My Keynote at e-LEOT 2014 – “Augmented Mind: The Evolution of Learning Tools from Language to Immersive Reality”

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:

nature-mind

“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.

Visit Wiggle Planet to learn a lot more about Wiglets.

Visit Wiggle Planet to learn a lot more about 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.

Want to easily change this web-based 3d environment on the fly without having to muck around in Unity?  
Now you can. I’ve got some new tricks with Jibe to show you.

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:

Brief Thoughts on Ebbe’s Keynote at VWBPE 2014 in Second Life

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.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Upcoming Conferences on Experiential Learning and Virtual Worlds: Let’s Meet!

Howdy folks,

I’ll be attending these two upcoming conferences.  If you’re planning to attend either of them or if you just happen to be in town when they occur, please contact me via my about.me page if you’d like to meet up and chat about learning in virtual worlds!

The main aims of this conference are to increase our understanding of experiential learning in virtual worlds, both formal and informal, to share experiences and best practices, and to debate future possibilities for learning in virtual worlds.  For full details, please see the conference website.

My panel presentation will be “Finding the Balance between Pedagogy and Technology.”  Here’s my abstract:

Next Generation virtual worlds will be tightly coupled to many other emerging technologies, leveraging modern knowledge management processes and providing platforms for broad use among teachers and learners.  As the technological landscape grows, it is becoming increasingly difficult for educators to identify the right platform (or mix of platforms) for their specific immersive learning needs.

In my current position at ReactionGrid and my previous work at Linden Lab and Harvard Medical School, I have explored the use of a wide range of gaming and virtual world platforms to augment education.  Today there are a number of very interesting virtual world technological trends involving specific gaming technologies like Unity as well as the growth of Open Source platforms such as OpenSimulator.  My ongoing work involves finding the right match between educational goals and technological affordances as well as identifying key synergies when virtual world technologies are interwoven with existing social media and web-based educational content.

Above all else, there must be 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.  One of the most important and challenging goals for any educator exploring virtual worlds is simply finding the right tool for the right job.  Likewise, it is critical for virtual world platform developers to keep a firm focus on well established knowledge management principles when designing new technologies intended to advance the field of immersive learning.

I’m particularly thrilled about this panel because I’ll be participating with Dr. Bryan Carter from the University of Arizona.  Bryan is a true pioneer in using virtual worlds for experiential learning, and he’s been working with virtual environments since his dissertation project in 1997 when he created a virtual simulation of Harlem, NY as it existed during the 1920s Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance.  Virtual Harlem was one of the earliest full virtual reality environments created for use in the humanities and certainly one of the first for use in an African American literature course.  The project continues to grow and evolve as Bryan explores new virtual world platforms.

1st International Conference on e-Learning e-Education and Online Training (e-LEOT)
September 18–20, 2014
Bethesda, Maryland, United States

This new 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 are lining up a wonderful range of interdisciplinary speakers and are planning to attract a wide group of heterogeneous scholars and practitioners.  For full details, please see the conference website.

I’ll be giving a keynote at this conference.  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.

Be seeing you!

A new Automated Hypergrid Directory with Great Potential

Mike Leopard, creator of the iDreamsNet Hypergrid List

Mike Leopard, creator of the iDreamsNet Hypergrid List

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.

Which is why I’m very excited by the new iDreamsNet Hypergrid List created by Mike Leopard.  He’s nailed all of those features right out of the gate.

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.

My entry for Pathlandia.  You can see I was logged in by myself when this was taken. ;)

My entry for Pathlandia. You can see I was logged in by myself when this was taken. ;)

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!

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Hypergrid Adventurers Club – Visiting the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

hgac  9 28 2013 04

Wandering warthogs in the East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

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.

Continue reading

Rebooting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club and Thanking Latif Khalifa

singularityIf you’re a fan of the Hypergrid, you should definitely check out the new 1.8.3 release of the Singularity viewer for OpenSim and Second Life.

In particular, take a look at this section in the update notes.  The fact that it is a very brief sentence seriously belies the magnitude of its significance.

  • Fixed a problem with long teleports in OpenSim (“4096 bug” SVC-2941 FIRE-11593) (Latif)

Latif Khalifa has fixed the bug that, since the beginning of time, prevented Hypergrid explorers from jumping to places more than 4096 regions away.  No more mandatory intermediate hops!  No more “cannot reach destination – too far away” messages!

I encourage all explorers of the Hypergrid to please take a moment and thank Latif on Twitter.  His hard work has resulted in a major improvement to the use of the Hypergrid and the evolution of OpenSim as a constellation of easily accessible interconnected grids.

Which brings me to the topic of the Hypergrid Adventurers Club.  Since my presentation at the OpenSimulator Community Conference, I’ve received a great deal of interest in possibly restarting our tours of the Hypergrid.  Many people reached out to me, and the outpouring of interest was very inspiring.

So I’m rebooting the tours!  Our next tour will be Saturday Sept 28 at 10pm EDT.  For all the details, please join and read our Google Group.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Getting Real World Terrains into OpenSim: A Tutorial by Brian A. White

This is recreation of a blog post by Brian A. White.  Brian’s blog went offline sometime in 2009, and recently it was suggested that someone republish this useful tutorial to make sure it can be found by search engines and does not someday completely vanish from the Internet.  So here it is.

Some of the links in this article are dead and not available in any existing archives.  I’ve left those in but crossed them out.  Fortunately these dead links are not critical to the tutorial, and I was able to update the other links that have changed since this article was written.  Brian, wherever you are, thank you again for writing this and I hope you are well.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Continue reading

OpenSimulator Community Conference 2013 – My Presentation and My Thanks to Everyone Involved

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

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.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

How to convert a prim-based object in Second Life or Opensim into a mesh object on your hard drive using the Singularity viewer

prim cube

ye olde prim

This is pretty cool.

The most recent version of the Singularity viewer (version 1.8.1) adds a particularly interesting feature:

  • Wavefront (.obj) and Collada (.dae) Export by Apelsin, Inusaito, and Latif Khalifa – Allows export of your creations into Blender, Unity3D and other modeling applications and game engines

This means you can now take a prim-based object from within Second Life or Opensim and export it to your hard drive as a mesh object (either .obj or .dae file format).

Continue reading

How to create multiuser networked events in Jibe and Unity3d using iTween

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

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Chief Learning Officer
ReactionGrid, Inc.