Tuesday, March 23, 2021

2021 VWBPE Thinkerer Award Goes to Wisdomseeker (Lissena Resident)

By Bixyl Shuftan

Last weeked was the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference. There were a number of talks and other events, including a few discussions by the Lindens. Near the end they gave out their Thinkerer Award. This was at the closing ceremony in which a number of people such as Pooky Amsterdam, Lorraine Mockford, Elli Pinion, iSkye Silverweb, Olivetree Lighthouse, Beth Ghostraven, Heike Philp, Serena Offcourse, and others were given thanks (and the Newser was also thanked as well for it's coverage). 

Then came the award, which is given to "for outstanding contribution in the promotion of learning, community, and educational practices, and who exemplifies the spirit of cooperative development within immersive environments." And this year, it went to Wisdomseeker aka Lissena Resident (Lynne Berrett in real life). 

Elli Pinion described the reasons, "Lynne began her educational career with an MA in English and doctoral fellowships in the Humanities. She was an English instructor at universities in New York and Michigan. She joined Manhattanville College in the New York City area as Director of the H.E.O.P. College Skills Center for at-risk students and held many other positions there for almost 30 years. Concurrently, she established a private psychotherapy practice for adults and couples after getting an MSW in Clinical Social Work at New York University.

"In semi-retirement Lynne trained as a coach with MentorCoach, a program based in positive psychology. She was on the leadership  team of the Alliance for Positive Psychology there for almost 10 years. 

"She says that her experiences as a caregiver, with her husband, first for her mother and again for her brother in law and his wife, led her to search out new ways to help others.  Because both women had developed dementia, she began to study brain health in depth to learn how to delay and even prevent the onset of dementia.

"Lynne first encountered Second Life at a Positive Aging Conference and was immediately attracted to the imaginative power of Virtual Worlds.  She recognized the potential for learning through virtual experiences (turning theory into action) -- learning that could transfer to a person’s life beyond SL.

"In 2013 she founded the Whole Brain Health Group in Second Life.  She established Inspiration Island, which now has 4 full levels of activities, as official home of Whole Brain Health. It is a 'public' region where over 40 volunteers, members of the island Collective, are given free parcels to create self-guided activities and offer hosted programs. Everything is designed to help visitors learn by doing.

"Over the years she has presented her work in Second Life at many conferences around the country. When she presented at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference in Washington D.C., Joyce Bettencourt (Rhiannon Chatnoir in SL) came along to stream Second Life into the event so they could be joined live by Thinkerer Selby and members of the Collective.

"Lynne is active in many virtual worlds educational and nonprofit groups such as Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable, VWBPE, AvaCon, OSCC conferences, and she was a founding board member of Nonprofit Commons. She also developed a course for SL entitled ‘New Frontiers in Brain Training,’ which uses activities on Inspiration Island to guide students to design personalized action plans for well-being.

"Her latest accomplishment is building Virtual Learning Village, a grid in OpenSim specifically made for lifelong learning and professional development. She and her group of volunteers have created a beautiful environment with many innovative tools for teaching and learning.

"To find out more about Lynne’s work, she has multiple websites:

"It is for all these reasons, and more, that the VWBPE Organizational Committee proudly confirms Lynne Berrett, our Wisdomseeker, as the VWBPE 2021 Thinkerer Award recipient."

After much applause, Wisdomseeker went forward from her place on the stage to speak, "I want you all to know you have saved my marriage. My husband is watching this and has promised never to ask me again what I am doing in Second Life." She paused as a few chuckled, then resumed, "I am so honored to accept the 2021 Thinkerer Award -- not just for myself but also on behalf of the Whole Brain Health Team and the Inspiration Island Collective. I could not have done any of this work without their dedication and expertise and imagination over many years. There are so many people to thank! 

"First of all, the award winners who came before me. Every one of you has contributed to the success of our learning projects in Second Life and OpenSim through your example, advice, encouragement, and concrete help. I plan to thank people privately, so I won’t subject you all to a long list of names tonight. But of course the members of the Inspiration Island Collective are at the top of the list. Every year since 2014 we have taken a group photo of the Collective. Most of the original members are still with us—which is a source of great joy to me. Each year we have added new members to the photo. You can see the latest one in the Lotus – which is a miniature Inspiration Island – at our Exhibit here at VWBPE. It was made with loving care by Katsii Tennen (Catseye), Fran, and Tooyaa.

"If you attended our presentation this morning, you can guess whom I DO want to thank publicly. From the very beginning, Thuja Hynes (Tooyaa) and Francisco Koolhoven (Fran) have been essential partners in producing the rich experiences Whole Brain Health offers. Our long, fruitful collaboration has been absolutely central to WBH’s development and my own growth as a virtual worlds educator -- and as a leader. Their creativity, technical skill, and willingness to try anything I come up with have repeatedly made the impossible possible for us. 

 "I also want to shout out to Maximillian Merlin, my chief creative and technical partner in a newer venture, Virtual Learning Village. After creating our drone security system and a lot for Inspiration Island, Max brought his Buildwerk team of volunteers to OpenSim, where we have built a beautiful grid for adult learning of all kinds. 

"Our Whole Brain Health logo is a manifesto for all this work: it’s a simple circle with the three words INTERACT  INSPIRE  INNOVATE embracing the central word, CHANGE.  The more we can INTERACT and INSPIRE each other through our collaborations, the more we can truly INNOVATE – creating new forms of learning in virtual worlds and beyond, for people of all ages... because well-being is directly related to flexibility – the ability to CHANGE. 

"As one of my role models, Seth Godin, just wrote on his blog: “The world is going to change and resilience is our best response. 'Resilience is a commitment to design, an attitude and a system that works even when things don’t turn out the way we planned. Especially then.   … Flexibility, community, and a sense of possibility can go a long way. That doesn’t make it easier, but it’s our best path forward.”

"So my last thank you tonight goes to the VISION of Best Practices in Education that is illustrated year after year in this conference. And most of all, thank you VWBPE, this year, for illuminating the value of lifelong learning for adults in virtual worlds with this award. "

The award itself, which resembled the classic statue "The Thinker," when presented was very large, almost twice her height. Someone joked "The real test is if Liss can carry the trophy 20 meters." Another commented, "That award is going to take a heck of an anti-grav trolley to be taken away."

Following Wisdomseeker's speech, people started to head out to the last official event, the farewell party. She and several others would engage in a group hug, then depart.

Past recipients include Renne Brock / Zinnia Zauber, Barbara Truman / Delightful Doowangle, Valerie Hill / Valibrarian, Cynthia Calogne / Lyr Lobo, Andrew Wheelock / Spiff Whitfield, Alice Kreuger / Gentle Heron, and Selby Evans.

Bixyl Shuftan

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