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
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