[Technology 1209] Re: Prosessional Development Design & Development for the 21st Century

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Mark Schlager mark.schlager at sri.com
Mon Aug 13 12:51:24 EDT 2007

SL really is an amazing environment. It heralds the coming-of-age of
immersive 3D environment technology, and more importantly its
acceptance as a legitimate "learning" environment. In the not too
distant past, the forerunners of SL-- MUDs, MOOs, chat servers, IM,
and real-time graphical virtual gaming environments-- were either
ignored or rejected by the education establishment as places where
tech nerds, fantasy nuts, and deviates hung out. Many were blocked
by school firewalls and ISPs.

At the same time, I think it too soon to declare victory and settle
for what SL offers educators and students without some caution and
critical review. As a long-time researcher in this and other areas of
ed tech, I would caution against "over-the-top" advocacy that can be
interpretted as just more techie "hype." Education has seen tech
trends and fads come and go, and as a result, many educators and
policy makers look skeptically at the next new "silver bullet" the
techies are pushing.

One way to avoid these perceptions and counteract the nay-sayers is
to be appropriately self-critical in our advocacy of new
technologies. By all means, be excited and optimistic about SL, and
also point out the barriers and limitations, which, for SL, is a long
list. Before we send practitioners off into the "brave new virtual
world," we need to make clear the investment (and risks) in terms of
the time, effort, computing requirements, and new social norms just
to get started in SL. We need to look at and draw lesson from the
available research data to know under what conditions and for what
purposes 3DVR might be more appropriate or effective than other tools/
environments for learning (many of which you mention). For example,
many tout the lively discussions and knowledge sharing that go on in
SL. When one looks with a critical eye, however, it becomes apparent
that much, if not most, of that discourse takes place in plain
vanilla blogs and listservs that are not integrated with "in-world"
activities. Where is the real value for time spent?

Yes, the techies among us (including my research group) will leap at
the opportunity to experience the sheer innovation and compelling
immersion of SL. My concern is for the other 90% of busy education
professionals who are simply looking for ways to engage their
students and help them learn more effectively. For them, SL may be a
rather large leap (of faith) even 2 years from now. Perhaps we need
to advocate more *for* educators *to* vendors like Linden Labs, so
they build in more education-appropriate features, and less for the
vendors to the education community (vendors have marketing budget for
that). As a recognized authority with a bully pulpit, your voice can
amplify the voices of educators to influence developers to build the
features needed to move us toward the vision you describe.

Mark Schlager
Associate Director of Learning Communities
Center for Technology in Learning
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025
mark.schlager at sri.com
(p) 650-859-2881 (fax) 650-859-3673
ctl.sri.com www.tappedin.org www.cltnet.org

"Technology: It never leaves you alone"

On Aug 8, 2007, at 7:30 PM, David J. Rosen wrote:

> Technology colleagues,


> I posted the message below to the professional development list

> today. It may also be of interest here.


> David J. Rosen

> djrosen at comcast.net

> -----------------------------


> ....there was one finding in the NSDC report that I think we should

> pay special attention to. ..


> “Structured, course-based offerings scheduled during specific time

> periods are being replaced by on-demand, individualized learning

> opportunities.”


> What this means, I think, is "just-in-time" professional development,

> including asynchronous online professional development that is

> tailored to teachers' needs as they see them, or tailored to

> professional development requirements that, in any case, they must

> meet.


> What is your mental image of what this looks like? Short, Web-based

> courses? Weekly "webinars"? "Podcasts"? Wikis? Blogs? Discussion

> lists/forums?


> My mental image isn't any one of these; it's all of them and much,

> much more. My image comes from my experience online with Second Life

> (SL). Some of what I will describe below is happening in SL now,

> some is projection into the very near future, only a year or two.


> (Select the Web address below to see me in Second Life)

> http://tinyurl.com/2vqf8k


> Second Life is a three-dimensional online environment, a bunch of

> "islands" where some people build amazing architecture and where

> other people -- moving about as their chosen "avatars", dressed

> however they like -- explore, visit, spend time, and do things. What

> do people do in Second Life? That's like asking what do people do in

> Europe or China. Who can know all the things they do? But here's a

> start: they walk, run, look around, and fly (yes fly -- some of

> those who are physically challenged in real life say it's amazingly

> liberating.) They teleport themselves to another island, talk with

> other avatars, gesture to them in normal and strange ways, sit down

> (on furniture, floor, grass, park benches, and more), flirt (and

> probably more), watch movies, shop (in real online stores with real

> money, as well as with SL money called Linden Dollars).


> More to the point, they take seminars and courses at real (and

> invented) colleges and universities. And there is some talk of there

> soon being a GED center on SL.


> All of that is happening in SL now, but let's fast forward a bit to

> the near future, and imagine this scenario:


> I am a GED teacher (although my avatar dresses casually, not in

> typical classroom garb) and in Second Life I am young and female, not

> grey and male. I teleport from the entrance to the National Adult Ed

> Teacher Professional Growth Center (remember this part is projection;

> it is not real yet) where I see a billboard catalog of offerings.

> Some offerings are short videos of teachers and classes, good

> examples of content standards and best practices; some are seminars

> ("webinars") and, since there are hundreds of adult ed teachers here

> with me in real time, some can be just-in-time introductory courses,

> workshops and study circles. I sign up for a study circle on

> workplace literacy that begins in two days, because I work part-time

> and I have noticed that some of the part-time jobs for teachers who

> work at companies sound interesting and pay better.


> I also sign up for a one-hour introduction to the workplace literacy

> basic skills teacher professional development course. The intro is

> offered right now. There are seven other teachers (their avatars)

> with me -- some look really weird!. Some say they have taken lots of

> courses and workshops at the Professional Growth Center, some are

> newbies like me. In the intro to workplace basic skills, we listen,

> chat in dyads (using Instant Messenger), ask questions that the

> teacher answers (using SL's free voice software,) and at the end,

> after getting a copy of the course schedule that my avatar keeps as

> her own, I head over to the Growth Center's coffee cafe for some

> shop talk with one of the other teachers in the workplace literacy

> basic skills Introduction, who it turns out in real life (IRL) is

> from my state.


> This may seem far-fetched, but most of this can be designed on SL

> right now, and many more "just-in-time" features can be linked in to

> SL. This is a highly interactive environment.


> Have you been to Second Life? Have you been thinking -- as I am --

> that this has very exciting potential for highly interactive

> professional development? Is anyone working on building an adult

> education PD center on SL now? If so, let us know. Maybe we can put

> together an online PD work project group to first learn more about

> SL, and then to experiment with building a PD center. Anyone

> interested?


> For those who are curious about SL, when you have a couple of hours,

> start here:


> http://secondlife.com/whatis/


> David J. Rosen (aka DJ Duncan on SL)

> djrosen at comcast.net




> ----------------------------------------------------

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> Email delivered to mark.schlager at sri.com

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