Mayo Clinic sets up SL presence

According to the Star Tribune, the venerable Mayo Clinic has opened a presence in Second Life. The article discusses a lot of stuff related to education and SL. I find it interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, this is coming at a time when a lot of people are ready to write SL off as having been just a fad. While it has fallen off the hype cycle of the media, it seems that plenty of organizations continue to probe its possibilities.

Second, one of the commenters had an interesting observation:

Eventually, more patients are likely to turn to Second Life or other virtual worlds for information, says Jennifer Keelan, an assistant professor of public health who helped conduct the University of Toronto study. So it makes sense for the medical profession to get ready. “You have to be engaged in these platforms in order to be there when the people arrive.”

Hmmm. Interesting point. In any case, I’ll be using SL in one of my speech classes this term in an environment that really supports providing the support to students. We’ll see how it goes.

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Growth of virtual worlds continues

This article provides some evidence that growth in virtual worlds usage continues. More importantly, the writer sees indications of an increase in the ability to move from grid to grid, a necessary requirement for virtual worlds to truly become the “next Internet.”

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Kingdon out, Rosedale back at Linden helm

I’m on the road, and so don’t have a lot of time to either write or analyze, but I note a major story relating to Second Life. Mark Kingdon has stepped down as CEO of Linden Lab, the owner and creator of Second Life, and is being replaced by founder and original CEO Philip Rosedale, who is returning. The metaverse is much abuzz about what this might mean for the future of SL, as well as the future of education in SL. I’ll weigh in again later. It has been reported by a number of outlets: here’s a story from The Metaverse Trib.

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Linden Labs restructuring

The blogosphere that follows Second Life has been buzzing in recent months about the number of people leaving Linden Lab, some involuntarily (Linden Lab is the company behind SL). It seems that it was the precursor to a corporate restructuring. We’ll see what it means for Second Life in general and education in SL in particular.

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A teacher’s perspective of Second Life

Dr. Matthew Trevett-Smith, a visiting professor of performance and communication arts at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., says Second Life Provides Real-World Benefits. He’s an anthropologist with a real sense of how our subjects intermesh in a liberal arts education, and he sees SL providing a means of bridging the traditional challenge of teaching critical thinking skills and broadening outlook/experience with the modern challenge of reaching “digital natives” who “will turn to Google rather than visit the library, or search Wikipedia instead of asking for a reference librarian.”

Virtual worlds engage my students in higher-order intellectual activity by requiring them to make and defend judgments. Ultimately, they are left with more questions to answer, a key outcome of liberal arts education. And as they immerse themselves in another culture — even a virtual one — they have physical emotional reactions to what’s happening on their screen.

Dr. Trevett-Smith isn’t arguing for us to replace study-abroad trips or other forms of education with SL; rather, he simply points out that SL is another tool in our toolbox, one with benefits that may not be more apparent without some deeper exploration.

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New viewer brings new tools for educators

This post is now three weeks old, which is ancient in the blogosphere, but it points out some useful info for educators who use Second Life, and it’s still valid, even though the “beta” has now been officially released.

While the article talks about five new tools for educators, I think the most significant one is the arrival of the long-talked-about “HTML on a prim.” The official name is “Shared Media,” and it’s simple to set up. The Second Life wiki has a good resource on the “how to,” which will eventually wind up in the Knowledgebase.

The gist of it, though, is that the “old way” involved setting the URL via something on the Land tab. In other words, the URL was tied to the parcel. Shared Media, on the other hand, is set in the object itself via the + symbol at the bottom of the Texture tab in the Build menu.

The upside: it’s easy.

The downside: unless you are using the new SL 2.0 viewer, you are completely unable to view the Web page. It would have been nice if somehow they could have enabled people with older viewers to at least see the page, but I understand why they couldn’t. (If it hasn’t clicked for you, look up a couple of paragraphs: the old way tied the URL to the parcel; the new way ties the URL to the object. Therefore, the older viewer has no way to understand an object with a URL tied to it.) Users of the older viewer will simply see the texture you choose for the tie-in.

So I’m going to make a texture that says “If you would like to see this Web page, please make sure you’re using Viewer 2.0 and then play your streaming media.”

Someone who does so will see not just a picture of a Web page (which is what the old style, in essence, did), but a fully interactive Web page, subject to the security restrictions the builder puts on it.

I think this will open up a whole new dimension for using SL as a tool of education.

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Configuring island

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we are reconfiguring one of the islands PSCC has in Second Life. We’re organizing a meeting to talk about what to do with it; if you would like to be part of it, you can make use of the form here.

To defeat spammers, I’ll remove this post after we’ve gathered the input.

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SL provides unique opportunity for architectural collaboration

Draxtor Despres has produced a detailed video about how architects and architectural students from all over the world are collaborating using Second Life, and how SL even enables them to communicate more clearly and meaningfully with client. I noted the participation of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. If you’re not familiar with them, they have mad cred.

As Draxtor notes in the description:

Four leading architects from the US, New Zealand and Egypt discussed what [Pres.} Obama promised in his Cairo speech: an online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.

The event featured was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. That’s some serious support, however you look at it.

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