Friday, October 8, 2010

Confusion, Shock, Anger, then Plans by Educators in Second Life

Thanks, AJ
Location: SLED e-list

At the SLED list I saw a pattern to the responses: shock, outrage, sadness, then planning. My own sense of betrayal and rage at Linden Lab was not atypical, but it reveals something about academics: we don't know or share the values of the corporate world.

Mom-And-Pop Values

Instead, we resemble the trust-and-handshake relationships of smaller businesses. My dad, a successful produce wholesaler, taught me, mixing coarse and wholesome adages as he often did, to "never screw your customer" and "always keep your word." While institutions of higher education compete for business, we do so with that sort of older-style (and I'd claim superior) ethos and a strong sense of community that does not consider profit to be the sole or final arbiter of value. I leave it up to better informed folks such as Dusan Writer and Tateru Nino to consider what Linden Lab may do in the months ahead about selling their company or at least seeking new investors.

Whatever the company's goals, Linden Lab's abrupt decision--by the standards of higher education--catches us in the middle of a fiscal year and in many cases, in the middle of grant-funded research. That is at least within the boundaries of what we know how to do. We can go back to those providing funds and ask for reallocation. And for those with existing projects that need to continue beyond the end of current contracts, combining efforts with other institutions can keep things going.

Helping Those Caught in the Headlights

More vexing to me are those who have made no Plan B, who really are not very skilled with the technologies of virtual worlds despite being talented teachers and researchers. Judging from the remarks on SLED and with colleagues in person, too many of us have done NO research on alternatives to SL, or we don't even know the current interface well enough to see what OpenSim grids might do differently if we make that move.

Now we find ourselves in a sea of new terms, alternative clients for visiting virtual worlds, and a universe of new grids. I've spent time in the past two days explaining to admins and colleagues, both on my campus and trickling in from e-mails, what third-party viewers ARE, what OpenSim is (typical line: "it's not a place, but a protocol for making places like SL"), how Hypergrid (which I'll soon try) works, and how inventory in SL works. Basic stuff, yes, but looking at the SLED list, I'm stunned by how common lack of basic knowledge can be.

I can understand why some folks will simply leave virtual worlds completely.

The tasks ahead are daunting. We pioneers don't get a lot of credit for this work, even though many of us believe this technology is going to change mainstream education. What to do?

Organizing and Sharing

First, join this wiki, from Lindy McKeown of The University of Southern Queensland, Australia and note how the changes are influencing your plans:

I doubt any lobbying will sway the Lab, though showing them how much money they will lose is a nice "up yours!" moment for us.

Second, if you know anything you can share about OpenSim worlds, start answering the many questions on lists such as SLED or EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds. If you are sticking it out in SL, and need help with collaborations and consolidations, get on these e-lists and share.

In time we'll develop the sorts of networks that we had in SL and leverage existing connections, as we move onto other grids, as I plan to do, or we'll retrench and run leaner operations in SL.

Here Jokay Wollongong's example can guide us. She did both.

More on Jokay next week, when I cover her talk to educators at The Virtual World Education Roundtable.

Remaining Chipper, Determined, and Cunning

This is funny advice for grumpy me to give. But we will outlast one company who did not live by our mom-and-pop values.

At Montclair's soon-to-close Amphitheater, getting ready for the visit by Jokay Wollengong, I helped a faculty member new to SL figure out how to give notecards to students. Here is a teacher, on a doomed campus sim, carrying on bravely while discovering the wonder of teaching in a 3D immersive setting.

I kept a brave face but it was one of the few times I actually wanted to cry when using SL.

Let's stay brave, network, and to cop the title of the blog by John Lester (née Pathfinder Linden), "be cunning and full of tricks."


Anonymous said...

I was inspired to name my blog after part of a quote from Watership Down.

I find it inspiring for anyone dealing with challenges in the world. Here's the entire quote:

<All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you.

But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the Swift Warning.

Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

Watch this video and you'll see it fully in context.

Maggie said...

I will admit my initial reaction was anger. Mainly because I knew that all of my resources given to me to complete my dissertation research would disappear. However, as I have said in my own blog this may open new opportunities and provide me with a better understanding of VW in education. Educators should just do their best to stay as a community.

Sarah Stewart said...

I am an educator who flits in and out of SL. I have a love-hate relationship with it...I think it is too difficult to use on a regular basis compared to other social networking tools, yet at the same time, I recognise it's value for simulation...especially in my field which is midwifery education.

This move by Linden Lab may well be the nail in the coffin as far as SL is concerned...and even virtual worlds...that will depend on how easy I find it to connect with OpenSim or Reaction Grid...I guess time will tell.

cheers Sarah (SL: Petal Stransky)

iliveisl said...

i agree with you that many people will simply leave virtual worlds. budget timing is horrible and the increase so large, that many will not be granted doubling that aspect of the virtual world endeavors

however, no one should be so doe eyed as to be caught off guard by this

Jokay's Take Down notice a year ago was sufficient to clearly state that Linden Lab could care less about educators. heck, their shutting off of hypergridding to IBM, who spent millions in Second Life, showed that they did not value their customers . . .