The frontier of education: Web 3D

a simulpost with TechLearning
As I read about the evolution of the Web, I just feel that many of the experts are missing it! (Perhaps the 3D web is part of the “intelligent agent” idea, but I’m not so sure.)

Yes, I think the semantic web is important (see the W3c specs) and inherently part of the future of the web, but I think there is one overarching evolution happening right now under our feet that is inexorably enmeshed with the semantic web.

It is there amidst the video games and “fun things” that most educators refuse to recognize. With “Web 2.0” barely taking a “bit” part in most of today’s classrooms, the next evolution of the web, I predict, is not Web 3.0. I think it will be Web 3D.

The 3D web!

Lest one think I have come up with this, visionaries have been discussing this for around 15 years. The 3D web has really been around since the Sims went online and allowed people to virtually live next to each other. However, things like Second Life, Xbox live, Google Earth and World of Warcraft, are just beginning to show the power of networks and engagement of the 3D web. Now things like Moove and Kaneva are cropping up. The MetaVerse roadmap first met last year to discuss the “pathway to the 3D web.” On their website, they state:

“Among social virtual worlds, the 2.5D world Habbo Hotel now has 7 million youth users in 18 countries. The leading open-ended 3D virtual world platform, Second Life, doubled from 160,000 to 330,000 accounts in four months (March to July 2006) and has recently been doubling every two months, to 2.5 million by Jan 2007, when they announced they would take their viewer open source. The global market for asset trading, object creation, and services rendered in virtual worlds is estimated at anywhere from $700 million to $2 billion per year (mostly undocumented and untaxed at present). In Japan, social networking sites like GaiaX entice their users into online games and virtual worlds as just one of many social options. Early location-based games are emerging in Asia.

In the simulation space, virtual humans are being explored for their online educational ability. Virtual prototyping software is making great strides in industry, bringing us closer to an era of Fab Lab prototyping and product hacking/customization. 3D navigation systems are emerging in the automotive market in Japan and Europe. Local-positioning systems, like 3M’s RFID Tracking Solution, and modeling advances like ArcGIS, Google Earth, and SketchUp are allowing us to create “mirror world” versions of physical space like never before…”

But, lest you think web3d is only happening in the company atmosphere, scientists have been hard at work on standards to make web 3d available everywhere. In 1992, VRML (rhymes with thermal) was created, and after some discussion about the 3D web and work on standards by the W3C the X3D consortium has been created and X3d has officially replaced VRML.

A picture is worth a thousand words, why are we still talking about words?

So, we’ve got all of these 3-D worlds cropping up. You go in each one and you have to design your avatar. (My SL avatar is to the left.) You have passwords to remember everywhere. In some cases, you have to install the software.

I think the next big browser will allow you to interact in 3D with any website. (Yes, Second Life is open source, but the environment is not!) Why should you have to “join?” Shouldn’t there be protocols and filters and standards for a 3D web browsing experience just like we have with a 2D experience of words and static photographs?

Do we realize that Linden dollars (the money in Second Life) may perhaps be our first truly global currency? (It is 250L$ to every $1 of US currency.)

Second Life is OK, but its not ready for prime time in education. I’ve been spending some time in there lately with some educators I trust. There are educators doing great things in Second Life. However, remember, that many experts believe that a lot of money laundering is now going through Linden Dollars. (I have this on good authority from an Internet safety expert and it is beginning to crop up in some news sources and even the Second Life Herald (the newspaper of Second Life.))

So what is the 3D web like?

So, before you tune out and think I’m crazy, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of Second Life as an example of the 3D web. (Many people cannot run it on their computer because it requires a newer computer.)


I spent last Saturday in Second life with Beth Ritter-Guth. (See her Second Life Blog) Beth is working to use second life in a positive way to teach her college classes — she shuns the seedy areas and works with the positives.

She has “set up shop” in London and has found a place that is free of a lot of the bad things that go on elsewhere in second life. So, I like what she’s doing and where she’s heading.

My fellow teacher, Sharon Peters, in Canada, spent time learning Shakespeare in there last week. In her post, Second Life, It’s not a game, she says:

“A few days ago, I was sent an invitation to attend a group meeting of English Second Language Teachers who were meeting in Second Life to discuss an initiative of Language and Culture Education in SL. I decided to drop in on the meeting to see what it was about.

I fumbled and bumbled my way in and joined the skypecast conversation that was taking place between the members as they were in SL. More than a dozen avatars were present, representing real-life teachers from countries such as Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US. A few were high school teachers, but most were college teachers or teachers of adult learners. We discussed how we would like to create a database of lesson plans that could be used by educators who wanted to use SL as an environment to augment the teaching of language and culture.”

So, what’s the big deal?

See Second Life Second Hand

If you’re afraid to “go in” (I was) or just don’t have the time, I’ve scoured youtube for some videos that I think are pretty informative. So you can see “second hand” (pardon the pun) what second life is about. I think you’ll begin to see the potential of educational 3D environments.

The leaders

Suffern Middle School is in Second Life and conducted an interesting court case two weeks a go in there based on the novel Of Mice and Men. They have posted their transcripts and proceedings on their blog, so judge for yourself.

NMC
The New Media Consortium Second Life Campus has had exciting news last week as a real life (RL) blogger covering the Scooter Libby trial in Washington DC discussed live blogging the trial on campus.

So, take a look at NMC’s promo video from Youtube to look at the campus.

You can follow what they are doing in second life at www.nmc.org/sl

Ohio University

Great promo video posted two weeks a go!

Harvard Law School’s Professor tells us about his fall 2006 class in SL

I’ve heard a lot about this Cyberlaw class, here the Professor talks about what they are doing and gives a tour of the facility.

How the 3D web could benefit education

  • You can go places that cannot be visited today.

    Take a look at this tour of ancient Rome and see how much you learn.

    We show videos about the background of the times of history because we know that pictures and videos can teach in 30 minutes what we can spend weeks telling our students. The impact of video.

    Well, let me ask you. What if the students could interact with such things? What if they could go to ancient Rome and what if we could go there as well? What if we could see some ways that some of the pyramids could have been built or visit an Aztec village and be part of the crowd when Montezuma arrives? What if we can experience the American revolution and be with the troops in Valley Forge? How much would we learn if we can go there virtually? How much can we teach the students.

    If experience is the greatest teacher, what if we could give our students a SAFE way to experience such things! Think of the potential!

  • You can overcome stereotypes

    The creation of an avatar can allow students to escape the stereotypes of their daily lives. We could ask them to be certain things to experience how it feels. We could take role play to a much higher level than ever before but we can also help students who are struggling break out of what others “think” they should be based upon what type of tennis shoes they wear to class and let them just be.

    I know that a “utopian wonderland of no stereotypes” will not be possible as long as humans are humans, however, I would relish the opportunity to have such a level playing field between my students and students in other classes.

  • Student Collaboration

    I would have loved having an “Oscar-like” presentation in Second Life at the conclusion of the Flat Classroom project where we screened the videos and discussed them with people around the world.

    Students can come together in unique, fascinating ways. They can look at common websites, work on common electronic objects of any kind (even wikis), discuss, talk, connect, and chat. But even more, they can fly. They can transport to multiple 3D worlds instantaneously. Just think!

  • Authentic Assessment / Project Based Learning Possibilities

    We look at project based learning. What if students had to research and create a village as it did in the time of Shakespeare. Even further, what if a whole school district or schools around the world created this. How much would they learn?

  • Role Playing
    Our students can role play and become what we want to teach. Court cases (like the one shown above), decision making, character development, plot, metaphors, and so many things can be taught in such an environment.

  • Potential for group synergies
    We as educators spend so much time “reinventing wheels.” What if we can share these resources and build on the work of one another? What if we can truly create common curricular environments with the standards built in? What if these places are exciting tools that will help the classroom teacher?

  • Storage, Legacy, and Global Audience
    So, my child created a great project about the ecosystem of a swamp. It took us weeks. We did it last November and just threw it away last weekend amidst tears from both of us. It was a great project. It had an audience of her class and that is it. Why did that project that so many could have learned from have to disappear into our local landfill? Why?

    Well, in 3D environments, she could literally create an ecosystem of a swamp that other kids could tour. The other kids could have dove under water and spent hours looking at the under swamp life. They could have flown overhead and seen morning fog rise from the still waters. They could see an alligator basking in the sun, an a frog catching a fly with his long tongue. And it could remain for the next class to add upon. Nothing to throw away. A legacy to leave behind. Perhaps that swamp could have remained and evolved for her children to “play in” when they got into elementary school!

  • Scenario Simulation
    We first tell our kids in chemistry not to mix the chemicals. There are online experiments, but what if we could go to a virtual science lab. Mix it all! Drink it. Throw it in your own eyes. See what happens. Learn from it. You cannot die. Do experiments.

    Then, go offline into your real science lab and do the correct experiment and see how it works. These online experiments exist today but what if they were in one place. You could conduct high level scientific experiments that a high school could not afford. (Splitting atoms anyone? Open up the brain?)

    Or, how about observing the cycles of change. Watching the life cycle of a frog in a shorter time. You can look at it, pick it up, measure it at each point. You can handle it without killing it. You can do an animal a day in the span of 30 minutes. Watch it grow. Forward it and go backwards. What if you could go inside the frog and dissect it at each point. Put it back together and watch it grow a little more.

    How about the exploration of inhospitable environments? Wouldn’t you like to take your kids to Mars or the moon? How about the North Pole? Or how about a weather station deep in the Antarctic? What about the wreckage of the Titanic? Critical points in history?

  • Digital Storytelling
    Machinima is the act of making real movies in virtual worlds. Your students can role play, you can film and share it and critique it. The possibilities are unlimited!

    Unlimited possibilities! What potential we have with this!

So, what are we to do?

Note: I AM NOT TELLING YOU TO GO SET UP YOUR CLASS IN SECOND LIFE. It is not ready yet for classes! And the adult grid is just that — adult! But like the internet, there are good and bad places. And I’ve been visiting the good and shunning the bad.

Just because I shun the bad places, doesn’t mean that they’re not there! Bottom line is that we need a 3-D web for educational purposes.

Why the teen grid may not work for you.
The teen grid is the only place now for high schoolers and there are limitations on getting educators in. Then, even if you have the several thousand dollars to buy a private island and the couple of hundred dollars a month (you are buying server space!), if you’re on the teen grid, your teens can leave you and go anywhere on the teen grid and you CANNOT leave the island to go with them.

They have a stringent background check for educators to get on the teen grid and when you do, you can only go on the teen island where you have permission to work. However, your students can leave and go other places without you. Only “PG” but still other places outside of your supervision. I’m not comfortable with that. Period. I’m also not sure what happens when the avatar you’ve worked on turns 18 — does it move into the adult side and do you take your scripts with you? I also have some seniors who are 18 and some who are 17, so I’m not sure how that would work!

Also, they cannot go to the adult areas (for good reason) but the adult areas is where the incredible simulated environments like the tour of Rome shown above are being built.

Lying is not an option for me and it shouldn’t be for you. (In other words, don’t go pretend you are a teen.) If you’re caught, you’re banned from Second Life for all of your real life!

We have some work as educators that we need to do! If you want to know about Second Life and working with kids 13-17, you can read the Educators working with Teens in Second Life wiki. It gives you the facts as they stand now. None that are palatable to me yet. As much as I’d love to convene a flat classroom project in there, with what I know, I’m not going in with a class yet.

Additionally, Second Life does take some bandwidth!

Not yet ready for prime time

You’ll see that right now, we don’t have great solutions for high schoolers YET.

However, I think it is a given that your students will end up experiencing Second Life in a college class, so it is worth teachers going in there and understanding the environment. And remember, it is a video game, and Linden Labs is in there to make money. I haven’t spent any and if you find “friends” they will teach you and will give you free things like shirts and the “prims” (the building blocks of things in Second Life) that you can use to teach.

3D is coming, and we can’t even handle 2.0

Change is accelerating. Meanwhile, many educators haven’t even come to grips with the social web, Web 2.0. We also must remember that there is no such thing as second hand learning — second life learning is first person learning.

Likewise 3D learning is real learning.

If second life is not there yet, we as educators need to join in the discussions, consortiums, and groups that are figuring out what needs to happen. So, although I’m not taking a class into second life yet, I am spending a couple of hours a month participating in second life exploration, discussions, and learning.

Also, we need to advocate the work being done by researchers and let people know what we think could be! We need to encourage the development of easy to use, safe, classroom environments that can be controlled by the teacher but also allow students to enter 3D virtual environments. If we do not develop alternatives to second life, we will have to use second life. If we do not advocate for effective classroom measures in second life, we will have to take it as it is. Linden Labs (the developers of second life) will quite literally control our future.

Meanwhile, encourage educators to understand change and become a part. Help them to see that the very future of the children they teach is dependent upon their ability to change, adapt, and understand such new environments and to operate in them safely. Our children have an unknown future that will be full of change. Are you preparing them for that?

I am not an expert on the 3D web, but I know enough to believe that this is indeed the next evolution of the Web.

How it will look and what it will be will largely be determined by the pioneers and visionaries who are moving into the new frontier: the 3D web.

What do you think?

(Tag it Web3D and education so those of us interested can track the conversation.)

Friends, I’m still learning about this fascinating new frontier. I hope that you will share your thoughts on this area so that I may learn from you, your resources, and your connections.

tag: , , , , , , , ,

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

35 thoughts on “The frontier of education: Web 3D

  1. I think that your right about web 3d. I think that will be big.

    I just did an online workshop about quest atlantis, http://questatlantis. This is a 3d world for children 9-12 years old. I think it looks like SL, but I haven’t been to SL, so I’m not sure.
    The children have to make quest and missions. They will learn social things and enviriomental values. Their is also the possibility to chat with each other.

    It really looks great. And very safe, it’s very well monitored.
    This is a plave where you can go with your class to learn in 3d and learn the 3d world.
    Best regards, Kaj

  2. VRML 1.0 was drafted in 1995. It was rewrite of Inventor. VRML 2.0 was drafted in 1996. Once the spec was approved is was name VRML97.

    VRML97 is not a technology. It is a file format. A very good file format, which combines the 3d model and the interactive logic into one file. It was not a failure; the web plug-ins for viewing the VRML were business failures. Mostly impart to one company buying up almost every vrml plug-in company out at the time and then selling it all to a large computer company which did nothing to speak of with the technology. That was the failure.

  3. The funny part of this post is that I am having a hard time getting my teachers to Web 2.0 and the next part is Web 3D. Actually we did talk about 2nd Life in our class. It turns out that one of our teachers has a daugher-in-law who works there. She was able to give us some great information.
    Isn’t it exciting to see where the web is goig?

  4. Thank you for your encouragement, Susan.

    Thank you for the clarification, NVTS — actually, I’ve seen so much about the “semantic” web and the article I cited from your site was just one of many. Perhaps it was that I didn’t see anything about Web 3D in the post. I think that the 3D aspect, although it is underpinned by the semantic web, is going to be the primary distinction between what we see now on the web and our move to the future web. Thank you for clarifying your overall position!

    Kaj- Thanks for pointing out the site, I’m going to go take a look.

    Anon-
    Thank you for clarifying some things. Actually, I encourage you to go over and edit at wikipedia which is where I got a lot of my information. It will only be as accurate as the editors who participate! Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  5. Croquet is also worth a look.

    “Croquet is a powerful open source software development environment for the creation and large-scale distributed deployment of multi-user virtual 3D applications and metaverses that are (1) persistent (2) deeply collaborative, (3) interconnected and (4) interoperable. The Croquet architecture supports synchronous communication, collaboration, resource sharing and computation among large numbers of users on multiple platforms and multiple devices.”

    opencroquet.org

  6. wow, Vicki, nice job explaining all the details about SL and all the related 3D web. Nice avatar too.
    See you in SL.
    cheryl

  7. As much as I enjoy visiting SL and am intrigued by the educational possibilities, part of me worries that a 3D web would once again draw our attention away from basic literary skills, i.e. reading text. Add some kind of voice application like Skype or TeamSpeak to SL and there is no need for kids to read or write in that environment.

    That is not to say that the verbal and non-verbal communication skills that kids must use in SL aren’t important; I just like the fact that the web in its present form forces kids to learn how to read, evaluate, synthesize, and apply information in textual form.

    As you mention, there needs to be tighter integration between the 2D and 3D webs so students can move quickly and seamlessly between the two. In that world, information most suited to textual representation would be easily accessible in that form. I guess what I’m saying is that in addition to SL being able to be viewed in the browser, there needs to be a (better) 2D browser within the SL environment itself.

  8. Thanks for all the wonderful information! I just recently ventured into Second Life for the first time and so far, while I am amazed at the technology, I too do not see it as ready for “primetime” education. I will definitely be checking out some of the resources you have mentioned here though.

  9. An outstanding and much needed post regarding Web 3d, Web 2.0, and Second Life. I applaud your efforts.

    Most importantly, I hope it unites more and more educators to begin exploring SL, collaborating on SL, and using SL.

    As I said in my blog, it is time we turn concerns into goals. From the start of the Web through Web 2.0, it has all been about concerns. This held and continues to hold back educators and education.

    Hopefully, your post will begin to make the shift into goals!

    Warmest regards,
    Ryan Bretag
    http://www.bretagdesigns.com/technologist/

  10. Hello Vicky! I feel as though I know you having seen so much of your work on the web. Anyway, thank you for this informative posting, and while I do agree with you in many ways, I am presently engaged in a research project that will last four to six months (part-time) about the educational uses of SL. I hope to participate in several conversations like this one, and start a few of my own. If you have time, please stop by my blog (StoryofMySecondLife.com) and chime in where you see the opportunity. Gotta run!

    Kevin Jarrett aka KJ Hax
    Part Time Faculty
    Walden University School of Education

  11. Thanks for the pointer to Web3D.org. Yes, Web3D Consortium is working very hard to have X3D reach its potential and education on the web in 3D is, for the most part, uncharted territory. X3D is an ISO Standard that does replace VRML and as such is a web focused interchange format, a delivery format and an interactive 3D environment standard for 3D to be experienced on line. You are right to say that if an open and mostly free alternative does not survive, we will all be forced to used SL and be subjected to the laws of SL and the whims of hyper-funded Linden Labs forever. I invite everyone interested to visit web3d.org and ask them questions!

  12. Excellent commentary on Second Life. I would like to point out, however, that the SL Herald is not “the newspaper of Second Life.” In fact, most don’t consider it a newspaper at all, but a group blog.

    You may be interested in The Metaverse Messenger (www.metaversemessenger.com), which is a weekly paper that includes an excellent column on education called “Learning Curve,” by a staffer who is a college journalism professor.

    Thanks for the insight!

    P2

  13. Thanks for leaving a comment over on my blog post Vicki.

    I know you’ve done some groundbreaking work with blogs and other Web 2.0 tools with your students, so I look forward to seeing what you do with virtual worlds once you find an environment you feel safe enough to work in.

    Perhaps out of all this you will get some funding for an island on the Teen Grid! 🙂

  14. quote:”3D is coming, and we can’t even handle 2.0″ –totally agree with it. most web application still stay in web1.0 whith just put information on internet, web 2.0 need analysis of the information and help people find what they want. That’s not easy process even google just beginner.

  15. Thanks for an interesting read. I am about to start exploring Second Life myself as part of some education trials in NSW, Australia. I have yet to create my avatar because I am trying to come up with a cool name!! I look forward to reading more and looking at the videos. Meanwhile, I’m setting up my own blog (link below). I have put a link to your blog there already! Thank you.
    Alex Miller – (miller’s spin)

  16. Your comment titled “3D is coming, and we can’t even handle 2.0” struck me as downright prophetic. If folks thought computers and cyberspace were accelerating at a fast pace just two years ago, they should know that it has now hit “warp” speed.

    But I have a question. Let’s say that you are in a school that doesn’t have graphics cards powerful enough to run SL; that your technical staff is so fearful of the risks of progress that they upgraded to from Windows 98 to Xp just when Vista was coming out, and they won’t even let you plug your laptop into their system (though they now allow student flashdrives). How would you, an obviously “can do” person, respond to such a situation?

    Caoimhin Dubhuir at
    http://gvsuceltic.wordpress.com/

  17. Caiohimin – I was in your same situation and what I started doing may not be practical for all teachers — I started making my own way — whether it was recycling ink cartridges or writing grants — I worked like crazy to get better computers in my room. The computers I have are not the result of anyone budgeting for computers because my school has never budgeted to buy one computer — if you can believe that — it has always been squarely on my back to raise whatever I need to use in the classroom. So, that is what I’ve done. Like I said, some schools may literally tie your hands behind your back — but the greatest teachers make it happen.

  18. Vicki,

    I fully agree with your point of view on how the gain benefit of technologies that are available.
    Even if we look a bit further in time than just beyond the next (r)evolution we will see that the T3K’s (Two Thousand Twenty Kids) or perhaps closer to today the Millennium Kids will see the complete fusion of virtual world(s) and RL. The follow-ups of our cellphones or PDA’s will have their mobile Personal Intelligent Agent(s) that will use whatever, wherever is available and needed (from real information sets or info sets from one of the virtual worlds) and even move to it. The PDA that they might carry in SL will have the exact behavior as the real one in their pocket.

    I do have question for you.
    We recently experienced the use of our “Second Life Answer Machine” that allows an avatar to ask questions in natural language (for the moment in English, French and Dutch) and receive the answers in “almost” natural language. The answers come from our semantic network (a sort of knowledge base). Most people react quite enthusiastic to this service.
    Now we were just wondering whether this kind of interfaces would be suitable for educational purposes also. Do you have, as a professional in this domain, an opinion on this?

    Best regards

    Ronald Poell

  19. Ronald — Yes, natural language and avatar 3D “people” or “virtual people” are all needed as we evolve to the next level. Do you have hyperlinks or information or a blog post about what you’re doing? Thanks!

  20. Vicki — Slammy is derived from our research on information extraction. There is no info in the web about it. In SL I gave you a notecard on it.
    Ask my avatar (Anthon Masala) if you would like to see what Slammy can do.

  21. I have really learned a lot here, and I am very excited about the possibility of encorporating some of this into my own classroom. However, I am concerned with the idea that 3D learning is based on the assumption that this type of technology is looks similar to what children are using at home, like with there video games etc… Well what about children who are not? Is this type of educational technology going to confuse and overwhelm them? Are students with limited technology experience going to feel behind other students? As wonderful as I think this is, is it going to add to issues like the “digital devide?”

  22. Coming from a students point of view and who loves the video games and is in school majoring to be a teacher…. It would be awesome to have this in my classroom. However, there are some things that second life can not do. You start to lack the hands on learning. And for kids who do not like video games, it could be absolute misery. What about the special needs children too, who can not operate a computer, what are they supposed to do?

  23. I think that this was a really good overview of what the second life is like. I have only heard of it before and nothing that gave me really any kind of information. I’m a student majoring in education and I think that this might be something that would be useful in my classroom, but maybe a different form of it just for students. I think that the creator had a lot of good ideas.

  24. LisaEd205
    There is a great emphasis about this being part of the future of education, but is this a realistic part of the future for schools who don’t have the funding or the technology? It is noted that to run the Second Life program you have to have a newer computer and large bandwidth. There are a lot of schools that do not have the capabilities to participate. I think that some of the elements of the Second Life classrooms could be of great benefit. I plan to teach elementary science, so it would be so great to be able to take my students places and show them things that would otherwise not be possible without being a part of Second Life. One of my concerns would be how to keep the students on track and focused on their task (just like in any classroom).

  25. I think now is the time to .. figure out what an initial take of 3D on the web and 3D to this mix ensures that current web applications can experiment with new user experiences.

  26. ARE YOU FED UP BY SEARCHING FOR A GOOD COLLEGE AND GOOD EDUCATION ? DON’T WASTE YOUR
    VALUABLE TIME, WE PROVIDE YOU DETAILS OF GOOD EDUCATIONAL COLLEGES AND OUR EXPERTS
    WILL GIVE YOU GOOD COUNSELING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE AND WE ALSO PROVIDE A WIDE RANGE OF
    EDUCATIONAL AND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE BOOKS.SO GO AHEAD AND click here
    HAVE A BRIGHT FURTRE.

Comments are closed.