VWBPE 2015: Crossroads

VWBPE 2015: Crossroads Use of 3D virtual technology has been making its way into mainstream education, non-profit and business settings. This 8th Annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference (VWBPE15) is the definitive event bringing together educators/trainers, practitioners, administrators and policy makers from around the world to present, discuss and review ongoing developments in the field of 3D virtualization, its applications, and opportunities.

Over 3,300 people from 45 countries attended our last conference. There were 80 presentations in three days including keynote addresses by Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab and Philip Rosedale, Second Life creator and CEO of High Fidelity.

In just the past several years, over 60 hours of video footage has been captured and has been made available free to the academic community in addition to other video broadcasts, with thousands of views.

Similarly, blogs, articles and interviews, wiki’s, vast amounts of social media posts have reached thousands of other educators and related professionals around the world, which has fostered an ongoing interest in the importance of the conference, its reach, and effects.

Join us and be a part of this conference! Watch this website for updates and follow us on our social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Philanthropy for Education

There are numerous worthy causes out there for which people have a huge amount of passion.

Chief among them is education and the desire to share knowledge with others. There is a special satisfaction that people get from helping others succeed in life. Whether it is as a parent, teacher, mentor, or peer; building communities through the exchange of knowledge and wisdom is the cornerstone of everything that makes being human, human.

This conference is no exception given that no conference of this type is truly free. It takes the dedication of many volunteers to help coordinate the multitudes of activities scheduled. It also requires generous donations from sponsors who are committed to the pursuit of education. Helping with either in-kind contributions or cash in hand provide back-end technology, infrastructure, software, and network access which are the backbone of a virtual conference.

Thanks to our generous benefactors, the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference continues to be a huge success going into our eighth year. Contributions help support things such as:

  • Website and domain name hosting;
  • Transcription of presentations for persons with hearing disabilities;
  • Preservation of archival materials;
  • Real-time live streaming of presentations and events;
  • Software licenses and subscriptions;
  • Royalties and licenses for copyright materials;
  • Tools, textures, sculpt maps, and mesh objects;
  • In-world tools, scripted objects, and animations;
  • Social activities, and
  • Many many more.

What we can accomplish during our conference is directly impacted by the amount of funds we raise throughout the year. Notwithstanding the low cost of program delivery, the fact that this free conference is a direct result of those generous sponsors who help support the 3500 volunteers, presenters, and participants. Our current budget, including all direct financial and in-kind contributions, is less than $10,000USD, which is scarcely one US dollar, per person, per day.

As a result, it is our privilege to recognize the following sponsors, both financial and in-kind. Without their help, this conference would not be possible.

Thinkerer Studios: Virtual Outworlding is Selby (Thinkerer) Evans’ blog, which provides a wide-ranging collection of articles with Q&A and FAQs for new people in virtual worlds. Well known as one of the longest running blogs covering topics related to both Second Life and OpenSim, and as a resource for arts, culture, video, and education, it is a must-read for creators of virtual content.

AvaCon Inc.: AvaCon, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the development of 3D immersive and virtual spaces. Avacon holds conventions and meetings to promote educational and scientific inquiry. Avacon provides support for entertainment events including performances, lectures, art, music, machinima, and more.

Virtual Ability, Inc.: Virtual Ability, Inc.® is a non-profit corporation. Its mission is to enable people with a wide range of disabilities by providing a supporting environment for them to enter and thrive in online virtual worlds like Second Life. Virtual Ability supports community projects, research, and consultation to a wide variety of organizations and businesses that seek to diversify their accessibility options.

Agile Dimensions: Bill Krebs’ Agile Dimensions blog is the education portal for Agile focused project management learning and training. Agile Dimensions uses a proprietary 3D learning methodology which accelerates the learning curve, allowing project managers to become more productive.

Builders Brewery: Builders Brewery is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer school on a serious mission: to bring quality, free education to students within virtual environments. Established in early 2008, the Builders Brewery is proudly recognized as one of the busiest and most loved premier schools for content creators in a Virtual World. From scripting, building, animation and photograpy, to mesh, business marketing and texturing in 3D, the topics are endless. In addition, Builders Brewery runs one of the largest content creators’ help groups encouraging intelligent builds and innovations to improve the visual and structural integrity of Second Life and other virtual environments.

University of Idaho:The University of Idaho has a strong direction toward integration of scholastic programs with virtual environments. Departments including Food Science and Toxicology, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Business and Economics, and School of Family and Consumer Sciences together have invested over one million dollars in virtual collaborative education and research.

University of Washington Alumni: The UWAvalumni (University of Washington Avatar Alumni) champion innovation and online education in virtual worlds.

From their headquarters at the UW iSchool island in Second Life, they continue to promote the use of virtual worlds for synchronous immersive learning, enterprising research, and leading creative exploration of emerging technologies.

Whole Brain Health: Run by Lynne Berrett and her husband, the Ageless Mind Project helps people explore a holistic approach to the interrelated well-being of body, mind, and spirit. Inspiration Island is their 3D learning center in Second Life with paths running in many directions where you can swim, do yoga, meditate, find your way through unusual mazes, and join discussions related to whole brain health.

Rockcliffe University Consortium: Established in 2006, Rockcliffe is one of the oldest educational establishments in the metaverse dedicated to the development of best practices in education, research, and services using virtual collaborative tools and 3D technologies.

Rockcliffe is a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. It serves as a think-tank and support system for instructors, colleges, and universities. Its members are able to take part in any of the myriad of projects that Rockcliffe is actively engaged in exploring, including virtual environments, Mobile and Cloud based technologies, gaming and simulations, voice/video conferencing, and social media groups and forums.


VWBPE 2015 Announces Its Featured Speakers

The VWBPE Crossroads will be an exciting event to attend in March. For the 8th year in a row, over the course of four days and spanning two grids, we will be welcoming our many presenters from all over the world. They will once again explore the fascinating possibilities of using virtual worlds to expand minds and broaden various aspects of life and professional experiences.

VWBPE is well known for engaging participants with its blend of possibility and diversity, which augments the dialogue of best practices in multiple directions: a crossroads of potential opportunities.

Ebbe Altberg the CEO of Linden Lab, opens the conference on Wednesday, March 18, and looks forward to speaking about the the relationship between Linden Lab and educators: a fitting start to a conference that features some of the greatest work in virtual worlds by educators.

On Thursday, Pamela Broviak shows us how virtual spaces can be leveraged to promote sustainable environments in the field of civil engineering.

Also on Thursday, our crossroads take us to AvaCon Grid, where Gord Holden will impart his bright optimism for K-12 education by helping to allay trepidations concerning virtual worlds and will share his ideas on how to meet exciting goals set forth by experiential learning.

Our journey returns to Second Life on Friday, when our day begins with Jeroen Frans’ sharing of some impressive projects that both engage and motivate learners.

Continuing on Friday, the inimitable Sensuous Maximus will provide us with her keen observations on virtual teaching and essential skill-sets fundamental to being epic.

Saturday’s lineup continues with speakers who bring with them the impact of years in virtual worlds. Our day begins with Susan Toth-Cohen, who will share her life-changing work of applying virtual worlds in her graduate program for occupational therapy.

Midday Saturday finds us with John Fillwalk who will engage the participant in an interdisciplinary view of simulation and virtualization that is the product of years of work across several platforms.

Finally, we close with Jay Jay Jegathesan, who will speak on the large span of influence over the arts, research, machinima, teaching, and architecture that UWA has become well-known for promoting, with a sensibility toward varied audiences and communities.

Our many presentations, workshops and activities will allow for ample opportunities to network with other luminaries in the field of education in virtual worlds across the globe.

VWBPE invites you to this exciting crossroads, where we will advance the possibilities and promise of virtual worlds to impact on life and profession alike. Get to know our featured speakers here.


Once Upon a Time…

…there were three Bears…

What is this? It sounds familiar, and yet…

One day, after [the bears] had made the porridge for their breakfast and poured it into their porridge pots, they walked out into the wood while the porridge was cooling, that they might not burn their mouths by beginning too soon to eat it. And while they were walking a little old woman came to the house. She could not have been a good, honest, old woman; for, first, she looked in at the window, and then she peeped in at the keyhole, and, seeing nobody in the house, she lifted the latch.

Old woman? What happened to Goldilocks?

Out the little old woman jumped, and whether she broke her neck in the fall or ran into the wood and was lost there, or found her way out of the wood and was taken up by the constable and sent to the House of Correction for a vagrant as she was, I cannot tell. But the three Bears never saw anything more of her.

Broke her neck? Vagrant?

The original story, as told by poet Robert Southey in 1837, differs in subtle ways from the fairy tales we tell our children today. Similarly, in the original versions by the Brothers Grimm, the Little Mermaid dies at sea, Snow White is left for dead, carrier pigeons pluck out the eyes of Cinderella’s step-sisters, and Sleeping Beauty is abused by the King. With such examples of changing moral relativism, which can be seen in such stories over time, can knowledge and understanding ever truly identify universal certainty and truth?

It is true that as cultural diversity collides at the crossroads of understanding, there is an increasing need to identify with the challenges that diversity brings to learning. The lens that colour our perspectives differ from place-to-place and age-to-age. What is universally knowable in Aristotle’s time differs from that in Southey’s and that of today.

Language and the way in which we tell these stories reinforce a specific ideology that we may not even be aware we are bringing to the learning environment. As such, it is difficult to apply in any practical sense the fundamental learning objectives of a given time and place without also considering the context in which such learning is placed.

We have all heard the expression, “the winners write the history books”. To a large degree, this is actually untrue. The culture into which we must fit writes the history books. That history is reinterpreted with each generation, who then embellish and make politically correct the parts that don’t fit the social norms of their time.

What virtual expression brings to the learning experience is a return to balance in learning objectives. It enables a constructive criticism of the material based on the time and place those innovations were designed to address. By deconstructing the knowledge setting, the mind is opened to understanding the significance of the past, the root challenges of today, and how to develop innovative paradigms for the future.

We look forward to hearing about your walk through history. Will you share them with us? Join us by submitting your exhibit, machinima, and/or your virtual explorations and be part of all the action which is VWBPE.