Interview – Kim Pasternak (Kim Flintoff)

Kim Pasternak is one of Australia’s passionate education users of Second Life and runs the AusSLERs site. We caught up via email to discuss education and more.

Lowell Cremorne:Tell us a little about your educational background

Kim Pasternak: OK. I started out with the sciences, Chemistry especially, when I first left school and for a variety of reasons found my way into Theatre and Drama. After graduating with a degree from Murdoch University I worked for several years in the entertainment industry. Along the way I helped create Class Act Theatre and so my interest in Education was resurrected. A couple of years later I started my Graduate Diploma in Education at Edith Cowan University (ECU). It was there my interest in Drama and Technology was stirred. I worked as a teacher of Drama (and English, Dance, Computing, even Early Childhood Studies) in State and Catholic high schools and undertook a Master of Education (also at ECU) looking at Drama and Technology: teacher attitudes and perceptions. I also began working as a casual tutor and lecturer in teacher education. When the M.Ed was nearly finished I was invited to apply for a position in the PhD program at the Creative Industries faculty at Queensland University of Technology. I’ve got less than a year to go until that thesis is submitted.


Lowell Cremorne: What’s the topic of your PhD research?

Kim Pasternak: Like many thesis titles it’s long-winded and descriptive at the moment – Drama Teacher as Games Master: developing digital games-based process drama as performance. The basic idea is to take an extended educational role-playing form and blend it with online spaces. I want to see what happens when we extend a traditional drama form that is normally done with a focus on participation and simultaneously frame it as a performance – all mediated through an engagement with virtual spaces. I tell people it’s about Drama and Virtual Reality for the sake of ease. The output of the study is largely practical – I’m conducting 4 creative development cycles and the performances/workshops will form part of the thesis – only 40-50% will be written.

Lowell Cremorne: When did you first get involved in SL?

Kim Pasternak: Looking at my avatar’s birthdate it was November 17, 2005. I’d been told about it a few days earlier by some people at a conference in Melbourne – in fact, Lindy McKeown (Decka Mah) was also at that conference. Owen Kelly and Camilla Lindeberg from Arcada in Finland were there talking about their Marinetta project, they also referred to Neualternberg and my interest was piqued. I was already searching for possible technologies to use with my research project. At that time I was considering ActiveWorlds because I’d explored the possibilities and seen some exciting learning environments demonstrated by colleagues from AppState in North Carolina.

Lowell Cremorne: What are your recollections of those first few weeks using SL?

Kim Pasternak: Like most newbies I logged in without much of a clue about what to do – I was really just intent on finding the place Owen and Camilla had talked about. I found myself in this odd world that took a long time to resolve. I pretty much ignored the orientation experience and went searching straight away – the user interface was intuitive enough to let me clumsily get around. Like many newbies I also arrived with no understanding of the culture of SL and was terrified whenever another avatar appeared nearby. It was probably a week before I started talking to anyone. At that time there were relatively few users, around 150,000 from memory. And then I pretty much left SL while I got on with my study until about six months later when I got back into it with a clearer sense of what I was trying to achieve. By now, there were over a million registered users. The place had grown up and the interface was better and you didn’t have to look as hard to find things to do. This time I started to spend time playing with Kim Pasternak’s appearance, and took the time to learn the basics of building and scripting. I’m no whiz at either but can cope with some basic tasks.

Lowell Cremorne: Was the educational power of SL something that always seemed obvious or did you need to get to know it well first?

Kim Pasternak: Because of the context where I learned about Second Life I was always thinking about educational potential. I baulk a little at the idea of “educational power” but I could imagine possibilities from the outset and my current work is little changed form the original idea I had. I have however learned about the time it takes to create things and the great hurdles we have to overcome in convincing universities and schools about the possibilities. I negotiated for nearly 8 months with the network people at university before we could determine a workable and acceptable policy for how to engage with SL and other emerging technologies in a large institutional setting. I think we now have the basis of a very good approach to introducing and exploring new technologies. The educational and research communities have been a fantastic source of inspiration, information and guidance. The SLED and SLRL groups in particular continue to be the dynamic face of education in Second Life. The scope of educational projects is immense and growing daily.

Lowell Cremorne: What’s the most exciting learning application for SL you’ve seen? (SLURL would be great if you can provide it)

Kim Pasternak: There are so many exciting initiatives in Second Life it’s hard to choose just one. JoKay and Sean have a great listing of some of the more impressive projects. The NMC initiatives in running Symposia and other events has been a boon to developing knowledge about education in Second Life. Personally, being associated with some of the leading Australian SL educators continues to be exciting. Decka Mah and Anya Ixchel are both great colleagues and locally in the K-12 sector there are some interesting moves afoot. I started a website for AusSLERs. That’s the Australian Second Life Educators and Researchers group and we currently have about 50 members aboard. We also have the in-world group that’s also growing. I’ve been keen to develop more connections in the field of educational drama, as I think SL lends itself well to dramatic roleplay, but there don’t seem to be too many practitioners offering learning through drama. Anya Ixchel and I presented a session for NMC the other day “Teaching On the Second Life Stage: Playful Educational Strategies for Serious Purposes” that received some very positive feedback from the 30+ participants. Perhaps the DEISL (Drama Educators in Second Life) group might see a surge of interest.

Lowell Cremorne: Are you an immersive sort of SL user?

Kim Pasternak: If you are alluding to the difference between an “immersionist” or “augmentationist” I think I’d be hard pressed to make a definitive stand in either camp. But I suppose when I’m using my professional avatar, Kim Pasternak, then I make no effort to hide my real life inworld. My profile is fairly comprehensive about who I am in either context – I guess that makes Kim Pasternak an augmentation. I do however use Alts to explore SL and to play. The Alts also give me a bit of space away from the various groups and associations that Kim Pasternak connects with. It’s quite nice to wander about without IMs streaming in.


Lowell Cremorne: Putting your forecaster’s hat on, where do you see SL / virtual worlds evolving in the coming year and beyond.

Kim Pasternak: I’m hopeless at this sort of thing – I bought BETAMAX! I think the shift to the 3D Web will be slower here in Australia. All the talkj recently about how limited our internet capacity is in Australia was really brought home to me when I was in Hong Kong recently. Genuine high speed systems (not hyped up ADSL 2+ networks) need to drive something like a 3D Web and while many of the major players for these systems tend to operate out of the USA then we’ll continue to see that reflected in the types of 3D worlds that emerge. When the open source server systems start becoming more reliable we’ll probably see some local systems set in place – I think there may be some real benefits for that sort of arrangement in the various educational sectors. In the coming year, I think we’ll see the shift to voice in SL slowing down some of the innovations. I love using voice but can also see there are some real benefits to the text based mode of communication.

Lowell Cremorne: Any other thoughts on voice?

Kim Pasternak: As I mentioned above I think it offers a lot to many aspects of the SL experience – but some of the role-playing and other educational and performance activities will be adversely affected if there is a wholesale abandonment of text.

Lowell Cremorne: What are your favourite locations to visit in SL?

Kim Pasternak: Sadly, I don’t spend a lot of time exploring other spaces these days. A lot of my time and energy goes into developing the context for my own research work. I’ve just ordered an educational island so I guess I’ll probably see even less of the growing SL world in months to come. Having said that I do check out the offerings at ICT Library. I’ve also spent some enjoyable times listening to performances by Paisley Beebe (Australian jazz vocalist), I like the oddball work of Second Front and Ars Virtua gallery is often hosting some challenging works.

Lowell Cremorne: Who inspires you in SL?

Kim Pasternak: Well, I’d have to mention Decka Mah again, she’s always on the go with her own work and helping others. There’s a whole group of Aussie educators who are doing some great work – Anya Ixchel, Jokay Wollongong, Sean McDunnough amongst them. They’re always involved when something new and exciting is about to happen. There are lots of users I met through the SLED mailing list who inspire me, and in many ways they have become the shining lights of SL – Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins, Stan Trevena, Beth Ritter-Guth, and others. Larry Pixel and his crew at NMC are also high on my list of people to admire.

Lowell Cremorne: If you had your own island, what would you do with it?

Kim Pasternak: Well, I’ve recently placed an order for an island and the sad thing is I have to say I’ll be going to work there! It’ll serve as the base for PhD investigations and I’ll also make space available to some of the AusSLERs who are still dabbling. I’d love to set up a holographic space for early career researchers to generate 3D representations of their research posters. I got a holodeck from Biscuit Carroll some months ago but have struggled to generate much interest in the idea. I honestly believe that finding new ways of expressing research will have a tremendous impact on the shift towards more performative modes of research. When my study is finished I hope to maintain the island as a centre for drama educators to incubate and expand the paradigm of their work.

Teachers Buzz

Teachers world-wide will be conducting another Teachers Buzz this coming Monday 20th August 6pm SLT/PDT. The meeting is being held on the LivingintheUniverse island.

An added benefit to these SL educational happenings is now the use of date and time services at Time and Educators here in Australia and around the world now have a quick and easy reference for local times to that of the SL happenings and times.

The Teachers Buzz on Monday is being presented by Cosmo Priestman, Ourania Fizgig and ScubaChris Wollongong, with the planned program being a look at ‘The History of Earth & Life on Earth Exhibit’. This is a scale model installation work on the timeline of Earth, 4.6 billion years ago to the present.

The History of Earth & Life on Earth Exhibit can be found here.

International Virtual Teaching and Learning Research Institute proposed

I stumbled across this message on the SL Research email list today – great to see Macquarie University well and truly joining the virtual world fray:

“Call for Expressions of Interest to contribute to a proposed International Virtual Reality Teaching and Learning Research Institute

This is a general call for academics and practitioners involved or interested in the field of Virtual Reality Teaching and Learning (using environments such as Second Life) to express their interest in contributing to or being associated with an International Virtual Reality Teaching and Learning Research Institute.

The range of research and development that the proposed Institute would support is intentionally left open, but could include projects such as investigating the efficacy of various virtual reality learning designs, researching the sociological and psychological aspects of learning in virtual reality environments, and the success with which tools and
scripts can be applied across different curricula.

Interested parties can nominate roles that they would like to perform, which may include:

– advice on the policies of the Institute and the services it provides
– research and development in conjunction with the Institute (utilising support services that would be provided by the Institute)
– evaluation of Institute performance

If you are interested in becoming involved with the proposed Institute, please provide an Expression of Interest (of no longer than one page) outlining your experience with VREs or related technology based learning applications, any research experience, the reasons for your interest in becoming associated, and the ways in which you would like to be involved.

Please return all Expressions of Interest no later than 9th August 2007.

Prospective contributors would form part of a Carrick Grant Application to establish the Institute.

This initiative is being lead by Professor John Hedberg, Macquarie University Australia.”

The Ann Myers Medical Center

The Ann Myers Medical Center (AMMC) is part of the Sprott-Shaw Community College islands.


The AMMC blog lists the presence’s goals as:

“1. Assist students to become more proficient in initial exam history and physicals. The patient often reveals many important aspects of their disorder through their words if the physician takes the time to listen. In this fast-paced world, med students are not being appropriately trained to listen.

2. A second aspect to the history and physical for Dr. Ann is attempting to train her students to truly care for their patients. Dr. Ann teaches her First Life students that they can heal simply by listening and caring. She often states to her students, “Laying a hand on a patient’s shoulder and honestly listening can heal more than any medication you can prescribe for a person.”

3. AMMC is attempting to link telemetric builds (ECG, oxygen saturation machines, etc.) to real-time outputs via URLs. Thus, a student will right click on an ECG machine and be taken to a URL, where they will have to accurately diagnose the medical issue through analysis of telemetric outputs.

4. In conjunction, we will be assisting students to become more proficient in the analysis of MRIs, CTs and X-rays.

5. AMMC will also be training Psychology students in various methodologies and treatment protocols, implementing Dr.Ann’s belief and research interest in psychoimmunobiology, the body’s ability to heal itself through the stimulation of the immune system to fight disease.”


The goals are more than worthy, and any strategy that increases the human focus of medical students is a very positive thing. The hospital itself consist of three floors and includes and operating theatre, recovery unit, birthing unit and examination cubicles. Aside from the technological learnings that could be enabled here, when SL becomes fully voice enabled the ‘bedside manner’ issues will probably provide the greatest educational gains. Of course, it’d be nice to know that Australian health professionals were being provided the same opportunities.


Check it out in-world

Monash University (doesn’t) join the SL contingent

We’ve been contacted by SL resident Curiosa Paravane requesting we remove the image we’d featured in this story. Curiosa has made the following statement: “The branding of the building on esperance was a mistake which has been corrected”. We’ve removed the image as it appears Monash University aren’t in fact officially in SL at this stage.

We asked Curiosa whether a real Monash presence was imminent – her response was “I can’t comment on behalf of Monash, I’m afraid. You’ll have to wait and see like everyone else :)”

At SLOz we ran the story because the Places search functionality was returning Monash University – this is no longer the case.

The original story (minus image):

“Monash University has joined USQ, RMIT, Murdoch Uni and the AFTRS in Second Life with a modest presence on Esperance Island.

We’re hoping to catch up with someone from Monash in coming days to find out more.

Check it out in-world

Smart Internet and business in SL

Smart Internet, a joint venture between a range of universities, State Governments and industry, has released a report called ‘Business in Second Life: An Introduction’. Authored by Swinburne University-based Senior Researcher Mandy Salomon, it provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of play in SL for Australian business.


Kathy’s Kaffeeklatsch

Australian teachers may be familiar with Kathy Schrock.

This USA educator has had an internet presence for just over a decade now and her website “Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators” is a popular resource which has certainly developed and changed since the early days.

Of course it stands to reason that Kathy is now exploring the options that SL has to offer educators and with that in mind she has established Kathy’s Kaffeeklatsch.


Downstairs there is a great coffee lounge adjoining a poster display of resources. The posters are, mainly, Web 1.0 links to various resources and events such as NECC 2007.

Upstairs Kathy has a more formally configured SL classroom in which to conduct Web 2.0 professional development and group gatherings.


The “To Put your Hand Up – press the fly up (PAGE UP) key. To Put your Hand Down – press the fly down (PAGE DOWN) key” when sitting in the classroom area is a reminder that in some ways school never changes, regardless of technology!

Criticism of Second Life – same old, same old

Jokay Wollongong provides an interesting story on an education symposium she attended and she made one point around how online learning guru Stephen Downes reeled off the usual litany of criticisms of SL, ones we all experience: lag, lack of interoperability with other virtual worlds and the issue of boundaries/rules in a metaverse context. All totally legitimate criticisms and ones that need to keep being made by the broader community.


However, the story does illustrate the huge growth in ‘experts’ proliferating in regards to virtual worlds. It’s not an unusual phenomenon, but a reasonable expectation of anyone claiming expertise is that they will provide constructive, considered thoughts on alternative approaches. Stephen Downes may certainly have done that but as SL grows, the number of people attempting to make a living off commentating on SL will also expand. Here’s hoping the chorus of commentary doesn’t turn into an ill-informed lynch mob – as always it’s about balance.

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