Case MIL09: Student analysis of SL – part 2

Lizzie & Jorn

Lizzie & Jorn, who were in charge of the second didactic analysis in the MIL course, had decided that we should start out by exploring a particular design which then would form the basis for their discussion and reflections, so we went to Teaching 4 – Iowa State University, CELT, where Thursday Xu has created a model of Wenger’s Community of Practice (CoP):

The model has been created as a kind of spiral shaped staircase and as you move up floating text with key concepts central to the theory appears. Other than that there seems to be no apparent interaction possibilities with the model.

After exploring the model we all went to Media Learning, where Lizzie & Jorn had been able to make use of a presentation setting owned by another (first year) MIL student, Inge Qunhua, who is an experienced and award winning SL teacher.

As part of their presentation Lizzie & Jorn started by analyzing the CoP model and I think it is safe to say that none of them or any of the other students was impressed by the model – above all due to the lacking interaction possibilities. My role in these discussions was mainly to listen and observe and it was quite interesting in this case because I did not agree with the students. During the MIL course we have visited other theoretical designs that are based more on interaction between the design and the avatar. Right next to the Cop model, Thursday Xu has created a build of Bloom’s taxonomy, where questions regarding the theory are posed in the local chat as you move your avatar around in the model and we have also been exploring Zotarah Shepherd’s MI build where the avatar can play instruments or solve a mathematical puzzle as examples of the different intelligences and the MIL students clearly preferred these more interactive designs.

In my opinion interaction doesn’t necessarily equal learning. I don’t think my understanding of musical intelligence is enhanced solely because my avatar can be animated to play drums though I recognize that the fun engagement and activity may play an important role in the memorizing process, but there is so much more to learning than just memorizing. In line with Wenger, I believe that negotiation as part of the creation of meaning is essential to the learning process and in this sense my pedagogical foundation obviously is dialogic and I tend to agree with Wegerif. 2006 who finds that one of the goals of education, perhaps even the most important goal, should be dialogue as an end in itself.

Judging the quality of designs for teaching and learning is however very complex and I think that one of the first things you need to clarify is whether the design is intended for single- or multiple-user purposes. In the case of the latter you of course also need to consider the role of other participants and e.g. a facilitator. Lizzie & Jorn found that the CoP model was a “stand-alone” model and therefore they didn’t find it interesting, but as part of their analysis they had also created a suggestion for an alternate CoP model to be used with their particular target group; dental hygienists. This imaginary model was presented as sketches drawn by Lizzie and put emphasis on 3 of the core concepts from the CoP theory;  mutual engagement, shared repertoire and joint enterprise:

By the end of their presentation Lizzie & Jorn also invited us to join them in trying to place the two CoP models within a third model, namely the model created by former MIL student Carsten Storgaard as I’ve referred to earlier in this post. It turned out to be quite difficult, but started an interesting discussion on models and their usability in general.

Afterwards in their reflections in FirstClass, Lizzie & Jorn, mentioned how difficult it is to teach when you’re unable to see the facial expressions and body language in general – the chat (text/voice) becomes crucial in environments like SL in order to get the sense of not talking to an empty space. One of the things Lizzie & Jorn also criticized about the CoP model was the lack of a place for discussion in the model if you’re in a lager group, but in hindsight they concluded that the need to gather (f2f) in order to discuss is more psychological stemming from our RL habits than practical, since there is no other reason to do so in SL where you always can communicate via group chat regardless of distance. They also felt that their presentation had raised more questions than answers, which for someone who believes in the value of unfinished dialogue was good to hear …

Besides the fact that I was really surprised by all of the students’ lacking recognition of dialogue as main means of learning, I do think Lizzie & Jorn did a great job and we all had a very interesting experience. It is, nonetheless difficult not to mention the irony of the situation; the students really criticized the CoP model and its apparent disability to promote learning, but judging from the discussions and the comments during the session it turned out to be an event with both challenging and meaningful negotiation of several of the topics in the course ;-)

/Mariis

Case MIL09: Student analysis of SL – part 1

As part of the MIL course this year the students could choose to do their didactic analysis of SL either asynchronously in FirstClass or synchronously in SL, and 6 out 8 students chose the latter. Regardless of mode the students were asked to investigate 5 elements of particular importance when dealing with didactic analysis; Didactics (understood as theoretical foundation) and target groups, Orientation and navigation, Interaction, Learning processes and Audio-visuals. All of the students received the Zebra presenter and could use the sandbox to arrange the setting for their presentations, but they were also encouraged to find tools and places on their own. Each presentation was set to last approx. 2 hrs. and judging by the comments from all the students who chose the SL format, the analysis thus ended up feeling like an oral exam. In this and upcoming posts I’ll present some of the students’ findings and reflections.

Perlo & Francine


EduIsland 4: Practice classroom

First up were Perlo & Francine who had found a free practice classroom for trainee teachers at one of the EduIslands. Perlo & Francine had chosen to prepare their analysis as a streamed video which we were able to watch via the presenter in the classroom. As foundation for their analysis they had chosen the Didactic Relation model and the target group was adult students at a Teacher College studying religion. The purpose of using SL should be to conduct field studies that would otherwise be impossible to do in real life within the given college settings. Perlo & Francine envisioned using SL as part of a blended learning environment where they would include a wiki for the students’ asynchronous reflections and also f2f activities e.g. workshops aimed at teaching the students how to use SL.

One of the advantages Perlo & Francine pointed out about SL is the way the medium allows the user to change perspective, not only via camera controls, but rather because of the avatar phenomenon that enables the user to have a detached, 3rd person view on him-/herself and the activities/interactions in the environment. Conversely they also pointed to the other pole in the participation-observation continuum, where – provided you feel immersed or attached to your avatar – you would be able to participate (almost) like a native in different cultures. This change of perspective and the ontologically challenging question of being present or not was underlined by the way Perlo & Francine chose to present their thoughts as themselves in the video, but displayed on a screen and discussed in-world as avatars.

Despite their enthusiasm about SL as teaching and learning medium, they also worried about especially technical challenges, the fact that most communication in SL is in English and the rather vast amount of time that is needed to get to know SL sufficiently so that the students actually would be able to use SL as intended. Nonetheless, they did find the possibility to do field studies via SL to be really appealing and worth trying out, and they are currently preparing a course that’ll be running in the beginning of 2010. After the presentation we visited a couple of the religious places that would be relevant in their course:


The Kaaba at IslamOnline


Looking at The Black Stone – something NpIRL for non-muslims …


Praying at The Cijian Temple

Afterwards Perlo & Francine reflected on the experience in FirstClass and they both focused on the many things – especially technological – that you need to pay attention to when teaching in-world. Compared to f2f they found it more difficult to control and mange the activities, make sure everybody understood their instructions and when touring making sure nobody got lost. These are quite typical impressions from initial teaching experience in-world – but don’t worry –  it does get easier in time :-)

/Mariis

Case MIL09: Didactic Design Discussion – 1

In the MIL course my co-facilitator Mew Aeon and I currently are running in SL the students are expected to analyze SL as teaching and learning environment, and in order to stimulate the students’ critical reflections we have prepared 4 discussions on different topics related to ICT-based Didactic Design. Last night we had the first discussion and for this I had prepared some slides (in Danish) focusing on two main topics; the field of Didactics and target groups.

8 students are enrolled in the course and since 3 of them did not have the possibility to participate in our recent f2f kick-off introductions  I had decided to repeat some central points. First of all there is the term ICT-based Didactic Design, which my colleague, Professor Birgitte Holm Sørensen from the Danish School of Education defines like this:

The process by which the purpose, the goals and the content is determined, and where the planning, the organization and the arena for teaching and learning is shaped based on theories and in relation to ICT-based practice in a context.

Via course readings the students are introduced to various didactic theories and models – one of the latter being the so called Didactic Triangle (usually attributed to German Pedagogical Philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart 1776-1841) that depicts the basic relationships between teacher – content – student. Though all of us can agree that the field of Didactics includes more elements than the relationships in the Didactic Triangle it does, in my opinion, highlight the fundamentals and creates an excellent starting point for discussions on some of the key issues in Didactics.


Key issues in Didactics: content and actors

Now, what I find particularly interesting when you combine ICT with Didactic Design is that ICT not only serve as materials but also as arena or “room” for teaching and learning –an aspect which clearly is amplified when using 3D virtual technology like SL.  Most MIL students can be characterized as being tech-savvy educators/trainers for whom it is relevant to further enhance their competencies in integrating ICT in their practice and we naturally ended up discussing what impact especially web 2.0 tools/services will have on the way we think and practice didactics.

As I see it Web 2.0 tools/services have the potential of changing our perspectives and thus practices regarding:

  • Users – both the students and the teachers with regard to relations/roles/responsibilities
  • Participation – as we shift from consumption to (co-)production
  • Multimodality – new possibilities to design for teaching and learning processes
  • Networks and connections – from local to global citizenship
  • Knowledge management – both from an information and communication perspective and with regard to security and ethics


How does web 2.0 change the way we think and practice didactics?

For the last decade the Danish pedagogical debate has been focusing on learning and learners (in opposition to teaching and teachers) – and this shift in perspective has been highly welcome and much needed. On the other hand this shift seems to have placed the role of the teacher in some sort of vacuum (are teachers obsolete in the future as polemically stated by David Gelernter ?) making the challenges related to especially ICT integration more difficult and complex than necessary. When discussing target groups we therefore also encourage the MIL students to carefully consider the roles of the teachers. Much as anticipated we did not reach any solid conclusions on any of the topics, but I do believe the discussions inspired the students and I’m looking forward to the next session later this week.

As part of our focus on target groups who could benefit from an environment like SL, we ended the night by visiting Health Info Island, including The Path of Support and finished off by investigating the Virtual Guide Dog.

/Mariis