This weekend I saw the future. Not that it’s the long term future by any stretch since things seem to be moving at warp speed anyway. But there were a couple of technologies on display at the “New Media Literacies in Learning Landscapes Conference” in Charlottetown, PEI that had me feeling like that giddy little geek that sometimes pops up when everything around me is feeling new again.
The first isn’t really all that “new”, but it was the first time I’d taken part in a live video stream of one of my presentations thanks to Jeff Lebow of Worldbridges.com (and edtechtalk.com) who was there to record the proceedings. I should say that on Friday when I gave a short tech pep talk to a group of about 50 7th graders who are embarking on a most excellent online archiving project about PEI, it was very cool to tell them that folks from as far away as Australia and Abu Dhabi were watching us live. And then yesterday for the conference with about 40 island teachers, we had at one point about 25 viewers “in da house” to watch and take part by text chatting questions and having that more and more ubiquitous back channel chat going on throughout. (The best was when Jeff told me Clarence Fisher had been watching while doing his dishes as I raved about his work during my keynote. Kinda scary, but cool.)
Jeff used about a hundred miles of cables, numerous headsets, cameras etc., but he streamed the whole thing through Ustream.tv which, if you have a camera, a mic and a fast connection, you can start “broadcasting” live from wherever you are in like maybe 3 minutes. (And so of course the new model is to Tweet “Hey I’ve got a show starting in 15 minutes! Here’s the link! Come participate!” Mercy.) The mind reels with the possibilities, and I’m actually to do a first “broadcast” interview Q&A from the audience on Tuesday if I can set it up. (I’ll be sure to Tweet it from willrich45.)
Now I know that streaming per se isn’t all that bleeding edge any longer, and really neither is the whole Second Life in education discussion, though there is much there that still needs to be worked out. But what Dave Cormier (who with Bonnie Stewart were running both the archive project and the conference) showed us in terms of a new Second Life “hack” (for lack of a better word), was pretty mindbending. OpenSim uses the Second Life interface (which Linden Labs released to developers last year) but allows you (wait for it) to serve up your own world on not just the server of your choice, but (wait for it) even just your local computer. Want a world just for your classroom that isn’t “out there” on the Second Life server? Done. (Read more about it in Dave’s post here.)
And get this. Dave said that while this is all still in alpha and very thin, within six months we’ll probably be able to take our own local worlds and selectively connect them to other local worlds, building communities just among those that we want our kids to interact with. From our desktops. That’s what he’s working toward in the project he’s doing with the PEI kids. They are going to build their own archives in their own local worlds and then invite other school worlds in to show them around and teach them about the history of the island. Private tours, so to speak.
I’ve struggled with Second Life for a lot of reasons, and frankly, I haven’t stepped a virtual foot in there for about six months. But what I saw and heard the last couple of days just started my brain really exploding with the possibilities. OpenSim sounds like it’s building toward an easier, safer, more convenient environment than where Linden is going. And you can do it without the downside that comes with the open grid or even the teen grid to some extent.
We’re not quite there yet with either of these technologies, but this weekend, you could just feel it coming. That is what’s so much fun. Almost as much fun as spending time with Sharon Peters, Rob Patterson, Stephen Downes and Harold Jarche and some other great educators trying to make a difference. Good stuff.