Monday, April 23, 2012

ReactionGrid's CLO John Lester presenting at Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The Department of Computer and Information Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway is hosting a seminar this week on "Virtual Worlds & Educational Technologies."

The seminar will be held on Wednesday April 25th from 11:00-14:00 CEST, and it's free and open to both staff and students.  Here's a summary of speakers and topics:
  • Associate prof. Judith Molka-Danielsen, Molde University College, Norway: Educational Use of Virtual Worlds: Review of Current Research and Initiatives for Forming Good Practices
  • Prof. Vladimir Uskov, Bradley University, USA: Computer Science and Computer Information Systems Curriculum Innovations
  • Prof. Catherine Fulford, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA: Educational technology and 3D virtual worlds at the University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Associate prof. Mikhail Morozov, Mari State Technical University, Russia: Parallel Time and Space: Capturing Learning in 3D Virtual Worlds
  • John "Pathfinder" Lester, Chief Learning Officer, ReactionGrid Inc. (distantly from Canada): Integrated Reality and Next Generation Virtual Worlds 
All of the other speakers will be attending and presenting locally, but I'll be giving my talk online starting at 13:00 CEST (that's 7:30am EDT).  Attendees in Trondheim will be watching and listening to me on a projection screen in the lecture hall.

If you'd like to watch and listen to my talk live, go to my page and then join the audio conference call.  I won't be taking any questions by voice, so please use's text chat.  Here's my presentation abstract:

Integrated Reality and Next Generation Virtual Worlds: Integrated Reality is the augmentation of our way of communicating and sharing knowledge through the use of all our technological tools in a complementary way. Examples of such tools include virtual worlds, augmented reality, the web and mobile devices. Next Generation virtual worlds will be tightly coupled to many other emerging technologies such as robotics and augmented reality, and will provide platforms for much broader use among teachers and learners. This presentation provides an overview of virtual world platforms, discussing their use as immersive learning environments and future possibilities for both technological and pedagogical innovation. It will include a live tour of ReactionGrid's Jibe platform.

There are many innovative research and development projects in virtual worlds and education coming out of Scandinavia (you can learn more via the Nordic Virtual Worlds Network), so I'm very excited to be a part of this seminar.  Thanks again to Ekaterina Prasolova-Førland for inviting me to participate.

UPDATE 4/25/12: Here are my slides:

-John "Pathfinder" Lester
Chief Learning Officer
ReactionGrid Inc.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Using Virtual Worlds to Reduce Stress

relaxation training in a virtual world

A fascinating paper was just published on the topic of using virtual worlds to train people in stress reduction techniques.

"The Feasibility and Impact of Delivering a Mind-Body Intervention in a Virtual World"

The paper describes a pilot project using a virtual space to bring volunteers through a mind-body medical intervention. The volunteers learned how to elicit the relaxation response, a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.  Typically, people learn how to do this in physical-world training sessions.  But in this case, they were able to use a 3d simulation in a group learning environment.

Some of the challenges they faced in the course of the project included:

"...although it is indeed feasible to present this type of program in a virtual world, the user interface is problematic. Recruitment was limited to individuals with prior experience in Second Life since the interface was known to be a barrier to entry. Even with such inclusion criteria, some of the less experienced users had problems that likely affected their participation."

" the absence of remote sensing technology, it is very difficult to know if the participants are taking part in the exercises or successfully eliciting the relaxation response."
Our next-generation multiuser virtual world platform Jibe addresses all of these challenges.  When you set up your own Jibe world, you have complete control over the user interface and can customize/simplify it however you wish.  A Jibe world can also be embedded in any web page, which makes it as easy as possible for people to access.  And finally, we've build our Jibe platform from the ground up so that it can directly interface with remote sensing technology.

Due to the positive results from this pilot study,  Dr. Daniel B. Hoch and his team are planning to conduct further research.  It will be very exciting to see techniques like this evolve to improve the quality of life of people around the world.  And here at ReactionGrid, we'll keep building the technological platforms that can help make it all happen.

UPDATE 4/6/2012: Here's a press release about the research project from Massachusetts General Hospital with additional quotes from Dr. Hoch.

-John "Pathfinder" Lester
Chief Learning Officer
ReactionGrid Inc.