I wanted to follow up on my last post about attending the 13th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference, which was indeed STELLAR! From Dr. L. Rob Furman and two other opening keynote speakers, presentations spanning three days, the Creatures of Myth scavenger hunt game (and the 10 other pre and post conference immersive events like Embrace the Suck: Classic World of Warcraft and my own Friends of the Library Selfie Portraits Activity), to my friend Renne Emiko Brock deservedly winning this year’s Thinkerer Award, the conference was a whirlwind of intergalactic adventure! I created a mock up the Community Virtual Library’s Hypergrid Resource centers in OpenSim for the exibit area, and I had a lot of fun creating that little 45 second welcome video for it above. CVL’s space station and hypergrid portals in OpenSim tied in nicely with this year’s theme. In a nutshell, this conference is a great example of what a global educational immersive event can and should be.
Here’s a picture of my tiny cat avatar dancing with Renne/Zinnia at one of the social events after her receiving the Thinkerer Award.
This year I was also a volunteer (as well as presenter), which added another level of experience for me. I’m already planning to volunteer next year, and I’m working on a more elaborate immersive event. It’s so inspiring to see what others have done, and I’m still trying to catch up in terms of my own skills! Several more experienced volunteers said they thought there were more newbies this year than in the past, (about 3500 people are involved with this event each year), probably because interest in virtual environments is having a moment. This is not unexpected given the global pandemic. So I enjoyed being able to help people who were brand new get acclimated to the environment, I gave out landmarks and teleports, and we chatted about this event and other educators I know and their simulations. Of course I also had a great time catching up with other virtual world colleagues I’ve met before at this conference.
An International Community of Immersive Educators
It’s always exciting to be part of an international event, with participants from all over the world. I was part of three presentations. My CVL and VCARA colleagues and I have been actively exploring social VR platforms with head-mounted display, despite the fact that most of us prefer virtual world platforms (aka Desktop VR). CVL Director Dr. Valerie Hill and I presented on the topic of Intentional Immersion. She and I have, (and continue), to meet using Oculus Rift in different social VR settings to play around and explore features,and to compare notes on our experiences and technical difficulties. How else can we possible keep up with so many different platforms that are currently competing for our adoption in education?
San Jose State University Colleagues
The presentation probably of most interest to other educators, however, was our panel with VCARA colleagues “Survey Says! Developing Criteria for VR Courses”. Val and I joined SJSU iSchool’s Dr. Pat Franks, and VCARA alums Dr. Marie Vans and Alyse Dunavant-Jones. I spoke about about the survey responses about wanting to use VR in the classroom vs as the classroom.Watching a video of a virtual event is nothing like experiencing it for yourself, so let me just give you my big takeaway. (I’m speaking from 46 minutes in for the last 10 minutes.) When it comes to immersive technology for education, the criteria educators determined were the most essential are met already in ALL ways with desktop VR, with one single exception. That exception is that we don’t currently have a way for head-mounted display interaction with those on a desktop. But in ALL other respects, desktop VR like Second Life and OpenSim has everything else educators have told us they need. So if you’re interested in immersive teaching and learning, I have two questions for you. Are you in-world yet? If not – why not?!