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.
I happened to catch “Meet the Press” this morning with Tom Brokaw, the chair of the Republic National Convention 2008 Carly Fiorina, and Senator Claire McCaskill, the national co-chair for the Obama Campaign. At first, it was just the background sound while I read my morning “paper” (Google Reader). Shortly after turning it on, Brokaw directed the conversation to education policy.
Of course, most of the conversation focused on No Child Left Behind. Brokaw attributed these comments to Bill Gates (roughly quoted), “NCLB has not been perfect, but it has been phenomenal for two reasons. It has pointed out that education is in desperate need of reform and that accountability is an important part of that.” Further, Brokaw noted that there’s a bi-partisan movement within the House to remove the accountability standard of NCLB.
Senator McCaskill suggested she’d support a signficant change to NCLB’s accountability standard. She stated that, “We’ve squeezed creativity out of the classroom” by (loosely) “having our teachers teach to the content of the test.” Accountability should be measured by progress rather than by a one-size-fits-all number and standard.
Ms. Fiorina indicated that McCain supports choice – that we should give parents a “choice in how they educate their kids.” McCain understands that NCLB is “imperfect legislation.” Of course, Senator McCaskill quickly added that “choice is often code for skimming the cream off the top into private schools” and that our public education system must be supported not abandoned.
The other interesting part of the discussion, for me, was Brokaw’s mention of a very closely guarded comment within the Democratic Party – something the Democrats “could never say publicly.” The Democratic Party is “saying quietly” that it must “break it’s bond with the teachers’ unions” because teachers can not continue to have, in essence, veto power over education policy. Of course both Ms. Fiorina and Senator McCaskill responded that their candidate will listen to teachers in classrooms.
In addition to these notes, I want to pass along this post on McCain and Obama on Education Change from Education Futures by John Moravec. It’s worth a read.
I really do not intend for this blog to turn into a “Wesch-groupie” site ;-) However, much of what he says and does strikes a chord with me and compels me to think and write.Professor’s Wesch most recent post highlights a video recording of a guest lecture he delivered last month (June) at University of Manitoba. I’ve watched about half of it to this point and will post more thoughts in this space in the near future, but I wanted to pass along the link at the moment. His guest lecture includes some of the comments and themes he shared in his keynote at the Educause Learning Initiative’s annual meeting back in February; I strongly recommend the hour plus it will take to listen to Dr. Wesch’s reflections on the “crisis of significance” and the approaches and tools he’s used to actively engage his students.
a “virtual experience,” allows users to create virtual representations of themselves, then decorate their own virtual rooms, invite friends to that room
I checked the substantial number of SLED related blogs I have in my reader and noticed there’s not yet been much written on it. Of course, Fleep Tuque (RL: Chris Collins) has already shared a few thoughts.
I’ll be looking into it more, but after a quick glance, my first impression that a “virtual experience” is drastically different from a “virtual world.” Once I have an opportunity to explore more closely, I’ll share more thoughts.
A rare instance of simply passing along news from another site, but the news warrants it, imho.
IBM and Linden Lab have announced that research teams from the two companies successfully teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another. It’s an important first step toward enabling avatars to pass freely between virtual worlds . . .
The full story is available at the Second Life blog.
There’s been growing interest by educators in MUVE’s other than Second Life: OpenSim, Project Wonderland, Qwaq, Croquet etc. This past week, I (again) attended the Sled Roundtable that AJ Brooks (pictured left in suit, RL: AJ Kelton) hosts each Tuesday at Montclair State University (3:30 SLT). The focus of the discussion was Project Wonderland and other open grid/source alternatives to Second Life, and on short notice, Alan Levine (SL: CDB Barkley, pictured left in red) joined the group as a guest speaker. The conversation, for me, confirmed a few thoughts I noted previously, pinpointed perhaps the primary purpose of Wonderland, and ultimately helped frame the virtual environment landscape a little better while perhaps providing a longer term answer to the question I asked back in December.
First, Alan confirmed several of my initial thoughts regarding Project Wonderland. When asked how Project Wonderland is different from Second Life, Alan commented that Wonderland “is NOT a user generated world” (his emphasis) and that “3d objects can be built in outside tools (Maya, etc).” For me, this confirms the my initial impression that Wonderland may not support collaborative, real-time building efforts very well, and that the Second Life build tools are more accessible (both in access and learning curve) to a broader audience. Alan also confirmed that (a) Wonderland is still very early in the development process, using the term “alpha-ish – maybe beta” to describe it; and (b) the ability to customize Wonderland may be beyond the reach of many institutions since, as he noted, “doing anything custom calls for some serious java skills.”
Second, Alan’s comments help to pinpoint perhaps the primary function and purpose of Wonderland. In describing the benefits of Project Wonderland, Alan said that it “can be more ‘controlled’ – run behind firewalls” and “connected to authentication services” plus “it is more built on the ability to collaborate” through “application sharing.” And, when asked if it was “more like Qwaq” – Alan responded that Wonderland is “IN function like Qwaq” (as opposed to the design or underlying development standards, I guess). Wonderland is particularly well suited to “share any app you run on a desktop . . . co-browse web sites . . . work on shared apps together . . . and there are some interesting potentials for connecting to other net apps.” However, “each server is its own world” and Alan was “not sure if there is a central avatar/identity manager.” For me, all of that suggests that Wonderland is ideally suited as a virtual meeting space – moreso than it is a build and content delivery space; the application sharing, telephony & voice communication tools and private chat capabilities enabled by a server platform that can be more controlled, run behind firewalls and connected to authentication services all point to a tool intended for supporting business-centered collaboration – even within the higher education industry.
The bigger picture I take from this and several other recent conversations is that virtual worlds appear to be falling into one of two types. Second Life, Active Worlds, and There are content class virtual worlds. The usefulness of content class virtual worlds is the user/resident generated content; SL is designed around the ability to build, share and interact with virtual content. Many of the tools to support business and collaboration have been slower to develop in Second Life: voice communication, in-world web access, etc. In contrast, Qwak/Croquet, Project Wonderland and IBM’s proprietary Metaverse are business class virtual worlds. Project Wonderland focuses on the ability to support business needs: application sharing, integration with existing authentication services & business data platforms, voice communication, and business class scalability etc. And, as perhaps expected, it doesn’t emphasize the visual experience; Alan noted that “the avatars are, well ugly,” and as noted above, it’s not as easy to deliver robust content within Wonderland.
The long term question will be whether the current business-class virtual worlds will begin to develop content-class type capabilities or vice versa. Until that happens, I believe educational institutions may realistically engage Project Wonderland AND Second Life but for drastically different reasons and unique purposes. Of course, the issue of which business or content-class virtual world is the “best of class” remains to be answered. Given the NMC/Sun partnership, Wonderland may be the best option in the business class, particularly for educational institutions, and at the moment, Second Life is likely the top option in the content-class for secondary and post-secondary educators and institutions. I do wonder about the extent to which elementary education may or could be using virtual worlds targeted to the under 13 age groups (Webkinz World etc).
As a final note, I’d again like to recommend AJ Kelton’s (SL: AJ Brooks) regularly scheduled Sled Roundtable on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30SLT on Montclair State CHSSSouth (slurl). This group is routinely attracting 35+ Sleducators for very active discussions on pertinent topics.
I’ve been following the work Dr. Wesch has been doing at Kansas State for the past year or so, and he’s released the full length (16:20) video of his Spring 2008 class’ experience with the World Simulation. The video is significant from a political and cultural perspective, but I believe it is also critically important from an instructional design and pedagogy perspective as well. I’d certainly enjoy heairng more from Dr. Wesch regarding the World Simulation in regards to:
- interactive experiences for large classes
- large learning communities
- simulation design & development
- authentic assessment