1. On being disappointed ....
I must confess that the educational examples of the use of avatar based virtual worlds for student learning have consistently disappointed me...
I remain emotionally distant from any of the New Zealand examples of educational use of SL, and have an Asperger’s like disconnect from Marvin and its much hyped MoE MS New Zealand launch this year
But anyone who has tracked Artichoke knows that this is not how I feel about the use of other online collaborative interfaces – for example I still get excited by the learning that I believe occurs through MMORPG games such as WOW and more recently in the rooms off the corridor - Age of Conan: Hyborian adventures
The post allowed me to understand that part of my disappointment comes from the way we misunderstand “collaborative” learning and how this misunderstanding leads us to promote avatar based virtual spaces as learning spaces and learning experiences when they are mostly set up as spaces for socialising rather than collaborating.
I don’t believe this focus on the social is a purposeful undermining of the potential of online learning environments by educators – is more likely a “piglet and the blue braces thing”
"I'll take off my tunic and we'll each hold a corner, and then Roo and Tigger can jump into it, and it will be all soft and bouncy for them, and they won't hurt themselves."
"Getting Tigger down," said Eeyore, "and Not hurting anybody. Keep those two ideas in your head, Piglet, and you'll be all right."
But Piglet wasn't listening, he was so agog at the thought of seeing Christopher Robin's blue braces again. He had only seen them once before, when he was much younger, and, being a little over-excited by them, had had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual; and he had always wondered since if they were really as blue and as bracing as he had thought them.
When you listen to what educators talk about when they blog describe their experiences in online worlds I reckon it is fair to suggest that they get just a little overexcited by the blue-braces equivalent of being allowed to play dress ups with others and they stop listening to that educator voice that wants to talk about the pedagogical design of the space – all that "Getting Tigger down, and Not hurting anybody” stuff. With some slipping instead into a state of “other world agogness”
And I am certain that until we introduce thoughtful pedagogical design into these spaces the cognitive load added by entering them is unlikely to be balanced by any significant enhancement in student learning outcomes, no matter how many virtual spac(e) exhorters suggest we think otherwise.
2. On thinking about what we ought to do different ....
Thinking about what we need to do to change an experience in an online space from a social one (where many different people can simply come together) to a collaborative learning experience has been a good default mind challenge for me over the years.
To think about it you have to go right back to identifying what a student does when they learn – to ask what is learning?
To ask ....How do you interact with content ideas and experiences to build new knowledge, be it in a school classroom, a museum space or an online space?
SOLO Taxonomy has helped me understand how to build learning experiences that lead to deeper understandings or learning outcomes ... and as a consequence I cannot look at any learning experience be it online or face to face without using SOLO coding to interpret its probable outcome.
In this respect I remain an advocate for the work that has gone into designing open source collaborative learning environments like Fle3 by Teemu Leeionen’s team,
In the Fle3 online space the software developers designed for deeper student understanding by planning for the different sorts of dialogue that may occur – eg knowledge building dialogues, theory building and debates. And by requiring learners to code the thinking they contribute to the collaboration using different Knowledge Type sets: (1) Progressive Inquiry, and (2) Design Thinking.
[Progressive Inquiry knowledge type set contains the following five knowledge types: Problem, My Explanation, Scientific Explanation, Evaluation of the Process and Summary Every time a pupil is posting something to the discussion, she must choose what knowledge type her note represents.],
I also quite like Naomi Miyake’s (Professor at Chukyo University Japan) research into designed collaboration as a scaffold for schematic knowledge integration using HIE(Hypothesis, experiment, instruction) and Jigsaw Matrices and even the design features in Bereiter's and Scardamalia's Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE)
And I will admit that I have my own ideas on a generic pedagogical design platform for online environments - thinking that has developed from planning many f2f learning experiences with educators against SOLO Taxonomy –
All this means that whilst I have been tracking the blogosphere for reaction to the release of Google’s Lively the latest addition to spaces to play in online ... I didn’t expect to read anything that would capture my imagination in terms of the potential for enhancing student learning outcomes.
The Googlemaps Mania post on a potential mashup between Lively and Google Maps surprised me
Just as I have never understood the educational advantages in how SL is being used I have always been a little disappointed that the educational potential of Google Maps and the ability to make your own mash-up maps has not been more embraced by New Zealand educators or for that matter in the ictpd cluster conference presentations ,
In contrast to my thinking about avatars and those virtual rooms and worlds (that seem to merely recreate the limitations of f2f learning in real worlds, classrooms, lecture theatres and seedy motel rooms) I have always been just a little excited by the generative educational potential for students in Google Earth.
3. On imagining what is needed ...
Beware ... Stream of consciousness follows ...
In the (new) New Zealand Curriculum teachers are charged with building learning experiences to enhance student learning outcomes for Planet Earth and Beyond Interacting systems: Investigate and understand that the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere are connected via a complex web of processes.
And to do this at Levels Three and Four teachers have to hit achievement outcome bulleted as:
- Investigate the water cycle and its effect on climate, landforms, and life.
Now water is pretty exciting stuff ... but backward design thinking means if you want the kids to know about the EFFECTS of the water cycle ON climate, ON landforms AND ON life they have to know more about water than its use in the Dihydrydrogen monoxide hoaxing of New Zealand political parties ... all that
- it can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
- it is a major component in acid rain
- it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
- accidental inhalation can kill you
- it contributes to erosion
- it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
- it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients
For starters they need to know what water is and how water cycles - I usually suggest we hit learning experiences for the water cycle through change of state thinking and alert teachers to common student misconceptions
The kids (and in truth some teachers) conflate melting and dissolving .... many students also believe:
When things dissolve they disappear - Materials can only exhibit properties of one state of matter - Melting and dissolving are confused. Products of chemical changes have the same properties as their original reactants. Melting/freezing and boiling/condensing do not occur in substances other than water. Matter is not conserved, it disappears or appears during processes such as dissolving, burning, evaporation, boiling, rotting, respiration, rusting, condensation Only water can melt, boil, freeze. The weight of a substance changes when it changes phase. Water disappears as it evaporates.
The research findings from the Learning in Science Project LISP Science at Waikato University found that few students when asked to explain what they thought might be in the bubbles that formed when water boiled – (causal explanation) figured it was water in the gaseous state and when asked what formed on the outside of a jar filled with water when it was placed on a bench after being kept in the fridge – very few figured it was water vapour from the air condensing as water liquid because heat energy had been removed from the air close to the jar.
We don’t teach (and students don’t understand) change of state well ... even if they can perfectly remember the labels for a water cycle diagram for the end of unit test
Each of these misunderstandings needs to be undermined ... and that requires introducing some carefully planned learning experiences with real water, water vapour and ice some well structured hands on experimentation and a whole heap of discussion...
BUT understanding the water cycle in the context of the NZ Curriculum AO is so much bigger than this …
- AO: Investigate the water cycle and its effect on climate, landforms, and life.
and that is where a mash up between Google Maps and Google Lively interests me
Kevin Kelly’s “Big Here Quiz” Helped me with this thinking …
The Big Here Quiz: Are You Really Here Now?
You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.
Each of Kelly’s quiz questions could easily be explored within an open source collaborative online learning environment like Fle3 with students choosing the knowledge type of their contribution under knowledge codes of Problem, My Explanation, Scientific Explanation, Evaluation of the Process and Summary
1) Point north
2) What time is sunset today?
3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.
4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?
5) How many feet above sea level are you?
7) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours?
8) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt?
11) From what direction do storms generally come?
12) Where does your garbage go?
13) How many people live in your watershed? Etc
4. On creating what has been imagined
The idea I’d like to explore is how to create a NZ wide collaborative project using a co-created Google Map/s to identify and explore significant watersheds across New Zealand.
Something like this ...
After identifying a watershed teams of students could explore questions like “Trace the water you drink from rainfall to tap” in real life excursions to explore where water goes and in Fle3 knowledge type coded text conversations to build understanding.
Students could record their research through voice recording, digital video and digital photographs, storing these online through Flickr, YouTube, Podmatic etc . And water shed locations could be identified and detail recorded Google Maps as below.
This digital content research collected could be used to create a Lively space – embedding photographs audio and YouTube video where appropriate to create a conversation space where students can defend their new learning against questions from a thought leader or even other teams.
These Lively spaces created would be connected with a watershed location identified mark on a Google Map.
I cannot persuade the html code for Dihydrogen Monoxide Room on Lively to embed on the Google map and have had to hyperlink from the red Auckland tag on the Google Map to help you imagine this bit connected
But with the process and content of their thinking captured by logging their investigative process and recording their findings and data using Fle3, or a SOLO coded surface within a wiki, or even I guess Google docs, the student teams would be able to merge/ connect spaces to create an uber water space on Google Lively for a collaborative discussion of The New Zealand Curriculum AO
Sequence the path of water from rainfall to tap across New Zealand
Classify the paths water takes from rainfall to tap in New Zealand
Compare and contrast the paths water takes from rainfall to tap in different catchment areas New Zealand
Explain why water takes different paths between rainfall and tap in different catchment areas in New Zealand.
Analyse the paths water takes from rainfall to tap across New Zealand
Generalise the path water takes from rainfall to tap across New Zealand.
Predict the path water will take from rainfall to tap across New Zealand in 50 years time
Evaluate the different paths water takes from rainfall to tap across New Zealand
Create a new path for water to take from rainfall to tap in New Zealand.
Purposeful design of learning experiences based on known pedagical frameworks and using online spaces would mean that investigating the water cycle and its effect on climate, landforms, and life ... would be given meaning in a way that would enable far deeper understanding of the significance of the effects of the water cycle in New Zealand than our current approaches allow for.
And the resources collected along the way would be available to other students wishing to explore similar and different questions about the water cycle in different locations in New Zealand and elsewhere.
How cool is that?