Taking part in evolving model of education

I’m taking part in a course that illustrates in a lot of ways the changing face of education. Just as I don’t know exactly how that face will change, I don’t know yet exactly how the course works, but I get the feeling that the not know will likely be an integral part of both this course and that changing face.

The course is called Digital Storytelling, through the University of Mary Washington (I think). Here are some of the ways that (it seems to me) the course is emblematic of this cultural shift that is going on. Note that I’m using both “traditional” and “current” as amorphous terms. Much of what we now think of as traditional classroom education isn’t really all that traditional. Continue reading “Taking part in evolving model of education”

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The changing “delivery” of education

We have many conversations going on in the Pellissippi State community concerning what constitutes acceptable or effective or “real” college education. I came across an interesting article that adds fuel to the discussions, potentially boosting velocity in several directions. When you first start to read “How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education,” you might assume it is a whole-hearted endorsement of “delivering” education as a commodity via the Web. This assumption will likely be exacerbated by the realization that it is published via Fast Company’s Web site, i.e., a business publication.

Read further. You’ll find that the article observes the need for caution in that assumption through statements such as Brigham Young University’s David Wiley. Keep in mind that Wiley is one of the “architects of education 2.0.” He has written, “If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them, universities will be irrelevant by 2020.” Although the article predicts that unless higher education folks adapt, they will join newspaper chains and record stores in near-extinction, Wiley also makes it clear he speaks not of simple packaging and commoditizing.

“If you didn’t need human interaction and someone to answer your questions, then the library would never have evolved into the university,” Wiley says. “We all realize that content is just the first step.” In other words, education is more than the mere mastery of information. To truly educate yourself, you will always need a teacher. But the nature of those interactions may come in many forms. Let’s face it, the classroom itself was at one time an innovation, a way to deal with the need to connect teachers and students in larger numbers. Few can afford the luxury anymore of wandering among the hills in small groups of one teacher and four or five students engaging in Socratic dialogue.

The question remains, though, how to maintain the quality that makes education more than mere aggregation of information. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of answers to that question, you will likely find material in this article that will both delight you and enrage you.

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New viewer brings new tools for educators

This post is now three weeks old, which is ancient in the blogosphere, but it points out some useful info for educators who use Second Life, and it’s still valid, even though the “beta” has now been officially released.

While the article talks about five new tools for educators, I think the most significant one is the arrival of the long-talked-about “HTML on a prim.” The official name is “Shared Media,” and it’s simple to set up. The Second Life wiki has a good resource on the “how to,” which will eventually wind up in the Knowledgebase.

The gist of it, though, is that the “old way” involved setting the URL via something on the Land tab. In other words, the URL was tied to the parcel. Shared Media, on the other hand, is set in the object itself via the + symbol at the bottom of the Texture tab in the Build menu.

The upside: it’s easy.

The downside: unless you are using the new SL 2.0 viewer, you are completely unable to view the Web page. It would have been nice if somehow they could have enabled people with older viewers to at least see the page, but I understand why they couldn’t. (If it hasn’t clicked for you, look up a couple of paragraphs: the old way tied the URL to the parcel; the new way ties the URL to the object. Therefore, the older viewer has no way to understand an object with a URL tied to it.) Users of the older viewer will simply see the texture you choose for the tie-in.

So I’m going to make a texture that says “If you would like to see this Web page, please make sure you’re using Viewer 2.0 and then play your streaming media.”

Someone who does so will see not just a picture of a Web page (which is what the old style, in essence, did), but a fully interactive Web page, subject to the security restrictions the builder puts on it.

I think this will open up a whole new dimension for using SL as a tool of education.

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Reconfiguring Campus2 in SL

This is primarily for those Pellissippi State folks with an interest in our presence in Second Life.

Things languished the last year or so, as we anticipated. We were all overwhelmed with moving to a new Course Management System, a new Content Management System, a new Student Information System, budget cuts. overwork, etc. Along with others, I found myself having to track my time and energy into other things. That situation has improved somewhat, and so we are looking at that potential again.

As we’ve mentioned in other articles, Second Life has fallen off the radar of the mainstream media, but since I’ve gotten back into it I’ve been impressed with the continued growth of educational endeavors there, and the ways in which people are figuring out how to use it to foster learning, along with the serious research that is being conducted on SL as a medium for education in distance and hybrid situations. The University of Texas system, for instance, has announced a system of around 50 islands to provide significant space to each of their 16 real-life campuses. Plus, we have people working on an open-source version that can reside on our own servers and potentially hook into the larger metaverse, part of a larger world-wide effort that is likely the next stage in developing a virtual universe that might be considered Web 3.0 or 4.0.

Several faculty were interested in the possibility of SL at one point. We would like to completely rebuild the island known as WindingRiver Campus2 to make it more useful for learning, given SL’s unique capabilities. We’ll have a meeting to discuss this when we get back from fall break, probably at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, but subject to rescheduling depending on feedback. If you are interested, please drop an email to dking at pstcc dot edu to make planning easier. Thanks!

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