Thursday, October 30, 2008

Point/Counterpoint Session: Virtual Worlds: Fad or Future?

Thursday, October 30 2:20 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.
Point/Counterpoint Session: Virtual Worlds: Fad or Future?
Room W209C

* AJ Kelton, Director, Emerging Instructional Tech, College of Humanities
& Social Sciences, Montclair State University
* Cyprien P. Lomas, Director, Learning Centre, The University of British
* Sarah Robbins-Bell, PhD Candidate, Ball State University

The education industry has grown weary of the "next big thing." Technology
has promised much over the years, but have virtual worlds finally
delivered on the promise? This session will focus on the major issues
facing teaching and learning in a virtual environment.
These are my notes and NOT a transcription.
Second Life - why a proprietary product?
Cyprien: It is still modeling how to use virtual worlds
Sarah: Not comfortable putting eggs in one basket - we are seeing more open source worlds coming up - Croquet is difficult. These will let you learn how to teach in new ways and make you more comfortable in virtual spaces.
Cyprien: Difficulties of SL caused problems.
Sarah: It used to go down but there was a buy-in from users
How do we know that we are getting a return on investment?
Cyprien: Depends on your timeline. Creating faculty and student engagement when you look in the short time.
Sarah: You need to look at metrics of success. - if your goal is to create engagement or improve retention then your mesurements will be different.
What about the technical issues?
Sarah: If the tech people get in the way of teaching and learning, they need to be let go. It does not have to be installed institution wide. Rely less on IT - more on teachers and student learning groups.
Cyprien: Pedagogy first
What about the higher end technology requirements?
Sarah: Does not require the students to use the virtual world - students know what they are getting into.
How do you handle assessment? Should the virtual environment be assessed as a teaching tool?
Cyprian: That is a longer term goal - we are talking about emerging literacies.
Sarah: There are a couple of things we should keep in mind: we should play with them to see if there is an assessment value. What you do with the tool is what matters - we should assess the use of the tool. Assess them as communities and cultures as well.
Students in SL can take any form they want, communicate on the back channel - why would an instructor want to give up control?
Sarah: Why not learn to take advantage of this and learn to use this to learn about the students.
Cyprian: SL allows us to catch more people and different kinds of learners.
Why let the companies dictate what we use?
Sarah: Linden labs is pretty responsive.
Cyprien: There is a large element of play and flexibility. It is an on going iterative cycle.
Some people are not comfortable learning in MUVEs. Can you address learning styles?
Sarah: The models we use now do not accomodate all learning styles. We need to be cognizant of the ways these tools can shape learning. Let the students create projects that meet goals that suit their learning styles.
Cyprien: Learning styles need to be considered.
Are you aware of anyone using SL to model real world scenarios? Significant difference?
A discussion of the epidemic in WOW.
Sarah: There are epidemiology studies going on in SL: Loyalist College is doing this will heavy assessment. They got higher retention rates from their students.
How to deal with identity issues for purposes of assessment?
Sarah: We can't prove the avatar is the student anymore than we can prove it in any LMS. When she is in a face-to-face situation, she uses the notes tab on the student avatars.
Young kids are getting so used to using virtual environments...what do you think needs to happen...?
Cyprien: Once someone moves to a ne virtual world they do have to learn the new rules but they are able to take some of those skills and use them in the new one. The new students will have some idea about how it works from other games.
Sarah: Unless your subject matter is learning new software, ethnography, or virtual environments. A couple of weeks in SL for a class is too short amount of time. The tools are only as good as what they allow us to use. She sets aside one night for a "boot camp" - scavenger hunt, take pictures as they go.
Why would people call it a game? How do you overcome the game stigma?
Sarah: The environment is not a game scenario - no skills, points, conflict or goals. You can create games though.
What about portability to other worlds?
Cyprien: It is a concern.
Sarah: Each space has its own culture so something that is worth building in SL may not be something helpful for other worlds.
Immersive and engaging?
Sarah: Depends on how you use it. You ave to care to be engaged. I have been immersed in MUDs and they are just lines of text.
Cyprien: Being able to create and explore and being limited only by your imagination.

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