Virtual Worlds, Best Practices in Education Conference (VWBPE) 2015

On Saturday, March 21 at 10 am EDT (7 am SLT), I will present  7 Years of Adaptation and Renewal in Second Life at VWBPE 2015.

Please see the full description of this and other presentations at: http://vwbpe.org/conference/vwbpe-2015-calendar

Hope to see you there!

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Relationships in Second Life

As graduate students new to Second Life, we continue to learn about the similarities and differences between “real life” and the virtual world. For example, we know that in both, technology adds a new layer to the ways we define and experience relationships. But, while we are very familiar with how people communicate through texting, email, and various social media outlets in real life (RL), we wanted to understand the relationship experience in Second Life (SL). Do people build and maintain relationships differently than in “RL”? How are relationships structured in SL? Do SL and RL relationships overlap?

relationships_002Our preparations for this event differed from our past events, which were largely scripted, beginning with an informative presentation and leading into open discussions. Since we are SL newcomers, we felt that our points of view on this topic did not hold much value. We went in with quotes from users found on community forums, a few relevant statistics on SL relationships, and some formulated questions to guide the discussion. From there, the attendees took the reins.

The attendees expressed a sort of translation between SL and RL social behaviors and relationships of any kind—friendship, companionship, or romantic: there are boundaries, norms, and expectations. With that said, some individuals indicated that SL is a place where they can compensate for challenges in RL, such as disabilities, relationship troubles of their own, or self-esteem issues. As explained in Leshed & McLeod’s (2012) article and shown throughout the discussion, people in SL reveal their “layers” in different arrangements than in RL: “…individuals share experiences, emotions, and who they are from the inside while holding back information such as material life name, contact details, occupation, and age.”

This goes hand-in-hand with “alt-avis,” a theme discussed in depth. People use these to adopt identities for different purposes—education, social interactions, etc. The majority of attendees expressed their choices to keep their identities separate. There seemed to be no overlap between these avis; lives were organized and structured on SL accordingly. Dr. Boellstorfff’s talk delves deeper into the structure of the SL community and how individuals with disabilities fit into these communities.

We left the discussion with the realization that Second Life relationships are not different from RL. In our lives, we take on different identities that we share…or don’t share…depending on the context. We often separate our professional life from our social life, and although we don’t call it an “alt-avis,” isn’t that what it really is? The only difference is that in RL, our external layers are the first to show. With the use of technology, however, this line is being blurred, and the ways in which we reveal our layers is jumbled. The discussion was an educational insight into the world virtual relationships, as well as a way to understand interactions in all dimensions.

Health Care Panel on Metaverse TV

Health care panel on Metaverse TV, July 2010

Metaverse TV’s panel on health care in Second Life was a lively discussion that included the challenges of ensuring service quality, turf issues in academia, and support of telemedicine on par with face to face treatment. The segment can be found here, the panel starts at about (time marker) 20.09. I participated along with Tymeless Sands, a psychotherapist; Saxet Uralia, a health care educator; and Kaznats Oh, an ICU nurse who wrote an illustrated book on heart disease.

Metaverse Health Care Panel July 2010


Our host Scorpinosis Nightfire kept the discussion going with probing questions and comments revealing his take on the topic. His remark that “Second Life is so much more than a game” sums up the session and reminds me of another quote I frequently use from Bill Freese, “serious work in a cartoon world.” Along those lines, Tymeless Sands discussed how she uses Second Life to extend her real life work in behavioral health. Tymeless also let us know about a current bill in the House of Representatives (#5025) that extends behavioral health implementation via telemedicine, such as facilitating distance clinical consultations in rural and underserved areas. It’s interesting to note that there are now 12 states that now mandate telemedicine coverage
The panel seemed to end all too soon, and Sporpinosis made us all promise to return for Part 2. Saxet suggested that we might even be able to do this for SLCC–stay tuned.

Virtual World, Real Learning: Graduate Students discuss Second Life® project

The Evaluation Begins…

The program evaluation commenced on November 8, 2008 with opening of the Garden of Healthy Aging and the reopening of the Adaptation Home and Main Building exhibits. The Garden of Healthy Aging provides interactive displays in a serene setting to allow one to discover various ways to keep your mind and body active as you age. The Adaptation Home permits the user to explore (with or without a wheelchair) different ways to modify a home to increase safety and independence when a limitation is present in mobility, vision, or cognition. house_and_ha_exhibit

The Main Building encompasses informative videos, materials, and quizzes on a range of health topics, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, backpack awareness, and assistive technology.

So far, the overall opinions from the participants have been positive! We have had 29 participants take the survey and 20 of whom have taken part in follow-up interviews to further elaborate on their impressions of the exhibits.

Ø 86% of respondents strongly agree/agree that visual, interactive 3-D displays help them learn better than reading the same material on a 2-D website.

Ø 79% of respondents strongly agree/agree that the information given in the exhibits at the OT Center in SL will be beneficial to them in real life.

The interviewees have given complimentary and constructive feedback which we will use to enhance the exhibits to maximize the learning experience for user.

There were some difficulties during the preparation stage. Things did not go exactly as planned, but in the spirit of the Adaptation Home exhibit as well as occupational therapy, we ADAPTED and OVERCAME. We modified some of our original plans (using holodecks throughout the house) to an interactive, well-received display that illustrates typical problems and adaptations that can be made. 

We hope you will stop by the Jefferson OT Center @ Eduisland II and explore our exhibits…Please check back on the blog for updates as the data continues to be collected and analyzed.

Thanks, Alana Scorbal

Reflections on a year in Second Life®: What have we learned?

Looking at the video I produced about our work in Second Life® last year, I’m struck by some important differences then and now:

  • a shift to project-based work – instead of seeing virtual worlds as a place to hold classes (and create rather traditional looking classrooms to house them), take a primary theme (Living Life to its Fullest) and build exhibits around it related to our aims in Second Life®
  • use interactive media whenever possible to provide education. Displays such as slide shows have their place but should be used minimally.
  • create a structure for projects through regular meetings
  • collaborate with other health professionals, persons with disabilities, and others to create experiences within virtual worlds.
    On some level, I think I “knew” these things were best practices a year ago, but experience provides a deeper, richer understanding and commitment.
    For a description of current work, see the updated YouTube video at:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1gFem4YnWA

It’s all about immersion..

Adaptation stations inside the exhibit at the occupational therapy center at Jefferson

Adaptation stations inside the home modifications exhibit at the occupational therapy center at Jefferson

Ideas about immersive education have gained considerable momentum recently. The new educational grid from Sun Microsystems, Project Wonderland, has stimulated even more discussion than previously. The gist of immersive education (as well as other aspects of Second Life such as identity) is summarized well in a podcast from Cynthia Calongne. I had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia (Lyr Lobo) at the Sledupotential workshop at NECC, where she led the group in a building project. Hearing the podcast, I can easily understand Lyr’s interest and expertise in building as a tool for learning, as well as a learning activity in itself. In the podcast, she discusses how abstract science concepts come alive for her computer science students.
I found similarities in the themes about immersive education from Lyr’s podcast and a number of publications including Seng and Edirisinghe’s article about teaching computer science in SL and Dickey’s frequently cited Teaching in 3D: Pedagogical Affordances and Constraints of 3D Virtual Worlds for Synchronous Distance Learning that directly apply to the OT Center’s most recent exhibit on Adapting Environments for Daily Life. As one visitor put it:

This is great information! I didn’t realize this would apply to us … a house with seniors in it.

She had read about the hazards of things like throw rugs and heard about adaptations, but it was not until she experienced the exhibit that the message really came through.

Slipping and falling on a throw rug

Slipping and falling on a throw rug


So, we’ll keep racking our collective brains to come up with more ideas on how to engage visitors and provide educational messages they’ll remember. Stay tuned…