Paul and All
I would like to add another issue to this discussion of zopeds and the impact of context on learning and development.
I am designing collaborative learning environments using immersive technologies such as 3-D
massive multiplayer onling games (mmpogs) . My questions/comments are concerned with how to use CHAT to study immersive technologies such as these 3-D virtual learning environments. I call this design and research process v-CHAT.
Collaborative virtual learning environments have, I believe, an incredible
potential to offset the issues of standard educational programs that Paul
and Mike discussed. They can be designed to incorporate the joy of learning.
They are fun, engaging and purposeful. They also are collaborative so the
designer can consider- as in a real-world classroom- the benefits and costs
of varied collaborations including mentoring, (guides in gaming) tutoring, and
group processes to facilitate movement through the Zone.
I am currently designing both programs and research including the design
of a high school urban geoscience program, a professional development
simulation program for urban preservice teachers and a study of a university
creative writing course taught in 3-D virtual online spaces. The aspects
that I am studying in the nature of the simulated dialogs and associations,
the collaborative spaces, and the design of the learning context.
Virtual Associations and Zoped
These simulated learning environments occur in highly interactive virtual
scenarios with avatars (characters) that can dialog in real-time including
the digital characteristics of laughter, hand gestures, and head movements.
One researcher at the ICLS told me her students would 'talk' more in these
spaces of their avatars could 'laugh' at jokes. Another researcher told me
that one of her participants in a study of a 3-D virtual learning
environment asked if her avatar (virtual character) could also sign- the
implication was that her avatar was separate. These levels of associations
are a very interesting aspect of these environments. McCluhan wrote in 1964
in Understanding of Media: The Extensions of Man that "Having extended or
tanslated our central nervous system into the electormagnetic technology, it
is but a further stage to transfer our consciousness to the computer world
as well." (pg. 60) This forum has previously discussed some of these aspects
of extended consiousness in response to the book Natural Born Cyborgs by
Andy Clark where he discussed the plasticity of the human brain in its
ability to extend its awareness into virtual spaces.
Additionally, these learning environments allow the instructional designer
to consider scaffolding aspects very similar to the design of a 'real world'
collaboriative learning environment including the types and qualities of
these virtual collaborations and the development of the learner's responses
through mentors, tutors, virtual guides or other supportive avators to
Virtual and Real-World Problem-Solving
These virtual worlds are designed to be simulations of authentic learning
processes such as problem-solving and case-based reasoning. For instance, we
are designing a fossil wall for the geoscience program that will allow
students to 'touch' a fossil on the wall and time travel to a paleo world
with the fossil recreated as the organism. They use information learned
about extinction etc. from the simulations to address real-world
environmental issues such as global warming that are correlated to these
virtual environments by their real-world classroom facilitator. We will
convene a group of experienced inner city teachers in Kansas City to discuss
their transformative classroom experiences and will use their combined
expertise to design classroom scenarios that have that potential for the
preservice teacher into our virtual spaces. The urban preservice teachers
can 'walk into' a diverse urban classroom and be a virtual student or
teacher and respond to the decision-making processes in a real-time
simulation of these fluid environments as part of their professional
So, finally, my questions are
1. How can the characteristics of the avatars impact the immersion of the
students in these 3-d environments be defined and assessed for their impact
on the potential for collaboration and learning using v-CHAT? How important
are the development of these virtual personas to the potential for
2. How can the collaborations designed into the scenarios consider the
salient aspects of these virtual collaborations and dialogs and develop
productive interactions that result in meaningful learning processes
including productive scaffolding processes?
3. What are the characteristics of the problem space, the virtual
simulation itself, that will impact the capabilities of the students to
develop advanced problem-solving abilities? How much 'gaming' is enough to
engage but does not detract from the learning?
I would appreciate any advice on how to conceptualize these parameters of human development and learning from a CHAT perspective.
Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
School of Education
University of Missouri-Kansas City
(email) email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
(member of the Virtual Instructors Pilot Research Group) www.viprg.org
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