Implement a Program, sure, but LIVE the philosophy

eduwin-twitter

image source: http://www.edudemic.com/eduwin/

At the end of the day one of my students was packing up to go home and had a huge smile on her face.

me: How was your day, C?
C: Amazing!
me: Really? Amazing? What made the day amazing for you?
C: People.
me: You have some good people in your life here at school?
C: Absolutely!

C. has a lot going on in her life and school is a place of amazingness for her. I don't believe that making school an amazing place for everyone is a matter of chance, or luck. Here is another interaction I overheard in the hallway:

TA: Hey J. you weren't here yesterday... how are you?
J: Good
TA: Missed you yesterday, glad you're here today!
J: Thanks

Simple exchange with single word responses from these middle years kids, but here's why it's meaningful to me:

  • that staff that doesn't normally work with that student,
  • there are more than 600 students in my school yet the TA still noticed

Every student should be valued, we should notice when they're away and appreciate when they're back. It's people that make school "amazing" and we are all important people in setting and maintaining a positive culture, and climate.

Programs like Restitution, or Positive Behaviour for Learning can get us started down that road, but the underlying philosophy needs to be absorbed into our own beliefs, thoughts, and responses. Living the philosophy, more than implementing a program, will contribute to the amazing school experience I want for all our students, and ME for that matter!

Literature Review: Professional Learning Networks

This literature review on professional learning networks was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Learning Technologies & Organizations at the George Washington University.

Introduction

Organizations seeking to leverage the unique skills and knowledge of individual members create communication, collaboration, and information sharing networks. Formal networks let members share knowledge within a secure space while protecting sensitive information. While developing employee skills these networks are intended primarily to serve the interests of the organization. Individuals may also seek out information and opportunities for collaboration for a variety of reasons. Connections within and outside their organization are intended primarily to serve their own professional interests. The people and resources used to pursue these interests are referred to as Professional Learning Networks.

Social media has emerged as a platform for serious work and professional engagement; Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis offer a platform for interaction with others on a global scale. PLN’s offer a learning community perfectly suited for social constructivist approaches to learning (Dede, 2008). Increasingly, connected professionals are creating informal, self-directed, self-managed Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) using social media to improve practice, engage in professional dialogue, encounter current innovations and trends, and advance their careers. A PLN’s malleability makes them unique to each participant serving different purposes at different times (Carmichael, Fox, McCormick, Procter, & Honour, 2006).

While it seems self-evident that skills developed outside the organization could, directly or indirectly, benefit the larger enterprise[i] (Checkland, 1994), the extent to which that is the case is unknown. Do organizations benefit when members pursue independent self-directed professional development within a PLN? If there is benefit, how can an organization promote, encourage, members to participate in a PLN? While the concept of PLNs is applicable to any enterprise, the focus here is on education professionals.

Literature Review

Perceptions

The Web 2.0 infrastructure offers content that can be filtered by learners, accessed through their own choice of tools, and responded to in a variety of media. While most educators acknowledge the benefit of Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning (Pritchett, Wohleb, & Pritchett, 2013), it is not unusual for some to dismiss or ignore its use for their own professional learning (Carmichael, Fox, McCormick, Procter, & Honour, 2006). Educators engaging in professional development are, themselves, learners and applying understandings of social learning theories to their own professional development, can see benefit in engaging with social media.

PLN’s imposed on members by an organization are less likely to succeed than those created by the participants themselves. O’Brien (2008), Appleby & Hillier (2012), and Lightle (2010) each found that while some participants saw value in the networking endeavor, many were suspicious of the organization’s motivations and expressed privacy concerns about the network. While the learning network was carefully planned by committees of administrators, network participation was imposed on educators who had little input, experienced restrictions regarding topics, were somewhat cynical about the initiative, and adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

Top-down directives such as that observed by O’Brien (2008), Appleby & Hillier (2012), and Lightle (2010) fail to acknowledge participants’ diverse learning needs and their need to exercise some control and self-determination over their learning experience. Dede (2008) describes learning as a “human activity quite diverse in its manifestations from person to person, and even from day,” (Dede, 2008, p. 57), and points to technology’s ability to accommodate many different learning approaches.

Many recent editorials and opinion articles in peer-reviewed journals promote social media as a context for self-directed PLNs. Church (2012) points to the a PLN’s capacity to morph to meet the professional’s changing needs and address emerging issues. Ongoing engagement with a carefully curated PLN can, for example, address required interventions and growth opportunities identified from performance evaluations. In this context, the participant is sees the PLN as a means to a single specific end.

Couros and Hilt (2011) anecdotally describe how their PLNs contribute to professional growth, provide a forum for reflection and feedback, and create a sense of community and connection with educators around the world. For them, the PLN reflects one’s individual professional needs and interests and is an end in itself.

Benefits of a PLN

As much as a PLN is about ideas, it is primarily about people. For individuals in unique job roles, in small schools, in isolated work environments, or in challenging situations, a global PLN offers a point of connection to teaching/learning resources and, more importantly, to human resources: people with whom the participant can interact (Sie, et al., 2013).

Its’ malleability means that each participant can make the PLN serve different purposes in supporting, teaching, and learning roles. Participants can, individually, or at once, provide information, offer professional development, collaborate, offer feedback, lead change, research, learn, and advocate (Hughes-Hassell, Brasfield, & Dupree, 2012).

Sie (2013) worked with individuals with self-directed PLNs and identified several benefits broadly generalized as information exchange, personal connections, and career management.

Connections between PLN participants  may be mutually beneficial where there are two-way lines of communication like a conversation. Other connections are one-way where a participant receives a connection’s communications, but reciprocal communication is not enabled, like a lecture. Both forms of connection can be beneficial. Connecting to a prominent thinker will make the thinker’s material available to the participant, while the thinker may not be interested in the participant’s contributions. “Latent ties” (Ranieri, Manca, & Fini, 2012) such as thee connect ideas with those that want them.

Two-way connections fall on a continuum of weak to strong. Weak ties characteristically provide access to information and focus primarily on idea exchange while strong ties add an element of emotional fulfillment and serve to deepen understanding and engagement (Hanraets, Huselbosch, & deLaat, 2011). Whatever the nature of the connection, there can be benefits to the participant. Because the composition of a self-directed PLN is determined solely by the individual and there are no binding obligations to others in your network and unproductive connections can be dropped and new connections added.

Designing a PLN

For the Individual

Twitter is the platform of choice for day to day engagement with a PLN (Church, 2012) (Lightle, 2010) (Perez, 2012) (Ranieri, Manca, & Fini, 2012) (Veletsianos, 2011) supported by more in depth and permanent products like blogs, nings, and wikis (Lightle, 2010). Individuals will search for other people and content based on their own needs (Woods, 2013) and follow, subscribe, and register to participate on social media platforms with which they are comfortable or willing to learn. Woods (2013) describes how an individual’s self-directed PLN connections can cross disciplines and philosophies bringing diversity that stimulates deeper thought and exposure to ideas in different contexts.

Given the variety of tools available to curate content, PLN participants have the ability to customize not only their content, but their interface.  Several applications are available to view Twitter feeds and RSS readers collect new content from subscribed blogs.

For an Institution

As mentioned, attempts to impose learning networks on educators have met with underwhelming success. Participant surveys and studies of previous attempts to create organizational PLNs reveal strategies to increase the success of mandated learning networks:

Ownership and Self-Determination – Make the PLN meaningful by letting participants identify their own needs and interests, use their own devices, and choose platforms and apps they are familiar with (O'Brien, Varga-Atkins, Burton, Campbell, & Qualter, 2008). This engenders a sense of trust between the institution and the participant. Because individuals have choice and flexibility with their networks, it can morph with their needs and interests over time without requiring structural or organizational change. This makes it more meaningful and relevant as time and circumstances require.

Openness and Personalisation – Allowing participants to connect with others both within and beyond the enterprise increases the pool of potential connections (Harvey, Marina & Huber, 2012). This is particularly important for specialists and those in isolated or small organizations. Learning networks that are too small or too narrowly defined are less responsive (Sandars & Langlois, 2005), can establish rigid identities, and cannot evolve as needed to sustain relevance (Barab, et al., 2007). While participants use PLNs for professional engagement, sharing mundane personal details also contributes to the strength of network connections. Points of common interest are also points of possible contact: participants may begin a conversation with the mundane and move on to work-related topics (Veletsianos, 2011).

Support and Training – Facilitators can help participants articulate needs, identify content, and connect with people and ideas without being directive or imposing. Organizations can create a climate of acceptance and introduce opportunities that highlight the benefit of a PLN (Hanraets, Huselbosch, & deLaat, 2011). With increasing comfort participants may want training on new tools or explore new social media settings to expand their PLN. Additionally, some users may benefit from instruction in social media communication such as how to craft short messages, or respond to blog posts (Hanraets, Huselbosch, & deLaat, 2011).

Sustaining a PLN

While consuming information from a PLN provides the participant with resources and up-to-date information on their areas of interest, contributing to the conversation gives the participant an opportunity to express ideas, add points of view, and share information. Importantly, it also requires the participant to read, understand, process, reflect, and articulate understandings. As both consumer and contributor, the participant is likely to experience a stronger sense of connection and support in addition to more meaningful professional growth (Spradley, 2008)

A survey of teachers using social media by Ranieri, Manca, & Fini (2012) reveal that PLNs with a diverse population and wide ranging interests are more beneficial to the participant than those with a specific content focus. With heterogeneous connections the participant is better able to filter and identify applicable people and resources to meet emerging needs.

A robust PLNs should have at least 200 connections (Terrell, 2009), that regularly populate the participant’s feed with resources, timely responses, and insight into the state of the field on any given day. Perez (2012) offers the following strategies for maintaining a robust and meaningful PLN: Actively manage connections; add and drop to fine tune the content flow. Participate and cultivate a professional profile. Use aggregation tools to bring the variety of PLN sources into one window, and use mobile devices to stay connected.

Brief messages and exchanges such as those on Twitter often point to more detailed explorations of a topic in the form of blogs or wikis. Dickinson (2012) promotes digital publishing for positive self-reflection and professional engagement. A thoughtful online post or article extends the conversation long after the writer has completed the piece. Such writing contributes to the body of knowledge and resources upon which others may draw in the context of their own PLN.

Understanding PLNs

A PLN affords opportunities for professional engagement beyond the usual work day. Independent of time zones, a well-curated PLN is available 24/7 offering a context for professional engagement and reflection with an audience as narrow or diverse as one chooses. Using social media for the PLN means it is possible to connect with colleagues without disruption to usual routines and engagement can happen within the participant’s own work context (Appleby & Hillier, 2012).

The value of such networks to the individual is anecdotally clear (Couros & Hilt, 2011) and measurable evidence of engagement with PLNs reveal a variety of motivations and benefits for participants (Sandars & Langlois, 2005) (Sie, et al., 2013) (Veletsianos, 2011), but determining the value to the organization is harder to measure. Harvey, Marina & Huber (2012) suggest that a PLNs value is something sensed rather than measured, that independently motivated and engaged members are more likely to be motivated and engaged with their work but quantifying the impact on the organization is challenging. Efforts to understand learning networks led researchers to identify measurable elements including the strength, and content focus of connections (Sie, et al., 2013) and the nature of individual relationships within and amongst content clusters (Carmichael, Fox, McCormick, Procter, & Honour, 2006).

Directions for Future Research

Effects on participant learning

The unique nature of PLNs challenges standard measures of learning. Performance on standards tests comparing students that created and engaged with a content-specific learning network to those that did not may serve as an indicator of the PLNs effectiveness. For educators, research could examine qualitative changes in lesson preparation, delivery, and assessment before and after engagement with a PLN. Examining an individual’s message content over time may reveal evolution of thought patterns while blog posts as expressions of understanding provide evidence of growth.

Effects on teacher effectiveness

Standards test results over time could be correlated with teachers’ PLN engagement though there are myriad other influences on test results it would be hard to isolate the PLN’s effect. More revealing may be anecdotal reports from workplace colleagues of the participants’ professional cachet or evidence of positive and progressive professional engagement

It would also be interesting to qualitatively understand the kind of content and contributions associated with different media. Twitter’s 140 character limit, a blog’s single-author unlimited post, and an open ever-changing wiki invite different types of engagement and studies may reveal the extent to which that content correlates to quality or depth of understanding.

Summary

Recommendations and observations from the research cited generally indicate that individual PLNs are most effective when:

  • it contributes to meeting personal and organizational goals
  • it is populated by a large and diverse community with wide ranging interests
  • balanced with face-to-face opportunities for engagement
  • participants actively manage connections
  • participants both consume and contribute

Organizational PLNs are most effective when they accommodate the conditions above, and:

  • serve a clear purpose though the purpose may change,
  • are self-directed but may receive support,
  • are independent of work obligations though may be work-related,
  • are acknowledged by the organization as a valued professional activity
  • are supported but not directed by a facilitator
  • social media communication strategies are developed
  • demonstrate openness, integrity, and trust with the participant

Conclusion

An effective Professional Learning Network reflects the larger professional community. With a large enough pool of connections, participants are bound to find the information, resources, and supports needed to attenuate challenges, grow professionally, and pursue innovations in the field.

The literature is quite clear that that imposing or mandating participation in a PLN will be met with resistance and attempts to limit conversation is likely to undermine hoped-for outcomes. An organization wishing to encourage PLN participation is well-advised to create a climate of acceptance, and a culture of openness and sharing amongst members with supports for individuals wishing to participate.

That self-directed participants are so enthusiastic about their PLN speaks to their perceived value. It is easy to argue that creating opportunities for professional engagement outside the traditional workspace will lead to greater engagement and better performance within the workspace. PLNs make ongoing professional development an easy reality, one that is being lived by increasing numbers of educators for their own benefit and that of their students.

 

Bibliography

Appleby, Y., & Hillier, Y. (2012). Exploring practice - research networks for critical professional learning. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(1), 31-43.

Barab, S., Zuiker, S., Warren, S., Hickey, D., Ingram-Goble, A., Kwon, E. J., . . . Herring, S. (2007, September). Situationally embodied curriculum: Relating formalisms and contexts. Science Education, 91(5), 750-782.

Carmichael, P., Fox, A., McCormick, R., Procter, R., & Honour, L. (2006, June). Teachers' networks in and out of school. Research Papers in Education, 21(2), 217-234.

Checkland, P. (1994, Sep/Oct). Systems theory and management thinking. The American Behavioral, 38(1), 75-91.

Church, A. (2012, November/December). Making performance-based evaluation work for you: A recipe for personal learning. (M. Naso, Ed.) Knowledge Quest, 41(2), 38-41.

Couros, G., & Hilt, L. (2011, May/June). Social media as a professional tool. Principal, pp. 36-38.

Dede, C. (2008). Theoretical perspectives influencing the use of information technology in teaching and learning. In J. Voogt, & G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (Vol. 20, pp. 43-62). Springer US.

Dickinson, G. (2012, November/December). Professional learning networks through publishing. (M. Naso, Ed.) Knowledge Quest, 41(2).

Hanraets, I., Huselbosch, J., & deLaat, M. (2011). Experiences of pioneers facilitating teacher networks for professional development. Educational Media International, 48(2), 85-99.

Harvey, Marina, & Huber, E. (2012). Expanding the horizons of professional learning: A foundations alumni network. Asian Social Science, 8(14), 19-27.

Hughes-Hassell, S., Brasfield, A., & Dupree, D. (2012, November/December). Making the most of professional learning communities. (M. Naso, Ed.) Knowledge Quest, 41(2), 30-37.

Lightle, K. (2010, November/December). Using social media to build an online professional learning netorkd of middle level educators. Knowledge Quest, 39(2), 48-53.

O'Brien, M., Varga-Atkins, T., Burton, D., Campbell, A., & Qualter, A. (2008). How are the perceptions of learning networks shaped among school professionals and headteachers at an early stage in their introduction. International Review of Education, 54, 211-242.

Perez, L. (2012, January/February). Innovative professional development: Expanding your professional learning network. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), pp. 20-22.

Pritchett, C. C., Wohleb, E. C., & Pritchett, C. G. (2013, March/April). Educators' perceived importance of Web 2.0 technology applications. TechTrends, 57(2), 33-38.

Ranieri, M., Manca, S., & Fini, A. (2012). Why (and how) do teachers engage in social networks? An exploratory study of professional use of Facebook and its implications for lifelong learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 754-769. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01356.x

Sandars, J., & Langlois, M. (2005). Online learning networks for general practitioners: evaluation of a pilot project. Education for Primary Care, 16, 688-696.

Severance, C., Hardin, J., & Whyte, A. (2008, April). The coming functionality mash-up in personal learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(1), 47-62.

Sie, R. L., Pataraia, N., Boursinou, E., Rajagopal, K., Margaryan, A., Falconer, I., . . . Sloep, P. B. (2013). Goals, motivation for, and outcomes of personal learning through networks: Results of a Tweetstorm. Educational Technology & Society, 16(3), 59-75.

Spradley, M. (2008). Dialogue within professional learning communities and its impact on the professional growth of teachers in the elementary school setting. (Order No. 3342444, Walden University) ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/288043812?accountid=11243

Terrell, S. S. (2009, September 30). PRESTO: How to build your PLN on Twitter. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7ekj_Ys4FM

Veletsianos, G. (2011). Higher education scholars' participation and practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28, 336-349.

Woods, B. (2013, November 8). Building your own PLN. T+D, pp. 70-73.



[i]   Checkland (1994) suggests people are quick to express the most ethical answer to a question. For example, when asked who is the beneficiary of an educational initiative the initiator will respond, “the students, of course” when, in fact, the initiative may benefit the initiator most directly. In the same vein, when asking who is the beneficiary of PLN engagement, the ethical response is, “the consumers of enterprise efforts” when the most immediate benefits may be to the PLN participant himself.

 


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Learning Technologies and Organizationsand Developing Multimedia Materials.

Understanding and Creating Professional Learning Networks (Video Abstract)

This video abstract on developing professional learning networks was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Learning Technologies & Organizations at the George Washington University.

Hanraets, I., Hulsebosch, J., & de Laat, M. (2011). Experiences of pioneers facilitating teacher networks for professional development. Educational Media International, 48(2), 85-99. doi:10.1080/09523987.2011.576513

O'Brien, M., Varga-Atkins, T., Burton, D., Campbell, A., & Qualter, A. (2008). How are the perceptions of learning networks shaped among school professionals and headteachers at an early stage in their introduction? International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft, 54(2), 211-242. doi:10.1007/s11159-008-9084-1

Sie, R. L. L., Pataraia, N., Boursinou, E., Rajagopal, K., Margaryan, A., Falconer, I., Sloep, P. B. (2013). Goals, motivation for, and outcomes of personal learning through networks: Results of a tweetstorm. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 16(3), 59-75.

Veletsianos, G. (2012). Higher education scholars' participation and practices on twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 336-349. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00449.x


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Learning Technologies and Organizationsand Developing Multimedia Materials.

How on Earth do you know that?!

Crossword (PSF)Gathered around the NY Times Crossword every morning in the staff room before heading to class we would collectively work our way through the entire puzzle. Few of us could solve Thursday or Friday’s puzzles on our own, but together we were pretty successful.

One colleague was famous for knowing some of the most obscure answers and, when asked how she knew that, her response was always:

Oh, you know… I live in the world… I pay attention.”

My students reflect not only on their content learning but also on their work process, project planning, implementation strategies, and management outcomes. The goal is to help them develop a sense of presence (living in the world) and observation/reflection (paying attention). Rather than focusing on linear, predictive models of the world, we develop a capacity to see and analyse the chaotic world around us. In this way we can accommodate the unexpected, embrace innovations.

Understanding "Performance Support" (Infographic)

This infographic on Performance Support was written as part of my participation in the graduate course Learning Technologies & Organizations at the George Washington University. It summarizes chapter 6 of Beyond E-Learning by M. J. Rosenberg on Learning and Performance in the Context of Work. Click for full-sized image.

Click for full size (1024x5933)

Click for full size (1024x5933)

 

 


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Learning Technologies and Organizations and Developing Multimedia Materials.

Multimedia Design for Learning: Selected Articles

This work was done in anticipation of my work in the graduate course Developing Multimedia Materials at the George Washington University.

Design-based research: designing a multimedia environment to support language learning

Hung, H.-T. (2011). Design-based research: designing a multimedia environment to support language learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 48(2), 159-169.

Design based research is intended to be dynamically responsive to a learners’ needs in the given learning environment through iterative design, implementation, and assessment of theoretical research.

Using the term “multimedia” to refer to the range of available content, storage, programs and devices, Hung (2011), a researcher in English language learning, explored a multimedia language learning experience using video recordings to reflect on learners’ own oral presentations to assess their personal skills. In addition, the author sought to implement and analyse multimedia design principles proposed by Moreno (2006) and Chapelle (2005).

The author concludes with six guidelines that blend the two works and serve to guide multimedia development efforts:

  1. The input principle: comprehension is mediated through technology and instruction
  2. The output principle: learners produce representations of their understanding
  3. The noticing principle: learners employ technology tools to analyse their own learning
  4. The reflection principle: learners employ technology tools to reflect on their own learning
  5. The interactivity principle: learners employ technology to engage with people and content
  6. The multimedia principle: technology provides context for engagement with content

 

Creating a ripple effect: Incorporating multimedia-assisted project-based learning in teacher education

Seo, K. K., Templeton, R., & Pellegrino, D. (2008). Creating a ripple effect: Incorporating multimedia-assisted project-based learning in teacher education. Theory Into Practice, 47, 259-265. doi:10.1080/00405840802154062

The authors of this study are all involved in teacher education and explored attitude and skills development in multimedia use within the context of project-based learning (PBL) experiences. Requiring their students to design and develop multimedia projects, the teacher candidates were immersed technically, pedagogically, and socially. It is widely held that visual representation and interpretation of information is an essential skill; engaging in multimedia projects as consumer and producer fosters skill development with those communication tools.

The authors explore the benefits of multimedia in the context of PBL noting that the students are learning the course content in addition to developing skills with digital communication. For teacher education, this approach better prepares the learner for their own experiences in the classroom when they have their own students. Exposure to a variety of multimedia tools during teacher education contributed to increased comfort with the tools, and an increased likelihood that the tools would be employed for learning in schools. Additionally, the experience shifted thinking in teaching styles; teacher candidates could more easily accommodate the conceptual and practical shift from teachers as deliverers of information, to students as creators of knowledge.

 

Design and Implementation of a 3D Multi-User Virtual World for Language Learning

Ibáñez, M. B., Garcia, J. J., Galán, S., Maroto, D., Morillo, D., & Kloos, C. D. (2011). Design and Implementation of a 3D Multi-User Virtual World for Language Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 14(4), 2-10.

Recognizing that language learning is best accomplished through social engagement in a natural context, the authors explored the affordances of 3D virtual worlds (3D VWs) to meet this end. Using Open Wonderland, an open source virtual world authoring tool, Ibáñez et al (2011) generated virtual spaces with interactive objects, automated conversation agents, and social spaces for engagement with peers. In this context.

The authors first describe the kinds of activities best suited for 3D VWs including simulations, public events, collaboration, situated learning, role playing, and problem based learning. They go on to describe design considerations and processes in generating the interactive space and agents. Audio prompts and interactions can be anchored to a particular space or object, allowing learners to experience language situated in a context that aids comprehension.

Because of the social nature of the virtual learning space, learners generated unique avatars to serve as interaction agents within the virtual world and also contributed to the learners’ sense of social presence. The authors also tested immersive display and input tools but found they added a layer of complexity to the experience that hindered, rather than supported learning.

 

Can multimedia make kids care about Social Studies? The GlobalEd Problem-Based Learning Simulation

Ioannou, A., Brown, S. W., Hannafin, R. D., & Boyer, M. A. (2009). Can multimedia make kids care about Social Studies? The GlobalEd Problem-Based Learning Simulation. Computers in the Schools, 26, 63-81. doi:10.1080/0738056080268299

This paper explores a foundational question about multimedia in education: does it make a difference? While research supports the claim that multimedia makes information available and allows for communication in more diverse ways, it is less certain about positive impacts on learning achievement. The authors compared the learning experience of students engaged in an activity in which access to multimedia resources was controlled.

Results demonstrate that both groups learned and could demonstrate understanding of the content with the multimedia group scoring marginally higher than the text-based learners. Interest in the subject was not statistically different between the groups, nor was there any significant attitude difference toward the learning experience.

The authors acknowledge that the small sample size and inability to control some elements of program delivery across research sites may have generated flawed outcomes; they cautions about generalizations.

 

Cultural interpretations of the visual meaning of icons and images used in North American web design

Knight, E., Gunawardena, C. N., & Aydin, C. H. (2009). Cultural interpretations of the visual meaning of icons and images used in North American web design. Educational Media International, 46(1), 17-35.

The authors examined culturally influenced interpretations of menu icons from academic websites finding that intended meanings can be skewed or obscured when viewed through a cultural lens. Starting with an examination of how icons function symbolically, abstractly or representationally, they go on to explain how icon interpretations, as long as they fall within proximity of the intended meaning, will have served their purpose.

This study revealed that cultural impact was greater for icons intended to communicate affective meanings than it was for commands or processes. These influences reflect culturally different understandings of social stratification, individuality, gender, time-sense, and social morays. Balancing this is the emergence of a global internet culture in which shared understandings of icons is beginning to transcend these cultural interpretations. Nevertheless, this research supports the use of icons with simple conceptual representations; these are more likely to be culturally interpreted within the range of intended meaning.

 

Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education

Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R. E., & DaRosa, D. A. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education. Medical Education, 45, 818-826. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.03988.x

It is reported in this empirical study that learners experiencing multimedia materials reflecting Mayer’s (2008) design principles demonstrated improved short-term memory over the control group. Measures of retention and transfer showed no statistically significant difference. The article includes examples of slides used in both test and control scenarios offering a useful visual comparison of test and control materials.

 

Analysis of elementary school web sites

Hartshorne, R., Friedman, A., Algozzine, B., & Kaur, D. (2008). Analysis of elementary school web sites. Educational Technology & Society, 11(1), 291-303.

The authors analysed elementary school web site content and describe broad categories of content found and some design features observed. They offer a checklist for both design and content to guide new site creation and improving existing sites.

Generally, elementary school websites share information about the school, share student work, provide resources for stakeholders, and offer data for internal and external use. Hartshorne et al rated elementary school web sites using a criteria checklist (included in the appendix) intended to target exemplary design and structural issues, and content elements as well as some general site considerations.

They determined that most elementary school websites fall short in some areas and would benefit from improvements as detailed in their checklist. Additionally, the authors offer procedural guides for web site development including a shared understanding of the website’s function and purpose, planning for current and future needs, use of accepted web design principles, usability, and communication affordances.

 

Emotional design in multimedia learning

Um, E., Plass, J. L., Hayward, E. O., & Homer, B. D. (2012). Emotional design in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(2), 485-498. doi:10.1037/a0026609

Whereas learner emotion can add to cognitive load and interfere with learning, positive emotions may contribute to a heightened state of receptivity thus enhancing learning. The authors sought to determine if positive emotions could be evoked either prior to, or as a function of multimedia design, such that learner achievement was positively impacted.

In the experiment, either a positive or neutral emotional state was evoked externally as a function of a series of statements, or internally as a function of multimedia design. Examining learner achievement after evocation of the emotional state revealed positive effects in some cases.

In summary, inducing positive emotions during learning through positive emotional multimedia design had a positive effect on comprehension, transfer, mental effort, maintenance of positive emotional state, as well as perceived ease and perceived achievement.

These finding stand in opposition to other research suggesting emotional state introduces a cognitive load that can negatively influence learning. The authors offer their population of motivated students at a prestigious university as a possible factor limiting generalizability of the findings. They suggest that emotional design is worth pursuing and encourage further research into the topic.

 

A framework for Web 2.0 learning design

Bower, M., Hedberg, J. G., & Kuswara, A. (2010). A framework for Web 2.0 learning design. Educational Media International, 47(3), 177-198.

The introduction of Web 2.0 enabled easy interactivity amongst users making the internet a much more social and collaborative space. This article examines a variety of Web 2.0 tools and aligns them with elements of teaching and learning including content, pedagogy, modality, and synchronicity.

Technology is seen as the medium for information transmission relies on human engagement to bring meaning and purpose. Pedagogically, information can be transmitted and discussed, and used as a foundation for solitary or collective knowledge building. The Web 2.0 tools employed to engage with people and content are categorized and described in terms of their relation to different pedagogical approaches and learning strategies.

The authors also propose a design process by which Web 2.0 tools can be effectively matched to content, pedagogy, and representational modalities.

 

Using multimedia and Gagne's Instructional Design to enhance teaching and learning in a student-centered environment: A Malaysian experience

Neo, T.-K., Neo, M., Teoh, B., & Yap, W.-L. (2010). Using multimedia and Gagne's Instructional Design to enhance teaching and learning in a student-centered environment: A Malaysian experience. International Journal of Instructional Media, 37(4), 365-377.

The authors, in an effort to increase student participation, explored a constuctivist learning model designing an integrated web-based multimedia learning experience mirroring Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction (Gagne &Briggs 1974). Identical test were administered before and after the learning event revealing significant learning gains. A survey of student attitude and experience indicated positive learner satisfaction.

Some notable issues with this study includes a small sample size (n=42) and the absence of a control group against which performance can be compared. Repeating the same fifteen question test before and after learning introduces uncertainty as to the factors contributing to score increases. The student survey included in Table 2 does provide some good points to consider when designing multimedia learning experiences.

 

Effects on learners' performance of using selected and open network resources in a problem-based learning activity

Hsu, C.-K., Hwang, G.-J., Chuang, C.-W., & Chang, C.-K. (2012). Effects on learners' performance of using selected and open network resources in a problem-based learning activity. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 606-623. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01235.x

In problem-based learning (PBL) students explore, research, and determine solutions to the identified problem. PBL encourages student-performed research rather than direct instruction to locate, consume, and process appropriate content. As such, information sources play a critical role; determining whether open searching or searching teacher-curated sources leads to greater learning is the focus of this study.

Students accessing curated information sources spent less time searching and were able to identify and process relevant information more quickly than students accessing open resources. The authors suggest that search proficiency and source validation introduced challenges to those accessing open-resources. Curated systems may use proprietary search interfaces introducing a need for orientation and training beyond the target content.

In conclusion the authors suggest that digital libraries reduce cognitive load for learners allowing them to focus on processing content more than finding and vetting sources. Curating sources for beginners is important and, as learners develop search proficiency and the ability to validate sources, they can move to more open resources.

 

A toolkit for web-based course creation and conversion

Floyd, K., Hughes, K., & Maydosz, A. (2012). A toolkit for web-based course creation and conversion. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(4), 32-39.

With the growth of web-delivered distance learning and recognition that online distance learners are increasingly likely to have the technology and skills required for successful participation, the authors explore considerations for moving traditionally delivered content to online learning spaces.

Surveying existing literature for best practice in asynchronous online course development and project-based learning in higher education. They first determined that online distance learning could be effective citing studies indicating successful learning experiences, retention, transfer, and application as well as high levels of satisfaction. Next, the article outlines five areas to consider when converting traditional learning programs for online delivery. It should be noted the authors focused on highly standardised programs used for state certification and licensure so there was an obligation to maintain a high degree of fidelity to the original program.

The five “tools” recommended by the authors are:

  1. Be aware of web-based students’ performance and perceptions – several studies are summarised wherein it is shown that web-based learning can be just as effective as face-to-face learning.
  2. Create social presence through discussion groups and collaborative outcomes – a student’s connection to the larger learning community is linked to individual achievement and online learning increases participation.
  3. Moderate your presence – the degree and nature of instructor participation in discussion boards can either enhance or hinder discussion.
  4. Include project-based learning – this approach leverages the social affordances of online learning experiences and reflects constructivist learning pedagogies.
  5. Provide optimal feedback – feedback provided too quickly steers dialogue to learner-instructor, too late stagnates dialogue, too intense stifles discussion, just right can nurture and encourage deep discussion amongst learners.

 


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Critical Issues in Distance Education and Computer Interface Design for Learning.

Interface Design Considerations for 3D and Augmented Virtual Learning Environments

This research paper was written as part of my participation in the graduate course Computer Interface Design for Learning at the George Washington University.

Introduction

Emerging technologies broaden the range of tools available for users to communicate, create, and access information. Display devices are no longer limited to computer monitors, projectors, speakers, and printers; the keyboard, mouse and scanner are joined by a growing variety of input devices.

3D virtual worlds are immersive and highly customisable digital spaces in which the user, through the agency of an avatar, engages with rendered objects and spaces. Augmented Reality blends digital data with the physical spaces inhabited by the users themselves. The devices used to access these spaces determine the degree to which a user is immersed in the experience. These range from visual representations on a computer screen, to fully immersive environments that stimulate almost all the senses.

Planning for instruction using these virtual and augmented spaces demands consideration of three factors: the virtual space design, the means of navigation and manipulation, and the interaction devices through which the user perceives the virtual space.

Designing the Virtual Space

3D VLEs support open exploration and collaboration amongst learners. Preparing for learning in 3D virtual spaces involves planning in minute detail not only the instructional design, but arrangement of the virtual space. Whereas a physical classroom already has a defined spaced with furnishings and materials to support teaching and learning, a virtual space is a blank canvas where anything is possible. Because a digital avatar has no need to be protected from the elements, or furnishings to increase comfort, these spaces can be designed specifically to serve the learner achievement of the learning task.

Designing a 3D VLE includes consideration of Knowledge Assets including all information and rendered elements in the Instructional Places within which these assets exist for retrieval and manipulation by the Actors who exercise intention with the knowledge assets and each other (Bouras, Igglesis, & Kapoulas, 2004). The virtual space is the metaphor through which the learner interfaces with the learning material and should reflect the instructional strategy employed (Reeves & Minocha, 2011). Instructional pedagogies will offer familiar learning spaces where content is delivered to the learner. Constructivist pedagogies demand an environment that is rich with embedded content for learners to explore and make meaning. Simulations and role-play reflect experiential pedagogy and offer opportunities for learners to experience content that may otherwise be inaccessible to them. These last two setting take advantage of the unique affordances of virtual learning spaces, but also demand a high degree of authenticity and fidelity to the settings and experiences modeled.

Hanson & Shelton (2008) describe how instructional design will inform the design of the virtual world, level of desired immersion, modes of sensory feedback, and degree of user interactivity when employing a 3DVLE. Unlike physical experiences, every sensory input and output has to be considered and activated to increase learning.

Figure 1: Traditional classroom setup reflects instructional pedagogy.  Image retrieved from http://lindenlab.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/stories-from-second-life-how-languagelab-gave-language-learning-a-new-lease-on-life/

Figure 1: Traditional classroom setup reflects instructional pedagogy.
Image retrieved from http://lindenlab.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/stories-from-second-life-how-languagelab-gave-language-learning-a-new-lease-on-life/

 

Figure 2: Spaces that encourage exploration and discovery reflect constructivist learning pedagogy.  Image retrieved from http://secondlife.com/destination/euclidia-space-planetarium

Figure 2: Spaces that encourage exploration and discovery reflect constructivist learning pedagogy.
Image retrieved from http://secondlife.com/destination/euclidia-space-planetarium

 

http://knowledgecast.wordpress.com/

Figure 3: Simulations and role-play reflects experiential learning pedagogy.
Image retrieved from http://knowledgecast.wordpress.com/

 

 

High representational fidelity can increase a user’s sense of presence within a virtual space. The degree to which a virtual object or space reflects an analogous physical space and the authenticity of interaction will influence the degree to which the learner suspends disbelief and fully engages with those virtual elements (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010).

 

Constructing virtual environments that are beyond the learners’ common experience, such as the interior of a cell, or the surface of another planet reveals additional opportunities not only in the modeling of the environment, but the means of navigation through that space.  How one navigates is as important a design consideration as the physical placement of information in the virtual space (Dillenbourg, 2000). Visual modeling of factors such as friction, opposing forces, and gravity can increase the authenticity of the learning experience.

The elements placed within the virtual space are critical.  Dillenbourg (2000) notes that “… environments where students see the same objects enrich more interactions than that of those where they see each other…” suggesting that even more important to learning and engagement than having avatars is to have purposeful spaces and objects that stimulate communication amongst learners.

In addition to the social opportunities provided by virtual learning spaces, there is need to consider the relationship the user has to the computer.

Tung et al  (2006) explored how a young learner’s awareness of the computer as a responsive player in a learning experience influences how they participate and take feedback from the program. The authors suggest against blatant anthropomorphization suggesting, rather, that subtle social cues built in to computer responses help young learners see the computer as a trusted friend rather than a computer.

Feedback systems in 3D VLEs will also reflect pedagogical approaches. Nelson (2007) defines different guidance strategies for use in virtual learning environments

Tacit guidance reflects the belief that students should construct their own meaning operating in discovery learning mode without direct instruction. Nelson (2007) question whether this is possible in practice as some form of response system will guide discovery toward mastery of a particular learning outcome. However, if the learning outcome is itself how to learn, then the content is secondary and serves as the hook for engagement. In this mode of guidance even the navigation and interaction interface should be self-discoverable through experimentation and observation.

Collaborative Guidance leverages the social affordances of 3D VLEs. Learners co-create, cooperate, collaborate, and construct knowledge in social groups. Such a guidance system will require a space for exploration, a means of engaging in communication and, perhaps, additional spaces within which learners construct models of their understanding (Dickey, 2005).
Reflective Guidance offers prompts and hints that encourage metacognition in learners about both content and learning process. Reflective guidance systems externalise the students' thinking, illuminate a learning path and, possibly, reveal next steps. Nelson (2007) also points out that lack of reflective guidance can hinder learning.

Thornburg (2004) offers a primordial metaphor for structuring spaces, both physical and virtual, that reflect different kinds of cognitive engagement. The campfire space is for story telling or learn from experts. The watering hole is a space for communicating and learning from one’s peers while the cave is a place of solitary meditation where personal schemas are considered. Virtual space design should offer contextual cues as to the function of the space; familiar metaphors such as Thornburg’s can serve an orienting function before proceeding into less familiar and more fantastic virtual spaces.

Command of the Virtual Space

To function within a virtual space, the user must be able to move the avatar through the environment, select and manipulate objects within the environment, and affect change through system commands. (Bowman, Krujiff, LaViola Jr., & Poupyrev, 2001)

Navigation

Even familiar looking virtual spaces can be challenging to navigate because of unfamiliar positioning cues. When considering immersion into unfamiliar virtual spaces, it is most important to have clear spatial positioning feedback for the user (Bowman, Davis, Hodges, & Badre, 1999). Designers should consider using interaction methods that map to familiar models of manipulation, but are reflective of the purpose or intent of the 3D VLE.

Bowman distinguished between travel which is the movement from one place to another, and wayfinding which is the cognitive process of blending intention with action (Bowman, Koller, & Hodges, 1997). User navigation and wayfinding is more effective when accompanied by directional cues, recognizable environmental structure and landmarks (Vila, Beccue, & Anandikar, 2003). A compass or large scale map showing present position are two such navigational tools that provide spatial feedback to the user (Figure 2). Research suggests that gender influences how spatial information from a virtual experience is processed. Males are more likely to navigate using geographical landmarks while women are more likely to use navigational cues available in the environment such as paths and signs (Ali & Nordin, 2011). These tools may also contribute to more successful learning experiences by providing information in more than one form.

Figure 4: Selection and manipulations of objects in Second Life by ray casting, and spatial navigational aids.
Figure 4: Selection and manipulations of objects in Second Life by ray casting, and spatial navigational aids.

Selection & Manipulation

Successful 3D interface design builds on familiar interaction techniques and takes creatively simple approaches to existing design principles. Hands, in the physical world, are the means by which most object selection and manipulation is performed. In 3D spaces, a virtual hand or pointer on screen serves the purpose of selecting, grasping and manipulating the virtual environment (Poupyrev, Weghorst, Billinghurst, & Ichikawa, 1998). Signaling intent in the virtual space when the avatar is at a distance is done through a technique called ray casting in which the user points at and signals intent to interact with the object Figure 4). Ray casting is categorized as a magic form of interaction which includes those unique affordances of virtual worlds that have no analogue in physical reality like flying, walking through solid objects (Bowman, Krujiff, LaViola Jr., & Poupyrev, 2001).

System Commands

 

Figure 5: Second Life employs movable and customizable floating menu pallets in addition to a top-of-screen drop-down menu structure.

Figure 5: Second Life employs movable and customizable floating menu pallets in addition to a top-of-screen drop-down menu structure.

 

In a three dimensional world, conventional two-dimensional menu and command structures pose a design challenge. Graphical menus can be evoked that either overlay the viewed workspace such as Google Glass (Figure 7), or can occlude the workspace space like Second Life’s floating menu pallets (Figure 5). Bowman et al (2001) suggest that 2D menus should be layered for simplicity of display and should not intrude into the virtual space except when necessary. Minecraft’s interface hides menu commands until called by the user (Figure 6). Command designs may also be embedded within the 3D environment and rendered objects themselves enabling more intuitive interactions. Whatever system is used, sufficient user feedback is necessary when engaging with them in order to minimise mode errors.

Figure 7: Projected translucent text and images on Google Glass eyepiece receive voice commands or touch/swipe commands on the side of the device.  Image retrieved from  http://www.dvice.com/2013-5-8/video-what-you-really-see-when-you-look-through-google-glass

Figure 7: Projected translucent text and images on Google Glass eyepiece receive voice commands or touch/swipe commands on the side of the device.
Image retrieved from
http://www.dvice.com/2013-5-8/video-what-you-really-see-when-you-look-through-google-glass

 

 

Interfacing with the Virtual Space

Interacting with a virtual space occurs through activation of program sequences embedded in the virtual world itself. The devices with which we execute those commands form the tangible physical interface to the virtual world. Designed to enable communication between computers and humans, emerging technologies offer an increasing range of possibilities that involve all the senses.

The design of virtual environments is well informed by standards (Blade & Padgett, 2002) and a growing body of empirical research into best practice with 3D VLEs. Conventional input and output devices are also well researched and understood. Less conventional input and output devices are still being explored, problems identified, and research conducted to mitigate those challenges.

Input

Moving from point-and-click interfaces to more natural forms of interaction including voice, gesture, and handwriting recognition (Saffer, 2009). Touch responsive systems both receive input, and generate pressure responses that simulate an object’s pliability (Reitinger, Werlberger, Bornik, Beichel, & Schmalstieg, 2005). Haptic input devices provide an alternative to point and click interfaces and can provide a learning experience that more closely reflects the performance context (Jun Lee, 2012). Even electroencephalography (EEG) can be employed in a sort of mind-control of computing devices (McFarland, 2012).

Research will continue to reveal design considerations for using these kinds of interfaces. For example Demi (2007) tested various input devices for controlling movement and manipulation in 3D virtual space and determined that bimanual, or two-handed systems are less prone to error and easier to learn than unimanual systems. Handedness also plays a role in ease of input. Ones’ dominant hand is better for finer micro-manipulation and the other hand for macro-manipulation. It is important to provide control mechanism customizations that accommodate preference for bimanual input and handedness.

Output

Virtual reality is a fully immersive experience that occludes the user’s sense of physical reality and replaces it with a digital sensations. Careful fitting of these devices is important to minimise spatial disorientation (Milgram, 2006).

Augmented reality, on the other hand blends both physical and digital realities (Bowman, Krujiff, LaViola Jr., & Poupyrev, 2001). Transparent displays such as Google Glass or heads-up-displays in vehicles, must account for the myriad conditions in which they are employed. Gabbard, Swan, & Hix (2006) are pursuing a display engine that responds to environmental conditions such as brightness, colour, and texture then selects a text display that maximises contrast without being disruptive or distracting (Gabbard, Swan II, & Hix, 2006).

 

In responsive physical spaces, the physical environment itself is equipped with sensors that perceive and respond to ambient conditions like movement and sound (Eng, et al., 2006) (Kiyokawa, 2012). These systems allow for kinetic interactions without having to wear any special equipment. Mapping sounds to virtual objects can also serve to mimic tactile experiences through vibration patterns (El Saddik, Orozco, Eid, & Cha, 2011).

Research continues into developing communication systems between humans and computers that rely on ambient information gathered by the computer, processed and used to respond to users implicit intention or states of being (Iizuka, Marocco, Ando, & Maeda, 2012) . In this way, the user’s reality is enhanced not with digital data, but with physical changes to the space that meet the user’s unspoken needs as perceived by the computer through body language, physical activity, time of day, and location. In enhanced environments such as this, a responsive device recognizing these user characteristics could change the interface to reflect user need or ability to interact (Mashita, et al., 2012)

Bring Your Own Interface

A variety of technical interfaces that are sometimes inaccessible, expensive, and difficult to use. While there certainly are effective uses for those devices, it is worth considering a far cheaper, more ubiquitous, and highly customisable interface for learning in virtual spaces. With the wide variety of tools available to learners now, it is not unreasonable to expect that many will already have the tools required for the most basic access to 3D VLEs. Dede (2004a) (2004b) has predicted that augmented reality will serve distributed learning communities and learners will self-select the tools and applications with which to engage with that content.

Institutional benefits to controlling interface mechanisms, include opportunities for branding, standardizing user experience, offering technical support for approved tools, and access to user engagement metrics (Severance, Hardin, & Whyte, 2008). Nevertheless, the means by which learners access content, communicate with peers, and contribute their own created knowledge assets to the learning community is ever growing. Severance et al. (2008) call this a “functionality mash-up”, where the users defined need to consume and produce content is met using self-selected tools, techniques, and communities. In this way, learners create their own personal learning ecosystem.

Architectural standards for data sharing are key to making this work. Severance et al. (2008) go on to explore various standards, some complementary, some competing, that contribute to greater interoperability amongst data sources for content management and modes of communication. Such standards allow for the creation of a broad range of interfaces for users to retrieve and contribute to the same bank of knowledge assets.

Personal Learning Environments, in this context, may be understood as an interface to knowledge. The tools used to engage with the learning ecosystem are not themselves the learning environment, rather they give access to the learning environment (Wilson, 2008). That is to say that the people, digital space, and the knowledge assets form the learning environment. The interface is made up of the tools employed by the learner. Knowledge assets may originate from many different service points, the tools aggregate and filter that content as defined by the learner using the tools they have selected to perform that function.

In Open learning systems, content is co-created in virtual spaces by like-minded learners and forms a body of knowledge accessible through a learner’s self-selected tools. In this respect, the knowledge assets need only be indexed and available online existing independently of the means of delivery. Agnostic of any particular platform, users are free to choose their own interface for content and communication.

Design consideration for AR: physical occlusion due to user interference – hand seen but not “layered” relative to the digital environment.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that 3D virtual learning spaces offer tremendous opportunities for rich, exciting, and engaging activities. Attending to the careful design of the virtual space, understanding the how to leverage the means of navigation and manipulation, and the appreciating the affordances and constraints of input and display devices, will help the user take full advantage of the virtual space. Dillenbourg (2000) suggests that while there may not be conclusive evidence that virtual learning spaces have a direct effect on the efficacy or economics of education, they do provide teachers and learners a unique set of affordances.

Innovative technologies open up new ways of learning and working. A new tool may well have an obvious primary function, but when the tool is put to use a wider range of affordances are likely to be uncovered. As those who like to experiment and ride the breaking wave of innovation share their trials, observations, and experiences, researchers can compile case studies to inform further research that starts to define and shape those experiences into definable affordances. Subsequently, researchers can then conduct more empirical studies that determine the effectiveness of the tools for different applications which helps providing guidance and best-practice for those that use the tool.

Works Cited

Ali, D. F., & Nordin, M. S. (2011, September). Gender issues in virtual reality learning environments. Journal of Edupres, 1, 65-76.

Blade, R. A., & Padgett, M. L. (2002). Virtual environments standards and terminology. In K. M. Stanney (Ed.), Handbook of virtual environments (pp. 15-27). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bouras, C., Igglesis, V., & Kapoulas, V. (2004). A web based virtual community: Functionality and architecture issues. Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Web Based Communities, (pp. 59-66). San Sebastian, Spain.

Bowman, D. A., Davis, E. T., Hodges, L. F., & Badre, A. N. (1999). Maintaining spatial orientation during travel in an immersive virtual environment. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 8(6), 618-631.

Bowman, D. A., Koller, D., & Hodges, L. F. (1997, March). Travel in immersive virtual envirinments: An evaluation of viewpoint motion control techniques. An evaluation of viewpoint motion control techniques." Virtual Reality Annual International Symposium, 1997., IEEE 1997, 45-52.

Bowman, D. A., Kruijff, E., LaViola Jr., J. J., & Poupyrev, I. (2001). An introduction to 3D user interface design. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 10(1), 96-108.

Bowman, D. A., Krujiff, E., LaViola Jr., J. J., & Poupyrev, I. (2001). An introduction to 3D user interface design. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 10(1), 96-108.

Dalgarno, B., & Lee, M. J. (2010). What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments? British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 10-32.

Dede, C. (2004a). Enabling Distributed Learning Communities via Emerging Technologies--Part One. T.H.E. Journal, 32(2), 12.

Dede, C. (2004b). Enabling Distributed Learning Communities via Emerging Technologies--Part Two. T.H.E. Journal, 32(3), 16.

Demi, B. (2007). Human factors issues on the design of telepresence systems. Presence, 16(5), 471-487.

Dickey, M. D. (2005, April-August). Brave New (Interactive) Worlds: A review of the design affordances and constraints of two 3D virtual worlds as interactive learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 13(1-2), 121-137.

Dillenbourg, P. (2000). Virtual learning environments. Learning in the new millennium: Building new education strategies for schools.

El Saddik, A., Orozco, M., Eid, M., & Cha, J. (2011). Haptics: General priniples. In Haptics Technologies (pp. 1-20). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Eng, K., Mintz, M., Delbruck, T., Douglas, R. J., Whatley, A. M., Manzolli, J., & Verschure, P. M. (2006). An investigation of collective human behaviour in large-scale mixed reality spaces. Presence, 15(4), 403-418.

Gabbard, J. L., Swan II, J. E., & Hix, D. (2006). The effects of text drawing styles, backgrounds, textures, and natural lighting on text legibility in outdoor augmented reality. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 15(1), 16-32.

Hanson, K., & Shelton, B. E. (2008). Design and development of virtual reality: Analysis of challenges faced by educators. Educational Technology & Society, 11(1), 188-131.

Iizuka, H., Marocco, D., Ando, H., & Maeda, T. (2012, March 4-8). Turn-taking supports humanlikeness and communication in perceptual crossing experiments — Toward developing human-like communicable interface devices. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE (pp. 1-4). Orange County: IEEE. Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6180953&isnumber=6180843

Jun Lee, W. K.-I. (2012). An intravenous injection simulator using augmented reality for veterinary education and its evaluation. 11th ACM SIGGRAPH International Conference on Virtual-Reality Continuum and its Applications in Industry (pp. 31-34). Nanyang: SIGGRAPH. doi:http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2407516.2407524

Kiyokawa, K. H. (2012). Owens Luis — A context-aware multi-modal smart office chair in an ambient environment. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW) (pp. 1-4). Orange County: IEEE.

Mashita, T., Komaki, D., Iwata, M., Shimatani, K., Miyamoto, H., Hara, T., . . . Nishio, S. (2012). A content search system for mobile devices based on user context recognition. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW). Orange County: IEEE.

McFarland, D. S. (2012, June). Electroencephalographic (EEG) control of three-dimensional movement. Journal of Neural Engineering, 7(3). doi:doi:10.1088/1741-2560/7/3/036007

Milgram, P. (2006). Some human factors considerations for designing mixed reality interfaces. In V. M. Applications (Ed.), Meeting Proceedings RTO-MP-HFM-136, Keynote 1., (pp. KN1-1 - KN1-14). Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Retrieved from http://www.rto.nato.int/abstracts.asp

Nelson, B. C. (2007). Exploring the use of individualized, reflective guidance in an educational multi-user virtual environment. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(1), 83-97.

Own, Z.-Y., Chen, D.-U., & Wang, Z.-I. (2011). Female-friendly user interfacedesign on a cosmetic chemistry web learning site. Internationl Journal of Instructionl Media, 38(1), 87-109.

Poupyrev, I., Weghorst, S., Billinghurst, M., & Ichikawa, T. (1998, August). Egocentric object manipulation in virtual environments: Empirical evaluation of interaction techniques. Computer Graphics Forum, 17(3), 41-52.

Reeves, A. J., & Minocha, S. (2011). Relating pedagogical and learning space designs in Second Life. In A. Cheney, & R. L. Sanders (Eds.), Teaching and Learning in 3D Immersive Worlds: Pedagogical Models and Constructivist Approaches (pp. 31-60). USA: IGI GLobal.

Reitinger, B., Werlberger, P., Bornik, A., Beichel, R., & Schmalstieg, D. (2005). Spatial measurements for medical augmented reality. International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (pp. 208-209). Vienna: IEEE.

Saffer, D. (2009). Designing Gestural Interfaces. (M. Treseler, Ed.) Cambridge: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Severance, C., Hardin, J., & Whyte, A. (2008). The coming functionality mash-up in personal learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(1), 47-62.

Thornburg, D. D. (2004, October). Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st century. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 1(10), 3-10.

Tung, F.-W., & Deng, Y.-S. (2006). Designing social presence on e-learning environments: Testing the effect of interactivity on children. Interactive Learning Environments, 14(3), 251-264.

Vila, J., Beccue, B., & Anandikar, S. (2003). The gender factor in virtual reality navigation and wayfinding. HICSS '03 Proceedings of the 36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'03) - Volume 7. IEEE Computer Society.

Wilson, S. (2008). Patterns of personal learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(1), 17-34.

 


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Critical Issues in Distance Education and Computer Interface Design for Learning.

3D Virtual Learning Environments for Distance Education

This research paper was written as part of my participation in the graduate course Critical Issues in Distance Education at the George Washington University.

Introduction

3D Virtual worlds are widely used in gaming and offer richly detailed immersive sensory experiences and, in multi-user scenarios, a means of communication with other users. Used for distance education, these spaces offer a unique context for engaging with content, instructors, and fellow learners through text, audio, and visual representations of people and spaces.

Three-dimensional virtual learning environments (VLEs) present new challenges in access, navigation, instructional design, and design of the virtual space itself. Anecdotal reports and case studies identify several unique affordances of 3D VLEs and research continues to explore ways in which learning is affected. Recent efforts have seen development of design guides to direct future development of virtual learning spaces.

This research paper examines 3D VLEs as context for learning generally, and, by its nature, a context for distance learning in its many manifestations (Allen & Seaman, 2009).

Growing Interest

Through manipulation of an in-world avatar, the user can interact with objects and other avatars in the virtual space. In 2008, more than 300 higher learning institutions established a virtual campus in leading 3D VLE, Second Life (Michels, 2008). Facilitators and participants using virtual learning environments cover a broad range of ages (Delgarno, Lee, Carlson, Gregory, & Tynan, 2011) and the number of subject offerings has increased dramatically since 2008 (Delgarno, Lee, Carlson, Gregory, & Tynan, 2011).

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Figure 1:      A display at University of Western Australia's 3D Virtual learning space in Second Life. The space is used variously for synchronous lectures and asynchronous access to resources.

When distance learning moved from paper and pencil tasks exchanged through postal delivery services to digital networked information exchanges, there came an awareness of new possibilities. Access to the internet created the potential for greater independence for the learner and new pedagogies to accommodate new technologies (Peters, 2010) (Gameson, Chen, & Sher, 2002). Similarly, 3D VLEs require new pedagogical approaches that best leverage their unique affordances (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010).

 

Faster computers and widespread broadband access to the internet has increased capacity for participation in process-heavy 3D virtual worlds. Innovative educators have experimented with 3D virtual learning spaces in various ways documenting experiences and lessons learned in case studies.

Evolution of a Virtual Learning Environment

    image007Figure 2:      UWA's SL rendering of Winthrop Hall, an outdoor classroom, and renderings of interactive geometric figures in virtual space. Images captured from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FDs6AIRBAQ

The University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life began as a virtual version of the physical campus for no other purpose than to experiment with the virtual space. Over time, collaborations with artists, authors, and academics in many different faculties including education, architecture, physics, and law evolved the virtual space into a real community. (Zifanwe*, 2010). Artists were amongst the first to embrace the creative possibilities of the free, open, interactive spaces in UWA’s campus. Their virtual installations exposed unique opportunities for engaging with the space not merely as a repository of art, but explored the space as art itself (Landay, 2010).

UWA’s Second Life promotional video initially illustrates familiar physical structures and landmarks to help orient the viewer to space and function then gradually transitions to more fantastic, authentic applications of a virtual environment showing molecular models, 3D sound waves, and geometric forms that a user can move within and explore (Dorchester, 2012). Faculty continue to explore meaningful and authentic applications for the virtual space while artists model the possibilities.

Unique Affordances of 3D VLEs

In understanding the unique affordances of 3D VLEs, Understandings of virtual learning environments elucidate three elements of distance learning in virtual spaces: the content or body of knowledge to be learned, the context or space in which the learner encounters the knowledge, and the participants, both learners and facilitators, and pedagogy, the manner in which learners will encounter and engage with the body of knowledge.

Content

Delgarno & Lee (2010) summarize five broad categories of learning tasks authentically enabled within 3d VLEs:

SPATIAL KNOWLEDGE: for understanding that emerges from multi-dimensional manipulation and exploration. For example, experience with mental and virtual rotations of bone models positively contribute to learning anatomy benefiting both high and low-spatially inclined learners (Stull, Hegarty, & Mayer, 2010)

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: for making meaning from experience, particularly where tasks that are difficult, dangerous, or impossible in the real world. For example, creating narrative storylines within which learners analyse contextual elements, make decisions, and experience the resulting consequences (Barab, et al., 2007).

MOTIVATION: for fostering curiosity and engagement within a novel context. For example, embedding case studies into a virtual world within which distant learners must explore and gather data as part of a collaborative game (The University of Western Australia, 2013)

image009Figure 3:      languagelab.com offers corporate language learning in virtual contexts that reflect the industry. Image retrieved from corporate.languagelab.com

/  CONTEXTUALIZATION: for encountering and engaging with concepts in environments that reflect real world settings. For example, second language learners can play out scenarios in a virtual setting stocked with objects that reflect the vocabulary for a unit of instruction (Peterson, 2010). The evoked dialogue makes use of learned words in an authentic context thus increasing the likelihood of transference.

COLLABORATION: for enabling interpersonal interactions and engagement with learning tasks. For example, Appalachian State University hosts a 3D VLE within which learners and facilitators can visit informally, and create purpose-driven learning communities (Bronack, et al., 2008). Defining a new instructional model they call Presence Pedagogy, Bronack, et al., (2008) envision a perpetually inhabited virtual world where participants themselves both teach and learn from each other in fluid groupings in a form of social constructivism.

Offering a distance learning program in a 3D VLEs should offer more than traditional direct instruction. Content should be embedded in the environment and open to collaborative exploration and experimentation.

Context

3D VLEs can not only mimic physical learning spaces providing a visually familiar context for learning at a distance, but, because of the innumerable ways in which virtual spaces can be configured, can also offer radically different contexts. While familiar visual elements in a virtual world serve as an anchor for understanding context and function in a virtual world (Jegathesan, 2013) (Reeves & Minocha, 2011) unique settings that best reflect, support, and contextualize knowledge employs 3D VLEs to best advantage (Ibanez, et al., 2011).

image012Figure 4      The blocky world of Minecraft has low representational fidelity while Second Life below has high representational fidelity.

Designing the space includes determining the kind and properties of the objects within the space that will support learning either directly through their manipulation, or indirectly by evoking the desired emotional state from the user (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). The sensory properties of a space determine the level of immersion or representational fidelity which, in turn, contributes to a user’s presence, or subjective response to the virtual space (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). Physiological responses can also be elicited by experiences in virtual spaces with virtual objects (Valtchanov, 2010), (Fox, Bailenson, & Ricciardi, 2012).

3D VLE can themselves be the form of communication, not just the context in which it occurs. Reluctant young writers that exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm and engagement in lessons delivered in a 3D VLE were no more willing to engage in writing than they were before (Merchant, 2010). In terms of fostering communication, a learner’s understanding may be expressed using the “inscription system” afforded by 3D environments (Dickey, 2005) appealing to more visual-spatial learners.

3D virtual spaces used for distance learning should be sensitive to a participant’s need to have some contextual elements that suggest function. Familiar starting points can orient users to the virtual space before moving on to less intuitive and more fantastic environments. It is also important to provide supports for both students and faculty that are new to virtual worlds. Training can facilitate a more rapid transition from focusing on world controls to a focus on learning objectives. Capitalizing on the unique forms of spatial communication creates new opportunities for representing concrete and theoretical knowledge

Participants

image014Figure 5:      Avatar customization contributes to greater social presence and offers opportunities to explore different identities. Image retrieved from http://becauseilive.hubpages.com/hub/Second-Life-Tips--Tricks--Creating-an-Avatar

Avatars are the agents through which users engage with a virtual world and offer some unique possibilities for education. Users themselves have a sense of presence in the virtual space and, through customization of the avatar, can experience greater psychological immersion (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). The ability to see avatars of other users fosters interpersonal connections and a sense of co-presence (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010).

Employing anonymity amongst the learners in the virtual world creates opportunities for more free and open interactions while the facilitator, knowing the true identities, can observe for assessment purposes (Barkand & Kush, 2009). The ability to assume different identities offers opportunities to explore social situations as another gender, race, body type, or species (Pfeil, Ang, & Zaphiris, 2009).

Where communities of people congregate in open unrestricted spaces it is likely that groups will establish social norms and, over time, a form of governance, possibly even a political structure (Rafinski, 2013) offering participants to experiment with different systems.

While 3D VLEs create opportunities for serendipitous engagement with others in the virtual space, it is important to consider how participant exchanges will contribute to achieving learning outcomes, what exchanges are required, whether they are synchronous, asynchronous or a blend of the two, and the level of monitoring or moderation required given the age of the participants (Pfeil, Ang, & Zaphiris, 2009).

Pedagogy

As mentioned previously, Appalachian State University is exploring a new pedagogical model, Presence Pedagogy, built on social constructivism and elements of connectivism. Their 2008 paper coincides with the emergence of MOOCs and reflects the philosophy and practice of connectivist cMOOCs within a single virtual world (Rodriguez, 2013).

Empirical studies of educators, designers, and students, using 3D VLEs carried out by Reeves & Minocha (2011) described participants’ understandings of the connection between the pedagogy, and how the space was used.

Instructional pedagogy was employed where behaviourist style teachers sought to translate their practice into a virtual, but familiar classroom space.

Constructivist pedagogy was seen by some instructors as a way to leverage the unique affordances of the 3D VLE encouraging students to explore more open spaces and construct meaning in in collaborative learning groups.

/  Other instructors used experiential pedagogy for providing experiments, simulations, and role-play activities. This was also seen as making good use of the virtual learning space.

While it is possible to conduct synchronous lectures to an audience in a virtual space using live audio through an avatar, this form of lesson delivery does not take advantage of the unique characteristics of 3D VLEs. Given these spaces are generally unrestricted, open to exploration, interactive, and social, more constructivist approaches should be employed by designers and facilitators.

Conclusion

3D virtual worlds offer the ability to create and explore rich environments for discovery, engagement, communication, and collaboration for teaching and learning. While 3D VLEs can take any form and serve virtually any function, it is important to provide familiar contexts, metaphors, and cues to the user. As a distance education tool, the virtual learning environment can provide a familiar space that looks and feels like a classroom with the opportunity to embed simulations, games, studies, interactions, and authentic contexts for the topic at hand. Identity options and customization can blur or obscure social conventions allowing learners to interact with anonymity or new identities to serve instructional purposes. These spaces accommodate many instructional approaches but appear best suited to constructivist pedagogies.

Bibliography

Allen, I. E., &   Seaman, J. (2009). Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United   States. Sloan Consortium. Wellesley, MA: Babson Survey Research Group.

Barab, S., Zuiker, S., Warren, S.,   Hickey, D., Ingram-Goble, A., Kwon, E. J., . . . Herring, S. (2007,   September). Situationally embodied curriculum: Relating formalisms and   contexts. Science Education, 91(5), 750-782.

Barkand, J., & Kush, J. (2009).   GEARS a 3D Virtual Learning Environment and Virtual Social and Educational   World Used in Online Secondary Schools. Electronic Journal of e-Learning,   7(3).

Bronack, S., Sanders, R., Cheney,   A., Riedl, R., Tashner, J., & Matzen, N. (2008). Presence Pedagogy:   Teaching and Learning in a 3D Virtual Immersive World. International   Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), 59-69.

Dalgarno, B., & Lee, M. J.   (2010). What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments? British   Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 10-32.

Delgarno, B., Lee, M. J., Carlson,   L., Gregory, S., & Tynan, B. (2011). An Australian and New Zealand   scoping study on the use of 3D immersive virtual worlds in higher education. Australasian   Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 1-15.

Dickey, M. D. (2005, April-August).   Brave New (Interactive) Worlds: A review of the design affordances and   constraints of two 3D virtual worlds as interactive learning environments. Interactive   Learning Environments, 13(1-2), 121-137.

Dorchester, B. (2012, February 5).   The Pillars of UWA in SL [Video File]. Retrieved from   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FDs6AIRBAQ

Fox, J., Bailenson, J. N., &   Ricciardi, T. (2012, Spring). Physiological responses to virtual selves and   virtual others. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 5(1),   69-72.

Gameson, R. N., Chen, S. E., &   Sher, W. D. (2002, January). Developing distance learning into online   learning at undergraduate degree program level. Engineering Education   2002: Professional Engineering Scenarios (Ref. No. 2002/056), 1,   19/1-19/6. Retrieved from   http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1028461&isnumber=22096

Ibanez, M. B., Garcia, J. J., Galan,   S., Maroto, D., Morillo, D., & Kloos, C. D. (2011). Design and   Implementation of a 3D Multi-User Virtual World for Language Learning. Educational   Technology & Society, 14(4), 2-10.

Jegathesan, J. J. (2013, June 19).   SecondLife Audio Conversation with "Jayjay Zifanwe". (M. MacFarlane, Interviewer)

Landay, L. (2010, September 20).   CLICK by L1Aura Loire: Immersive & Interactive Virtual Art [Video file].   Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sf3Q2VAlKE

Merchant, G. (2010, May 14). 3D   virtual worlds as environnments for literacy learning. Educational   Research, 52(2), 135-150.

Michels, P. (2008, February 25). Universities   Use Second Life to Teach Complex Concepts. Retrieved 06 19, 2013, from   Government Technology:   http://www.govtech.com/education/Universities-Use-Second-Life-to-Teach.html

Peters, O. (2010). Distance   Education in Transition: Developments and Isses. Oldenberg: BIS-Verlag   der Carl von Ossietzky Universität.

Peterson, M. (2010, September).   Learner Participation patterns and strategy use in Second Life: an   exploratory case study. ReCALL, 22(3), 273-292.

Pfeil, U., Ang, C. S., &   Zaphiris, P. (2009). Issues and challenges of teaching and learning in 3D   virtual worlds: real life case studies. Educational Media International,   46(3), 223-238.

Rafinski, A. (2013, April 2). The   social and political dimension in Second Live [sic] and the Endless Forest.   Retrieved June 20, 2013, from Game Design as Cultural Practice:   http://lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/lcc4725/blog/?p=6324

Reeves, A. J., & Minocha, S.   (2011). Relating pedagogical and learning space designs in Second Life. In A.   Cheney, & R. L. Sanders (Eds.), Teaching and Learning in 3D Immersive   Worlds: Pedagogical Models and Constructivist Approaches (pp. 31-60).   USA: IGI GLobal.

Rodriguez, O. (2013). The concept   of openness behind c and x-MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Open   Praxis, 5(1), 67-73.

Stull, A. T., Hegarty, M., &   Mayer, R. E. (2010). Anatomy Learning with Virtual Objects.   Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved from   http://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/SSS/SSS10/paper/viewFile/1073/1381

The University of Western   Australia. (2013, February 28). UWA and Swiss team win virtual teaching   award | University News. Retrieved June 20, 2013, from University News :   The University of Western Australia:   http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201302285448/awards-and-prizes/uwa-and-swiss-team-win-virtual-teaching-award

Valtchanov, D. (2010).   Physiological and Affective Responses to Immersion in Virtual Reality:   Effects of Nature and Urban Settings. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,   University of Waterloo. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved from   http://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/10012/5350/1/Valtchanov_Deltcho.pdf

* Zifanwe, J. (2010, June 26). Unexpected   Collaborations - UWAinSL and serendipity. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from   The University of Western Australia in Second Life:   http://uwainsl.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/unexpected-collaborations-uwainsl-and.html

* JayJay Zifanwe is the credited Second Life name for JayJay Jegatheva Jegathesan of the University of Western Australia.

 


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Critical Issues in Distance Education and Computer Interface Design for Learning.

 

Minecraft for #ISTE13

These are the slides from the SIGILT Forum: Innovation Hoedown about Minecraft

isteminecraft

#ISTE13 Saturday Reflections

First big conference tech conference I've attended since AACE in 1997. Had dinner with some old friends, and made some new friends. Talked with Tom Brandt about a kind of facilitation strategy he is using to draw out learner experience in the form/context of a superhero narrative. A rather clever way of having a learner revisit their own backstory, consider present actions, and describe a possible future. While learners themselves may see their own personal narrative as banal, couching it in a fictional context allows for more exploration - permission to consider and explore points of divergence. Where have you come from, where are you now, and where do you want to go, where could you go.

It is humbling to be amongst so many innovative people - so many that are not just thinking and planning, but actually doing, reflecting, and sharing. Re-entering the academic world of research and study with my graduate degree, I'm appreciating more and more those innovators who aren't just playing with new technology and pedagogies, but really reflecting and communicating. Collectively, those experiences can be used as case studies with which we can identify affordances and constraints, develop taxonomies to frame further study leading to research that determines best practice and then instructional design guidelines that best leverage the unique affordances of the technology.While I have been sharing some anecdotal experiences on my blog, they could be more useful if the planning process were more fully described, data gathered and shared.

As for ISTE, I'm in awe of the enormity of the conference. Overwhelming, to be sure, will have to employ some of the strategies described elsewhere: make some connections with attendees, pick a theme to pursue, recognize you can't do it all, but you can do some.

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