The 1st International Conference on e-Learning, e-Education and Online Training is being held September 18-20 in Bethesda, Maryland. This conference will assess a wide range of progressive ideas for the future of e-Learning, focusing on the idea of technology as a means to education rather than an end in itself. The conference organizers have lined up a wonderful range of interdisciplinary speakers and are planning to attract a wide group of heterogeneous scholars and practitioners.
I’ll be attending the entire conference, and I’m honored to be giving the opening keynote presentation. Here’s what I’ll be talking about:
“Augmented Mind: The Evolution of Learning Tools
from Language to Immersive Reality”
Innovative educators are constantly facing the challenge of matching pedagogical goals with complementary technological tools. Unfortunately, given the wide range of technologies and devices that vie for consumer attention, the right choices are not always clear and are typically obscured by media hype. In this presentation, John Lester will describe how focusing on the way the human mind interacts with the world and other human beings can help identify the right tools for the right jobs. From a mind-augmentation perspective combining constructivist and behaviorist approaches, John will explore web based tools ideal for knowledge management, augmented reality based self-animated autonomous agents, and finally the unique (and sometimes over-hyped) affordances of perceptually immersive multiuser 3d virtual worlds for collaborative learning.
My goal will be to tell an interesting story with examples and demos of technologies that I think really leverage how our minds naturally embrace the world around us. One such technology that I’m currently exploring and that you’ve probably never heard of are Wiglets.
Wiglets are autonomous, evolving, self-animated and self-motivated agents that can exist in both completely virtual and augmented reality environments. They exist at a wildly creative intersection of artificial life, art and gaming. And perhaps best of all, you can interact with them directly through touch and gestures.
Another topic of discussion will be the affordances of multiuser 3d virtual worlds, especially how one can reduce the barrier to entry for people interested in leveraging them for educational purposes. ReactionGrid has recently developed some new tools that integrate with the Unity3d-based Jibe platform to provide on-the-fly content editing in a simple yet powerful way. I’ll be giving a sneak preview during my presentation.
I’ll also be discussing and giving examples of innovative uses of commonly used virtual world technologies such as Second Life, Opensimulator and the Oculus Rift. If you plan on attending and would like to connect with me at the conference, please drop me a line on Twitter or email. And if you’re looking to interact with the organizers and other attendees and speakers, be sure to check out the e-LEOT LinkedIn Conference Group.
After my keynote I’ll be updating this blog post to include my slides and links to any recordings.
UPDATE Sept 19, 2014
Here are my slides:
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Between 2010 and 2012 I had a lot of fun organizing and running the Hypergrid Adventurers Club (HGAC) meetings. Those were the very early days of Hypergrid connectivity in Opensim, and things often went awry during our explorations. We all stuck together and helped each other out through crazy technical challenges and exciting adventures, but it was the community of helpful people at these meetings that impressed and amazed me the most.
Time moved on, and over the past couple years I stopped organizing Hypergrid Adventurers Club meetings. Not because of any lack of interest in Opensim and the Hypergrid on my part, mind you. I’m still very excited about the future of Opensim and the Hypergrid, and I continue to explore and experiment a lot on my own. It was just that I felt the HGAC had run its course. Opensim was becoming much more stable and easier to use, hypergrid jumps were becoming very reliable, and directories of great places to explore were expanding (see Hyperica and iDreamsNet). Also, attendance was gradually declining, and other aspects of my life were getting busier, so I figured it was time to wind things down.
But when one flower closes, a new and different one usually blooms. That’s the beauty of online communities. They adapt and change and grow.
“Want to discover open sim and learn to hypergrid? Join our friendly weekly trips to destinations all over the hyperverse, and get help with shopping for your avatar, free land opportunities, and sympathy when you run up against snags and bugs.”
I’ve been attending these trips and they’re simply fantastic. The organizers are Thirza Ember, Fuschia Nightfire, Wizard Gynoid and Wizardoz Chrome. I think all of them bring beautiful new perspectives to exploring the Hypergrid, in particular the perspectives of skilled content creators and innovative artists who have a long history of pioneering work in Second Life and other virtual worlds. And everyone attending brings their own thoughtfulness and great sense of humor to the group. Once again, it’s the community of people that impresses and amazes me the most in online worlds.
So please check out the Hypergrid Safari and go on one of their tours. You can get connected with them and learn more in a few different ways:
- Hypergrid Safari Group in Second Life
- Hypergrid Safari Google Group
- Hypergrid Safari Facebook Group
- A great overview of the origins of the Hypergrid Safari
- Hypergrid Safari HQ (currently on Metropolis Grid – sign up for an account here)
Hypergrid Address: hypergrid.org:8002:Outlands
And here’s a great video by Nina Camplin of some recent tours.
Take care, and hope to see you inworld!
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
It was good to hear Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s new CEO, speak at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2014 Conference in Second Life today.
Ebbe addressed a number of pain points with the educator community in Second Life and brought some healthy visibility into how he sees things moving forward on a number of technical levels. I really appreciated the time and effort he spent in addressing educators.
But I have some constructive criticism.
Cultivating any community requires a lot more than just understanding its technical requirements for a particular piece of software or to be “listening to needs.” Communities are organic and constantly evolving entities with complex interdependencies that are often far from intuitive. And when you give communities new technological tools, they typically use these tools in very unpredictable ways.
In other words, it’s not just about collecting technical requirements and reading submitted feedback when you have the time. It’s about taking the time to actively investigate and participate in a community so you can cultivate its success and identify completely new market opportunities in the future.
There’s a reason people dedicated to sociology and cultural anthropology and community development exist. This stuff is important and hard and requires focus.
It’s the same reason why companies that focus solely on engineering goals while ignoring complex sociological factors tend to find themselves perpetually running after a community rather than leading it into the brightest possible future.
The title of my talk is “Finding the Balance between Pedagogy and Technology.” Here’s a summary:
One must always seek a thoughtful match between pedagogy and technology. Different virtual world platforms are suited for different uses, ranging from collaborative work environments to immersive goal-oriented simulations. The speaker will discuss current virtual world technological trends involving specific gaming technologies like Unity3D and the growth of Open Source platforms such as OpenSimulator. A discussion will focus on helping educators choose the right tool for the right job, matching pedagogical goals with technological affordances.
My presentation is part of an ongoing series of talks hosted by the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University. Here’s more information about the colloquia, and here’s a SLURL for where I’ll be speaking.
Part of what I’ll be doing in addition to showing slides and speaking will be a live demo of some of the content import/export tools in the Singularity Viewer. You’ll get so see how you can easily backup content you’ve created in Second Life or Opensim to your hard drive and how to get that content into other 3D platforms like Unity3d and Blender.
Hope to see you there!
I tried out SL Go today.
Wow, it’s beautiful and fast. Seriously impressive from a technical perspective. Could definitely make mobile a more viable access point for Second Life users.
And beyond simply viable, I can imagine new ideas for expanding Second Life’s functionality on mobile devices to make it even more engaging and innovative (e.g., tying in GPS data, augmented reality using mobile device camera, etc.).
As for the pricing…
The entire game industry has come to the conclusion that the future belongs to freemium, free-to-play, and pay-once-play-forever.
The 1990’s are on the phone and they want their business model back.
SL Go is a great idea with a lot of potential that will die in the nest if it doesn’t move to a modern-day pricing model.
Two of my biggest challenges when exploring Hypergrid-connected regions across the multitude of Opensim-based grids have always been: 1) finding places where people are currently visiting and 2) not wasting time trying to connect to places that are offline.
And over the years, there have been commendable efforts to manually create lists of Hypergrid-connected places (e.g., Hyperica) as well as strong work to create networked inworld devices (e.g., TheHypergates). All this work has been wonderful and very helpful to the growth of the Hypergrid.
However, I’ve always felt an ideal tool to really tie together the Hypergrid would be an automatically updated (i.e., # of current visitors and online status) and simple searchable web-based directory that was very easy to join.
There aren’t many regions listed right now since the system is brand new and opt-in, but it’s incredibly easy to join and therefore could grow very quickly. To get your own Hypergrid-connected region included in the list, you just rez an object on your region which phones home to the iDreamsNet website and immediately creates an entry for your region on the Hypergrid List. You are given a special link where you can go edit your listing (add photo, descriptive text, tags, website) and, over time, this object communicates back to the iDreamsNet website to let it know if your region is currently online and how many people are currently on it. More details can be found on the iDreamsNet website.
With the recent elimination of the 4096 region distance bug, there’s no need anymore to complicate Hypergrid directories with grid coordinates or “upper, middle, lower” categories. Now, anyone can jump from any Hypergrid location to any other Hypergrid location. We just need a simple, automated and powerful directory.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how this new service evolves, and I love the clean Google-esque design of it. Simple, automated and powerful. Great work so far, Mike!
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Yesterday, the Hypergrid Adventurers Club (HGAC) visited the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation. About 20 of us made the voyage, initially gathering at JokaydiaGrid and then travelling together as a group. This was the first HGAC trip in a long time, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar friends as well as some brand new faces.
This past weekend I attended and spoke at the very first OpenSimulator Community Conference (OSCC13). It was an amazing event full of outstanding presentations, great networking opportunities, and spectacular venues with tons of attendees. It was also truly remarkable to see how far OpenSim has evolved and matured as a virtual world platform.
I’ve seen my fair share of online conferences, and this was the most professionally managed and engaging online conference I have ever attended. To everyone involved in making this event a reality, thank you!
And thank you all who attended my presentation. I apologize for not having time to answer all your questions, but if you leave a comment on this blog post I will be very happy to reply.
Lastly, for those of you interested in me possibly restarting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club tours (I got a lot of positive feedback at the conference), be sure to join the HGAC mailing list and post that you’d like to attend a future tour. If I see enough interest, I’ll definitely start them up again.
Please read on for my own presentation summary, video and downloadable slides. You can also watch recordings of all the other presentations in the Conference Archives.
“Exploring the Interconnected: How Past Dreams evolve into Future Reality”
Join us to hear more about how dreams from the past can dramatically change and evolve into something completely new. In this presentation you will hear all about John’s initial experiences in Opensim while still working at Linden Lab, the creation and mangement of “Pathlandia,” initial explorations of the Hypergrid, and how it all fits in with what he remembers as Linden Lab’s original vision of an expanding Metaverse of self-hosted and interconnected virtual worlds.
ADDENDUM 9/10/2013: Be sure to read this blog post: “The Future of Conferences.” It’s an outstanding summary of the conference by Crista Lopes, the inventor of the Hypergrid and one of the conference’s main organizers.
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
In Jibe 2.0 we’ve included an easy system that gives you the power to use iTween to create multiuser networked events. This allows you create shared experiences between avatars using interactive and complex object animations.
Watch my tutorial to learn more!
Video: How to create multiuser networked events in Jibe and Unity3d using iTween
I’m eagerly awaiting my own developer version of the Oculus Rift, which should arrive in about a month.
My plans are to immediately start working on how to best integrate it with Jibe and Unity3d.
In particular, our newly released Jibe 2.0 has a built-in 1st-person perspective mode that is ideal for things like virtual reality headsets.
Keep an eye on this blog for future details.
Needless to say, I was very excited to see the folks at iFixit posting a great teardown of the developer version of the Oculus Rift headset.
If you have an Oculus Rift and would like to brainstorm with me on how it can be integrated with multiuser virtual world applications, please drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post in the comments.
Perhaps we can also schedule a Team Fortress 2 game while using our headsets!
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Chief Learning Officer, ReactionGrid Inc.
P.S. ReactionGrid’s Lead Developer Matthew Bertrand is also getting an Oculus Rift dev kit. He’s pretty psyched about it, and we all expect amazing things from him!