I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as part of this class and I feel I am walking away from it with a much higher level of confidence surrounding the broad wide world of Web 2.0. I feel I have a greater understanding of the potentialities of Web 2.0 to enhance learning and instruction and I’m excited to have learned how to utilize a number of tools that I’m already incorporating into my teaching and learning. A synopsis of the best tools I’ve found and used this semester can be found here at this blog post I wrote earlier in the semester.

I am also really glad to be taking this course on the heels of the EC&I 831 course I took the previous semester with Alec Couros. In that class I was introduced to Web 2.0 and a variety of open education and social learning models but it was in this course that I was able to expand upon these initial forays and to really “dig my hands (and tools) into the sand.”

I’ve learned that online instruction can be a totally immersive way to learn, that learner to learner interactions can be terrifically beneficial to the process and that a great deal of depth can be experienced by learners and instructors alike. I’ve always been more of a loner type, honestly, even though I appear to most to be outgoing. Inside me is a more quiet and sometimes shy person that most people wouldn’t guess to live beneath the surface. I’ve come out of that shell to a large degree during these online classes and I’ve learned so very much from sharing with my peers and reading about their experiences, successes and challenges alike.

I will most definitely be keeping this blog going (though I won’t set “deadlines” for myself honestly… I want to enjoy this process and not have it be mandatory participation or anything) and I will visit other’s blogs too in order to keep the ties I’ve made flourishing. I’m playing around with ideas of how to incorporate more learner-learner interactions in the online courses I’m developing and delivering for my college. It’s a challenge though because the course delivery method doesn’t lend itself naturally to these sorts of interactions. The courses I teach are 100% asynchronously delivered and there is a continuous intake, so assigning students to groups won’t work. I’ve started with the inclusion of some Forum discussions in each course and requiring students to post their thoughts, opinions, etc. to them and then comment on 2 other points of view, regardless of whether or not that student is still registered in the class or not. Then I work as a moderator to try to keep the conversations flowing. It’s early yet to know if this is beneficial for students or not, but I’ll persist in it!

There are lots of other changes I’ve made to my course delivery this semester as well. For example, the inclusion of the orientation Moodle module will ease things quite a bit (see the blog post explaining this project here). Already I’ve had a number of students opt out of a personalized session and they’ve given me some positive comments about the orientation process. They like the fact that it’s available 24/7 if they have any questions and the inclusion of the Jing screen captures is handy as well.

I’m also excited because I’ve gained knowledge on how to pursue PD online as a result of this course. I don’t need to travel in order to learn new things or to network with other professionals in the field. This is a tremendous comfort to me, especially since I could be making an overseas change of address in the next couple of years. I love the just-in-time availability of professional development opportunities. With a simple search or a well-placed Twitter, I can have a host of PD opportunities pop up on my screen. I totally love that flexibility.

In short… I’ve learned so much and even now, after completing 5 years of course work toward my Master’s degree, I still feel as though I’m a newcomer into the sandbox in a lot of ways. I really love that there is so much to learn about all of the time. I am really grateful to have been given the opportunity to practice some online networking skills that will see me through all of the challenges and exciting possibilities that still lie ahead of me. Thank you, one and all for all of your support and know that you have mine in return 🙂

Talk to you all soon in the days, weeks, and (hopefully) years to come!

In reflecting these past weeks on what I believe as an instructor and educator, I’ve come to the conclusion that I pick my educational theories and philosophies the same way I pick my music preferences and I’m quite eclectic in my approach when it comes to both!  I enjoy a range of music from classical all the way to some heavy metal bands and Top 40 hip hop, and I’ve found that as I’ve been introduced to more educational theories and practices (mostly through the master’s degree program) the more I can see the value in various bits and pieces of different theories.

For example.. in my field of work as an adult educator, I strongly believe in adult education principles, ones based on the work done by Malcolm Knowles and his theory of Andragogy. I believe that adults come into a classroom with a wealth of knowledge and previous experiences and that those experiences are extremely important to acknowledge and to envelop into the teachings of the classroom. Adult learners are self-directed (or have the potential to be anyway.. sometimes it takes a little bit of prodding and practice to get them there 😀 ) and they need what they are learning to be relevant to their daily lives.

I also believe that people learn best when they can make connections themselves, when they engage with material to find out their own answers to questions they form themselves. This is a central tenet of constructivism too, where the instructor plays the role of a facilitator, rather than a know-all font of knowledge.

I further believe that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs plays a fundamental role in the education of adults and that if a lower level need on the pyramid is in jeopardy, then anything that is occurring in the classroom gets ignored until that lower level need is satisfied. I see this repeatedly in adult education classes. If there are financial or security issues or even an unmet nutritional need that isn’t being met, then any higher order thinking skills get shelved until that situation is addressed.

There are other learning theories I see at work everyday in educational contexts. I see still the prevalence of behaviourist principles strongly at work in the way schools are organized and run. Student effort and behaviour is judged quantitatively through the use of grades and the tracking of attendance numbers and students are either rewarded for their efforts or punished for their failures. I don’t necessarily agree that this is the BEST way to do things, but it’s the system that I’m consigned to work in and at the end of the day, there needs to be accountability for everyone. The world at some level operates on behaviouristic pathways too. If I don’t get up out of bed in the morning and do my best at work each day, then I could have the aversive consequence of being jobless and thus unable to provide myself or my family with the necessities we need. I love my job a LOT and I get a lot of intrinsic satisfaction in doing the work I do, but I might be tempted to sleep in a heck of a lot more than I do if I didn’t have that threat of punishment looming over me.

As far as how I see learning theories at work in educational technology, I see particular value in constructivism and social learning theories. Learners learn best when they construct their own connections between what they already know and new information they are learning. I also believe that people are inherently social creatures and we need to connect.. to find one another and learn from one another. I see rants all the time about how technology is eroding the connections that people make with one another, that humanity is at risk for losing the “authentic” connections between people because of the proliferation of technologies. I disagree 100% with this belief. I think technology can expand our borders, provoke and stimulate our modes thinking and increase our understanding of others and thus, ourselves.

Technology aids collaboration. Technology aids in forging connections with others. There is NO DOUBT about that at all. As an example of what I mean, for us at the college I work for, Google Docs have made organizing a complex network of online students at the college far simpler than it ever would have been without that collaborative tool. There are 13 of us who have access and editing rights to the enrollment forms for the online students. Just imagine trying to keep track of 140+ online students across 5 different campuses and figure out who is to do what with the enrollments through an email system or without some sort of electronic collaboration aid! I have no idea how we did this in the past, to be totally honest with you. This is the first year we have utilized Google Docs this way and I simply cannot fathom trying to do without this tool now.

Hmm… this is a long post and I’ve addressed a lot of issues in it. I perhaps should have parceled this out into smaller chunks, I’m not sure. I hope it was coherent to the rest of you as you read it. I found my thoughts rambling a bit with this one.. bouncing from topic to topic, seeing and sensing connections within my own thoughts. I just hope I was able to articulate these in a (somewhat) intelligible manner for others to read!

Web Connections - image by Fir2002 found at Wikimedia Commons

Oh boy.. I totally meant to write this post a LONG time ago. Like last Sunday, ha. Funny how life sneaks up on you and the best laid plans end up looking like Saskatchewan highways after numerous frost heaves!

Anyway… better late than never I always say and here is the much awaited report on the SL field trip I went on to the Ann Meyer’s Medical Center in Second Life on Saturday.

We all convened at a conference building (pictured below) and there we were briefed on a case that would be presented in the Emergency Room. Then we all went to the Emergency Room and the interns were directed to click on different notecard givers that gave medical photographs, designed to represent the physical state of the patient waiting for care in the bed.

The simulation lesson idea is a very good one and has the power to be very engaging and immersive. There were a few issues with the simulation I witnessed, however. The case presented in the conference room was quite a bit different than the one actually waiting for everyone in the ER, but, that’s OK. Often times the reality of situations is very often different from what one has been “told” and in medicine in particular, I imagine this is far more the norm than many of us would be comfortable with.

The participants in the simulation seemed confused about what they were expected to do. My partner, Arsene, joined me on this observational field trip. I kept to the background and took notes, doing precisely what I had come to do, which was to observe. Arsene, however, is a doctor in France and he couldn’t resist stepping in to offer some advice. Advice, it turns out, that was quite valuable and welcomely received by the participants and the instructor alike. Arsene made the observation that the patient was displaying typical symptoms classically presented by battered women in an abusive domestic situation, and this was precisely the point of the simulation, to discover that the woman was indeed suffering from physical abuse.

The simulation then wrapped up in a resource center, where many informational slideshows offer advice and information on a few different topics, such as domestic abuse, H1N1 and other assorted things. The displays change depending on what the class is learning at the time. The sim is open to the public and everyone is welcome to come and observe the activities of the campus anytime. There are scheduled gatherings from time to time and these can be determined by keeping an eye on the AMMC blog site.

All of the participants in the simulation expressed that they learned a lot from the experience, despite some of the hiccups I observed (in this way the SL environment truly operated like any classroom anywhere in the “real” world). As an outside observer I noticed a couple of things that could have improved the experience. They include:

  • Making sure the briefing case in the conference room matched the case that was going to be presented in the ER.
  • Doing a bit of work with the interns prior to the simulation to set out clear-cut expectations and guidelines.
  • Allowing for more time for all elements of the simulation. (Things definitely felt rushed at various points and I found I was a bit disappointed that things were switching gears just as folks seemed to be “getting into” the roles they were supposed to.)
  • Encouraging more role play.

This last point is a particular sore point for me. On a few different resources at the center, and in fact, in the SL advertisement for the medical center, it says in big bold letters NO ROLE PLAYING ALLOWED. This is a contradiction to the main tenet of a simulation. Role playing is the POINT of a simulation.

However, in SL, role playing has  a very bad reputation for many people and  a lot of folks automatically associate role playing with deviant sexual or violent acts. Yes, those types of role playing DO exist in SL but role playing, like so many other learning and instructions techniques is not inherently bad in and of itself. Perhaps the terminology is the issue here, I’m not sure.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the AMMC tour and I believe they are on the right track here with the type of education they are trying to promote here. It seems to me they are still developing and growing, and like anything else in life, they are on a continuous learning journey. For me, at least, this is an engaging and immersive way to learn 🙂

AMMC Hospital Building

Conference Room Briefing

Emergency Room Patient Nix

Ann Meyers Medical Center Resource Center

Edit:  I just found this interview with John Norris about how he inserted the medical images and charts and information that was used in the hospital at AMMC.

Hello Everyone!

As most of you know (if you’ve read my intro that is, hehe) I’m a bit familiar with Second Life, having been a virtual resident for nearly 2 years now. I have been doing some exploring in-world lately with more of an educational focus in mind and I’ve got some things lined up that I’m exploring and I’ll share those with you once some other pieces have fallen into place for me. (I’m touring a medical facility on Saturday and I’ll take some pictures and post them here in a video for you later!) For now, though, I thought I’d show you my island home, or at least a very short 30 second video of some pictures of it anyway. I piggy-backed on Michelle vanGinneken’s idea of creating an Animoto video with the images. It was super easy to do! Thanks Michelle for the excellent tip!

I do find, however, that the free version of this won’t be sufficient for me. Sigh. 30 seconds is just too short! But $30 a year isn’t a bad deal to purchase the upgrade I guess 🙂 I wish there were more freebies for instructors really. It can get expensive fast to sign up for a lot of different tools. Anyway… I hope you like the video I have created here and I’ll be making some more very soon!

PS. All of the landscaping and the positioning of things (some of them built, many things purchased in-world) was done exclusively by me and my love and SL partner. He did a lot of the landscaping and terraforming parts of the sim and I did the bulk of the interior decorating. Unfortunately with THIS video you only get flash glimpses of the exterior of the island. It was only when the video was done that I realized I had tried to cram WAY too many images into a 30 second slot, haha. Oh well. It’s a steep learning curve I’m on, but at least I AM learning 😉

Updated! New full length video clip:  

Captivate Your Audience!

December 17, 2009

Hello Everyone!

I thought I’d do a brief post on the wonders of Captivate software by Adobe. It’s not a freebie, I’m afraid, (though they do offer a free trial period) but it’s a really terrific program for demonstrating how to do different computer-based things to an audience and it is especially suited for my purposes, when there are a lot of technicalities that need to be communicated to my online distance learners.

I have had Captivate installed for some time on my computer and I have used it before, but haven’t really UTILIZED it up until now in a really meaningful way. I put together this demonstration tutorial to show my students how to use an online graphing tool and then how to save the image of their graph, convert it to a JPEG and then insert it into a document that they would then submit to me for marks.

I tried a million ways from Sunday to upload this into YouTube and then realized that I can’t load a .swf file successfully onto YouTube so I tried about a billion and one different .swf to video conversion tools and struggled to find one that preserved the audio and everything else I needed for it. I finally did!! I went to Swf to Flv Converter and downloaded the freebie version of the software. There is a watermark on the video, but it’s not a big deal and I think I might one day buy the licensed version should I see the long term need for it.  Sigh.. so many technicalities and so few technically minded brains in my head! Anyway… I hope you enjoy the video and can see potential for using Captivate (or another similar software tool) for your own classroom needs.

Happy Holidays!

PS. As I view the show here the picture is fuzzy because it has been shrunk to fit the YouTube window. So it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing I guess! It is a lot clearer if you actually go to YouTube and watch the video there full screen.

Hey Everyone!

It’s not even a week since the last class in EC&I 831 and I’m already applying the things I’ve learned to my practice as an ABE instructor. A sure-fire sign indeed that Alec is doing something right!

As some of you may know, I teach exclusively online classes for an ABE program and one of the classes I’m teaching is Psychology 30. During the course, I have learners reflect on a number of controversial issues with more than one side to them. Traditionally I’ve had those learners complete the assignment in a journal response, one that only I would see and mark. I had always wanted to change the format of these assignments into something more collaborative and now that I’ve taken this class, I’ve also taken the plunge into having my learners participate in an online Forum discussion surrounding the various given issues. I teach completely asynchronously so all of my learners tend to be at different points in their program so I was concerned about achieving a continuity of discussion given that situation. I still don’t know for sure how it will all work out, but I’m winging it anyway and I’m sure I’ll learn and adjust things as I need to along the way!

I did think it a prudent idea to write up a set of expectations, both for the learners and for me, to refer to in order to help establish the expected norms. Here is what I composed and posted on the course site as a guide for learners to follow when participating in the online classroom Forums:

Forum Discussion Guidelines

In Units 2, 3 & 4 of this course, you will be involved in discussions with other people taking this course about different issues surrounding human development. Some of the people who have posted in these discussions may have finished the course by the time you get here and so any comments you make on the posts they have created may not be responded to by the original writer. Please do not get discouraged by this. I’ll be monitoring the discussions as well and offering alternative points of view to consider too.

There are two expectations with regard to these Forum discussions. You are expected to give your view on a given situation, making sure you are backing up that view with solid, well stated evidence from the course or outside reputable sources. This is where the bulk of your grade for the Forum discussions posts will come from.

In addition to composing your original post, you are also expected to read the work of other students enrolled in this class and to comment on their posts in a constructive, thoughtful and always respectful manner.

General Guidelines for Commenting on Posts:

  1. Tone of Voice: This is an academic class and not a casual goofing off sort of discussion or chat group you can find on the Internet. While humour is always appreciated, please keep it appropriate to a classroom context.
  2. Write in full sentences: While this isn’t an English class, the bulk of the communication you will do in this course is based on writing, so it is important for you to practice well developed writing skills. Any errors in grammar and sentence structure tend to erode overall meaning and this is something we want to avoid.
  3. Comment in a constructive, positive manner: Abuse of any other person in this class, either past or present will be dealt with severely. Respect the opinions and thoughts of other classmates at all times please.

I realize most of these guidelines are likely unnecessary for me to iterate here as everyone here is an adult, however I’d rather err on the side of caution and just be crystal clear as to what the expectations are.

Please contact your instructors for further explanation of expectations should you require any clarification of the points discussed in this document. Thank you!!


I hope this will be useful for my learners as they work their way through the course. If you have any suggestions that I could include to improve upon what I have here, I’d be delighted to hear them 🙂 Thanks and talk to you again soon!

Hello Everyone!

It’s hard for me to believe that today is the last day of the EC&I 831 course. Well. At least it is for the credit portion anyway. I do plan to drop in on future classes with Alec when he teaches this class again in the future (and please do so, Alec. This course is far too valuable not to repeat it for others, and as I say, I will certainly benefit by coming back and attending sessions from time to time). So much has happened in the last 3 or so months and so much has been learned and it’s difficult to try to explain the paradigm shifts and the new ways of thinking and broadened perspective I’ve gained. I’ll do my best anyway 🙂

My initial expectations/hopes:

When I began this course in September I was really only looking for a credit. I am nearing the end of my degree now and the road to completion has been long and convoluted for me, with some personal twists and turns (such as an ugly divorce that is taking far to long to finish) that have thrown some roadblocks in my way.  So truly, when I chose EC&I 831 I did so because it was an online class that I could do while remaining at home with my daughter. I was thrilled to see it was Alec who was instructing. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Alec a couple of times at Tlt summit conferences so that was another bonus. As far as what I expected to learn, I wasn’t entirely sure, though I had attended Alec’s session on open and social media tools at the Tlt summit and now that I reflect on this course and that presentation session, there were many overlaps.

What I learned:

There are many many things I have learned this semester. One of the most valuable lessons I think I’ll take away from this class is that I will never learn it all. And that is OK. One image that stuck with me is this one:

The idea that technology is  a coursing river and that we are standing on it’s banks watching the rushing water rage past. I have my cup in my hand and I dip it in when I am ready, drinking my fill and then turning away when I’ve had enough. I’ve learned I don’t need to dive headlong into the rapids and drown. I can satisfy my thirst and my technological needs one cup at a time. This idea is  a very valuable thing for me to take in and absorb really. I’ve always been one of those overachieving types who always puts a ton of pressure on herself to be the best, to do as much as I can no matter what it is I’m doing and while that sort of attitude isn’t necessarily terrible to have, it can and does sometimes result in an undue amount of stress. I will learn more if I relax and allow myself to absorb things at my own pace. I have felt during this course that I’ve been allowed and encouraged to do that. It’s an attitude I consciously try to encourage for my learners as well. I’m fortunate as an instructor in that my students set their own pace in the online courses they take with me.

There are all sorts of other things I have learned and there are things I will continue to develop for the future. I’ll summarize them here in this list:

  • Blogging: I’d heard of blogging prior to this course but I never really understood what it was all about or how it could be valuable for me as a professional habit and practice. I’m a very introspective reflective sort of person so blogging really is a wonderful way to formalize and solidify my thoughts. I fully intend to keep on blogging long after this course is done. I do blog on another site as well, but it’s more of an entertainment forum than an educative one, though I have learned lots there as well, just in a different context. It’s far less formal than something like this blog. I have also incorporated Forums and postings for my Psychology students to respond to in their courses, even though all of the students work asynchronously from one another. I’m hoping that just seeing what others thoughts are on different issues will spark thoughts of their own, even if the students are at different places on their learning paths.
  • Wikis: I created my Adult Basic Education Integration Wiki as my final cumulative project for this class and it’s not done. But what wiki ever is? I will continue to add things to it, polish things already added and encourage others to join and contribute. I’ve learned to do many different things in wikis and I’m just starting to see their potential as a means to share student work and celebrate learning successes. That is a direction I’d like to head into for the future too. I’d love to create a wiki to use with my online students as a part of their learning, to have them contribute to it and post their projects and so on. It’s a goal I’ll work toward down the road here.
  • Various online tools: There were so many different online tools for enhancing student work, for enriching my classroom as well as establishing my own personal and professional network, it’s hard to list them all here. I have a page on my wiki though that does a bit of that and I’ve linked it here. There are so many tools out there and so much to play with and explore. I’ve just started really. The ones I love the most are the Xtranormal video creation, YouTube and Wordle.

Favorite class sessions:

While there were SO many wonderful presentations and I did learn an immense amount about technology and how to best implement social learning activities into my day-to-day practices, there are a few that stick out in my mind as being especially memorable. They include:

  • New media literacies & Internet Blocking: This was by far the best post of my blog, I felt. I had struggled for a long time to frame and articulate what my beliefs were surrounding the thorny issue of how much trust and accountability we expect of our students to self- monitor and filter content for themselves. I don’t think they SHOULD do it by themselves, of course, but this presentation sparked a lot of thought and introspection and when it was coupled with Bud the Teacher’s blog post, this topic ended up being my favorite to explore.
  • Blogging: Sue Water’s presentation on blogging was great! I sort of wish it had happened a bit earlier in the course though, so that I would have incorporated some of her fabulous tips and hints right from the get-go. But.. sometimes jumping right into that river and seeing how things go is OK too, from time to time, especially since we had Alec on the shore with the life preserver handy!
  • Digital Story Telling: I loved this session a lot. Alan Levine’s wiki where it details 50+ ways to tell a story is one of my favorite wikis and I have it linked on my wiki too. There has been an evolution of storytelling. We’ve graduated from oral traditions, to written and now we are shifting once again into digital and visual ways of communicating. It is exciting and at times overwhelming, but it is vastly interesting too! I thoroughly enjoyed this session and there is fodder for future explorations for the next several years on this wiki, easily!!

Things I still find challenging:

There are several things I still find I’m struggling with. I don’t really like Twitter all that much, despite the fun I see others having on it and the valuable things that get shared with it. I understand the concept and can see the potential of it just fine. I’m just not sure it’s for me really. I used to always have an updated status on Facebook too, but now I don’t bother with even that. I’m never on Facebook unless my daughter sends me a message. I’m not too worried about not participating in this particular aspect of online interaction and networking, however. I know how to use these tools and I will use them when/if it becomes necessary for me to do so.

I haven’t become as proficient at using Delicious yet. I have used it and I have some bookmarks saved there but I don’t have nearly enough though. I think I’ve just gotten in the habit of making my own folders and whatnot and using that instead under My Favorites. I can definitely see that Delicious is an excellent tool but it’s one that feels clumsy to me yet. That will change with time and increasing my usage of the service, of course.

As I expressed earlier in this post, the road of learning in this course has been a twisting turning one, always with fresh surprises along the way and a simply magnificent view of the learning to come. Thank you all so much for being such incredible travel mates and guides on this incredible journey. The very very very best thing about this entire class has been the connections made with you all and the learning we have all shared together. Thanks again!

PS. All of the images used here were taken from Wikimedia Commons and are public domain files 🙂

This past week has been a killer. Not in a literal sense, though, thank goodness! My partner and I hit the road all last week to deliver workshops and distribute a curriculum integration guide we had co-authored a couple of years ago to ABE instructors throughout the province. The workshops went really well over all and the feedback was pretty positive. I had managed to cobble together enough of my final project wiki to feel comfortable in showing it to the workshop participants and for many of them, the wiki was the highlight of the workshop and they indicated this on the evaluation form at the end of it.

So I’m jazzed to keep on adding to it now and make it even more impressive! There is a lot of work to be done on it yet, though I’ve been steadfastly adding things and shaping it in ways that I hope make sense, not only to me, but to anyone else who views it as well. I’ve extended invitations to everyone I met over the last week (over 100 ABE instructors in Saskatchewan) to join the wiki and become contributors to it. We’ll see how that goes.. so far only one person has requested membership.

During the course of the workshops we did a lot of integrated planning with the attendees and Joanne and I plan on adding these unit plans and ideas to the wiki itself, to be able to share these with other instructors too. There is about a year’s worth of work to do, (alright.. that’s a bit of an hyperbolic statement) but we’ll keep plugging away at it, bit by bit. It’s something Jo and I are doing on our own time because we feel it’s important. ABE instructors in the province don’t generally utilize Web 2.0 tools to their advantage and I’m trying in this small way to bridge the gap for some of them, at least in this one aspect of their professional practice.

I’m still trying to catch up from previous classes. I haven’t had time to experiment yet with one of the tools that Scott Leslie and Brian Lamb had suggested during the November 17th class, though I have read all of my classmates’ blog posts about their impressions of the class and I’m relieved to find out I’m not the only one who felt they were “left in the dust” a bit by the presentation. I hope to have time to experiment with the tools they suggested and to try again to listen to the Elluminate recorded session. I did manage to catch up and listen to Stephen Downes session on LOLcats and I’m quite familiar with LOLcats myself. I love the Icanhascheezeburger website! The Icanhashotdog site is pretty cool too! My favorite LOLcat Math image is this one:

I think I could easily remix this one and trade out the word “algeblah” for something more techie related and it wouldn’t lose any of it’s funny-ness! Or aptness, for that matter! Ah well.. I’ll keep on plugging along here, learning what I can absorb, making bookmarks at those pages where things seem confusing to give them another look in the hopes the pieces fall into place for me then. Catch you all tomorrow in class!

Hello everyone. I’m writing this post because a former student of mine has requested that I join a FaceBook group to help locate her missing 38 year old brother-in-law and I thought in addition to joining the group, I’d also do my best to spread the word via the social network I’m struggling to create.

Click HERE to link to the Facebook site to read the latest news regarding David Bailey. His last known location was Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Please, if you have a moment, pass this blog post or the FaceBook link along to all of your contacts too. I know if I was in the horrible position of having a loved one missing, I’d want someone to do the same for me. Thanks in advance.

Gaming for Grades

October 24, 2009

When I think about education and gaming and the arguments that surround the blending of the two, I immediately picture this:
Pendulum 30 DegreesOn the one hand we have the far right.. the conservatives of education whose job it can seem some days to make learning as dry and as uninteresting as humanly possible. These are the people whose knee-jerk reaction to games in the classroom is extreme, based on fear and reactionism and little on actual evidence. (Here is a link to some essays on the Impacts of Gaming.) On the other side of the pendulum swing there are the revolutionaries, the ones who challenge the long-held beliefs and stereotypes surrounding educational practices. They are usually classified as the “radicals” and advocate for an overthrow of the old system in its entirety in favour of what is novel and entertaining.

Now whether or not the picture I have just painted is in fact one based on reality is certainly subject to debate, and certainly has been debated by minds far brighter than mine. It’s just an image that leaps to my mind though when the words “gaming” and “classrooms” are brought together in the same sentence.

I personally am more of a centrist. I believe there can exist a happy medium where students can learn in holistic valuable ways, ways that are innovative, fun, challenging, and yes, involve gaming platforms. I am also in agreement with Sylvia Martinez when she cautions that a label of “educational software” needs to be avoided, or at the least, heavily evaluated by instructors before buying in to the hype surrounding games and educational goals.  The “Nintendo-izatoin” of education is not enough.

I personally spend a lot of my free time immersed in a virtual world and while the majority of my activities center around rest and relaxation, there is no doubt I’m learning a ton along the way as well. Of specific interest to me is the virtual world of Second Life and I have an avatar I created in May of 2008. I spend a large chunk of my online SL time involved in a role playing game. I have created a character that interacts with other characters in a given time and in a specific setting and we collaboratively enact out scenes together. The use of heavily descriptive language is necessary to portray actions that one performs and I’m what is known as a para-Rper, which simply means my preferred style of writing is to compose a paragraph of text in the Local Chat window that does a number of things… it indicates my avatar’s physical demeanor, her facial expression, what things she says to others and in some cases, what thoughts might be in her mind. It is exactly like writing a story only I’m not the only author. I am one of many. Anyone within 20m of me can “hear” me (read the chat that appears in the Local Chat text box) and anyone can respond, or jump in at any time.

There is no doubt in my mind that my language and writing skills have improved over the past year. I have developed a rich character, complete with an evolving background and I’ve freed my imagination in ways I never believed were possible before. I don’t watch TV anymore (not that I did a lot of that before I became a Second Life resident) because I find TV to be too  passive. I think passivity has a lot to do with why students in classrooms find so many of the educational games out there to be boring and un-motivating. Any learning I’ve experienced has happened as a by-product of the fun and engagement and challenge I was experiencing at the time in Second Life. I believe the same sort of principles have to hold true for our students as well, if we are to utilize games to their full potential in the classroom, to reap the very best benefits from them for our learners.

I did a bit of poking around to find out what sorts of educational things were available on Second Life and there are a huge number of in-world islands/areas dedicated to educational institutions and programs. I haven’t had a chance to check them all out yet (there are simply too many for me to have enough time to investigate them all) but there is something for nearly everyone. Here is a link to the Second Life in Education wiki people might be interested in seeing.