Open Wonderland 2nd Anniversary

March 31, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Open Wonderland. In the release meeting last week, the group brainstormed about some of the past year’s highlights.

Wonderland Wednesday Projects

Wonderland Wednesdays continue to be a great way for developers to both learn more about Wonderland development and contribute to the community. They are also an excellent testing ground for new features and bug fixes. In the past year, we have completed one Wonderland Wednesday project, EZMove, and are close to finishing the more recent Telepointer project.

Telepointers: All evidence points to Jagwire
Telepointers: All evidence points to Jagwire

New Monthly Release Cycle

Starting in January 2012, we put into a place a monthly release mechanism. The main goal was to ensure that when people download the Wonderland binary, they are running a recent stable version. With the previous system, someone could download a binary that was almost a half a year out of date, which was causing support issues.

The new system has had a number of unexpected positive consequences. We are now holding monthly release meetings to review which new features and bug fixes should be included in the release. In addition to being another venue for developers to meet and discuss issues, these meetings have provided us with a framework for reviewing bugs and feature enhancement requests (RFEs). During the meetings, we can also enlist volunteers to tackle problems or work on RFEs.  Developers are pushing to get code finished in order to have their code included in the next release. We never expected changing the release cycle would have an impact on progress, but it’s turning out that bugs are now getting fixed at a faster pace with more people participating in the process.

Immersive Education Participation

It has been particularly gratifying to see the number of Wonderland projects being presented at the Immersive Education (iED) conferences.  Community participation in my remote keynote “show-and-tell” session at the most recent European Immersive Education was amazing. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video, or read the blog post about the event.

Community members participating in the Euopean iED conference

Community members participating in the European iED conference

Although I’ll be attending in person, I have signed up to do another similar session at the upcoming Immersive Education Summit in Boston June 14-16. Please contact me if you cannot attend the summit in person, but would like to show off your Wonderland world or Wonderland feature in the Boston show-and-tell session.

Start-up Activity

This year there has also been some activity on the business front. The WonderHealth team from Vmersion is looking for funding from the Knight Foundation to create a social networking environment for people with common  health concerns. The new environment will allow participants to hear from doctors, share experiences with one another, and discuss educational media together.

Also in the healthcare space, WonderBuilders has entered their new VMed Learning Spaces product offering into the MassChallenge start-up competition. VMed Learning Spaces are a collection of simulated clinical settings such as a doctor’s office, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, a maternity ward, etc. that medical, nursing, and other allied health students can use to practice critical skills.

VMed Learning Space by WonderBuilders

Example VMed Learning Space by WonderBuilders

Please cast your vote for both these projects on their respective competition web sites to help them gain momentum.

Press Coverage

In the past year, Hypergrid Business and other news outlets have picked up quite a few stories originally posted on WonderBlog. A search for Open Wonderland on Hypergrid Business reveals stories published about Wonderland’s use in Africa, in the +Spaces debating project, in the Singapore Games Village project, in an English as a Second Language project, and in the Virtual Cockpit. You will also find reports on new Wonderland features such as drag-and-drop of Microsoft Office documents, exporting of objects, and streaming a Wonderland world to a tablet.

Hypergrid Business Search Results Page

Hypergrid Business Search Results Page

Final Thoughts

We are looking forward to another year of community projects, collaborations, and interesting activity around Open Wonderland. If you have a Wonderland project you would like to highlight on the blog, simply email a few paragraphs and a screenshot or video to me or to info@openwonderland.org and someone will work with you to edit the article and publish it as a guest post.

Last year on the Open Wonderland anniversary we ran a series of educational workshops to commemorate the event. We’re in discussion about how to commemorate it this year, so please keep your eye out for a discussion the forum on this topic.


Virtual Technology for Education in Nigeria

March 23, 2012

Our guest blogger today is Juliana Momodu from Nigeria. A colleague describes her this way: “In the next few years when history is written about women who trail blazed and charted uncharted paths for other women to follow, Juliana Momodu’s name will be written in neon for using virtual technology as a sustainable tool for empowering women all over the world.  The use of Open Wonderland will position the African continent as the economic frontier where the torch of leadership is carried by women. Wonderland as a catalyst in education and all facets of African life will help to reposition women at the helm of different businesses and communities as the reawakening of their worth waxes stronger. The doors of communication, information and collaboration are opened across cultures and genders in a borderless world through Wonderland.”

Virtual Technology for Education Vision

By Juliana Momodu

This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “equal access to education, training, and science and technology,” is a powerful affirmation of what I am about and why I am blazing the trail of bringing Open Wonderland to bridge the educational, gender, economic, social, and technological divides in Africa and worldwide.

Background

The world, according to UNESCO Information Statistic (UIS), has  67 million “out of school” children. 30 million of these children are from sub-Saharan Africa and 60% of them are girls! Although the gender gap in education has been decreasing over the past decade, many girls continue to lag behind their male counterparts in equal access to schooling and acquisition of basic skills such as literacy. Reasons include girls marrying early, fathers seeing training a girl that will leave the  family to marry as a waste of resources, and girls needed to help to raise other children. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 17 million girls are still out of school; in South Asia, another 9.5 million are shut out.

Education empowers women by improving their living standard. It is the starting point for women’s advancement in different fields of human endeavor. It is the basic tool that should be given to women in order to fulfill their role as full members of the society

Nigeria’s Scenario

Nigeria is a federation of 36 states. The total population is 150+ million, making it the most populated country in Africa. There are 364 languages. English is the official language of business and is widely spoken. Nigeria’s  National Policy on Education segments the system into 6 years of primary education, allowing an exit point after 9 years of schooling to continue careers through apprenticeship or other vocational programs.

In 2010, a joint UNESCO-UNICEF report estimated over four million Nigerian girls between the ages of 6 and 11 having no access to primary education. Furthermore, the former Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, once released worrisome and dismal statistics on Nigeria’s out-of-school children. In his ministry’s 2010 ministerial press briefing, Egwu revealed that 17 million Nigerian children had no access to education. This figure, he averred, was made of 11 million children who should be in primary school and six million who ought to be in Junior Secondary School (JSS).  He said the level of transition from JSS to Senior Secondary School (SSS) was put at 16 percent, while only six percent of applicants gain admission into universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, because of the crisis of access to the institute.

Problems include:

  1. Lack of classroom space leading to open air classrooms subject to weather fluctuations, leading to class cancellation.
  2. Quality of education offered is affected by poor attendance leading to low rate of educated students. Illness and hunger either of the children themselves or members of the family contribute to the attendance problem.
  3. Teachers are inadequately prepared and morale is low due to basic condition of the work environment and poor salaries.
  4. High cost of schooling includes the costs of books, stationery and basic equipment, uniforms, admission fees, registration and examination fees, contribution towards building and maintenance fund, construction fees, transportation, mid-day meals, Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) fees, sports fees, library fees (even where they are more or less  moribund) and extra tuition fees.
  5. Opportunity costs for parents sending children to school is high. The children’s time is often of economic importance to the family either in terms of income generating activities or in supporting the functioning of the household.
  6. Unemployment among school graduates dissuade people from going to school since they see limited economic benefits.
  7. Finally, the low quality of schooling, particularly with regards to poor physical infrastructures, lack of motivated staff, poor utilization of resources, content of curriculum, nature of teaching methods and relationship of the school and teachers with the wider community negatively impact the education system.

Solution: Public/Private Partnerships in Education

It is not possible to grow a nation with uneducated people. Nigeria needs a well trained and motivated workforce to achieve her development objectives. The UNESCO has recommended 26% budgetary allocation to education. To correct the aforementioned problems and transfer the solution to other African countries, we see Open Wonderland as a solution of choice. With this open source technology and our focus on public schools regardless of the distance and level of income, we can be nearer to the Universal Basic Education portion of the Nigerian Millennium Development Goals by 2015, which has been looking unattainable. We need technologies that are simple to teach and learn for both teachers and students alike. They also need to be interactive and fun to encourage their interest, and increase student retention rates.

Using 3D virtual world technology as a catalyst to providing education for all in sub-Saharan Africa, 3D immersive education environments will offer significant improvements over the normal face-to-face, traditional teaching and learning styles. Their interactivity and capability for real-time collaboration across geographical distance, will raise the bar of excellence, promoting global peace through understanding and respecting of each other’s cultures.

To ensure that no child is left behind and education is truly global, Virtual Technology for Education (VT4E) will study, implement, operate and support 3D virtual world environments for schools in Nigeria and other regions of Africa, using collaborative, state-of-the-art platforms and toolkits. Within those worlds, users can communicate with fidelity and security using immersive audio, share live desktop applications, and collaborate in an educational context. Educators around the world are inventing Wonderland worlds for a vast array of topics and a wide range of student populations, which we will be able to take advantage of.

It has been said that to revolutionize the effectiveness of teaching, learning and communication, the workplace is the classroom and technologies are the tools for learning. Multimedia technology can help foster interactive group communication, which is a key to learning. Additionally, some studies have shown that people can absorb knowledge up to 40 percent faster with multimedia and improve retention by up to 50 percent. It is this result that led Yonkers (1195: Yonker, M., Executive Education and Leadership Development, New York; University Park, P.A. pg 20-23) and some other writers to agree that knowledge (K) equals the sum of the people (P), and information (I) multiplied by technology (T) or K = (P) +IT. The promising practice, therefore, is a combination of classroom and technology.

It would be unpardonably remiss if I don’t thank my business partner Michel M. Denis from Internet 3 Solutions for his invaluable belief in the VT4E project shown in his tenacious commitment and work ethic. Our team is just fabulous. He is detailed-oriented and in it for the long haul. He is an architect who is so committed that he even finds the school song of the Nigerian Pilot School without any help from me. Thank you Michel! We have a priceless collaboration in us.

“Technologies are enablers, and when put in the hands of good teachers, the students soar and excel”
-Unknown

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”
-Albert Einstein



Debating in Wonderland

March 16, 2012

By Bernard Horan

In an earlier blog posting about the +Spaces project, I described how we were using Wonderland to host polls for users to express their opinions about proposed governmental policies. In the next stage of the project, we have taken a look at another way of engaging citizens: debates. The video below is a very shortened version of a test debate that took place in the middle of February 2012. The participants were students from the University of Essex in the UK, along with project partners from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and the Hellenic Parliament. The debate is fairly formal: it has a fixed time slot, a moderator (in this case a researcher from NTUA) and participants who are asked to comment on a particular topic under discussion, suggested by someone taking the role of a policy maker (a representative of the Hellenic Parliament).

You can see from the video, that we’ve developed a couple of extra modules to enable the debate. These are:

  • a ‘carpet’ in which participants can vote, by pressing a button,
  • a ‘pigeon’ that displays messages arriving from other virtual ‘spaces’ (in our case Facebook and Twitter) that are also hosting the debate,
  • a ‘list of links’ with URLs relevant to the topic under discussion.

The debate uses existing Wonderland modules such as the Sticky Note and the Audio Recorder. (Unfortunately, the audio at the beginning of the video is poor due to a high latency wireless connection, it improves once we were able to patch the recording from the audio recorder into the video.)

The feedback we received from the participants was positive. Generally, they really liked the ‘carpet’, but there was some discussion about whether or not users’ names should be displayed on the poles that represent votes. Some valued anonymity, and others wanted to know who had voted for or against.

In the next stage of the project, we are looking at using Wonderland to host role-play simulations of policies. We hope to complete that by Summer 2012.


Vision for Online Economics Education

March 9, 2012

By Nicole Yankelovich

I recently collaborated with Amy Cramer, an economics professor at Pima Community College in Tuscon, Arizona. Together, we made a video that demonstrates how Open Wonderland can be used to create a dynamic, interactive environment for teaching online economics classes.

This came about as a result of her school encouraging her to develop a distance education course. She resisted because she was not satisfied with current online course offerings.  She did not think they did a good job of engaging students or offering the type of explanatory power of live instruction. On top of that, they involved more work for the instructor because of the volume of discussion text that had to be read and responded to.

These problems led her to explore alternatives. Together, we made this video to illustrate how using Open Wonderland could overcome the issues with web-based courses, while retaining all of the benefits.

The main insight from the video is that live classes that integrate collaborative activities with opportunities to interact with the instructor are considerably more engaging than reading web pages or watching canned videos. Those students who are able to take advantage of the live class will have a superior experience, but students not able to attend can still follow the course by watching video recordings of the sessions.


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