Case MIL09: Didactic Design Discussion – 2

In the 2. Didactic Design Discussion in the MIL course I’d chosen to focus on some of the central points from my own PhD-project since it also deals with analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment. Discussing some of my own ideas with the students naturally is very inspiring and rewarding for me personally, but I’m also hoping (and sensing) that the students benefit from seeing my approach to the problem, and judging from the vivid discussion I do believe, I managed to challenge some of their presumptions. I’m not able to reproduce all of it, but I will try to highlight a few issues.

Essentially my PhD-project is aimed at improving Blended Learning within Higher and Further Education through remediation and redidactization. Through a process of designing and redesigning two specific Blended Learning courses within 6 research cycles the aim is to enhance learner experience and learning outcome by using new augmented/immersive 3D media and a learner centered Problem Based pedagogical approach. In both cases the target group is adult teachers/ trainers from the educational and the private/industrial sector from different countries.

PhD-project overview – Fall 2009

The concept remediation (in relation to new media) was coined by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin (2000), but there was no explicit value or quality identified with different ways of remediating in the original concept. However, Tringham, Mills and Ashley (2007) further developed the remediation concept in their Remediated Places Project and came up with two distinct strategies for remediation, respectively respectful and radical. In my point of view these two strategies can be extended to include pedagogical considerations and thus inform more general implementation strategies for blended teaching and learning using new media.

I first introduced the MIL students to the concepts of respectful and radical remediation in the course last fall and like this year’s students they immediately adopted the terminology. If you’ve ever been in SL you’d know why – it makes perfect sense to distinguish between the two both with regard to people, places and practices. The interesting question nonetheless is whether remediation changes anything in the way we think and practice teaching and learning …

Is a slide show presentation in SL an innovation?

According to Peter Denning an innovation can be defined as a transformation of practice in a group, community or culture – it is not enough just to come up with a brilliant idea or create a new artifact. Surely there are many different definitions of innovation, but I agree with Denning and it aligns very well with Wenger’s 1998 social theory on Communities of Practice, which is one of my core inspirations. Changing practice is easier said than done and Steven Warburton has identified 7 barriers to innovation in 3D environments like SL:

  • Technical – machine and human related [and standards related]
  • Identity – the tension between playfulness and professionalism
  • Culture – reading the codes and etiquette of SL
  • Collaboration – building trust
  • Time – even simple things take time 
  • Economic – nothing is for free
  • Design – perhaps this is a meta-barrier but SL does offer up very particular design challenges

Besides these I would add another meta-barrier, namely the inherent paradox between (re-)production and innovation that all participants in education are facing. This is what I call the didactic double bind. In general double bind is described as dilemmas in communication, and SL seems to be filled with conflicting messages. After the session one of the students posted this photo as her take on a in-world double bind:

The text for that photo could read: ”SL is an open environment. Join us if you can”. Naturally, the experienced SL resident would know that the dilemma in this particular situation is metaphorical – a shift in camera angle and you’d be there… the perspective on the situation would change and shifting perspective, looking at dilemmas at a higher level of abstraction is one way of solving double bind situations and would according to Bateson. 1972 mean learning at level III. And this is actually one of the reasons why I find SL so interesting – if we assume that the learner overcomes the initial difficulties and gets accustomed to the environment it provides rich opportunities for learning at higher levels, because SL inevitable challenges the learner both ontologically and epistemologically due to the whole meta-cognitive nature of the in-world experience.

After this we moved on to discuss the concepts of immersion and augmentation and what these two apparently conflicting ways of engaging in an environment like SL could mean – not least when it comes to teaching and learning practice. Again the students were eager to discuss and we covered a lot of important points on which I will return in a later posting. Suffice to say that we all agree with Tateru Nino on this:

It’s not all black and white.
The whole immersion versus augmentation debate is clouded by one trivial little detail. One is not the opposite of the other. The two aren’t even mutually exclusive.

We ended the session by trying out the Opinionater – it really is a very efficient and fun tool for stimulating discussions :-)


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