Category Archives: Second Life

AI, AI, Everywhere

I had an interesting conversation with my sister and my father when we were together last weeked to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday. I’m working on a blog post about the changing nature of work that I will post at some point, but as I looked for data to support my ideas, I was distracted by Pew Research Center’s collection of data related to Artificial Intelligence. In particular, two recent articles seem to conflict a bit in perspective, a sign that we are in a period of real volatility when it comes to this technology.

One article provides evidence that most Americans haven’t tried ChatGPT and aren’t concerned about its impact on their lives. The other reports on the growing public concern with AI. As for the former, I am reminded of a conversation I had with an early adopter of the first widely used virtual community, Second Life. It certainly had implications for the potential of online interactions, but you couldn’t get your real life hair cut or your real life tires replaced. Local communities were still going to be important. And, even with the rise of AI, I think that continues to be true. At some point, I suppose a robot will cut my hair or replace my tires, but for the foreseeable future, it will be flesh-and-blood Olivia and Proctor who help me with those services.

As for the latter headline, I think we should be concerned when a technology that we only sort of understand undergoes such a rapid expansion. The educators I know are learning all they can about AI, especially within their own fields of study. They are also engaging in conversations with colleagues about how to use the tools for their own productivity and with their students.

Confessions of a Closet Gamer

This summer, I am facilitating a book study of Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal’s passionate look at the importance of games in our lives and how they can help us change the world. I am going to encourage participants to write their own gaming autobiography and thought I should try a draft of my own. I have written about playing games before when I first got involved in a computer game. I compared the experience of learning to play pinochle with my grandfather to learning to play the computer game, one of the first I had really gotten hooked on. Oh, I had played digital games on my computer and various devices: solitaire, word games, sudoku, a few levels of Angry Birds and Abduction. But I found I could put them aside: they really were time killers as I was riding the ferry or had a few minutes before a meeting.

The game that has turned me into a “gamer” is called Royal Envoy. I’ve come to learn that it falls under the category of time management game. The goal is to complete the tasks on each level. These involve making materials, building homes, beautifying neighborhoods, and accumulating money. I really like playing it. In fact, I have been through the levels at least three times as I’ve played it on my iPad, then my old Air and am now finishing the bonus levels on my new Air. And, actually, it’s probably more than that because at least twice I’ve gone back and played the levels again in Expert Mode. At this point, I am trying to dole out the bonus levels one or two a day as once they are done, I will probably be done with the game. I could run through the Expert Levels one more time on the new Air, I suppose, but I feel like it is time to find a new game. I have a few in mind that are recommended by other Royal Envoy fans.

Why is this a confession? Mostly because I think carry the bias that game playing is about killing time not using time to make myself happier and healthier. And, I find myself somewhat “addicted” as I move through the levels, especially as I repeat them and see new ways to accomplish the tasks. Just one level becomes three or four or more if I’m on a run. I am always a little embarrassed when my husband happens upon me playing a level in the middle of the day. But, I also find that the familiar challenge helps refocus and redirect when I’m stuck on a problem or moving from one job to another. I have yet to spend 35 hours a week playing but I probably get in the hour a day that McGonigal is recommending.

There’s another piece to my gaming profile: I am not particularly interested in competing against other people. I am definitely competitive when it comes to pinochle but that’s bred to the bone. I do have a friendly Trivial Pursuit competition with an old friend. We are very well matched and I would guess the slate is pretty even although we don’t keep formal track. That’s how friendly it is. And when I was a kid and we played monopoly, I hated to see my mother losing so would slip her money under the table or miscount to land on her properties. So, it’s no surprise that I prefer games where I compete against myself. And I am most engaged with thinking and strategy games rather than shoot-em-ups. In my childhood I preferred logic problems to word finds or crosswords, puzzling out the clues to eliminate various elements and combinations.
So, there you have it: my life as a gamer. And now, if you don’t mind, I have some bonus levels to play before bed 😉

The book study is being sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. The kick off will be in Second Life on July 9 and then there will be three more meetings in SL along with discussions in VSTEOnline! It’s free and open to everyone…you can participate in either or both parts of the study.

Surrounded by Community

I spent most of yesterday online with educators, exploring the meaning of community.  Several hours were spent in Elluminate as part of Powerful Learning Practice‘s ongoing professional development program.  From there, I moved to Second Life for VSTE’s weekly meeting where we explored educational groups.  We ended the evening with a snowball fight and, as you can see from the picture below, I dressed for the occasion.  (Always wanted to have wings!)


I just felt energized the whole day, having access to all these fellow travelers without having to leave my house!  We shared both professional and personally; we learned; we had fun. It was the kind of experience I would wish for learners of all ages.

Besides being reminded of the power of online community, I learned some specific content.  I was introduced to Google notebook, a tool I had not explored before.  I installed it and was eager to try it out this morning.  So, I logged into Twitter, knowing that someone would have a link to a good article to read.  Twitter has increasingly become a big part of my virtual learning community in a way that I could not have imagined when I first joined.  I was not disappointed this morning as Will Richardson had posted a link to a New Yorker article on teacher quality from Malcolm Gladwell.   My primary job right now is working with pre-service teachers and identifying good teachers is always a concern.

I read the article and, as Will suggested, skimmed the football stuff.  When I got to the first paragraph that was really about education, I discovered that it had already been highlighted by someone else, using Diigo.  I moused over to read the comment and discovered it had been made by Michael Scott, who I had just seen last week in Roanoke and who is a member of the VSTE Ning.  I took a break from reading to add Michael as a friend in Diigo.  The next highlight and comment came from Clay Burrell, a fellow Twitterer whose blog, Beyond School, is always thought provoking.  All I could think of is what a small world it was since, according to the Internet World Stats, there are nearly 1.5 billion people online these days.

I think the lesson here is that online is a real community, as real as the face to face community I enjoyed at last week’s conference in Roanoke.  It’s something my non-networked friends just don’t understand.  And it isn’t something that happened overnight either.  But it is part of my life now, and as I sit at my desk working alone from home on a rainy day, I feel the presence of that community.  Thanks to you all!

Now We Know How the Monks Felt

I’ve been using this McLuhan quote at the beginning of my research focus statement.  It’s from The Gutenberg Galaxy, published in 1962:

“An age in rapid transition is one which exists on the frontier between two cultures and between conflicting technologies.  Every moment of its consciousness is an act of translation of each of these cultures into the other.  Today we live on the frontier between five centuries of mechanism and the new electronics, between the homogenous and the simultaneous.  It is painful but fruitful” (p. 141).

I contend we stand at a similar frontier right now.  And nowhere is it better illustrated than in David Rothman’s rant about Second Life.   Here we see what McLuhan calls an “advantage” of being on the frontier of a culture class: the ability to generalize.  Rothman, after complaining about a software upgrade that had eaten his password, decides that he would rather spend his time with books but, more importantly, he assumes that his opinion must be shared by millions: “On-screen instructions say I should contact tech support, but should I bother? I’d rather catch up on my book reading and on RSS feeds relating to books and e-books. I’ve got enough media in my life, thank you very much, and millions of other people would probably feel the same way.”

I’m sure there are people who feel that way along with people who prefer having this particular media, and frankly, that’s what makes it pretty darn exciting. I am a bibliophile like Rothman.  I prefer nothing more than curling up with a good book and am still in the process of reading pdf files without printing them out.  But, every other week, I take a visit to Second Life to meet with other teacher-educators from all over the world.  Yes, there are plenty of other ways we could meet virtually (chat, elluminate, forums), but I find doing it in SL fascinating.  Rothman, probably, would be OK with this use as he sees value for specific kinds of uses of SL.

But, I sometimes visit just to sit quietly with my avatar along the river or ride the intertube that someone had thoughtfully created.  It is winter, I am in graduate school, and I miss my kayak.  I visit the planetarium or chat with folks outside an art exhibit.  My involvement with SL has not diminished my commitment to typography; it is completely different.  If anything, the media I have begun to abandon is broadcast television.  I can watch whatever I need to online when I am ready.  So, it is rare for me to reserve time to watch television.  I am what Jenkins calls a zapper…I move restlessly from channel to channel.  But increasingly, I am not turning it on at all.

However, I am not going to make the generalization leap that Rothman does:  I do know from talking to people that others have also indicated that they tend to watch less television than they used to because they have adopted other media for getting the news or entertainment.    But I also know that lots of people still watch television.  They may also consume other media related to that television program, but they also sitting down at a specific time to tune into a specific television show.

I would suggest, in an addendum to McLuhan’s ideas about generalizations, that these frontier moments open the possibility for a wide variety of media relationships that may, in some cases, be determined by the analog lens that you apply to the new media.  For instance, people of the book come into the World Wide Web looking for ways to share information about a printed technology.  Librarything, Librivox, and Book Crossing are just a few of the websites that celebrate Gutenberg’s technology.  And, for Rothman, that’s as far as he wants to go.  And, that’s fine.  We each make personal decisions about how we are going to get involved in any media, both old and new.

Not to sound like a Pollyanna here (it’s a literary reference, BTW), but I would like to see us embrace the diversity of relationships that we may have with media, and try not to generalize our experiences for others.  As I begin my own research into the literacy practices of students and teachers, I want to uncover the individual voices and experiences, beginning as Lemke (2006) does “with the study of how people make meaings and experience feelings across real time as tehy interact wiht rich, complex multimodal artifacts and environments” (p. 9).

New Media Consortium Second Life Campus

I happened upon Second Life this spring as part of some work on MUDs and MOOs.  I made an account, learned to navigate (and fly!), and spent very little time there.  It was cool to wander around, but I just didn’t really see the point.

But in this month’s Technology Review, they describe the campus created by the New Media Consortium on a private island in Second Life.  I was able to join and poked around the posters that will be part of a live poster session later today.  You can read more about the session and the NMC Campus at the blog.