200 Virtual Worlds for Kids

Club Timemachine [click image to enlarge]

I am still working on this article on virtual worlds in education, an ran across this report from January 26, 2009.  According to Virtual Worlds Management, more than 200 youth-oriented worlds are currently live or in development.  This is an increase from 150 known youth-oriented virtual worlds in August of 2008.

I pulled the listing into a spread sheet and did a little inquiry.  Here are some of the things I found:

  • 38 of the virtual worlds products are explicitely intended for children six and younger.
  • Two are being developed in Australia, 2 in Belgium, 8 in Canada, 2 in China, 3 in Denmark, 4 in Finland, 2 in France, 4 in Germany, 3 in Israel, 5 in Japan, 4 in Korea, 2 in Spain, 2 in Sweden, 14 in the UK, and 126 in the U.S.
  • One is in Alpha, 10 are in closed beta, 36 are in open beta, 7 are in concept, and 26 are under development.  Most of the rest are live.

“200+ Youth-Oriented Worlds Live or Developing.” Virtual Worlds Management. 2 Feb 2009. Show Initiative, LLC. 26 Jan 2009 <http://www.virtualworldsmanagement.com/2009/youth-01-26-2009.html>.

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Games Sell

Photo by Tonbabydc
This is how we interacted with David Bowie in the old days

This was only one of the interesting things I learned this morning through the “tech tab” on AP Mobile News Network, my favorite iPhone App.  To start things off, the December 19 story, Music Industry Drops Effort to Sue Song Swappers is a welcome and much anticipated indication that the music industry may be realizing that to survive in this new information landscape, they will have to adapt.

The next story that caught my attention provided more evidence — Music Sales Rise in Harmony with Game Appearances

Photo by Jon-Paul LeClair

The story speaks most directly to two video games that, if you have not heard of them, it can only be because you’ve spent the last two years sequestered in a monastery behind the tallest peaks of the Himalayas.  If you have spent the last 730 days in meditation, Guitar Hero and Rock Band are two games that come with plastic guitars and drums, connected to the game system, and programmed for you to play famous and gut-throbbing rock songs, by watching musical notes (so to speak), scroll your way.  You miss notes, and you lose points, to the disappointment of the other members of the band.

It seems that real performers, whose songs have been featured on either of these two games, have seen their record sales (downloads) increase, sometimes dramatically.  Here are a few examples of download increases:

Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987) released on “Guitar Hero III” up 153%
Pat Benatar “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (1980) released on “Guitar Hero III” up 180%
Aerosmith “Dream On” (1973) released on “Guitar Hero III” up 15%
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Suck My Kiss” (1992) released on “Guitar Hero III” up 200%
Nirvana “In Bloom” (1992) released on “Rock Band” up 543%
KISS “Detroit Rock City” (1976) released on “Rock Band” up 89%
David Bowie “Suffragette City” (1976) released on “Rock Band” up 55%
R.E.M. “Orange Crush” (1988) released on “Rock Band” up 256%
Smashing Pumpkins “Cherub Rock” (1993) released on “Rock Band” up 843%

There is no message in this from a direct instructional intent. But what it reminds me of is how important this world of video games has become.  It is being integrated into a greater economic engine, and it is a part of our children’s foundational experience — the good and the bad.

It simply means that we, as educators, young and old, need to be paying a lot of attention to this.

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Conferences and Krispy Kream

Watching the Action from the Restaurant
Our Freshly Glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts
The Train’s Rolling In
Old-Style Pop Bottles at the Farmer’s Market

Mostly, I’ve been preparing for two upcoming and favorite conferences during the past week, my first full week at home in months and months. I haven’t worked at the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education’s Christa McAuliffe Conference (NHCMTC) in a number of years — so this will be a real treat.  I drive to Greensboro in the morning to take a plane up to Nashua. (hitchhikr)

Then it’s back to G’boro for the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference (NCETC), my state’s largest ed tech conference.  Held at the huge Koury Convention Center, just west of the city, this is probably one of the biggest state conferences in the nation, all be it, a distance from FETC and the Texas conference. The opening keynote speaker will be Jim Moulton, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working a number of times in Vermont, South Dakota, and his home state of Maine.  Closing the conference, and a perfect closing it will be, is Debbie Silver.  (hitchhikr)

But I took some time yesterday morning to see off my Mother in law and her groom, Alvin.  Brenda and I raced over to the Krispy Kreme on Peace Street for donuts and coffee.  We were thrilled to watch our sales person step back into the windowed plant, and pluck a dozen donuts off the conveyor, freshly glazed, and line them up in the box. 

Then we raced over, in the Mini, me balancing six coffee’s in the passenger’s seat, to the Cary train station, where Brenda’s folks, her sister and two of her daughters were in the waiting room.  It was great fun family time. 

By contrast from Brenda’s folks, who lived most of their family years in Raleigh, we’ll be spending part of today with my parents and some of my brothers down in Clayton.  Having grown up in a tiny mill town in western North Carolina, there will likely be much spitting and whittling ;-).

The last picture below, I took went entering the Raleigh Farmer’s Market on Thanksgiving morning, where Brenda wanted some good home-style pickles as a center for her Deviled Eggs.  We also picked up some boiled peanuts and home-made butter.  The eggs also came from the Farmer’s Market, where the sales woman promised yokes “..as orange as the setting sun.”

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Just So You’ll Know

The history teacher in me caught hold of this post from Next Web.  I never do get all that deep into my RSS reader.  Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten captured the information from a Neatorama post, The Wonderful World of Early Computing.  What drew Zanten’s attention was the first computer bug.

Click to Enlarge

Apparently we call them bugs because Grace Hopper found the first computer “bug”: a moth stuck between the relays on the Harvard Mark II on September 9, 1945. These early computers were attracting lost of moths who got stuck between the light-bulbs inside the machines. At times there were so many relays malfunctioning that they had a fill time bulb changer working to fix find all the ‘Bugs’ stuck between relays.

Read the Next Web post to learn more about Hoper and the Early Computing post for a lot of information about the early days.

I must confess that I miss talking about abacuses and Jacquard’s Loom in computer literacy.

It seems that Grace Hoper is also credited with coining the phrase…

It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

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Suggest this One to your Students — Space Diving

Image from Gizmodo

Imagine 120,000 feet, on board an orbiting spacecraft, and the door is open. There’s a red light at the door, and someone is counting down. At “0” the light turns to green and you hurl yourself out

      of the door

          into space.

You have on a specially equipped suit that helps you to fall, gracefully, to Earth — and you do it for fun. Gizmodo says:

Orbital Outfitters, run by Rick Tumlinson, a longtime civilian space booster who founded the Space Frontier Foundation, and Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon, has already started to develop the equipment it thinks is needed to achieve the feat. Clark, whose wife Laurel perished in 2003’s Columbia disaster, believes that the smaller the body is attempting re-entry, the less the chance it has of breaking up – hence the thinking behind space dives being used for NASA emergencies.

Falling to Earth would have you traveling over 2,500 miles per hour. Approaching the outer atmosphere, you would engage your drogue chute, which would bring you down to a more manageable 120mph. Finally, a more traditional chute would be deployed, bringing you to a soft landing.

Then it’s back up again. But up may not be such a problem either, with Japan expected to start development of its space elevator sometime in 2018.

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Live Blogging Panel Discussion in International School Island

A Second Life Panel Interview with Fire Centauri

I have a self induced deadline to have the second phase of Big Ideas up by 8:00 AM, but just captured a Tweet from Chris Smith (AKA Shamblesguru Voom), of an interview in Second Life with Fire Preibisch (AKA Fire Centaur).  He’s talking about his first night in Korea as an International School teacher — got lost his first night.  But people are incredibly kind, and he’s stayed.  To combat culture shock, he learned salsa, and goes salsa dancing with a community of dancing Koreans.

A picture of English Island, Zombies gallor, and me, carefully approaching the dinosaur robot for a ride.  Touch the picture for enlargement.

His main reason for coming to Korea was the bandwidth. It’s 1.5 MB/s to 4MB/s, and everyone appears to have Internet — no digital divide.

They’re starting to talk about English Village now, Fire’s space on Second Life. When he first entered Second Life, he uploaded covers of some of the books he was teaching, and when he learned that you could assemble a Smartboard-type of display he knew he had something. Fire also has a holodeck where he can res different environments, since he’s limited to only 16 acres.

The island features a French Villa, scooters, talking signs that he’s loaded his voice into, and a thumbnail smartboard. There is also a a giant dinosaur robot that will take you on a tour of the island.

Fire has a blog called English Village Asia

We just played a game with skeletons and zombies coming out of a funnel.  You destroy them by clicking on the vermin, and then filling in the blank of an English Idium.  Fun, though the floor was covered with bones. 

The finale was a ride on the dinosaur robot.  I tried to capture with my screen capture software, but the resing was so choppy that it didn’t come through.  One of the pictures to the left is me approaching (carefully) the dino to get a ride on its back.


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From the Levelhead web site

As a concept, this is so unwieldy for my spacially demented head right now, that I can’t really wrap my mind around any instructional applications for this, beyond the obvious — spacial memory.  If I could just keep major oceans to the east of my magnetic center, I think I’d do better.

Here is text from the Levelhead site:

levelHead uses a hand-held solid-plastic cube as its only interface. On-screen it appears each face of the cube contains a little room, each of which are logically connected by doors.

In one of these rooms is a character. By tilting the cube the player directs this character from room to room in an effort to find the exit.

Some doors lead nowhere and will send the character back to the room they started in, a trick designed to challenge the player’s spatial memory. Which doors belong to which rooms?

I’m still having some difficulty understanding what this will look like and the diagram above doesn’t help.  You can view videos, however, at YouTube, with a high quality demo at Vimeo.

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Breakfast at Trader Duke’s

I don’t often do this, but breakfast at Trader Duke’s in Burlington, Vermont, begged for a camera.  It’s the Western Vermont Trader Omelet, in it tastes as good as it looks.

Last night, it was pizza at a funky place downtown, with my friend David Wells and his wife Lynn.  First goat’s cheese pizza I’ve had in months and the first pizza, where they literally covered the pie with mushrooms, since my first night away at college — 36 years ago.

It was an excellent meal and we hardly talked about work at all. I’m intrigued by David’s new podcast, called My Secret Vermont. He talks about the history of his adopted state and already has listeners from as far away as eastern Europe and China.  This truly is a unique state with a blend of New England attitude and the charm and spirit of the ’60s immigrants.

You can tell you in Vermont, when you see coats hung on hooks by the door of a popular restaurant in the middle of October.  We’re still waiting for the leaves to turn in North Carolina.

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Less Authority – What a Relief

I arrived at my destination about 15 minutes later than I’d intended to because I kept stopping to take pictures.
[Click to Enlarge]

It has become apparent to me over the past few weeks, that my blog, 2¢ Worth, has declined in its ranking/cred/authority/whatever, which I’ve known was going to happen.  There were, at one time, a  handful of educator-bloggers who were hammering out their daily experiences, reflections, and wisdom.  Many of them have retained their position — and for very good reason.

But now, there are many more young teacher-philosophers, who have taken up the challenge to articulate, through their daily writings, a new way of thinking about teaching and learn for this very interesting time in which we live.  They’re smart!  They are talented writers!  ..and I’ve never really consider myself that much of either.

For me, I never aimed to be a “Top 5K,” A-dog blogger, and never felt comfortable under that kind of limelight.  I say in the “about” page of this blog,

(My blog) is a diary of my greater mind, my experiences, observations, and reflections, mixed in with the responses of an eclectic community of readers — who are often the smarter part of me. It is a conversation. I blog to learn.

So, I’m going to relax a bit — and without apology, I’ll write about the comfort of a small airport, the changing of the leaves, the frustrations of rootlessness, and those frequent conversations with educators, who alter my thinking in profound ways.

I’ve always taken my work and my mission very seriously.  That’s not changing.  But I’ve never really taking myself all that seriously — and I’d like to treat my blog just that way.

The pennies keep falling.  Some will be shinny, and some will be sharp…

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An Hour In-World

The site of the Pre-Conference Events [click to enlarge]
I’m just back up to my office from breakfast, and rolling around in my head the experience I just had in Second Life™ with Chris (Shambles) Smith. Tomorrow will be the first Learning 2.008 pre-conference session in SL. Basically, it will be a panel discussion with two of the conference’s invited speakers, myself (Suriawang Dapto) and Alan Levine (CDB Barkley — or something dog-like), moderated by Chris and David Gran, Shanghai American School Art Teacher.

I’d stepped in world and teleported over to the site of the event, on International Schools Island — and I suddently found myself completely black (except for my flowing gray hair). I was completely at a loss as to why or how to fix it. Searching through my menus, I found nothing about rebooting my avatar. No matter what cloths I put on, it didn’t help. I would have been happy donning some dreadlocks, except that I didn’t look so much like a Rastafarian than some Hindu devil.

Anyway, just as I was about to give up, I saw the tell-tell signs of another person on the island. Flying over, I found Chris Smith, who I suspect is responsible for fitting the place out. He immediately averted his eyes, until he realized that I was not naked, just completely black. So we tried several things, even taking off all of the clothes that my inventory indicated I was wearing. Fortunately there were some bushes near by. Nothing helped.

So Chris then took me back to orientation island to seek out help from one of the guides. I have to confess that my memories of Orientation Island (the starting place for all Second Life residents) are not all pleasant. Learning to walk in a straight line was a special challenge for me, and I kept falling off the cliff.

Anyway, there were several very knowledgeable helpers there, if also rather scantily clad — and they tried everything, to no avail. My rather scruffy gray jacket would appear for a moment, and then turn to black again. They finally gave up and sent me to Help Island.

I’d never been there before, and wasn’t sure that Chris hadn’t slipped me the wrong landmark when I arrived. But he suddenly materialized beside me, and suggested that I just ask out loud if anyone knew why I was completely black. I hesitated more because no one was speaking English (mostly languages I didn’t even recognize) than bashfulness. But finally I asked the question, mentioning that I was from New Zealand, which accounted for the accent. They didn’t buy that one. But immediately, someone walked up and asked, “Are you using two monitors?”

I nodded my head and said, “Yes!” into my microphone.

“Is Second Life running in the secondary monitor?”

Again, I nodded my head and said, “Yes!”

Then he explained that there was something in the programming of SL that prevents the textures of clothes and skin textures from rezing when the window is in a secondary monitor. I moved the window back over to my laptop monitor and then rebaked my textures. That did tickle a bit.

Finally, back to my same old self. Now that I’m back at home, typing into my blog, I’m thinking that this is similar to conversations that my children have all the time, where they have a problem or a goal, and go someplace virtual miles away, to find someone who can help them.

I still don’t know why folks want to dress so flamboyantly in Second Life. Glad Brenda wasn’t looking over my shoulder.

Hope to see you at the Learning 2.008 Preconference event at 9:00 east coase time on August 31 (tomorrow). Interestingly Chris’ wife called him to dinner at the same time that Brenda called me down to breakfast. You see, Chris lives in Thailand.