Recent Updates Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • subquark 10:04 pm on May 19, 2010 Permalink  

    this blog has moved 

    Wanting to practice what I preach about keeping your content yours, this blog is now self-hosted.

    click & bookmark - thanks!

     
  • subquark 9:40 pm on May 19, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: branding, , ,   

    Branding. It is easy but . . . 

    Online branding is very easy to do, but takes discipline, persistence, and more time than many people think.

    What is online branding?

    Awareness of something – that something could be you as an “expert” and an expert does not always mean some self-proclaimed smarter-than-you person. Not at all and that often makes the word branding seem bad. A comedian, a virtual world event planner, or a freelance journalist may want to increase their online “reach” and bring awareness to their community of their services.

    That something could also be a product. Dell computers does a great job with their online presence, especially with Twitter. They offer deals and coupons, and have won the trust of you, the consumer.

    We are all consumers. We consume products and services and also knowledge. Some knowledge is just for fun, some is to make decisions on new software purchases, some is deciding what land to buy in Second Life.

    Without sharing your “message”, how will anyone find you? The Internet is great for serving up information on nearly anything. That means there is a lot of chatter out there, but it also means¬†there¬†is a lot of good “stuff” too.

    Much chatter is easy to detect, just look at all the Twitter messages on joining Trump networks or making big bucks with your twitter account. While there seem to be legit Trump networks for some nutritional supplements, I have yet to see how you make money with just your tweets. I think the people that are making that money are the ones getting paid $12.95 to show you how to get 1,000 new followers a day. People are looking for the easy buck Рno doubt.

    Branding online is easy, but it takes real sustained effort. That’s why Ener has so many followers on Twitter and had so many friends in Facebook. Ener never paid for or used any type of automated service but actually just participates in “the conversation”. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

    Well it is, but again, it takes time. About 30 minutes a day and for the last year; Ener has done this everyday. This blog [iliveisl] is an example of that. Ener insured that at least one blog post would be done per day for a year. There has been help from a few other authors who are listed in the right sidebar including the number of posts they contributed. But no day was missed and that year promise of daily posts is up in a week. Pretty good job Ener!

    As Ener indicated in a past post, effective branding takes a certain strategy (btw, thanks for announcing my blog move, which I have yet to do!). None of it is difficult, it’s just setting up accounts in¬†several¬†places and connecting what you can together. For example, this blog automatically sends out a tweet to the iliveisl Twitter stream. That tweet can also update a Facebook wall post (I did warn the beaner about making a friend page versus a fan page, but fan pages don’t offer that really personal feel, so I understand). This blog also automatically updates Ener’s LinkedIn page. These all occur without doing more than publishing a post.

    Another good account to get is a Flickr or Photobucket account. We use Flickr but either would have the same effect. Yahoo owns Flickr and your Flickr images help you in the Yahoo search algorithm which, in turn, affects the Google algorithm.  It is a good practice to include a Flickr pic or two in each blog post.

    If you do video, use YouTube since it is owned by Google. We messed with video a little and I do video using virtual worlds but we mainly use Blip.tv. While Blip helps SEO, and thus your online branding, YouTube is slightly more effective and content could live in many video sharing sites at the same time. We use Blip because it allows for larger videos and runs them at 30 frames per second.

    So far we have talked about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And all of those accounts should, ideally, use the same name. iliveisl is great for this because it is not a common term.

    You also should setup both Yahoo and Google email accounts and fill out the profile information. That profile information also ups your SEO for your branding.

    Gravatar is critical if you comment on other blogs so that you can display a consistent online avatar associated with your online name.

    Once all of these things are connected you have done a big part of setting yourself up to create greater awareness of your “message”. You’ll notice that this blog displays the iliveisl tweets and flickr pics in the sidebar. Again, the more your material is out there, the more it aids in your branding. Setting a Creative Commons license on your images also helps because it allows others – mainly bloggers – to use your images in their posts.

    Effective tagging is also important and Ener and I share many of the same tags since we often promote the same thing. We both simply have a Notepad text file on our desktops with a list of terms and links used in tagging. Don’t go too crazy on tags and limit the number you use.

    The central part of this strategy is in the blog. That forms the heart of this type of inbound marketing. In light of recent changes of services like Ning, Facebook, and Second Life, it may be wise to consider hosting your own blog on your own domain. While websites are somewhat antiquated in today’s online world – they still have their place and part of that can be in hosting your blog. While Google’s Blogger does say you own your own content in their terms of service, so did Linden Lab in the past. But a TOS can change and Linden Lab’s did last month. Now your content is yours only via license from them. Google reserves the right to change the Blogger TOS and could do the same. Hosting your content on your own domain makes¬†sense¬†but is not absolutely necessary.

    I admit to going a bit overboard when setting up all the accounts for the foundation of iliveisl but knew that Ener would ultimately settle on¬†those¬†efforts producing the most return. We even have a CafePress store, Blogger account, Urban Dictionary entry, and several others that I don’t¬†remember¬†at the moment.

    Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube are the heavy hitters and if done right, one leverages the other and increases your impact.

    The big key is persistence and honesty. Don’t just sell yourself. No one cares if you think you are the best. Offer content that¬†interests¬†your community and may be of some use to them. Ener blogs from the heart and let’s it all hang out. No sales are trying to be made, no big morals are being pushed, just the ramblings of an avatar journeying through virtual worlds.

    If you have been thinking about doing more online, maybe try this. Blogging everyday is the accepted frequency for inbound marketing (twice daily is a rough and broad rule of thumb from groups like Hubspot). However, if this seems daunting to you, make sure you have a clear goal in mind (if it’s just rambling like Ener does, that’s fine too), and try just once a week to start. It takes a little while to get into the “blogging state of mind” like Ener is in, but only in doing it¬†consistently¬†will¬†that change and you¬†start¬†to develop a larger online presence.

    Measure your presence with Google alerts, tracking back on blog referrals and ping backs, using analytics, Yahoo and Google search results, and general benchmarking as offered free by HubSpot.

    There are many more little tips, but you will find them on the way and tweak your methodology to use those tools and social networks that are most effective for you.  Good luck!

    Y not? =)

    note: this post originally appeared on the iliveisl blog and this blog is now self-hosted at blog.subquark.com

     
  • subquark 11:00 am on May 1, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Second Life: a distraction for universities 

    Many universities are using Second Life as a learning tool. However, the place to watch for longevity as a true tool is in OpenSim deployed worlds. Virtual world adoption has passed the initial media hyped stage of three years ago and now we will see those that are finding it a useful and valuable educational tool and not a distraction.

    The initial hype swept up many educators and institutions as it seemed that Second Life was this incredibly immersive learning environment. It certainly can be, if enough time and talent is involved.

    Many universities have found that without a substantial effort by skilled individuals, their sims are of little value and indeed just a distraction. There are some very good programs in Second Life, such as an associates degree offered by Texas State Technical College but there are also examples of the complete abandonment by significant institutions. Notably, Princeton University pulled out of Second Life this month.

    Princeton certainly has a pool of skilled individuals, and the monetary resources, to be in Second Life (even with the educational discount, Second Life is still fairly expensive – especially compared with other collaborative education tools such as wikis, Google Groups, BuddyPress, etc.).

    OpenSim options are far less expensive and can either be deployed through a virtual world hosting company or deployed on the institution’s own hardware (as opposed to Linden Lab’s yearly $55K option for a private Second Life setup). In¬†researching¬†hosting companies be sure to read Hypergrid Business who maintains a list of hosts as well as articles about them. I am biased toward Reaction Grid who has stellar service and a very stable deployment.

    OpenSim can seem to not be as robust as Second Life but it is very close (and in some ways, superior – MOODLE is typically part of standard OpenSim deployments). OpenSim is still considered alpha¬†software but our¬†experience¬†after six months with Reaction Grid is that it is just as good for our purposes as Second Life (Linden Lab’s latest changes to their terms of service give us pause in developing any tools within¬†it and if¬†whether¬†we will always retain full copyright – three years ago Philip Rosedale, founder of Linden Lab, declared that your creations are real and that you should be able to profit from them, now that language has changed to being granted a license from Linden Lab for anything you create).

    In my opinion, virtual worlds are not quite “there” yet for mainstream adoption by educational institutions. Second Life has too many issues, politics, and policies that cripple it for education (policies such as age limit and copyright) and is too costly with difficulty in showing a true ROI.

    OpenSim is developing quickly and, as it becomes more widely adopted, it may become a clearer choice (there are currently ¬†more “private” sims in OSGrid than in Second Life).

    Virtual worlds are another communication channel and will continue to evolve and become easier to use. Once they become easier to access, hold more people in one place, and get past some of the negative stigma that Second Life has created (mainly adult content and over hyping by he media), then we will see more widespread use. Once that happens, more developers will create activities and materials that can be leveraged by others (we are a very small example of that with Ener making free office furniture and buildings and having spaces for creative people like the rest of the iliveisl team).

    Right now virtual worlds are very much at the stage where everyone is still printing their own books in a manner of speaking and building many things from scratch. It would be hard for a real world Princeton to excel at education if they had to build their own chairs, LCD projectors, and so on.

    For many institutions, Second Life was a distraction, for a few it continues to be effective. It takes passionate and talented people to shape any technology into a truly meaningful and effective tool.

    Does Linden Lab have those people?

    With the loss of Pathfinder Linden and the abhorrent treatment of Jokay it would seem that the educational focus is over. OpenSim is open source and very talented people are developing it with many individuals actively using it for education.

    Will OpenSim be “the” virtual world for education?

    Only time will tell. The web changes quickly. Five years ago MySpace ruled social networks and Twitter had not been created yet.

    reposted from the iliveisl blog

     
  • subquark 11:44 pm on April 28, 2010 Permalink  

    3D and Virtual worlds: magic bullet of pedagogical nirvana 

    The education community is all a buzz with 3D content. 3D projectors and 3D teaching material is shown to improve grades.

    Well . . . duh.

    Maybe my reaction is a bit harsh. Do take it (my reaction) with a big grain of salt. What follows is just my perspective on the latest and greatest¬†classroom¬†technology. Let’s put on our travel caps and go back in time a bit . . .

    From the 1940s up till 1990, the film strip ruled the multimedia world, at least in K-12 settings. The 1950s, 60s, and 70s saw its use skyrocket (also a time when the rocket was an iconic part of science education). Film strips were much less expensive than 16 mm films and far easier to use (no film to splice). The really fancy ones had an accompanying 33 RPM record (later a cassette tape) complete with audio cue when to advance to the next static image. If you were lucky, maybe you, as a¬†student, were chosen to advance the slides. Ah, fond memories (or bad if you were considered the teacher’s pet).

    Seems low tech by today’s standards but that was multimedia. Perhaps even immersive multimedia. After all, vibrant images and accompanying audio with lights off allowed you to be¬†transported¬†into the circulatory system or through the solar system.

    Student grades went up with the use of film strips. It’s not hard to see why, you had a break from your teacher (there are many good teachers, but also many that just lecture and are, frankly, boring and drone on and on), the lights went out, you had larger pictures and audio that surely was done by some high level expert! When you take a class setting that has students sitting neatly at their desks, a teacher in the front of the class, a textbook on their desks, plus all the pressure from other students and how you, as the student, thought you had to act, it’s no wonder film strips made a difference and helped¬†students¬†learn better.

    Once the lights go off, it’s easier to forget about those around you (unless you were focused on note passing), let your guard down, and learn more. Different pathways of the brain become active with a different voice, brighter images, and so on – this leads to deeper learning.

    When I see all the hoopla about 3D in the classroom these days, it reminds me of the same claims made by film strip producers. Higher engagement, better grades, blah, blah, blah.

    The reason? It’s the same as film strips – it’s different and different is often exciting and reaches different parts of the brain.

    But . . . in the long run, many of these technologies fail as we strive to build the “smart classroom”. Integrating technology does not lead to better¬†education¬†in, and of, itself. There is also a rush to adopt new technologies without understanding that teachers will adopt those things that work and work well. The film strip succeeded because it was reliable, inexpensive, and easy to use. The same¬†happened¬†with VHS tapes (which made film¬†strips¬†obsolete). A VHS tape allowed for many teachers (myself¬†included) to tape (hmm, pirate in reality) great shows and show them in the classroom. That was a great resource because you had vast amounts of programming out there and could find something that fit your lesson and your¬†perspective.

    With 3D learning materials, you are limited to a much smaller pool of material. And you have a technology¬†that¬†is difficult, if not impossible, for the teacher to create their own material in. With the VCR came video cameras. I could (and did) film model rockets, rock climbing, rivers, SCUBA diving, and sailing to illustrate certain concepts (science home movies, how’s that for geeky!).

    Certainly, there is value to 3D material, but will it last? Will it replace some of the home-grown nature of teaching? And what about schools with tight budgets? Is one $700 3D LCD projector the very best way to reach more students in a school running on a small budget?

    Sometimes we forget that it is the content and the teacher that make the impact on learners. While technology is cool and maybe even fun, it won’t improve mediocre teaching very much.

    What are other 3D options? This is easy to guess if you read what I write or what Ener writes. =)

    Virtual worlds.

    Yes, Second Life had its hype a few years back. But it is very expensive and takes some serious time to create activities in for students to use. Actually, the biggest stumbling block is the age limit. You have to be 18 to use the main grid. The teen grid only goes down to 13 years old and it’s hard to get in as an adult and build activities. Plus, Second Life has a certain stigma to it with its “adult” areas. This is a real concern for teachers and parents. It’s a real drag to be holding a class in Second Life and have some nude dude walk by! The FTC report on this was discussed by Ener some time back, with the FTC finding that sexual material was readily available in Second Life: ” . . .¬†heavy amount of explicit content‚ÄĚ and¬†‚Äúduring the Commission‚Äôs review, explicit content was still easily available free of charge in Second Life, without account verification.‚ÄĚ

    That’s Second Life and, unfortunately, it has somewhat tarnished what virtual worlds can be for education. There are great examples of fabulous¬†education¬†programs in Second Life, but mainly for post-secondary level.

    There are options though that behave just like Second Life (because they are built on the same code) but cost far less and are suitable for primary and secondary education. And some of these options already see K-12 teachers building activities for students. We are in Reaction grid doing this type of development. But, we are also very grounded with it.

    Virtual worlds are not a magic bullet of pedagogical nirvana.

    Rather, our approach is that it is simply that virtual worlds are a medium for communication. The purpose of a textbook and it’s images are not to be the ultimate material to learn. They should spark a conversation and act as a different “voice” to help expose the student to a more rounded view of the subject at hand.

    For example, almost all depictions of the water cycle do not place people, animals, or even trees as part of the cycle. They typically show radiation, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, and maybe ground water. And¬†there¬†is nothing wrong with that. But how do we fit in? Isn’t Earth mostly a closed system and are we not part of it? We must factor in, even if in a minute manner. And we do! Respiration in humans and animals includes water vapor. We exhale some water as byproducts of¬†cellular¬†combustion. Plants don’t¬†breathe¬†but they do transpire and that involves water too (remember the stomata?).

    When I taught the water cycle, I always added a stick figure dog and person (yes, it was a pretty sad-looking dog, but students understood) and trees. That gives a sense of context and it ties us into the cycle and into the environment. We all know that we impact the environment so why not depict us within all of these systems?

    A drawing on the chalk board, later the dry erase board, later the overhead, and finally a flash animation I made (still had the odd stick figure dog in it) are all simply channels of communication. The same can be done drawing in the dirt or in creating a 3D version in a virtual world where the student can become the “stick figure” and walk around within it.

    That’s precisely what we are doing in OpenSim-based virtual worlds. We are building places to spark conversations between teachers (or parents) and students. This is a film strip in 3D that you can walk around in.

    Is it the end all be all of education?

    No more than the current 3D projector is. But I think it can be accessible and economical. It leverages the work of others (like our work) and also allows teachers, that have an interest, to build their own places. I know of one group that are using virtual worlds to have their students build an historic¬†recreation. The students¬†themselves¬†are creating a historic town. That’s pretty cool.

    weatherStation_029

    A rain gauge at a mountain top weather station

    weatherStation_054

    Inside a weather station outpost

     
  • subquark 10:19 pm on April 23, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    collaborative learning environments & us 

    I was reading Tony Karrer’s¬†excellent¬†blog, in particular a post on simulations, games, and social learning, and wanted to express my take on virtual worlds as a social learning tool. I have shifted from a purely “eLearning” use of virtual worlds to also developing¬†environmental¬†science activities aimed at Earth Science students (7th grade).

    I have been doing corporate eLearning for about 8 years and before that I was an Environmental Science professor at Miami Dade College for seven years and for three years prior to that, a private school science teacher. While I love doing eLearning development work in Flash (I even ran my own Flash forum for a few years), I truly love teaching and developing curricula.

    A large part of this shift is due to how¬†economical¬†virtual worlds have become. Reaction Grid‘s hosted OpenSim has allowed me to do more than filming in temporary office sets on vacant lots. As far as expressing the social nature and “vision” of how virtual world’s can fall into social learning, I can’t sum it up any better than our chief builder and full on virtual world expert – Ener Hax. What follows is an unedited repost (how is that for a disclaimer!) from the iliveisl blog:

    collaborative learning environments & us

    *barf* okay, i feel better now!

    it’s just that the term “collaborative” is sooo overused when in comes to virtual worlds. but it is a good word to describe what virtual¬†worlds¬†offer. being able to share a real time workspace with others that are from all over the world is really great

    it’s easy to gripe about lag or inventory or sim crossings, but only because it is easy to forget what we are really collaborating within

    virtual worlds are instant rendering 3D applications. try creating a room in Blender 3D, add physics to it (there is a Blender game engine), put a person in the scene (Make Human is an open source person creator for Blender – like Poser) and then create a walk cycle and render out a one second walk at 24 frames per second. just the rendering will take a few minutes (could be hours too – did you know that some¬†individual¬†frames of the movie Cars took up to eight hours to render?). now add to that the ability for the Blender person to chat, create prims, do scripting, and be able to view thousand’s of objects and hundred’s of textures and you would have, err, you’d have a virtual world like second life or opensim!

    the point being – it is easy to take a collaborative environment like we think of for granted

    the most important thing about a collaborative environment are the interactions it allows, not the technologies it is made of

    these environments also include things like google docs which several people can work on at the same time, ning networks (bah on the free ones going bye-bye), moodle for education, and so on. all allow many people to work and learn together at the same time

    that’s what we are doing with Enclave Harbour – creating a learning space for secondary students. it’s not a simulation as talked about in eLearning and education circles. Enclave Harbour is a representation of selected real world settings designed to be used in conjunction with a lab manual/workbook – things like solar, wind, and nuclear ener-gy =p

    but . . . virtual worlds get a mixed rap in the education community. there was so much media hype three years ago, do you remember all the news about Second Life? it was like the best thing since sliced bread (ener <– still a fan of sliced bread)

    corporate eLearning people were preaching that it was the ultimate way to do training (subQuark has had 11 venues to share his eLearning use of it) and universities were diving head first into Second Life. at its peak, there were about 250 universities and colleges isl

    once the media hype smoke cleared, the majority of the eLearning community never actually got into virtual worlds (they did a lot of talking) because of the cost and the amount of time to get good at it. it’s hard to “learn” second life on a 9 – 5 job if you are not crazy passionate about it

    the eLearning gang moved on but the education gang stayed and is still pretty big on virtual worlds. now that opensim options are out there, and much less expensive, some universities are in both or have fully moved from second life

    Princeton University just pulled completely out of Second Life. i have not heard if they are continuing on in any virtual world

    so what happened? hype. simply over hyped and expectations were often never met

    virtual worlds can be great collaborative environments, but only if key passionate people develop them and keep them going for their respective organizations . . . and expectations are realistic (virtually realistic?) =)

    for Enclave Harbour, we get to build some neat things and offer it as a way to let people communicate and learn. our expectations are to create points of discussion for specific topics and that’s it. it’s like taking a text-book picture and making a 3D virtual version of it and letting you walk around it

    currently, 3D LCD projectors are all the rage for K-12 but that means big expenses for schools to buy not only the projector, but also the 3D class materials. in the end, students are simply looking at 3D art. why not go a less expensive route with virtual field trips where you could even collaborate with other schools in other countries?

    that’s our take on collaborative learning environments =)

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.