RMIT Island Under Construction

RMIT University, Melbourne have embarked on a construction project in SL that allows people to drop in and view their progress from a lookout area that affords a view across their island.

The contruction zone of RMIT Island is off limits to people apart from a small square atop a hill. From there visitors can see how things are going or relax in a deckchair watching some old 1930s style cartoons.

This quirky little piece of interest is probably a result of the makeup of the team that is putting the RMIT sim together. A mix of students from the faculties of:

School of Architecture and Design
School of Creative Media
School of Property, Construction and Project Management

The in-world contact is John Guffey and no doubt he will be able to answer further questions but I think the ability to drop in and watch progress may be even more revealing than a straight up Q & A from him.

With the growing number of universities from Australia embarking upon, dare I say it, “campuses”, in SL, and already conducting lessons in-world, education is about to embark upon an incredibly transformational journey.

SL’s Healthinfo Island

Healthinfo Island is an impressive community effort on the part of health librarians and it offers two services – a consumer health library and a medical library for health professionals. Both are run by specialist health librarians, Namro Orman and Carolina Keats.

When describing the Consumer Health Library, Keats says “the building is deliberately non-tech, home-like and the doors never close. It’s meant to be welcoming – I think lots about what’s welcoming, non-institutional, and about fostering trust”.

The library, although comprehensive, is always evolving, with new initiatives in development.

“One.. initiative, just in early days, is to encourage the development and identification of assistive technologies so that people with disabilities can come to SL, interact,’ Keats continued

The array of health information on offer is enormous, but approachable through use of everyday objects and environments.

‘if I could give a sort of high-level picture of what we’re about – we’re about supporting SL groups and individuals with quality health information, to empower them as health consumers,” Keats said.

“I’ll be going out to folks, finding out about information needs – and hope to enlist them in collaborative events, like health fairs. There are many healthcare-associated people in SL, so I want to connect with them, too. We are looking for people to help create content in health & wellness subject areas”.

If you’re looking for health information for a family member or friend, or a health professional after research findings, Healthinfo island should be your first stop in-world

Aussie developer needs all hands on deck

Developer Estrelle Fauna of Big-Bit has posted on our discussion forum asking for Australians with building / scripting / programming / sales experience.

With the enormous interest in SL, Big-Bit have the need to expand their talent to deal with the large number of prosposals being requested by Australian organisations interested in what SL may have to offer.

Cafepress launch in-world search engine have upped the ante with their SL presence with the following announcement (directly quoting the press release):

Second Life, METAVERSE (01 February 2007)

Tretiak Media, LLC announced today that will use its SLQuery platform as their search engine in the 3D virtual world of Second Life. By using the SLQ infoStation, a free public search and chat kiosk, residents of Second Life can browse from millions of products in the inventory.

Search results are displayed in the virtual environment of Second Life by text and thumbnail images, so the initial viewing of products does not require the launching of an external web browser. Previous Second Life search systems lacked product pictures and only supplied limited text link results. This diminished the usefulness of a search within Second Life idea, and required outside web pages as support. The SLQ system keeps the user in Second Life and utilizes it as a true 3D internet.

This search feature is just the first step for the entry of into Second Life. The next phase will be a virtual marketplace, that takes the web storefront and brings it completely into the metaverse. Shopkeepers will be able to design and then sell their Real Life products from Second Life, keeping the product creation process, purchases, and payment transactions entirely inside the virtual environment.

Until a Real Life teleportation system is developed, however, product fulfillment will continue to rely on traditional shipping methods. Second Life is already the perfect venue for the community, which is very loyal and has many social events worldwide. As an extension of the marketplace, it gives the several million active shopkeepers a new environment to network, learn, and promote their products.

Tretiak Media is also adapting its SLQ image viewing technology for use with its search feature. The eventual goal will be to offer a prim-based internet search/browser platform. This system is just the start of future vBusiness initiatives to come.

The SLQ infoStation, SLQ infoHUD, and other infoProducts can be found on SL Exchange, SL Boutique , or in Second Life at: SLQ HQ

Flying Librarians of Oz

Had a very informative conversation with Emerald Dumont, an Australian in-world librarian. Emerald has been involved in the establishment of an Australian Library service in SL.

Established on Cybrary City in November 2006 it is being co-ordinated by Emerald, with another 14 Australian library folk joining in.

Emerald cites networking, fun, playfulness, a rapid increase in IT skills and a chance to learn a new interface as some reasons why she is there.

“There are over 900 librarians setting up services on the 7 islands around Info Island”, she said.

“Together we are grappling with customer service issues like whether doors discourage visitors – we are experimenting with removing them totally from our buidings. We are creating links to library resources outside second life, have RSS feeds and search engines available within our libraries, are holding author talks, staffing reference desks, creating displays and offering our libraries as community meeting places. We have even had historical figures, like Henry VIII, talk about their lives”.

Emerald would like to hear from Australians in Second Life about what they want from the library. “As well as providing information, I’d like to see it used as a gathering place for Australians who didn’t want to hang out in pubs. The top floor could be used as a community meeting room, as happens in real life libraries”.

Kathryn Greenhill, the real life librarian behind Emerald Dumont, is giving a talk about library services in Second Life at the National Library as part of its “Digital Culture” series. It’s titled “Flying Librarians of Oz: What’s all the fuss about Second Life and what’s it got to do with libraries?”.


Australian Libraries Building
Flying Librarians of Oz talk: 14th February 12:30pm, National Library Lecture Theatre, Canberra
More about the Australian Libraries Building:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Students tend to use Google or Wikipedia as their first port of call in researching for information these days. Emerald’s library service could change this as more and more library and librarian services find themselves developing an SL service.

In fact, the idea of “Ask a Librarian” could be back in vogue with quality SL libraries like Australian Libraries Building and librarians such as Emerald being available to answer your query.

Health Care – Second Life Style

The issue of Addiction in Second Life has been discussed previously, but there’s a much wider scope in Second Life for the issue of health. Ask any health professional what their definition of health is and you’ll get a very different answer every time. The World Health Organisation states that: “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, and that’s as good a definition as you’ll find.

Even though health is so much more than hospitals, they deserve a mention. As of now, there are no Australian health services with a presence in SL, hospital or otherwise. At an international level, finding health services in-world tends to lead to things like Danvers State Hospital (pictured), which is offering themed rental like no other. There is also a real-life Danvers Insane Asylum and neither particularly help to remove the stereotype of mental health care options. Add to that groups like the Fake Doctors Association and the colourful side of the equation is well serviced.

Support for Healing Island (pictured) is a well known support service for anyone wanting to talk about an issue, but otherwise there’s very little around that I’ve come across as yet.

Is this due to lack of R&D funds for health services to investigate innovative ways of delivering health care or a general lack of awareness and understanding? The Education sector leads the way in this area, with health lagging, at best. The Australian scene is even less evolved and the University
sector will probably need to lead the way if any real progress is to be made.

One other thing – we love being proved wrong at SLOz – if you know of health services in-world that we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about them.

University of Southern Queensland is first Australian University presence

I don’t think the electrons had finished spinning when I received comments / emails from Sean FitzGerald and Decka Mah that there was indeed an Australian University that had an SL presence.

And what a presence!

The University of Southern Queensland in conjunction with the Queensland Government have an entire island in-world at SL.

Terra Incognita Visitor Centre

Terra Incognita is a dynamic and intriguing mix of colour, sound and areas aimed at exploring online learning environments within the SL world. It is worth a look because it is currently setting the standard for showcasing Australian tertiary education in this new medium.

One of the striking features is the fact that the developer team, led by Decka Mah (aka in RL as Lindy McKeown) have gone for a design theme that does not mirror the RL USQ. This is something that the USA universities currently in SL seem to have done – Ohio Uni for example.

What will be intriguing to see over the coming year is how USQ makes use of this experience to enhance learning for it’s students and the teaching experience for it’s lecturers and tutors.

On another level the fact that the Queensland Government have backed this project examples the ideal of the “Clever Nation” ideal espoused some years ago.

A visit to Terra Incognita is well worth the effort. You won’t find it by doing a search in SL, as I found out… 🙂

Uni Degrees Way Above Zero!

Second Life will undoubtedly affect the way in which tertiary education is delivered.

I say this after doing a search of the term “university” on SL the other night. Whilst the usual mish-mash of results occurred, what was extremely interesting was the number of universities that had established a serious presence in SL.

As yet there is no Australian presence, however I would not be surprised to see some of our premier universities such as the 2006 Commonwealth University of the Year, University of Wollongong, showing up there some time soon.

The prospects for distance education courses are an obvious dimension that SL would substantially change in terms of costs, lecture material, communication and student / lecturer interaction. However, it also begs the question as to whether the idea of on-campus and off-campus course structures could, would and will change.

A perusal of the search results on SL show that some of the universities; Rockcliffe University, Ohio University, San Diego State University (the top three by traffic numbers) are exploring their presence and the kind of options they can offer current and prospective students. As the front runners, other universities (competitors in the world market place) may find themselves playing catchup at a cost.

Assuming that the global market is just that, we will no doubted see these SL campuses of Real Life (RL) centres for learning providing fully recognized programs at competitive rates.

The effect that will have on Australia’s HECS scheme, and indeed, the funding and viability of universities in this country is a definite area of concern, if not interest.

Teaching Science? – The SL Science Center is for you.

I recall an article bemoaning the lack of scientists in Australia – too many MBA’s mayhap 😉 – so for those of you interested in a different perspective on gathering resources for teaching, a visit to the SL Science Center is definitely in order.

A range of displays and interactive exhibits as well as links to various other SL Science landmarks not to mention URL links around the center make this a must see.

I was especially impressed with the weather map just inside the first building when you TP (Teleport) in. It would be great if our own Australian BOM site could have such a visually impressive representation of weather!

Just do a search for “Science Center” and you will find the place and the group dedicated to the maintenance and development of this valuable area. It would appear to be an international collaboration too. Would be great to see some Aussies represented.

The creater, Troy McLuhan has his own blog subtitled Explaining Science with Second Life. He certainly would and could be classified as a pioneer in exploring the ways and means of enabling science education to be delivered in a way that motivates further investigation by aspiring students and teachers. Both the Science Center and Troy’s blog would certainly be a good inclusion for prospective science teachers as a SL Field Trip and browser read respectively.

Of course, the downside is that you can’t share this with classes in schools (unless you are very, very brave – or stupid), though the URLs are obviously easy to bookmark in a browser and pass on to students.

Given the “mature” dangers associated with SL the challenge in the near future for both Linden Labs and content providers is how to overcome the inherent dangers when such worthy SL areas are sandwiched in areas that contain, let us say, adult content…

Education and SL (A Brave New World)


This is my first post here and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and observations of SL in the education arena.

Here in Australia today we saw the opposition leader Mr. Kevin Rudd flag education as his first biggy policy announcement in his quest to unseat Mr. John Howard as Prime Minister.

A curious choice but not a bad one given the changing face of education in Australia and the flagging fortunes of this nations manufacturing sector in the heat of increasing Asian competition and the inability of local firms to compete due to labour costs (to name one factor).

So, where does SL fit into all this? Well, over the past decade governments across Australia have spent millions of dollars plonking computers in front of students in the K-12 sector of education. And, in the past 2 to 3 years there has been another big spend in enabling students and teachers to access the internet and have email addresses.

Whilst this has been going on developments like SL have appeared which current Government (State and Federal) Education policy, well, quite simply, have not even considered and, in fact, have denied access to at school level.

In SL we have a challenge to utilise a new form of communication in a way that has educational benefits and outcomes that go beyond anything ever seen before. SL, like Google Earth and Web 2 technology generally will dramatically affect the way education programs are delivered, accessed and credentialed.

And so, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and observations in this brave new world of SL and education over the coming 2007 year.

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