January 07, 2009

Mobile Healthcare Education

I just stumbled on an old message I had missed that mentioned this presentation. Entirely my fault that I hadn't seen this sooner!

This is a very intriguing approach to using Twitter, mobile technologies, cell phones and related tools to fill academic functions. This ranges from emergency callouts to managing class activities and assignments. Extremely interesting!

Posted by pfa at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

Science 2.0 - Communities in Science Blogs & Gender Inequity in Science

This isn't the prettiest slideshow I've ever seen, but it does a good job of proposing a methodology by which to analyze the existence of communities represented and created by science blogs. I found two points particularly interesting.

One, the definition of how "science blog" is defined, and would very much like to see the list of science blogs included in the analysis - rather like a systematic review. I checked her website (http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~cpikas/ScienceBlogging/index.html) but perhaps she isn't quite ready to share that sort of information about her methodology. Maybe after it is published?

Two, that the commenting/co-citation behaviors are very different across genders. I find that not unexpected, but provocative for several reasons, raising many more questions than it answers. Is it simply that women tend to be more social in general? Is it that women tend to be minorities in science and need to support each other more in the absence of other local supports? Is the same true of other minorities in science? What does this say about gender inequities and recruitment/retention in science? Are men missing the potential of Science 2.0 applications in their own research work? Will the emergence of Science 2.0 provide a springboard to shift domination of science research across the gender divide?


Posted by pfa at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

What I Did On My Winter "Break"

Obama, Obama, Obama ....

Did anyone else get involved with local community meetings for the Obama-Biden Healthcare Transition Team? Oh, you didn't hear about them? When I tell folks what I did for the past couple weeks, I hear from a lot of folks who weren't aware of Daschle reaching out to the American people for thoughts on how to improve healthcare in the United States.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Join the Discussion: Former Sen. Daschle responds on health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/join_the_discussion_daschles_healthcare_response/

This initial discussion in early December was a provocative and interesting event itself. Daschle answered questions about many leading healthcare policy concern, the video was made widely available online, and public discussion ensued.

Obama: Daschle Healthcare Reform Discussion

After about 3500 comments, they started to analyze the discussion (after five thousand or so, they closed comments). One of the tools used was Wordle, which distilled out the 100 top words used in the conversation. Notice the biggest one? Insurance. I don't think that is a surprise to anyone, but I am surprised by some of the words I don't see present -- access, transportation, information, choice, rural, seniors or elderly, and much more. Some words are present, but a lot smaller than I expected -- children, change, available, service/services, free, etc. Oops - etc was present in the Wordle as a word, which sort of skews the results -- this would have been more useful with a filter to exclude generic words like etc, enough, done, going, getting, and such.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Top 100 Words in Healthcare Discussion (from Wordle): http://change.gov/page/-/images/wc_healthcare_full.PNG

Well, the upshot of all this was that on December 5th, Daschle put out a call for USA citizens to partake in the discussion through small group discussion events hosted in your local community. These were all to take place between December 15th and December 31st. Personally, this put a big hole in my so-called "break", but it was important to happen and important to partake when possible. I just wish the timing had been a little different.

Daschle asks Americans to help reform health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/daschle_asks_americans_to_help_reform_health_care/

Most of these took place in people's homes. Most of the events I heard about happened through personal networks - sort of work of mouth from friend to friend. They were not necessarily open to the general public or to walk-in visitors. As a single parent of a special needs kid (you've heard this before if you read this blog often), getting out and about town is hard for me. Basically, not likely to happen. I don't think I was invited to any of the events in people's home. Some of my friends were, but they had so many obligations relative to the holiday season that they did not participate. I was thrilled to hear about first one, and then later two more events that were happening through social media.

The first event was for the autism community and was held via Twitter. This wasn't the only event for the autism community - there was another on Staten Island and in Virginia (see comments), and probably more I didn't find out about. The Twitter one was organized through Causecast, a sort of a social network for "registered 501(c)(3) non-profit" organizations. But I couldn't go to Virginia or New York, and wouldn't have even if the events have been open nationally. In theory, I could have sponsored an event locally in Southeastern Michigan, and probably could have gotten some folks to come. Still, there are a lot of people on the spectrum who are not very comfortable in social situations and who would either have felt excluded by the venue or found it stressful to participate in real life. Having an event online made it possible to include a broader range of participants, with some interesting discussions that happened specifically about the geography of access to care for autism treatment. This type of discussion would have been unlikely or impossible in a face-to-face event. You can read more about the Autism & Healthcare Reform Twitter Day in another blog post.

Autism & Healthcare Reform - The Twitter Event for the Obama-Biden Transition Team: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2009/01/autism_healthca.html

Because the organizer of the autism event (@TannersDad) describes himself as a "paper and pencil" kind of guy, and because after several nudges no one else volunteered, and because I believed it was important, I ended up being kind of behind the scenes tech support to try to archive the tweets for the event (with help from @ajturner). I finished up everything for them on January 2nd.

In between, there were two more events, both in Second Life. The first one was held on December 29th in Port Spinoza, coordinated by Siri Vita (one of my neighbors in SL), and was an open general meeting about healthcare reform without a specific target audience. The event was held primarily in voice (audio over the internet within Second Life) and was videotaped. There is actaully going to be a really wonderful video of the event for the Obama Transition Team, which I will share when it becomes available.

SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team
SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team

For that event, I helped out by offering voice-to-chat transcription in order to make the even more accessible to people with disabilities, and Cotton Thorne (another neighbor) did the reverse -- read chat comments into the voice record for the event. This made it possible for people with a blend of sensory abilities to be able to attend as full participants and still have a complete record of the event. To make it even more fun, there were a lot of Justice League members who attended. After all, they work hard to help keep life smooth for people, both in fiction and in Second Life, and like all good hearted people are well aware of the importance of health and healthcare in making a good life possible. (My son was really excited to see the Green Lantern there, who shared with us that he has heard there will be a live-action Green Lantern movie coming out in the next 3 years.) They were back in for the final closeup shots for the video on Sunday for a couple hours, just for color, with the original event having lasted well over two hours. I was glad the Sunday event was in the afternoon, since the first SL Obama event was timed for the West Coast crowd, making it after 1am before I was able to go to bed.

The final event in which I participated was specifically for the large community of people with disabilities in Second Life and occurred on December 31st in the evening. The structure of the event was very different - they had small groups at several different tables, with a group of coordinators and facilitators -- they had a greeter, a couple guides, a facilitator at each table, and a timekeeper who clocked the discussion questions and kept the various groups on task and on target. The facilitator at my table old us she was deaf, and that this was why we needed to converse in chat (typing). My arms were still sore from all the typing the other night, which maybe slowed me down a bit. This was the first time for me that I was able to participate as a participant instead of as organizational help and background support.

I can honestly say I learned a lot from participating in all three events, and cannot imagine how the information from a nationwide clustering of these types of events will pull together for the transition team. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I will be reporting out in future blogposts about some of my thoughts and observations from being part of these events. One of the biggest take-home points for me is what I've said about both accessibility and healthcare for years -- there is NO one-size-fits-all.

Posted by pfa at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2008

Google Flu Trends

Announced today, Google is using individual's search term patterns to track and predict the spread of the flu.

Google: Flu Trends: http://www.google.org/flutrends/

Google Flu Tracker

Notice that even though the country at large has only barely started to climb, Michigan is showing more activity.

Google Flu Trends: Michigan

I am, on the one hand, excited to see Google applying appropriate data mining techniques to develop and test skills that could be used for disaster management and general health. On the other hand, I think this tool needs some work.

First, Google Flu Trends needs to be tested and validated by public health researchers. It is great that Google is putting it out, and I am very excited about this resources as an indicator or trend showing Google's commitment to the community at large. I would be more excited if I saw articles comparing and contrasting it with other similar tracking tools, and linking it to other informational tools beyond saying the CDC says you should get a flu shot.

Second, IMHO, the methodology. Of course, being that this is Google, we don't really have a clue how they arrived at this. They give us access to their data, but we don't know what they are tracking or how this is related to the outcomes. The methodology is missing, and I'm not sure how relevant the data is when you don't know the methodology that resulted in the data. We are lacking the opportunity to validate the data. This is a problem for me. If it is something more just of general interest, then fine, trust Google without knowing how they got there. With health information, I would feel safer if I knew more. Frankly, you have the same problem with Google Trends looking at the corporate and business information they make available. Fascinating, but would you put you money behind it in planning investments?

Which leads to my third thought. What little I've been able to tease out about this is that they are tracking the geographic use and incidence of phrases such as "flu diagnosis". I hope that they are using a rich collection of words related to the flu. Perhaps something like this:

(diagnosis OR symptoms OR "what's wrong" OR "do I have") (flu OR influenza OR vomit OR vomiting OR cough OR coughing OR chills OR aches OR aching OR headache): http://tinyurl.com/5ujuo7

Of if you want to get more technical, maybe something like this:

(diagnosis OR symptoms) (flu OR influenza OR ~vomit OR ~cough OR influenza virus OR influenza viridae OR H3N2 OR H1N1 OR H5N1 OR H9N2 OR "upper respiratory tract infection" OR URTI OR "severe acute respiratory syndrome" OR SARS OR pandemic OR Orthomyxoviridae OR "respiratory syncytial virus" OR RSV OR "West Nile virus"): http://tinyurl.com/5tjler

Now, what would make this all much more powerful, would be to bring together a collection of data sources that contain things people say about their health. Google searches is one. I would not be surprised if Google included phrases in people's email if they have GMail accounts. If you also included microblogging tools such as Twitter, Identi.ca, Plurk, Jaiku, Pownce, etc., social networks such as Facebook and Myspace, and other social media, then we'd have such a rich source of sources that I would hope the predictive validity would be very high. Here is a screenshot from someone else who is thinking about this - Morbus on Twitter.

Twitter: Morbus: http://twitter.com/morbus

Twitter: Morbus (Flu Tracking)

Now, I just wish Morbus would share their findings. :)

Posted by pfa at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2008

Assumptions about Library's Roles in Disasters

I just spent the last week and a bit working on one blog post about "What Assumptions From Now Are Shaping the Future of Librarianship?". (What slowed me down was that my computer crashed 6 times in 4 days, and required me to rebuild my lost work each time.) Here is the blog post I was working on.

Questions to Ask about Librarianship and the Future: Thoughts about the Ithaka and Portico Reports: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/hsldir/archives/2008/09/questions_to_as.html

Basically, while the blog post is about some recent reports looking at professional trends, my perspective came from a few personal experiences.

One Story

I was on a committee with faculty, staff, and administrators to look into planning and preparations for potential disasters. During the various meetings and discussions, it became clear that there were a number of assumptions at various levels about how local libraries would support the community during disasters.

Patron Assumption #1:
All academic libraries keep basic reference materials in both print and electronic, so everyone will always have access to the core important information even if one library gets smashed in a disaster.

Patron Assumption #2:
Local public libraries aren't expected to keep everything when there is a strong academic research library in the area. Of course, the academic library and the public library collaborate and talk about who is keeping what, so we don't have to worry about it - they've already done that.

Patron Assumption #3:
I don't personally have to worry about keeping anything as long as it is in the library, because the library will always have it.

Patron Assumption #4:
For the really important stuff, the library has it in a variety of formats. After all, there was that Ohio backout, and Katrina, and 9/11 - we know that we can't always get to the electronic. Not to even mention the digital divide, or that some folks have tech of physical problems that prevent them from using one media or another. The library is going to have the Good Stuff in electronic, and print, and maybe other media as well.

These assumptions are very flattering, in a way. People were happy with what we were doing, and beyond even just respecting us as professionals, they thought the librarians had thought of everything in advance and were doing everything necessary to take care of everything. Pretty comprehensively. Hmmmm.

Having some concerns about these assumptions, I went back and started to talk these over with friends and colleagues and administrators. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the librarians had corresponding but different assumptions.

Academic Librarian Assumption #1:
We primarily support the day-to-day needs of our immediate patrons (faculty, staff, students of our institution, and alumni, to a different extent), focusing on what is needed for their core functions of education and research. Everything over that is gravy, extra - not required.

Academic Librarian Assumption #2:
Public libraries have the primary responsibility for providing and preserving any materials that would be needed by the local community. We love our public library, but there really isn't much overlap.

Academic Librarian Assumption #3:
If you as an individual think there is something you can't live without, you should keep a copy for yourself.

Academic Librarian Assumption #4:
Electronic-only is perfectly fine, since the Ohio blackout was a blip and will never happen again. We will never be without power for more than a day, and will never have a crisis where we need information that is only available in electronic format. Besides, we kept backups on CD or DVD locked in a dark archive somewhere. We'll be able to get to those if we really need it.

OK, now I am oversimplifying both perspectives here. I am not directly quoting anyone. At this point, I am not presenting proposals for any solutions, merely presenting a possible problem arising from different communities having different assumptions about who is doing what and who is responsible for doing what. Remember this little ditty?

"This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/hlife.html

If there are these kinds of misunderstandings in this area, are there other assumptions about the profession that are not being addressed in our decisionmaking for the future and for which the profession could later be blamed? Do we need to better communicate this type of context in our decisionmaking? Personally, I have an interest in how new technologies are being used to prepare and respond to disasters, with the flip side of the coin being when new technologies are NOT appropriate for these functions. I'll be blogging more on those topics. With the broader questions and context raised here, I don't know what the solution is, but am hoping there will be more of a discussion about these types of issues.

Posted by pfa at 10:01 AM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2008

Science as Conversation, Part 1: "Is Pubmed Passé?"

Today at "lunch" I listened to a webcast presentation by a couple of my colleagues & peers here at the University of Michigan Health Sciences Libraries - Marisa Conte & Jean Song. They were presenting research data that is part of a project to develop improvements to the PubMed searching interface. The specific project under discussion today was MiSearch.

MiSearch: http://misearch.ncibi.org

MiSearch

I occasionally sent brief tweets to Twitter about the interesting data or concepts being presented. As a topic for another conversation, somehow I turned on LiveTweet by accident, so the tweets were captured as a session.

LiveTwitter: http://livetwitting.com/session/145

What was really interesting was the dialog that happened around the tweets. Specifically one comment in particular from Chris Seper.

Tweet: Is PubMed Passé?

Wow! You could have knocked me over with a feather right about then. As a medical librarian, and especially as someone heavily engaged with evidence-based healthcare and systematic reviews, Medline is a BIG part of my life! PubMed, Ovid, Silverplatter, GratefulMed, Dialog, Index Medicus, Index to Dental Literature ... the list of tools I've used for searching the medical literature goes back through decades of my life, and the tools themselves (as well as the literature) go back around 150 years. I was "raised" (as a medical librarian) on Medline as the mother's milk of authoritative medicine and healthcare.

I was immediately and urgently curious what it was about ScienceRoll search that inspired Chris to make this change. So I popped over to Chris' page and checked it out. I noticed two big differences right away -- (1) what information sources are being searched, and (2) how the results are being displayed.

SOURCES

Science Roll Example - Sources

RESULTS

Science Roll Example - Results

So what is so different? Well, when you use ScienceRoll's search you do still get results from PubMed mixed in. That is also true of Google Scholar. ScienceRoll, though, is a bit like a blogroll -- "who are your favorites?" ScienceRoll searches the crème de la crème of the medical web -- World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Health On the Net, and many more. Then it gives you what it finds (a little, not too much, some consumer, some clinical) with more suggestions and ideas for refining your search. For a site targeting the general public I can definitely see why Chris felt this was a better choice than dumping John Q Public directly into the heart of the clinical dialog.

Posted by pfa at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2008

Tech Trends for 2008 from Read/Write/Web

This slide presentation from Read / Write / Web forecasts as this year's major trends (in my paraphrasing):
- collaboration,
- production (ie. reading AND writing via social web applications),
- the core role of APIs in facilitating production of new content,
- microformats to facilitate reuse and repurposing of existing data,
- openness (open source, open content, open data, open science, open ... ),
- mashups & tools to create them,
- mobile (web, tools, tech, data),
- semantic web applications, and
- recommendation engines.

Posted by pfa at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Why Second Life?

Some of my recent blog posts have discussed some of the reasons I personally find Second Life of particular value in my work. Today I was privileged to present on this topic to a group of university faculty. The presentation focused on the context of virtual worlds more broadly, and second life in particular. To my surprise, the presentation was videotaped. If I find out where and when it becomes available, I'll let you know. In the meantime, here are the slides.


Posted by pfa at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

Enriching Scholarship 08 Keynote Twittered

Yesterday I attended the keynote presentation by James Wooliscroft of the UM Medical School and the following panel discussion. The focus of the discussion was the mission critical importance of thinking globally in our educational, humanitarian, community and collaboration efforts.

I twittered much of this, with the result of questions and comments from afar. Replies to some of the questions are embedded in the twittered stream. Because this was twitter, and the newest is always listed on top, for chronological order you should read from the bottom up.

TWITTER STREAM:

JK: Info tech has made tracking possible and compliance possible when it never was before, so requests were considered silly and tossed out.

JK: Compliance burden has increased in past 5 years by 800 percent (not sure I caught numbers right). Burden generated by info tech.

JK: Compliance burden. "Someone has decided that life shouldn't be as risky as it is."

Q&A issues - copyright, human subjects, ada accessibility ...

Q&A: Americans are expecting the conversations to happen in English. Is it practical to expect otherwise?

Q&A: How do we prepare our collegaues? We don't. We prepare what they might need. We need to be ready when tipping point occurs.

JK: "It's going to be a Really Bumpy Ride from here on out."

JK: We have proved that the academy can live thru agrarian age, industrial age, information age, and cling to outdated semester model.

JK: Pro schools are the locomotive that will pull the rest of the academy.

JK: "Oh we'll never do that." "Oh yes you will."

JK: 2 flavors of "waking up". shift in bias away from "These kids coming into my classes are like a successor species."

JK on infrastructure "Never underestimate the power of the incumbency." "No matter how foolish it seems, someone is benefitting from it."

JK: "We are learners. In a community of learning." "You never really learn a subject until you teach it." New model: everyone teaches.

JK synopsizing previously given lecture available in YouTube via School of Information and University Libraries.

@rachky They R trying 2 use f2f via online video 2 serve as prequel 2 real study-abroad experience. Also 4 stdts who can't afford real thing in reply to rachky

@rachky I think absolutely the smaller schools are more flexible and rapid adopters. Big schools like UM are slower. IMHO. in reply to rachky

@BudGibson Yes, but the point is that this is a new trend, and not commonly adopted through out the university. Not CORE economic model. in reply to BudGibson

JK quoting Moby Dick. "Why do you have to go to sea to see the world? Why can't you see it from where you stand?"

BobM: Learning communities, natural partners. Online international could substitute or serve as prelim for real study-abroad experience.

BobM clarification - bad transcriber. Not just tech, but interactive online media synchronuous mixed w/ asynchronous.

BobM: Learning via tech seems to be equivalent to f2f learning.

@Rachky Cool! My son was just out of school for a week. Did his homework on websites, turned in science test by email. in reply to rachky

BobM: Tech to enable face to face cross cultural dialogs, but you don't need to leave campus. Structure course around the tech dialogs.

Bob Megginson, LSA dean: how to study abroad w/o a passport. all international collaborations

ML: ePortfolio model as scaffolding tool for deep reflective learning

ML: Importance of tech in internationalizing our programs, shift to media based courses. Implants, microscopy, anatomy, prosthodontics.

For you dental folks, Marilyn Lantz: IFDEA/MedEdPortal & the importance of education 4 global solutions 4 difficult oral health problems

Shift to faculty panel - Dean of LSA, Marilyn Lantz fr Dentistry, John King Provost.

JW: Cost effectiveness - less time spent given the same lecture year after year.

JW: how do we do lab classes in the undergrad sciences as distance learning? We don't know yet. But anatomy has made the shift to web.

JW: Students dragging faculty into web 2.0. Faculty operating at Web 0 or 1. Students have competencies faculty lack.

JW: new kinds of assessment. Email communication part of grade, timed response to real challenges, synthesize the story, flag key elements

JW: Expect failure as part of process.

@BudGibson Actually, that is more the future model. Lots of U economy is dependent on campus life experience. in reply to BudGibson

JW: Set target, provide choices, expert guidance ... Shift of focus from "knows-how" to "does" & "shows". Competency map + learning path

JW: "If you've been to one medical school, you've ... been to ONE medical school."

JW: Why is education teacher-centric?

JW: New ed model: foundation skills, achievement of outcomes, competencies, flexibility in settings and experiences, self-direction/LL lrng

JW: business model of university dependent on residential educational experience. How will Univ economically survive?

JW: All medical/dental *preclinical* info going online free 2 world. Partners 4 life, all alum have access w/ indexed access 4 continuing ed

JW: health disparities. insufficient health care workers in other parts of the world. how to educate? all slides, streaming video, courses

JW: Future: OPEN education access / Open MIT, Open Yale, Notre Dame, Utah - but no health sciences until we did it last week Open.Michigan

JW: "50% of what we teach in medical school is wrong, we just don't know which 50%."

JW: Distance learning resources internationally accessible, requires active professional learning, discovery learning.

JW: How do we combine and engage faculty and students in global classroom, take fac brains w/ students, wherever they are ...

JW: Global professional partnerships depend on technology to facilitate collaboration.

JW: Faculty member partners to study inflammatory breast cancer in Egypt (Cairo).

JW: Faculty member goes to Vietnam & Shanghai to teach clinicians there how to transplant toes to hand.

Vodcast: importance of global medical humanitarian experience in medical education. 62 M4 clinical rotations in 20 countries.

JW: "The whole success or failure of this initiative depends upon technology." Audience laughs. Vodcast is refusing to open.

JW: Why global? Disease respects NO BOUNDARIES. People come w/ tropical diseases via airflight. You have 2 dx/tx all entities.

JW: Vision & success depend on huge team efforts.

Presentation beginning. Creating the Future: Medical Education & Globalization - James O Wooliscroft (dean of med school) about 23 hours ago

Posted by pfa at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2008

Work Productivity in Second Life

Friday was one of those days when once I got into Second Life, it seemed like I couldn't get back out again. Some folk might assume that this relates to playing and a lack of personal discipline, but instead it is rather the reverse.

I spent my morning working on email and blogs, then came into Second Life for a meeting of our local Second Life community (which will be described at the SLUM blog). Immediately following that meeting was the regular Metanomics session, followed by a special extra Metanomics session with Larry Pixel of NMC. Somewhere around that time there was another meeting for Immersive Education, but I was too worn out to stay around for that.

During these 3.5 hours of meetings, I had separate private conversations with one of the presenters, a professional colleague from the UK, one of my SL neighbors, a local SL community member, and the Metanomics host. I also took notes of key points from the presentations and participated in the audience discussion (called "backchat"). At the same time, in real life, I periodically tried to make sure my sick son was drinking his fluids, eating lunch, and taking his meds.

This is one of the things I like and dislike about working in Second Life - multitasking. I find I can be so incredibly productive and efficient, but I also find the juggling a bit overwhelming and sometimes stressful. Mostly, though, I appreciate being able to maximise the effective use of my time.

The conversation with the professional colleague was, in part, about the issues of whether or not Second Life is useful for professional productivity, and specifically whether having professional meetings in Second Life is useful.

A Sexual Health Sim in Second Life: Web conferencing: 2D vs. 3D (or both), or ‘Why conduct events and meetings in Second Life?’: http://sl-sexualhealth.org.uk/?p=140

For myself personally, this is a no-brainer. I cannot imagine being as productive and professionally engaged without virtual worlds as I am as a resident of Second Life. (Note: Second Life is one of many virtual worlds, and seems to be currently the most productive one for professional engagement in my areas of interest.) This is not so obvious to people who are not active in a virtual world or Second Life specifically. So let me step back a minute and try to show why it is useful for me.

Firstly, I am a single parent of a special needs child. When I became a single parent, my son asked me not to travel for a while. "A while" became about five years. Traveling is a hardship both financially and even more so for parenting and trying to provide a stable home environment for my child. Being able and willing to travel is essential for many if not most professional positions, and is often a requirement for promotion.

Travel is important for very good reasons. Professional meetings provide opportunities for engagement with other professionals, continuing education, professional acculturation and support, discussion and learning about core issues and trends in the profession. Without a rich foundation in all of these one is at risk of becoming not just socially isolated as a professional but of losing touch with the current standards of practice, and eventually losing what it is that really makes the difference between a professional and someone who isn't.

In Second Life, I participate in professional meetings on a variety of topics on a weekly basis. I engage with other professionals in education, librarianship, technology, science, and healthcare at these professional meetings. I see the same people over and over, know who they are and why they are important to know. I engage with these same professionals outside of the meetings as well. The "hallway conversations" of geosynchronous meetings become conversations in chatrooms, via twitter, by email, on wikis and social networking sites, and other media.

Geosynchronous meetings (meetings to which someone travels) have common outcomes that contribute to your professional productivity. You gather information to apply in your home environment, have useful and enjoyable discussions with like-minded folk, find and share solutions to common problems, are invited to present or publish, are invited to partner on research projects, discover that someone else has already done what you were just about to start, etcetera.

There is not one of these outcomes that does not also happen with Second Life meetings. For myself, I have given two professional presentations in Second Life, taught classes, been invited to partner on grant proposals in collaboration with other institutions, and had many of those interesting and productive conversations that lead to useful outcomes or resources for my parent institution.

Geosynchronous meetings, however, have significantly different costs embedded in the events. Just on a personal level, the costs of the actual travel, hotel, food, and meeting fees are significant. The additional costs and inconvenience and risk of arranging childcare, petcare and home security are also items that decidedly get my attention.

When those costs are extrapolated to all attendees, and extended to include the costs of planning and coordinating the physical arrangements of the meeting, well, frankly it is baffling to me that more organizations don't define virtual worlds as an institution priority as a cost savings mechanism! IBM is one example of a major organization that has indeed made virtual worlds an institutional priority. IBM has at least 26 islands in Second Life, of which one is open to the public and the rest are reserved for the use of IBM employees on IBM business. That says something to me. IBM is far from being the only significant corporate presence in Second Life, but to detail out the corporate landscape of SL should be saved for another post.

Alright, so for the sake of the argument, let's say we've established sufficient cause for shifting some or many professional meetings to an online environment as a cost savings mechanism. There are other ways to have online meetings. Why not just have a web conferencing system? What is special or better about having meetings in Second Life or another virtual world? What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds? Good questions, that can be better answered by others, but I will make a small attempt.

What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds, Second Life in particular? The barriers have mostly to do with the technology itself and learning to be comfortable with that technology. This, too, could be a whole blogpost by itself, easily. To touch on it superficially, software-hardware compatibility is a problem for many folk. If you are buying new computers, make sure they have the video cards currently preferred by most virtual worlds.

What is better or special about having meetings in Second Life. The two words the come up with overwhelming frequency are IMMERSION and ENGAGEMENT. For myself, I have attended and presented at professional meetings in Second Life. Feels an awful lot like doing the same thing in real life. I have attended presentations on web conferencing systems. Perhaps my experiences were atypical, but what I recall most is the awkwardness and technical challenges.

So, perhaps I am prejudiced, but for me, speaking personally, this seems like an obvious choice to make and an obvious direction for institutions to explore. Given the choice, check out virtual worlds for your next big meeting or seminar series.

Posted by pfa at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2008

Trends in Virtual Worlds, Part 3: Open Source, OpenLife, OpenGrid, OpenSim, ... Open!

OpenSim and OpenGrid were previously mentioned. When I first heard about these, it was really part of a big PR promo about the new OpenLife grid.

OpenLife: http://openlifegrid.com/

I was hugely excited. "Wow!" I thought, "at last we'll be able to do all our cool Second Life stuff on our own server, save our work, oh ... power!" But I was wrong. It is a much more complicated picture than I thought, and I am glad I did not post on this right away. Instead, I started running around mentioning this to people, having conversations, doing web searches, and learning more about the whole idea.

The most helpful conversation I had was with MB Chevalier, also known as Magid N. Kamel Boulos, head honcho of the ‘Sexual Health’ SIM in Second Life. MB had blogged about this, so was ready to tell me all kinds of ueful information.

A Sexual Health SIM in Second Life: Why ‘in SL and not in “any? website’?: http://sl-sexualhealth.org.uk/?p=115

He quickly set me straight, clarified many of my misunderstandings, and offered a wealth of links for further information.

- Yes, OpenLife was an open grid project and allowed you to use your own server.
- No, OpenLife is not the only project like this. Most of the public grids are actually based on OpenSim. OpenSim is the big name you really need to know.
- No, even though OpenLife is run by someone named Sakai, that doesn't mean it is related to the Sakai open source course management system project of which the University of Michigan is a member.
- Yes, the OpenLife, OpenSim and OpenGrid projects ALL allow you to use your own server and save your work, and they look very much like Second Life. BUT they don't all do this equally well -- some run slow, some render Windlight, each is different.
- No, the grids did not connect to each other, and they don't connect to Second Life, either.
- Yes, there are more grids. For example, the French language grid is at http://www.francogrid.com/.
- No, not all of the grids are public, some are private.
- Yes, the skills you've learned in SecondLife all transfer over, beautifully.

Open Sim News

By now, I pretty well realized that I had been way off track with my original assumptions about all this. I figure we need to be exploring these new options at the same time we are developing our skills in SecondLife. Here are some of the links mentioned and those recommended by MB:

Central Grid: http://centralgrid.com/

Deep Grid: http://deepgrid.com/

OS Grid: http://osgrid.org/

Virtual World Grid: http://virtualworldgrid.com/

A couple days ago, I went to the Metanomics session by David Levine, in which he explained the core issues with OpenSim development very nicely.

Second Life: Metanomics: David Levine / OpenGrid

You can watch this presentation here:

Second Life Cable Network: Metanomics: http://www.slcn.tv/programs/metanomics

Here are some of the links recommended during David's talk.

OpenSimulator Wiki: http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Main_Page

Second Life Wiki: Architecture Standards Working Group: Protecting content in an open grid: https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Protecting_content_in_an_open_grid

Second Life Wiki: Viewpoint Advocacy Groups: https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/AW_Groupies#Viewpoint_Advocacy_Groups

UgoTrade: http://www.ugotrade.com/

If you want to stay current on this topic, watch UgoTrade. I plan to.

Posted by pfa at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Trends in Virtual Worlds, Part 2: Open Virtual Worlds

Roughly a month after the announcement of the MediaGrid, NMC had another big announcement. In the meantime, I had started hearing more and more about OpenSim, OpenGrid and related efforts to also increase openness, portability and interoperability between virtual worlds. More on some of those in the next post.

NMC's big announcement was the Open Virtual Worlds Project, in partnership with SUN Microsystems. As part of the announcement, they made a nice video explaining a bit about this vision and extension of the MediaGrid concept.

Almost immediately, folk in some of the other MediaGrid virtual environments started to have discussions wondering if this emphasis on SUN and Wonderland would end up excluding other players in the virtual worlds. NMC says they plan to model the Wonderland project along the lines of their existing Second Life project, and will share as they already share so much of their work.

Posted by pfa at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008

The "Big 6" - Educational ETech Trends for 2008 from the Horizon Report

I love the Horizon Report. Since 2004, it has come out once a year from the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Intiative. The focus is on emerging technologies for education, but it also touches on relevant trends in research, corporate, and other environments.

The report provides a tight quick overview appropriate for dialog with administrators and managers, as well as other folk who might not have their finger right on the pulse of tech trends but who might need to know more. They have well-written brief introductions to the tech trends they identify as significant, as well as richer explanations, examples of use in education, and referrals to more resources and links.

So what did they say was up and coming in educational technology this year? The buzz words are:

* grassroots video;
* collaboration webs;
* mobile broadband;
* data mashups;
* collective intelligence (a.k.a. crowdsourcing);
* social operating systems.

Want to know more? Read the report. Want a real person explanation or simply to brainstorm ways in which these might inform your own teaching, learning and research? Contact your nearest librarian or educationa technologies consultant. For faculty, staff, and students of the University of Michigan health programs, contact yours truly -- Patricia Anderson.

Posted by pfa at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)