Archive for December, 2008

In a discussion yesterday, we explored the limitations of current technology in terms of kinesthetic immersion in virtual worlds. While Virtual Reality has a few answers in terms of mirroring and rendering visualization of 3D human motion, these systems are hard to implement in practice.

For example, a user exploring a virtual world may need to pick up an object and perform certain actions on it. While this is intuitive in physical settings, the virtual world immersion, using SecondLife like platforms, needs to substitute point and click or keyboard measures to actualize the visualization. For example, using the keyboard to move hands in a particular direction.

While this may be interesting to program in a virtual world, the very process of translating human actions such as turning a screw may be extremely arduous and counter-intuitive to do through a sequence of keyboard actions.

Rather the approach could be to choose from a set of predefined actions in an intelligent manner. For this the objects and the ecology containing these objects would need to be intelligent enough to suggest the possible “ideal action paths” – e.g. can’t use a hammer to unscrew an assembly – while allowing learners to make mistakes in a safe manner.

Virtual worlds such as SecondLife or those created using a host of other platforms may evolve to more kinesthetic immersion with pervasive developments in motion sensing input devices. I heard that Nintendo Wii provided such an experience (boxing game) and am hoping to try it out soon. Also that Logitech is coming out with a device that can capture motion information.

With ubiquity becoming a key focus in learning, devices will need to evolve to provide kinesthetic immersion. This will virtually revolutionize the learning experiences that depend on kinesthetics to provide much of the learning impact.

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Media Mashups

Over the past year, we have seen a variety of very innovative approaches in terms of mashing up different forms of media. That I think would be one of the major evolutions in 2008. By media mash-ups, I mean the combination of one form of media with another e.g. picture with voice. In media, I also include complex content types such as maybe a presentation or a video clip or even an MCQ (multiple choice question).

There is tremendous value and innovation in these mash-ups. VoiceThread for example started a conversation around pictures and documents with voice and text mashing up with those types of documents. And that is where the value is – conversations.

In a learning environment, dialogue is extremely important as it serves to engage both teacher and learner in the learning process and creates avenues for continuous improvements. The conversation, if informed by diverse sources, serves to engage further, as it starts including many other opinions than were previously allowed for in the design.

One of the notable mash-ups I have seen recently is Grockit. Grockit takes a learning content object (they have a multiple choice question “game” right now, but of course the concept is extensible to many other forms) and allows learners to answer it or discuss it using a collaborative forum. This is especially useful because it allows a certain gaming element – for example, all participants go back and forth over which option is the right one in an MCQ, and then when they decide to submit their individual answers, the system tells them who was right and why.

Grockit is an example of great innovative thinking. Why? Because they took a content type that most of us encounter every day and made it come alive using application of 2.0 web technologies, social learning networks and learning designs.

So what could be other examples of such innovation? How about adding conversation  to learning objectives to enable learner participation and articulation of their learning path? How about looking at taking the next video you embed in an induction program and starting a conversation in there? The possibilities are enormous!

Do write in if you have an idea 🙂

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I have written earlier about what I am proposing as the evolution from the CBT and WBT – the NBT or Network based training, for some time now. NBTs provide a framework for organizations who want to adopt Web 2.0 and networked learning (the connectivism way) in their systems. The main components of the NBT would be both learning process and tool based.

The NBT consists of the following components:

  • a learning process that emphasizes learner participation prior to the course in setting up goals and sequences
  • definition of agreed upon sequence of focus areas and learning events based on a temporal sequence
  • agreed upon rules/structures of participation with weakly or strongly defined compliance
  • defined initial roles for participant and educator (and others) that is consonant with a networked learning strategy
  • initially defined ecology of 2.0 tools (blog, wiki, discussion forum, live conference events, other collaboration techniques etc) to be enmeshed in the course
  • choosing appropriate collaboration techniques e.g. Delphi, shared maps,
  • if required, avenues for structured peer review (could have multiple levels) and group work; if so required an expert review
  • resource repository that captures suggested content for review and discussion; could include documents or web collaboration resources
  • collaboration using techniques specifically suited for the context of the course; e.g. grouped concept maps if a goal is to create a resource base
  • policy for sharing; e.g. if sharing with a wider audience is agreed upon, some way of sharing blog posts, discussions with personal blogs or social network could be explored
  • statistics for the facilitator role to judge quantitatively and tools for analysis based on qualitative criteria
  • setting up of a default network for the participants of the course (as more people join, a historian role is defined that brings them up to speed using a special mechanism for navigating the content, maybe through learner contributed summaries or commentaries)
  • post assessment of learning experiences to evolve the learning ecology
  • some way of integrating and reporting on the experience in both directions – organizational and personal learning environments
  • norming of the participants on how to use; overcoming barriers to use

These would define an ecology within which much learning could happen. One possible view is that each NBT could become a “slice” of learning that could be linked to the PLE. Several such slices could be linked and could potentially inter-mesh to allow cross-disciplinary or cross-network linkages to promote diversity.

Obviously, from a technology point of view, one could go in two directions. One, allow loosely coupled 2.0 service integration. Two, create generic tools to store localized data and build bridges so that this information can be ported to available 2.0 services. The first allows for easy extensibility when a new 2.0 service or app comes along. The second encourages careful selection of appropriate learning tools (not just mash up anything with anything irrespective of the impact on learning – if something is indeed effective, one would rather build it in to the system in a generic fashion, giving far more control).

From a learning process orientation, specifically a connectivist orientation, it will be necessary to position the NBT somewhere along the range between individuals and groups, connectives and collectives, in an attempt to engender the greatest possibilities for leveraging the power of networked learning, collaboration and innovation. The prime challenges and constraints will lie in shaping policy, between open-ness and protection of IP for instance.

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In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, I have witnessed in graphic detail the many aspects of socio-political crisis. On one hand, there is the actual terror and consequent military action. On the other is the political shakeout because of mass opinion that reflected in the local elections and change of power positions in the state.

There is also the role of the media as an agent provocateur, irresponsible in its behaviour and indicative of the explicit power mass media has in shaping opinions. In fact the media took upon itself (through its famous media icons), to show their bias and partisan nature, a shocking revelation of the lack of maturity. For example, when the Muslim groups in India expressed their shock and anger at the terror attacks, one media channel anchor said it was a “welcome change”, not understanding that the channel was not a medium to voice her personal bias.

What did the people do? A famous ex-actress, and there were more of these who were interviewed rather than thought and opinion leaders (of those leaders that were interviewed, it wasn’t a dialogue but more a diatribe anyways), stated that taxpayers in Mumbai should not pay taxes next year in protest! That probably is liable to be branded a seditionary comment. Ironically, these people rail against such comments made by people who are really seditionary and communal in nature!

What this all really exposes for me, is the lack of reflection, the lack of serious thinking on serious issues have large geo-political, social, economic and other impacts. Even more the lack of practice, of social action that an individual can contribute to.

For me this reinforces what I am only being able to appreciate in-context now – that our education system needs ecologies where diverse influences are made available – not awareness courses, but strategies for engendering critical thought and refection and avenues for actuating practice through social action.

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