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Posts Tagged ‘virtual world’

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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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.

SECOND LIFE Model

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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