Using SL to facilitate a design process in group work
In the PD class, I’ve been running since December 5th, 2011 with students from the Master’s Program on ICT & Learning (MIL) at Aalborg University, the students have to do presentations in-world, and this is the first post of five describing their work.
As part of the assessment criteria in the course, the students are asked to do an analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment, and instead of doing a traditional written report, the students have to present their analyses synchronously in SL as highlighted in this slide:
The analysis has to be based on both theory (general course literature combined with literature the students choose for their particular topic), and practice. For the latter part, the students have to explore, experiment, and use SL, and they can also draw on the experiences they get from the other course activities in SL. Since all educational programs at Aalborg University are founded on a PBL pedagogy, they students also have to identify and work with RL problems – the students typically choose to focus on problems they encounter in their work settings. In this MIL11 class, the students have been working in 5 teams, and on Wednesday, January 11th the first team A had to present their analysis.
Team A and their focus
Team A: RickDJ, Ingma, MrsJJ, Ilikespace & Merlin – all dressed up in similar clothes to highlight the team affiliation.
Team A’s members come from very different professional backgrounds, three of them are working in formal teaching (from K-12 to college), one is working in the central economic section of the city of Copenhagen, and the final member works within a special section of the law enforcement. All of the team members work with development and implementation of ICT and learning at some level in their organizations, and this is also why the signed up for the MIL Program. For their analysis/presentation, team A decided to focus on one team member’s work place, an “e-Design” educational program, and based on this context they settled for the following question to guide their investigations:
Can SL be used to facilitate a design process in project work?
In their work, the team tried to rethink and redesign an existing course for 3rd semester students, and they looked specifically at how SL can be used as a supplement to f2f and other technologies. The Team A students were interested in analyzing the particular affordances of SL that could promote certain parts of a design process for students working in groups in a blended environment.
Team A’s sandbox
To support the MIL students’ work in SL, each team was assigned a sandbox on December 9th (after they had learned the most basic SL skills), and the pictures below show the progression in team A’s sandbox.
On December 22nd, I had an ad hoc meeting with some of team A’s members discussing the assignment and their design.
December 31st; the more respectful setting started to appear in the other side of the team’s sandbox.
One January 3rd, all teams were encouraged to present a status on their work, and get some feedback from me, my co-facilitator, Inge and their fellow classmates – and Team A chose to do so.
January 3rd; team A presenting some of their theoretical considerations for their upcoming presentation.
Team A’s presentation
Before their presentation, Team A sent out instructions and an agenda in both SL and our regular 2D platform. The agenda looked like this:
- 8:00 PM: Introduction in Team A’s sandbox
- 8:30 PM: Inspiration trips
- 8:45 PM: Group work in Team A’s sandbox
- 9:10 PM: Presentation of the groups’ work
- 9:20 PM: Theoretical input
- 9:35 PM: Closing debate
- 9:45 PM: Evaluation and feedback
The team felt that SL could be particularly useful in some of the more creative phases of a design process, and this was why we were asked to do tasks common to these phases. Because the students are not (due to time constraints) able to try out their hypothesis/ideas on their chosen target groups, it is common in theses presentations to ask the fellow students to act as the target group.
Among the theoretical concepts Team A chose to focus on, remediation and redesign of an existing pedagogical practice, were central – also in the way the team had designed their sandbox. The continuum between respectful and radical remediation permeated both design and activities, and in this way the team managed to visualize what otherwise may seem as quite abstract theoretical ideas.
As part of the research phase in a design process it is important to go out into the “real world” and gather information, and Team A had planned four different locations where each of the remaining teams had to go and take pictures for the following phase. The locations were two respectfully remediated places: Bartlett & Nielsen and Virtual Harlem, and two more radical places: Torley Island and Mysterious Wave .
The time allocated for the inspirational trips was limited and I only managed to go to one of the four places, but judging from the following activities where the teams had to put their photos up for display, and based on this start working on designing a table, all the teams succeeded in completing the tasks despite time and technical (audio) challenges:
… and team B building a table.
After the presentation of the teams’ photos and tables, Team A continued talking about their theoretical considerations.
The way Team A had planned their presentation was meant to showcase how SL potentially can be used in social constructivist learning, and even though the activities were limited due to time constraints, I think the team managed to do so. Evidently, in a short presentation like this, it is difficult to get the full experience, but by way of using the exemplary principle, it was my impression that Team A managed to make a very convincing case.
During the final part of Team A’s presentation concepts from Wenger’s 1998 social theory of learning were appropriately displayed on the floor.
In summary, I think all of the participants ended up having a very good joint learning experience, not least because Team A’s members beautifully demonstrated the value of genuine collaboration, and as one of the students from another team concluded afterwards it will be: “A hard act to follow … :)”
Next week teams B and C will be presenting – and I can hardly wait :-)