Archive for the ‘Virtual Worlds’ Category

The following list was primarily derived from EDUCAUSE.  They produce a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  Below, I describe the emerging technologies that began to gain prominence in 2009.

  • Alternate reality games (ARGs).  This application intertwines real objects with puzzles and hints that are virtually hidden anywhere (e.g., stores, movies, Websites, or printed materials).  The ARGs are the devices used to gather clues.  These games facilitate creative problem solving using real-world scenarios and materials (EDUCAUSE, 2009a).
  • QR Codes.  These codes are bar codes that are two-dimensional.  QR codes feature both alphanumeric characters and a URL that links consumers directly to a Website that describes or gives information about a product.  Individuals could scan a QR code on a product with their mobile phone and gather a great deal of information on that product quickly (EDUCAUSE, 2009b).
  • Location Aware Applications.  Applications using location-aware technology can provide online content to individuals based on physical location.  These applications can also send an individual’s location to a third party, such as a friend or teacher.  Location-based information can enhance learning.  Scientific information, historical narratives, and interactive geographic content are examples of how educaotrs can use this tool (EDUCAUSE, 2009c).
  • Live question tool.  This Web-based application allows participants in a presentation to post questions for the lecturer.  As participants post questions, fellow participants can share remarks and vote on what questions they would like to see addressed.  This technology gives lecturers constructive feedback upon which they may choose to alter their presentation (EDUCAUSE, 2009d).
  • Personal Learning Environment.  A personal learning environment (PLE) is a scenario in which individuals direct their own learning through personalized tools, services, and communities.  A PLE is best understood in contrast to an LMS.  A PLE is “learner-centric,” while a LMS is “course-centric.” However, PLE and LMS are not necessarily exclusive of one another because a learner can choose to include several elements of a LMS in his or her PLE.  The notion of a PLE alters the role of resources and stems from the idea that information is ubiquitous.  In a PLE, teachers place the emphasis on access to and assessment of information in addition to metacognition (EDUCAUSE, 2009e).
  • VoiceThread.  VoiceThread allows individuals to aggregate media into one Web site, including media contributions from guests and users.  Initially, a creator places an artifact (e.g., graphic) on the site.  The ensuing discussion about this artifact allows users to comment on the artifact using a variety of media (e.g, video, audio, or text).  Then they can view comments in an interactive manner.  Voicethread provides teachers and students with an avenue for presenting visual media in an interactive manner (EDUCAUSE, 2009f).
  • Microblogging.  Microblogging is a term referring to a small quantity of digital content users place on the Internet, such as links, short videos, pictures, text, or other media.  Twitter is probably the most popular microblogging site currently used.  In education, students often use microblogging for backchannel communication during a live class; teachers can also send notifications and reminders to students using this application.   (EDUCAUSE, 2009g).
  • Telepresence.  This complex application of video technologies allows geographically separated participants to feel as if everyone involved in the presentation were in the same location.  High-definition (HD) cameras send signals to HD displays that are life size, and high-fidelity acoustics localize the sound to each image in order to simulate the effect of each participant’s voice emanating from that participant’s respective display (EDUCAUSE, 2009h).
  • Collaborative annotation.  This tool broadens the notion of social bookmarking by permitting participants to move beyond merely sharing bookmarks by allowing each member to share annotations of a web page.  Collaborative annotations allow users to add notes that explain their ideas on a Web resource or highlight specific areas on the Web page (EDUCAUSE, 2009i).
  • Google Wave.  In Google Wave, a user creates an online space termed as a “wave.” The wave is simply a running document that is conversational, and contributors can offer isolated messages within a wave, which are called “blips.” Google wave can house an entire conversation in one location.  E-mail has been in existence for 40 years and remains virtually unchanged, so this web-based application attempts to redefine electronic communication.  Google Wave seems well-suited for PLE because it offers a single location for collecting data from a variety of sources and allows for an array of formats (EDUCAUSE, 2009j).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009a, January). 7 things you should know about alternative reality games. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7045.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009b, February). 7 things you should know about QR codes. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7046.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009c, March). 7 things you should know about location aware applications. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7047.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009d, April). 7 things you should know about live question tool. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7048.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009e, May). 7 things you should know about personal learning environment. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7049.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009f, June). 7 things you should know about VoiceThread. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7050.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009g, July). 7 things you should know about microblogging. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7051.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009h, September). 7 things you should know about telepresence. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7053.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009i, October). 7 things you should know about collaborative annotation. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7054.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2009j, November). 7 things you should know about Google Wave. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7055.pdf

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The following list was primarily derived from EDUCAUSE.  They produce a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  Below, I describe the emerging technologies that began to gain prominence in 2008.

  • Lulu.  Lulu provides tools to publish, print, and design original content.  Educators and students have the ability to publish content (e.g., reports, books, or posters) with nominal expense (EDUCAUSE, 2008a).
  • Flickr.  Anyone can upload, view, mark, or tag pictures on this photo-sharing website.  Flickr embodies many elements of Web 2.0 applications and relies on user content to promote community among consumers.  Users have the ability to provide a setting for developing relationships or shared events, and in order to help enhance relationships, groups can be formed (EDUCAUSE, 2008b).
  • Google apps.  This online suite of file storage and web-based programs operates within a web browser.  In Google Apps, individuals can share content by granting someone permission to view that content.  The ability to easily share content promotes peer review of material and collaboration.  The programs featured on Google Apps include productivity tools (e.g., word processor or spreadsheet), communication tools, (e.g., calendar or Google Talk) and web development tools (EDUCAUSE, 2008c).
  • Ning.  This online social networking application allows consumers to generate their own network or take part in another individual’s network.  Each creator is given the opportunity to completely personalize the functionality and appearance of the SNS.  This technology is similar to Facebook with the exception that users can create their own closed network.  Ning provides a neutral setting where teachers can harness the power of social networks, such as the promotion of a strong sense of community among a cohort of students (EDUCAUSE, 2008d).
  • Multi-touch interfaces.  These input devices distinguish various touches on the surface of the screen such as pinches, rotations, swipes, and other actions that facilitate instantaneous interface with digital content.  Multi-touch interfaces also allow several users to simultaneously collaborate with digital content (EDUCAUSE, 2008e).
  • Second Life.  Second Life is a modern day virtual world hosting over 13 million “residents,” a flourishing economy and a great deal of virtual land.  Consumers can create or alter virtual space with ease, and this scenario has encouraged experiments in creating space designs.  For example, Second Life often hosts virtual field trips or serves as a platform to display student media.  There are a number of social dynamics that promote teamwork and self-directed learning (EDUCAUSE, 2008f).
  • Wii.  This gaming console allows participants to interact with the game applications through physical gestures and movement.  Academic researchers have employed this technology to create applications such as an interactive whiteboard or collaborative choreography tools.  Researchers can use Wii and similar gaming consoles to test how active learning exercises can improve the performance of students with various learning styles.  Wii can stimulate physical activity (EDUCAUSE, 2008g).
  • Geolocation.  This application links digital content with a physical location.  Geolocation is also called geotagging.  A common use of geolocation is the association between a picture and its geographic location.  Geolocation can help to coordinate resources and information, which can add a new layer of understanding to research (EDUCAUSE, 2008h).
  • Zotero.  This online research tool offers automated bibliographic resources to users.  Zotero runs in the browser, so the citation process becomes seemless and easy.  All the bibliographic information of a Web page is stored in the consumer’s library of sources (EDUCAUSE, 2008i).
  • Ustream.  Users of Ustream can broadcast a personalized channel on this interactive Web streaming platform.  Consumers can promote their own shows, have conversations and host events on this platform.  Educators can employ the free streaming video and initiate a variety of authentic assessments using this tool (EDUCAUSE, 2008j).
  • Flip camcorders.  Flip video camcorders allow consumers to shoot, capture, and produce video content with this petite, economical, and user-friendly device.  For faculty members, these devices present new opportunities for authentic assessment and foster visual learning.  Because this process is user-friendly and inexpensive, teachers and students might find it palatable to produce video content that can enhance learning (EDUCAUSE, 2008k).
  • Lecture capture.  This technology enables teachers to record classroom activities and lectures and then make them accessible for students in a digital format.  Educators can limit lecture capture to audio, but video recordings that feature the lecturer, an electronic whiteboard, or screen capture are gaining in popularity.  Lecture capture further expands on screencasting (EDUCAUSE, 2008l).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008a, January). 7 things you should know about Lulu. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7033.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008b, February). 7 things you should know about Flickr. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7034.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008c, March). 7 things you should know about Google Apps. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7035.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008d, April). 7 things you should know about Ning. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7036.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008e, May). 7 things you should know about Multi-touch interfaces. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7037.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008f, June). 7 things you should know about Second Life. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7038.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008g, July). 7 things you should know about Wii. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7039.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008h, August). 7 things you should know about Geolocation. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7040.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008i, September). 7 things you should know about Zotero. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7041.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008j, October). 7 things you should know about Ustream. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7042.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008k, November). 7 things you should know about Flip Camcorders. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7043.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008l, December). 7 things you should know about lecture capture. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7044.pdf

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The following list was primarily derived from EDUCAUSE.  They produce a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  Below, I describe the emerging technologies that began to gain prominence in 2006.

  • Virtual meetings (aka, Virtual classrooms).  Virtual meetings are synchronous interactions that use the Internet as the medium to communicate through chat tools, application sharing, audio, and video.  In a virtual classroom, learners can encounter interactive discussions and  lectures as well as classmate and teacher interaction.  Virtual classrooms can also be woven into a LMS (EDUCAUSE, 2006a).  One of the most prominent examples of virtual classrooms is Second Life, which is the Web’s biggest “user-created, 3D virtual world community” (Linden Research, 2011, p. 1).  Another option for delivering course content in this manner is virtual conferencing.  In a virtual conference, students can learn from any location in a synchronous format or anywhere, anytime in an asynchronous format  (Beldarrain, 2006).
  • Screencasting.  A screencast allows users to record the actions taking place on a computer screen, and this recording occurs as a video accompanied by audio.  Screencasts allow users to access in-depth course material even when they may not be present in class.  They can distribute this technology as a Vodcast (EDUCAUSE, 2006b).
  • Remote Instrumentation.  Remote instrumentation allows individuals to control scientific equipment from a remote location.  Some examples of this type of equipment include spectrometers, astronomical tools, and other electronic instruments.  Educators can use remote instrumentation to provide authentic experiences to a large audience.  This initiative helps to move students beyond a textbook knowledge and offer real experience (EDUCAUSE, 2006c).
  • Google jockeying.  A Google jockey is a contributor to a class who searches the Internet for Web sites, ideas, resources, or terms that are presented during a given class.  The jockey’s role coincides real-time with the presentation in order to expand learning opportunities and refine the core topics (EDUCAUSE, 2006d).
  • Virtual worlds.  “Residents” of a virtual world immerse themselves in an online environment through avatars, which represent individuals.  Several educational institutions are implementing and experimenting with virtual worlds as a platform in which to conduct class.  This environment is poised to cultivate constructivist learning by positioning students in a learning environment without overt learning objectives (EDUCAUSE, 2006e).
  • Facebook.  Facebook is a major Website for social networking.  This site is a prime example of the challenges associated with information literacy (i.e., one’s ability to deal with the risks and opportunities the Internet age creates).  Facebook gives users the ability to create profiles that represent their individuality and post any materials or links they wish (EDUCAUSE, 2006f).
  • YouTube.  Users of this video-sharing service have the ability to share, upload, and store professional or personal videos.  In addition, users control who may view their videos by allowing anyone to access the content or to form communities.  Viewers can comment and rate videos if they wish (EDUCAUSE, 2006g).
  • Google Earth.  This interactive mapping technology permits consumers to virtually navigate the entire earth by viewing landscapes, mountains, buildings, roads, and similar structures.  Visual literacy can be improved and assessed using this application.  In addition, this tool can aid students’ awareness of cultural differences (EDUCAUSE, 2006h).
  • E-books.  E-books discard the belief that books should always be read from cover to cover.  This tool encourages readers to employ a self-directed and interactive role in how they learn.  E-books support new approaches to interact with the content of books.  Various learning styles can be accomodated by incorporating simulations, movies, or audio files (EDUCAUSE, 2006i).

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. doi:10.1080/01587910600789498

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006a, February). 7 things you should know about virtual meetings. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7011.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006b, March). 7 things you should know about screencasting. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7012.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006c, April). 7 things you should know about remote instrumentation. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7013.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006d, May). 7 things you should know about Google jockeying. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7014.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006e, June). 7 things you should know about virtual worlds. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7015.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006f, September). 7 things you should know about Facebook. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7017.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006g, September). 7 things you should know about YouTube. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7018.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006h, October). 7 things you should know about Google Earth. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7019.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2006i, December). 7 things you should know about e-books. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7020.pdf

Linden Research, I. (2011). Second Life Homepage. Retrieved from http://secondlife.com/

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EDUCAUSE produces a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  I describe the emerging technologies showing the most potential for education below in chronological order by year; the year 2005 through the present is covered in successive blogs.  The years do not necessarily represent the year of creation but of emergence.

  • Social Bookmarking.  Bookmarking occurs when a user saves the URL address of a Web site to a local computer.  Social bookmarking takes place when a user saves a bookmark to a public Web site and “tags” each location with keywords.  The ability to tag information resources with keywords and access these bookmarks through the Internet has the potential to alter how individuals find and store information.  Knowing where information is found may become less important than knowing how to retrieve information using a collaborative framework designed by colleagues (EDUCAUSE, 2005a).
  • Clickers.  Class size and human dynamics have traditionally restricted student engagement and feedback (e.g., a limited number of students dominate the interaction).  Clickers help to more efficiently facilitate engagement and interaction, which can be modified to any discipline and most teaching environments (e.g., small groups or partners).  A clicker is a small device that uses radio frequencies to communicate with a centralized computer in a classroom setting, such as the teacher’s or presenter’s computer (EDUCAUSE, 2005).
  • Podcasting/vodcasting.  Podcasting describes any hardware and software amalgamation that automatically allows audio files to download to an MP3 (i.e., Motion Photographic Experts Group Audio Layer 3) player.  This ability allows users to listen to or watch digital media content at their convenience.  Educators can use Podcasting as an asynchrounous learning tool that students can use anywhere, anytime.  If users add a video to a Podcast, then it becomes a Vodcast (EDUCAUSE, 2005c).
  • Wikis.  Wikis are powerful tools to promote collaboration.  The term “wikis” refers to Web pages that an individual can view and alter through Internet access and a Web browser.  This technology supports group collaboration and asychrounous communication (EDUCAUSE, 2005d).
  • Video blogging.  Similar to a blog, a video blog (vlog) employs video instead of text or audio.  Obviously, educators can use this technology to record lectures or special announcements.  In some instances, video blogs are used as an outlet for self expression or opinions (EDUCAUSE, 2005e).
  • Blogs.  A blog is simply an online journal, and viewers of a blog can respond.  The  technology is similar to e-mail.  Students usually employ blogs to complete assignments and for self expression.  Educators use blogs to support teaching and learning, promote dialogue, and express ideas or opinions (EDUCAUSE, 2005f).
  • Augmented reality.  Augmented Reality focuses on real space or objects and uses contextual data to expand students’ knowledge of that space or object.  It differs from virtual reality in that it does not generate a simulated reality (EDUCAUSE, 2005g).
  • Instant Messaging.  Instant Messaging (IM) allows for real-time communication through mobile computing devices or personal computers using the Internet.  IM now supports communication in the form of text, audio, video, images, and other attachments.  While IM has been around since the late 1990s, the functionality of IM is now ubiquitous with the advent of many new applications and mobility.  Learners using IM appear to feel connected with the faculty and peers in a way that is difficult using other multimedia.  Higher education has the opportunity to embrace this new medium of communication that requires little cost (EDUCAUSE, 2005h).
  • Collaborative Editing.  Collaborative editing allows several individuals to edit a document simultaneously.  In other words, this tool allows a user to edit a file or observe someone else editing the file in real time.  This technology is similar to instant messaging in that changes are seen instantly, and it resembles a wiki in that all participants can delete, change, or add content.  Collaborative editing provides a good platform for supporting groupwork in a distance learning environment; students can work together despite being separated by time and space (EDUCAUSE, 2005i).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005a, May) 7 things you should know about social bookmarking. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7001.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005b, May) 7 things you should know about clickers. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7002.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005c, June) 7 things you should know about podcasting. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7003.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005d, July). 7 things you should know about wikis. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7004.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005e, August). 7 things you should know about videoblogging. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7005.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005f, September). 7 things you should know about blogs. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7006.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005g, October). 7 things you should know about augmented reality. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7007.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005h, November) 7 things you should know about instant messaging. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7008.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005i, December) 7 things you should know about collaborative editing. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7009.pdf

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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 860, Emerging Technology in Instructional Technology.


I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 860

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Web 2.0 is now a technological juggernaut, and these technologies are revolutionizing the way people communicate, collaborate and accomplish basic tasks. The focus of IT 860, Emerging Technologies in Instructional Technology, was to explore the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools that show promise in education. Dr. Yuen exposed each student to the theoretical basis for each Web 2.0 tool through his book, “Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking.” In addition, students were required to use each Web 2.0 tool that was discussed in order to gain knowledge through experiential learning.

The first generation of the Web was developed primarily by experts and aimed at merely sharing knowledge. Web 2.0 differs in that these tools are created and developed by a variety of users with the intent of collaboration and interactivity. This focus on collaboration and interactivity has facilitated a sweeping embrace of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, then it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.

The Web 2.0 applications covered in IT 860 can be divided into three categories: tools that connect people, tools that share knowledge and tools that connect people and share knowledge in virtual environments. A large portion of the readings focused on issues involved with connecting people, while the bulk of the Web 2.0 tools that were covered focused on the sharing of knowledge. It should be noted that while I discuss these ideas separately, the whole point of Web 2.0 is to provide environments that both connect people and share knowledge.

Tools that Connect People

The premise of collective intelligence is founded on the power of tools that connect people. A series of readings helped to shed light on the philosophical basis for the use of these connecting Web 2.0 technologies in education. A new paradigm in learning theories was introduced in 2004 with the birth of connectivism, which stems from the traditions of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Our first reading was on connectivism and described the power of collective intelligence. Connectivists hold that learning takes place as networks of individuals share knowledge, and one powerful Web 2.0 tool covered that represents the power of human connection is Twitter.  For example, Twitter boasts 50 million Tweets per day; that is a lot of connecting!

As might be expected, this level of connectivity requires a good organizational infrastructure and can lead to a great number of legal concerns in education. Therefore, our second reading addressed the obstacles to implementing Web 2.0 in educational institutions. Further, educators need to consider the human and social issues involved with the implementation of Web 2.0 in the classroom, which was our third reading.

Synchronous Online Learning Environments (SOLE) represent an excellent example of synchronous online learning that is offered in an ethical and effective way. In SOLE, students have a chance to interact with peers and the teacher in a similar way to a traditional classroom, and multiple channels of media simultaneously connecting with learners enhance this interaction.

Tools that Share Knowledge

The power of Web 2.0 to share knowledge is robust; in fact, the number of tools is overwhelming. Dr. Yuen did an excellent job of weeding through the volumes of applications available and introducing students to the best of these tools. A reading that described the potential of Web-based video (e.g., YouTube) began this quest.

Following this reading, students dove into a myriad of Web 2.0 tools aimed at sharing knowledge. Social bookmarking (Diigo) is a Web 2.0 technology that allows users to bookmark Web sites and place tags on those bookmarks using keywords. Social publishing sites (Scribd) allow users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices, such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Screencasting (Jing or ScreenToaser) occurs when individuals capture a video of what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio (e.g., narrative) is usually part of a screencast as well. File Sharing (Drop.io) is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration, and users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media.

Connecting and Sharing in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds find their ancestry in video games. Therefore, our first reading on virtual worlds actually focused on a model of Game-Based Learning (VISOLE). Learning through games is gaining more attention from several educators. Perhaps an even more promising environment for learning is seen in virtual worlds. Our final reading focused on taking a Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds (The SECOND LIFE Model). As a point of application, each student had an opportunity to make a presentation at a conference in Second Life.

Summative Thoughts

All of these tools described above promoted the sharing of knowledge. However, it would be misleading if I failed to highlight the intrinsic ability of each of these tools to also connect learners. A symbiotic relationship exists between connecting people and sharing knowledge in Web 2.0.

Dr. Yuen provided an incredible environment for learning these emerging tools. In fact, he taught the class through a platform (Mixxt) that closely resembled a social networking site (SNS) rather than through learning management software (LMS). Naturally, this approach led to more connectivity among students and facilitated the sharing of knowledge among the group.

This class has been an incredible journey of learning. I now feel confident to use Web 2.0 tools and design instruction around them appropriately.

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Virtual worlds offer an exciting new outlet for delivering content to learners. Second Life is one the best known and largest of several virtual worlds that are designed to attract crowds, including educators. Second Life is arguably the best virtual world in terms of collaboration, education, community and innovation.

How big is Second Life?

There are over 1 million residents in Second Life that regularly go “inworld” (i.e., log in and activate an avatar). In addition, there are over 1,400 organizations in Second Life ranging from colleges to mainstream corporations to government agencies. Many of these organizations own property including the U.S. military. Second Life contains around 500,000 acres of virtual real estate that can be purchased or rented. In 2009, the transactions in Second Life garnered over an astounding $500 million; that is actual U.S. currency. Second Life allows real-life individuals to have full-time jobs within this virtual world.

In some ways, this movement mirrors the growth of the Internet. Second Life is often used as a test bed for corporations such as Sony, Nissan and Sun Microsystems, among others. In the 1990s, the Internet was largely a research and educational network, but it has quickly become a commercial juggernaut.

What do people do in Second Life?

“Residents” of Second Life can sign up for free, and they simply do life together. They make friends, play sports, watch movies, run businesses and construct buildings. Residents can walk, run and fly, and they can dress in any body style they wish. In fact, users can change from a hip-hop male to a glamorous female to an animal all in the same session. In other words, they can be anyone or anything they wish to be, and they can do almost anything they wish to do.

Opportunities for Learning in Second Life: A Case Study

Because Second Life allows users to be anyone and do anything, opportunities for rich learning experiences abound in Second Life; they are virtually infinite. One such opportunity came as an assignment in IT 780. We were asked to create a presentation on a Web 2.0 topic and present this topic in the context of a Second Life Symposium.

Second Life Alcove

The symposium took place on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Second Life island: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/GoldenEagle1/124/122/24. Each student prepared a short presentation that was displayed on a giant display alcove (pictured above).

Second Life PodiumThe presentations included several items. A podium in the front of the alcove displayed a “real-world” picture of the presenter, and if viewers clicked on this image, then a short biography of the presenter appeared. The front podium also held a title slide for the presentation. If viewers clicked this image, then they could see a short abstract of the presentation (presented below). Beside the front podium a “comments” box was placed so that viewers and peers could leave feedback on each presentation.

Second Life HandoutAnother feature of each presentation was a handout. The handouts allowed each passer-by to take a summative artifact of each presentation. Viewers could obtain a handout by clicking on the handout poster, which was placed on an easel beside each presentation, as illustrated.

The Presentation: eyePlorer

Obviously, the main feature of each presentation was contained on the five posters placed on the alcove module. I chose to do a presentation on eyePlorer. EyePlorer is a free Web 2.0 application that allows learners to “explore and process knowledge.”  Learners begin by typing in a word or phrase to research. EyePlorer gathers information from the Web and arranges it into a color wheel of concepts.  If users hover over each concept on the color wheel, then they get a brief description about that item. In addition, each term is cross-referenced with associative concepts.

The premise of eyePlorer is to enhance the way “users interact with knowledge and information online.”  Discovering information is accomplished in an interactive, visual and innovative manner. This application is ideal for brainstorming and finding associative ideas. An interactive notebook is provided to drag and drop facts, which allows users to find and collate references. The process of searching for topics and collecting notes helps learners prepare to write and promotes digital literacy. My presentation can be viewed below.

Rewarding Experience

The process of creating this presentation for Second Life was rich and rewarding. As might be expected, I learned a great deal about Second Life simply as a result of having to present in the context of Second Life. This required that I learn how to communicate, travel, change clothes and the list could continue.

Interestingly, I was learning on two levels simultaneously. I was doing the research on eyePlorer and learning about that Web 2.0 technology, and at the same time, I was learning about Second Life. This experience was almost like “digital dual-coding.” I haven’t heard that term before, but I think the experience is accurately described by that phrase.

A Sidebar Takeaway

As a side note, I have a great story that I will remember from this project. Our instructor told us to ensure that we had all documents in place well ahead of time and that we had a secure connection for the presentation. All of the documents were in place well ahead of time, so that was no issue. In considering a secure Internet connection, I could think of no better place than my workplace, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC). After all, we have a network that flows straight from our state’s capital, Jackson, on a pretty beefy infrastructure. I spent the morning of the presentation double-checking to make sure Second Life worked from my desk, and I was ready to go. The presentation started at 3:00, and around 2:55 (no kidding), MGCCC’s entire network crashed. They initially thought it was a server problem, but we came to find out that AT&T actually cut into a major fiber. I wound up having to drive to my house and arrived at the presentation 30 minutes late. All of this to say, that I was reminded of a valuable lesson: “The best made plans of mice and men often go awry.”

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