07 May, 2009

Students Hooked on Screens, Hooked on Reality

Ori Inbar who writes on the Games Alfresco blog has released an engaging version of his 'Augmented Reality Now' presentation.

Ori talks about something relevant to educators, asking how we can use augmented reality, i.e. taking the power of digital technologies and layering them on top of the real world, to get students to engage with reality when it seems that some are more engaged with fantasy (TV, games, etc).

Augmented Reality Today: WARM '09 from Ori Inbar on Vimeo.

I'd argue that much time spent online is already augmenting reality, as it is building on existing face-to-face relationships by playing games or talking together. Ori puts forward the idea that augmented reality, could be used to draw a 'digital native' generation out into the sunlight again. Students who are hooked on screens, now seeing reality better through the screens, out in the real world. Not sure how true that idea is, but while watching the video it feels like an inspiring vision.

Ori also touches on how games designers have, through decades of trial and error, developed a deep understanding of what motivates people and makes them happy. Mark LeBlanc's '8 Kinds of Fun' is mentioned. How could these be applied to education, to motivate learners? Not forgetting that ultimate device to motivate gamers - Rewards. As Bill Fawcett mentions in 'The Battle for Azeroth', World of Warcraft players have the opportunity for constant rewards in the game, most of which mean something important to your character's powers, and which encourage you to just play a little longer. Again, and again.

But while games can bring about learning, learning isn't a game. An obvious difference between these games and education is that education is a much deeper and more complex undertaking. You wrestle with deep learning, and it changes you as you wrestle with it. Therefore giving 'experience points', for say, reading books would be silly and damaging to students' understanding of learning. Giving students formative feedback on quizzes, and scores as personal motivation might go a certain way towards them being able to regularly think about and track their development.

[Image by antjeverena]

Creative Commons License
This work (but not the video) is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

06 May, 2009

Making Peace with 'Web 2.0'?

'Web 2.0' - The term still excites many, but to be honest when I hear it now I wince. It was originally a call by Tim O'Reilly for businesses to realise that the Web had changed. So for example, the real power of the web was not tapped from putting company brochures online, but the Web could be a platform supporting services that grow in value as more people use them. It was a message that pointed out to media businesses that people want to create and share their own content, not just consume yours. Looking at the way the education industry uses the web, it is still a call that we still need to hear. We keep students in small groups in VLE sections, rarely connecting with other groups of students. We supply them with content, but VLEs are not designed with user generated content in mind.

So why does it make me wince, even when the message is still valid, and it's implications still able to open up the potential of the web for learners?

Well, Tim O'Reilly never defined what the term Web 2.0 meant. People explored the possibilities of Web as Platform and everything that came with it, and the term came to mean a lot of different things to different people. For example, my above explanation of the Web 2.0 message will be radically different from other people's. From this mix of meanings the term becomes meaningless, and when I hear it I'm not sure what the speaker actually means.

So what do we do with 'Web 2.0'?

My opinion now is that we should stop using the term because it is hindering communication, not helping. We should say what we mean. If we want our students to use online services like social bookmarking which are valuable because many people use them, and the reason is that we think it will help their research into a subject, it is better that we explicitly say that. Often when we use these vague terms, we are preventing ourselves from realising that we don't really understand what we are saying in any detail, or at least preventing others from understanding what we are actually trying to communicate.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's a useful 'shorthand', and everyone understands pretty much the same thing from it. Maybe I should make peace with, and embrace the term 'Web 2.0'?

What about you? Do you use the term? What does it mean to you?

[Image by luc legay]

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.