SL, Dunn & Dunn’s Learning Style model, and collaborative activities

This is the second 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. On Tuesday, January 17th Team B had to present their analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment.

Team B and their focus


Team B; Efus, Yeps, dirkovski & JaneOlga with matching team t-shirts.

Just like the first presenting team A, the members of Team B also come from very different working backgrounds ranging from a Training Coordinator and Training Developer, an E-Learning Consultant, a K-12 Teacher, and a HR Consultant. All of the team members work with development and implementation of ICT and Learning at some level in their organizations, and for their presentation they had decided to focus on learning styles and different activities based on the following investigation questions:

How can SL facilitate Dunn & Dunn’s learning styles as pedagogical platform, and in what kind of collaborative activities can they be included as part of a learning process?

In their work, Team B had tried to design for a target group of adult professionals between 40-60 years with some SL experience.

Team B’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 B’s sandbox:


December 17th; Team B has started to experiment in their sandbox.

December 18th; Team B’s sandbox rapidly changes appearance.

On December 19th, I visited Team B’s sandbox and spoke with Yeps and dirkovski about their design.

Later on December 19th Team B’s new pool area was almost finished.

December 21st; Team B’s sandbox looks quite finished, but there is more to come …

December 26th; The need for more space is solved by conquering the sandbox’s air space.

December 31st; Team B’s sandbox addition is starting to appear in the South East end.

Team B’s midway status presentation on January 3rd.

January 11th; Team B’s sandbox is almost done.

On January 15th, I met briefly with dirkovski from Team B to discuss different in-world audio possibilities, and the planning of their presentation.

Team B’s presentation
Prior to their presentation, Team B sent out information in our regular 2D platform and their agenda looked like this:

  • 8:00 PM: Welcome and agenda
  • 8:05 PM: Theoretical foundation
  • 8:20 PM: Learning style test
  • 8:40 PM: Exercises in three groups
  • 9:25 PM: Announcement of the winner
  • 9:30 PM: 3 questions (use of The Opinionator), reflection, and wrap-up
  • 9:45 PM: Feedback and evaluation

For the theoretical inputs we were all comfortably seated in the cosy pillow-area.

Team B started by introducing their investigation questions and explain their interest in trying to combine the Dunn & Dunn learning style model with activities in SL. We were also given a brief overview over the many different types of learning style models, and Dunn & Dunn’s specific model was presented as a cognitivist perspective on learning focusing on how we, through our senses, collect and process information.


The 21 elements of Dunn & Dunn’s learning style model.

Team B also explained how they, in their design of the sandbox, had tried to accommodate different learning styles, and they gave us a very interesting glimpse into their joint design process.


Team B explaining the design (process) of their sandbox.

As Team B explained, with reference to Bang & Dalsgaard, one of the problems with this kind of cognitivist learning perspective is that it tends to focus solely on learning from an individual perspective, but the Team wanted to try to combine this with a more social constructivist perspective through design of different activities (that we as audience were asked to participate in).


Cooperation or collaboration – what’s the difference?

Furthermore, in their work Team B had also been inspired by the COI-model that focuses on different kinds of presence necessary to obtain a satisfactory educational experience; cognitive, social, and teaching presence.


The Community of Inquiry model in focus.

After the theoretical introduction, we were asked to move to another part of the sandbox, where all the participants had to complete a learning styles test.


MIL11 students answering the Learning Style test.

Result: No kinesthetic learners among the participating students.

As a very nice detail the students were given t-shirts matching  their learning styles.

After the test, the participants were placed in three groups, and all groups now had to go to two different locations to complete small exercises. The exercises were designed to match three different learnings styles; auditory, visual, and kinesthetic – Team B had wisely chosen to disregard Dunn & Dunn’s forth tactile learning style. We were also told that there was a certain gaming element to the exercises, that the groups had to collect points, and that a winner would be announced by the end of this activity.


I started by following group 3 and Team B’s Efus to Hawaii :-)

On Hawaii, the members of group 3 had to choose between different transport options, go out on the sea, pass a buoy, and return to the shore in the fastest time possible:


laserquik turned out to be quite good at riding the Orca killer whale!

Happytown chose the Jet Ski.

… and so did Ingma.

Inge, however chose the inflatable wave jumping mattress.

Meanwhile, JoeChipmunk enjoyed a gold dive in the mountains!

When group 3 had finished this exercise, one of the other groups came along, and I decided to move on and follow another group.


Back in Team B’s sandbox;  Group 2 had to memorize the pictures on the display, and go to New Earth and find the specific locations/items.

mouritzen and Ilikespace quickly found the bridge and received their first points in this exercise.

We soon had to go back to Team B’s sandbox, and here the winner was announced:


And the winners were; laserquik, Happytown, Ingma & Inge – W00t!

Team B had prepared a very nice podium for this activity, and they had even taken the time to “engrave” the trophy – another very nice design detail! It was time to wrap up the experiences, and for this purpose Team B had prepared three statements, and the participants were asked to enter the Opinionator.


1. statement: SL is a suitable platform for working with the three learning styles!

2. statement: Of course it is possible to work with both learnings styles and collaboration in SL!

The final statement, was bold and fun: “Today’s presentation has been well-designed and has fully covered (the COI model’s) social, teaching, and cognitive presence, and I have learned a lot!” As I told Team B, I’m not a fan of learning style models, especially not those without learning theoretical foundation such as Dunn & Dunn, but that was not an issue in relation to their presentation. Basically, Team B chose to focus on different modalities and explore their potential in relation to SL, and it made good sense. Team B managed to make a convincing case of combining modalities and collaborative activities. The sandbox clearly reflected their theme and investigation question, and their presentation was filled with nice little details that demonstrated the hard work the team had put into it.

In summary, just as it was the case when Team A presented, we ended up having a very good and fun joint learning experience, and once again it was great to witness the fruits of genuine collaboration :-)

/Mariis

BTW, for anyone interested in exploring the use of Learning Styles, I recommend the following report that offers a critical review of some of the most popular learning styles models:

Coffield, F.; Moseley, D.; Hall, E. & Ecclestone, K. (2004): Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning – a systematic and critical review. Published by the Learning and Skills Research Centre.

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.

Background
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 MIL11 assignment.

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.


December 17th; the team has begun rezzing and building all sorts of objects.

December 19th; the team’s presentation screen is set up for experimentation.

December 21st; One side of the team’s sandbox is filled up with objects creating a radical setting.

December 21st; Part of the interior design in the radical setting.

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
During the introduction, we were given an overview of some of the theories and concepts the team has focused on, and we were given a brief insight into the pedagogical set-up, the students at the e-Design program etc. The team members explained how they saw a close relation between Problem Oriented Project Pedagogy and the design process in general, and they continued explaining how they wanted to illustrate this by giving us small tasks to solve as examples of a typical design process. We had to go to designated locations and take photos for later inspiration. Back in the team’s sandbox, we had to build “a work table for multiple persons”, and present it.
An overview of a typical design process with the research and idea generation phases highlighted.

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 .


Team A’s Ingma acted as supervisor at Bartlett & Nielsen.

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:


Back in Team A’s sandbox the other teams had to put their photos up for display.

Team C putting their photos on display.

Team D building a table.
… and team B building a table.

Team E presenting their flexible table, which clearly was inspired by their trip to Torleys.

After the presentation of the teams’ photos and tables, Team A continued talking about their theoretical considerations.


Team A discussing Childs, 2010 model on learners’ participation in virtual worlds.

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 :-)

/Mariis

A CoP approach to facilitate university teacher PD in ICT and POPP

On December 17th, 2010 I had the great pleasure of attending my (now former as she’s back in Costa Rica) e-Learning Lab colleague, Mayela Coto’s PhD-defense. Mayela’s thesis is entitled “The case of UNAgora: A community of practice approach to facilitate university teacher professional development in ICT and project-oriented problem pedagogy”, and is now available for download here.


Mayela presenting her findings on Dec. 17th, 2010 at Aalborg University.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

  • The overall aim of this research is to enhance the understanding of to what extent a distributed community of practice approach affects the professional development of university teachers and whether this leads the teachers to promote a transformation in teaching practices mainly regarding the introduction of ICT and project-oriented problem pedagogy (POPP).
  • More specific research questions are concerned with what is the impact of belonging to the community of practice on teachers?; what kind of changes takes place in the teachers’ practice?; which factors support or hinder the professional development of teachers who are part of a distributed community of practice?; how does technology contribute (or not) to the formation of the community, and to the professional development process?; and what principles may be used to guide the design of a professional development model- based on communities of practice for fostering change of practice?
  • The main findings of the study were that the distributed community of practice approach appears to be a productive form of professional development under certain conditions. It provides an environment for learning and dialogue that can enrich and deepen teachers’ knowledge, as well as an understanding of important educational issues and change of values, beliefs and practices. Issues of access to technology, culture of online communication and collaboration, teachers’ workload and time have been identified as conditions that need to be carefully studied in order for the approach to be potentially effective.
  • The overall result of the approach to professional development proposed by this study, offers teachers a scope for learning, negotiation and identity formation within the community. The study also suggests that teachers who are closer to the center of the community are able to identify with, and develop a feeling of belonging to the community to a greater extent than the teachers with a peripheral role. However, it seems that both kinds of teachers are able to transform, to some extent, their teaching practices.

Mayela’s supervisor (who’s also my PhD-supervisor) was Professor, PhD Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Aalborg University), whereas the examining committee consisted of Maite Capra (Univercidad Nacional Costa Rica), Marianne Lykke (Aalborg University), and Etienne Wenger.


Similing faces after the very successful defense: Lykke, Wenger – Mayela Coto – Capra and Dirckinck-Holmfeld

It’s a pretty long thesis, but well worth the read :-)

/Mariis