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SL as learning environment for Midwifery education

This is the fourth 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, and the third post.  On Monday, January 23rd Team D had to present their analysis of SL as teaching and learning environment.

Team D and their focus

Team D; tomsteff, danamaia, mouritzen & Saxodane.

Just like the previous presenting teams, Team D’s members come from very different backgrounds working as College Teacher and IT-consultant, Midwife and Educational consultant, Assistant Engineer and AV-Lab consultant, and finally as Cooperate Psychologist and HR-consultant. danamaia was already familiar with some of the people behind the SLenz Virtual Birthing Unit-project, and the team decided to further investigate the use of SL as a supplement in Midwifery education leading to the following investigation question:

How can immersion facilitate Midwifery students’ learning of clinical skills and competences in a 3D-mediated learning environment?

Team D’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 D’s sandbox:

December 17th; Team D has set up a shared media screen.

January 1st; Team D’s sandbox now only contains my building instructions …

However, a few days later on January 4th Team D’s building process has really taken off.

And a week later on January 11th, Team D’s sandbox is starting to get filled up with a nice addition of phantom walls based on transparent/green binary codes.

January 12th; Plywood here, plywood there – the basic building material of SL now seems to fill up Team D’s sandbox.

January 13th; The Matrix inspiration continues with the addition of a video-trailor for the movie.

On January, 20th part of the sandbox has been removed in the NW corner.

A closer look of the interior of Team D’s sandbox on January, 22nd.

Team D’s presentation

 Team D’s agenda and investigation question on display.

Team D’s agenda looked like this:

  • Intro
  • Historical perspective on 2D and 3D
  • The psychology of immersion
  • Learning in Plato’s cave
  • Didactic Design
  • Tour
  • Reflection/discussion
After we were welcomed in the team’s sandbox, Team C’s mouritzen gave us a brief overview their investigation question and of some influential games/systems in the field of 2D/3D VR/VE.

Posters with some of the influential games in game history,

and Cisco’s TelePresence system .

We were then asked to move up-stairs where Team D’s Saxodane literally walked us through Wirth et al.’s model of Spatial Presence that focusses on the construction of a mental “spatial situation model” as a prerequisite for a satisfactory user-experience in new media and VR-technology.

Team D’s representation of Wirth et al.’s Spatial Presence model.

By the end of Saxodane’s talk we were asked to take a step forward, the floor disappeared, and voila!:

… we were now prisoners in Team D’s Matrix/Plato-inspired cave!

In the cave, Team D’s tomsteff, made a very interesting comparison of Plato’s cave allegory, SL, and Beaudrillard’s thoughts on Simulacra and Simulation.

Plato’s cave allegory displayed on the walls in the cave – meta-meta?

Evidently, ontological questions on reality/virtuality/hyperreality come to mind when entering an environment such as SL, and tomsteff challenged us to consider what impact such issues would have in relation to learning.

Presence and learning – what’s the relationship?

Based on Qvortrup, tomsteff reflected on different kinds of knowledge forms in SL.

Next up was Team D’s own Midwife, danamaia, who gave us a nice introduction to the Midwifery-project in order to set the scene before visiting the place. The project has been well documented, and it was very interesting to hear about some of the research results, and not least how participating students had reacted to the project.

Team D’s danamaia explaining the didactic design behind The Birth Place (displayed on the walls) based on Riis’ model on the floor.

MIL11 students gathering in front of  Te Wāhi Whānau/ The Birth Place .

We were asked to take a tour and explore the premisses. The place is highly informative with many clickable objects leading to the extensive wiki and other materials.

Up-stairs danamaia explained the role-play that two students had to try based on materials from the purple pyramid.

Anina volunteered to become pregnant-in-a-click.

Even an avatar-pregnancy can be exhausting!

Anina gave the tub a try, but no luck in delivering the baby there …

With the help of “midwife”, JaneOlga Anina finally gave birth to a boy :-)

Big congrats from the cheering crowd …

Due to time constraints, we were not able to explore the role-plaing possibilities in full detail, but we did get a good impression of the potentials. After the successful birth of a new Netizen, we all went back to Team D’s sandbox, where Saxodane wrapped-up their presentation.

Saxodane presenting Team D’s final comments on SL as learning environment.

Team D has has had a strong focus on games throughout the course, and as I told them, I don’t think comparing and judging SL too much based on gaming theory/practice is appropriate. In my experience, the absence of a gameplay makes SL a very different VE – especially in terms of teaching and learning potential. Nonetheless, there were many fine elements in the team’s presentation and in their design, and once again, I think we all ended up having a very good and fun joint learning experience.

MIL students celebrating Team D’s presentation with some wine,

… and some dancing :-)


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 :-)


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.

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 ;-)