[xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Russell, Donna L (russelldl@umkc.edu)
Date: Wed Dec 20 2006 - 06:59:55 PST

 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
facilitate scaffolding.

 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
 meaningful learning?

 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.
 Assistant Professor
Learning Technologies
Educational Psychology
Teacher Education
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
School of Education
University of Missouri-Kansas City
(email) russelldl@umkc.edu <mailto:russelldl@umkc.edu>
 (website) http://r.web.umkc.edu/russelldl/
 (member of the Virtual Instructors Pilot Research Group) www.viprg.org

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:06:19 PST