PacRimX, Skoolaborate and Global Challenge merger: the beginning of an Education Grid?

Bakamatsu region, Kyoto, on the Second Life Main Grid

PacRimX (Pacific Rim Exchange)

Stan Trevena, director of technology for Modesto City Schools, is the man responsible for the PacRimX project, developed in 2007. The idea was that kids from Modesto and their counterparts from Kyoto Gakuen in Japan would be able to interact with each other in a virtual environment, prior to an international student exchange in which 20 Modesto students traveled to Japan, and vice versa with 50 Japanese students.

Due to time-zone issues, video-conferencing was ruled out as a solution early on. Instead, Trevena bought an private Island on the Teen Second Life Grid. He fitted it with some basics, including a welcome centre, but noted that “a lot of the innovative use of the island will come from the kids.” The number of islands has now expanded to four. Trevena describes the facility as “a place for our students to communicate and collaborate with each other in building a place where they can share their interests, cultures and languages.”

Students from Kyoto arrived in Modesto on June 24, 2008.

Skoolaborate

Westley Field, Director of Online Learning at MLC School Sydney, founded the Skoolaborate Project in 2007. Skoolaborate works with junior high schools around the globe to foster students collaboration, involving the use of digital technologies: wikis, blogs, virtual environments and other online learning tools. The Skoolaborate learning space, also on the Teen Second Life Grid, is a private, secure area with an invitation required to access it. “Skoolaborate now has 14 schools from Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and the USA.”

Global Challenge

“In the Global Challenge, teams of US high school students collaborate with international counterparts from October to May to address global climate change and compete for prizes and scholarship awards.”

Approximately 2,000 students have already participated in their program.

The merger

Kyoto Gakuen has been working with both Skoolaborate and PacRimX independently since the genesis of each program in 2007. This is how a relationship developed between the directors of the programs, which ultimately led to the merger between the two. The Global Challenge program was brought in separately, to complement the work of the others.

The resulting merged program, featuring input and participation by 17 schools from across the globe, is now the world’s largest virtual environment project, designed for kids of junior high school age.

“Schools collaborate using a variety of online tools and environments to share experiences, thoughts and ideas from around global understanding, social and environmental education.”

Thoughts

Having a private project on the Teen Second Life Grid could have been a great way to ensure that students encountered a slow-moving, sterile environment, with great homogeneity of culture, opinion and thought. However, this partnership should bring together a rich and diverse mix of folks, students and educators, which should create a varied, stimulating environment in which to learn.

Linden Lab is in flux, and the cause is not at all clear: speculation is rife and rumors abound, and the Lab has all but cut off communications with it’s residents. The Millennial Generation does not seem to be the target audience for the Second Life “platform” – this indicates that there is unlikely to be an “Education Grid” any time soon, or perhaps at all. It looks like the program developed by the combined force of PacRimX, Skoolaborate and Global Challenge will be the one of the largest contenders for an alternative.

The question is: will the Teen Second Life Grid remain active for long enough for any of their goals to come to fruition?

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