Archive for July, 2008
I posted this thought originally as a comment to a blog entry at Mediated Cultures by Professor Wesch, but I wanted to add a few things and include it here as well. This is a developing idea that, at the moment, is framing a larger context for all of the trends, ideas, and technologies I believe I’m understanding within education (K-16).
Several conversations and ideas have lead me to the idea of the “personal narrative” rather than the “grand narrative” suggested by Professor Wesch.
- Wesch’s publication, Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance
- Wesch’s Crisis of Significance presentation, a version of which I saw at ELI Annual 2008.
- Professor Pausch’s challenge to and hope for Carnegie Mellon’s May graduates to “find [their] passion.”
- a comment by Larry Friedlander during a video interview included in a conference presentation I attended today (7/31/08, Campus Technology 2008).
- a few personal reflections on the concepts of internal and external motivation
- a great conversation with two newly found colleagues (@pong, @jcollier) at Campus Technology’s 2008 Summer Conference (ending tomorrow 7/31 in Boston, MA)
The Crisis of Significance suggests we need a grand narrative that provides a socially, culturally adhesive reason to learn. However, we’re in an era where there’s no grand narrative; there’s no transcendent context which motivates us to learn. Professor Wesch suggests we need to identify or find a grand narrative.
For me, the absence of a grand narrative suggests the presiding “reason” to learn is learning itself; we are social beings that inherently need and want to learn “something.” However, until now we’ve always had a “grand narrative” that held significance strong enough to motivate us individually; it motivated us to learn specific things in specific ways. The underlying problem now may be that we’re struggling for the first time, as individuals, as a society and as a culture to learn for learning’s sake rather than for some other, external sake; that also means there’s no overriding grand narrative mandate to learn specific things or to learn them in specific ways.
That may explain the burgeoning social movement by educators to change the way we’re teaching and learning in formal/traditional learning spaces. That may explain the root genesis for the concept of “personal learning environments:” unique, online spaces and processes created by individuals to facilitate and control their own learning. That may explain the increasing interest in informal learning – individuals learning on their own, on the job or within organically formed groups seeking personal satisfaction.
For me then, the answer to the crisis of significance may not be to find a grand narrative. Maybe the better answer is to continue down those paths already being created to discover ways in which we may help individuals identify their own personal narrative, their passion; and, once that passion is identified, we must find new ways to facilitate the exploration and growth of that personal narrative.
That does mean that we need to fundamentally alter the way we teach and learn. One of the reasons we may be struggling to learn for learning’s sake is that all of our institutions have always served the prevailing grand narrative. They are not inherently capable of supporting and are often argued as being counterproductive to supporting anything resembling a “personal narrative.”
We have to find the significance, but it’s personal rather than grand.
We have to find some of Professor Pausch’s passion.
We have to understand that “teaching is more and more requiring a very deep respect for learners, and an awareness that each learner has a deep inner life that is relevant to the learning process that must occur within an atmosphere of mutual trust.” (taking great liberties with paraphrasing a video interview of Dr. Larry Friedlander, Stanford presented during this session)
I’m attending Campus Technology 2008 in Boston, and I’ll be live blogging throughout the conference. I’ll try to edit this post with that information as I can, but you might want to track the conference via a site created by JCollier.
If you click on “Conference Sessions,” you’ll see a list of the sessions; those with linked pages may have additional resources posted, and I’ll be linking to my CoverItLive live blogs from that space as well.
Sessions – some upcoming – others archived (all times are US Eastern -5GMT).
Tuesday, July 29
- 10:00am – Riding Web2.0: Toward Service Beyond the Classroom
- 11:15am – A New Visualalization Center at Tufts University
- 3:45pm – Driving Research in Technology and Pedagogy: Faculty in the Incubator Classroom
Wednesday, July 30
- 9:45am – Forget CourseCasting: Podcasting as Inspiration at UConn
- 11:00am – Worldware & New Personal Learning Environments
- 3:30pm – Marrying High-Tech Learning Space Design to Optimal Faculty Use
Thursday, July 31
- 8:30am – Social & Community Networking at Tufts
- 9:45am – Using Second Life to Road Test ‘Tech Space Planning’
- 11:00am – (chat room) – Bracing for the Next-Gen Student Wave: Myth or Mandate?
The Official Google Blog commented “We Knew the Web was Big“:
we found even more than 1 trillion individual links, but not all of them lead to unique web pages. Many pages have multiple URLs with exactly the same content or URLs that are auto-generated copies of each other. Even after removing those exact duplicates, we saw a trillion unique URLs, and the number of individual web pages out there is growing by several billion pages per day.
Of course, 1 trillion links will always sound like a lot, but to visualize it a little differently, exactly how many different hyperlinks is that?
So multiple times every day, we do the computational equivalent of fully exploring every intersection of every road in the United States. Except it’d be a map about 50,000 times as big as the U.S., with 50,000 times as many roads and intersections.
Is there any other argument for the importance of information literacy in our schools, colleges and universities? If our learners now do not leave our institutions prepared to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information,” what impact will that have on them? our workplaces?
A bonus and rare two-post day here at MUVE Forward. The news of Linden Labs’ & IBM’s cooperative effort to teleport from the Second Life preview grid to a location on an OpenSim space has created excitement and raised more than a few questions. Brett Bjornson (RL: Brett Bixler, Penn State) asked several questions in a recent post that made a few thoughts gel.
Last week, Erir Reuters interviewed Linden VP Joe Miller (SL: Zero Linden) – Linden prepares for an OpenSim Future – to explore what Linden Lab’s strategy might be for the long term. After all, Linden’s current profit model is almost entirely dependent upon land sales and management; if they are actively pursuing interoperability and the increase of OpenSim within the market,
“Linden is banking on OpenSim to bolster its strong position in the virtual worlds industry.”
How will Linden maintain profitability?
Naturally, Miller provided vague answers at best, but according to Reuters, he suggested that Linden intends to provide search and economic and trading services, particularly if the $L can be maintained as the “gold standard” of virtual world currency. Plus, Linden Lab could assume administration responsibilities within the virtual worlds standards naming and communication protocols in a manner similar to VeriSign’s role in managing top-level internet domains.
I think the “very specific plans” Miller mentioned during the interview will be much grander and different than economic and trading services. I believe Linden Lab’s future profit model will include:
- Trust Certificates for OpenSim operators/owners. As noted by my previous post – OpenSim, SecondLife & Interoperability – the transfer of assets from Second Life to an OpenSim space will require a trust relationship between the two grids to ensure that content creators’ rights and control over their products are preserved. Based upon a 2005 blog post by Gwyneth Llewelyn which I discovered via a more recent post by Danton Sideways, I specifically asked Tess Linden (during Zero’s office hours on Tue, July 8) if it would be logical for Linden Lab to offer fee-based “trust certificates” to OpenSim owners; she indicated that it’s possible. I think it’s obvious.
- Establishing secure, enterprise virtual worlds for corporations. I perceived this to be a viable profit model for Linden Lab when it was announced in April that IBM and Linden Lab had established a private Second Life server behind IBM’s firewall. In my post A New Hype Curve for SL: Private, Secure Sims & Open Source, I described how I think this may occur, why it’s viable and what it would allow Linden to accomplish – specifically, open sourcing the server code.
- Providing business data integration services for Second Life and OpenSim servers. In addition to being ideally suited to support businesses as they engage virtual worlds, Linden is also uniquely positioned to integrate OpenSim/Second Life backend data streams and institutional business data. Services and products that help connect OpenSim to Active Directory or other data structures makes sense.
- Custom virtual world solutions. Out of the box isn’t always the best solution, and there’s plenty of room for consultants to offer services which customize OpenSim server code to meet specific business needs – perhaps beyond the integration of business data. Linden Lab’s experience in building Second Life in the first place places them at the top of this list as well.
What does this mean for education? I believe this answers questions regarding the long term viability of Second Life – perhaps not as a unique platform but as a type of virtual environment; the revenue streams I’m suggesting allow Linden Lab to actively pursue interoperability between the main grid and OpenSims, as I suggested back in April and as they are currently doing with IBM. For me, all of that suggests that the Second Life type platform – either Second Life proper or the reverse engineered OpenSim version – will continue to exist and expand. It makes educational ventures into Second Life more viable over the short term with some level of confidence that work done now may realistically be transferred to an institutionally owned OpenSim server that potentially integrates with other business systems.
Last week, I noticed – like everyone else – the news regarding the successful interoperability venture by Linden Labs and IBM to teleport from the Second Life preview grid to a location in “another” virtual world running on an OpenSim server. More than a few thoughts have been swirling around since then.
The same afternoon as the announcement (Tue, July 8), I attended Zero Linden‘s office hours hosted by Tess Linden (Zero on vacation). There were two key issues discussed by the group that remain key issues which must be resolved for interoperability to be logistically possible; my non-technical understanding of those issue follows.
First, the transfer of assets from grid to grid presents a significant logistical issue for the protection of content ownership. As Tess noted, “Second lLife does not have copy protection against assets . . . [has] a permissions system that may not be honored by external grids that [SL] doesn’t have a trust relationship with.” To protect content may then require (a) restricting it to the main grid and not allowing movement between grids, (b) allowing content creators to mark their content as eligible for transfer between grids, or (c) establishing a trust relationship between open sim & Linden servers to ensure that open sims protect content ownership.
Second, maintaining identity from server to server presents particular challenges as well. A very simple level of identity management would be to have one system recognize or know an avatar’s unique, different identity on another and simply pass that information between the systems. That would allow for me to “teleport” from Topher Zwiers in Second Life to my Chris Alpha account on an Open Sim; but that’s not true interoperability. However, it may not be possible for me to claim Topher Zwiers on every Open Sim platform. In short, true interoperability requires some measure of central idnetity management: agent domain naming protocol or OpenID type system. like system.consistent protocols that amount to For interoperability to work as envisioned For me – and this may only be me – there’s two levels of “interoperability” in regards to identity.
With all of that said, I believe OpenSim and the notion of interoperability currently presents the same opportunity for educators that Project Wonderland does. This is the earliest news of interoperability being a reality; like Wonderland, I believe it will take 18 months to two years to truly begin resolving many of these issues – at least to the point where OpenSim with a connection to the main grid may be a worthwhile endeavor for educational institutions using virtual worlds for instructional purposes.
There’s a number of issues and questions that have come up since the news of the test; I have a few thoughts in that regard as well, but that’s the next post.
I try to not make a habit of reposting items or media I read or see on other blogs without hopefully adding value with my own thoughts. However, the first line of this video makes this one reposting. I first saw it posted at EduGeek Journal by Katrina Adams.
A forum post in one of my Ning networks highlighted this blog post by Rick Tanski, “BLC08 – Tainted by Digital Racism” which questions Marc Prensky’s choice of rhetoric when describing “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants.” I agree that a postmodern deconstruction of that characterization of technology users is easily justified and perhaps very necessary, but I believe the entire “digital native” rhetoric has created two other problems that are more specifically relevant to educators.
First, by establishing the term “digital native,” Prensky enabled the mythology of the inherently computer literate learner. Many, many educators have heard the term “digital native” and have translated that to mean that all Generation Y or Millenial learners are computer literate. Many younger learners absolutely know how to use certain technology tools or web applications: cell phones, text messaging, and MySpace or Facebook. However, that is the furthest thing from being “computer literate” – much less “information literate.” Knowing how to go to www.google.com and enter a search term is drastically different from being able to enter search terms that help you efficiently find what you need. Further, being a natural at Photoshop or Autocad or Excel or Facebook or text messaging on a phone keypad or any other specific applications does not constitute being computer literate or information literate. Being literate in those regards requires a much broader range of skills than those possessed by many “digital natives” I’ve observed.
Second, I believe Prensky’s work also spawned or contributed greatly to the misguided belief that younger learners learn differently than the learners before them – that learning styles have changed. My thoughts on this issue are posted here and fall into line with Rick’s comment: “By the way, teachers who struggle with new technologies are not new: did anyone else help out with the film projector, slide projector, opaque or ditto machines? I mean all the Web 2.0 items are projectors in themselves, right?” Even if our younger learners have grown up with technology all around them, that doesn’t mean they learn any differently than you or I; they just have new and different tools available to facilitate the process.
A couple of articles and blog posts I’ve read recently are perc’ing.
Sarah Robbins blogged recently about a lesson to be learned from Scrabble-maker toy companies Mattel & Hasbro’s collective lack of foresight regarding how technology may be used to promote their product. In short, Mattel/Hasbro “missed the boat” on the opportunity presented by technology to extend the reach of their product (Scrabble). Sarah’s blog is worth a read, and so are the sources she links to. At the end of her post, Sarah asks,
Are there tech communities in which your product/service could do well but you’re hesitating because you’re unsure or uptight? Could someone else compete with you in those spaces if you wait too long? How much will the damage to your reputation cost if you allow someone else to deliver your product better?
My first thought was to put a more specific, educational spin on her questions. There’s no question technology is impacting many businesses – their processes, products, services and more importantly, their ability to compete and profitability. As an educator and, more specifically, an instructional technologist, many educational institutions are slower to react. While most higher education institutions now have online admissions and registration, how many business processes beyond that have been impacted? How many insitutions have mobile support for email access, instant messaging? What about in the classroom? When I very informally survey my 30-60 students per semester with a list of 25 tech-related activities, why do they indicate they engage 20+ on a daily or weekly basis outside of class but indicate, at the same time, that they engage fewer than 5 for the vast majority of classes?
And, this is only going to become more critical for educational institutions. A recent report from Juniper Research (via Daniel Nations @ About.com) suggests there will be 1.7 billion mobile internet users in the next five years. We – education – have barely caught up with the first iteration of the internet (online learning); we seem – as an industry – largely behind on versions two (Web 2.0) and three (Virtual Worlds). What is going to happen as the increasing mobile market begins forcing new business models within education? Two notable quotes of which, as Sarah’s post suggests, education should take notice:
Established mobile players face increasing competition from web-based brands and will have to adapt their commercial strategies to accommodate greater collaboration with other members of the value chain, if future revenue growth in the mobile web 2.0 space is to be achieved.
This marks a fundamental shift for the industry towards the D2C (direct-to consumer) model and places growing pressure on mobile network operators (MNOs) and handset manufacturers in particular, to relinquish some of their control over the value chain . . .
Interesting comments noted by Technology Review from MIT in an article run today: The Virtual World as Web Browser
The company [Second Life] is also working to make it easy for users to share 2-D data such as Microsoft Word files or PowerPoint presentations with other users inside the virtual world. Miller [Joe Miller, vice president of platform and technology development for Second Life] says that Linden Lab plans to deliver these new technologies by the end of this year, as part of its Web Media Initiative.
That’s definitely of interest to any educator’s using Second Life along with other tools for formal learning experiences. The article goes on to describe what I’m guessing are several other aspects of the Web Media Initiative that have been a long time coming, in my experience. The first is associating media with prims rather than parcels, as the article describes it:
Web content could then be stored on a portable object that a user’s avatar can carry anywhere in the virtual world. “You can take it out and show it to someone without that land having to be yours,” Miller says.
There is a short blurb about a collaborative whiteboard feature of sorts, but quickly turns to broadening the flavors of media (read: Flash) that could be imported into Second Life to give users more flexibility.I picked the article up through a Google News search feed I recently added to my reader. That feed, along with others to which I personally tag articles and blog entries that are relevant to Second Life and virtual worlds, may be useful.
- Virtual World news via Google Search
- Topher’s General Second Life & Virtual World News
- Topher’s Second Life Education News
A recent article tagged in my Second Life Education News comes from Entrepreneur.com via MSNBC. Virtual Success describes two young adults that started businesses as teenagers within Teen Second Life and Entropia. It’s worth a read for educators; informally validates the value of the virtual spaces.
I recently wrote about Project Wonderland vs Second Life (July 4) and suggested that virtual worlds appear to be falling into different classes of virtual environments: business class vs. content class. With the recent launch of Google’s Lively and Vivaty, there may be a third class of virtual environments beginning to emerge: to borrow from Vivaty’s self-description of their service – a virtual “scene.”
I’m interested in the community’s thoughts regarding these descriptions of different types of virtual environments:
- Content Class virtual worlds are those which focus more on the content and visual imagery within the virtual world than specific business or communication processes. Content Class virtual worlds attract users because of what can be designed, created, or built within the space; I believe Second Life, Active Worlds and There are examples of content class virtual worlds.
- Business Class virtual worlds are those which focus more on supporting business and communication processes than the content and visual appeal. Business Class virtual worlds are more attractive to institutions or businesses interested in the platform as a means of supporting virtual meetings, communications and workspaces. At the moment, I believe Project Wonderland, Qwaq and Croquet are examples of business class virtual worlds.
- Scene Class virtual environments are not virtual worlds in the sense that the various virtual spaces are not spatially contiguous; instead, each virtual scene is independent and typically user oriented; however, it is possible for avatars to “jump” from one scene to another. The emphasis and allure of virtual scenes is the addition of a 3D element to social networks and communication. Although I need to investigate more closely, I believe Google Lively and Vivaty are examples of virtual scenes.