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Archive for Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Second course: KU class meets in online fantasy site

Students taking a Kansas University course in digital animation and game creation meet in the virtual world of Second Life. Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art, has created her avatar, an orange fox named Sage Duncan.

Students taking a Kansas University course in digital animation and game creation meet in the virtual world of Second Life. Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art, has created her avatar, an orange fox named Sage Duncan.

February 10, 2009

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Second Life

Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art at KU, explains why universities are getting involved in Second Life.

A Kansas University class in digital animation and game creation is meeting in the virtual medium Second Life. Online visitors interact at Art Island.

A Kansas University class in digital animation and game creation is meeting in the virtual medium Second Life. Online visitors interact at Art Island.

The class auditorium in Second Life.

The class auditorium in Second Life.

Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art, has helped create the art department’s Art Island, shown above.

Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art, has helped create the art department’s Art Island, shown above.

Stacey Fox, KU assistant professor of art, is responsible for the blended media lecture hall taken in Second Life.

Stacey Fox, KU assistant professor of art, is responsible for the blended media lecture hall taken in Second Life.

Imagine a classroom where the professor is an orange fox named Sage Duncan.

She plays the conga drum, executes tai chi dance moves and hovers around like Peter Pan.

It seems pure fantasy. But this semester, Kansas University is making it real by pulling the lecture hall from the building and tucking it into the virtual world of Second Life.

The KU art department now is offering its first blended media course, which flips back and forth from the real world to the virtual one by using Second Life as a place to meet and display art.

Stacey Fox, assistant professor of art, is responsible for the program. Fox — known as Sage in Second Life — is leading the KU art department’s convergent media initiative, which focuses on getting KU up to speed with other colleges by advancing course content with technology. She teaches portions of her digital animation and game creation class on Second Life, and other instructors are beginning to take advantage of the site, as well.

Digital natives

The initiative is part of a plan to prepare for students about to hit KU’s campus — students who have wielded cell phones, iPods and video games since childhood.

“The wave of digital natives about to wash across the KU campus see virtual worlds and convergent media as the daily norm,” Fox says. “(Using Second Life as a classroom) is not new. KU is actually way behind.”

Colleges across the nation are experiencing a paradigm shift: More and more schools are advancing education by offering classes inside virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

But a common misconception is that Second Life — built and launched by Linden Labs in 2003 — is a game. It’s far from that, Fox says. It’s actually a computerized extension of reality, a world created by its users — some 1.3 million people who live out second lives in Second Life.

A great many of those users, called residents in the world, are students and professors. And one reason Second Life appeals to academics is its price. To develop classrooms inside Second Life, schools must buy an island, which costs $1,400 for a full year. Universities can then use the island to cut down on commuting costs and to reach out to students overseas, increasing campus enrollment.

“Compare all that to the cost of running just one physical building on the KU campus in Lawrence, and the cost savings are enormous,” Fox says.

How it works

Instead of bricks and boards, cement and nails, classrooms in Second Life are composed of pixels. And students and professors use avatars, virtual representations of users that come in both human and animal form, to interact.

The interactive nature of Second Life helps defeat the argument that online courses are stripped of intellectual discourse and human contact.

With Second Life, classes come close to replicating real-time courses — students and professors can talk to each other using avatars, microphones and instant messages.

Using these tools, people can use Second Life to host talk shows, perform ballet or play instruments in front of live, international audiences.

For students like KU senior Sandra Ristovska, Second Life is a place to display artwork to international audiences.

“The first thing that attracted me to this virtual world is the opportunity to use the program as another venue for promoting and exhibiting my own artwork,” Ristovska says. “The first day in the virtual world my avatar spoke in several languages with people from Mexico, the United States and several European countries.”

Instead of climbing in the car and shuttling across town, Ristovska sometimes uses the virtual world as a place to meet people just a few miles away. And Fox doesn't clomp to campus to meet her students, either. Instead, she cracks open a laptop or reaches for her iPhone and meets them in her 3-D office.

“I don't have a physical office at KU,” she says. “(My office is) a virtual one on the KU Art Island. Again, it’s cost-effective, and the students can just log in from wherever they are and reach me quicker than going to a physical office on campus.”

New perspective

Fox and Ristovska also designed an island for the Spencer Art Museum, which hopes to use the virtual world to display its art. Jessica Johnson, who is in charge of Spencer’s drive toward enhancing exhibits via the Web, says Second Life appeals to people in a way a traditional museum doesn’t.

“Second Life helps us do two different things,” she says. “For the people who are used to the museum and support us, Second Life provides a new perspective. … For those not interested in the museum, it lets them be involved in a way that might be more appealing.”

While Second Life is definitely making an impact, it’s uncertain how much of an effect it will end up having. Fox imagines a world with not just virtual classrooms but virtual campuses comprised of students and teachers scattered across the globe.

“The days of the ‘Little-House-on-the-Prairie’ classroom are ending,” Fox says. “This is a very exciting time for education.”

Comments

oohmgrover 5 years, 2 months ago

"You my sad little friend are just slow… the point of telling you it is only 1400 to get a sim, and start an island for virtual classes, is to LESSEN your tuition costs, moron.. If eventually it costs only 1400 plus salery.. umm , ill talk slow for ya… Less cost for you.. dummy."I'm the dummy? Nice use of the English language and grammatical conventions, buddy.And you are on crack if you think that any of this would ever lessen tuition dollars. It isn't an online university, it is bricks and mortar and there are a vast amount of operations set up to keep running costs as low as they think they can (though how low these can really go is negotiable). This is 1,400 additional dollars that are being paid for an "island" when you could easily set up a Google Document or a cheap web site with a chat function where you can post pictures for next to nothing. The classroom where they would have met doesn't disappear because they created a "new classroom" - it is still being paid for by our tuition dollars.

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Omegatron 5 years, 2 months ago

"Most people who either play online games or use online interaction tools are NOT anti-social shut-ins. It's popular to make this argument because for people behind the technological times, it makes them feel better about being left behind in the digital dust."To clarify. I know someone who ruined his life NOT interacting in the real world.The person above has a offline social life, a wife, does tae kwon do (offline hobby), all in addition to online gaming and internet interaction. He's in the majority. The person I know is the exact opposite. No wife, no offline hobby, only offline social interaction is at his job. Only topics he has knowledge of is gaming and what he reads in computer tech mags. Sad.There is a minority out there that are "anti-social shut-ins" and making this kind of argument has nothing to do with being "anti-tech". Or being "behind" the times left in the "digital" dust.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 2 months ago

I met the love of my life online at the LJWorld.com"not_holroyd" is like a stick of glue and they only way to get rid of the glue is to heat it up. Valentines Day is coming and my fortune cookie told me today, that "A fun party is soon to be in your future"...my lucky numbers are:38,34,42,4,41,838, 34,42 are "not_holroyd's" measurements sadly,but then a barrel 1/2 full is better than nothing.thank you LJWorld for bringing the community together.

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Connacht 5 years, 2 months ago

"I know someone who ruined his life not interacting in the real world."Most people who either play online games or use online interaction tools are NOT anti-social shut-ins. It's popular to make this argument because for people behind the technological times, it makes them feel better about being left behind in the digital dust. My wife and I both play online games and interact with friends online. We also both have jobs, friends we see on a daily basis through our taekwondo school (how many of you anti-tech people actually make friends while learning valuable skills and getting physical exercise?). My guess is not too many, given the seriously poor health conditions of Americans in general. That said, I question the value of Second Life as a teaching tool. Like all programs, it has its limitations, and is based on real currency (as opposed to in-game currency) to purchase items. Why would anyone spend their hard earned money on virtual items or real estate? I play and understand why people do it for online games, but Second Life is hardly a game anymore than day to day life is a game.As for this professor and her class, maybe it works. I don't know, I'm certainly not an art student. I question the value of going to college for a degree in art personally. It seems like humanity's best artistic days have long since passed, replaced by strange shapes and a smattering of colors on a canvass. However I would certainly have trouble taking seriously a professor I knew was a furry....

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 2 months ago

convergent media literacy.....omg and what is this?

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Omegatron 5 years, 2 months ago

I apologize. In my opinion, virtual reality shouldn't be used to substitute real world classrooms. I grew up with technology and know it's limitations. All to often it fails, and fails spectacularly either through basic use or outside intervention. On the net it's usually the latter.I also don't like the non-human contact factor, I know someone who ruined his life not interacting in the real world. Has no problem socializing on the net, but when it actually comes to real world interaction... It's... P-E-O-P-L-E!

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gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

"Laptops and research on them is included in nearly every single college in the USA."At home, in the office, or at your favorite coffee shop, sure. In the classroom? No. You're supposed to be participating in class, not updating your MySpace page. And turn off your phone, too. You're not that important.

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notajayhawk 5 years, 2 months ago

"And news FLASH it is relevent NOW as well.. and Growing ever more popular as a Learnign and teaching tool. Furry or not Stacey is an educated Professor, who is reching to Children in anyway she can, that ALONE Makes her an amazing person and innovative in her own rite."Please tell me you're not one of the students. Please.***denneydance (Anonymous) says… "Second Life classrooms are the perfect place to meet today's student, the one who games, multi-tasks, and treats their cell phone as just another body part!"The real world might be a good place to explain to them that a cellphone, in actuality, is not a body part. Maybe they should teach anatomy in SL.*****"the remarkable facility in which folks from around the globe can get to know and appreciate each other"Just a thought, but how do you get to 'know' someone who's pretending to be a fox named Sage Duncan? I mean, you really do know that in reality she's human, don't you?

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headlessroland 5 years, 2 months ago

While I appreciate the sentiment behind trying to find new ways to reach students and explore a subject, my own experiences with SL as a teaching tool lead me to encourage others to avoid it. During our time trying to use it, the group was plagued with an assortment of technical issues, built-in limitations to the system (regarding the number of people allowed on an island), meetings often took longer and were less productive than if we had used another method, along with other problems.Halfway through the class, we finally gave up on SL and actually got some work done.

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EduSpptr 5 years, 2 months ago

"Boy, are those kids in for a shock when they get to the real world—which might be their next class. Some professors ban cell phones and laptops in their classrooms, because the focus should be on thinking, not on technology." First off are you like 92? Get with the times. Laptops and research on them is included in nearly every single college in the USA.. Grow up, or shrivel up and die already.."Second Life? That might have been interesting/relevant two years ago."And news FLASH it is relevent NOW as well.. and Growing ever more popular as a Learnign and teaching tool. Furry or not Stacey is an educated Professor, who is reching to Children in anyway she can, that ALONE Makes her an amazing person and innovative in her own rite."Wow, a class taught by a furry. What astounding advances technology is affording us. And 1400 to create a classroom - my tuition dollars are going towards creating a freaking second life classroom? Why don't they just meet on AIM and share URLs to art, jesus."You my sad little friend are just slow... the point of telling you it is only 1400 to get a sim, and start an island for virtual classes, is to LESSEN your tuition costs, moron.. If eventually it costs only 1400 plus salery.. umm , ill talk slow for ya... Less cost for you.. dummy. Im not an educator, or academic. Im a mother of two, 13 and 8. and When my girls get to college, I will be glad, and take comfort that this will be an option for them.

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reynardine 5 years, 2 months ago

Hello Everyone!Thank you for the wonderful spirited debate about convergent media, technology and virtual worlds. The diversity of opinions is very wide and I’ll be sharing your feedback with students as we look at convergent media literacy and the ever growing digital divide. Thanks again for your comments. Greatly appreciated!Stacey Fox

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 2 months ago

Whats the big dea. I had a prof at another college we called the Lone Wolf. He wore a necktie with a wolf leaning against a tree. The guy over 40 years ago tried to explain DNA to us and told how it would become very important.He was ahead of his time .He was a Sage and no fantasy involved.

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gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Boy, are those kids in for a shock when they get to the real world--which might be their next class. Some professors ban cell phones and laptops in their classrooms, because the focus should be on thinking, not on technology.

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Multidisciplinary 5 years, 2 months ago

SWGlass.Thanks for the info.I did..(see http://www.answers.com/topic/furry-fandom) and thought, "Surprised jonas didn't tell us about this."Then back to here, to find jonas as the next poster.Too, too funny.

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avetaysmom 5 years, 2 months ago

My daughter is only 10 and loooves art so much! It is so nice to see that a prof. will finally do what should be done, art comes in so many fashions, this makes students think outside the box, great job sage!!!!

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DonQuipunch 5 years, 2 months ago

Second Life? That might have been interesting/relevant TWO YEARS AGO.

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oohmgrover 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow, a class taught by a furry. What astounding advances technology is affording us. And 1400 to create a classroom - my tuition dollars are going towards creating a freaking second life classroom? Why don't they just meet on AIM and share URLs to art, jesus.

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jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

“Imagine a classroom where the professor is an orange fox named Sage Duncan.”Whoa, man, it's like you're in my head man. The Kitsune no Sennin knows all, tomodachi.

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Tristan Moody 5 years, 2 months ago

Tried second life once...from my experience, it seems to be primarily a venue for furries (look it up) to "get together" in a virtual environment. Never went back.

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cubbear 5 years, 2 months ago

arghhh....her pic looks like she's starting a drum circle! before long you'll see more pop up and the next thing you know well have a full blown music fest!!! buncha damn hippie freaks! Someone please pull Eric Cartman out of the virtual world the next time you're in class....we need him now before things go too far!

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WoWGold 5 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Confrontation 5 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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denneydance 5 years, 2 months ago

Prof. Fox's work brings into focus yet another dimension of the discourse about the separation of cognition (mind) from live, physical experience (body). Too many of us in education privilege the live lecture and body-to-body proximity as the only place learning can happen. Second Life classrooms are the perfect place to meet today's student, the one who games, multi-tasks, and treats their cell phone as just another body part! Students are still doing, moving and participating in Second Life classrooms, and in the case of Fox's applications, learning.

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Scottybeamup 5 years, 2 months ago

OMG! KU has a professor that exists in the 21st Century! I'm changing my major to Art. No really can you guys clone her and spread her around campus, please.

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EduSpptr 5 years, 2 months ago

Stacey Fox is inspiring and compels all educators to be as innovative and creative during their classes. Second Life, and her studies and works there, is astounding in all its capabilities. Kudos Prof. Fox and the KU Art Dept! This is a school headed for the future.

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dtschwartz 5 years, 2 months ago

This is a fantastic vision. KU should be applauded for embracing this technology. Stacey Fox (Sage Duncan) is leading the charge and doing so much to show the numerous educational and artistic possibilities, the social and cultural benefits, and the remarkable facility in which folks from around the globe can get to know and appreciate each other, within Second Life. This IS the future and thank goodness for Stacey who is leading the charge. Brava!!!!

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Anon34 5 years, 2 months ago

Fantastic! I applaud Prof. Fox and the Art Department for their creative thinking. My teens are "digital natives" and I am delighted to see a department up on campus that will understand my kids when they go to college.

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Omegatron 5 years, 2 months ago

"Imagine a classroom where the professor is an orange fox named Sage Duncan."Let's not and say we did...

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