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SL, History lessons in High School – and huge technical problems!

This is the third post of five describing the work of the students from 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 where the students have to do presentations in-world. Background information on the course/the presentation task can be found in this first post, and here’s the link to the second post. On Thursday, January 19th Team C had to present their analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment.

Unfortunately, this session was shattered by technical problems; approx. half of the participants, incl. members from the presenting team and I, had huge lag and/or audio problems. Hence, this post is based on whatever I could pic up via the text-chat, my co-facilitator’s feedback, and the materials Team C had prepared for the session.

Team C and their focus

Team C: JoeChipmunk, sjostakovitch, laserquik, and Sinafish – all dressed up for the presentation.

All of Team C’s members are working with teaching at some level in their organizations, although they have different work backgrounds as Teacher and Educational consultant, Special Ed Teacher, High School Teacher, and finally as a Pacemaker Technician/Nursing Specialist and educator. For their presentation, Team C had agreed to focus on how SL could be used in teaching History:

How can History lessons at High School level be facilitated and remediated through a virtual 3D-medium such as Second Life?

Team C’s target group was junior-high students (thus assuring they’d all meet the legal SL user age limit) with some SL experience and a fair amount of History knowledge.

Team C’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 C’s sandbox:

December 17th; Team C quickly felt at home in their sandbox.

December 25th; Team C experimenting with different designs.

December 28th; Team C’s design inspired by what looks like ancient Greek history.

December 28th also showcased Team C’s investigation question on the use of SL to teach History at High School level.

December 31st; Team C’s sandbox is already filled up, but more will come …

Team C presenting their midway status on January 3rd.

January 11th; Any sandbox should have a horse .. or two!

January 15th; Like some of the other teams, Team C needed more space, and started building on the sides of the sandbox.

Also from January 15th; animals are continuing to invade Team C’s sandbox.

Team C meeting on January 18th to prepare for their presentation.

Team C’s presentation

Prior to their presentation, Team C sent out information in SL and in our regular 2D-platform. As part of this material, they sent out an invitation to a “Junior-High” class, which was a very appealing way of setting the scene for their presentation, and  they received a lot of positive comments from their fellow class mates. Team C’s agenda looked like this:

  • 8:00 PM: Take a tour of the sandbox to familiarize yourself with the setting, take a seat in The Arena.
  • 8:10 PM: Welcome, short introduction to the agenda for the “class”, and short introduction to historical periods and locations in SL.
  • 8:20 PM: Field trip to The Etruscan Museum
  • 8:40 PM: Briefing regarding the second field trip in Team C’s sandbox
  • 8:45 PM: Field trip to ROMA
  • 9:05 PM: Wrap-up of the field trips and the “class”
  • 9:20 PM: Team C’s reflections on history lessons in Second Life
  • 9:45 PM: Evaluation and feedback

Team C’s agenda was nicely displayed on the walls in the arena.

In the first part of Team C’s presentation, we were welcomed as junior-level students

Team C welcomed us, pointed our attention to the agenda on the wall, and then explained that we would get a brief overview of the two historical periods that this “class” would cover. At this point, several participants already had lag and/or audio problems.

The Etruscan period

… and the Roman period.

The field trips were designed as exploratory tours, where the “students” should gather information, take pictures, and collect freebies. After the field trips the students had to present their findings to the rest of the “class”.

One of Team C’s members, JoeChipmunk, also had audio-problems, and I stayed back in their sandbox to see if there was anything I could do to help. Despite numerous relogs, preference check and so forth nothing really helped, and JoeChipmunk finally encouraged me to join the field trip to The Etruscan Museum, while he stayed and tried to solve his problems.

Arriving very late at the museum, I didn’t really get a good sense of what was going on, and I only took a few pictures.

Team C’s Stinafish at The Etruscan Museum.

As part of the Ars Novalis Virtual Shipyard, there’s a Danish Viking ship in memory of the founder of Roskilde Viking Ship Museum,  Ole Crumlin-Petersen (1935-2011).

Happytown & Anina gladly grabbed the opportunity to dress up for this historical themed session.

At approx. 8:40 PM, Team C asked us to go back to the team’s sandbox for further instructions for the next field trip. At this point, I began experiencing heavy lag, and several of the other participants also complained about various technical problems. Nonetheless, we headed off to the next destination; one of SL’s oldest historical rebuilds: ROMA (SPQR) . Arriving at ROMA, I could hardly move and I finally ended up stuck in a wall and decided to relog. Since that didn’t help, I went back to our class sandbox, and here I realized that my speak-button was no longer active. For the next 20 min. or so I tried shutting down my computer, reinstalling SL, I tried the Firestorm Viewer, and relogging – but nothing helped. Meanwhile, JoeChipmunk’s speak came back, but two other members of the team now had inactive speak-butons, as did several of the other participants.

The “lucky” participants, with no technical problems, later said they had experienced the session as one of the most smooth in technical terms. Fortunately, my co-facilitator, Inge was one of the lucky ones with no problems, and the following 4 pictures were taken by her.

Inge at ROMA – also nicely dressed up for the occasion.

Team C’s laserquik is easy to recognize with his orange sneakers.

Anina & dirkovski exploring ROMA

Back in Team C’s sandbox, the other teams had to present their findings from the two field trips.

Back in Team C’s sandbox, the “students” had to present pictures and objects from their field trips.

ROMA is a no-speak island, and so several of the participants did not realize that they had audio/speak problems until they came back to Team C’s sandbox. At this point, Team C wrapped up the first part of their session, where we, the audience, had acted as High School students, and now they wanted to focus on their theoretical considerations and design choices in relation to their investigation question and overall theme. One team with audio problems solved it by transmitting one member’s sound via Google Plus, others tried Skype, and from the presenting team only sjostakovitch and JoeChipmunk had voice, and so this final part of the session was a very frustrating and disruptive experience. At this point, I want to acknowledge the resilience of Team C, I was very impressed with their willingness to try to continue and finish their session despite all the technical problems!

Again because of all the problems, I didn’t manage to document this part of the session in detail, but from the team’s manuscripts and the text-chat, I know that Team C, based on their investigation question, started to explain about some of their theoretical inspirations (Dewey and Dede), and they had some very thoughtful concerns regarding the target group’s possible acceptance of/and behavior in a medium such as SL.

Team C had also been inspired by the COI-model, and the different types of presence.

Inspired by the COI-model, Team C had planned to register indications of the three types of presence during their session, but Team C’s Stinafish, who was in charge of this part, unfortunately also had different technical problems, and I’m not sure if she managed to do so, and anyway at this point in the session, she had no voice. On the positive side, the two Team C members with voice, were able to fill in based on the teams well-prepared manuscripts, and this was another indicator of the team’s thorough preparation of their presentation.

Team C’s sandbox was a good example of a respectful remediation NpIRL

The team’s lead designer, JoeChipmunk had some interesting reflections on some of the challenges you face, when trying to replicate our past as the team had tried to do in the sandbox. The point of departure for the sandbox design had been a respectful remediation strategy, but with the target group in mind, the team had also decided to add “mystical” elements such as the rainbow, animated animals, air floating ships, and giant posters. JoeChipmunk also explained, how he had been forced to consider the authenticity of the different objects (e.g. did this kind of plant/animal exist at that point in time/in that part of the world), and in this sense, building in SL had sharpened his perception of history, validity of sources etc.

Team C’s sandbox’s own history.

Despite all the technical problems, there was no doubt that Team C had prepared a very good and interesting presentation. Needless to say, the technical problems completely overshadowed their efforts for those of us experiencing problems, and it was so sad and unfortunate that the team members also had problems and didn’t get to present their hard work in the way they had envisioned. All of us felt terrible for the team, and many of Team C’s classmates sent them supporting comments in our regular 2D (and very stable!) platform afterwards. Having been in SL for almost 5 years now, I have come to expect occasional technical break-downs, but I have to say that this was my worst SL experience ever. Throughout the course, I monitor the students’ activities closely, and I know just how much work they put into these presentations – it’s simply amazing! So to have such a terrible outcome was really, really sad.

We’re still not sure as to why we had so many problems, but it seems to be a combination of Internet instability (at least for some of us with a certain Internet provider in certain areas of the country), and local island problems. The speak problems continued the day after, but were resolved after Inge restarted the island. Next team is scheduled to present tomorrow, and we are crossing our fingers ….


Upcoming PD course in SL for teachers at Universidad Nacional, Heredia Costa Rica

In September, I’ll be kicking off a new PD course in SL. Participants will be teachers from The Computing School at Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, Costa Rica. The main objective of the course is to provide the participants with a combination of conceptual, theoretical, and practical (in-world) strategies with regard to designing, implementing, and teaching/learning courses of different duration using SL as main medium/approach. Unlike most of my previous courses in SL, I will not work alone in this course, but will be joined by an amazing group of co-facilitators;

  • Inge Qunhua – Danish Instructional designer and teacher in SL since 2007
  • Heilyn Abbot – Costa Rican colleague, Post Doc at e-Learning Lab, Aalborg University (AAU), co-facilitator in the COMBLE course
  • Wica Sorbet & Ena Adjani – new Costa Rican colleagues from UNA

In-world the majority of the teaching activities will be taking place in a region with 3 Danish islands; Region Denmark, Innovative Learning, and Danish Visions.

In designing this course, I’ve naturally been drawing on my experience from previous SL courses. However, our Costa Rican colleagues are also interested in learning more about the particular PBL model we have implemented at AAU, the so-called Aalborg PBL-model. Further, during my PhD-research in SL, I’ve found the “Communities of Practice” (CoP) ideas from Wenger, 1998 to be particularly useful when teaching new technologies/media. The goal of the design is to try to establish a pedagogical Community of Practice, wherein the teaching and learning processes will be situated. Core principles in this design strategy therefore are:

  • A strong and ongoing focus on learning as transformation of identity and negotiation of meaning
  • Focus on Legitimate Peripheral Participation
  • A socio-cultural, constructivist perspective on learning
  • Learning is participant-centred
  • Focus on problem orientation where learning combines theory and practice
  • Learning is usually realized in pairs/groups
  • Responsibility of the learning process is mutual – both between learners and learners/facilitators
  • Self- and peer assessment through reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action is central

An important part of this strategy is to respect the newbie experience of the participants. The ontological challenge that is to become an avatar should be acknowledged and designed for. In practice, this means that Inge and I, who will be the main in-world facilitators, will focus on creating a safe learning environment where the newbie participants will be able to learn some of the most important basic SL skills before we actually proceed to focus on the subject matter. Today, Inge invited me in-world to see the sky sandbox, she has designed for the initial stage of the course:

Overview of the sky sandbox

The participants will learn how to navigate their avatars in trying to get their teams across the board that includes invisible holes.

For the building exercise the participants also will have to work in teams.

In the presentation and discussion area all sorts of media can be used; Slide shows, Type-with-Me, videos, and websites are included.

And so, now that Inge has done all the hard work, all I need to do is to take some time in front of the fire to reflect on more fun, engaging, and interesting activities :-)

The dubbed UNA-AAU course starts in-world on September 12th, and I’m sure it will generate some future posts …


My first presentation at UCB’s Center for New Media

Today I did my first presentation of my PhD project at UCB. Sadly only a few people turned up, but they seemed engaged and asked a lot of questions, so that was good. It was the first time I presented some of my recent ideas on remediation, so that was quite interesting for me personally. I clearly need to refine my thoughts and the lack of proper English vocabulary, when I want to make a specific point, is really, really frustrating, but it is all part the learning process and I feel confident that it will become easier as time passes.

Among other things I addressed one of the challenges I currently have in relation to my thoughts on remediation. I’ve incorporated several dichotomies in my models for remediation, but I only see them as theoretical/analytical tools – reality (in whatever shape it represents itself) is much more complex and I don’t necessarily consider them to be mutually exclusive. Another problem is that some of the concepts I’m using are ambiguous, so I have a lot of work ahead of me in determining how I will define these concepts, and as examples of this uncertainty I presented the following three slides:

BTW, for the presentation I’d found a nice template displaying an Ethernet cable, which I thought suited the topic very well – only later I realized that as part of the terms of use I’m not allowed to upload them to any sort of file sharing site and this is why they can only be found here in pdf format … and so I will not use that type of template again!