Posts Tagged ‘IT 860’

The majority of American educational institutions continue to operate from a 19th century framework. In this traditional model, the focus is high stakes testing and training workers with a specific skill set, such as industrial work. This pedagogical approach endures in spite of a steady stream of emerging technologies and 21st century learners that are tech-savvy and often bored in school (Prensky, 2001, as cited by Stoerger, 2010).

Many educators are looking for alternatives to this conventional method. Some of these new approaches attempt to engage learners in a relevant and appealing way. For these teachers, the curriculum is often presented in a fun way, such as through virtual worlds.

Theoretical framework for virtual worlds

From a theoretical perspective, the framework for this new, relevant approach stems from constructivism. A move toward learner-centered approaches represents a shift in philosophy from behaviorism to constructivism. For behaviorists, the mind is an empty container waiting to be filled, which often neglects higher order thinking skills. In contrast, constructivists argue that students construct learning, which requires that students become an active part of the learning process. In constructivism, students gain knowledge by interacting with the world in a relevant manner (i.e., situated learning).

Today’s learners prefer to gather knowledge through interactions with others, multiple paths and through experiences. Prensky (2001) termed this new generation as “digital natives,” and he argued that they learn differently than previous generations.

Virtual reality has been deemed a powerful tool when teaching through a constructivist framework. Virtual worlds allow learners to interact with content and gain knowledge through experiential learning. In addition, virtual worlds serve as an ideal example of situated learning. The goal of situated learning is to place students in a rich, authentic environment and create a community of learners. Virtual environments are able to accomplish these goals of authenticity and community.

Road to virtual worlds

The roots of virtual worlds extend back to text-based virtual realities and video games. Educators experimented with text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) long before the advent of virtual worlds.

Adding to this support for virtual worlds, some digital video games have demonstrated effectiveness in learning. In the end, games help students become better problem solvers.  Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) have caused the lines to be blurred between virtual worlds and video games. A good example of this is Second Life. Some scholars hold that Second Life is not a game (Robbins, 2007; Steinkuchler, 2008; as cited by Stoerger, 2010). The creators of Second Life (i.e., Linden Labs) actually argue that their virtual world is not a MMOG because users actually create their “world.” Therefore, Second Life is a hybrid.

Drawbacks of virtual worlds

Play is a powerful motivator for some students, but not all students enjoy learning in a visual manner, such as a virtual world (Squire, 2005, as cited by Stoerger, 2010). Also, virtual worlds generally take a great deal of time to play and monitor. Interruptions do sometimes occur, such as “drive-by shoutings” (Haynes and Homevik, 1998, p. 6, as cited by Stoerger, 2010). Students can be banished from certain virtual worlds if they violate the Terms of Service (TOS). Generally speaking, virtual worlds require students to have a good video card and up-to-date computer, which cannot be afforded by all. Finally, sexual content is often rampant in virtual worlds; students should be forewarned and encouraged to avoid certain areas and situations (Haynes, 2006, as cited by Stoerger, 2010).

General attributes of Second Life

Second Life (SL) is the biggest three-dimensional virtual world, and it was launched in 2003. Users of SL are called “residents.” These residents can be anyone they want to be and can change appearance multiple times within any online session. Residents communicate through Instant Messaging (IM), text chat or voice chat. All of this communication occurs real time, and the transcripts of IM and text are available for free.


Virtual worlds on their own are not sufficient tools to facilitate learning. Educators must employ proven teaching techniques within the context of a virtual world, specifically Second Life for this discussion. Stoerger developed a pedagogical model for virtual worlds that stems from proven learning techniques and strategies. Her model includes ten principles and is named as the mnemonic “SECOND LIFE”:

  1. Support Experimentation-Students learn by building their own identity.
  2. Encourage Play-Play is an important part of learning. Vygotsky argued that play helps a child generate a zone of proximal learning.
  3. Construct Scaffolded Spaces-Teachers should scaffold learning by using four sequential techniques: conceptual, procedural, strategic and metacognitive coaching.
  4. Opt Out of Lecture and Passive Approaches-Current students are active learners. They like to collaborate in communities and learn through experience.
  5. Nurture Player Choice and Decision-Making-Players are responsible for many decisions, and therefore, they control their own learning to a large degree.
  6. Design “Realistic” Environments-Environments need to be relevant and real, such as a replica of a university.
  7. Lead Students Toward a Sense of Space-Students establish their sense of identity in virtual worlds through activities, actions and context.
  8. Increase Student Learning-The natural use of dual coding is an important teaching tool in virtual worlds.
  9. Foster the Formation of a Learning Culture-Many students gain more knowledge through peer-to-peer learning than they could on their own.
  10. Enhance Technology-Focused Skills-Teachers should help students transfer knowledge from the virtual world to reality.

What did you learn from this article?

This article provided a good theoretical framework for using virtual worlds in education. The best approach to teach in a virtual world uses tenets from constructivism. The brief historical description of virtual worlds was also helpful. The SECOND LIFE model is relevant and easy to remember because of the mnemonic, and the ten principles of this model seem feasible and lend guidance to teachers.

Future Trends?

Before joining SL, I was skeptical about how useful it might be in education. I have to admit that the environment was much more fun and relevant than I thought it would be. SL has a great deal of potential in education. I agree with the author that a move to mobile forms of SL and other virtual worlds will gain momentum in coming years. However, the speed of connection and video card requirements for a great experience prohibit the mobile option from gaining popularity currently. I look forward to seeing new virtual worlds emerge over the next few years. I think that any such world, including SL, will have to eliminate illicit content (e.g., sexual content) before it is given widespread consideration in academia. In addition, I think the cost of any such virtual world will need to come down before it is widely embraced by universities.

Stoerger, S. (2010). A pedagogical odyssey in three-dimensional virtual worlds: The SECOND LIFE model. In Yang, H. H. & Yuen, S. C. (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 248-267). Hershey, Pennsylvania: Information Science Reference. doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4.ch014


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Using games to teach knowledge and basic educational content is gaining more attention in recent years. The discussion on harnessing the power of video games to teach actually began in the early 1980s with the popularity of Pac-Man (Squire, 2003, as cited by Jong, Shang, Lee & Lee, 2010). The premise behind using games for learning stems from the basic concept that enjoyment and fun are essential components in the learning process. The prospect of making learning more interesting to students served as the primary focus for early research on game-based learning.

New Theoretical Approach in Game-Based Learning: Behaviorism to Constructivism

This focus has changed in recent years, and the new focal point of game-based learning uses strategies to promote learning communities and sustained engagement over a long period of time. In this shift, advocates of game-based learning moved from a behaviorist perspective to a constructivist approach. In the old behaviorist approach, games aimed to condition an appropriate response in students by using techniques such as drill-and-practice games. However, transfer of knowledge from these games to the real world was a significant problem in the behaviorist approach.

In contrasts, the constructivist approach emphasizes the construction of knowledge by the learner. For game-based learning, knowledge construction is enabled by socio-cultural and cognitive interactions in an authentic and rich environment. Mini-games (1 hour or less) do not meet these requirements, but complex-games (dozens of hours) do facilitate this approach. In complex-games, players (i.e., learners) gain new and multiple skills, and the learners interact with other humans and computer-generated NPCs (non-player characters). Complex-games do not have a prescribed list of tasks, rather the tasks are open-ended. The open-ended and interactive nature of complex-games coincides with constructivist ideas of situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010).

Education in Games vs. Games in Education

There are two primary approaches to implement games in an educational setting. One is the “education in games” approach. In this method, games from the commercial market are adopted and explored for opportunities to teach. Ultimately, this approach has been deemed more beneficial for informal learning than formal learning (i.e., school). On the other hand, the “games in education” approach seems to have much more potential for learning in a formal setting. Several pioneers have developed this games in education approach: Shaffer (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-epistemic frame; Lee, Lee & Lau (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-Folklore-based learning; Aylett (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-narrative games; and Ip, Lukk, Cheun, Lee & Lee (2007, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-game-based collaborative learning platform.

Theoretical Framework for VISOLE

Having said this, very little discussion has centered on the role of the teacher in these environments, which was the reason for creating VISOLE (Virtual Interactive Student-Orientated Learning Environment). The theoretical framework for building VISOLE led the authors to focus on implementing three important aspects (i.e., phases) of constructivism: intrinsic motivation, situated learning and teacher facilitation. First, when students are intrinsically motivated, they participate in learning activities for the sake of learning, as opposed to an external reward. Second, situated learning places importance on acquiring skills in a strategic context that includes a relevant social-cultural situation.

Third, teacher facilitation is critical because simply allowing students to drift in a rich experience without guidance may not be an effective teaching tool, especially in transfer of knowledge to the real world. The role of the teacher is to aid in scaffolding and debriefing. Vygotsky’s (1978, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010) concept of scaffolding was to help activate the prior knowledge of students. In turn, students would be led to accomplish a task that would not be attainable without such prompting. After the gaming experience is over, debriefing encourages students to reflect on their experience.

Description of VISOLE and FARMTASIA

VISOLE was a new learning approach in game-based learning, and FARMTASIA served as the first working model of this approach. Reflecting the theoretical framework, the project was broken into three phases. The first phase was comprised of multi-disciplinary scaffolding. The second phase was the gaming experience itself, which emphasized situated learning. This is the phase that FARMTASIA was designed to support. The third phase was comprised of students’ reflection and debriefing. During the third stage, students were asked to submit a journal entry after each experience and after the entire project was over.

FARMTASIA was a complex-game and was designed to teach several disciplines including economics, biology, geography and technology. The game replicated a farm, and each player endeavored to cultivate and grow the farm. Several simulation models were imposed on the game that that reflected reality. For example, a player’s farm could be devastated by a disease in the crops, or an economic disaster could cause instability in the market. Most of these events were “unforeseen.”

FARMTASIA also had several other elements to make the game more intriguing and functional. Students had a chance to play mini-games within FARMTASIA, and the winner of such games was given an edge in the overall competition. Teachers were able to track the progress of students by actually viewing the recorded actions of students as a video. An online knowledge manual was created to serve as a learning resource and reference guide. Student reflections were posted to an online discussion forum and blog.

Did this article help in understanding the use of technology in education?

This chapter provided a concise summary of the history of gaming in education. I had no idea that interests in teaching through video games dated back to Pac-Man. I also appreciated the insight concerning the move from a behaviorist point of view to a constructivist point of view. I think the VISOLE approach was correct in stipulating teacher support and intervention. Under the guidance of a teacher, students would probably be more prone to apply knowledge in the real world.

What future trends do you see coming from this topic?

The idea of game-based learning seems really intriguing. If the game was decent, then it would certainly capture the attention of students. However, there are several barriers that must be overcome before game-based learning is embraced at large. I will mention a couple below.

Game developers of this content are going to have an enormous challenge to stay relevant. The gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. If educators want to teach through a game that is relevant, then the game will need to be reflective of current games in the commercial market. This is a serious issue because someone will have to create, develop and update the games. It seems silly to offer a game to students that aims at relevance but uses outdated technology. In the end, this means someone will be spending a lot of time and money on game development.

Time and evaluation of students are also of concern. The authors noted they had an insufficient amount of “time for reviewing the students’ gaming histories and preparing the debriefing classes” (Jong et. al., 2010, p. 200). I would imagine that reviewing the history of each student is unrealistic. The authors did recommend a computer automated process whereby recommendations would be given to the students and teachers based on player actions. This computer automation might work, but a manual review would be impossible.

Having said that, I think VISOLE is an excellent idea. This approach seems realistic from that standpoint that I could imagine students gaining a great deal of knowledge from the experience. I see a direct implementation of this in career and technical fields. Teaching construction, drafting, pipefitting, electronics and the like might be facilitated well by this approach. A great deal of research would also need to be done concerning the actual transfer of knowledge to real-world application.

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Colleges and Universities have maintained a great deal of stability and tradition for several centuries. This extended period of permanence has recently been challenged through the emergence of revolutionary technologies. These technological advancements have facilitated changes in the location of where classes are taught (e.g., online), who teaches classes and how classes are taught. Surry and Ensminger (2010) wrote an article that outlined the challenges inherent in some of theses changes and offered solutions.

Many positive changes have been heralded among colleges as a result of new technologies. For example, student information is now easy to track through student information systems. However, the negative impacts of recent changes have not been explored to the extent positives have been highlighted. Some of the negative impacts identified by Surry and Ensminger included commoditization of college, reduced instructional quality, deeper divides in regions and class, impacts on faculty workload, isolation of older and less tech-savvy students, overemphasis on programs that lend themselves to online instruction and loss of cultural and institutional identity.

Background of Issues

The authors offered five areas of discussion that helped to frame these problems. They presented a historical background for each of the five areas:

  1. Technological determinism is a philosophy that credits technology as the driving force in modern society. Proponents of this stance hold that technology is an autonomous force, and it has moved beyond human control. These supporters credit five characteristics of technology as being the impetus for technology becoming autonomous: self-augmentation, linkage to other technologies, automation, technical universalism (homogenizing effect of technology) and monism (connectedness of technology).
  2. The theory of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) regards all technology as a mere tool that is created, engineered and employed within a social system. As a result, technological tools are viewed as devices that advance the goals of society, which can be used in a positive or negative manner. One advantage of SCOT is that it adopts a non-linear and broad perspective of technology. In addition, proponents of SCOT regard users as active agents that design and shape technology rather than passive recipients.
  3. Co-construction of Technology is an eclectic philosophy that blends the first two philosophies (i.e., determinism and SCOT). These theorists contend that it is one-dimensional to regard technology as either a mere tool of society (i.e., SCOT) or as the driving force behind modern society (i.e., determinism). In this paradigm, society and technology influence one another through a symbiotic relationship.
  4. Implementation of technology is quickly becoming the primary concern of innovative institutions, whereas it was once adoption. The adoption of technology does not ensure that the technology will be used in an effective manner. Theories of implementation specific to higher education list seven key factors that influence the effectiveness of implementation: learning, support, resources, people, policies, infrastructure and evaluation.
  5. Evaluation is perhaps the most crucial factor from this list. If administrators and faculty can identify goals initially, then all stakeholders will have clear direction to meet these agreed-upon goals. Kirkpatrick (1994) developed a framework for this approach through his four-tiered evaluation model: reaction, learning, transfer and impact.

Specific Problems Identified

After providing this historical framework, the authors discussed specific problems resulting from the negative impacts of technology through the lens of these areas (i.e., determinism, SCOT, implementation and evaluation). They prefaced these solutions by identifying the most “compelling” challenge for administrators in this new frontier, which was finding the appropriate balance between human considerations and technological considerations:

  1. The philosophy of determinism could create some barriers. In an attempt to maximize the benefits of technology, core educational philosophies and ethics could be eclipsed. In addition, a host of technologies could become so interconnected and ubiquitous that they are beyond the control or supervision of organizations. Universalism could lead to courses becoming uniform without unique perspectives. As courses move toward this homogenized approach, students might lose their sense of affiliation and identification with any particular college, and this could in turn dramatically effect the personal development of learners, especially traditional students. New technologies will provide greater access to education for the citizenry, but states might not have control of the content and delivery of this curriculum. Therefore, states could react by increasing state control of programs and courses offered through such technology.
  2. According to SCOT, technology is derived as a result of social forces responding to societal needs. Therefore, a small group of high-level officials could make unilateral decisions that do not take into consideration the intricacies and details needed to make a wise decision on technology. These shortsighted decisions could lead to counterproductive, secondary, amoral and unimportant goals. In fact, the possibility exists that some members (e.g., business owner) of such an elite group could have ulterior motives that were not in the best interests of higher education or students.
  3. Issues related to Co-construction of Technology were covered in the discussion above, which focused on determinism and SCOT.
  4. Research has revealed that implementation is frequently regarded as being more difficult and important than adoption. If implementation is not administered correctly, then several consequences could unfold, such as wasted resources and time, inability to monitor or manage the technology, lackluster utilization, heightened faculty frustration and depreciated access for underserved groups. In addition, there are no universal answers for implementation because each organization requires a different approach.
  5. Perhaps the most difficult task for college officials now and in the future is predicting the impact of technology on education. If administrators build decisions on incomplete or inappropriate information, then the impact could be deemed too narrow or broad.

Solutions for Problems

There were a number of solutions offered for this set of negative ramifications. Surry (2008) actually offered six steps to help guide administrators respond to determinism: take individual responsibility, reduce social plasticity, establish formalized oversight, increase awareness, push decisions down the hierarchy and provide for meaningful choice. Decisions should be made after all stakeholders have an opportunity to offer insight. Students should be exposed to constant and meaningful interactions in order to combat social plasticity, such as community service or virtual fraternities or sororities.

School officials can also respond to SCOT in several ways. First, educators need to aim toward meeting the goals and values of society at large. Second, educators need to be aware of the competing motives of various groups contributing to higher education.

Implementation should be regarded as a customized process that will be tedious and long. Administrators need to proactively identify and alter policies that are not compatible with the future of University 2.0. For example, faculty tenure, promotion and retention might need to be altered.

In reference to evaluation, the primary advice offered by the authors is that identifying the impact is the most crucial aspect of evaluation. If the impact cannot be fully anticipated, then officials should put in place the resources that will allow for evaluation to take place.

Future Trends

The great unknown in all plans relating to technology is the expanding and evolving nature of student expectations. In addition, technology is a dynamic force that is progressing at an exponential rate. In light of these two realities, colleges will have to place greater emphasis on training faculty and upgrading technology. However, this emphasis should not overlook those learners that do not embrace University 2.0. In order to balance these concerns, officials will need to become active agents in the change process.  The authors suggest that successful administrators in University 2.0 will decentralize decision-making, embrace participation, anticipate obstacles and thrive in changing environments.

Both higher education and society could be forced to make a decision. Society might have to choose between having colleges that generate imaginative and thoughtful students or highly technical students. Similarly, colleges could be forced to choose between offering settings that are personal and human or environments that are technologically advanced.

Kirkpatrick, D. (1994). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Surry, D. (2008). Technology and the future of higher education: An Ellulian perspective. In J. Luca & E. r. Weippl (Eds.), Proceedings of the ED-MEDIA 2008-World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 4901-4906). Chesapeake, VA: Association for Advancement of Computing in Education.

Surry, D. & Ensminger, D. (2010). University 2.0: Human, social, and societal issues. In Yang, H. H., & Yuen, S. C. (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 94-108). Hershey, Pennsylvania: Information Science Reference. doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4.ch006

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Twitter has quickly become a force in American society and the technology realm. The company was founded in 2006, so the word “quickly” does not adequately describe the mind-boggling growth of this Web 2.0 technology. Twitter has gained over 100 million users worldwide in just four years.

Simply stated, Twitter is a free, web-based application that allows users to send and receive short messages; Twitter is simply a social network/microblog. These short messages (aka, tweets) are limited to 140 characters and are text-based. Each tweet is posted on the author’s Twitter profile page. In addition, individuals have the ability to subscribe to other authors’ Twitter accounts. Once a person “subscribes” to an author’s Twitter account, each tweet, from said author, will automatically be sent to the subscribers account. These subscribers are known as “followers.”

Authors have the ability to restrict delivery to designated individuals, and they can form closed groups. Mobility is a key component of Twitter. The limitation of 140 text-based characters coincides well with Short Message Service (SMS), which is now a standard feature of most cell phones. However, messages can be posted through text messages, instant messages or web forms. There are a number of third party services and other Web 2.0 applications that tie in with Twitter.

The first class assignment in IT 860 was to create a Twitter account and post 5 tweets to our class Twitter account. Joining Twitter was very easy; all that was required was logging on to http://twitter.com/ and filling out a few pieces of basic information. At this point, I seized the opportunity to personalize my Twitter account by configuring settings, modifying the layout and completing the profile questions.

Next, I searched for our class account. I began “following” the class Twitter account (i.e., @it860), which was signified by the standard Twitter icon. I would like to note here that Twitter accounts are generally referred to by using the @ sign followed by the account name (e.g., @it860).

Finally, I posted five tweets to the class @it860 Twitter account. One twist on this assignment was the requirement to post these five tweets through Direct Messages. Normally, you post a tweet by typing a quick message in the “What’s happening?” box, illustrated below:

However, for this assignment we needed to send Direct Messages that would instantly go to all classmates. This was easily accomplished in one of two ways. First, you could post a tweet normally but precede the message text with “d it780”.  In this scenario, the author would literally type “d it780 message…” in the “What’s happening?” box. Second, you can click the “Direct Message” link (illustrated below), and that link takes you to a direct message page from which you can choose a group and type a Direct Message:

Here are the first five tweets I posted to the class account via Direct Message:

  • Here is a great Web 2.0 wiki that outlines a number of tools by category- http://is.gd/cz9Ly
  • I just checked out Bebo. I thought it was limited to bands but it’s grown – http://www.bebo.com/
  • I just figured out that WordPress has a widget for Twitter!
  • Twitter Keys is a shortcut for icons in a tweet. ✌ for now; I’ve had to many cups of ♨ – http://is.gd/czc2g

Twitter Keys Bank

I learned several new concepts from this assignment. Signing up for and personalizing a Twitter account is free, easy and quick. During the tweeting process, I learned the difference between a normal tweet and a Direct Message. I also discovered several really cool tools and third party plug-ins that work in conjunction with Twitter. For example, Twitter Keys facilitates a shortcut for inserting icons into a tweet by using an icon bank (picture below). Last, I found a WordPress widget for Twitter, so you can check out my latest tweets on the sidebar of this page.

My Twitter page is https://twitter.com/jon_woodward. Feel free to check out this account or subscribe.

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As mentioned in my brief biography, I am currently working towards a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration with an emphasis in Instructional Technology. I have a learned a great deal from the classes I’ve taken in Instructional Technology, especially concerning Web 2.0 applications. In fact, this blog was initiated in conjunction with my doctoral program.

In the next several post, I will chronicle some of the learning that is taking place in IT 860 (Emerging Technology in Instructional Technology). Each post listed in the IT 860 Table of Contents will serve to outline the major assignments and the learning that takes place. I also hope to reflect on each project and discuss opportunities for application in my current setting. The following description represent a brief outline of the contents to be covered.

The primary focus of IT 860 is on emerging Web 2.0 technologies. And each assignment iss tied to a corresponding chapter from Dr. Yuen’s book, “Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking.“ The major readings for this course include Postmodernism in E-Learning 2.0, Embracing E-Learning 2.0, University 2.0, Web-Based Video for E-Learning, Synchronous Online Learning Environments, Game-Based Learning (VISOLE) and A Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds (The SECOND LIFE Model). These readings will help to introduce several Web 2.0 tools, provide a theoretical background for each tool and demonstrate points of application in education for each tool.

In conjunction with each reading, students are asked to immerse themselves in the technology. This step is important because instructional technologists need to move beyond a surface level understanding of Web 2.0 tools and actually use them. Without interaction with these tools, comments and discussion would merely be speculative or second hand. The Web 2.0 tools that we will experience during this semester include Twitter, Social Bookmarking (Diigo): Reflection on Assignment #2, Social Publishing Sites (Scribd), Screencasting, File Sharing with Drop.io and VoiceThread. These tools represent current tools that are popular and show a great deal of potential in education. I look forward to experiencing each Web 2.0 application!

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