In Google We Trusted and Now Our Project's Busted

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A simulpost with Digiteen Dream Team

A heck of a great potential tool is about to go away on December 31, 2008. Google's lively - while not perfect in many ways runs on a standard web browser and provides a way to create private rooms to teach in a 3d environment.

So, my students have used Lively for Digiteen and have loved it. ( created scripts, did plays in Lively to teach digital citizenship, created rooftops and whole virtual schools. (See their action wiki.)

We also created a wiki on which we recorded our ideas and opinions on the nine aspects of digital citizenship-literacy, access, etiquette, commerce, rights and responsibilities, law, communication, security and safety, and health and wellness. So, now, we're at least trying to bring attention to two important things:

1) Corporate Digital Citizenship

As we study about digital citizenship - we also think that it should extend to companies. In digital citizenship we learn that we must respect others whom we interact with on the Internet.
Gamebryo ElementImage via WikipediaImage via Wikipedia
Lively goes away with no ability to download. Now, as we've looked into it, Lively is built on something called Gamebryo which we think has a license fee and perhaps that is why it isn't going to be released as open source.

However, we WISH that someone somewhere would provide some alternatives. We've only had 6 months to get familiar with this tool and I wasn't able to take students into it until this fall. We barely got our avatar's hair combed until we heard it was going away!

Google sets a precedent here and unless we make it very loud and clear, other services will go away in the future with no warning and no user alternatives. There may be little we can do about it, but at least, my students and I would like to make Google aware that when they get rid of a service that they should consider their users and alternatives for them -- open source? for purchase on a server? something! Some alternative. And, besides, Google and Gamebryo could make some money off of this, potentially. Capitalism means that companies do want to be "for profit," after all.

2) The use of 3D worlds in Schools

We need free, usable 3D virtual worlds for schools. Teen second life is EXPENSIVE - we had it in our budget and now we're looking at $2300 a year to maintain and keep an island -- it is out of our league at this time. We don't have that kind of money to build in Second life !! HELP!

So, as we go on this journey and PROTEST the lively shut down, we're also going to investigate new worlds and other alternatives and share it with you. After a class meeting, the students have formed a Digiteen Dream Team. They dream of teaching digital citizenship in a virtual world.

What are we going to do?

First, this is a student led protest and as we've contacted the Livelyzens (other people who support the use of lively) - we've found that there are actually classrooms around the world using this tool.

On a skype call between my class and some livelyzen's yesterday, we learned that one Livelyzen has built a translator for multiple languages to allow avatars to communicate and speak in their native language! So cool!

Lively is a GREAT tool - not perfect - but a heck of a lot of potential.

1 - In Lively Protest - The students are going to lead protests IN Lively and invite you to join them -- other classrooms are invited to join lively - create their own private room and add their information to the calendar. You'll see more on this on their blog Digiteen Dream Team. They are designing T-shirts for their avatars and signs. Other classrooms are going to also host protests.

We hope Google will consider extending Google Lively for a month or two to see if education can really take hold with this tool.

2 - Student Blog - You can get in touch with my students on their new blog to document what they are doing. They are going to talk about why they like lively, its uses, and their exploration of other 3D worlds as well as digital citizenship for teens. This is going to be a public group blog for the students.

Additionally, we know and have discussed how Google is a for profit company that must maximize returns for it's shareholders -- so,
we're going to share ways we think Google can or could have made money from Lively and improvements that they should have or other virtual world companies should make in order to better serve classrooms. (Like the ability to remove an offensive person from the space.)

For now, we are writing in google docs and I'm posting until I get permission forms for the students for this.

3 - Explore the future of Digiteen Island -
My students have a dream to create 3D worlds for teaching digital citizenship - they are going to pursue this dream and I'm going to help them. We will not stop - but if we have to start over we want it to be the right place that is accessible to as many students as possible.

What can you do?

1- Create a lively account

Yes - create an account on a service that is going to die -- why? #1 Google like any good company pays attention to numbers -- so, getting a lot of people to get onto lively and try it out - that is something.

Make a private room (not on the public rolls) and get some kids to try out just that room -- (just unblock that room.) Experience it. Leave a message here (Go to the Digiteen Dream Team Blog) that you set up an account to let us know!

2- Join a protest

You're welcome to come to any of our protest rallies - yes, we fully expect the rooms to slow down and maybe even crash - but the students want to do it and we're going to try anyway. Plan to see a speaker at each protest of some kind. Check our calendar and support these kids.

Sign the lively petition. Surely we can get 1000 people to sign the petition -- really, we should get more!

Join in the Liveleyzens.

3 - Host a protest

I know this sounds silly - but if you set up an account and like the service and/or your students do - why not have a class period where you create a room to host a protest. I'm dumbfounded and how much my students are learning about how to mobilize people in a Web 2 world.

Will you laugh or help us?

Laugh at us or them - but I support their desire to make a point to Google that this is something that kids like and would use in the classroom. Just contact us at our special Dream Team Email and I'll be happy to add your classroom to the activities.

4 - Stay tuned

I have no idea what all these students will come up with. But I think their points are valid.
#1 Companies that discontinue services should try to provide more alternatives to their users to be able to save content and continue use of the service in other ways
#2 Virtual worlds have a lot of potential in education and we need access to free virtual worlds so that schools without funding can use them.
Do I know where we're going with this? No. I do know that my students are in charge with my guidance. I told them when we discussed it that I will never tell them that they cannot change the world. And that if they disagree with something they should speak up. So, now, as a teacher, I must support them, in what I believe, is a noble cause.

OK, Google, I love your services and I know that we're nobodies down here in south Georgia, but I have about 20 students who are very upset about lively shutting down and I'm going to help them in any way I can.

And what kind of world is this - a protest in a virtual world? This is about using Web 2.0 to see if we can get Google to give Lively one more chance to see if it works in education. Will you help them?

When talking to the students about why they are pursuing this course of action, these are some responses:

"We might be small, but we have a big heart. We have worked long and hard on our project, and we are not going to give up without a fight. This project has been a huge success with our students, and I believe that it would be a huge success with other students as well. We would like everyone's support. I know that stopping Google seems like an unachievable task, but we can make a change. If everyone will come together and fight for what they believe in, we can save Lively." Miller S.
So, what do you think? Will you help? What is your advice? Stay tuned!

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This blog post was written by: Vicki Davis, Teacher and edited by Miller S., Student - approved by the Dream Team

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