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

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!

/Mariis

Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley

This is just a brief post to explain that I’m currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley (UCB). I arrived on March 29th and have been spending the past two weeks getting accustomed to my new environment. I’m here on a four month grant offered by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at UCB and the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI), which is an institution under the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Professor Ruth Tringham from the Dept. of Anthropology is my faculty host and besides working at UCB I hope to also visit other universities in the area. I’ll be working on the concept of remediation in an effort to refine and most likely reform my model(s) for remediating people, places and practices – and needless to say future posts on this topic will follow…

I first discovered Professor Tringham back in 2008 when I read an article she had written together with colleagues Ashley and Mills on remediating places, and I had the opportunity of meeting her f2f in SF last August when I was attending the SLCC’09.  Tringham and colleagues also have been using SL and meet regularly with their students on their research island, Okapi.


Mariis on Okapi Island – a remediation of  Çatalhöyük, a 9000 year-old Neolithic village located in present-day central Turkey

I’ll end this post by expressing my personal gratitude to three people in particular:

:-)))

/Mariis

#vwbpe 2010 – 2nd day impressions (part two’ish)

Continuing my reflections on the 2nd day of the VWBPE-conference the next session I participated in was on “Rapid Development of Interactive Educational Content in Virtual Worlds: From Analysis to Evaluation”– a panel consisting of DoctorPartridge AllenFirery Broome, Quincy Solo Sherman Gustafson, who shared their experiences with content development. The panel spoke of their work with “Immersive Learning Simulations” (ILS) and the premise was stated in the abstract, which can be found here in the programme;

Emerging technologies in Immersive learning, like Second Life, afford us significant opportunities to explore new mechanisms for educational interaction, but they also present us with a wealth of new challenges. A common theme with the adoption of such technologies is that we are recycling older technologies rather than genuinely leveraging the tools and resources exposed by the new technology. This panel is composed of people who have been confronting this challenge, and working diligently to embrace both the new immersive learning technology and to fully utilize the new features and facilities inherent in those technologies.

I always find it highly inspirational to hear other instructional designers talk about their approach and their theoretical foundations, and a couple of things struck me in this. First of all there seems to be growing consensus on using the term “immersive” to describe the main affordance of technology/media like Second Life. I understand the need to distinguish Second Life from other types of virtual teaching and learning environments, but I find the use of “immersive” somewhat problematic. If by “immersive” we simply refer to a sense of “being in a place” as opposed to the less concrete “space” concept, I agree that virtual worlds like Second Life can promote this sense, but it is only a potential, not a given. I’ve had students in all my in-world courses that didn’t feel immersed at all, but this is also a matter of how you define “immersive” and something I’ll return to in later posts. Secondly, I agree with the panel that there are two major strategies for the technology/media adoption namely “recycling” and “genuine leveraging the new affordances” – two strategies that I refer to as respectful vs. radical remediation and have incorporated in my model for 3D-remediation of people, places and practices.

When describing their work the panel referred to the ADDIE model, one of the most common instructional design models that resembles the classic Action Research cycle of planning, acting, observing and reflecting – especially if continual feedback is applied i.e. through the use of RAD.

After I started writing this post my Mac broke down again – this time apparently for good – and sadly I hadn’t taken any backup of my vwbpe-photos or notes, so the rest of this will be based on memory (hence the ‘ish in the title).

The next event “Learning in 3D: A New Educational Dimension” with Abbott Bundy & Wada Trip was something I had been really looking forward to. When I did my first lecture on SL back in the fall 2007 I relied heavily on the work – primarily blog postings – of both Abbott & Wada and I’ve been following them on a regular basis ever since. Based on the abstract for the session it was clear that they would talk about their book “Learning in 3D. Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration”, and since I haven’t read it, I found it quite interesting – the session is archived here on Treet.tv.

Afterwards Abbott wrote a post on his experience stating that he had seen the future of conferencing – in many ways I tend to agree that participation through 3D Virtual worlds can replace RL participation, but I think it’ll be quite some time before the larger part of at least the academic society will follow and it also requires a whole new outlook on identity validation. So many people I meet tell me they would never take an avatar serious. Essentially Abbott & Wada talked about instructional design, principles and practices and demonstrated a model they’ve come up with and I definitely need to have a closer look at that. They also mentioned Light Sequent, who also contributed to the book and who wrote a Masters Thesis on “Learning archetypes as tools of Cybergogy for a 3D educational landscape: a structure for eTeaching in Second Life.” It is worth noticing that they use the word archetype in a non-jungian way, and more as some sort of  characteristic traits of pedagogical practice (building blocks i.e. instructional strategies, methods for facilitating learning) – a bit confusing, I think, but I need to read the book to learn more…

Another much anticipated session was conducted by my two friends Chimera Cosmos & Spiral Theas, who presented their work with “Learning in a Virtual World: Using SL for Medical Education” – slides can be found here. There’s also a recording of the session here, but as you can hear the sound wasn’t terrific, especially Spiral’s voice was breaking up. Based on a pilot study on Continuing Medical Education, that they did together with colleagues and 14 participant family practice physicians (described in an article here) Chimera & Spiral presented some interesting results and also showed us how they had been experimenting with the use of mock avatars in role-playing. At a certain point Chimera logged in (via another computer) as the diabetic patient, Mariana Hexicola and started communicating with the audience. From the post Spiral wrote afterwards it was evident that they deliberately wanted to show, not just talk about, the things they had implemented in the pilot study.


Pictures kindly provided by Spiral show the overweight, diabetic patient, Mariana interacting with the Professor as part of the pilot study.

The study proved some highly interesting results with participant improvement in clinical skills, but what also was fascinating, was the participants’ rating of the experience in SL as they all agreed that the experience was superior to other online methods, and the majority felt that the SL method was as good as, if not better than, f2f methods. Having read the above mentioned article, I’m quite sure that the success stems from a very deliberate instructional design strategy, which addressed the participants’ needs not only as learners of a particular subject matter, but also as users of SL. Even though it is a small study, I think it supports the growing body of studies done by especially natural scientists in virtual worlds very nicely, and the article is well worth a read even for educators in other fields.

After this, the next session I wanted to attend was on “Creating a Positive First Hour Experience“, which of course is highly relevant, but as the presenter decided to do his session in text only, I decided to skip it. SL simply doesn’t appeal to me without voice … I might as well read a regular text in my own pace. Instead I decided to get some sleep before attending the last session (at 5 am in Denmark), which was by another friend of mine, Tab Scott who has been actively teaching and researching in SL since 2005.

RL Tab is Director of Creative Research Lab at Montana State University and Tab presented some of the many projects the lab has been involved in since 2005 and also gave some hints as to where they are heading in the future – there’s a recording of the session here. A central keyword of the CRLab is collaboration, and when Tab first entered SL is was to investigate whether SL could be used as an environment to support collaboration, and well they’ve been using it in teaching architecture and arts classes successfully ever since. One of the many things I appreciate about Tab’s philosophy and approach to using SL is that he doesn’t see it as a stand-alone technology. Now, first of all there’s a very pragmatic reason for that, namely the stability of the environment. As Tab mentioned using SL back in 2005 (and even when I entered in 2007) could be really frustrating due to technical issues, constant updates of the viewer, maintenance etc. The stability of SL has improved a lot, but there still is a risk that you or your students will have technical problems, so a backup plan is highly recommendable. (i.e. Chimera and Spiral had Skype as backup as part of their instructional design). But I think a more appealing reason for not using SL alone stems from the fact that even though the core of the environment is 3D, the more interesting uses (naturally depending on your goals) often come when combing it with other 2D technologies such as SNS, shared documents and streamed media and at the CRLab they work with the concept of PLE’s thus trying to ensure that the students become media literate in a broader sense. Given that most new users find the learning curve in SL pretty steep, I think it makes perfect sense to include some more familiar technologies that also can help reduce the alienation some new users experience.

At the CRLab collaboration goes way beyond university and even state and county boarders, and another of Tab’s points was that we as in-world educators need to help each other validate the use of SL. I agree and I think that even though educators have been tirelessly using SL for many years now, it still is an emerging technology and in my point of view we have yet to pass the early adopter phase. Someone in the audience, who had been using SL for three years, mentioned that his problem wasn’t to get the students to use SL, but rather the rest of the faculty – and this is definitely something I can relate to.

Having a conference like this vwbpe – with proceedings expected in May 2010 – certainly is a good way of spreading the message and thus hopefully convincing more educators to at least have a go at using SL. I spent two great, inspirational and meaningful days participating in this, and my only regret – just like at RL conferences – is that I missed so many other interesting sessions. But unlike most RL conferences, many of the sessions were recorded:

All sessions on Treet.tv
All sessions on Metaworld

/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