News and Trends(15)

from Technology & Learning

The virtual conference scene, growing innovation in Silicon Valley, the promise of Web 3.0, and weighing in with the D.O.E.

Virtually Possible

The Best Practices and Education Conference, an international meeting of educators held in Second Life over 24 hours, brought together those eager to tap into the virtual world's teaching potential.

T&L caught up with Veritas Variscan (real name Doreen Pugh) at a packed international Best Practices in Education convention held May 25. The event was so overwhelmingly popular that people literally couldn't get through the doors to see many of the keynote speakers—at least their avatars couldn't.

Yep. As Pugh pointed out this was a first-of-its-kind event, held for 24 hours straight in the online virtual landscape Second Life. And even Pugh, a former social studies teacher and one of the event's organizers, was floored by the response.

"Our goal was to bring together educators from all parts of the world," Pugh told us during the event.

"We wanted this to be as close to a 'real life' conference as possible. The goal here was to be able to demonstrate to real-world colleges, business, and foundations that Second Life is a place of incredible collaboration and opportunity. We wanted to be able to have [educators] come in here and discover why they ought to support their staff in here, to start to bring more schools in world to explore all we can do here," she said.

The event, cosponsored by ISTE, featured back-to back speeches from top educators worldwide, focusing on students' use of Second Life and the potential that SL offers for school administrators. Gamers, museums, and non-profit organizations were a presence there too, offering content rich downloads, professional development ideas, and games.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the event, though, was watching attendees' colorful virtual identities—friendly giants and fairies among them—interact as they wandered (and floated above) the conference floor exhibits.

The growing popularity of Second Life, in fact, is one of the main reasons ISTE originally decided to "rent land" on Eduisland, where it has since organized regular weekly SL tours. Participation in ISTE events has grown so fast, the organization has recently decided to build their own island "in-world," which ISTE's Director of General Membership Jennifer Ragan-Fore says will be unveiled this month at the annual NECC conference.

"Second Life has given us the opportunity to humanize our membership," Ragan-Fore said. "We wanted to provide a space, to give an opportunity for those informal interactions."

For more about Second Life, see "Surfing Second Life".

Web Sites We Like

Can't attend this month's NECC conference in Atlanta? Not to worry. You can hitchhike there.

At least that's what the unique Web site is designed to offer educators. The site provides a clearinghouse for information on technology-related conferences and events worldwide, with the added value of aggregated blog commentary on the proceedings.

The site's makers say they got the idea after missing a number of conventions they wanted to attend. The result is a free, comprehensive Web site where folks can promote and discuss upcoming events.

School Interoperability on the Horizon—No, Really!

Still struggling withWeb 2.0?

Perhaps you can catch up as we enter the realm of Web 3.0. This chart, crafted by high-tech guru and Radar Networks CEO Nova Spivack ( is being touted as one of the best visual depictions of the Internet's evolution in the past two decades.

What's up next? Spivack, and now other high-tech evangelists, explain the next generation (called "Web 3.0" by some, the "semantic Web" by others) will provide a deepening of the Internet platform via "smart" computer algorithms that analyze data and perform other intelligent tasks for users, such as standardizing software applications to achieve interoperability among programs—something the School Interoperability Framework has been working toward for years. For schools the benefits could be profound: increased communication and a reclaiming of precious time and money now being spent on purchasing and training around new applications. Stay tuned.

No Educators' Opinion Left Behind

The Department of Education is calling on school leaders to provide ideas about integrating technology into the classroom. Through both a series of round table discussions to be held by Ed Secretary Margaret Spellings and a four-question survey, the department says it's hoping to "explore specific actions to improve education outcomes through targeted applications of technology."

Specifically, the department is asking:

  • In what ways has technology improved the effectiveness of your classroom, school, or district?
  • Based on your role (administrator, parent, teacher, student, entrepreneur, business leader), how have you used educational data to make better decisions or be more successful?
  • In what ways can technology help us prepare our children for global competition and reach our goals of eliminating achievement gaps and have all students read and do math on grade level by 2014?
  • What should be the federal government's role in supporting the use of technology in our educational system?

Send your response to You can also visit for more information.

Quote of the Month

"I'm in Silicon Valley. I didn't want to wait 10 years to build something. I wanted to do it now."

—CEO Anshul Samar, 13, of Cupertino, California, to the San Francisco Chronicle May 23. Samar runs Elementeo (an online, interactive board game that teaches chemistry to students), which Samar hopes will reach $1 million in revenue in 2008.