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:

Hypergrid Safari – The evolution of exploration across the interconnected Metaverse

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.

10360407_10204277639409803_8127721628386910115_nThe Hypergrid Safari is a new group that runs weekly tours across Opensim.  In their own words:

“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:

Outside the Hypergrid Safari HQ and Clubhouse on the region Teravus in OSGrid.

Outside the Hypergrid Safari HQ and Clubhouse on the region Outlands in Metropolis Grid.

Inside the Hypergrid Safari Clubhouse. I love the elephant trophy mounted on an old hypergate.

Inside the Hypergrid Safari Clubhouse. I love the elephant trophy mounted on an old hypergate.

And here’s a great video by Nina Camplin of some recent tours.

Take care, and hope to see you inworld!
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

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

Giving a Virtual Worlds Lecture – April 7 @ 6pm PDT in Second Life

blog post sjsu headerOn Monday April 7 at 6pm PDT I’ll be giving a Virtual Worlds Lecture in Second Life.

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.

Content import and export in Singularity Viewer

Hope to see you there!

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

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

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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.

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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

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

Speaking at “Train for Success” Panel on the Future of Virtual Worlds – Nov 8 @ noon Eastern

The Gronstedt Group hosts a weekly “Train for Success” speaking series, and this week I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on the State and Future of Virtual Worlds.

The panel will be held in Second Life and starts on Thursday November 8 at noon Eastern. You can also watch and ask questions via the live stream on the web.

For more details, please see Facebook. Here’s a summary:

“The landscape of virtual worlds is changing. Social and game mechanics make virtual worlds more engaging. Browser-based virtual worlds make them more accessible to a wider audience. The panel will discuss the state and future of virtual worlds. Join this conversation about the emerging platforms and applications of virtual worlds in learning and business.”

Hope to see you there, and special thanks to Anders Gronstedt for inviting me to participate.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

“The effects of virtual space on learning: A literature review”

If you’re interested in the use of virtual worlds in education and immersive learning, it’s always a challenge finding good research papers on the subject.

Which is why I was so excited today when I discovered Olle Sköld’s paper “The effects of virtual space on learning: A literature review.”

It’s a fantastic resource full of great references and summaries, and it’s also very timely (was published in Jan 2012).  Best of all, the full paper is freely accessible online.

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I’m presenting at the “Midnight to Noon Conference for Second Life Educators and Researchers” on Oct 27

The folks at EduFinland are hosting a conference on October 27 called the “Midnight to Noon Conference for Second Life Educators and Researchers.”

Although the conference is being held in Second Life, the presentations will discuss a wide range of research across many different virtual world platforms.

I’ll be speaking on a panel at 8am EDT on “The Future of Learning in Virtual Worlds.”

At 10am EDT I’ll be giving a keynote presentation titled “The Significance of Contextual Flow – Exploring Jibe and Critical Affordances of Web-Based Virtual Worlds.”  And you can participate in my keynote by visiting my Jibe world on the web during the presentation.

For more details, check out the conference website.  Here’s a summary of the agenda:

A 12 hour conference in Second Life for educators and researchers on education and virtual worlds with invited speakers from Europe and the US. The conference features presentations, panels, workshops, excursion and many other types of activitities.

Mark the date Thursday October 27, 2011 in your calendar now and join us in EduFinland archipelago on the lecture theatre on EduFinland III from midnight to noon (PDT).

The researchers and educators at EduFinland have been doing outstanding work over the years, and I had the privilege of meeting many of them in my last trip to Finland.  So I’m really looking forward to this conference.

Hope to see you there!

My favorite coffee mug, courtesy of Finland.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester