#vwbpe 2010 – 1st day impressions

On March 12th and 13th I participated in the 3rd Annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference – a 48 hrs. around the clock/world event mainly taking place in Second Life (SL).

The goal of the conference was “to bring together educators, researchers, academics, and business professionals from around the world with a focus on 3D virtual collaborative environments and how they can best be used to support education” and according to the official website there were 170+ presentations/sessions.

Despite some technical difficulties and the fact that I only participated in 13 sessions, I was overwhelmed, learned a lot and met new interesting people. So in this first post, I want to start out be sending a BIG thank you to the organizers; Zana Kohime, Phelan Corrimal & Marty Snowpaw and their truly amazing crew! :-)

The first session I attended was a presentation by Briarmelle Quintessa; “Building the foundation for Second Life learning in New Zealand”.

Briarmelle spoke about a pilot project on Foundation Learning conducted as part of the Second Life in New Zealand (SLENZ) project where the main goal was to show “the educational strengths or otherwise” of using a virtual world as means for students to practice interview skills, and according to Briarmelle students who used SL as compared to those who didn’t ended up with better assessments as shown in the slide below.

In designing their in-world environment, Briarmelle and her colleagues had been inspired by John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design, which addresses attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction. Log-in to Koru Island and explore this and many other designs for teaching and learning.

UPDATE: on March 16th the SLENZ Project’s Lead Developer Isa Goodman announced that a free copy of the Foundation Build is now available on the neighbouring Kowhai Island under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, and a new SLENZ blog has been created for discussions on technical issues and further developments.

Next up was Logos Sohl who spoke about “Enablers and inhibitors of innovation and creativity in virtual world educational projects”.

Logos had made some interesting observations on enablers and inhibitors, and I’m hoping she’ll put her presentation in the vwbpe-slideshare. At a certain point, Logos asked us to state our geo positions and this really manifested the international nature of SL:

A one minute tour around the world:
[4:57] Hotaling: New Zealand, here. [4:57] Kayo: Oklahoma [4:57] Wozniak: Orlando, FL [4:57] Mills: Denmark [4:57]  Flatley: Newfoundland, Canada [4:57]  Jenvieve: UK, England [4:57]  Darbyshire shouts: NY [4:57] Congrejo: lol Euro [4:57]  Neximus: Germany [4:57]  Lowtide: UK atm [4:57]  Halostar: Germany [4:57] Baroque: Syracuse, NY [4:57]  Congrejo: Texas [4:57]  Jameson: i am in usa, i live in germany [4:57]  Alchemi: Leicester, UK [4:57]  Blogger: Belgium [4:57]  Camel: UK (devon) [4:57]  Bookmite: Georgia, the state [4:57]  Tigerfish: Indiana [4:57]   Hubbenfluff: Pennsylvania [4:57]  Frequency: i’m from singapore [4:57]  Lexenstar: West Virginia, USA [4:57]  Inventor: Czech rep., Europe :) [4:58] Bramlington: Sweden.

After a break, I returned in-world to my 3rd session, which was on “Networked Connectivism, Distributed cognition and PLNS”.

In this session hosted by Michigan Paule, Labatt Pawpaw (one of the founders of Connectivism) gave his thoughts on connectivism, learning and the pedagogical foundations that the technology provides.. Before the session started slides showed nicely on my screen, but during the session my computer started acting up and I ended up logging out due to lag. Labatt later posted an audio of his talk.

As I logged back in it was time for the official opening remarks of M Linden. Sadly my troubles continued and this is how M looked on my screen during the whole talk … um, not really becoming for a CEO ;-)

For those interested it is possible to hear (and see!) M’s talk here on BusinessTreetTV, where other sessions also will be archived.

I finished this first conference day by participating in Claudia Linden’s session on “Educational trends in Second Life”.

Again, I found the outlook to be somewhat grey, but it was nonetheless an interesting session, where Claudia asked us to share “aha-moments in SL”. There were many great, fun, thoughtful examples such as;

  • [13:13] Underwood: When my superintendent starting flying during our orientation,
  • [13:15]  Clawtooth: My “Ah ha” moment in SL was visiting Sistine Chapel and realizing when I saw the Sistine Chapel on TV that I had the same feeling as if I had actually been there in real life from my SL “visit.”,
  • [13:16] Bookmite: My student emailed “I hate second life.” Two months later she spent her summer exploring and learning how to build,

and not least [13:20] Tuque, who so eloquently summed up my first day impressions and the main reason why I enjoy SL so much: I guess that is MY Aha moment – when I realized I could meet, learn from, and work with colleagues from ALL over the world.

/Mariis

Setting up for Shared Media test in SL viewer 2

This semester I have the pleasure of supervising, PerSecond a Master student from The Master programme on ICT and Learning (MIL). In his Master thesis PerSecond will investigate the possibility of using SL as platform in a Danish-Chinese PBL collaboration he and his colleagues at VIA University College are involved in. PerSecond and I are meeting in-world for our sessions and today I went in to set up for a test of the new Shared Media feature in SLV2.

For unclear reasons* SLV2 really runs slowly on my machine, so for a while there I had to work as a cloud – and let me tell you; that’s a bit distracting!

Anyways, I did mange to set up for a test of google.docs … though I seem to have a recurring “bad-hair-day” ;-)

I’m hoping the problems I experience won’t influence our test later tonight, so that I can get back to our experimentation in a future post …

/Mariis
*) I did read Gwyneth’s excellent post on improving Mac performance, but I can’t force Texture Memory beyond 128, and GL tot stays at 67/192 … so I’m thinking it may be a) a PICNIC error or b) my (still) malfunctioning Mac :-(

First impressions from a Twitter newbie

After more than a month of computer problems, incl. malfunctioning OS, lack of permissions, ruined logic board, slow support and lots of frustration I’ve been reinstalling programmes, applications and services, incl. Twitter. I’ve actually had a Twitter profile for quite some time, but I’ve been reluctant to use it – not sure why, when and how? But yesterday, as I logged in to check my account, I noticed a lot of buzz concerning a live-streamed event – TEDxNYED – and since the list of speakers seemed interesting, I decided to hang around. As it turned out to be a very interesting learning experience, I thought I’d use this post to reflect a bit on my newbie impressions …

Why use Twitter?
Well, the jury is still out on that question. My main concern is whether I really need more information? It may seem a bit strange, but I’m already experiencing some information overload from existing mail lists, the blogsphere and my other networks. At this point in time in my PhD-project I really should be aiming at convergence, but on the other hand the constant drawback of living in a connected, digital world is the fear of missing out on important information. As always information management is key and I’ll return to that. Even though I’m a newbie, I have of course been listening in on colleagues’ discussions and research, comments in the media and especially in the blogsphere etc., but I have to admit that it wasn’t until yesterday’s experience that the use of Twitter became valuable to me, which leads to the next question.

When to use Twitter?
In yesterday’s event it was possible to use Twitter and Facebook as backchannels during the live-steamed presentations. Despite newbie problems trying to figure out exactly “how to” and also some language constraints (Twitter and general Anglo-American idioms and lingo), I did find the Twitter chat valuable. I’m familiar with the backchannel phenomenon from SL, where especially the Metanomics show makes really good use of the backchat (via the so-called chatbridge) to democratize and expand the discussions, and in my PhD I’m focusing on promoting this particular way of communicating in my in-world teaching sessions. Now, I’m not sure if yesterday’s speakers actually followed the Twitter chat real time (they seemed to focus on the local f2f audience), but after the presentations several of the speakers continued discussing and elaborating, and as I understood from experienced Tweeters this is common practice. George Siemens (one of yesterdays speakers) wrote an interesting piece on “frustrating (= non-participative, non-sustainable) conferences” and together with Tittenberger and Anderson, he wrote an article on how to improve live participation and sustainability of conferences – and yesterday was the first time I had a really good experience with this (outside SL) thanks to Twitter. There can of course also be disadvantages to this backchannel phenomenon as expressed and experienced by Danah Boyd in this much debated post, but I did see an interesting potential and I’m sure I’ll be logging in to Twitter for future events.

However, I’m not so sure that I’ll start using Twitter on a daily basis – at least not for now. I definitely need to learn more about the many possibilities, so for a while I’ll settle for being a lurking participant in the periphery until I get a better feel for the many accompanying tools one can choose to use in relation to Twitter, and that leads to the final question.

How to use Twitter?

Evidently writing a max. of 140 characters is not complicated – it’s the management/storage of information that can be a little tricky, not least because there are so many different accompanying tools to choose from. When I started out yesterday, I already had FriendFeed installed and I like that probably because I’m used to pop-ups from my Thunderbird mail.

During the event I started following more people, and when my SL/FB friend BevanWhitfield noticed me, she quickly recommended Tweetdeck, but also mentioned that I should be careful in joining too many groups. And so I installed Tweetdeck, but it’s a much more complex tool than FriendFeed. I had a look at SIGs related to e-learning and there were soo many! And which one do you choose then? Another friend of mine made a “mention” in Tweetdeck and I wasn’t sure how to reply. A nice feature was the ability to synchronize with other accounts such as FB, but here I’m wondering if that’s really what I want to do. There’s bound to be a lot of redundancy, and I need to figure out how to handle that.

In sorting the information hashtags (#) seem to be part of the solution, but this is also something I need to learn more about. My SL/FB friend, ldinstl_chimera, pointed my attention to Backupify, which may turn out to be a great service for storage and management, whereas Arielion Clawtooth, mentioned Twapperkeeper, so there are plenty of new things to figure out. Incidentally, today TOPsSocialMedia tweeted a list of top 10 Twitter tools.

So to summarize my first impressions; it was fun, engaging and somewhat confusing and overwhelming – just as one would expect a newbie experience to be :-)

/Mariis

Evaluation, Literacy and Transliteracy

As previously described I’ll be using my Connective Model for ICT-remediated Didactic Design for the general analysis of my PhD data. A first step in this process is working with the 9 basic elements in the model and in this post I’ll focus on some preliminary work I’ve done on the element of Evaluation as depicted in the model below.

Given that definitions shape the way we think about and practice particular phenomena the very act of defining something should not be done without prudence. I’m quite confident that working with the different elements in the model will refine the way I’ll end up describing them, so for now I settle for working definitions and as such I’ve found inspiration in UNESCO’s definition of Evaluation and after modifying it so that it fits better into my study field of Didactic Design it would read as follows:

Evaluation means arriving at a value judgment on the basis of measures (qualitative or quantitative) considered to be valid and reliable, which compare the actual results of a Didactic Design with its anticipated results.

The element of Evaluation is to some degree connected to all the other elements, but according to the working definition there is a particular strong connection to the element of Goals, since this is where we can derive the criteria for evaluating the results. When dealing with Didactic Design there will always be a least two major perspectives from which we can look upon certain elements, namely the teaching perspective and the learning perspective, and in what follows I’ll present some initial reflections on the particular part of evaluation that concerns the evaluation of learning outcome/results. To do so I want to dwell a bit on the concept of Literacy, which I consider to be vital when discussing the purpose and goals of especially formal education.

In its most narrow sense literacy refers to the ability to read and write, but used as a more general concept literacy refers to being knowledgeable or educated within a particular field. In an interesting UNESCO report on the plurality of literacy and the concept’s connection to the right to education as stated in article 26 of  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the evolving notion of literacy is discussed and defined: “Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.” (UNESCO.2004:13). Above all the plurality of literacy refers to the many fields in which literacy can be employed – specific literacies denominated by prefixes such as information, computer or media to name a few.

In my research on literacy I recently came across a very interesting article in First Monday that explores the concept of Transliteracy, which the authors Thomas; Joseph; Laccetti; Manson; Mills; Perril & Pullinger. 2007 define like this:

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. (Thomas et al. 2007)

What interests me the most is actually not the definition, but rather the idea and purpose of developing some sort of meta-literacy concept. According to the authors Transliteracy can be characterized as:

  • a possible unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century
  • an extension of transliteration that also includes the increasingly wide range of communication platforms and tools at our disposal
  • a concept that calls for a change of perspective away from the battles over print versus digital, and a move instead towards a unifying ecology not just of media, but of all literacies relevant to reading, writing, interaction and culture, both past and present
  • a concept that doesn’t replace but contains both media and digital literacy
  • a possible literacy for (media) convergence
  • a concept of not just computer–based materials, but about all communication types across time and culture
  • a concept that insists on a lateral approach to history, context and culture, an interest in lived experience and a focus on interpretation via practice and production
  • an inclusive concept which bridges and connects past, present and, hopefully, future modalities
  • a concept that pays attention to the whole range of modes and to the synergies between them to produce a sense of a ‘transliterate lifeworld’ in constant process
  • both a concept and a practice productively situated in a liminal space between being a new cognitive tool and the recovery of an old one
  • a concept that deliberately refuses to presuppose any kind of offline/online divide
  • the kind of literacy we require to be able to simultaneously attend to multiple media and modes of communication as well as the kind of literacy we use to apply the literacies of one mode or medium to another one

Based on these characteristics I would interpret Transliteracy as a meta-literacy and I do find the characteristics both relevant and much needed in trying to define some sort of unifying literacy. The authors describe their work with the concept as a work in progress and “a good example of open source thinking between diverse collaborators” and they encourage further discussion and development of the concept. First author, Sue Thomas and her co-writers are all involved in the Production and Research in Transliteracy (PART) Group at the Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University, UK and they’ll be hosting a conference on Transliteracy on February 9th 2010, which can be followed via several social media. In the video lecture below Sue Thomas explains the concept of Transliteracy based on the above mentioned article:

Returning to my interest in Literacy and especially new forms of literacy, I believe that there is a strong need to consider and develop new ways/methods of evaluation of learning outcome – not least when the learning processes and products have been facilitated by ICT-remediated Didactic Design. In this process of developing new evaluation methods, I think concepts like Transliteracy can prove quite valuable in giving indications of what criteria to focus on. Especially in Academia we seem to be stuck in using evaluation criteria and methods based on traditional literacy giving primacy to old media and modalities. Quoting Yancey. 2004: 90 “we use the frameworks and processes of one medium to assign value and to interpret work in a different medium”, which obviously is not the most appropriate way of accommodating the use of multiple and/or new media. In my third research cycle in the MIL case, I experimented with both criteria and methods of evaluation, and the results from this experiment will form the basis of a forthcoming post on evaluation of new media productions/compositions…

/Mariis

Connective models for Didactic Design

As previously described 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 aspiration 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. Having teachers/trainers as target group has made it quite natural to situate my work within the field of Didactics.

Especially in Northern Europe Didactics refers to a field of research and practice concerned with reflections and actions related to teaching and learning. Historically the field has been teacher-, goal- and/or content-centered, but since the mid 1970’ies we have – at least in Scandinavia – seen an almost paradigmatic shift to a more learning and learner-centered approach.  In Denmark this shift was above all initiated by the establishment of two new universities, in 1972 Roskilde and in 1974 Aalborg (where I work) that were founded in clear opposition to the “Old(fashioned)” universities by using an overall pedagogical approach based on Problem Based Learning and Project Organization in an attempt to amplify student motivation, engagement and learning with higher relevance for the surrounding society.

Within teacher/trainer education Didactic Analysis, as a means to learn how to plan, act, observe and reflect on didactic practices, has been a core component of the curriculum, and especially one model for didactic analysis has gained widespread use, namely the so called “Didactical Relationship Model” by Norwegian education researchers, Hilde Hiim and Else Hippe. Building on the work of fellow countrymen, Bjørndal and Lieberg (whose original model was more teacher-centered), Hiim and Hippe developed the model to show some important relations between different elements in Didactics using a learning theoretical approach. An English description of the model and the use of it in developing an online tutorial for Information Literacy can be found here.

In my PhD-project I currently have data from 4 completed research cycles and I’ve decided to use modified versions of the Hiim & Hippe model as part of my analytical strategy, which will consist of several phases progressing from a general to a more specific focus on didactic elements I find relevant in my particular case. Throughout the different phases I will be using different models, but as I find Hiim & Hippe’s model useful in depicting important relations and elements for general analysis, I’ll start by presenting this model briefly.

As mentioned above the model shows 6 important elements in a teaching/learning situation, these elements are interrelated and so influence each other in various ways and to various degrees. Even though I find the concept of depicting interrelated elements valuable, I don’t agree on the chosen elements, the description/content of the elements and the semantics in general. In my dissertation I will of course elaborate on this, but for now I will turn to my own revised models.

At the Master Programme in ICT and Learning (MIL), where I conduct most of my teaching and research, my colleagues, Bo Fibiger (1945-2008) and Birgitte Holm Sørensen originally conceived the concept of Didactic Design and combined with the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Sørensen today defines it as: “The process by which the purpose, the goals and the content is determined, and where the planning, the organization and the arena for teaching and learning is shaped based on theories and in relation to ICT-based practice in a context.” I agree on the essence of the definition, but I also see Didactic Design as a result/product and sometime down the line I will also work on revising this definition. For now, the important point is that I consider my work to be part of the emerging field of Didactics combined with ICT and as a consequence my revised model is aimed at Didactic Design as depicted below:

In line with Hiim & Hippe’s model, my model also portrays important didactic elements, but I have chosen to add a few more elements, substitute one and rename some of them. I also prefer to speak of connections instead of relations, while the latter to me implies some sort of personalized bond that I don’t see between all the elements that are interconnected. I suspect that the major reason as to why Hiim & Hippe’s model has gained such popularity has to do with the fact that the elements are quite generic and thus enable the user of the model to define sub-elements depending on own needs and purpose.  One could argue that the elements I’ve added already are part of Hiim & Hippe’s model as sub-elements, but by highlighting them I believe greater emphasis can be obtained. While I do consider the elements in my model to be generic too and that my work with the model will refine the content/sub-elements, I do have some preliminary reflections.

  • ICT – in Hiim & Hippe’s model part of the setting. In my point of view the use of ICT has the potential of changing the Didactic Design quite dramatically and should as such not just be a sub-element. Furthermore the use of ICT has been written into the curricular of most educational practices from pre-schools to HE in Denmark.
  • Teacher(s) & Learner(s) – in Hiim & Hippe’s model people are absent at first glance. The Teacher is considered to be part of the setting and I guess that since the model is aimed at describing learning conditions and learning processes the student is somehow inherent. Based on my own teaching experience I, however consider the people involved in the Didactic Design to be the most influential element. This does not mean that I don’t consider the conditions (e.g. prerequisites) for teaching and learning to be important. On the contrary, but I think there is an acute need to focus on teachers’ conditions separately – especially when we combine Didactics with ICT.
  • Goals – in formal education goals are dominated by curriculum, but depending on theoretical foundation they can be formulated and attained more or less teacher-driven. One of the major advantages of a Problem Based approach is exactly the possibility of sharing the responsibility for this element between all participants in the Didactic Design.
  • Content – another element typically determined by curriculum and goals, but again within a Problem Based and especially Project Oriented approach this element can be based on collective decisions.
  • Contexts – teaching and learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Didactic Design is always situated, but not restricted to physical buildings or formal settings.
  • Activities – another very important element that shapes the teaching and learning processes possible and therefore also potential outcome.
  • Evaluation – Hiim & Hippe use the word assessment, which I think mainly relates to the learners and I do believe that a critical review on the teacher(s) and the teaching also is an important part of sustaining quality and I think that evaluation better covers this.
  • Time – is a crucial element, but is often missing in models and theories of teaching and learning despite the fact that there seems to be consensus on the fact that learning at a certain level actually takes a lot of time. Besides the time available for learners another sub-element could be time available for the teacher(s). In my experience many teachers/trainers find especially ICT-integration difficult and frustrating precisely because they don’t feel that they have sufficient time to learn to master the technologies and subsequent practices.

Besides revising the number and to some extend the content of the elements, I’ve also chosen to place the elements within a frame illustrating the point that Didactic Designs within formal education generally function as quite closed systems with very little permeability. Usually the influence from external factors (e.g. political, economical and other societal factors) is much greater than the other way.

In my PhD-project I’ve been working with 2 different cases. The MIL course (3 research cycles) and the COMBLE course (1 research cycle). In the MIL course the majority of the activities have been online, whereas the COMBLE course was 100% online, and I would describe the Didactic Design in both cases as having been ICT-remediated. In Bolter & Grusin’s original concept remediation refers to the process whereby new media refashions older media, but when we start to rely more and more on ICT/new media in our practices, I would argue that not only the media are refashioned, but there is a potential and in many cases a need to also reconsider and most likely revise the other elements in the model. These considerations have led to the next model:

It may come as a surprise that the model doesn’t appear that different, but that’s actually an important point of mine. ICT-remediation constitutes a potential for change, but it doesn’t happen automatically, and changes will depend on the various types of ICT. Walled Garden technology – like conventional LMS’/VLEs – is never pedagogical neutral. Different types of technology have different kinds of affordances and the user’s possibility to change or modify intrinsic ways of communication and content creation is usually very limited. As long as the majority of formal educational institutions choose to rely on conventional technology for remediating their practices, I personally see little prospect of real change. There are, nonetheless, some positive aspects in all of this. Regardless of the rest of the elements in the model ICT-remediation – especially based on Web 2.0 – will force the system to open up and connect more with the outside world and as both learners and teachers become more ICT literate as a consequence of ICT permeating our daily practices, I do expect changes to occur.

At the MIL education ICT is part of the curriculum and even though we also could do with more change, we do try to keep an eye on new media and their teaching and learning potentials. This was also the reason why my PhD-project became concerned with new augmented/immersive media in the shape of the 3D virtual world, Second Life (SL). Based on my experience with remediating existing practice into SL, this kind of medium clearly has the potential of changing the Didactic Design. Without having gone thoroughly through my data, I do see some changes regarding especially teacher(s), learner(s), contexts and activities. These four elements will be foci points in my analysis of SL and are highlighted in the model below:

It is quite deliberate that I’ve maintained the ICT element in this version of the model, because the use of SL doesn’t diminish the need to consider ICT in general. Several kinds of 2D technologies are at play in-world, and as I still consider SL to be an emerging, and sometimes very unstable technology, I wouldn’t at this point in time recommend using SL as a stand-alone technology.

These models all focus on traditional didactic elements and I will use them (most likely in revised versions) for my general Didactic Analysis. The last version has a clear connection to another model I’ve developed, which focuses on People (teachers/learners), Places (contexts) and Practices (activities). Based on that PPP-model I’ll be able to focus on topics that are less common in Didactics and in this way I think the models will complement each other profitably.

/Mariis