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Friday, August 2, 2013

Virtual Worlds Best Practices In Education 2013 Conference 2013-Beyond the Stage- Nomad Aries Reporting…

Over the span of July 24th to July 27th 2013, I attended one of the most eye opening and thought provoking events ever to convene on Second Life©, The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 6th Annual Conference. Each day was jam packed with exhibits, presentations, films and festivities. It was difficult to pick a specific event or presentation to attend. Some presentations were so popular that venues were filled to capacity.

Although I do not have the exact numbers, I will say, attendance was extremely high. I had been informed in an earlier interview with Lorivonne Lustre that the conference was based largely on and would be impossible without collaboration on all levels. This statement proved to be true as I found, despite the large number of people there was a real sense of community and collaboration among everyone there. The air was full of anticipation, excitement and comradery. There were so many people from all parts of the world and from different fields of endeavor who were eager to learn and teach and share their expertise and research with all of us. 

Exhibits and posters were interactive and sparked some interesting conversations and discussions with fellow attendees.

 Presentations were enthralling and astounding. It would be impossible to pick one specific example of the contributions from so many talented people, to report to you about. For this reason I have chosen to show you some of the work from the award winners at the conference. As explained on the webpage of the VWBPE

 The awards were given because these works were determined to be samples of presentations, films and exhibits that are considered to be some of the best of how best practices are being used within immerse environments for education. The following submissions were selected by VWBPE Conference attendees as upholding those principles that are significant examples for others in the education field to apply to their own curriculum.

 Machinima is one category in which awards were presented. Machinima is “the use of real time computer graphics computer engines to create a film". 

 The award for first place in the Machinima Film Awards category was given to Helen Farley (RL), Helen Frak (SL) for the production of
 Machinima as a Discussion Support System for Sugar Cane Farmers 

This film was made as a support system for sugar cane farmers who must carefully plan their farming decisions in conjunction with climate information. The script was written by Neil Cliffe, a PhD candidate who works on the Discussion Support System. It was recorded professionally by sound engineers at the University of Southern Queensland. Avatars and environments were created by Top Dingo who also shot the visuals.  

 You can view the second place and third place winners on the VWBPE's webpage (posted above); there are links to the YouTube videos of these productions. They are impressive and amazing works.

 The next category for awards is The VWBPE Poster Awards. In second place the award went to Helen Farley (RL) Helen Frak (SL) for
 Encke Virtual University Collaboration Bringing Educators Together In Second Life.

"The Encke Virtual University Collaboration brought educators from around the world to an island in Second Life to listen to some presentations from experts in the field, embark on a series of field trips but most importantly to collaborate in teams around a number of topics including bots, communities of practice and “gamification”. Like the comet Encke, the Encke Virtual University Collaboration had a long tail, with a number of workshops and events, and collaborations developing over the following months".

The award for first in this category was also given to Dr. Helen Farley/Helen Frak for
 Sweetening climate information for sugar cane farmers with Second Life Machinima.

The award for the third place in the poster category was given to Bert Matchman/Dragan Lakic for
 A Real-Time Interactive 3D Virtual Retail World.

In the category of
 The VWBPE 2013 People's Choice Award for Best Presentation the third place award went to Share the Black Crayon – Collaborative Superhero Teams for their work Share the Black Crayon – Collaborative Superhero Teams, (Zinnia Zauber)

I have to say honestly that this was one of my personal favorite presentations. I enjoyed this presentation immensely and even had quite an interesting conversation with other attendees while at this presentation. This exhibit left me thinking about it for days after. This is the description posted on the VWBPE's site for this work; 
“Lead by example. Share the spotlight instead of fighting over control or the black crayon, so that people reveal and utilize their superpowers. Immersive environments, like Second Life, open opportunities for educators to expand beyond the classroom by including worldwide professional guests, virtual and physical field trips, and community building inquiry and impact on screen and off. Learn to establish educational experiences that build teams and encourage students to discover their superpowers through developing authentic avatars, fostering clear, confident communication, assigning responsibility, and cultivating respect.”

First place in this category is Juliane Gabriel (RL)/Jaynine Scarborough (SL) for The Advantages of Live Performance and Life Lecturing in the 3D Environment.
The award for second place went to Dr. Hsiao-Cheng Han for the work Virtual worlds, from Unknown to Known: What We Have Done and What We Can Do More on Education.

There was another category, a very important one, true to the VWBPE's own definition. This would be the
 VWBPE 2013 Exemplary Volunteer Award. This award is for "Those individuals who have shown dedication to the community by going above and beyond expectations and have, through their commitment, been an example to others as to what we can achieve when we all work together".

This award did not go to one person. It went to many. Because the very nature of what the VWBPE does depends on collaboration and team work. This award went to the following deserving individuals: Bluebarker Lowtide,Edith Halderman, Grizzla Pixelmaid, Ladyslipper Constantine, Oronoque Westland,Pim Peccable, Pionia Destiny, Pixellada. Tender Skytower and iSkye Silverweb Bonde.

I hope you can see the kind of work the VWBPE does. It takes a year to prepare for this conference. It involves so many individuals who work in a myriad of ways to produce a conference of this magnitude. One question I was constantly asked at the conference was "Are you having a great conference"?

The answer was a resounding yes. People were pleasant, friendly and helpful. I saw a lot and learned a lot. I am still thinking about some things I saw and learned. I cannot explain how astounded I was to find a practical nursing course on Second life or a pharmaceutical training lab. How surprised I was to meet people who learned a language in a very short time by immersing themselves in virtual world environments. How they fit so much information into just a few days is an incredible feat. 

Knowledge is powerful. Never before has so much knowledge been so easily available to mankind, no matter what part of the globe you reside in. Millions of people take online courses or work on online discussion groups. Knowledge leads to discussion, inspiration, ideas, innovation and motivation. Knowledge is meant to be shared. The technology of the virtual worlds used for sharing information and knowledge and is one of the most innovative and powerful tools we have ever possessed.

The MOOC (massive online open course) will run for the next four weeks. Over 2,300 people have signed up for it. Massive, is the correct term.

On Monday July 29th 2013, they ran virtual world tours from the sim.

The VWBPE Conference will once again be held on SL in April of 2014. If you are interested in attending I urge you to go on the VWBPE website, read about them and see, in the archives, some of the projects, films, presentations and research that the VWBPE has to offer. You do not have to be an educator to attend the conference and the venues are free. Use the Contact Us to get involved as a volunteer if you wish. I can guarantee you will be part of a strong team.

There are many parties and lots of socializing at the conference so if you are a DJ or entertainer and you would like to get involved in something worthwhile, contact the VWBPE through their website and sign on for next year’s conference.

If you have an interest in the virtual worlds and want to see what they can be used for and where they are heading, you will enjoy the VWBPE Conference. It is open to everyone, annually. I hope to see you there.

To the members of the VWBPE, I thank you for your efforts. It was a truly amazing and inspiring experience. I plan to attend again next year too.

Was the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference 2013 a success? Definitely Yes!


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