The SLENZ Update – No 61, March 29, 2009

How do teachers see education benefits?

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Vimani Gamage … trying to find why teachers ‘like’  or ‘don’t like’ MUVEs.

Masters student in business studies at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand-Aotearoa, Vimani Gamage (SL: Emerly Alter),  has  set herself  the difficult task of establishing  what factors influence teacher acceptance of  multi user virtual environments (MUVEs).

Briefing members of the SLENZ Project team last week she said that she was seeking to establish for her thesis how the known determinants of Technology Acceptance (according to existing TAM-related research) influence the intention of educators to use MUVEs to conduct virtual classes and how educators perceived the potential benefits of educational use of MUVEs as claimed in the literature.

Gamage is using a virtual classroom on Jokayadia within Second Life for her study which will involve the use of a questionaire to explore teacher perceptions.

Although not wanting to compromise  the results of her research in anyway,  I personally believe  the greatest  influence on  teacher perception of the benefits of MUVEs is directly related, initially, to the informal linkages the teachers  form  and the networking they do  on MUVEs like Second Life when they first enter, perhaps to play.

For  early adopters and subsequent promoters of the benefits of MUVEs  for education, I believe,  the major initial influence is “other people” within the world and the virtual society  they become attached/addicted to.

For those teachers who  “only work” in virtual worlds, MUVEs can apparently be a very boring place indeed. One sees them nitpicking on the SLED list and other lists, complaining about the technology or lack thereof, or being  pedantic  about educational theory.

They sometimes forget that MUVEs are fun and should be fun … that is the easiest way to learn … something the earliest adopters discovered and why many of them are still there.

When I consider some of the “reluctant” educators I meet in Second Life I am reminded of a great quote  from the Wizard of “Watchmen” – Alan Moore:  ” All too often education actually acts as a form of aversion therapy, that what we’re really teaching our children is to associate learning with work and to associate work with drudgery so that the remainder of their lives they will possibly never go near a book because they associate books with learning, learning with work and work with drudgery.

“Whereas after a hard day’s toil, instead of relaxing with a book they’ll be much more likely to sit down in front of an undemanding soap opera because this is obviously teaching them nothing, so it is not learning, so it is not work, it is not drudgery, so it must be pleasure. And I think that that is the kind of circuitry that we tend to have imprinted on us because of the education process.”

My great hope is that MUVEs are never viewed like that – by educators or students.

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Vimani’s classroom is worth visiting for the range of educational tools she uses.

The SLENZ Update – No 60, March 29, 2009

SLENZ PROJECT

Mid-project workshop, mid-term progress

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Eyes on the Smartboard … joint project leader Terry Neal (SL Tere Tinkel) and developer Todd
Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) follow progress on the Smartboard. In the background,
learning designer, Leigh Blackall (SL Leroy Post) and lead educator Merle Lemon
(SL: Briarmelle Quintessa).

A two-day workshop in Wellington  has firmed up the SLENZ Project timeline, sorted niggling build problems and priorities,  as well as signaling the  end of communication problems which appeared to be hindering the early stages of the project.

With stage 1 of the  midwifery pilot to begin operation under the direction of lead educator Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) mid-June and stage 2 mid-July, on-campus tutor/student orientation is due to begin in May. The tutors from the polytechnics involved in the Foundation Learning pilot led by Merle Lemon will begin orientation with a face-to-face meeting in July in preparation for a September/October launch.

Both groups, however, plan to hold a number of “spontaneous” in-world meetings with-in their separate pilot  groups in the lead-up to the formal orientation process and tutor training.   These meetings will also allow them to experience,  in an “avatar hands-on” fashion, the structures/animations created by (and under the supervision) of lead developer Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) and provide grassroots feedback where necessary.

On the communication front it was noted that  joint project leader Dr Clare  Atkins’ (SL: Arwenna Stardust) resolution of team’s communications into the SLENZ Project Development googledocs – as the official working and final documents – with direct access from the SLENZ Update blog  had obviated much of the confusion which has surrounded the previous proliferation of semi-official communication channels. Atkins stressed again the value of each and every member using the googledocs system to update group thinking.

Cochrane also briefed team members on SLOODLE/MOODLE as a useful on-going in-world resource and tool for educators.

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“Foundations” – an initial rough concept sketch of
what is needed for Foundation Learning

The team agreed that as the Project was publicly-funded every effort should be made to ensure all documents were open to the public and/or under Creative Commons License   and that all items  commissioned and built for project should be “full perms”. It was noted that the “basic builds” with full functionality and full perms, once completed,  would be available from a “vendor” for free public usage.

Besides her meeting room build on Kowhai Lemon  is investigating using holodecks for specific interviewing scenarios such as, Police recruiting interviews, hospitality industry recruiting interviews, nursing and teacher interviews. She plans to use roleplay as part of her tutor training as well.

There also was some discussion of the team’s direction once the project has been completed and evaluated by year end.

The final meeting of the SLENZ Project Team is planned for August/September with evaluation of the project planned for October/November.

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Birthing Centre and Foundation Learning centre with Kowhai TP point in foreground
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