Friday, 23 March 2012

P2PU: A Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour

When you sign up to participate in a P2PU course you're asked a number of standard questions about why you're interested in a course, what you hope to get out of it, and whether you'd like to get involved in organising. You can also be asked some more specific questions relating to the selected course. The following are my answers to the questions asked when I joined the Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour course. You fill them in on a web form, and I wasn't expecting it, so they're off the top of my head stuff (except for the wikipedia link). I'm posting here so that I can see whether my thoughts have changed after participating.

Do you think there is a difference between a virtual world and a MMORPG?

Yes, I think so, though I'm a bit hesitant in my answer, not having really ever experienced MMORPGs. I know of WoW, and I might be able to come up with a name of another, but that's not too promising. On the other hand I can name a fair few virtual worlds and synthetic environments.

My first reason for differentiating is based on the role playing aspect. I am assuming that the RPG of the MMORPG title indicates that you would always be role playing. Conversely I'd suggest that while you might role play in a virtual world, it's not a given - you might just as well be 'playing' yourself. If there are MMORPGs where you play yourself my argument would get fuzzy... I look forward to learning more!

I'd also look at the use of the term 'game' in the MMORPG title. Do games by necessity have aims and rules? If so, I'd say that virtual worlds differ in that (while users in them in a particular context might have or impose aims or rules) they generally promote more free exploration, without any particular set of objectives. Users might enter and user a virtual world for a whole range of reasons, and these may or may not include gaming.

Do you think most people would agree with you?

Most people? Most people I speak to don't know what a virtual world is! There are plenty who haven't heard of even the big names like Second Life. I would have thought the same applies to MMORPGs. Despite a fairly geeky background and job I still don't actually know anyone who uses both virtual worlds and MMORPGs (if indeed they are different). 

What virtual worlds or MMORPGs do you use regularly or have you experienced?

I'm not currently in any worlds or MMORPGs regularly. I'm just now beginning to explore Second Life some more, having previously used OLIVE, Teleplace (before the open source developments) and VBS2 through my work. I've never knowingly (!) used any MMORPGs. I might be missing out on something!
The Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education unconference brought together some excellent resources on
practices for education in virtual environments, and assessment in virtual worlds, reproduced below:

Best Practice Resources

Journal of Virtual World Research, Vol 2. No. 1
Pedagogy, Education and Innovation in Education
VEJ Virtual Education Journal – September Issue

AERA Applied Research in Virtual Environments for Learning

Second Life sites:
ISTE Island
CAVE (Community of Applied Virtual Educators)
Virtual Pioneers
EdTech Island

Educator Research Groups and Social Media:
ARVEL – Second Life group
ISTE – Second Life group
Virtual Pioneers – Second Life Group
AERA ARVELSIG twitter @arvel

Assessment in Virtual Worlds

Resources and Readings:
Dede, C. Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles, Educause Quarterly
Clarke, J. Studying the Potential of Virtual Performance assessments for Measuring Student Achievement in Science.
Virtual Assessments Project

Elluminate Session - watch the following keynote from Global Education Conference 2011
Chris Dede “How Immersion in Virtual Environments Aids Students in the Real World”

Exciting findings

Lots of exciting little moments today...
  • Discovering the My Citations section of Google Scholar - and that I have way more citations than I expected. Disappointingly though, because I currently don't have an educational institution email address, Google won't display my profile in Scholar searches. Boo.
    • Following links to those who have cited me and finding the excellent (well, it looks it - I haven't read it yet) book Emerging Technologies in Distance Education by George Veletsianos, which showcases the international work of research scholars and innovative distance education practitioners who use emerging interactive technologies for teaching and learning at a distance...
      • And then finding that while the book isn't available as an eBook on Google books, and is just shy of £30 on Amazon,  George, being a proponent of emerging technologies and pedagogies and digital scholarship, published the title under an open access license entitled Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, which can be downloaded for free at Thank you George!
  • Donald Clark has started an amazing blog marathon: 50 blogs on learning theorists over next 50 days. He's writing profiles on key figures in learning, theorists, practitioners and those directly relevant to e-learning. The coverage is quite fantastic... and will build into a super series. Thank you Donald!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

P2PU - the Peer 2 Peer University

I happened across a Tweet the other day from someone who's not in the technology or elearning fields himself, but is interested in community engagement and knowledge sharing. He'd heard about P2PU and was flagging it as an interesting idea. I followed the link, and came to the same conclusion.

The Peer 2 Peer University describes itself as "a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU - learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything."

That sounded interesting. Worthy aims which I happily buy into. But what interested me more was what I found when I dug a little deeper. Courses, free to register and participate, in interesting fields encompassing webcraft, social innovation, mathematical future and education; attractive of course. But as it happens, despite an awareness of MOOCs, I've not had the opportunity to participate before, and that in itself is a further exciting personal and professional elearning experiment for me. So, now is the time!

I've signed up to A Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour. It's a four week course exploring virtual worlds, games and emerging technology for use in education. It includes tours on topics covered at VWBPE 2012 or the Virtual Worlds Unsymposium which I really wish I'd been involved in, field trips to educational sims in Second Life, an introduction to Machinima, an adventure in the MMORPG World of Warcraft with an educators' guild and finally some tours on the Bleeding Edge with emerging technology and education that includes virtual, blended and augmented realities. The virtual world field trips are scheduled for evenings in Pacific Standard Time, which puts them in the middle of my night, but some might be manageable - and the helpful organisers have left introduction cards in world to allow you to explore yourself. I'm really looking forward to sharing this with other participants through the P2PU facilities and the portal put together by the course facilitators. I'll be tagging any blog posts related to the course with the vwmooc label.

Connectivist courses - MOOCs

MOOC? What's that? It's a Massive Open Online Course - and it's different from conventional eLearning in a number of ways. Course materials may be provided by facilitators, but the onus rapidly moves to the participants for content development. The use of web technologies to create, share, aggregate, curate, comment and interact is absolutely central. Essentially, the MOOC is an educational tool which exploits the theory of connectivism and uses an open pedagogy based on networked learning. MOOCs are founded on principle characteristics of autonomy, diversity, openness and interaction.

But what does that mean in practice? Take a look, for example, at the Change MOOC, currently running from Sept 2011 to May 2012 which is a very comprehensive MOOC. In fact, it's got so much going on that it can be pretty daunting, probably particularly for those new to web 2.0 technologies. You need to keep up with the weekly email, read some recommended texts, document your responses, share and discuss these with others, perhaps engage in other activities. And you want to keep up with the blogs of your colleagues - they have a lot to say which is very interesting, and you wouldn't want to miss it, or their Twitter comments... and very quickly it's become unmanageable! Well, it doesn't have to be overwhelming, and perhaps part of the secret in this is knowing from the start that the course is Massive. You won't be able to keep up with all that's interesting that happens. That might be disappointing, but you can bet that as long as you are engaging somewhere and somehow with other participants you will be right there at the heart of the juicy stuff.

To get a better idea of how it works, the Change MOOC's facilitators, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier describe it as follows...
"This is an unusual course. It does not consist of a body of content you are supposed to remember. Rather, the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person.
In addition, this course is not conducted in a single place or environment. It is distributed across the web. We will provide some facilities. But we expect your activities to take place all over the internet. We will ask you to visit other people's web pages, and even to create some of your own."
There's also a good video introduction to what a MOOC is here:

So, a MOOC is a 'connectivist' course, which involves learners in four major types of activity:

1. Aggregation
You read, watch or play with content, selecting what is interesting and appropriate to you individually. It's fine (and expected) that you you won't read it all. You can ignore things if they are too hard or don't interest you. Some courses might provide more tasks or instructions, others might point to existing web content, yet others may produce content specially for the purpose, for example the daily email delivered to participants of the Change MOC.

2. Remixing
You need to keep track of the content you've seen or used. Participants are encouraged to record this online in a way which can be shared, for example by blogging, using, joining in discussion groups, commenting on Twitter, or indeed any other Internet tool of choice, from photo and video sharing, to virual worlds or social network sites.

3. Repurposing
This is where participants create something of their own, based on the materials they've engaged with. This can be daunting, but the Change MOOC facilitators remind us that you are repurposing - not starting from scratch. Participating in a MOOC is very much not just about absorbing the content you're presented with. It's about engaging with the content and with others, and your learning emerges from this. The course is more like a toolbox, giving you the context in which to develop your skills. It's acknowledged that producing content for themselves, and more importantly sharing it, can be nervewracking for learners. In my own experiences of the OU's MAODE programme, many people, including myself, were initially nervous about blogging, but as the course developed it soon became clear what a valuable tool it was - a journal, a record of your research, your personalised revision notes, your conduit to contacts, a place to receive feedback, and jumping off point for discussion... more than any of us would have imagined before getting involved. I'm sure MOOCs feel like this tool - frightening and exciting to start, but rapidly proving themselves transformative, and continuing to do so time and time again.

4. Feed Forward
Participants are encouraged, though never compelled, to share what they produce with other course participants. Sharing is scary, but that means you think hard about what you produce, and with that comes greater satisfaction. Sharing might be through using Twitter or hashtags, sharing RSS feeds to your blog.

If you're still with me(!), George Siemens has drawn together an interesting view of the conversations surrounding MOOCs and how they differ from more conventional online courses, in a blog post.

I'll give (almost) the final word to the Change MOOC's facilitators again:
"When a connectivist course is working really well, we see this great cycle of content and creativity begin to feed on itself, people in the course reading, collecting, creating and sharing. It's a wonderful experience you won't want to stop when the course is done.
And – because you can share anywhere – you won't have to. This course can last as long as you want it to."
Now, doesn't that just sound like something you really have to get involved in? I know I'm excited!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The State of Digital Education Infographic

Knewton has just released an infographic showing the growth and success of elearning in US academic institutions.

The State of Digital Education
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Social Media Revolution

I'm focusing on my ECA (end of course assignment, in place of an exam) at the moment. I'm designing specifications for learning activities using web2.0 tools and assessment practices. I'm obviously not allowed to post what I'm up to though!

This was a nice 2:35 minute diversion from trying to write (unfortunately I have more diversions than writing, but that's another problem!).
Part of the world’s most watched Social Media video series; “Social Media Revolution” by Erik Qualman. Based on #1 International Best Selling Book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. This is a shorter version that includes new social media statistics for 2011.