Reflections from VWBPE 2018 conference day two [16–03–18]

Today’s VWBPE 2018 conference sessions that I attended focused more on the uses of emerging technologies and the potential and possibilities to increase access and participation in Social Virtual Reality (session one), digital literacy and education (key note session two) and an psycho educational experience by the whole brain project in Second Life (session three).

My first session of the day included my conference buddy and colleague Evie Marie and a panel discussion on the Social VR use cases, future potential and possible pitfalls.

Use Cases for Social Virtual Reality

Many virtual world technologies are available today in the social virtual reality realm. Because teachers and researchers often do not share institutional data, choosing the best technology can be a challenge. Each use case requires analytical thinking to solve problems considering: virtual world design rationale; features associated with social use; security requirements; and accessibility. Panelists will present use cases and solutions.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Use Cases for Social Virtual Reality

The panel gave a wide range of answers and I am slightly biased as I am working on a project with one of the panelists, SingerGirl (Evie Marie). Evie Marie is developing a web 3D platform that allows for the creation of the 3D web worlds which has a one click enter style interface. Hearing about the Web Worldz system from Evie I immediately saw the benefit of this technology for counselling practice. I am more use to the traditional viewer based virtual worlds like Second Life, OpenSim and many others and a major obstacle is the viewer complexity for new users. The Web Worldz system deals with problem because the world is launched in the web browser.

Gentle Heron made an interesting point that I had not considered about the read aloud feature in the viewer that is used to distinguish objects in a scene. A further point is that with the right tools virtual worlds can be navigable for people with disabilities.

[10:26] Gentle Heron: With the right tools, be it a guide dog or white cane, a blind person can navigate and function well in the physical world.
[10:26] Gentle Heron: Really what they need in SL are the tools that allow them to sense their avatar’s environment.”
[10:27] Gentle Heron: Many people with disabilities are physically and socially isolated in their daily lives.
[10:27] Gentle Heron: Being able to interact with peers and new friends in virtual worlds and social virtual reality is a huge benefit to us.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Use Cases for Social Virtual Reality

During the presentation a strong sense of a call to action, to invite therapists, educators and other allied professionals to explore new platforms like Second Life, OpenSim, and 3D web applications. To see how they are similar and different to offline therapy interaction and communication but also to explore the unique affordances and experiences that online platforms can offer them and their practice.

[10:37] Gentle Heron: They need to learn the benefits that can come from using virtual environments for classes and for studies.
[10:37] Gentle Heron: The best way for an educator or researcher who is unfamiliar with virtual worlds or social virtual reality to learn about this potential

Attribution: Lisa Laxton/Shelenn Ayres (Avatar), Cynthia Calogne/Lyr Lobo (Avatar), Evie Marie/ Singergirl Mode (Avatar), Dieter Heyne/Edward Tarber (Avatar), Gentle Heron (Avatar). (2018, March). Use Cases for Social Virtual Reality. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy

A key note presentation by Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar):

A series of technologies are constellating to offer a new vision of computing. Virtual and augmented reality blend with mobile devices into mixed reality. Automation combines with gaming to produce deeper and greater simulations, human-computer interaction, and digital environments.

Education now faces a growing range of possibilities for content presentation, student engagement, storytelling, and access. At the same time the VRevolution collides with broader challenges, including multiple inequalities and the threat of massive social disruptions. We suggest the exploration and adoption of a new form of digital literacy.

Taking a wide and broad look at the potential and challenges for educators that technologies pose was interesting and evoked many ideas for my own projects. The comment below to me perfectly captures the advantages for using virtual worlds for storytelling in therapy practice.

[11:44] Carolyn Carillon: in SL people express their imaginations together
[11:44] Carolyn Carillon: they’re also practitioners of storytelling in two ways
[11:44] Carolyn Carillon: first, it’s a place for performance
[11:44] Carolyn Carillon: we perform stories
[11:44] Carolyn Carillon: second, we’ve also made places to explore
[11:45] Carolyn Carillon: these places for story are powerful & underappreciated and finally mystery, making the most of the absences, tension and gaps while telling a story.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy

A key part of the presentation was using vivid examples of how virtual reality and associated tech will change the way our lives and practices are mediated and experienced. Let me imagine my own projects (education and counselling practice and training) through examples from this perspective and putting to one side the current limitations (access, broadband, content availability, software and devices etc) creating an artificial “what if” space.

An example of the possibility of storytelling in technologically mediated or augmented reality is that clients can present their story using digital spaces and artifacts. For example, we have a dedicated space for therapy and the client decides to buy things from the Marketplace that express or represent the way that they are feeling in the moment or have been feeling over the week. Using something like the Vive and Tiltbrush the client could visually represent ideas, feelings and map out relationships between them, others and the world.

The stories that we tell each other, to ourselves and to our therapists make who we are, our narrative account. As therapists as we listen to our clients stories ‘we make sense of the personal identity stories, the interactions between important people, and hear the stories that guide people’s behaviour’ (Hedges, 2010, p. 72). I wondered how can emerging technologies enhance the way we hear and see our clients (and our retelling of the therapists story to our supervisors) narrative and stories. Stories and narratives are a big part of my own approach to therapy (Hedges, 2005; Hedges, 2010). Stories, simulations and role plays permeate our therapy training (Aldrich, 2009). Taking into consideration virtual reality, augmented reality and/or mixed reality what opportunities and possibilities are opened up both for clients and therapy students. What new meanings will that have for our current ideas, understanding and notions about what therapy is or is not in virtual, augmented and mixed ànd brick and mortar practice?

Educationally as an example, imagine a set of students counsellors they take part in a learning experience that begins using a website for static content delivery. But instead of accessing the website through a PC you connect using you phone on the train home from work. The next sessions is held in Second Life or OpenSim and an interactive learning experience takes place.

The students that could not make it inworld are connected inworld through Discord and are still in contact with the inworld students through using a chat bot that relays the chat. The following week the students go to the Freud museum in London and as they walk around they get out their phones and as they walk around augmented reality overlays the house and gives information.

This to me, although fictional is a rich and multi layered learning experience not only enhancing the content being delivered and the learning students are also interacting and getting more competent and comfortable with different tech and increasing their digital literacy skills.

Attribution: Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar) (2018, March). The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

Our Brains, Ourselves, Our Worlds

My last session of the day was an interactive workshop by the Whole Brain Health team from Inspiration Island on Second Life.

A Virtual Interactive Model of the Five Pillars of Whole-Brain Health connects the goals of healthy Neuroplasticity and Collective Learning. Participants learn brain structure and function as they engage in a spectrum of activities, capture their experiences digitally in images and text, and contribute these to a collaborative document. We then correlate that information to regions of a walk-in anatomically correct model of the human brain. The result is a hologram of our collective understanding.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Our Brains, Ourselves, Our Worlds

[16:20] Thuja Hynes: By 5:30pm SLT, we will have generated a collaborative vision of this mini-world; a rich and full “hologram” of our collective experience and wisdom.
[16:21] Thuja Hynes: We will have activated the Brain!

Taking images of activities and then adding them to the brain with comments is an imaginative and creative way of reflecting out loud and in a group. Seeing the images and the anonymous reflections in local chat demonstrated to me the potential for therapists and as a psycho-educational practice with clients or in-between sessions.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Our Brains, Ourselves, Our Worlds

Whilst I was there I managed to get some footage and edited it together with kind permission I have included it below. This presentation shows the therapeutic and value of virtual worlds for counselling, supervision and training therapists.

Attribution: Thuja Hynes (Avatar) and Lissena. (2018, March). Our Brains, Ourselves, Our Worlds. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

You can visit their website (here), or follow them on Facebook (here) or you can head inworld and visit Inspiration Island on Second Life (visit here for location).

You can also watch the conference through the live stream on the VWBPE 2018 YouTube channel or via the links on the VWBPE 2018 website. Below are some useful VWBPE 2018 web and social media links.

To attend the conference in Second Life use the following SLURL:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/VWBPE%20Gateway/178/128/38

References

Aldrich, C. (2009) ‘Learning online with Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds,’ San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Hedges, F. (2005) ‘An introduction to systemic therapy with individuals; a social constructionist approach,’ London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Hedges, F. (2010) ‘Reflexivity in therapeutic practice,’ London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Bibliography

Bryan, A. (2018). My new article on the digital divide and the future of education. [online] Available at: https://bryanalexander.org/writing-2/my-new-article-on-the-digital-divide-and-the-future-of-education/ [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018].

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