VWBPE 2016: programme published, and some highlights

via VWBPE.org
via VWBPE.org

The 9th annual  Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference will take place between Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 and Saturday, March 12th, 2016 inclusive. A global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts 2200-3500 educational professionals from around the world each year.

The conference will be primarily hosted on Second Life with additional and special events also being hosted by AvaCon Grid, and the conference programme is now available. Highlights of the latter include:

Wednesday, March 9th

17:00 – Signalling a New Reality with Bronwyn Stuckey: “a look at some of the signals in the past year of a blurring of what is virtual. I have always been the person to call out people who use the real and virtual dichotomy, much preferring to use real and physical. That last year has produced many signals that show even these poles might become redundant. I hope the example we look at in the keynote will trigger your imaginations and help challenge many of the assumptions we hold about the place of our work in virtual worlds. These are the things that could readily be on our horizons so much sooner than we think. For us as educators it is less about keeping abreast of the technological advances but having audacious goals and imaginings. Intrigued? Come along and let’s share our visions!”

Bronwyn Stuckey
Bronwyn Stuckey

Bronwyn Stuckey has been engaged in educational community and games in learning development for the past 15 years. She has worked to explore virtual worlds, games in learning and how we can cultivate identity, agency, citizenship, leadership, and community for students and teachers.

Since leaving lecturing and learning design in the higher education sector her research, consultation and design have been in gamification and game-inspired designs for classroom contexts and professional learning and communities of practice. She is a current post-doctoral research fellow of the Arizona State University Centre for Games & Impact and independently consults to global groups like Intel and Microsoft programs and education communities.

18:00 – Grid Watch with Ebbe:  Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO, will discuss issues of importance to the Second Life communities. His primary aim for the session, however, is to listen to Second Life residents and respond to questions.

Thursday, March 10th

14:00 – OpenSimulator Featured Panel: Cynthia Calongne, Selby Evans, Stephen Gasior and Maria Korolev engage in a discussion on the different perspectives of people who use OpenSimulator as an alternative, or in addition to, Second Life. This will be a thoughtful discussion on dedication, awareness, perception, and opportunity of the various communities of OpenSimulator.

17:00 – Virtual Worlds on the Go with Stephen DownesIn this presentation Stephen Downes examines the intersection of learning, performance support, and mobile virtual worlds and simulations and discusses the real world applications for this technology, describing a variety of learning scenarios, and background and infrastructure needed to support such a system. Additionally, he examines the role of educators and content publishers, identifying the need for institutions to provide learning support and scaffolding to draw out the benefits of what might be called virtual worlds on the go.

DownesStephen Downes is a specialist in on-line learning technology and new media. He speaks from practical experience both as a college and university teacher and the author of learning management and content syndication software. He has developed and deployed a series of progressively more innovative technologies, beginning with multi-user domains (MUDs) in the 1990s, open on-line communities in the 2000s, and personal learning environments in the 2010s.  As a teacher and designer, he is also known as the originator of the Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC). As a theorist, he is known as a leading proponent of connectivism, a theory describing how people know and learn using network processes. He has published hundreds of articles on-line and in print and has presented around the world to academic conferences in dozens of countries on five continents.

Friday, March 11th

13:00 – Reaching the Engagement Horizon in Virtual Worlds: Crafting Engagement Through Games and Gamification with Karl Kapp: The use of games for learning seems like a good match, but we can’t blindly take it for granted. Instead, we need to explore questions to make sure the intuitive link between games, gamification and virtual worlds reaches its full potential. In this keynote, we’ll answer questions like: How does one mix virtual world and game-based learning experiences? How should games be integrated into a curriculum? Can attitudes and behaviour change result from playing a game in a virtual world? What elements of games can learning designers borrow from game designers? Can flying around as a superhero in a virtual world make you a nicer person? Discover evidence-based techniques for increasing on-line engagement, interactivity and, most importantly, learning.

KappKarl Kapp, Ed.D., is a full-professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. He teaches subjects related to games, gamification and learning technologies, and is also the director of Bloomsburg’s Institute for Interactive Technologies, working with organisations to create interactive instruction including games and simulations, co-founder of educational game company 2Klearning.com and founder of The Wisdom Learning Group. He has authored or co-authored six books, and served as a Co-Principle Investigator on two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants related to games and simulations and serves as an external evaluator on a third game-related NSF grant.

Saturday, March 12th

18:00 – Closing Ceremony and Thinkerer Award Winner Annoucement: closing remarks from Phelan Corrimal and other VWBPE Committee Chairs, the opportunity to learn about VWBPE 2017 and hear the 2016 Thinkerer Award recipient announced.

Registration and Passport to the Metaverse

Those wishing to attend VWBPE 2016 are strongly encouraged by the organisers to register (free of charge or donations towards costs accepted).

Passport to the Metaverse offers the opportunity to explore nine interactive and engaging locations on the Horizons of teaching and learning. Opening of Sunday, February 28th, and running through to Sunday, March 20th inclusive (but exclusive of the conference dates), details on these experiences can be found on the VWBPE website and in the conference programme.

Related Links

2016 viewer release summaries: week 7

Updates for the week ending Sunday, February 21st

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version:, January 15 – no change download page, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Quick Graphics RC viewer updated to version on February 17 – provides the new Avatar Complexity options and the new graphics preset capabilities for setting, saving and restoring graphic settings for use in difference environments / circumstances (download and release notes)
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers


  • Alchemy updated to version Beta on February 16th – core updates: CEF, automatic updater, chat bar (release notes)


  • Cool VL Viewer updated as follows: Stable version to and Experimental branch to, both on February 20th (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space update: Charon’s ocean, Virgin’s spaceplane and your art in space

new-horizonThe Pluto – Charon system is, as I’ve reported through various Space Sunday reports, turning out to be far more remarkable a place than scientists ever imagined. While NASA’s New Horizons space vehicle, which zapped past both Pluto and Charon during its closest approach to both on July 14th, 2015.

On February 18th, NASA revealed the most recent surprise to be revealed by New Horizons: Charon may have once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing outward and causing the moon’s surface to stretch and fracture on a massive scale.

The side of Charon imaged by NASA’s probe is characterised by a system of “pull apart” tectonic faults, which are expressed as ridges, scarps and valleys—the latter sometimes reaching more than 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) deep. Charon’s tectonic landscape shows that, somehow, the moon expanded in its past, fracturing as it stretched.

The outer layer of Charon is primarily water ice. This layer was kept warm when the tiny world / moon was young by heat provided through the decay of radioactive elements, as well as Charon’s own internal heat of formation. Scientists say Charon could have been warm enough to cause the water ice to melt deep down, creating a subsurface ocean. However, as it cooled over time, this ocean would have frozen and expanded (as happens when water freezes), lifting the outermost layers of the moon and producing the massive chasms we see today.

A close-up of the canyons on Charon, Pluto's big moon, taken by New Horizons during its close approach to the Pluto system last July. Multiple views taken by New Horizons as it passed by Charon allow stereo measurements of topography, shown in the color-coded version of the image. The scale bar indicates relative elevation. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
A close-up of the canyons on Charon taken by New Horizons from a distance of 78,700 km (48,00 mi) and around 1 hour and 40 minutes before the spacecraft reach the point of its closest approach to Charon on July 14th, 2015. Multiple views taken by New Horizons as it passed by Charon allow stereo measurements of topography, shown in the colour-coded version of the image. The scale bar indicates relative elevation (image: NASA / JHU/ APL / SwRI

In an image gathered by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) in July 2015 and release by NASA on February 18th, reveals a vast equatorial belt of chasms on Charon. This network is around 1,800 km (1,100 mi) long and in places is 7.5 km (4.5 mi) deep. By comparison, the Grand Canyon is 446 km (277 mi) long and around 1.6 km (1 mile) deep.

The inset images on the picture show one section of the network of chasms, informally named “Serenity Chasma”, with a matching colour-coded topography map.  Measurements of “Serenity Chasma” strongly suggest Charon’s water ice layer may have been at least partially liquid in its early history, and has since refrozen.

SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, rolled-out on February 19th, 2016
SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, rolled-out on February 19th, 2016 (image: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s private venture company which is aiming to become the world’s first commercial space line, offering fare-paying passengers sub-orbital flights into space. rolled out it new SpaceshipTwo vehicle on Friday February 19th.

The event came more than a year after the loss of the first SpaceShipTwo craft, the VSS Enterprise, in a tragic accident in which the craft broke up in mid-air on October 31st, 2014, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury, and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold. At the time of the accident, several other figures involved in private sector space efforts were quick to point to Virgin Galactic’s use of nitrous-oxide as a vehicle propellant and to suggest corner-cutting by the company as causes of the accident.

However, after investigating the incident, the US National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) drew the conclusion that the incident was largely the result of pilot error: the “feathering” mechanism designed to be used at the edge of space to allow the vehicle to gently re-enter the denser layers of Earth’s atmosphere was inadvertently deployed by co-pilot Alsbury, resulting in the immediate aerodynamic destabilisation and break-up of the vehicle. As a result of these findings, and as a part of a series of improvements made to the vehicle, the new SpaceShipTwo  includes a locking mechanism designed to prevent the feathering system being deployed in error.

VSS Unity is rolled out in a ceremony which saw it christened by Professor Stephen Hawking and Sir Richard Branson's year-old granddaughter
VSS Unity is rolled out in a ceremony which saw it christened by Professor Stephen Hawking and Sir Richard Branson’s year-old granddaughter (image: Virgin Galactic)

The new vehicle, christened VSS Unity by Professional Stephen Hawking (assisted by Branson’s year-old granddaughter), was rolled-out at a special media event held at  Virgin Galactic’s operations and flight facilities in the Mojave Desert, California. It marks the start of a long programme to get the vehicle to a point where it is ready to undertake its first powered flight.

This programme will include a series of ground tests of various vehicle systems, followed by taxi tests on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. after these will come “captive carry” flights, where SpaceShipTwo remains attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, then unpowered glide flights before the first in a series of powered test flights. While this test programme is not expected to be as protracted as the flight evaluation programme undertaken by VSS Enterprise prior to its crash, iy does mean that the company is not ready to provide any suggested dates by which fare-paying flights might commence.

Continue reading “Space update: Charon’s ocean, Virgin’s spaceplane and your art in space”