Re: [xmca] zopeds and virtual learning environments

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Wed Jan 03 2007 - 10:15:26 PST

Could virtual learning environments be organized more like social
virtual environments (my space, you tube, etc)??

Eirik Knutsson wrote:
> 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.
> Eirik
> -----------------------------
>> 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
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