Shock! Interoperability in the serious games space.

I have been speaking at the Apply serious games event occuring in London this week, this included chairing a panel addressing the technical challenges being faced by the industry (both fun and serious games).

One of the consistent themes expressed by industry representatives was the lack of interoperability that currently exisits between tools, middleware and the various development platforms.My read on this is that this is indicative of a change in mindshift in the industry, no doubt prompted by the huge costs now incurred by developers in working on new (console) platforms such as the xbox360 or Playstation 3.

I would never have predicted that this would be the case as developers have historically guarded their tools and IPR vehemently resisiting all attempts to share their technology. In the new development environment this seems to have been recognised as unsustainable.

Lets hope the industry adopts a lightwieght touch to speifications to achieve interoperability which should help smaller developers remain competitive in thsee difficult tmes or will “the big gorillas “in the room prevail.

Thoughts on the Amazon “Kindle”

The Amazon Kindle is device is creating quite a storm in educational circles in the US. The device has a 6″ screen and weighs a lttle over 10 ounces.
“Utilizing a new high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, Kindle provides a crisp black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper. The screen works using ink, just like books and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically. It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlighting, eliminating the glare associated with other electronic displays. As a result, Kindle can be read as easily in bright sunlight as in your living room.The screen never gets hot so you can comfortably read as long as you like.”

So why the storm ? well its Digital Rights Management again . Amazon have invested heavily in this technology and consequently have built in a sphisticated DRM system which prevents users form “openly sharing content”. Educators are begining to use the technology in educational settings and emerging are two distinct viewpoints, use and support the technology issue and the DRM issue will be resolved by user presssure, or boycot the technology completely and Amazon will “cave in under consumer pressure”.
It is of course a small part of a much larger discussion relating to open access and digital rights management and content publishers attempts to forge new business models in the digital age. It will be interesting to see what evolves………..

What about LETSI ?

I have been asked on numerous occasions, well perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, what is happening about LETSI another acronym Learning, Education, Training, Systems Interoperability?

For the uninitiated LETSI is an international organisation that is currently being formed by several international partners , supported by ADL to, amongst a wider remit, provide governance for SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) standard and other learning technology specifications and standards.The organisation was born out of ADL’s desire for SCORM in the future to be self sustaining managed governed and developed by a community of users. JISC CETIS has monitored the development of the organisation and contributed to the intial start up meeting earlier this year.

The Organisation was officially launched last week in the United States by Wayne Hodgins at an event in Orlando Florida and without comment or endorsement the video of this launch is available at the link below.

We here at JISC CETIS will continue to monitor developments in this area, representing the needs of the UK HE and FE communities.


MUVE The Way Ahead ?

Back from leave I’ve been reflecting on Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVE) and their adoption as ‘mainstream’ educational technology, this was prompted in a large part by the book chapter for “Living Virtually” I have just completed with US academic Sarah Robbins , feedback on my personal activities and preparation for the forthcoming CETIS/Eduserve event at the IOE (link to the event)

I’m quite a fan of the Gartner Hype curve in considering the application of new technology..

(Link to Gartner Hype curve)

As far as MUVE are concerned (educational)interest seems to be primarily focussed around the use of Second Life arguably this is because Second Life does provide a fairly low entry point into examining the educational potential of MUVE it has a very established and active community of practice as in the Second Life Educators community (Sled) with support both accessible and available. It is my belief that despite some interesting projects that we (As in the broad educational community)are firmly entrenched in “The Trough of Disillusionment” having travelled through the “hype of over inflated expectation “the cynics arguing, with some justification ,that Second Life is a solution searching for a problem. This journey is not unique it is journey typical of most new technology. We have yet to reach the “plateau of productivity”

Sarah Robbins concedes that what platform technology emerges at the end of the journey may indeed not be Second Life , there are a number of alternatives emerging most of which require more developed technical skills than Second Life, in addition to Multiverse, Croquet et al I’ve just looked at Opensim, an open source project.

We are just at the beginning of this journey and whilst criticism and discussion are essential I’m concerned that the use of MUVE may be deposited in the “dustbin of good ideas that didn’t work in education” without fully exploring the potential.

(link to Opensim)

As far as JISC CETIS is concerned we are agnostic and we will continue to provide a platform where “educational technology” can be openly discussed, criticised and the event on the 20th September will allow us to do that whilst exposed to the four Eduserve projects

MUVE/3D Learning Object Development

With increasing interest in multi user virtual environments (MUVE) and games based learning an interesting project is underway at the University of Southern Queensland. Alive X3D is open source

To enhance distance learning, AliveX3D technology also allows the embedding of multi-user 3D immersive virtual environments within online course content. In this way students reading through study materials online can collaborate within 3D embedded windows in real-time.
2D/3D Hybrid Course Content. Existing course content can be enhanced through the inclusion of 3D immersive content. They are currently working on methods to embed 3D content into 2D online webpages.

The issue of Interoperability across MUVE, VLE and other content seems to
be an emerging issue of significant interest to Learning Technologists folowing on from the recent anouncement by Blackboard of projects exploring the integration of MUVE and building blocks.

It will be intersting to see how this space develops

Blackboard and Multi User Environment MUVE

Recently anounced at the Blackboard Development conference was a small intiative looking at integrating the functions of Blackboard with theose of MUVE.

There has already been a condsiderable amount of exploratory work undertaken in this area by the the sloodle project
integrating the complimentary features of MUVE and VLE’s (in the sloodle case open source vle Moodle)

On reflection Im wondering if this is something the specifications and standards community should be monitoring closely. There does appear to be a groundswell of practitioners wishing to incorporate the use of MUVE in their teaching activity , weather its ‘flavour of the month’ a ecidence of sustained interest i’m unsure. There is certainly a lot of activity in this space.

(Not) Another “Second Life” Article

Second Life; its everywhere this weekend I attended “secondfest” a music festival sponsored by the Guardian “in world”. I have to say, common with many others, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the experience (well at least I didn’t get my feet muddy), Im not sure that the technology can cope (yet) with large audiences and something we should seriously note if we are to apply multi user virtual environments (MUVE) in education.
I was interested to learn that Andy Powell of Eduserve (aka Art Fossit) will be talking about Learning Acitivity Managment Sysatem (LAMS) for choreographing learning activity at this weeks LAMS conference This begs the question could the IMS learning Design Specification be of use/ interest to educatios practicing in Second Life and other MUVE, it also begs the question would avatar interoperability be a useful (or not)aim. Issues I will reflect on (or at least ask Moon Eggplant to)

Reflections on the Ten Competence Conference Manchester

I was fortunate enough to attend the Ten Competence

 project Conference at the G-Mex in Manchester last week.  There were a wide variety of speakers and presentations and I was particularily impressed with one of the final sessions including presentations by Mark Johnson, Graham Attwell and our own Scott Wilson. Scott has seemed to have grasped the torch in respect of Beer’s Viable Systems Model (VSM) applying it the complex educational field, I could sense Professor Oleg Liber at the back of the session beaming with approval. Grahams presentation served to remind us all why we are in education a rallying call for transformational change.

Parallel session 10: Support for social engagement in Lifelong Competence Development: Chair Bill


Designing systems for managing dynamic collaborative research processes, Scott Wilson, Ernie Ghiglione,

Yoichi Takayama, James Dalziel

Personal Technologies and Masks: Issues of Persona and Identity in Professional Practice and Learner

Development, Mark Johnson, Claire Brierley

Supporting Social Interaction in an “Intelligent” Competence Development System, Bertrand Sereno, Eleni

Boursinou, Albert Angehrn

Social Software, Personal Learning Environments and Lifelong Competence Development, Graham Attwell