lunedì 26 gennaio 2009

Education & Medicine in Second Life

My presence in Second Life started in June 2007, and as soon as I entered I started to learn as much as I could of this environment.

This lead me to teach building things to other residents through one of the major groups of teachers: TUI University. Their aim was teaching for the love of teaching.

These words reflected my thoughts, as I’ve been a real life teacher on subjects such as biology, chemistry, genetics, math, English and last but not least computer.

Teaching needs to be driven by a special aspect of yourself: the capability of help people and give/transmit information. That’s what takes us here today. We all want to discover and overcome new frontiers.

Now my experience and knowledge about Second Life is performed by being a volunteer mentor for newcomers and a business/institution SL projects developer, specialized in scientific matters and medicine, subject that I am also ending study in real life.

I just want to point out that many residents (especially Europe based) think that Second Life is only another game platform. This is due in my opinion because often media talked about it, as a game environment.

But another reason is also that we have a minor EU/rest of the world presence of educational institutions/colleges and language barriers. Also we do not have still a significant European number of credited courses entirely performed in SL. This takes also down the count of related papers released.

Immersive environment can be the focal point of a successful course in SL.

The presence/being there was a study performed by Baumgartner T, Speck D, Wettstein D, Masnari O, Beeli G, Jäncke L. of the Institute of Psychology, Department of Neuropsychology, University of Zurich Switzerland.
It was called: Feeling present in arousing virtual reality worlds: prefrontal brain regions differentially orchestrate presence experience in adults and children.

It showed how adults and children have a different response in a VE. The experience of presence in adult subjects was found to be modulated by two major strategies involving two homologous prefrontal brain structures. In contrast, there was no evidence of these two strategies in children. In fact, anatomical analyses showed that these two prefrontal areas have not yet reached full maturity in children. Taken together, this study presents the first findings that show activation of a highly specific neural network orchestrating the experience of presence in adult subjects, and that the absence of activity in this neural network might contribute to the generally increased susceptibility of children for the experience of presence in VEs.

What does it mean? It means that this difference is what we have to turn in our favor when we set up a course in a VE. Making people feel present in a virtual reality, but not forgetting the ludic part of the educative process that is a natural feature in children.

I have noticed that people/students carried inworld by institutions, are more incline to lose this ludic part, due to the fact they are in a way “obliged” to perform all the necessary steps to accomplish them for the course/class acknowledgement.

An easy way to bypass this is to have a friendly approach in presenting the environment to students, and more of all, to make them first feel secure by learning the use of the platform itself.

There could be another university resource: students may be recruited directly inworld, because they are on the platform for other reasons, and could be interested in taking credited courses, attending class courses from the start to the end and not needing platform pre training.
As a minor limit to VE education, we should also mention the limits of been able to connect to the platform due to connection issues or hardware problems.

Students and teachers use 'avatars'—digital representations of themselves that they have created.

Avatars can be of any forms, some bizarre too. Avatars may play a crucial role in the success of failure of education in such space.
“Baylor and Ryu (Baylor, A. L. & Ryu, J. Does the presence of image and animation enhance pedagogical agent persona? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 2003, 28, 373–95) for example, report that students tend to gravitate toward pedagogical agents (automated tutors) with avatars that closely resemble their own real life appearances. Ethnic groups, for example, might be more comfortable studying with a tutor whose avatar represents a member of the same ethnic group, whilst younger students would be attracted to studying with a teacher who was represented digitally as being 'cool' or 'hip'.” This is applicable in all education fields that are performed in a VE.

Second Life requires a different approach in training:

We, as NEWCOMERS TEACHERS HELPERS AND SOLUTION PROVIDERS, need a reworking of the TRAINING OF TRAINEERS in synergy with their outworld skills in training and distance learning techniques.

The role of the teacher in the virtual reality is enriched by their background experience and adapted to an environment that, as we shall see, can amplify perceptions first in the teacher and then in students, involving them in both ways.

In Second Life a teacher is able to perform a learning experience to individual or group participants.

Thus he can choose to

-collaborate or not with colleagues in a group teaching class setup
-to use more or less attractive methods
-to use formal-informal methodologies
-to teach with a direct one teacher/one student approach
-or group teaching/group learners approach

always exploiting the student predisposition to learn through the three-dimensional perception of the immersive environment.

The 3D environment involves:

-Virtual space immersive environment involvement in teaching.

-Latest viewer downloaded and knowledge of the best of its functions (knowledge and use of special features always in constant deployment by Linden Labs and third parties involved in the process of expansion and renovation of the platform).

-Simulation scenarios real or invented.

-Ludic learning.

-Teamwork and team learning based on knowledge sharing,

-Learning from mates, especially among people just jumped inworld (younger students learn how to easily from their age residents)

-Immediacy and effectiveness of communication through non-verbal attitudes (gestures expressed through avatar).

After all this we can say that teacher learns or has learned to use the interface first, as he/she must acquire specific skills in-world.

So we have a duality in learning:

Train teacher to the platform<>train teacher to perform virtual learning.

It needs time to overcome this first steps of teacher training and make him/her get used to virtual techniques for training others, plus we shall have to work on the training targeted projects implementation.

Student, who has not already gained experience in Second Life, must therefore assimilate skills and tasks and then devote themselves to the discipline proposed by the course that they choose to follow.

Continuing our little journey the next slides will show you the steps a newbie/noob has to make in order to be able to act in a VW as Second Life.

The necessary steps to act in Second Life are:

- Learn how to fly and move

- Learn how to type and interact

- Learn interface basics and buttons

- Learn how to set preferences submenus

- Learn how to voice chat

- Learn avatar customization

- Learn how to customize profile

- Learn how to make a snapshot and add it to profile

- Learn how to build

- Learn what is a script and how to reset it or make it run

- Learn how to use aids and tools

All these steps are BOTH required to be performed either by teachers and students.

Teachers usually enter Second Life first to learn all what they need and to setup the environment. Students and collaborators enter inworld in successive waves.

Some of these steps may be aided by providing some tutorials and video links directly on the main Edu-institution website, in order to manage better the mass incoming of new students, that can be an issue when performed all in the same time and submerge the host/teacher avatar of questions on how to do this – how to do that.

Education has many features of Second Life to take advantage of

• Teacher Avatar
• Class or environment tools
• Classes
• Boards & Notecards readers for frontal class approach or conferences
• Holoclasses to change class settings in seconds accordingly to subject
• Land options to stream video and audio
• Group features
• Chat conferences
• Team training performances
• Notice alerts
• Immersive Environment teaching settings
• Scripted objects/hud
• Quiz Menus
• Multiple choices paths
• Trivia

We can talk about these tools deeply but due to short time we have, I shall mention just 2 important tools.

The boards are becoming over and over more suitable for edu purposes decreasing the number of prims (objects) used to make them run. Notecard readers are commonly used to help a fluid chat speech.

Huds together with hologram classrooms provide a fast environment setup that can be changed in a few seconds to meet class subject/needs.

The others tools described can be adapted to the various kinds of classes taught.

Group chat can be useful for team training as it is a restricted area-chat to only group members.

Medicine in SL can exploit all these tools plus be effective with the most powerful representation in a VE: 3D modeling.

3D modeling via sculpted object is a common feature of SL, because of its shaping objects directly with a smooth modeled surface instead of using a large number of basic shape to achieve the final structure. It is also a way to save number of objects on a land. Land prim count is one of the major obstacles in setting up a complete perfect project. To avoid this is sometime useful build things or have an estimated prim count before buy insufficient land. (my 2 cents of experience).

These 3D models can be used as teaching students or have simulation trainings. If they are implemented with scripts inside, they can be a perfect example of physiology process streams.

I have discovered recently in SL a place where it seems they have reproduced a sort of labyrinth made with human vessels tunnels where there was a texturized/3d red blood cells flow. We can imagine to better this installation by recreating the entire human body using one or more islands/sims to achieve the best medicine tridimensional environment.

As we said, general SL education methods and goals, are valid also to teach and train in scientific/medicine subjects.

Team training in emergencies or awareness campaign/educative campaigns can be easily setup and reach a large number of people.

A lot of papers are present in the medicine database PUBMED regarding educative and training experiments in VW and SL, talking about them a positive result. Nurses courses are made in SL, emergency training is performed with more efficiency due to reduced fear of patient interaction (this takes out the mandatory need, in medicine education, to train people on real patients and give credit on a course performed both in SL/VE and real life).

Medicine virtual education limits are:

• Technical limits
No on patient acquired skills valuation possible
No physical contact with patient
Difficulty in interacting perfectly with an object (CPR dummy in SL)
At the moment it’s not possible to give certification to courses on specific
subjects such as CPR – Basic Life Support for the reasons said above

• Behavioral limits
All users will feel comfortable in using Second Life as educational environment?

The last question is mandatory due to personal student/hardware connection limits and should always be investigated before starting involving people in a project.

The last part is to show my recent experiment in Second Life for the Italian Resuscitation Council.

It is a nationwide group which aim’s are to train people to Basic Life Support and more higher emergency issues, the training of a defibrillator, pre-hospitalization of patients, pediatric patients etc

IRC-Italian Resuscitation Council is the only qualified Italian institution to certify CPR training and instructors.

Training in real life is performed both on professionals (doctors and nurses) and on volunteers. The training is made accordingly to the European Resuscitation Council standards.

Second Life platform was used by IRC starting from june 2008 to perform a number of lectures/lessons between emergency operators.

Plus we deployed on the land a large number of panels dedicated to general public infos on CPR.

Recently we presented the first video for cell phones to refresh CPR steps to trained people.

We did also a large number of interface lessons (profile editing, inventory management etc) open to all the Italian community in Second Life.

To end my discussion I should dare to say:

E-learning 2.0 -> BLENDED LEARNING will be the future with a synergy between Second Life – Social Networks - Web tools (bookmarking, tagging, blogs, audio-video-blogs, Googledoc collaborative documents online editing, SLOODLE etc..)

Second Life makes real the second generation in learning chain missing ring.

January 2009 copyrighted - all rights reserved - no publication without consense is permitted

domenica 4 gennaio 2009

Chi ha brevettato i mondi virtuali?

Ovvero chi incastrerà il coniglio bianco?

Chi non ci farà più scegliere la pillola rossa o la pillola blu?

Una notizia bomba, o meglio una bomba ad orologeria, è stata innescata proprio alla vigilia di Natale.

Che bel regalo!

Ma non è scoppiata, se ne sta li in attesa buona buona, quasi come un pacchetto regalo dimenticato, dopo che abbiamo tolto l'albero di Natale. Forse rimarrà dopo l'Epifania, forse rimarrà fino a Pasqua o anche oltre.

Non ci è dato saperlo, dipende tutto da una corte del Texas che giudicherà la causa intentata dal provider di mondi virtuali al ramo statunitense della coreana NCSoft.

Un articolo critico del sistema dei brevetti americani spiega molto bene la ferruginosa e frettolosa (come definita dall'autore) macchina brevettuale americana.

In poche parole cosa è successo?

La è riuscita a farsi brevettare sotto il numero 7181690, il sistema architetturale su cui sono basati tutti i mondi virtuali. Come si evince dal link che ci riporta alla pagina Google con i dettagli del brevetto e anche numerose immagini sketchate dell'ambiente virtuale ideato...

La prima cosa che ci salta all'occhio è che ci ricorda fedelmente l'architettura di SecondLife.

Secondlife ha una architettura, certo modificata e abbellita e costantemente rinnovata ed implementata, basata su un codice sorgente Open Source con una licenza GNU GPL.
Cioè ognuno può cosruirsi il suo mondo virtuale (vedi Cyberlandia e tra gli italiani) e lo può modificare ed adattare e soprattuto implementare come vuole. Ciò che si vende è il servizio post processing, il servizio clienti, la gestione di server ad aziende o privati che sono così liberati da problemi tecnici o di post programmazione, a volte senza fine.

Oltretutto le case che offrono mondi virtuali altamente strutturati, spesso hanno staff di programmatori che lavorno alle modifiche aggiuntive (testate o rese fluide da beta testers volontari o solution providers del jira che risolvono bugs gratis). Un conto è risolvere un bug ed un conto è rilasciarlo su una piattaforma (senza bloccarla del tutto) con milioni di utenti iscritti e migliaia online costantemente, rendendolo fruibile le modifiche apportate a chi usa computers locali di incerta stabilità.

Ecco il lavoro in backstage delle case che offrono i mondi virtuali. Certo spesso questo servizio si paga caro, ma ad esempio in SL ci è data l'opportunità di mettere in vendita il nostro contenuto creativo o di inventare nuovi business, il che ha portato parecchi residenti ad avere buoni introiti.

Per tornare all'oggetto del post, la ha ottenuto dall'ufficio brevetti americano, il brevetto esclusivo sulla creazione di un ambiente espandibile infinitamente.
Il brevetto recita così: "The present invention provides a highly scalable architecture for a three-dimensional graphical, multi-user, interactive virtual world system. In a preferred embodiment a plurality of users interact in the three-dimensional, computer-generated graphical space where each user executes a client process to view a virtual world from the perspective of that user. The virtual world shows avatars representing the other users who are neighbors of the user viewing the virtual word. In order that the view can be updated to reflect the motion of the remote user's avatars, motion, information is transmitted to a central server process which provides positions updates to client processes for neighbors of the user at that client process. The client process also uses an environment database to determine which background objects to render as well as to limit the movement of the user's avatar."

In poche parole hanno brevettato il sistema che permette al mio pc di casa e quindi a me di vedere le modifiche all'ambiente apportate dagli altri pc/avatars presenti e di far vedere loro le mie. Sia se io scriva in chat, sia che io mi muova, o di più uploadi una texture e crei un oggetto (e modifichi quindi la percezione dell'ambiente dell'altro).

La discussione che si è aperta fa sorgere numerose domande.

La prima e più immediata è questa: la potrà far causa anche a SecondLife? SL è un mondo il cui contenuto creativo è lasciato libero ai residenti che rischierà di vedere questa battaglia all'ultimo sangue tra colossi con la nuvola nera della chiusura.

Ci chiediamo poi, visto che il brevetto, richiesto nel 2000, assegnato nel 2007 ha 7 anni di retroattività, il perchè altri ambienti come Realm Online (1996), Ultima Online (1997), Lineage (1998), or Everquest (1999), ambienti puramente MMO, sfruttanti una architettura similare, non possano essere loro i detentori del brevetto stesso.

Certo, le immagini allegate nella richiesta all'ufficio brevetti parlano chiaro: si presenta l'idea di una piattaforma nella quale le interazioni tra avatar possono essere sia di tipo MMO (gioco tipo World of Warcraft) dove la generazione di contenuto è limitata al movimento e all'azione finalizzata ad un gioco senza cambiamenti alla struttura e all'ambiente permanenti, sia a mondi virtuali in senso stretto.

Per spiegarmi meglio, in un gioco MMO si entra, si spara o guadagno punti su una piattaforma che non modifico in senso stretto e permanente, ma modifico solo nell'interazione online, muovendomi e espletando tutto quello che mi è permesso fare per raggiungere un goal. In SL e simili, invece un residente può creare ad esempio un cubo e lasciarlo li ed interferire permanentemente con gli altri avatar che lo vedranno anche se il creatore non è più online. Cioè la modifica è dell'ambiente vero e proprio. Non è un ambiente preconfezionato.

Ma appunto, il brevetto è talmente basilare che è applicabile ad entrambe le tipologie di piattaforma, seppur una diversa dall'altra e a mio giudizio non confondibili o non annoverabile la seconda tipologia fra i giochi online (come spesso mi è capitato di sentire su Current tv o nella trasmissione Geek Show anche da "esperti" del settore "Mondi Virtuali". Di certo per essere conoscitori delle differenze bisogna aver usufruito delle prime e ben più a lungo delle seconde, testando tutti i gradi di esperienza all'interno).

Ci viene spontaneo chiederci poi, se l'ufficio brevetti in 7 anni abbia analizzato tutto ciò che è online o che lo è stato prima di asserire che la ha il diritto di ottenere il brevetto. Se così non fosse, come portato alla luce dall'articolo linkato più sopra, sarebbe come brevettare il modo di dondolare una altalena, cioè il metodo, cosa che è nata nella notte dei tempi... o come brevettare l'acqua calda.

Se poi invece pensiamo per assurdo che il codice sorgente, che è open source sia l'oggetto che esplica il brevetto, ci chiediamo come mai sia stato reso open appunto...

Ci auspichiamo che coloro che hanno piattaforme ben collaudate si uniscano nella difesa del diritto d'uso del codice, mantenendolo libero, come libera è la scelta di far parte di questa o di altra realtà virtuale.

Il virtuale è il futuro di internet, i mondi inetragiscono tra loro e con le pagine in rete attraverso i blog, attraverso i social network e attraverso implementazioni come Cooliris ed Exitreality (pseudo 3D o 3D), che abituano chi non è avvezzo ai cambiamenti, alla tridimensionalità del web, come già avevo pronosticato nel mio vecchissimo post sul Web 2.0/3.0.

Rimango affacciata alla mia finestra virtuale per vedere quale cadavere di coniglio, forse bianco, forse nero, passa galleggiando sul fiume della rete...

Pillola rossa o pillola blu?

giovedì 1 gennaio 2009

Hai una idea ed una azienda e vuoi svilupparla in Second Life?

Sei titolare di una azienda, fai parte di una istituzione, sei un appassionato dei futuri sviluppi del web 2.0 e poi 3.0...

Sai già che dalle pagine statiche si è passati a leggere solo gli argomenti che ti interessano e che molte di queste pagine hanno una sorta di tridimensionalità coinvolgente?

Sai anche che adesso è sempre più fashion scambiare informazioni via social network e soprattutto entrare in contatto con il numero maggiore di possibili persone - clienti - contatti tramite piattaforme virtuali.

Una di queste piattaforme è Second Life, la più conosciuta, la più amata, la più chiacchierata perchè è più libera espressivamente parlando, con una economia tale che la muove sempre più nuovi livelli, con spazi ampi per attuare i propri progetti educativi, universitari, aziendali, commerciali, artistici.

In Second Life, mondo creato dalla Linden Lab, vi sono una serie di servizi offerti ai residenti di base, quali accesso alla griglia gratuito, servizio clienti, un regolamento tutelante il singolo e molti altri. Soprattutto la piattaforma è collaudata, ha molto poche se non rare interruzioni di servizio, ha un florido commercio interno e moltissime aziende che pubblicizzano i loro prodotti internamente, raggiungendo partner commerciali spesso distanti migliaia di chilometri, ha una presenza di oltre 250 università mondiali che operano attivamente offrendo corsi che sfruttano l'immersività dell'ambiente 3D.

Cosa possiamo offrire come provider di servizi a coloro che vogliono entrare in Second Life?

- formiamo le persone all'uso della piattaforma, accorciando i tempi di apprendimento del 50%

- costruiamo istallazioni, uffici, negozi, ambienti educativi ed oggetti per permettere che la vostra attività sia lanciata, sia essa educativa, sia essa commerciale

- forniamo un servizio di esame e soluzioni per il rilancio della vostra attività se è già presente in Second Life

- forniamo una esperienza biennale sulla piattaforma, conoscendola profondamente e sapendola integrare con il web e con i social network

- abbiamo al nostro attivo, meetings e conferenze per diffondere l'uso del virtuale presso aziende ed istituzioni.

Siamo a vostra disposizione per rispondere alle vostre domande, qualsiasi siano, in qualità di membri dei providers di servizi - consulenti ufficiali di Second Life.

Volete saperne di più? Visitate il nostro sito:

Oppure scriveteci, saremo felici di rispondervi...

Business or Education in Second Life: where do I start?

Are you a company manager, or part of an institution, or a fan of the future web 2.0 and 3.0 virtual transformation ?...

You already know all about web or just that the static pages moved from a passive read only mode to really interesting you topics moving towards you.

Do You know that many of these pages now have a kind of three-dimensional immersive way of presentation?

You already know that now it's fashionable to exchange information via social networks and, above all, come in contact with the highest number of possible people - clients - groups through virtual platforms.

One of these platforms is Second Life, the best known, most beloved, most press released because it is a free speaking & self expression environment, with its own economy that moves it at more and more higher levels, with ample space to implement educational projects, universities and corporate, commercial, artistic installations.

In Second Life, the world created by Linden Lab, there are a number of services offered to residents, such as free access to the grid, customer service, a resident tuteling regulation.

The platform is tested, has very few if not rare interruptions of service, has a thriving domestic trade and many companies that advertise their products, internally, to partners often thousands of kilometers away, has a presence of over 250 universities worldwide that operate actively offering courses that use 3D environment immersivity.

What we can offer as service providers to those who wish to enter Second Life?

- Train people to use the platform, shortening the learning time by 50%

- Build facilities, offices, shops, educational environments and objects to allow your business launching, be it educational, be it commercial

- Provide a service and solutions for the revitalization of your business if it is already present in Second Life

- Provide a two-year experience on the platform, knowing it deeply and integrate it with web blogs and pages and social networks.

- We have made meetings and conferences to spread the use of virtual worlds in companies and institutions.

We'll be happy to answer your questions, as consultants in the official group of Second Life Gold Solution Providers program.

If you wish to know more about us, visit our website:
Write us, we will be happy to answer ...

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