In November 2016, I finally managed to hand in my dissertation, and earlier this week I received the preliminary assessment, which was positive insofar as the assessment committee unanimously recommends that my dissertation should be accepted for public, oral defence – BIG YAY :-)
The defence will take place at Aalborg University in Copenhagen (AAU-CPH) on January 26th 2017 . The assessment committee consists of the following people:
- Professor Thomas Ryberg, Aalborg University (chair)
- Professor Nina Bonderup Dohn, University of Southern Denmark
- Professor Sîan Bayne, The University of Edinburgh, Great Britain
My PhD-supervisor, Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Aalborg University) will moderate the defence, which is set for three hours:
The abstract of my dissertation reads as follows:
The purpose of this study is to understand and conceptualize the transformation of a particular community of pedagogical practice based on the implementation of the 3D virtual world, Second Life™. The community setting is a course at the Danish online postgraduate Master’s programme on ICT and Learning, which is formally situated at Aalborg University. The study is guided by two research questions focusing on the participants’ responses to the avatar phenomenon and the design of the course.
In order to conduct and theorize about the transformation of this community of practice due to the 3D-remediation a research-led Action Research approach has been chosen to enable research with focus on both actions and critical reflections carried out in four consecutive research cycles from 2007-2011. 53 master students, one main teacher (the author), and several guest teachers have participated in the study. The findings are predominantly based on analysis of asynchronous student discussions in FirstClass™ (1.104 postings) and synchronous participant observation in Second Life (130 hours). A Grounded Theory-inspired approach has been used to generate and analyse the data in this study, meaning that no predefined theoretical framework was used to guide the design of the research cycles from the onset of the study. However, as the research progressed more and more elements from situated learning and the communities of practice theory influenced the design.
The study has demonstrated the importance of the avatar as pedagogical design element given that it is through the avatar the participants identify themselves and others, create meaning and experience learning in the virtual world. Furthermore, the findings show that the avatar cannot be understood devoid of context, devoid of other pedagogical design elements.
In summary, the study contributes with knowledge about 3D Virtual Worlds, the influence of the avatar phenomenon and the consequences of 3D-remediation in relation to teaching and learning in online education. Based on the findings, a conceptual design model, a set of design principles, and a design framework has been developed.
The preliminary assessment is 3 1/2 pages long and includes a summary and a critical evaluation of my dissertation. In my lecture, I will present my research while trying to address some of the critique given by the committee. Based on the evaluation, I anticipate a discussion of some of the following topics:
- The concept of virtual/virtuality
- My literature review strategy (State-of-the-art review)
- My analytical strategy, Grounded Theory (GT) and the role of theory in GT
- Insider research and positionality
- The differences and similarities between Action Research (AR) and Design Based Research (DBR)
- The Communities of Practice framework
- The challenge of using learning theory for pedagogical design (and perhaps a discussion on the difference between anthropological and psychological perspectives on learning and education)
- Socio-cultural vs. socio-material theories and approaches to understanding the world (of education)
- The status and future of SL and other 3D virtual worlds in education
I’m currently in the process of preparing my defence, and I have to admit that I’m somewhat nervous. The main text of my dissertation is approx. 250 pages long, so there are a lot of issues to consider. I am, however, hoping that I will be able to put aside this nervousness and enjoy the whole thing. It truly is a unique opportunity to discuss some of the issues I care deeply about with some very clever people :-)
Since December 5th, 2011 I’ve been running a PD class with students from the Master’s Program on ICT & Learning (MIL) at Aalborg University, and in order to pass the course, the students were asked to do in-world team presentations on the teaching and learning potential of SL. On Wednesday January 25th, Team E had to do their presentation, and this is the final post describing the students’ presentations. Background information on the course/the presentation task can be found in the post describing the first presentation, and here are links to the second, third, and fourth presentations.
Team E and their focus
Team E’s members, Anina & Happytown are both K-12 teachers, and one of the challenges they have experienced in relation to teaching Physics in RL, is that the pupils often find it to be a boring subject matter, and so they wanted to investigate the possibility of using SL to design for fun and engaging activities, leading to the following investigation question:
How can physical activities be remediated in Second Life?
Well knowing that SL doesn’t allow for users below 16, Team E made a point out of explaining how their work should be seen as a pilot test for later exploration in a closed environment in Open Sim.
Team E’s sandbox
Just as the previous four teams, Team E also had a sandbox available from December 9th, 2011, and the pictures below reflect the progression in their work.
A couple of days later on December 19th this shape – looking like The COI model – appeared.
Just a few days before the Midway presentation Team E’s sandbox still looked quite empty on January 1st, but we were in for a big surprise :-)
During their midway presentation on January 3rd, Team E showed us examples of how physics can be applied in SL.
Team E’s presentation
Team E’s agenda looked like this:
- Reflections on our design – What have we been thinking?
- Visit to Oddprofessor’s Museum and Science Center
- A heavenly closure in the sky
Team E made extensive use of the shared media feature throughout their presentation, and chose to show their slides on one of the clouds. The tricky issue with shared media is that each user sees the displayed media individually and so the start and stopping point of a video differs. However, Team E had sent out instruction prior to their presentation and after further elaboration in-world, everybody seemed to be on the same “slide”. The team explained how they had wanted to investigate Bolter & Grusin’s concept of remediation and use it to redesign some exercises from an existing instructional design from a Physics class.
As part of Team E’s design strategy, they had chosen to remediate the activities in the exercises in a respectful manner drawing on RL examples, and then remediate the setting in a more radical manner based on a Heaven-Hell analogy. By drawing on different aspects of the remediation continuum, Team E wanted to design authentic exercises that would stimulate their target group’s learning and engagement due to the more fun and interesting surroundings.
After this brief introduction to their design ideas, Team E went on to explain about the exercises that the other teams had to do, and we were asked to follow the “highway” and enter Hell …
With some help from my co-facilitator, Inge Team E had designed four sound-proof rooms, one for each team, that all contained three different exercises. For each exercise, different information was displayed as text or videos, and the teams had to complete at least one exercise, and write the results in shared documents.
I didn’t manage to visit all teams, but all of them seemed to be fully engaged in the exercises, which was no surprise with the great designs and devilish teachers:
After the exercises, it was time to resurface and go back to Heaven.
The Stairway to Heaven.
Back in the clouds, Happytown and Anina returned to their investigation question and elaborated on some of the theories (Wadley, The COI-model) they had used to support their work. Based on Nielsen’s work, Team E spoke of the necessity of the users’ ability to use their imaginative powers to feel immersed in an environment such as SL, and about the need to design for active knowledge construction via in-world artifacts.
For the mandatory tour outside the team’s own sandbox, Team E had chosen Oddprofessor’s Museum and Science Center, and we were asked to go there and explore the many fine examples of interactive objects and activities for further inspiration. The place has been created by Oddprofessor Snoodle who uses it to teach Physics/Chemistry for deaf students, and the place is filled with fun and engaging learning activties.
Back in Team E’s sandbox, it was time for reflection and feedback.
Team E had wanted to show us, how SL can be used for teaching RL Physics, and I think they made a very convincing case. Their ambitious design impressed all of us, and it was a pleasure to witness such a good use of many of the features in SL. Anina & Happytown really have embraced SL, and their enthusiasm shone through their presentation, making many of us wonder what we could have learned, if only we had had the opportunity to learn Physics this way! In summary, Team E provided us with a very fine closure of this course on the educational use/potential of 3D Virtual Worlds :-)
This is the third 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, and here’s the link to the second post. On Thursday, January 19th Team C had to present their analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment.
Unfortunately, this session was shattered by technical problems; approx. half of the participants, incl. members from the presenting team and I, had huge lag and/or audio problems. Hence, this post is based on whatever I could pic up via the text-chat, my co-facilitator’s feedback, and the materials Team C had prepared for the session.
Team C and their focus
All of Team C’s members are working with teaching at some level in their organizations, although they have different work backgrounds as Teacher and Educational consultant, Special Ed Teacher, High School Teacher, and finally as a Pacemaker Technician/Nursing Specialist and educator. For their presentation, Team C had agreed to focus on how SL could be used in teaching History:
How can History lessons at High School level be facilitated and remediated through a virtual 3D-medium such as Second Life?
Team C’s target group was junior-high students (thus assuring they’d all meet the legal SL user age limit) with some SL experience and a fair amount of History knowledge.
Team C’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 C’s sandbox:
December 28th also showcased Team C’s investigation question on the use of SL to teach History at High School level.
January 15th; Like some of the other teams, Team C needed more space, and started building on the sides of the sandbox.
Team C’s presentation
Prior to their presentation, Team C sent out information in SL and in our regular 2D-platform. As part of this material, they sent out an invitation to a “Junior-High” class, which was a very appealing way of setting the scene for their presentation, and they received a lot of positive comments from their fellow class mates. Team C’s agenda looked like this:
- 8:00 PM: Take a tour of the sandbox to familiarize yourself with the setting, take a seat in The Arena.
- 8:10 PM: Welcome, short introduction to the agenda for the “class”, and short introduction to historical periods and locations in SL.
- 8:20 PM: Field trip to The Etruscan Museum
- 8:40 PM: Briefing regarding the second field trip in Team C’s sandbox
- 8:45 PM: Field trip to ROMA
- 9:05 PM: Wrap-up of the field trips and the “class”
- 9:20 PM: Team C’s reflections on history lessons in Second Life
- 9:45 PM: Evaluation and feedback
Team C welcomed us, pointed our attention to the agenda on the wall, and then explained that we would get a brief overview of the two historical periods that this “class” would cover. At this point, several participants already had lag and/or audio problems.
The field trips were designed as exploratory tours, where the “students” should gather information, take pictures, and collect freebies. After the field trips the students had to present their findings to the rest of the “class”.
One of Team C’s members, JoeChipmunk, also had audio-problems, and I stayed back in their sandbox to see if there was anything I could do to help. Despite numerous relogs, preference check and so forth nothing really helped, and JoeChipmunk finally encouraged me to join the field trip to The Etruscan Museum, while he stayed and tried to solve his problems.
Arriving very late at the museum, I didn’t really get a good sense of what was going on, and I only took a few pictures.
Team C’s Stinafish at The Etruscan Museum.
As part of the Ars Novalis Virtual Shipyard, there’s a Danish Viking ship in memory of the founder of Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, Ole Crumlin-Petersen (1935-2011).
At approx. 8:40 PM, Team C asked us to go back to the team’s sandbox for further instructions for the next field trip. At this point, I began experiencing heavy lag, and several of the other participants also complained about various technical problems. Nonetheless, we headed off to the next destination; one of SL’s oldest historical rebuilds: ROMA (SPQR) . Arriving at ROMA, I could hardly move and I finally ended up stuck in a wall and decided to relog. Since that didn’t help, I went back to our class sandbox, and here I realized that my speak-button was no longer active. For the next 20 min. or so I tried shutting down my computer, reinstalling SL, I tried the Firestorm Viewer, and relogging – but nothing helped. Meanwhile, JoeChipmunk’s speak came back, but two other members of the team now had inactive speak-butons, as did several of the other participants.
The “lucky” participants, with no technical problems, later said they had experienced the session as one of the most smooth in technical terms. Fortunately, my co-facilitator, Inge was one of the lucky ones with no problems, and the following 4 pictures were taken by her.
Back in Team C’s sandbox, the other teams had to present their findings from the two field trips.
Back in Team C’s sandbox, the “students” had to present pictures and objects from their field trips.
ROMA is a no-speak island, and so several of the participants did not realize that they had audio/speak problems until they came back to Team C’s sandbox. At this point, Team C wrapped up the first part of their session, where we, the audience, had acted as High School students, and now they wanted to focus on their theoretical considerations and design choices in relation to their investigation question and overall theme. One team with audio problems solved it by transmitting one member’s sound via Google Plus, others tried Skype, and from the presenting team only sjostakovitch and JoeChipmunk had voice, and so this final part of the session was a very frustrating and disruptive experience. At this point, I want to acknowledge the resilience of Team C, I was very impressed with their willingness to try to continue and finish their session despite all the technical problems!
Again because of all the problems, I didn’t manage to document this part of the session in detail, but from the team’s manuscripts and the text-chat, I know that Team C, based on their investigation question, started to explain about some of their theoretical inspirations (Dewey and Dede), and they had some very thoughtful concerns regarding the target group’s possible acceptance of/and behavior in a medium such as SL.
Team C had also been inspired by the COI-model, and the different types of presence.
Inspired by the COI-model, Team C had planned to register indications of the three types of presence during their session, but Team C’s Stinafish, who was in charge of this part, unfortunately also had different technical problems, and I’m not sure if she managed to do so, and anyway at this point in the session, she had no voice. On the positive side, the two Team C members with voice, were able to fill in based on the teams well-prepared manuscripts, and this was another indicator of the team’s thorough preparation of their presentation.
Team C’s sandbox was a good example of a respectful remediation NpIRL
The team’s lead designer, JoeChipmunk had some interesting reflections on some of the challenges you face, when trying to replicate our past as the team had tried to do in the sandbox. The point of departure for the sandbox design had been a respectful remediation strategy, but with the target group in mind, the team had also decided to add “mystical” elements such as the rainbow, animated animals, air floating ships, and giant posters. JoeChipmunk also explained, how he had been forced to consider the authenticity of the different objects (e.g. did this kind of plant/animal exist at that point in time/in that part of the world), and in this sense, building in SL had sharpened his perception of history, validity of sources etc.
Despite all the technical problems, there was no doubt that Team C had prepared a very good and interesting presentation. Needless to say, the technical problems completely overshadowed their efforts for those of us experiencing problems, and it was so sad and unfortunate that the team members also had problems and didn’t get to present their hard work in the way they had envisioned. All of us felt terrible for the team, and many of Team C’s classmates sent them supporting comments in our regular 2D (and very stable!) platform afterwards. Having been in SL for almost 5 years now, I have come to expect occasional technical break-downs, but I have to say that this was my worst SL experience ever. Throughout the course, I monitor the students’ activities closely, and I know just how much work they put into these presentations – it’s simply amazing! So to have such a terrible outcome was really, really sad.
We’re still not sure as to why we had so many problems, but it seems to be a combination of Internet instability (at least for some of us with a certain Internet provider in certain areas of the country), and local island problems. The speak problems continued the day after, but were resolved after Inge restarted the island. Next team is scheduled to present tomorrow, and we are crossing our fingers ….