Re: [xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Linda Polin (
Date: Wed Jan 03 2007 - 08:18:29 PST

My experience with listservs, web boards, forums, real-time chat, and
even VOIP, in online and hybrid courses over the past twelve years is
that the quiet, lurker students remain quiet lurker students, even
when I try to leverage them by raising the cost of their failure to
participate actively. Personally (no hard research), I think the
notion that online, asynchronous text tools make timid people bolder
is a myth.

The re-mediation I have seen is most obvious and impactful for
instructors who are new to the environment and are coming from
traditional classroom settings. They suddenly discover the tools and
structures that have granted them power and authority in the face-to-
face classroom architecture are absent online. For some, behavior
changes; others dismiss or abandon these formats for engagement, or
struggle against it. However, often, in participation structures
that are available and given a less well defined control and
authority structure, a subset of students is able and willing to step
up and open up the dialogue by participating and even leading
conversation. There is also a "mid range" group of students that does
increase participation over time to some extent, given a sufficient I mean encouragement.

I am pursuing this topic, but find it barely possible to keep up with
the XMCA listserv, let alone craft a reasonable response to it. LOL.
I shall focus up more on this header.


My "lurker remains lurker" assertion is also largely true, in my own
experience, with MMO game chat, both text-based and VOIP, e.g., World
of Warcraft, even within guilds, which should be, by definition,
safe, low stakes, social spaces.

Linda Polin, PhD
Davidson Professor of Education and Technology
Director, EdD in Educational Technology

On Jan 2, 2007, at 10:33 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

> Odd that no one responded to your note, Donna--
> For a long time we have known that the time shifting using list
> serves in
> connection with courses also
> re-mediates the forms of participation of students with the usually
> more
> silent students becoming relatively
> more active and visible. But the affordances of real time, virtual
> environments now available in some quarters
> offers, as you note, a lot of new and interesting potentials for
> creating
> environments were students can be more
> active learners.
> Can you be the only one on XMCA pursuing these issues? how odd!!
> mike
> On 12/20/06, Russell, Donna L <> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Collaborations
>> 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
>> development.
>> 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.
>> thanks
>> Donna
>> 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) <>
>> (website)
>> (member of the Virtual Instructors Pilot Research Group)
>> 816.235.2232
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
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