Meanwhile, in Finland

I found that captioned photo while Googling for images of Finland.

But I don’t think we’re allowed to tease Finland anymore.

Not since Newsweek recently ranked them #1 on their list of Best Countries in the World.

I’ll be giving a keynote at a very interesting conference in Finland in October.  Here are some details.

From October 14-15 2010Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland will be hosting a conference on “The Prospects of Learning in Second Life.

You can find the details on the conference website.  More information will be added over time, so please keep an eye on it if you are interested.  Here’s a summary:

The conference gathers a representative group of experts with great experience about learning and teaching in virtual worlds and specifically in the virtual world of Second Life. The conference offers a great opportunity for teachers, trainers and others working with learning and teaching to dive into virtual worlds as learning spaces and to increase their own expertise in the matter. The program of the conference includes keynote presentations by invited guests and workshop/roundtable discussions with experts.

The organizers behind this conference are Kim Holmberg (SL: Kim Zwiers) and Isto Huvila (SL: Ab Marvin).  Both of them were the the first university teachers to use Second Life in education in Finland, and it’s been a real pleasure to follow both Kim’s and Isto’s pioneering education work over the past few years.

Kim invited me to give a keynote presentation at the conference, and he’s put together a great lineup of speakers who are all fantastic innovators in education in virtual worlds.

I haven’t finalized all the details of my own presentation, but one thing I’m planning to do is highlight some of the most recent pioneering educational work in Second Life.

I know of many such projects, but I am sure I am unaware of many more.  So if you have any suggestions for me to check out, please leave a comment with details.  I will do my best to highlight as many as possible in my presentation and discussions.

And if you’re around Turku, Finland and would like to meet with me to chat, I’ll be attending the entire conference and staying in town an extra day (the 16th).  Please contact me at if you’d like to arrange a meetup.

Meanwhile, I’ll be prepping for my trip to Finland.  There’s a great deal of innovation in virtual worlds happening there, as well as throughout all of Scandinavia.  I can’t wait to dive in.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

ADDENDUM: I posted my slides and followup thoughts on the conference here.

7 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in Finland

  1. Hi would love for you to check out my health literacy research project in Second Life that promotes learning about signs and symptoms for heart attack and stroke through interactive games. It’s located at HealthInfo Island. This project is part of a year long IRB approved health literacy study. Preliminary results support use of a virtual setting for learning.

  2. Hi Pathfinder,

    This is Ray (ex Ray Linden). Saw your post on Learning in Second Life and i thought of a guy (a friend of mine) whom was actively working in the National University of Singapore’s Second Life and was instrumental in setting that gig up including the Virtual World Forum in Singapore between 2008 – 2009.

    The end result of his efforts is that classes from Computer Science, Law afaik are being taught via Second Life…i do admit there could be more. (Check this URL:

    Drop me a mail if you like to contact him personally.

  3. Hi John, check out Murias an island created with funding from the Irish Government’s overseas development programme Irish Aid, to teach about development issues (developing world) in Second Life. There’s a particular focus on the Millennium Development Goals and North South Interdependence. The island contains 6 or 7 activities for learners to do on their own as they wander about, but more importantly serves as a place for learners to meet and discuss issues. IM me – Fli Nurmi- in-world if you want any more info. Enjoy Finland!

  4. The biggest problem I have encountered with education in Second Life, is that educationalists who are using it tend to think mainly in real-life terms, as a way of getting people together virtually to do what they would be doing anyway in real life – lecture. As a developer, I have been asked to quote for replicating lecture rooms down to the formica tables….They’re used to being the experts and being in charge, and I think a lot of people in academia are alarmed by the lack of control they may experience in a virtual world.

    There is a persistent academic attitude which seems to be working hard to bring virtual education into the realm of the expert. I hate the idea that many institutions who prevent people from learning unless they have jumped through a lot of hoops in the real world, are also preventing the sharing of their information in the virtual world too. Were the archetypal alien to visit earth, I think he/she/it would have a hard time dealing with the fact that the institutions we have set up to revere learning, actually prevent people from accessing them, unless they jump through certain hoops and have sufficient money. I hope for a different future, where access to learning and information is open to all who are interested in it.

    I have seen increasing signs of the academization of the virtual world, and I don’t like it much. This platform, these worlds, have the potential to reach many people who are not touched by real-life academia, and I think the opening up of knowledge that is going on all over the web should also be going on in virtual worlds.

    In some places, they have contrived to spend time and effort putting something together in the virtual world which is open to all… but have made it so tedious that it manages to make an interesting subject and a fascinating platform as tedious as watching cats moult. I hate to single out one build for criticism, but the idea of going from one area to another in Pharmatopia and having to put on glasses and white coat and possibly a hairnet and gloves too, only to have to take them all off and put on a slightly different set to visit the next exhibit…along with lots of exercises in dragging stuff from one place in your inventory to another… it’s just… very …boring.

    Second Life has the potential to draw in people, to excite them, to allow them to collaborate and share and create more than the sum of their parts… it allows people to learn with the terrain becoming part of the memory, an aide-memoire. There are some shining examples…I’d nominate the fly through of the Testis by Ohio State as one of these. I think it is amazingly well done, well constructed, well thought out. And it is open to all, too.

    I’d love to see lots of imaginative, open, educational builds which use the strong points of SL and which don’t simply transport the real life into the virtual… and I will be waching this thread with baited breath, hoping to find some.

    I was impressed when I read Peter Senge’s theories that some organisations may be about learning – like secondary schools, for example – but aren’t necessarily learning organisations in the sense that they don’t learn from experience or change their behaviour as institutions. I can see that’s true with a large number of institutions in the real world and the virtual world… I hope that’s going to change though, as I believe it must for them to make the most of a virtual learning environment, where the learning is never simply in one direction.

  5. Greetings,
    This semester I am teaching sociology of religion in Second Life by having a group of undergraduates perform a pagan circle ritual in Second Life. They role play the entire ritual, which culminates in invoking the Egyptian god Thoth. It’s a lot of fun and they never want to leave the class once time is up.

  6. John,

    You might be interested in several papers that a colleague and I have just published about this. These may be too “academic” for your needs, but the first paper references several projects and the second helps to highlight the advantages and constraints of the technology beyond what is currently the status quo in medical education. Both are available online:

    Kopp, G. & Burkle, M. (2010). Using Second Life for just-in-time training: building teaching frameworks in virtual worlds. International Journal: Advanced Corporate Learning, 3 (3), 19-25. Available online at

    Kopp, G. & Burkle, M. (2010). Web 2.0 and 3.0 affordances for second generation virtual patients. International Journal of Computers in Healthcare, 1(1), 3-19. Available online at

    Hope these help.


  7. Hey Pathfinder! I’m starting a community literacy center for residents of Second Life in November. My dissertation is about community literacy centers and I realized that residents don’t have anywhere to go to get help with their writing, RL- or SL-based.

    I’m working with Virtual Harlem, Virtual Montmartre, and with Rockcliffe U. I will be doing workshops on life writing, resume writing, and whatever else people want.

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