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:

Hope to see you there!

Spreading the Word: New Opportunities in Health Literacy

It has been an exciting few months for our work in health literacy.  We are thrilled with the opportunities that continue to arise; opportunities to spread the word about health literacy to our peers, professors, and the occupational therapy community at large.  As we continue to learn about health literacy, we are increasingly convinced of its importance and transformative power in health care.

I recently read Helen Osborne’s book entitled Health Literacy from A to Z.  Osborne talks extensively about how all health care professionals can change the way they interact with clients and promote health literacy.  This makes the health care environment more accessible to all of our clients.  We’re now reading the book as a team and working hard to apply the principles we’ve learned to our other projects.  It is exciting to see my own writing and observation skills improving particularly in our work in Second Life ®.

Our updated Diabetes exhibit include a “Living with Diabetes Listening Station” featuring one individual’s experience managing their blood sugar.

When you visit the Garden of Healthy Aging, you’ll notice that we are updating our exhibits to be more user-friendly and provide information more clearly.  In addition, we’re working to update our wiki pages.  This is one of the most exciting ways to apply our knowledge of health literacy in writing, formatting, and design.  Our hope is that we can create a useable site that provides a lot of “need to know” information in a way that people of all different reading levels can understand.  We are making progress towards our goal, but still have a long way to go and a lot to continue learning!

We are excited to announce that Pfizer Inc. granted us permission to use their “Newest Vital Sign”, a health literacy screen for clients, within our Second Life ® exhibit.  This will give users the opportunity to test their level of health literacy as well as tips for improving health literacy.  We hope to empower clients to take a greater control in their health and gain confidence in asking health professionals questions.

Dr. Toth-Cohen, PhD, OTR/L is currently developing a course in health literacy for students in a variety of professions at Thomas Jefferson University. This is a great opportunity to help future health professionals gain a greater understanding of the importance of health literacy and how they can interact most effectively with their patients.  This class also comes a time when the occupational therapy department at Thomas Jefferson is looking to incorporate the principles of health literacy into the curriculum.  We presented to the faculty about health literacy which opened to the door for great discussion about the future of health literacy within the department and the future of our project

Annalisa, Dr. Toth-Cohen, and I will be presenting at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association conference this September  about why health literacy matters to occupational therapists.  This is an exciting opportunity to have our work recognized by other occupational therapists in our state and for us to encourage them to integrate health literacy principles into their area of practice.  We are looking forward to sharing what we have learned and hope to be a catalyst for change within occupational therapy practice.

This is a thrilling time of change and progress with our program and I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of it!  My hope is that others will continue to catch the dream that we have and empower others to change the way the health care system operates.  We are hoping to have many more opportunities to spread the word.

Health Literacy Grant

This fall, we were funded by the Jefferson School of Health Professions‘ (JSHP) Research and Scholarship program to develop a program that uses Second Life as a training center for JSHP graduate students in occupational therapy. This program is designed to help students learn best practices for promoting health literacy in older adults by implementing evidence-based consumer education.

The current phase of the program provides students in the Fall 2011 class, Older Adults and Their Living Environments with the opportunity to learn about health literacy and develop a presentation on area relevant to older adults.  The four participating students, Mollie Bear, Bonnie Bennett, Aly Binck, and Lauren Lovinger first attended a presentation on basic tenets of health literacy. They then developed and presented talks on Transitioning to the Caregiving Role and  Staying Involved throughout Life. These talks will be summarized in a subsequent post.

Promoting Occupational Therapy in Virtual Environments

Promoting Occupational Therapy in Virtual Environments

On Friday April 15, Veronica, Elizabeth, Kaitlin, and I presented our poster at AOTA, Promoting_OT_virtual_env. [BTW, I tried to avoid using a colon as recommended but could not take it out for some reason! See Colin Purrington’s guide to successful poster presentation for a humorous look at colon use.]
Many people stopped by, and there appeared to be a lot of interest. The students did a great job fielding questions and discussing the process of exhibit and event development. Common questions included “how long did it take you to create each exhibit” (about 3 months altogether) and “do you have any idea how many people have seen this?”

Mental Health, GO!

Our newest venture is beginning! We have begun preliminary research for our newest exhibit: Mental Health. This is an exciting time, for all of us involved in the project; and for me, personally because mental health is an area of clinical interest.  My fellow students, Katie (Angelica) and Elizabeth (Zunie) are investigating depression and I am researching addiction. Before we ventured out on our own to our respective topics, we went to visit a Mental Health exhibit already being displayed on HealthInfo Island in Second Life. The exhibit there was created by DrFran Babcock (RL: Fran Babiss) and highlights famous people who have a mental health diagnosis such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Our team spent a while visiting this exhibit; it provoked interesting conversation about the secrecy surrounding these celebrities diagnoses. We discussed at length about how there is still a stigma surrounding mental health diagnoses that often proves detrimental to people’s well-being because they wait too long to seek help. Hopefully this exhibit and the new one at the OT Center at Jefferson will help to bring Mental Health back into the forefront of people’s minds, in terms of Occupational Therapy and beyond.

Needless to say, there is so much information available on both topics.  So far in my research on addiction, I am noticing that over the past five years there has been a lot of focus on brain chemistry, genetics, veterans, and pain as they all relate to addiction in various ways.  I haven’t delved too deep into the research yet as we are just trying to get a general idea of what is happening in the field so we can make our exhibit as relevant as possible. It will be challenging for us will be to whittle down to the most important issues and connect the implications for both depression and addiction in terms of health and participation in life since there is so much information available.

One of the goals of Occupational Therapy is to treat the whole person and drug/alcohol addiction affects many different facets of an individual’s life. I find this connection exciting because as OTs, we will be able to assist people struggling with addiction in many different ways that take into account each person’s individual situation.  Please stay tuned for our updates as we continue our research!

Healthy Aging Exhibit Nears Completion


Healthy Aging Exhibit


Weekly meeting activities


Stress Management Area in Progress

Masters students doing Second Life final projects and grad assistants have been hard at work developing the exhibits for the soon-to-be-launched Healthy Aging exhibit. This exhibit expands the previous Garden of Healthy Aging considerably and has its own separate site to accommodate the larger scale and number of prims.  It will be accessible from the OT Center at Eduisland 2 via landmark.

Zsuzsa will present the Healthy Aging project at the annual Gerontological Society of America meeting. The conference theme this year is Creative Approaches to Healthy Aging.

Renovated Adaptation Home Nears Completion

Discussing renovations to the adapted home

Discussing renovations to the adapted home

Last night we met with Kathee Gibbs (top photo, far left) to discuss final renovations to the Adapted Home. We have a duplicate of the home at our sandbox where we experiment. Kathee made some suggestions that Sweeney (“Holodeck queen,” pink jacket) will put in place and was very pleased overall with the displays. Later on, Plato Pizzicatto (our collaborator from Penn State Abington, white shirt) stopped by. Carly Charlesworth also stopped by unexpectedly (and serendipitously). Carly provided insights and suggestions from her experiences of severe sciatica when she used a wheelchair and crutches.

The renovation gives visitors the option to click on the light switch for each room (labeled holo-emitter, above) and choose Mobility, Cognitive, or Low Vision scenes.  Additional information can be accessed by clicking the icon board in each room (labeled more info, above). Grad student Lynnze Inglewood has done the scripting for the boards. We will also launch a Wiki that provides web links and information about home adaptations, universal design, and healthy aging (which we will renovate next with particular attention to psychosocial issues in aging). We expect to announce an Open House upon completion of renovations next week or early the following week.

IRB Approval of Program Evaluation: A SecondLife® Milestone

Our application for exemption was approved! We’ll be doing a program evaluation of the OT Center at Jefferson in Second Life. I expected questions from the IRB (ethics board) about the methods/aims and so on, but…nothing. I have to credit grad student Alana Scorbal for the literature review she wrote and which we used, in part, as the opening text justifying our application:

Virtual reality is emerging as a new venue in the educational arena through the use of a virtual world called Second Life® (Stott, 2007). Second Life® is an online three-dimensional world in which individuals assume online personas called avatars that interact with one another in simulated environments (Boulos, Hetherington, & Wheeler, 2007). Virtual worlds can be utilized in any number of contexts, such as public education and health care (Skiba, 2007). According to Woodford (2007), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) utilize Second Life® in order to encourage health promotion and education to the public. A reported nine million users, or avatars, have ventured into this virtual world and dozens of colleges have leased space in Second Life® (Bugeja, 2007).

According to Babiss (2007), the therapeutic and educational benefits of Second Life® have only begun to be discovered. Occupational therapy needs to seize new opportunities beyond traditional boundaries (Pattison, 2006)and become entrepreneurs in this new field technology that is virtual reality. Current technology, such as Second Life, can assist occupational therapy in advancing the profession by reaching audiences that were inaccessible in the past to inform the public of the valuable information this profession holds (Babiss, 2007).

Thanks are also extended to Rachelle Munro for her helpful guidance. Rachelle conducted a study via Texas A&M in which I participated. I applied her ideas about recruitment and informed consent to our program evaluation. Additionally, Kathee Gibbs’s generous donation to our center will enable us to provide lindens as honoraria for participation in the evaluation.

We applied for exemption as follows:

Research activities in which the only involvement of human subjects will be in one or more of the following categories are exempt from IRB review. Please check those items that apply to your research.
_(2) Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures or observation of public behavior, unless: (i) information obtained is recorded in such a manner that human subjects can be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects; and (ii) any disclosure of the human subjects’ responses outside the research could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, or reputation.

So, good to go! We’re looking forward to the process itself and of course, to finding out what people think of our exhibits. Let me know if you’d like more information about the application for your own IRB/Ethics board proposals.

My Second Life® experiences as a Grad student

I originally joined SL in February, 2008 as my graduate research project. The OT Center was already up and running. I worked with Zsuzsa (my teacher/mentor, Susan Toth-Cohen) and other grad students to produce exhibits using PowerPoints, videos, and some interactive displays and quizzes. With each new exhibit, I feel the Center is becoming more interactive and fun! Collaborating with other disciplines and groups in SL has been beneficial to me and the Center to produce more informative, interactive displays.


Working on the latest exhibit, Adaptive Environments, has really helped me hone in my knowledge and skills I have learned so far at Jefferson and apply it universally to any population. Trying to simulate a home in SL that illustrates the barriers people can face in RL has been challenging. I am still a newbie as far as building, but I did make a few things and plan to undertake some more to enhance the exhibit.


I am learning how to make a video of the Adaptive Environments exhibit. I intend to use it as part of a teaching module for the undergraduate OT students at my school who are taking that class in RL. I hope to show them the benefits of using 3-D worlds to gain a better understanding of the learning material as opposed to typical classroom settings.


For my preliminary project, I have collected and analyzed initial survey data. Now I have revised the survey questions and will use the analysis of this new data for my final research project. The new survey is more comprehensive and includes an optional follow-up interview. Overall the preliminary data was positive and I am hopeful that the new data will bring similar positive results.

So stop by the OT Center at Eduisland II and check out our displays and if you can….take the current survey. Please check back frequently for information about the new survey and program evaluation. J

Thanks, Alana Scorbal

Generous Donation to Expand Adapting Environments Exhibit

The IM came in out of the blue, from Kathee Gibbs, whom I’d never met. She and partners Lucinda Bergbahn and Pecos Kid were finalists in the Second Life and the Public Good: A Community Challenge from USC. Kathee IM’d because she wanted to talk to me about donating the award Lindens to our Center. When we had a chance to talk yesterday, I found out that we shared the same idea for a program development project in Second Life: educate people about adaptations that can be put in place at home, to improve daily life. Specifically, Kathee’s proposal was to “provide a tool that persons with mobility impairment can easily and cost effectively access to explore ways in which they can improve accessibility in their homes and thus the quality of their daily lives. ” We met at the OT Center to talk, and Kathie shared her ideas about how the adaptation exhibit at the Center might be further developed to incorporate more interactivity and consumer choice.

Kathie and Zsu discuss ideas for expansion of the adapted home

Kathie and Zsu discuss ideas for expansion of the adapted home

Today, Kathie told me she discussed the donation with partners Lucinda Bergbahn and Pecos Kid, who gave the green light to provide funding to our Center! I’m amazed at their generosity and so pleased to know that their gift will enable us to expand our work and, we hope, benefit persons with and without disabilities and raise awareness of the possibilities that can be achieved through home adaptation.