27 April, 2009

SOLSTICE Conference 2009: It's All in the Blend?

2009 sees the fourth annual SOLSTICE Conference here at Edge Hill University, on Thursday 4th June.

The conference aims to 'explore the 'blend' between innovation, research and development of supported and blended online learning'.

In the keynote sessions, Dr Rhona Sharpe and Professor Tara Brabazon will be speaking, and abstracts for other sessions are available covering many topics including social networking, online formative assessment, learning spaces, 3D virtual worlds and the user experience.

If that sounds relevant to you, register online.

[Image from the SOLSTICE archives]
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20 April, 2009

Virtual Worlds in Education: Journals

For those interested in using virtual worlds in education, there are 3 'special issues' of journals looking at specifically that. These are a good starting point to survey what work is going on in this area.

If you know of any other good resources that you'd like to share, why not leave a comment below.

[Image by Peter Beaumont]

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08 April, 2009

Virtual Gaming Worlds and Learning

One of the interesting thing about looking at using games in education is learning from the game designers. They know how to keep a player motivated to play the game, and to keep learning the complex rules and possibilities. This is especially noticable in a MMORPG like World of Warcraft where players talk about playing the game for 2-3000 hours.

I have a couple of questions that I'd like to explore. Firstly is there anything that educators can learn from game designers relating to motivation and learning, to feed into designing learning experiences? And secondly how can games (either out of the box, specifically created or altered for purpose) be used as a valuable part of a course or module?

To begin thinking about the first question, have a look at Jane McGonigal's talk at the Web 2.0 Summit from 2007. She talks about how, compared to games, reality is 'broken' and she asks how we can make reality work more like games. Games come with a clear goal and clear pathways to achieving that goal, and they give you good feedback on your actions. Most importantly though, games are designed to make you happy. Some attempts to capture these ideas for non-traditional gaming uses are Chore Wars (join my party!), Seriosity (to help an organisation deal with too much email), The Nethernet, and Cruel 2 B Kind.

To help start answering the second question we could listen to David Gibson at the recent Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference in which he talked about putting together a synthesis of ideas to help plan, implement and assess serious games. He tries to combine ideas from Prenky (2001) [EHU Library E-book Link - see page 52 for the list that is mentioned in the talk] about how the new 'Games Generation' thinks differently, with appropriate learning theory, an activity theory framework and Mislevy's assessment model.

If you want to explore these things further you might also want to look at:

[Image by mi2starsfan]

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01 April, 2009

Adaptations that I would like to see in my classroom

Trawling through an archive of my e-learning masters course I found my thoughts about hopeful improvements within the next 10 years. Here’s what I said in 2006:

Adaptations which I would like to see in my classroom and may be financially and technically possible in the next 10 years (briefly, as I think most are aware of my ideas):

  • Thin client, cheap laptop, robust technology.
  • Increasing use of VLE, especially the forum feature – encouraging students to learn from each other.
  • Project based learning – less discrete subject and more ‘joined up’ (is that word making a come back, please) teaching and learning.
  • Use of variety of software, away from monolithic Microsoft towards other commercial and open sourced provision.
  • Get the kit to become more of an assistant than a hindrance:
  • currently we:
  • need to type, I want to see voice recognition;
  • we need to look at small screens, I want to see wearable displays giving a complete field of view;
  • we rely too much on text, I want to see multimedia used to it’s proper conclusion;
  • we have to say “Wait whilst my computer boots up”, I want to have a
    turned on instantly available source of information, as accessible as a piece of paper in my pocket.

… how far do you think we’ve come?

I think the above brings to mind that

  1. There has been some movement in thin client, but perhaps not as much as I’d like;
  2. The VLE forum is being challenged by the “small parts” model (utilising other web based social tools, as well as phone technologies); and
  3. Open source is becoming more mainstream (look at cheap netbooks operating systems).
  4. It also highlights that we have far to go with the human-machine interface (to lower that barrier), more use of multimedia and a machine that switches on when you ask it to, not 5 minutes later when it feels like it.

On the latter point, consider the OLPC, (this from their discussion of power usage page):

"Resume on our system is extremely fast: even without any serious attempt to optimize resume, we can resume from RAM in 160 milliseconds (mid-April, 2007). We are still determining the minimum resume time, as a 63ms delay we thought was required has a workaround in the Geode. B3 and later systems are probably similar to the GX. We will work in the future to further speed resume. Note that for most uses, 100ms is considered at the edge of human perception (e.g. typing).”

So, if OLPC can do it …

Thanks for reading – thoughts and comments sought.

David (image by mangee)