Archive for the 'NECC' Category

Passion and Professional Development (NECC Submission)

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Here is the fourth of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. This session is the biggest departure from past presentations and workshops I’ve lead, but it’s not entirely new – it’s based on an article I wrote for OnCUE last year. (I blogged the article back in December.) Also, of course, I try to put these ideas into practice with each workshop I do. If this is accepted, it will be the first time I lead a session focused on sharing these ideas. Incidentally, unlike the previous submission, this is a return to a focus on professional development for me – rather than focusing directly on teaching. But, I think the content would be appropriate for use in a k-12 or higher-ed classroom as well as in professional development situations. Let me know what you think.


Passion and Professional Development: Four Philosophies For Lead Learners


A passionate student is a learning student. The same is true for teachers. Engage participants emotionally and unleash their passions, even in a technology workshop.


This session will begin with an interactive welcome activity. During this activity, participants will be asked to share what they like most about teaching… and about being a student. The presenter will facilitate a brief discussion around the participants’ passions related to teaching and learning. Then the presenter will introduce the four philosophies summarized above. Participants will then be asked to share an example of how they might put each philosophy into action in their next presentation or workshop. In the next segment of the workshop, participants will be introduced to two-way web technologies (such as blogs, various forms of online chat, social networking, social microblogging with twitter, and even Google Docs) can be used to support these four philosophies. Again, participants will be asked to share an example of how they might use a two-way web technology to support these four philosophies in their next presentation or workshop. Before concluding the session, the presenter will leave participants with a few final tips for how they can integrate these philosophies and technologies into their own presentations and workshops. Finally, an interactive reflection activity will close the session.

This session has the most face-to-face interaction built into it of any session I’ve ever submitted. Also, of course, I included the online interactivity of a Google preso, a wiki, and a potential webcast.

And again, in the interest of sharing – and in hopes of receiving feedback – I’ve made an archive of the complete submission available, too:

Passion and Professional Development (NECC 2008 Submission)

Please leave a comment below to leave any feedback you might have. :)

Two-Way Teaching (NECC Submission)

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Here is the third of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. My previous two submissions were really focused on helping teachers learn – rather than helping teachers to teach. This session, though, is my effort at a more teaching centered session. It combines elements of my three-hour Two-Way Teaching workshops from last year and the new 20 minute Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs CUE Tips session I submitted last month for the 2008 CUE conference. I hope the combination works. Let me know what you think.


Two-way Teaching with the Two-Way Web: Blogs, Wikis, & Docs


Learn when to use blogs, wikis, or Google Docs with your students, parents, and community! Clear up your lingering confusion. Includes pedagogy, ethics, and safety.


An interactive welcome activity will begin this session. An overview of the two-way teaching concept (in which teachers are learners and learners are teachers) will follow. The presenter will then briefly introduce participants to the two-way web and it’s effect on education. The specific tools of blogs, wikis, and Google Docs will be briefly introduced, compared and contrasted. This segment will focus on the unique features and limitations of teach tool, and on the ways in which these tools may overlap in function or be redundant. (A comparison chart will be included.) This will be followed by an overview of best practices using blogs in education, including many examples. Next, best practices using wikis in education will be shared, again including several examples. Also, best practices and examples will be shared for the use of Google Docs. Following these illustrations, the presenter will then share several “rules of thumb” for when to use a blog, when to use a wiki, and when to use Google Docs. Before concluding the session, issues related to the ethical and safe use of these tools will also be addressed. Finally, an interactive reflection activity will bring closure to the session.

I also included the interactive elements of a Google presentation, a wiki, and a possible webcast in this submission. And once again, in the interest of sharing – and in hopes of receiving feedback – I’ve made an archive of the complete submission available, too:

Two-Way Teaching (NECC 2008 Submission)

I look forward to any feedback you might leave in the comments.

Learning to Network & Networking to Learn (NECC Submission)

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Here is the second of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. At first glance this session looks a lot like the one I shared yesterday, but I consider the focus and the audience to be different. In the case of yesterday’s session it’s focused on folks who actually want to “Be An Edublogger” so to speak. This one I see more as a focused on a skill that all teachers can benefit from. Too, the previous session was very much focused on the tools of the trade, whereas this session is all about looking beyond the tools to the life-long skills. Also, this session has more of an academic foundation in social constructivism.

In any case, I am indepted to a tweet from Steve Dembo in which he simply pronounced that it was no longer important to teach teachers how to use the tools, but rather we needed to teach them how to access a learning network – or something along those lines. (I’d link to the tweet, but that is no longer possible – at least this morning.) And again, I’d love to hear what any of you think of this.


Learning to Network & Networking to Learn: Beyond The Tools…


There’s always new web tools, but it’s more important to become part of an online learning network than to master any specific tool. Learn how.


An interactive welcome activity will begin this session. The presenter will then provide a brief overview of social constructivist learning theory, including the concepts of socially negotiated meaning making and the zone of proximal development. This portion of the session will draw on work by constructivists such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner – and on work by explicitly constructivist educational technologists such as Papert and Jonassen. It will conclude by connecting these theories to the recent work of read/write web enthusiasts such as Will Richardson and David Warlick. Then participants will be introduced to ways in which tools such as blogs, social networking, social microblogging, and instant messaging can support such learning. The presenter will share anecdotes from his personal experience as a teacher-turned-educational-technologist. The theme of these stories will switch the focus of the session to the overriding importance of making connections and making contributions, regardless of the tool being used. Finally, the presenter will share concrete ideas for how participants, too, can make connections and make contributions as they grow their own online learning network. The session will conclude with an interactive reflection activity.

In the interest of sharing – and in hopes of receiving feedback – I’ve made an archive of the complete submission available, too:

Learning to Network & Networking to Learn (NECC 2008 Submission)

If you check it out, you’ll notice I also included the same interactive elements as I mentioned yesterday: a Google Docs preso and a wiki with a possible webcast. :)

I hope you’ll feel free to leave me any comments, suggestions, or other feedback. Unlike the previous submission, I know I’ll get to give this one a few times. I’ve used a version of this idea for my upcoming keynotes at local CUE affiliates in the Cochella Valley this Saturday October 6th and in San Diego on November 3rd… so your feedback will have a chance to get used – and soon.

Be An Edublogger (NECC Submission)

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Here is the first of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. As I shared earlier, for me this is an opportunity to dream it all up again and infuse new life into my repertoire of presentations and workshops. Like the other four submissions I made, this session is one I have never presented before. (I figure at this point, there are literally hundreds of people who can lead workshops on blogs, wikis, podcasting, RSS, and so forth.) In this case, though, I submitted something very similar for the 2008 CUE conference last month. With a few more weeks to chew on these ideas I think this has become an even better submission. I’m also aware that this could come off as most arrogant submission I’ve ever made – so I hope it’s seen as me just wanting to share with others what I’ve learned and what has worked to some degree in my experience. Teachers often ask me about this sort of thing, so I thought it might make a good session. Let me know what you think.


Be an Edublogger: Techniques for Joining a Global Learning Community


Read, write, reflect, and respond! Hundreds of educators around the world network and learn using online tools. Discover how you too can connect and contribute.


An interactive welcome activity will begin this session. Then the presenter will briefly introduce participants to the read/write web, blogs, and the blogosphere. This will be followed by an overview of what makes edublogging, edubloggers, and the edublogosphere different. Participants will then learn about a combination of tools that they can use to become a member of the edublogging culture. A brief overview of blogging (using will include a discussion of best practices and blogging ethics. Tips for commenting will be covered as well. A quick introduction to reading RSS feeds (using will follow, complete with tips for organizing and processing the deluge of information. Then the participants will learn about a trio of social tools: social bookmarking (using, social networking (using, and social microblogging (using; in each case they will see how the tool can be used to connect with other educators. Finally, a brief discussion of instant messaging and videochatting (using will complete the list of tools. The session will conclude with a discussion of the edublogging process and key edublogging philosophies, such as the focus on making connections and making contributions. An interactive reflection activity will follow.

In the interest of sharing – and in hopes of receiving feedback – I’ve made an archive of the complete submission available, too:

Be An Edublogger (NECC 2008 Submission).

The thing I’m most excited about though is this bit I appended to the outline portion of the submission:

Interactive Elements: This was not submitted as a bring your own laptop session because a laptop is not necessary. However, participants with their own laptop will be able to take advantage of many interactive elements. Presentation of concepts and examples will take place using a Google Docs presentation and a wiki. Participants will be able to chat synchronously throughout the session using the Google presentation, and they will be able to post and share their own examples (and questions) on the wiki both during and after the session. In addition, the presentation and wiki urls will be posted to twitter (and at so that edubloggers from around the world (including those in attendance elsewhere in the conference) will be able to contribute their insights in the chat and on the wiki as well. If the network connection in the room permits, the audio (or video) of the session will also be webcast so that the virtual attendees can hear (and see) what is happening in the room. This session will model teaching and learning in a permeable classroom.

As usual, I’d be thrilled to get any feedback, suggestions, or comments on this idea. I know that the more I share with others about this session the better it will be by the time I get to present it (if I get to present it, that is). Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

NECC Sessions DUE October 3rd: Time To Dream It All Up Again

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

The deadline for submitting a session proposal for NECC 2008 is October 3rd, 2007 – next Wednesday. Edubloggers have already started writing about this… Warlick before anyone else I think (though I couldn’t find the post with a quick search); he seems to plan ahead more than most. I also saw someone (somewhere) post about how hard the NECC application is and I completely agree. A few other posts prompted me to comment tonight, and my comments have been shaping my thinking about this year’s submissions. Here’s two of the comments I left this evening that capture my thinking – influenced by many others of course.

In response to Will’s post Thinking Disruptively About Conference Presentations, I posted the following (note: I’ve added hyperlinks to compliment the original comment):

Great post, Will. I think you’ve captured something that a lot of us have struggled with… how to model this new kind of two-way learning while still getting the point across in 50 minutes – not to mention still getting selected by the conference planning committees.I like the 15 minute preso followed by discussion format. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Dave Winer’s hypercamp idea. I’ve wanted to see an educational hypercamp for a long time, and the edubloggercon was very close. It would be great to bring the format to NECC as a grassroots movement – however small it might be.

As for the formal submission process, I don’t see why we can’t be a bit subversive (as Tom March might say [streaming media link, NECC Live 2006]). We can still submit our topics with just as detailed a submission as we might usually… and then run the session in the format we prefer when we get there (if we’re selected, of course). Eveyone expects that the content of the session will be updated to account for the intervening nine months (despite the flaw ddraper points out in the system)… so why shouldn’t the format of the session also be modified to account for the lag between something like the edubloggercon and a formal box to check in the NECC submission process?

The remaining problem might be (and Draper didn’t touch on how NECC apps are worse than many other similar conferences) that NECC online applications are just too darn detailed.

In any case, I hope you (and many others) take the ideas you posted to heart and that there is a whole new breed of session at NECC in 2008. :)

A great conversation has developed in the comments to Will’s original post, so click on over and check that out, too, for greater breadth of perspective.

Then, in response to Vicki’s post Declare war on the Ruts, Boundaries & Comfort Zones, I wrote the following, which in my mind compliments the thoughts above:

Vicki, the most striking part of this post (for me) was the quip about buzzwords. With the NECC deadline approaching (and the CA CUE deadline just past), I’ve been feeling like my own workshops were in a rut. I’ve moved from slides to wikis for the most part, but often with the same basic structure. And even the workshop titles/content are feeling old (at least to me). So this post has struck a chord with my resolve to lead all new sessions this time around.I also look forward to seeing what everyone else imagines in the next week (and the following nine months), too. In some ways, this week is a very important one in our field, isn’t it? Educators around the world will define what ruts we stay in and which new paths will be explored. Hopefully the good new stuff gets accepted…

So this week it’s time to go away and dream it all up again. I hope the edublogosphere, and educational technologists (actually educators) in general really bring it this week. ;)

UPDATE: Just this evening (perhaps because of Will and Vicki’s posts and others) folks started twittering about putting together panel presentations for NECC. As I read through all the tweets I found myself wondering if collaborative planning for sessions will play a big roll in this year’s NECC – and if it might not even be an essential element of the “new” NECC session. I know any session I could submit would be very dependent on others’ work and contributions (standing on the shoulder of giants, as they say), but I wonder if I’ll wind up including more of a collaborative planning element myself…

And yes, that’s a U2 reference and an Oasis reference in the same post. :)

NECC Live, Webcast Sessions, and Podcasts

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Thanks to a heads up from Joyce Valenza’s post NECC: If you missed the thrill of being there, I realized that the webcast and podcast sessions from NECC 2007 are now available online. Here are the links to the various (not exactly easy to locate) repositories for each format:

And so the conference goes on… we can be absorbing additional sessions for months. In any case, if I missed anything please leave additional links in the comments – particularly if you have any podcasts of your own up (from NECC or the edubloggercon).

Final NECC Reflections

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

I’m exhausted. Nearly four days after returning from NECC in Atlanta and I’m still exhausted. The adventure on the way to out there left me with only two hours of sleep before heading to the edubloggercon. Saturday and Sunday night I did alright getting the sleep and exercise I needed, but after that it was the usual conference whirlwind of staying out too late and then staying up polishing presentations even later. The flight home was another ten hour nightmare (but I was still better off than many of the other edubloggers trying to get home on Wednesday). I got home at 3 am Thursday morning.

The following morning was lost to sleep, exercise, and recuperation – and things that needed to get done at home. The rest of Thursday and Friday was a mad dash to take care of critical projects, and I again skipped my workout Friday morning – always a mistake when it comes to my stress level. Since then Saturday and Sunday, though more relaxed and healthy, have been a rush to catch up on email, RSS feeds, and conference follow up (business cards etc). Finally, I am writing my final NECC reflections… but I’m exhausted. I’m ready to put the excitement behind me. (And I hope you’ll excuse this bit of self-indulgent blogging. The exhaustion has turned out to be a big part of the conference experience for me.)

That being said, I am coming away from the conference with a few key bits of new (or renewed) learning, most of them more personal (and humbling) than educational technology related, but don’t miss the last one if you’re an edublogger:

  • I know that ed tech is far too large a field for anyone to be an expert in anything, but from time to time I get to feeling like something of an expert in some specialization – web 2.0 tools, say, or video games in education. I was happily humbled on both fronts this past week. For instance, in the very first session of the formal conference, I picked up a few new tools from Jim Gates. Similarly, I was genuinely impressed not only by how far the educators in Second Life have come, but what they are doing with students! And this is to say nothing of the excitement of finally “getting” twitter, which really deserves an entire post in and of itself. Hopefully I’ll be less exhausted soon and be up to writing about it.
  • It’s time to retire my slides. They’ve evolved well over the last few years, but the bullets finally need to go. I need to get on the presentation zen and digital storytelling train here. David Jakes’ comments on this topic were particularly compelling. (As were Terry Freedman’s comments about presenters not talking too much about themselves.) Though my actual sessions and workshops focus on interaction as much as possible – and though I present more often from an interactive wiki than from slides these days – and though what presentation I actually do does follow a digital storytelling model to some degree on account of the anecdotes I throw in – it is nevertheless finally time for me to kick my slides up a notch. And, damn, I just got Benton to help me design a new theme. I wonder if I’ll still use it. Ultimately, I’m just a little too embarassed that someone might throw me in with the folks who were “reading bullets” at NECC. My only slide-based presentation was the Internet Safety and Awareness one, but Vicki was there and I was particularly self conscious anytime I was cranking through a slide of bullet points.
  • I realize I’m a terrible networker… to the point of being socially awkward even. I don’t know how many times I heard someone (usually Mike Lawrence) say “If you’re not networking, you’re not working” at NECC this year, but I suppose I wasn’t doing my job much of the time. It was interesting, but somehow short of instructive (for me), to see how easily (or seemingly so) many of my fellow edubloggers could network. I heard Chris Craft (I believe) compliment Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on her networking – and I, too, was impressed. And Mike Lawrence (not an edublogger) is of course the master. It’s why he’s the executive director of CUE I think. At any rate, not only are my networking skills not what I’d like, I managed to put my foot in my mouth more times than I care to think about. Again, I’d like to extend my apologies to Terry (for my own ignorance). Even so, I loved the experience of the edubloggercon and getting to meet and chat with so many of my fellow edubloggers.
  • I wish I had been more deliberate about meeting people I hadn’t met – and meeting up with people I know. For instance, Mark van ‘t Hooft was obviously there. I’ve enjoyed his blog, but I didn’t get the chance to meet him. Also, I would’ve liked to have had a more in-depth conversation with probably a dozen or more of the bloggers who met in the bloggers cafe throughout the conference, but sadly I generated relatively few chats over a meal or other shared activity outside the madness of the cafe.
  • When I’m done with this dissertation, I need to start traveling to more of the regional educational technology conferences. This would not only be a good way to expand my business and clientele (I find presentations to be my best advertisement), but it would also give me more opportunities to improve on all of the points above – to learn from and be humbled by others’ presentations, to fine tune my own presentations, and to practice networking (and meeting with people deliberately).
  • There is indeed a very real tension between my practice as an educational technologist and my role as an academic and Ph.D. student. Dr. Abbey Brown’s impassioned speech following Dr. Cheri Toledo’s impromptu sharing with residency students really challenged me in this respect (there was a Walden Univeristy residency in parallel with NECC). I think both the web 2.0 publishing ethic and the peer-review ethic have an important role in our society. Right now I’m existing at an intersection of the two and there is probably another posts’ worth of thinking to do on this topic too.
  • Perhaps the most overwhelming take away for me, though, was the fact that there were really many different NECC conferences happening in Atlanta. Others have mentioned that even with the amazing growth of the edublogger community, we are a very small minority (of about a hundred) in an event of over 20,000. David Warlick posted what look like amazing numbers when we look at last year’s NECC posts versus this year. But, even with the significant jump, I suspect that this year’s posts (748 posts tagged NECC07, 987 posts tagged NECC2007 and 3,149 posts with the string “NECC 2007” in them) were probably generated by not many more than the 100 or so edubloggers on the list. While my average might be high, I generated 21 of those posts myself. Assuming more overlap than not in those numbers, that’d be an estimate of only about 150 bloggers responsible for all the content we’re excited about… even if we call it 200 bloggers, that’s all of 1% of the attendees at NECC! I spend no more than 15 minutes on the show floor, and most of that talking to colleagues at the Google booth. There were folks for whom the exhibit hall was the most exciting part of the conference! “We” either have a long way to go, or we need to accept that these tools are not for everyone.

In any case, I look forward to seeing where this “movement” goes in the next year (and it is a movement – we have the buttons to prove it). I’ll be keeping an eye on the new virtual versions of the bloggers’ cafe in Second Life and on the web. Of course, I also look forward to my own transformation over the next year. It was just before NECC last year that I left the county office of education and started my own consulting and professional development company. This NECC has thus severed as a milestone for me. I made it through the first year of business on my own. In fact – as of today (to the day) I’ve been on my own for a year. Time to go celebrate…

Then on to chapter three of the dissertation.

Ramapo Island: Another Dimension of Learning

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

DSCN0234.JPGThis was moblogged, but I’ve cleaned it up considerably. In my professional opinion, this was the most important session of the conference. This was the first example I’d ever seen of students engaged in meaningful role-playing in a massively multiplayer environment. NOTE: Peggy is pictured here at the Second Life lounge, where I caught a better image of her. Here is a picture of her presentation, taken with my Treo.

In short, Peggy and her colleagues are working with 8th grade students on a private Island in Second Life. Sadly I came in late, but I saw more than enough to justify the claim I made above. She covered ways they are using the Island for role-playing in many subject areas. For example, in social studies the students role-play immigrating to the US via Ellis Island (complete with a giant model of the Statue of Liberty). In literature class they role-played a mock trial (trying Lenny for murder – from Of Mice and Men). They also hold their literature discussions in-game (in fantastic flying pods), and have more participation for it – among other things, students were less intimidated.

The lack of game-like features in Second Life became an immediately obvious advantage. Like a good tabletop role playing game, the scenarios were designed by the teachers and students and played out in an open ended fashion between live players. The lack of any formal “combat” system or competition of any kind – or even a rule system – was no liability. Obviously we want our educational games to be non-violent, and that is the default option in Second Life. Also, sans game rules, the role-playing is primary.

As an aside, Peggy mentioned that they have learning environments that look like castles and all sorts of fantastic forms, not just real-world architecture. Students are building now, too. They even have an entrepreneur project where students start in-game businesses, complete with business plans. Peggy showed a video of a student who sells furniture in-game. Awesome.

In health class they explored their concepts of body image. First, students were asked to create the most beautiful avatar they could. Then the reflected on and discussed the experience. Next, they were asked to create the most beautiful cross-gender avatar they could, followed by reflection and discussion. Finally, they create an avatar as close to possible to their real-life bodies. Complete with discussion of the Dove beauty adds, the student discussion and reactions were “nothing short of profound.” Remember these are 8th graders!

In general they reported that students were more comfortable discussing such things in the virtual world than they would ever be in a classroom. Also, they saw an effect where they would here from students, “I’m hanging out with kids in SL who would never hang out with me in real life.”

One of my overall reactions at this point was, “I need this lady on my delphi panel!

There was then some discussion of the options educators have for using Second Life with their students. The most attractive option is a private island with 16 acres of land, complete access control, complete terrain customization, and -most importantly – the potential for being a persistent online classroom. Private islands are half-price for educators… a few thousand dollars a year, I think… easily something an institution could afford.

This was followed by a discussion of several “steps to success’ including getting the administration on board, hiring a consultant, setting up and checking hardware, working with Linden Labs to acquire land, planning meaningful curriculum, and – of course – listening to your students.

They also shared some challenges, including frequent updates and downtime, network lag, booking lab time (of course), and as Peggy put it “time, time, time.”

She ended (as she started apparently) with a visual summary… a video that began with sleeping kids powered down followed by great images of students being digital natives, reading the world is flat, and a Hithickers Guide “don’t panic” sign to boot. With “there’s beauty in the breakdown” as a soundtrack, the text “come down the rabit hole” lead the way to lots of in-world images of Second Life. I had goosebumps.

She ended with a list of resources and the closing statement “I look forward to seeing you in second life.”

I was impressed. Peggy had IT and admin colleagues there to help with the Q&A. I was also impressed by the questions from attendees! They got it! For instance, someone asked if in-game attitude changes have transfered over into the classroom. Peggy responded that she was not sure, but that the relationships have. There were also questions about security that were well handled. Happily, I got to meet Peggy (briefly) when it was all over.

Session link: Ramapo Island: Another Dimension of Learning

Tag=n07s776 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS

Virtual Worlds: A New Frontier for Integrated Self Expression

Monday, June 25th, 2007

This was moblogged… and I arrived late, so it’s a bit rough even though I’ve re-written much of it after the fact. I didn’t capture a meaningful picture, so I’m leaving this post text only.

I walked in during a video of students playing a game. I wasn’t able to sus out all of the context. Then the presenter began Stage 2 of her presentation, but I didn’t catch the title in time. However, another participant shared some of the related links that had already been presented. Three were new to me:

She then proceeded to give us a tour of one of the virtual worlds she was working in with students. I noted that there were tons of “worlds” on her server. She showed us one with piers (over a sort of virtual shoreline) and a variety of content areas represented. Sadly, we could hardly hear her… I’m sure it was great stuff but we could hardly hear her at all, especially over the water sound effect of the world, which was blaring on her computer speakers. Amazingly she was also answering IMs! (I’ve been guilty of this from time to time in a workshop, but never in the middle of a presentation segment.)

At any rate, back to the tour… the storyline is embedded into the game world. She showed us a “gene machine” which allows students to create genetically accurate DNA. Very cool. Unfortunately much of what she showed was just not connecting with me, perhaps because the images on the screen held very little meaning for me.

In any case, it was interesting to hear that they have 3D modelers working with the kids to offload the burden of designing and programming 3D objects. They also look for free (or donated) models. I was hoping I could more about what platform they’re using at their website.

Everything she showed was kid created. For instance, “Liz put that piece of mars down.” The students got really excited when they realized they could put their own recordings in.

During the Q&A I couldn’t hear… and she didn’t repeat the questions. But I did hear that these worlds may be available for others with paid registration. Someday they may be free. For an example, see the Vangough World at activeworlds (above)… Or The Bar from Cassablanca (at the same link).

My ending comment: I’ll have to look into this stuff, but for now it’s back to the bloggers cafe for juice – for the macbook and me.

Sweet! I just noticed this session will be available as a video from ISTE. I’ll link to it as soon as it’s available.

Session Link: Virtual Worlds: A New Frontier for Integrated Self Expression

Tag=n07s636 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS

How Virtual Worlds Help Real Students: The River City MUVE

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Following the interview Chris Walsh did with Dr. Dede, I got the chance to see he and his team present on the River City MUVE. I’ve read about this project, and Dr. Dede for some time, so it was great to finally see it presented and discussed… and to be able to ask a question of the panel as well. You can see many of the slides presented in Julie Lindsay’s flickr stream, where I found this picture, which was much better than any I managed to take with my CoolPix L3 and my Treo. The notes below were live blogged on my MacBook and I’m leaving them largely as they are.

Chris Dede: Let’s not start with the technology and look for a problem to solve… Let’s start with the problem.

Technology is doing three things at once:

1. Changing the skills we want from students.
2. New methods for teaching and learning.
3. Changing the characteristics of learners in the classroom (because of how they use technology outside of school).

Great short video to introduce their preso… a bit glitchy though. Brilliant… kids using laptops, cellphones, and video games… and then using chalk… and then going to work in a high tech workplace. Excerpt from a panasonic commercial.

Some review about the way education got it wrong in his generation.
Some review of Friedman’s The World Is Flat.
Also review of The New Division of Labor.

You can major n anything, but you better come out with complex communications and expert decision making.

He’s focusing on 21st Century Skills
– Problem finding before problem solving.
– Making Meaning Out of Complexity
– Comprehension as a team (to make meaning out of complexity)

We can’t teach this skill completely in the real world, because part of what we have to teach in the 21st century is not just how to collaborate across a table – but how to collaborate with someone at a distance in a virtual environment – just as we don’t need to teach the dewey decimal system, we need to teach what to do when you get 2 million hits on Google.

Interfaces for distributed learning.
– World to the desktop
– Multi-User Virtual Environments
– Ubiquitous Computing (the inverse of MUVEs)

Most people associate MUVEs with MMORPGs like WoW – or like SL. As we study those games, there are findings relevant to education.
– The range of users has widened.
– People spend a lot of time exercising an alternate persona (it’s very engaging)
– The learning processes are active (mentoring etc.)
– The content and the skills that people are learning are garbage.

So how do we take this powerful engine with junk in it and do something worth while?

For seven years they’ve tried to do that with the River City MUVE. They try to substitute meaningful content and keep the elements of engagement.

They hope to get to the kids who give up on themselves and give up on science (the hardest thing that they teach).

Students go back in time in the River City environment…

Another great video introducing the environment.

Dede sat down during the video. A grad student got up to speak. Edward Dieterle? They are trying to get River City into classrooms.

Styles are theoretical constructs… wow new idea for me and it went to fast. Maybe I can link to it later. Ah, learning styles? Here… he cited:

Sternberg, R.J. (1997) Thinking styles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Media based learning styles… I’m a bit tuned out.

Active learning based on experience…

Some description of the characters in the game… the mayor, the reporter… opportunities for reflection (that goes beyond just explanation… students are expressing their understanding through multiple pathways).

Another speaker… Diane Jass Ketelhut. She’s been with the project almost seven years, too.

She cited the speak up survey, which showed that parents felt schools are not preparing students for the 21st century.

New pedagogies and tools
New Pedagogies
-Scientific Inquiry
-Situated Learning

New Technological Tools
-Simulate Authentic tools.
and more…

What does river city offer?
– Scientific Inquiry
– Avenue into the technological skills and intersts of students
– A non-linear approach to learning
– Situated learning experiences without leaving the classroom!
– Ability to explore identity as a scientist

Virtual Experimentation
– Students change one factor about the world.
– THen, they check to see the effects on water pollution, hospital admissions, etc…

And they can revert time (and other magical things) because its simulated. Kids could never do this sort of controlled experiment in real life.

Inquiry has a positive effect on learning.
Students like the elements of inquiry – having their own question to solve etc.
They like being “like a real scientist.” It’s like real life to them even though they know it’s fake.

Another video (this is well planned out) – student focus groups. Great. Are these online somewhere?

Awesome: “I can experiment without getting a whooping.” (Middle School)

They tapped into teachers well trained in the inquiry process to see what they have to say about River City.
– Raised student awareness of inquiry*
– Student-centered experimental design most valuable element
– Best instruction elements-develment of research skills.
– Would teach River City again.

Priceless: “My school should make sure that the science teachers are good and the computers are always working.” (3rd Grader)

She was engaging. Dede’s back up.

Extended Metaphor: Learning is more like bonding than sleeping. (I don’t know if I really captured this.)

We need to expand the ways we teach to handle the variety of ways people learn. Our measures of success are much more difficult to measure than, say, being a doctor. A flu shot works or not, regardless of socio-econmic status or language skills.

Learning technologies are more like clothes than fire. You can’t just stand near them to get the full effect… they have to be tailored.

Now the bar has been set high by the activities students do outside the classroom… and they recognize that sitting and listening doesn’t work. (I’m having a small moment of hallelujah right now – I’m glad I’m involved in this… I slept through far too much of my schooling… in retrospect, though, I wish I had been talking to the people around me more.)

Dede: We looked at what to do with students who do best with direct instruction when we put them in a learn by doing environment. (I’d LOVE to hear more about this. It makes me think of Fiona Littleton’s research that seemed to say that gaming is not a good way to learn for non-gamers. Also, my own students, especially AP students, complained for this reason.)

Now he’s talking about wellness and personal health… and things he knows and doesn’t do. He has the information and he still doesn’t do it. Unlearning isn’t just intellectual… it’s emotional, it’s social… a cohort of people learning together and providing emotional and social support for one another. They try to create that kind of community for students who are unlearning in River City. He says we have it here at NECC, but we need that everyday. Very eloquent talk off the top of his head.

Q & A: It’s Windows only.

I asked more about supporting students who have adapted to directed learning.
– Support from their group (of three)
– Supplemental “workbook” materials
– They get engaged and learn even if they don’t realize it

River City is a 17 hour curriculum and i’s not teacher proof. They wrote the score, the teachers are conductors, and the students are the musicians. We embrace variety… you wouldn’t want a room full of musicians playing trumpet.

Question: Is there potential for distance learning with River City.
Dede: Yes, but the distinction between face-to-face learning and distance learning is going to disappear. All learning will be blended. (He explained this so well… I said “wow” outloud.)

They have used River City in teacher education classes… they invited folks to talk to them more if they are interested in that.

Q: Are you working on future content or updates?

Session link: How Virtual Worlds Help Real Students: The River City MUVE

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