Friday, May 11, 2007

Eduserv 3D Virtual Worlds symposium - Summary of the day

Andy Powell's introduction that described the avalanche of interest in the area of Second Life (yes, SL, not so much 3DVWs in general) provided a good framework with which to consider what happened during the day. Why is there so much interest? Is it that the time is just right? Is it that we sense an obvious fit pedagogically?
Strangely no one stressed the pedagogical fitness of Second Life - it's social and active dimension. This, in my view, is what is exciting. The fact that you can make and sell stuff has some potential but is not really where SL should meet HE.
On entering the conference room (lines of chairs facing a stage) we were flanked by several shiny huge plasma screens displaying the virtual congregation of attendees on Eduserv Island - also sitting facing a stage in SL. My heart sank. To see that here - how disappointing. Stale practice compounding stale practice. Sorry.
Stephen Downes played his cheap trick of taking the opposing view. And thank goodness he did. Though next time someone books him, put him on first. Give the others something to work against. He asked the real questions. He debunked all over the place. Someone needed to do it.
The overall UKHE picture for me was:
  • there are a few excellent examples (I would guess) of people using SL in UKHE
  • most people can't imagine life beyond their comfort zone (and so should stop discussing and thinking about 3DVWs at the moment)
  • there were a lot of old people with old attitudes here - just leave it alone (and that's my inclination too for me personally). Where we the students in this event? At least one speaker should have been an avid user (Jim Purbrick from Linden Labs could have been this person but he kicked off the day by making sure everyone was up to speed with the basics. I would've liked to have heard from the real users. People like AngryBeth - not so young, but very young in SL).
  • Diana Laurillard in the plenary session had to ask for some passionate input - and struggled to find it on the stage or in the audience.
  • Why was Gilly Salmon asked to speak? Her SEAL project hopefully will have something useful to report in 6 months or a year, but doesn't appear to have anything to contribute yet. When invited I think she should have politely refused. She made one very valuable point actually: SL is an opportunity to do things that other environments don't permit.
I found the day valuable. However I don't think grey suited attitudes and SL fit. Can UK HE remove its grey suit?

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