Monday, June 23, 2014

"Innovator" Reflections, Part 6

Well, hello there. Happy Monday.

A great long weekend included fishing at my favorite stomping grounds, Lake Marrowbone, up in Joelton. I caught and released seven of the finny creatures, and if you haven't caught my fun interview at EduTalk Radio from last Thursday, it's archived here. Please join me online on Thursday for a much more detailed hour about our work at MNPS Virtual School on EdWeb.net.

I promised (what was I thinking?) to reflect daily on accomplishments related to education that I might consider would help explain or supplement the explanation for the decision on the part of T.H.E. Journal to designate me as "Education Innovator of the Month" for June 2014, and I frankly had to take a break over the weekend. For one thing, I was so impressed by my friend Lucas Gillespie's own EdWeb.net webinar on Gaming in the classroom that I spent several hours over the weekend leveling my female Blood Elf up to level 25 (of the maximum of 90) in order to be able to explore the community that is the Inevitable Betrayal Guild. I'm happy to say she's there, and the experience of getting there brought back fond memories of the year or two a decade ago when I played through all the Lara Croft Tomb Raider games. I of course watched both movies, and, yes, if Angelina Jolie runs for public office, as the skimmy has it lately, she's got my vote.

All that to say I enjoyed the writing respite, and that I want to talk briefly about ISTE SIGVE (the Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments), now rebranded as ISTE's Virtual Environments Network. In 2009, along with a group of virtual worlds in education enthusiasts, I helped innovate it. I'm not going to detail that again, because that's been done. Avail yourself of the hyperlinks in the following paragraph to understand mo' bettah.


SIGVE has taken on its own life since that labored birthing, working up a mission, writing a proposal, leading the proposal through the administrative hoops to approval, creating the wiki that houses years of research and resources (as of this writing 6,240 pages of information), all that. There is a new group of leaders emerging, many of whom I have never met in the physical world. In just a few days, we'll be meeting again at the huge annual ISTE Conference, sharing physical hugs (with no sexual harrassment, I might add) between empassioned educators who meet from a distance, regularly, in online platforms embodied digitally as avatars. It's sense of place at a distance, informing sense of recognition in person.

It was powerful in 2009, and it's powerful now. There's something about meeting someone you have gotten to know in a virtual world, meeting them in the physical world for the first time. If you haven't experienced it, you might think I'm nuts, but it's true. The closest I've come to describing that feeling is a reunion with a long-lost sibling, or a cousin you were best friends with but with whom you've lost touch over the years. It's recognition, and the immediacy and the strength of the emotion it fires is another testament to the existence of the soul. Through words and play online, one has gotten to know the soul of the avatar one has spent time with. It is the soul one recognizes in the eyes and the body of the individual one encounters in physical space. That's what fuels the hug.

Some of my best friends (you know who you are) I met and grew to know inworld long before that first hug. I look forward to renewing that bond in Atlanta beginning Friday of this week.

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