Re: [xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Eirik Knutsson (
Date: Wed Jan 03 2007 - 09:52:48 PST

I agree with Mike here: Judging from my experience as a student, online
courses enable participation of usually more silent students becoming
relatively more active and visible.

I also agree that virtual environments now available offer a lot of new
and interesting potentials for creating environments were students can be
more active, more individualistic learners.

Who are these "silent students"? If they are contemplative, introvert
individualists - as opposed to consensus-oriented, extrovert
"collectivists" - I think there is good reason to believe that they have a
lot to gain from these new virtual learning environments.



> 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.
> Linda
> p.s.
> 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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