboration with all of you. So thank you so much. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We now move to the closing opinion segment of Metanomics: Connecting The Dots. If you are an educator or you have kids in school, you’re probably hearing a lot about H1N1, otherwise known as swine flu. Here at Cornell, we have had hundreds of cases so far, one death already, and the campus is positively swimming in hand sanitizer, instructions on how and when to wash our hands, how to cover up when we sneeze and any number of techniques that will curtail the spread of this flu. So there’s one bit of advice I’m not hearing, but I wish I were. Use Virtual Worlds. Now enterprises and educators are already in Virtual Worlds because of all the things that Leslie Jarmon, from the University of Texas, talked about today. It allows a high degree of engagement, modeling, exercises, no travel costs, which are such a big cost of face-to-face contact. H1N1 raises the cost of face-to-face contact, even if travel consists only of leaving your office, walking down the hall and taking a seat in a crowded room. In fact, the U.S. government has been taking a very close look at proposals to close down schools, to lower the peak attack rates of flu. That’s the greatest number of people sick in an area at any one time. It turns out the peak attack rates are a big concern because they can overwhelm the health-care system. And if you’ve been watching news today, you’ll see that actually the state of Michigan is having a number of school closures and a lot of concerns today about swine flu. Now the Brookings Institute has reported on the controversy over school closures because they are so costly. Part of the cost is that education is interrupted and that costs cash when the schools make up the missed time later, and it also harms educational outcomes because kids don’t just stand still during an interruption, they actually go backwards. The other big cost of school closing comes in the form of worker absenteeism as parents stay home with their kids, rather than going to work, even if the parents are healthy. So the Brookings Institute estimates that the absenteeism cost is about $142 per child per week that a school is closed. Now they’ve been saying that widespread school closings are still seeming pretty unlikely for this particular epidemic, though looking at today’s news makes me wonder. And certainly Virtual Worlds aren’t yet in a position to provide a large-scale solution. But, next time around, they really had better be. Virtual Worlds allow education to continue through the epidemic, and they also allow parents to telecommute more effectively so they reduce the costs of worker absenteeism. And, more generally, Virtual Worlds provide a cheap way to collaborate, whether it’s in schools or other enterprises, without the risk of spreading illness in the first place. So maybe I’ve missed it, but I just haven’t seen people talking publicly about the role Virtual Worlds can play in epidemics. Now I understand no one wants to sound like they’re 16
  17. 17. rooting for disasters because it’s good for their business, but, really, someone needs to. After all, we spend so much time thinking about the wonderful things Virtual Worlds might be able to do in the future, but shouldn’t we also be spending time thinking about what terrible outcomes Virtual Worlds might prevent. In fact, you know what? Let’s broaden our focus. What about other disasters? The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) helpfully provides a list of the disasters under their jurisdiction. So here we go, in alphabetical order. We have: Chemical emergencies, dam failure, earthquake, fire, flood, hazardous material, heat, hurricane, landslide, nuclear power plant emergency, terrorism, thunderstorm, tornado, tsunami, volcano, wildfire and winter storm. Now note they don’t include pandemic. I think that’s because it’s under the jurisdiction of the Centers for Disease Control, and they don’t include nuclear war, perhaps because no one wants to even think about it. But, again, someone does need to think about these issues and determine what role Virtual Worlds can play. To get you started, I’d just like to note the two key dimensions we need to be thinking about. First, to what extent does the disaster create the need for virtual collaboration? What about the need for personal engagement during those meetings, which is the difference between Virtual Worlds and, say, telephones? If you think getting together in a Virtual World provides only a little bit more personal connection than a phone call, well, remember, every little bit counts a lot when you’re worried about friends and family. Second, to what extent does the disaster damage the infrastructure on which Virtual Worlds rely? Virtual Worlds are not a great solution to nationwide blackouts. So if you look at it this way, epidemics provide something of a perfect storm for Virtual Worlds. They generate a strong demand for high engagement, distance collaboration, and they cause little damage to our infrastructure. So this seems to me to be the right place to start. As I said, I know no one wants to use disasters and misfortunes to hawk their product, but, if you sincerely believe that your product can help society and diminish the cost of a very serious problem, you’re not being selfish, you’re being a good citizen. So, citizens, let’s start talking. Okay, well, that’s all I have to say today. Join us next week when we talk about brain science and substance abuse therapy in Second Life. We will be joined by Dick Dillon, known in Second Life as Coughran Mayo, who’s been using Virtual Worlds to treat adolescents for substance abuse issue. We will also be joined by Sandra Chapman and Dan Krawczyk, of the University of Texas Dallas Center for Brain Health. They have been using Virtual Worlds, and Second Life in particular, to examine the role that Virtual Worlds can play in understanding and treating autism spectrum disorders. So that should be a very interesting show. Please do join us Wednesday, October 28th, at noon Pacific Time. And, don’t forget, you can see over 80 hours of Metanomics in our archives at metanomics.net and on iTunes. Bye bye. 17
  18. 18. Document: cor1069.doc Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com http://hiredhandtranscription.org Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer 18