Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virtually speaking

Very cool event that I had the pleasure of contributing to on Friday: ThinkBalm hosted their Un-Lecture #3 in Second Life as part of their Innovation Community events. I was honored to be able to participate with the likes of Andrew Hughes at Designing Digitally , Robin Gomboy from G2, and Henrik Bennetsen from Stanford.  I had 10 minutes to talk about technology considerations in developing immersive learning experiences. Specifically, I shared some of the issues that our clients face in deciding what technologies to use in developing immersive learning, and evaluation criteria that we use in evaluating the appropriateness of a virtual world platform or other technology for developing these types of learning environments. 

I have spent a lot of time in Second Life, but this is the first time I've presented as my avatar, Nina Sommerfleck. And its honestly one of the only times I've used voice capabilities in Second Life. I have to say, although I think it might be more difficult to incorporate interactive activities as part of my presentations, I really liked presenting as an avatar. 

Why did I like it? First, you don't really feel the nervousness that you do when you step in front of a group of live attendees. Some of the performance anxiety just never showed up. That said, I did have a sense of the presence of attendees, both through voice and through the local text chat stream. After I was done with the core presentation of the content I had prepared, I was able to review the questions people had typed into the chat window and answer them for the group. It reminded me of workshops or panels I have attended over the past year where people reviewed their Twitter stream as a means of engaging the audience and answering questions. Another benefit was the ability for participants to IM me immediately after my presentation and ask additional questions or schedule follow-up meetings. Often during live presentations, people are nervous or shy to ask questions in front of the group, and there's a line to speak to the presenter afterwards. In this format, the level of anonymity allows for more in-depth discussion and participation during and after the event. 

What were the drawbacks? Well, I like seeing and engaging with my audience. It did seem a bit like I was talking to myself, and its hard to read the audience's reaction to modify your presentation on the fly. Technology can also be a bit of a barrier; there were a lot of people in the room, making voice discussion a bit unrealistic. Although the text chat helped, there are definitely benefits to real-time discussions that were lost in this format.

All in all, though, I'm digging the virtual presentations. I'll be doing another one on Wednesday; you can see the details here for the Learning Innovation Meetup.   

Nina might have to get herself a new suit!

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