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Nudge gently.

Posts Tagged ‘educationalcontent

real world knowledge via virtual world content

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One of my earliest design gigs in virtual worlds was the development of a HUD* used by students learning the Chinese language. After four or five years, that design is still in use. The image below is from the Chinese Island simulation.

* Heads Up Display – an interactive display with buttons and text that mediates their interaction with the virtual environment.

Snapshot_001

News stand at Chinese Island. (Click for full size image.)
Note the blue dialog prompt, and the HUD in upper and left perimeters.

Early next year, a group of Monash University students will enter the virtual world of SecondLife™ to experience a variety of simulations; a restaurant, an airport, a medical clinic and a train station. Later, they will actually travel to Italy for a program of study, abroad.

The virtual environment in which they will immerse themselves is modeled on the neighborhood in Italy where they will be staying. The simulations are designed to prepare them for their visit. They will study maps, use currency, become familiar with local fixtures…like signs.

Snapshot_002

Avatar, virtual workshop, and assorted educational objects.

In support of the Italian Studies project, I am developing interactive objects—mainly the scripts—to provide a number of interactions. Students can open a “wallet” at the “ATM” and withdraw virtual currency, then visit a coffee shop and…maybe purchase a cappucino. On touching some of the things they see (think “mouse click”), the name of that object appears as text in Italian and they hear an audio-stream pronunciation of the term.

They will be required to buy tickets, read a public transit schedule, and complete many other tasks during their lessons.

My mother and I did something similar before our visit to New York City. After opening Google Earth and “roaming” the virtual streets around our hotel to prepare for our trip, we were able to navigate that neighborhood as though we had been there before.

So, thanks Mom…for helping field test this sort of technology.

Written by azwaldo

December 9, 2013 at 1:25 am

looks like it’s my deal

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The new LEA project has reached its first critical juncture. Documents are there, pared, and shared; notecard invitations to group collaboration passed about liberally; tools for communicating on site have been deployed. Land is claimed, and

Snapshot_008

…a few rough sketches now dot the landscape or hang in mid-air, waiting for what comes next: the one question which must be answered before much else happens…

What is our objective?

At the beginning of each year as a science teacher I evaluated my classroom curriculum, rearranged topics and re-prioritized lessons; I shuffled the deck. Often a science department, district committee, or state board would hand down a new set of curriculum guidelines. This usually meant simply identifying what items in the new list I was already addressing.

Nothing to see here, folks; move along.

But then, every few years,  the federal government, scientific and—let’s face it—corporate communities decide to crumple up the old list, toss it in a basket, and start from scratch. With the release of new science education standards in April, the National Academies of Science have endorsed a new deal.

They’ve called for a new deck.

I have typically been pleased to see the changes in focus, the new language for science learning that comes with new national standards or guidelines. This round is no exception.

It is worth mention that these new standards are not a mandate, are not supported by all states. Many states will never recognize their merit, and others will take years to implement through adoption and articulation. With science education curriculum guidelines, there actually is no such thing as a national standard. That is just what some of us call them, out of convenience.

I also know that where the rubber hits the road is in each teacher, department, or curriculum committee’s interpretation of such standards. Every lesson is one person’s spin on what was prescribed. This applies to content providers, too. Folks who make textbooks, for example, are jumping on these standards like they are putting out a fire. I have seen it. And, different users interpret standards differently.

This also applies to the design of The Virtual Cell. Where we go with this new compass we have been given is up to us. What we do with the full region granted for this demonstration follows from our own interpretation of those same standards.

Snapshot_007Empty simulator, ripe for noodling.
Anyone for a game of 52 pick-up?

The discussion has begun regarding how to address standards, how to provide support for classroom instruction that is targeted and effective yet still wide-ranging in its application. After all, “if it doesn’t address my state’s guidelines, I cannot use it”.

Yet, one size will never fit all. While chatting at a recent conference exhibit of an activity for new users, one educator observed that there should be more notecards (with instructions). I had heard this same comment once already, just before the event. Later, the next day, another visitor observed “there are too many notecards.” I just heard that very same comment again, for the very same design, yesterday.

They are all correct, of course. There are too many notecards, and…we need more notecards. It should be black; and, it really should be white. You just have to “remember who your audience is.”

To emphasize a point and begin making the case for a particular design approach, I must mangle a maxim:

You can please all of the people with some of the content.
You can please some of the people with all of the content.
But, you can never please all of the people with all of the content.

With three months to build an interactive, standards-based, highly engaging and interesting activity—with three months to make upwards of three to five hundred lesser decisions (best guess, conservatively)—with three months to organize a collaborative team willing to offer their work free of charge in the interest of helping to further demonstrate that virtual worlds really do have a place in the classroom…this issue needs to be resolved quickly.

A number of performance indicators in the new standards are obviously ripe for a virtual world experience teaching about the cell. And, it is just as obvious that one could quickly bite off more than one can chew, if you look at the list. With three months to build, the question becomes “What might we achieve?”

But, to digress for a moment, what we might achieve depends on who is pitching in…even if only offering 2¢. For this project to reach its potential, if the build even begins to approach what I try to imagine, any number of experienced—dare I say, expert—content creators will have played their hand.

So far,

So, to table the “standards” conversation for a moment, I’ll ask an even more practical question. It looks like it’s my deal

Who’s in?

Written by azwaldo

August 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm

custom content versus one-size-fits-all

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Among the many comments and questions, criticisms and suggestions received at the recent conference exhibit, the most striking were those occurring in complete opposition to others. An example is one user’s suggestion that more instructional notecards would be useful, where another user had observed just the day before that there were too many notecards.

SV_BSG_VWBPE_PosterSession
Author’s avatar poised at entry point of the
Basic Skills Gauntlet demonstration at the VWBPE 2013 event.

Other conflicting comments (not just from the conference) have included that the activity should—and should not—address flight, media, and communicating via IM/chat.

There is also a fine line between providing sufficient directions and totally overwhelming the user with a tedious series of walk-and-stop-to-read, walk-and-read, walk-and-stop-to-read stations. Assembling a demo version of the activity for the conference provided an opportunity to experiment with this issue. Several modules were chosen for the event due to their level of completion. They happened to all have notecard or floating text giving instruction, primarily; so, a quick fix was needed to balance the forms of delivery.

BSG_Alt-ctrl-pan-zoom_2
Info-graphic created just for the conference demonstration activity in an effort to “mix it up” between modes of delivering instruction.

A couple of new info-graphics were created just for the demo; this helped to spread instructional information across the various modes (notecards, public chat, dialog prompts and floating text, as well as infographics).

These two issues (different needs of end-users, varying the form of instructional text delivery) point to a challenge in trying to create a single tool that meets the needs of a large number of use cases. This was never part of the plan with the BSG prototype. Rather, a demonstration of the concept was pursued with a range of user interface features being addressed. The entire system is presented in a modular system that can be deployed in a variety of configurations and with any number of thematic “skins” applied.

Any out-of-the-box design would have to be compromised in too many ways for this user to find it useful. As an open source project, we are already employing many least common denominators…across the build.

I would be interested in reading your comments on this.

Written by azwaldo

August 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

first collaborative design project begins

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The first collaborative design has officially begun with its first meeting to discuss the project. (Please see previous two posts for more about project, group.)

image of four virtual world avatars in quiet setting

First meeting of the SV1-BSG design team in world.

Four group members have been active in early discussions about the first collaborative design; all were able to make time to attend…very encouraging. Two members have similar professional roles in common, two have been long acquainted, in world. All share a sincere interest in effective instructional design in the virtual world.

It seemed to be a productive session. I was pleased to find discussions moving rapidly; but, hoping to finish within one hour meant cutting in once or twice, to move along in the proposed agenda. I hope that the polite avatar showed up…the one who decided to interrupt the others.

I have been passing out a notecard with the following:

Group Mission:

  1. To design a series of projects that deliver 
      effective educational content while providing
      the best user experience we can muster.      

  2. "Learn from the pros." To observe the design 
      principles and techniques of professional 
      content creators in SecondLife™ and share 
      that knowledge.

In this post I begin to try to live up to that last bit: sharing the knowledge. I hope to make regular—if not frequent—entries in this blog to record observations, describe the circumstances encountered by the group, and generally report on the process.

One aspect of this will involve fielding surveys to solicit input. Many educators are familiar with this; attend a curriculum development seminar and expect to fill out a survey or three.

Hopefully, those group surveys will stir up collaborative juices, and open a dialog among educators and expert content creators, as well as provide helpful feedback to inform the process. I return to writing the pre-workshop surveys right after posting this.

What would you want to know about your colleagues prior to the beginning of a collaborative project, if you were an educator on the team? … if you are an expert designer?

One priority for me in the meeting, as acting “team leader”, was to emphasize the need for each of us to find effective ways to communicate; with each other, as well as within the group. Studio Wikitecture taught this lesson clearly; effective design collaboration follows efficient communication.

Wiki-Tree, 3D Wiki, Wikitecture 4.0
Studio Wikitecture’s Wiki-Tree, a 3-D wiki

Studio Wikitecture has served as my model for creating a dynamic mix of creative folks. However, without using the Wiki-Tree (image above, YouTube video), sharing of content (objects, scripts, textures) becomes an issue that must be resolved; the topic already emerged at the meeting. A Google Group forum has been created, but will need to prove itself as a useful tool among the team members as the custom forum did with Wikitecture.

We might find the combination of commenting and change-notifications with Google Drive spreadsheets provides enough of a “forum”. And lastly, without use of a wiki and Reddit-style voting for ideas, we have not even begun to approach the layers of communication used in the Wikitecture projects.

But, the project is only officially one day old.

Written by azwaldo

June 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm