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#GRCviz2011 – selected resources on visualization

At the Gordon Research conference on Visualization in Science and Education, I was invited to talk about some of the findings from my research in SL.

For unknown reasons slideshare changes the colours and parts of the format, so here’s a pdf-version MariisTalk-GRCviz11. Judging from the feedback, my talk went very well, and I got some highly useful questions, comments, and suggestions. Since the deadline for my dissertation is in September, I’ll not be able to incorporate new ideas, but I did get a lot of inspiration for future research in SL. Even though this blog so far has focused primarily on SL, I do teach other subjects, and based on the other talks from the conference, I also got lots of inspiration for new directions in other areas both in terms of theory, methods, and tools. Below I’ve listed some selected resources – all focusing on bringing forward different types of visualizations in education.

The Mars Expedition Strategy Challenge is a research project on “Immersive Reality Challenge to Explore Strategies for Human Spaceflight Beyond Low-Earth Orbit”. The Mars Expedition Strategy Challenge learning simulation is private. However, FVWC reviewers may contact SL residents Apollo Segall, Spinoza Quinnell or Lyr Lobo to request a guided tour during the evenings.

Medical Illustrator, Graham Johnson‘s youtube channel displays some amazing visualizations, such as the one below on muscle anatomy.

Further, Johnson’s website offers lots of resources, incl. tutorials and plugins for creation of complex visualizations in ePMV.

Virulent is a new game for iPads on virus infections and the way our immune system fights them off – developed by Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Cell Press also has a youtube channel with so-called video abstracts.

GigaPan is a site where users can upload, share, and explore gigapixel panoramas – best way to describe it is: Wauw! With the possibility to annotate, we were shown some very interesting potential educational uses. Further, the GigaPan Time Machine is even more impressive.

Cartoonist, Larry Gonick creates comic books, which according to some of the conference participants had helped them learn the basics of especially chemistry and genetics.

The Best Illusions of the Year website offers a lot of intriguing videos of different kinds of illusions. In a similar vein, the video below on attention caused many laughs and lots of puzzlement – how attentive are you, really?


Kongregate was mentioned as an excellent site to find free online games and connect with a community.

“How NOT to lie with visualization” (Rogowitz & Treinish,1996)  is an article recommended by several of the conference participants, and so is another article by the same authors “Data visualization: the end of the rainbow” (Rogowitz & Treinish, 1998).

Continuing the challenges in visualization, “How to lie with maps” was also recommended. In this book, the author, Mark Monmonier, explains the methods cartographers must use to distort reality in representing a complex, three-dimensional world on a flat sheet or screen, and how they exclude information and geographic features in order to create a readable and understandable map.


Cynthia A. Brewer’s website Color Brewer 2.0 also offers advice.


The Explaining Climate Change website offers a set of peer-reviewed, interactive, web-based materials to help learners visualize and understand the underlying science of climate change.

NARC’s Color Tool is designed to provide the designer with views of the perceptual relationships among the possible color choices. It improves on previous tools by more clearly representing the constraints imposed by the physical display and the structure of human color vision. 

The National Academy Press has published an interesting review of available research on learning science through interaction with digital simulations and games. The book considers the potential of digital games and simulations to contribute to learning science in schools, in informal out-of-school settings, and everyday life, and the book also identifies the areas in which more research and research-based development is needed to fully capitalize on this potential. Get a free copy here.

Another book, Visible Learning by John Hattie, was also recommended and looks like a must-read.

The final resource, I want to point too is actually not directly linked to the conference, but still deals very much with visualization. Whenever I travel internationally, I have a habit of buying a hard copy of Wired magazine, and the August 2011 edition features an article on Khan Academy.


The article gives a very good overview of the Kahn Academy, it’s history, activities, supporters, and opponents. Even though the “skill and drill” approach to teaching and learning is far from my own approach, I do think it can be useful for certain topics and in certain contexts, but in terms of reforming education, I’d hope for a broader strategy incl. more social constructivist methods.

From a personal point of view, the best part of the conference was to get the opportunity to spend extended time with two of my favorite SL friends, Chimera and Spiral. I’ve had the great fortune of meeting Chimera several times f2f, but it was the first (and hopefully not last) time I met Spiral RL :-)

/Mariis

… and yes the format of this post is horrific, but Code is King … and sticks to autocracy :-(

UPDATE

One of my Danish SL friends, Charlotta Jenkins, just directed my attention to the Montage tool, which enables you to curate self-chosen topics, so here’s one on Visualization in Science and Education 2011.

Reality – the worst g/Game ever?

Many of the presentations at the Visualization in Science and Education conference that I’m currently attending have evolved around games, simulations, and virtual worlds, and in one of today’s talks the presenter showed us this picture:


Picture from “Motivate Us Not”

In this particular talk, the “problem” with reality was linked to the complexity of the world’s many challenges, e.g.  in terms of risks we’re facing – which evidently can be quite overwhelming and most likely will cause some people to withdraw from the “real” world, and ultimately leave it to others to try and meet these challenges. However, the picture also pointed to a theme that has been recurring throughout the conference, namely why we need virtual games, worlds etc. in the first place – why not stick to (the reality of) this world? If the skeptics at this conference leave with the impression that those of us in favor of such immersive/augmented technologies want to replace Reality, then I think we have failed (and note that was not the view of the presenter).

Both I, and the colleagues I know who use these technologies in education are not trying to replace, but rather to supplement and work with mixed realities in a re-situated perspective, drawing on the best affordances from each. In another talk, the presenter distinguished between the “game” understood as software, and the “Game” understood as the social context; the community, the practice, the artifacts, and the interactions surrounding the game. I found this to be an important distinction, which could be applied to my own work, and while as an educator I also have an inherent interest in the nature and development of the software (from an instructional POV), I do believe that the context is crucial – and probably could make the difference as to whether people would use these new types of technologies to escape or improve our reality … regardless of how we choose to define it. I’m not done thinking about this, but this morning’s talks provided really good food for thought, and proved that Reality isn’t such a bad Game after all ;-)

/Mariis

Off the record – #grcviz2011

I’m currently participating in a Gordon Research Conference, at Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, where I was invited to speak about my research in SL. This has been a great honor, and I’m truly enjoying my time here; meeting a lot of very clever, nice, cool, and fun people from all sorts of different disciplines, and the industry in a very international setting – all people who are engaged in using “Visualization in science and education“.


Unlike previous conferences I’ve participated in, GRC’s have a strict “off the record” policy, meaning that we are not allowed to disclose information from the talks, poster sessions, informal discussions etc. Being used to sharing all sorts of information through various social media, this really is a very different approach to knowledge presentation and dissemination. I’m honestly feeling somewhat ambivalent about this; I appreciate the need for a “space” where you can actually present unfinished/unpublished ideas. On the other hand, the conference has brought together so many interesting and talented people, who present such cool projects, that my immediate response normally would be to share this with my network. Since the list of speakers is public information, we have agreed that it will be ok just to share general information – and this some of us are doing via the hash tag #grcviz2011. Despite the fact that this makes the title of this post an oxymoron, it really is an amazing conference, where I’ve gained a lot of new insights and ideas!

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The beautiful Bryant U 

Since the conference is cross disciplinary, I’ve once again been reminded just how different we approach research and justify knowledge, and in general perceive the phenomena we are investigating. Coming from a very strong qualitative research tradition, I’ve been puzzled and admittedly provoked by some of the more quantitative presentations I’ve seen – and I’m confident this works the other way round. This is, however, a very healthy thing, and if nothing else, I bring back a greater appreciation for mixed methods studies! And it has me thinking that we really need to research and come up with new and better ways of e.g. evaluating learning processes and their outcomes. In fact, I would say that I go home with more questions than answers, but again I think that is a very good thing … :-)

/Mariis