Sunday, June 22, 2008

Then what could Connectivism be?

Thinking more about the inherent instability of information, Connectivism may not be a learning theory but a means of addressing/mediating this instability. But then again, could that be one of the roles of learning theory itself and Seimens has just hit upon the latest iteration?

The Library in the New Age by Robert Darnton

This article makes some important points about our relationship to information and technology that are particularly relevant to Connectivism and what is happening at Tacoma Community College 's news site -, the Tacoma Challenge. In the article, Robert Darnton argues that every age was an "Information Age" and that information has always been unstable. Each generation, whether from print, telegraph, radio, TV, computers, deals with its own "future shock." This is one of the challenges to Connectivism: is it a learning theory (with a complete epistemology)? or does it merely describe our relationship to networks and information? Does Connectivism give us a theory or explain a learning modality? As media became more pervasive, it became important for educators to understand how people learn via the modalities of sound, vision, etc. As networks and information become more pervasive, it becomes more important to explore how the mind uses networks for learning.

The second part of the article deals with the nature of the news; he says that news has always been an artifact and never corresponded exactly to what has actually happened. One of the criticisms I hear about the Challenge is that it is not run by AP trained professionals as if this is some kind of assurance of integrity. I appreciate the journalistic ideal of the truth but I have read enough news to appreciate it as an ideal and not reality. Traditional reporting in my view has as much integrity as the collective wisdom of the community captured over time as a single report hurriedly scratched out on a deadline and then repackaged by an editor. The Challenge has moved from traditional newspaper to student run news site. The goal is to create a network of information that will have some of the traditional journalistic ideals but not dependent upon them. There will be no single story but people reporting on events, sending in pictures, and responding to postings: a collective story created by the community, not handed down by an authority.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why reproduce buildings in a virtual world?

When first exploring Second Life, I asked that a lot. Here we have this fully scriptable, three dimensional virtual world and we are doing everything we can to reproduce the limitations of the first world (there is an old Zen master who laughs everytime I refer to Second Life as the "virtual world"). After working with instructors in Second Life and participating is some classes, I find that there are some bad reasons to create buildings and some good ones. The wrong reason is to re-create the brick and mortar classroom. Some hold class sessions in Second Life but using it as a virtual meeting is limited by the high tech requirements. Students often have to be on campus to take advantage of this as a meeting space. But creating assignments that utilize the familiar in different ways transforms a virtual meeting is to something more akin to theater. While working as an instructional designer on a courtroom simulation, I began to work and see the space more as a set designer than an instructional designer. I had been looking for courtroom furnishings in SL for months and there just does not seem to be much call for that. Harvard uses a virtual courtroom. I finally was satisfied that my own building skills would allow me to create rudimentary furniture. I have created a courtroom now that looks like it is made entirely from Ikea furniture but it is functional. It does not have to be perfect. I can get people in the right places and they get the idea about how it is supposed to work. The students will participate in the fiction with a willing suspension of disbelief because that is how they tend to approach all media, especially an avatar-based virtual world. Virtual space=theatrical space.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why not Second Life?

I was just reading Kapp's blog where he says that we should be thinking virtual worlds, not just Second Life. I am all for that. I think that most of what constitutes learning in Second Life is not specific to the platform itself but in the possibilities of the virtual 3-d world. But the reason why Second Life is such a rich experience is because of all of the layers of junk (gaming, gambling, commercial brick-a-brack, etc.). It is a good education environment precisely because Second Life is not a purely educational environment. It is not even secondarily or tertially an educational environment. All of the teaching tools, scripting, and communication methods have roots in the undercurrent of gaming that propels the innovation in Second Life. This does not come from the platform but the people using the platform. I shudder to think what a 3-d world would look like that was created by and for educators. There would be a lot of forms to fill out. You would not be able to own land until you were tenured. It would only operate 35 hours a week and would be down all summer. You could teleport to other islands as instantly as you have received prior authorization from the vice-president for inter-island travel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TileStack - Your Creative Playground

TileStack - Your Creative Playground: "Remember that great application that used to come with all Macs called HyperCard? Ever wished it would return, only better? Say hello to TileStack!"

I liked Hypercard. I knew people from all walks of life who used it. It was free, included with all Macs, and the scripting language was easy to learn. Users could build some fairly complex applications in a short period of time. There are a lot of tools out there that do what Hypercard can also do and the tools are used for what most people used to use Hypercard for (contacts, recipes, etc.) but the presence of a powerful but simple scripting language means that users have to ability to take it far beyond the vision of the creators. Most often, Hypercard stacks were pretty basic, but in the hands of the right user, it could really fly. For instance, in the final days of Hypercard, someone built a complete bulletin board system from nothing but Hypercard. A bulletin board was a pre-WWW system that users would dial into to leave messages, host games, and communicate with one another. BBSs were often stacks of modems in people's garages. Applications like Hypercard democratize technology.