Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education 2011 panel

On March 17-19 the 4th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (#VWBPE11) will be taking place in SL and other Virtual Worlds such as OpenSim, World of Warcraft, Eve Online and Club Penguin.

The VWBPE is is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants in all virtual worlds to share current research,  teaching, and learning practices in 3D virtual environments. This 53 hour conference will provide opportunities for sharing and further understanding virtual world technology, and will focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education. According to the VWBPE-website this year’s conference is about people, the community, and it’s about being together;

This year’s theme is You are Here. The divide between what is real and what is virtual is a state of mind. We learn everywhere and you are already here.

Here is all around you:

  • Here is where we find the great successes and even failures.
  • Here is where we expand our borders.
  • Here is where we touch what is important to those we teach.
  • Here is where we learn and live and play.

I have been attending the conference for a couple of years as an observer, which has been very inspirational, and I highly recommend anyone interested in 3D Virtual Worlds to participate in this amazing, free event! :-)

Furthermore, this year I have the great pleasure of doing a panel discussion together with 3 SL friends and colleagues: Chimera Cosmos, Spiral Theas, and Gann McGann.


First planning session on my holodeck with Gann & Chimera

Our session is entitled: Hats, HUDs, Wands and Weather:  Building Activities for Engagement in Second Life. One of the things we all appreciate about SL is the fun and playful parts of this environment, which could include changing the avatar’s appearance and using different types of artifacts – e.g. in our first meeting Chimera couldn’t help but show off one of her magic wands ;-)


And in fact after Gann and I left, Chimera used her tornado stick on the holodeck as seen in this photo from Chimera’s KoinUp stream:


Chimera’s koinup

While the user-controlled ability to change both the environment and one’s appearance definitely is an important part of SL, we as educators are also concerned about the kind of activities that can promote, facilitate, and not least sustain engagement in teaching and learning in an environment such as SL.


Gann, Spiral, Chimera and I discussing the call for VWBPE in our second meeting

We all have both positive and a few negative experiences with teaching in SL, and so in our panel we have decided to focus on activities that help overcome some of the barriers for meaningful, and sustained engagement in SL as stated in our proposal:

There are numerous barriers to engagement in virtual worlds. First, new residents must become familiar with the interface. Beyond technical considerations, the nature of their early experiences will determine whether and how quickly they will build an identification with their avatar and a reason to stay. Without this, it is likely that their interest in further engagement in the virtual world will lessen and their participation will drop off. A sense of presence and identity through embodiment and immersion is an important contributor to ongoing and satisfactory participation in the world and finding the motivation to continue to return until the technical and navigational thresholds are surmounted. This roundtable will discuss the essential acts, the “ah-ha” or Eureka moments, the triggering gizmos, features, activities or places that inspire students or colleagues (and have inspired us) to continue to participate.

In other words, what works to help new residents pass these technical and navigational thresholds? The speakers will share their own stories drawn from their work with students in higher education, business people, health professionals, and education colleagues. Presentations will include demonstrations and audience participation.


Spiral and I chatting under the Blue Thinking hat before our third panel meeting


Identity issues are very important in SL – and we will be showcasing Identity-cubes as part of the session

As mentioned above Gann, Spiral, Chimera, and I will be sharing some of our experiences, but we are also very much hoping to hear from the audience, and so we hope You will join us :-)

Update
We will be presenting Friday, March 18th from 8AM-10AM SLT (16-18 Dansk tid) – Building South, Room South Auxiliary, and the rest of the schedule can be found here

Also please note that even though the conference is free, you need to register in order to participate via this link. By registering you will be helping the organizers plan out resources to ensure the conference runs smoothly and that there is allocated enough space to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to participate.

/Mariis

For inspiration here are three posts I wrote about VWBPE last year:

First day impressions

Second day impressions – part 1

Second day impressions – part 2 – this one also includes my reflections on Chimera & Spiral’s 2010 session

Perceived properties of SL in relation to ADHD-patients

On Thursday, January 20th Milo Spot and Viola Stonesoul from the “MILOVIOLA” group did their presentation and analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment for pupils diagnosed with ADHD. Both Milo and Viola have previously investigated more general use of ICT as tool for people with ADHD in coping with daily activities, and so were interested in exploring if and how this multi-modal medium could be applied with regards to such a target group. We started off in a sandbox up in the sky, where we were asked to switch to sunset setting, and Milo and Viola made it clear that they wanted to focus on different affordances of the teaching and learning space.


The  sandbox above the Danish Visions island

In the NE corner of the sandbox, Milo and Viola had set up several display screens with information about ADHD, and Milo gave us a short introduction, so that we could better understand the background for their design thoughts.


Milo explaining ADHD …

One of the major challenges for people diagnosed with ADHD is their problem with staying in focus if too many impressions are perceived simultaneously, and in the space depicted below Milo and Viola wanted to show us how multiple impressions could become overwhelming because of lacking ability to filter information – the many pictures sort of “coming toward us” in this space illustrated this point very well.


After this short introduction to some of the challenges involved in designing for ADHD-patients, we were asked to fly up above the sandbox to sit down and listen to Viola’s more theoretical presentation of using SL. Viola and Milo explained that it was on purpose they had chosen to place this part up in the air to illustrate the common perception of Theory, and as one of the other students subsequently noted it was hard not to think of Aristophanes’ “The Clouds” ;-)

Scaffolding (as depicted in the slide above) was one of the key words in Viola and Milo’s analysis, and in a related manner, they referred to a model illustrating the stages of learners’ participation in virtual worlds created by Dr. Mark Childs as part of his PhD dissertation. Childs visited the class in-world as Gann McGann on January 3rd, and his thoughts on avatar identity, presence, and embodiment really seem to have influenced the students (and me!).


Gann McGann and one of his alts visiting the MIL Class.


Childs’ model in the horizon …

Back on the ground in the sandbox, Milo and Viola walked us through some of the designs/objects they had considered as part of their teaching and learning design for this particular target group. ADHD-patients tend to become frustrated if their daily routines are disrupted, it is not a target group that handles change well, and as an example one of Viola’s pupils demanded there be a clock in a classroom – otherwise she wouldn’t enter the room.


Chess with its meticulous rules appeal to some ADHD-patients, and strengthen their ability to stay focused. Many ADHD-patients also need private space, even when in a social space, and the tipi in the background could accommodate this need.


In the next part of their session, Milo and Viola divided us into three teams, Red, Blue, and Yellow, and we were asked to enter the similar colored boxes/spaces set up in the south end of the sandbox. We all got note cards with case-scenarios each describing someone with ADHD. Our task in the boxes was to identify learner needs and write them in a shared document.


Petter and I writing in the typewith.me-doc that was shared among the 3 groups enabling us to see real time what the other groups were writing.

One of the concerns Milo and Viola expressed with regard to using SL in relation to their specific target group was the amount of information that the SL-user constantly is expected to cope with. To exemplify this they asked us to go to a freebie store and see if we could find and buy some doors ….


A typical example of a Freebies Store

and another example, which also includes sounds and animations  Tropical Paradise Designs


Lots of screen info – tuff .. not only for ADHD-patients …

Next stop on the tour was the holodeck on the Danish Vision island. In the setting below ADHD-patients could practice social and communication skills in a safe environment.

We ended the tour visiting the Al Andalus Mezquita, which could be used in teaching more general life skill and as a setting for discussing different perspectives on culture, religion, life, and death.


Al Andalus Mezquita

Finally we all went back to the sandbox for the feedback session. Through this highly packed program Milo and Viola splendidly showed how the space in SL can be transformed into meaningful teaching and learning places, and we all appreciated their effort to use different features in the environment such as audio-visuals and shared media. The connection between pedagogic underpinnings and practical use of the medium was very strong and well reflected. Furthermore, Milo and Viola clearly demonstrated how an educational setting could be designed with free objects found in various freebie shops in-world.

This was the fourth and final student presentation in the course – and I do think that Milo and Viola managed to leave us all with a very good impression of the teaching and learning potentials of SL – not only in relation to ADHD-patients, but in general.

/Mariis

Cooperative Learning in SL

Since December 5th 2010 I’ve been running a course in SL with 11 adult students from the Danish Master Program on ICT and Learning (MIL). The purpose of the course has been to introduce SL as teaching and learning medium based on a combination of literature studies and in-world activities. As part of the assessment criteria the students are expected to present a pedagogic analysis of SL. One student is working on her own, whereas the remaining 10 students have formed four groups; 1) Tree Crown, 2) milis, 3) MIL-Health, and 4) MILOVIOLA. The students have two hours in-world to do their presentations in designated sandboxes, and the analysis should meet the following criteria:

  • Address pedagogic design questions related to a target group of their own choice – all students are somehow working with teaching/training
  • Include a problem formulation – PBL is the pedagogic foundation of the course
  • Consist of a combination of theoretical issues transformed into practical activities in-world
  • Demonstrate knowledge of SL by using a min. of two locations during the presentations, and by using in-world objects
  • Demonstrate mastery of in-world features and objects by including an interactive element, where the presenting group teaches their fellow students something relevant to the analysis
  • Include time for peer-feedback and reflection on the experience (of presenting and teaching their peers in-world)

On Tuesday January 11th students Yaz Aldrin, Petter Gearbox, and Yann Soz from the “Tree Crown” group did their presentation.


Tree Crown Group: Petter Gearbox, Yann Soz & Yaz Aldrin

Teaching and learning in SL can be challenging due to technical issues, and throughout the course the students have been confronted with some of these issues – mainly related to voice- and lag problems. On this particular evening new technical issues arose. Approximately one hour before the group was supposed to start their presentation, I logged in-world to see if they were all set. The group had been allocated our regular sandbox on the Wonderful Denmark island, but as we were standing there talking about their presentation Linden Lab sent out a message stating that the region would be closed down within 5 min. due to maintenance. Luckily, we have access to several sandboxes in the course, and I decided we should go to one on the Innovative Learning island that VIA College kindly has lend us. Having never experienced this kind of technical problem before, the three students managed to stay calm, and set up their presentation screen in this new sandbox, and send out notice to the rest of the students that the start location had been changed. Despite the general confusion and due to the change of start location all students managed to find their way to this new location, but as the group started their presentation the sandbox got griefed which meant that our computer screens turned grey, froze, and eventually we were all logged out.


My screen turning grey and freezing …

Fortunately, one of the students in this class, Inge Qunhua, is an experienced land-owner, and Inge managed to get rid of the griefer and his objects so that we could all return, and the group could finally start their presentation entitled “Didactic Analysis of Cooperative Learning in Second Life”.


Finally ready to present in VIA College’s Sandbox

One of the students in the group, Petter works as a secondary school teacher, and has been experimenting with the concept of Cooperative Learning and Kagan Structures, which has been developed by Dr. Spence Kagan. Characteristic of this teaching and learning concept is its ability to promote pupil/student engagement through structured activities. Below is a short video-introduction:

Given Petter’s positive experience with this concept in real life classrooms, the Tree Crown group decided to investigate how this concept could be applied in a medium like SL.


The group’s problem formulated as a question of what will happen when Cooperative Learning is remediated into SL.

At the core of Cooperative Learning are so-called Kagan Structures that can be described as patterns of interaction between pupils/students, and after a short theoretical presentation of the foundation and principles behind these structures, the group had decided that we should try out one of the structures called Partners. To engage in this structure the group divided their fellow students into pairs, which then were divided in two groups, A and B. Both groups were given landmarks to separate locations and were asked to teleport off to explore these locations.

Group A was asked to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau, and engage in the different dances available there.

Group B, which I followed, was asked to go experience the effects of a tsunami on NOAA/ESRL, Virtual Island, Meteora.

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After exploring these locations, we all returned to the sandbox. Here the students were asked to find their partners and go back to the locations to discuss their findings, and they were instructed how to use voice-calls in pairs. Back in the sandbox once again, the Tree Crown group elaborated on the applied Partner structure, their pedagogical considerations regarding the planning and organization of this activity, and finally asked their fellow students to reflect upon the experience.

Throughout their presentation Petter, Yann and Yaz skillfully transformed central theoretical points into SL activities and dialogue, and we all got the sense that Cooperative Learning could be applied in many ways in SL. Given the relatively short amount of time the students have spent in-world, I was quite impressed by the way they kept their calm despite the technical difficulties, the way they had organized their presentation, and how they managed to guide and instruct their fellow students.

/Mariis

In-world presentation @ “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0” conference

Friday November 5th, I was invited to speak at a Polish organized in-world conference about “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0“.


Conference site at the Second UMCS island

The conference was organized by colleagues from different departments of Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskie – some of whom I’ve previously worked with in the EU funded research project COMBLE. I was very pleased to get the opportunity to talk about some of my findings, and there were some great questions and comments on especially immersion and media convergence.


Talk about the new assessment method I implemented in my 3rd research cycle.

As promised to the participants, I’m hereby uploading my presentation.

Special thanks to Raf Moczadlo for inviting me :-)

/Mariis

SL presentation in the Danish Ministry of Science

On Friday October 15th, a total of more than 200 museums, churches, exhibition halls, galleries, political institutions, and other venues will open their doors in connection to the annual “Night of Culture” that has been a Copenhagen event since 1993. As part of this event, the Danish Ministry of Science has asked me to participate by presenting research, teaching, and learning in SL.

The event will run from 6PM until midnight (local time), and I will be in the Ministry together with one of my MIL-students, Inge Knudsen, from Business College, Horsens.Inge is a highly experienced SL educator and builder, who has run in-world courses on English, Chinese and Cultural Understanding among other things and last year she won the Danish Research Network’s annual Innovation Prize because of her work in SL.


Inge and I discussing part of her presentation for the “Night of Culture”.

In-world we will be accompanied by MIL alumni, Per Christensen and two of his close colleagues, Nicolai Green Hansen and Erik Hansen – all from VIA University College. Per and his colleagues are currently preparing for a cross-cultural collaboration with a Chinese University on their island Innovative Learning, where it is also possible to see and experience another build that last year won the Danish Ministry of Education’s annual e-Learning award.


Nicolai and I discussing part of their presentation for the “Night of Culture”.

We are all still in the process of planning this event, and there are several challenges. The Ministry has put together an extensive program (in Danish) including lots of interesting activities all night. This means that it is impossible for Inge and I to foresee how many guests will find their way to our presentations. Last year approx. 1000 guests participated in the Ministry’s activities.

We have two rooms at our disposal, and so far we’ve planned for one of them to be the “Teaching and Learning Room”, while the other will be the “Presentation Room”. In the “Teaching and Learning Room” planned in-world session with Inge and Per will run twice the hour, and guests in this room will be able to participate via guest-avatars. In the “Presentation Room” several computers with logged in guest-avatars will enable guests to explore and participate in different in-world places/events covering education, business, art, music, RL rebuilds and not least places/builds NpIRL. Inge and I will oscillate between the two rooms, and in between scheduled sessions, we’ll be available for questions and discussion of the many, different research, teaching, and learning potentials of a medium like SL.

We are also in the process of preparing note cards covering all sorts of topics, events and locations – and I encourage other SL residents to send me (Mariis Mills) suggestions of interesting locations/events. The entire event will take place from 9AM – 3PM SLT. Putting together a program for a 6 hours in a row event is quite daunting, and I personally find that the biggest challenge lies in trying to convey a sense of meaning of SL for RL-guests just passing by…

When we’re done planning, I’ll update this post with SLurls to locations where it will possible to join us in-world.

/Mariis

UPDATE – program

Most of the activities are directed towards the RL guests visiting the Ministry – and they will be in Danish. However, Inge Qunhua will do her sessions in English too, if anyone asks her. Inge will teach the audience how to introduce themselves in Chinese and there will be general lessons in understanding the Chinese culture.

Inge’s sessions will take place on her Island, Danish Visions. The first session starts at 10:30 AM SLT, and she will repeat it every hour until the last one at 2:30 PM SLT.

In between Inge’s sessions there will be live music and other activities on her Island.

For those interested in the Danish VIA-session please have a look in the group “Kulturnat 2010”, where you find all sorts of notices with LMs and further details on the in-world program.

In one of the two rooms in the Ministry, we will, starting at noon SLT, be streaming from Pop Art Lab, Claus Uriza – and later on we’ll visit The Yard Club, where there will be “Open Mic” with Torben Asp.

SLurl to Pop Art Lab

SLurl to The Yard Club