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[staff reflections] On Beyond Second Life 

Two years ago, in January of 2006, Global Kids opened our first Island in Second Life, on the main grid. We had a party then sent it the next day to the teen grid. The party was a blast, as captured below in our first machinima (before we even learned the word!).

At the time, we could not have imagined that within two years Second Life’s accounts would grow from around 20,000 to over ten million, that Global Kids online staff would grow from three to twelve (not counting interns and independent contractors), nor that this new medium would explode in 2008 and be predicted to reach more than 50% of teens by 2011.

Reflecting back on the past two years, rather than reflect on the broad range of our past SL-based educational programs, the remarkable partners (from UNICEF to the MacArthur Foundation to the dozen amazing organizations I am leaving out), and the impact we have had on youth both in NYC and around the world, I’d rather look at the next few years.

[Conf] Announcing release of two papers in GK Series on Virtual Worlds 

This week brings the exciting release of two papers that were written based on findings during the 2007 Second Life Community Convention in both the education and non-profit focused panels. They were authored by two prominent SL community members in both fields and feature numerous references, quotes and work being done by various educators, virtual world professionals and non-profits within Second Life and other related spheres.

We are proud of the papers and welcome you to download them, share with your colleagues and leave comments.

Support for these reports was provided by the Digital Media and Learning Initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We thank them and all who helped contribute in some way to the publishing of these documents.


Reports from the Field: Second Life Community Convention 2007 Education Track Summary

Best Practices from the Second Life Community Convention Education Track 2007

prepared by Cathy Arreguin, MA Educational Technology

The first paper in the Global Kids Series on Virtual Worlds discusses common themes, methodology and best practices in education in virtual worlds and concludes with recommendations.

NEWS RELEASE

Contacts: Jonah Kokodyniak, Global Kids, 212-226-2116, Jonah[AT]globalkids.org
Tom Mariam, Mariam Communications, 914-939-4294, Tom[AT]mariam.biz

For Immediate Release:

Media Offered Unique Opportunity by Global Kids to Experience Teen-Only Space of Second Life

Journalists Can Observe Projects on Education, Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy

New York, NY, January 15, 2008 – Journalists from around the world will have a rare chance to get a first-hand look at the teen-only space of the popular virtual world, Second Life (TSL), through Global Kids Inc. (GK), a leader in the use of new media to empower youth.

Global Kids, now in its third year of conducting educational programming in TSL, is conducting the first invitation-only press tour of the teen-only space of Second Life on Wednesday, January 30 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. EST.

Journalists can participate either by coming to the Global Kids office in New York City or remotely. Interested reporters should contact Jonah Kokodyniak (212-226-2116 or jonah[AT]globalkids.org) to reserve a spot.

The special press tour will highlight three of Global Kids’ most exciting new projects:

[p4k] Evaluation on both Playing 4 Keeps and Ayiti released! 

After two and a half years, Global Kids is delighted to release the results of the independent evaluation by the Center for Children and Technology of both Playing 4 Keeps, our after school gaming program, and Ayiti, the game produced with Gamelab during the first year of the program.

For the evaluation CCT observed the program and interviewed the students. To evaluate the game they looked at the results of nearly 16,000 game plays.

Download the full report here.

In short, when we made Ayiti we wanted to learn if players would learn if the factors affecting access to education within an impoverished condition are both interdependent and exist within a dynamic system. CCT's research found that "the central idea embedded in the game play, that no single factor accounts for success, appears to have been successfully communicated to the majority of players." Bingo!

In addition, they describe how youth report that through their participation in the after school program their experiences involved:

[Staff] December Staff Reflections 

Howdy readers! We at the O.L.P. hope everyone had a great holiday season and an excellent New Year. The On-line Leadership Program “staff reflections” blog entries is digital therapy for the virtual soul, and every month the intelligent bunch of O.L.P. staffers will collectively process their thoughts, perspectives and ambitions about their various O.L.P. projects on this luminous blog. The “staff reflections” section provides committed bloggers, Internet wonderers, youths and digital media folks a pipeline into the beautiful minds of each staff member.

Enjoy reading our blog.

Amira writes about the challenges and opportunities education in virtual worlds offers.
Reflections on the Challenges & Opportunities of Virtual Education

Barry explores Global Kids short-term successes and long-term struggles with the DOE to change their mindset on how students use school computers.
Gaming the DOE

Jay reflected on the why the world is full of bad design and why studying catastrophes is the only way to stop them.
Designed Failure/Successful Design

[staff reflections] Technology works for us, not the other way around. Right? 

“Miss! Second Life is not working!”
“Miss! My avatar is flying, and it won’t stop, how can I make it stop…”
“I don’t know why it’s doing this! I have no idea why?”
“This is a waste of time. Can I do something else like go on MySpace? Please?”

Each week I am faced with these questions, and every week, I’ve had to provide less than satisfactory answers to the puzzled and frustrated faces, with poor efforts hiding my own anxiety and nervousness.

“Just wait, give it some time, this is called lag and it’s normal”.

When technology fails, I am defeated. As much as the students in the program look forward to the workshops, I have higher hopes, and higher expectations each time we meet. I can’t help but wonder about the “wonders” of technology, all that it has to offer, all the lessons available for my students out there, and on the contrary side, all that it fails to provide when the expectations are not met. When we are let down because of something that we cannot fix or change, what is the lesson there? If it is patience that our kids needs to have in each workshop, what else is it that they are learning about technology?

[staff reflections] Gaming the DOE 

Apparently I am cursed (blessed?) with "games and learning" anecdotes based on Grand Theft Auto (GTA).

Last month saw the publication of my chapter in M.I.T. Press' The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning entitled Why Johnny Can't Fly: Treating Games as a Form of Youth Media Within a Youth Development Framework. The following is the anecdote about GTA I used in that publication. I will follow it with my latest anecdote, about a teen playing GTA at a NYC high school, the results of our recently battles with the DOE to unlock gaming sites, and what it all means for the future of gaming education in public schools.

But first, an interlude.

How Not to Hail a Cab in Liberty City (An Interlude)

[press] The Parent's Paper spotlights virtual worlds and education 

The January issue of the New Jersey magazine The Parent Paper, has an article entitled "Student's Try a Virtual World", which spotlight's both the programs Global Kids and Ramapo are running within Second Life.

theparentpaper0108.jpg

They quoted Barry several times regarding TSL.

“Once we went into Teen Second Life, we found things we didn’t find anywhere else. In Teen Second Life you have a spatial relationship with others around you and it feels like you are with people. We could do the same workshops for kids virtually that we were doing in reality.

We could do these workshops in ways that we never thought were possible. In Teen Second Life you don’t have to just imagine you are in a factory – you are in a factory. And teens are building the factory. A lot of our top down approach for spreading information was met equally with ideas from the bottom up. The space is about putting young people in charge and giving them tools. What we are able to do as educators in that space is tap into nascent leadership skills.”

[staff] Reflections on the Challenges & Opportunities of Virtual Education 

In harnessing the capabilities of virtual educational programs, we are confronted with many of the questions that any educator would also face in the physical classroom. Although these questions are similar, they also become very new and exciting, since their answers depend on the changing technology in which we operate within.
First, I find myself asking, how can we better facilitate effective team building online? A part of it must entail building and supporting effective communication skills among our youth. Effective communication is critical to collaborating, this is no different, if not so more apparent when group interaction takes place virtually. But how can we leverage the communication tools that technology provide to strengthen this competency? What is available to students learning communication skills far before college Comm101 courses? And, what makes communication harder in this space?

[p4k] Slate.com counts Ayiti as one of their top picks 

Ayiti: the Cost of Life was spotlighted on Slate.com in an article written by Justin Peters focusing on his top choices of free games to play online. Not only did we make his list, but he had some great things to say.

Best game with a social conscience: No matter how bad things are going, you could always be a subsistence farmer in Haiti. (To our Haitian subsistence-farming readers: God bless.) Ayiti: The Cost Of Life makes the Oregon Trail look like Candy Land. The game puts you in control of the lives of a Haitian family of five. You have four years to guide the family through a catalog of privations and calamities: hurricanes, robbers, depression, illiteracy, and on-the-job injuries. Ideally, you'll find education, prosperity, and health, but you'll probably just come down with malaria and die.

The article was also picked up by Slashdot on their site! They even made special note of Ayiti.