A spot of late night Sloodling
The night before last night I sat in on a meeting of the Sloodle developers group held at the Second Life campus of San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science. Sloodle is working on integration between the Moodle VLE and Second Life.
It was a late night start (for me, at least - 11pm UK time), as the group has active participants in the US, Europe, the Far East and Australia, and inevitably it's difficult to find a time slot which is ideal for everyone. This was the first meeting of this group that I'd attended, prompted partly by a general interest in interactions between Second Life and Web applications like Moodle (and I think at least some of the functions are common to other applications in other domains) and partly by the fact that the Foundation has awarded a research grant to Dan Livingstone at the University of Paisley for work on Sloodle. (It occurred to me later that I should probably have made it clearer that I certainly wasn't there in any sort of "checking up on how you're spending our money" sort of capacity!)
The meeting was facilitated by Dan and Jeremy Kemp (SJSU SLIS) and there were probably about 15 avatars present. They included several who were quite new to Second Life, so I think Dan and Jeremy probably spent a bit more time than they had intended on bringing people up to speed on what work had been done and what Sloodle had to offer than on the practical planning for future activity. Nevertheless, it was quite useful for me to get that potted history as I myself haven't followed Sloodle in as much detail as I'd have liked. (For newcomers to Sloodle, scanning some of their YouTube videos may be the best introduction.)
A few selected highlights from the discussion:
- Jeremy summarised some of the recent/current dissemination activities, which have generated interest from many quarters, including from Linden Lab. Some effort is needed now to ensure that tools are fully documented and delivered in usable forms.
- Work is in progress on developing two new Web sites to complement/supplement the existing sloodle.com site and the Sloodle wiki
- There was a brief exchange on the relative priorities of advancing "technical"/tool development on the one hand and exploring/promoting changes in pedagogical approaches on the other. I got the sense (though I may be wrong!) that to date Sloodle has focused mainly on the software development end of things, though several participants last night emphasised that it was important that the former be informed by the latter.
- I was interested in Jeremy's (brief) summary of authentication issues. Most if not all of the work in this area has, I think, been done by Edmund Edgar, who wasn't present at the meeting. At various points over the last few months, Andy has mused about the potential role for OpenId in this area, and my own extremely naive intuition is that having a URI which can be used as the basis for interaction, as well as identification, must bring something significant to the table - but I really need to have a much better grasp of the information flows within SL and between SL and the Web before I can make any sort of useful contribution to this discussion!
- One of the key objectives in the short term is to package, document, release and support a stable version of Sloodle, and work is in progress to establish a schedule for a development phase, a trial and a review over the next 12 months
- Jeremy highlighted the recent announcement by Blackboard that they will extend their Greenhouse Program to include a grant for work on the integration of virtual worlds into education
The intention is to continue to have these developers meetings regularly, probably on Tuesdays at that time (3pm SLT/PDT) and that SL location, and I'll be trying to attend when I can. There may be some variation to accommodate participants from different time zones, so it would be a good idea to check on the Sloodle site for up-to-date details, and indeed that there is going to be a meeting - especially if you're planning on staying up late or getting up early in order to join in! ;-)