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Friday, April 26, 2019

Call to Volunteer

Hey, ISTE members and other curious humans,

Pardon the long and textual post, but I have an important question to ask: Have you been wondering what the meaning of "reality' is?

At the ISTE Virtual Environments Network, we've been exploring that question since before 2000! Surprisingly, we have found some answers. Our professional learning network orbits around the concept of "together at a distance," a term coined by co-founding member Peggy Sheehy. With the advent of new technologies like 3D goggles and rapidly developing innovations in virtual worlds--some of which are actually experientially accessible within 3D goggles--we might expand that concept to "together, anywhere, at a distance."

We meet at least twice a month, together, from wherever we are. It is not unusual for us to gather around a crackling campfire, seated comfortably, dressed stylishly, and everyone lookin' good, to discuss PLN business. I am on a kitchen counter stool in my home in Nashville, Tennessee; Mary is in her living room on an island in the shadow of Niagara Falls; Andy is at his home office table with his son laughing in the next room. Others are in Virginia, or California, or Canada. But--and here's the rub--we are all here. Sure, we could Zoom or Google Hangout, but this is somehow more fun. Everyone needs fun, even teachers!

Kurt Vonnegut's physician son is famously quoted for this comment: "We are all here to help one another through this--whatever 'this' is." That's what we do at VEN: We help one another through this.

Besides our monthly "OOH" (Open Office Hours), VEN produces, at our headquarters in Second Life, a monthly "Focus Session" which features an innovative educator sharing her or his innovative creation that leverages the unique affordances of virtual environments. Often, we teleport from these events as a group to a site within Second Life or Open Simulator, to explore together, communicating in text chat and voice our wonder and our insights, our questions and our answers.

Our huge annual culminating event traditionally takes place at ISTE's annual Conference and Expo. Ya'll, we invented the Playground. Initially that sort of event at ISTE NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) took place for several hours during the conference and was called a "Lounge." The Second Life Lounge at NECC 2007 was where I first met, in person, a core group of ISTE educators who already were meeting regularly in Second Life and whom I already thought of as friends and colleagues. There was even a working docent program within the virtual world, where educators could and did schedule themselves (themavatarselves) to be on duty to meet with other educators, both those familiar with ISTE and those not. The large building at ISTE Island offered a very large stone-paved front porch, where we would "widen the circle" of avatars as new arrivals joined the conversation. At that time there was no voice engine in Second Life and everything was in text chat. I always thought that made me more intentional in my comments than I would have been in voice, and there was a substantial backlash when Linden Lab did enable that feature. 

But I digress, as is my wont. I'm sending out this notice to ask you to join in the fun. Volunteer for ISTE wherever you wish to serve, but especially, serve with us. We will widen the circle with you. It will open up worlds of learning.

Visit and take a few minutes to work through the brief sign-up form. Choose Virtual Environments Netw1ork. We'll be in touch. And, hopefully, we'll see you at the end of June in Philly for ISTE 2019!

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