Knowledge achievement and exchange for the future necessarily has to be carried out in an internationalised and multicultural frameset. Since Ferguson gave his lecture “Technology, Multiculturalism and Media Education” back in 2002, in which he mentions, that “between Cairo and South Africa there are only a few hundred e-mails sites in the whole area” (Ferguson, 10), Web 2.0 tools and platforms have been developed as well as the iphone / smartphone technologies. Everyone with a little income in Africa today holds a cell phone and about 10% a smartphone with a rapidly increasing curve (Jon Evans: In Five Years, Most Africans Will Have Smartphones), whilst the improvement of wired internet access seems to be given up for this part of the world.
Also schools in the “rich” part of the world such as in Denmark, now proceed to the use of wireless access in the institutions, where students also are encouraged to use their own devices (BYOD – Bring Your Own Device). This changes essentially the way we have been studying and learning before, because the “gatekeeper” function of teachers and educators and their role in classrooms or virtual learning environments is changing rapidly. From being the distributor of information and knowledge the teacher’s role turns to be more a facilitator and a critique friend of the student’s construction of his/her own learning process much more than the instructor in the learning situation.
“Learning material” now is to be found everywhere and easily for any with access to the web, regardless of wired or wireless channels of data transfer, and the sources for education are endless and of multicultural character. In the best case we could say, that the web use, which is possible in 2013, appeals by the democratical connotation it has for borderless exchanges and knowledge transfer. This doesn’t mean, that there no longer is the use for the Media Educator as pointed out by Ferguson and we still have a huge challenge in the guarding and gardening of our student’s work and ways through the multi-mediated sources of information from everywhere and with any possible purpose.
Latest with the Arabian Spring we have seen, that social media can inhabit the place the centrally broadcasted news traditionally has had and tv stations are begun to cite sources far outside from their inside media production. In this landscape the “quality control” of the privately published contents becomes a core competency for the navigation in the world as it has turned to be around us.
It’s difficult to say, how a future education will be carried out, if there will be the grandfathered mindset of having it closely connected to traditional schools, universities and other institutional providers to the same extent as it has been known through the period of industrialisation at all. A lot indicates, that we will continue to see unretractable changes to educational approaches and media use, borne by new technological improvements. Already in the inclusion discussion at schools today we see, that students are encouraged to use so far supplemental digital learning material and comfortably operated devices such as tablets and smartphones to achieve class average of skill and knowledge adoption.
Furguson, Robert: Technolgy, Multiculturalism and Media Education. EU Socrates Project ‘Television News on Europe’ / 1999-2002 / Kulturring in Berlin e.V.. 2002, 1-12. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from:
Evans, John: In Five Years, Most Africans Will Have Smartphones. 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2013 from:
About the African Smartphone Push – February 2013: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/lifestyle/2013/02/06/microsoft-huawei-team-for-african-smartphone-push/
What we create of content in virtual worlds or in social media is far from staying in our hands or under our control. And do we want to keep for us what we write in blogs and forums at all? Isn’t it what we want the creations to do: To go the long march to other sites and followers and to bloom by being taken notice of and by the likes and comments we can collect? It seems we have become a risky species by the introduction of Web 2.0. The attitude of having something alone and solely or shared with few close friends is changing towards a constant publishing of inner thoughts and personal pictures to the entire web. In the best case other’s content still is acknowledged by us as their original creation and we will cite it. With our own content we are pretty careless. When the new post looks boring we add one of our pictures, but have we considered where it could appear next time?
From the reflections in the 5th class of the “Is One Life Enough?” module it was seen, that e. g. in the Nicola Kirkbride – Tesco case, authorial, photo-graphical work had marched into other hands or uses than expected from the creator. Even though it was stated on Miss Kirkbride’s fashion blog, that all rights on her content would remain with her, her photo was picked up and used on a Tesco girl’s sweater. She was then taking on the supermarket.
According to Lastowka as a definition for content applies, that it is used “in the broadcast and entertainment industry, as a term to describe a particular form of information that can be presented to an audience” (Lastowka, 2). This term of content can be stretched to user-generated content and virtual worlds. Because of the creative process behind the content creation, it hereby is covered and protected by copyright laws.
It isn’t known, whether Miss Kirkbride in March 2012 used Creative Commons (CC), which is a set to define the online and offline uses we want others to have of our created content. The example just shows, that there might be a need for content creators, to make as clear as possible, how they want their creations treated.
CC’s form for the choice of license in between 2 dimensional media and content is easily walked through and delivers a code string to be placed on website and which will show the CC License, as it can be seen at the bottom of the side bar of this blog for this particular article here “The March of Content”.
Additional in the content creation process for social media, CC offers a search site, which holds huge amounts of diverse material from several providers. It is obvious, that a thinking, which respects fair use of other creator’s content and copyrighted material in general, should be enforced in school and education.
In the 3 dimensional virtual worlds we see a different picture. We still have to look for and to respect the authorial content in them, but we also have to encounter, that they “are appealing primarily because they are social spaces” (Lastowka, 2), which generates another kind of content by and about present users, such as patterns of their behavior, teleport histories, site, event, profile and group descriptions – all valuable information for virtual world providers. Residents in a virtual world such as Second Life (SL) also are aware of, that chat logging can be abused and some post on their profiles with the reference to the TOS in SL, that they would rapport such an abuse, when it comes to their knowledge.
To begin with, the “licensing” of created content in SL, which is carried out by the permission system of the metaverse, is pretty detailed and hereby protecting property rights. At BABEL Language School a series of Language Learning Units is sold for autodidactic use.
The units for sale are in boxes and include a notecard for the student’s information of topics, which also can be seen from the various boxdesigns, a description of the level which is worked on and the Media Board itself. Boards contain images with the main activities, often going through an example situation to act in and some helpful information to solve the task. The Boards also contain recorded audio files, so that the dialogues in question or a short article will be played for the student as often as needed in order to practice the correct pronunciation. There is a button on the Board to give out the task card for the unit, explaining the tasks to do in English. Another button gives out a study board e. g. with a grammatical overview. Finally there is a shortcut button to open an online dictionary in the student’s browser. So, the content of these units is created with huge efforts and there is naturally no interest to have them march around to people, who not want to pay for them.
The permission system can avoid that. By right clicking and chosing “edit” in the “General” tab, the name and description, the creator and owner and which permissions of the three “modify”, “copy” and “transfer” a new owner would have is shown. In this case the unit can only be transferred, so that a student, who has been through it, could give it to another, but would loose it from her/his own inventory.
Going to the “Content” tab there are check boxes and the modify, copy and transfer options for any included content in the Media Board.
Furthermore the permissions of the object can be seen by the customer in the “Buy” window before sale:
As the vitality of Second Life depends on good conditions for it’s content creators and a fair trade for the content buying residents, detailed facilities like these have been developed and implemented through the years. Also the metaverse in general is pretty safe not to have content marching out, as the discussions showed, when in 2010 several educational institutions and universities considered to leave SL cause of a new prizing policy for these groups. From half prizing for landholding before, Linden Lab had announced normal pricing for all. Many educational providers at that time considered to switch to Open Sim, only the problems to export content from SL to this other virtual world gave too many headaches (Educator’s Exodus from SL?).
Proctecting created content in virtual worlds from long marches is also what is in focus, when Winkler states: “We don’t like Creative Commons licenses for our content because a CC license does not address each right in the copyright individually.” At Winkler’s Fashion Research Institute they have instead of been working on a wider licensing as CC can offer. It should at least cover legal property issues in the United States.
Lastowka, Greg: “User-Generated Content & Virtual Worlds”. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, Forthcoming. 2008, 1-22. Retrieved March 8, 2013 from: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1094048
Winkler, Sheinlei: “Content & Licensing in Virtual Worlds”. Fashion Research Institute. 2010.
Retrieved March 9, 2013 from: http://shenlei.com/2010/10/13/content-licensing-in-virtual-worlds/
I left the way of having my students emailing one to one in international exchanges early. Attached pictures and presentations easily got to huge and there was no common show of working products – only in the individual mailboxes, they were found. And there was a wish to motivate to use the foreign language more widely and across in class.
Language Learning in social networks became the new way to do it. Here a profile could be filled out of any participating student and teacher to voice to other users of the platform. There also was a chat option and the content could be organised in forum discussions, which hereby appeared more as dialogues than an one man show. The facilities in such forums also to include links, images and other embedded content made this way of presentation highly attractive for the students.
Also the document library was useful for the producers of content of more static character, such as the teachers to give helping information on sheets with hints to fulfill the assignments.
First a .ning, then a grou.ps and lately a .spruz network has been in use – all giving the option actively, visible and dialogically to be both producers and users, hereas “produsers” (Bruns 00:12:44) in connection to the recent language learning topic and furthermore to connect individually with other produsers in a wider ranger.
At this point the etiquette was to be made clear for the students, that the chat only was to be used in the target and common languages of the exchangers. Also it was necessary, to advice about correct use of copyrighted material on the public platform and a new user had to await approval to get write rights. One French student, we exchanged with, was excluded because of harassing language. Other students were asked to change their profile pictures/avatars, so that they could reflect something of the person behind. Opposite it also was necessary to remind the students, not to give real life information such as addresses or phone numbers away, as all content would be visible on the entire web.
The experience with the use of these social networks was, that the quality of the content and the intensity of the language learning process increased compared with traditional writing.
Even if Social Media also is used in connection to BABEL Language School in the virtual world of Second Life either as an additional Language Learner .ning network, which is provided for the student’s autodidactical use, or as content brought into the metaverse on specially developed web & video boards in the virtual classrooms, some additional issues for the etiquette have to be regarded. As the virtual world is 3 dimensional and a produser has the representation of an avatar, some attention must be given to the appearance of the avatars in a serious language learning situation. Overdriven use of animation can disturb the learning process as well as unfitting clothing or provocative look of both the teacher’s or the student’s avatar. How fun is it to teach the German language to a dragon for 45 minutes – or to have to look at the teacher’s bare legs, feet and chest with tattoos on. We usually have interviews with the students prior to class start and have the teachers in a kind of trainee position at first before giving them classes where such topics can be talked through if needed.
It is also necessary eventually through the tools in the land menu, to avoid that everyone places objects on the school’s ground, so that there in the end not would be capacity enough for teachers and students to drag their prepared learning objects and productions into the world. Another aspect is, to use the community factor which can be made clear in Second Life by membership of e.g. the school group. This will give out a tag over the head, in this case “BABEL Student”. Apart from the focus a teacher tag and the corresponding student tag gives to the learning situation, in a virtual world it also applies, that “as a member of a particular group, one has access to other members who might be more experienced not only in that group but also the virtual environment in general” (Wise, 15), and that it helps to regulate behaviour in the community. All students and teachers at BABEL Language School are therefore connected in a group, which also is used for messaging.
With such conventions and questions of etiquette regarded, not only individual learning processes are supported to their best, but also the service provider’s reputation is taken care of and increasing.
Bruns, Axel: From Prosumer to Produser. Understanding User-Led Content Creation. 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2013 from: http://www.slideshare.net/Snurb/from-prosumer-to-produser-understanding-userled-content-creation
Wise, Deborah L.: Virtual Identity. How Virtual Worlds Affect Identity. Retrieved February 23, 2013 from: http://debwise.com/Matrix_2_files/wise_virtualidentity_presentation.pdf
Going to Bulgaria felt as a challenge. I had so many questions to ask myself:
– How would the surroundings be and how would they be maintained?
– Which signals would the country’s people send out?
– Would the infrastructure be fitting to normal needs in civilized countries, e. g. with available WIFIs at common places?
– How would the national culture and the country’s symbols be visible for a guest like me?
– Would I meet happy people or at least not too many who seemed to go through struggles?
There was a very flat landscape mostly around the capital city Sofia and real mountains first on the horizon and since nearby on the way to Asenovgrad. Some Bulgarian taxi drivers clearly would have appreciated the tour with the luggage equipped guests to their country, but we had our arrangements in place and were to be picked up by a bus sent out by our hosts. Males were pretty much dressed in casual clothing, while several younger females’ appearance was with tight pants and high heeled boots.
Apart from the first meeting with our Portuguese and Swedish partners at the airport, another multicultural meeting just had taken place outside the airport with a Bulgarian man sitting in the sunset waiting on something with his limited luggage and drinking a beer. He was in good mood – pretty sportive dressed in red and he so much wanted a little chat, but my Bulgarian Language was not existing and his English much too poor for a conversation. But it didn’t matter – we clearly wished the other a fine trip and a pleasant day in a kind of natural language.
Driving two and a half hours showed both busy villages and pretty much left back, unused and from times without a present owner damaged houses and sites – and roads could be in bad shape too. At arrival there was a warm welcome with a kiss on both chins and big smiles on all faces. Our hosts were all well educated and better situated as many others in Bulgaria it should show soon, and it immediately felt, that we were highly estimated guests in this town and that there was a deep wish, to build further on the friendship we already had and to make our relationship closer – and there was free WIFI at the hotel. Already on this first day I also saw the Bulgarian and regional flag along with European flag everywhere as an expression of the national feeling to have become part of this big union of friendly minded and sharing countries.
The first thing in the following morning was to visit the Church of “St Holy Virgin” with it’s very rich ornamental decoration. Some dedicated and believing women in the church offered and hoped to sell some of the souvenirs the church holds for visitors and here it got clear for the first time, that we have a part of the population in Bulgaria with a daily struggle to get together what is needed for living.
Then the welcome at the school was ahead and it’s nearly impossible to describe the impression this intensive show of folklore, music, traditional costumes as well as the hospitality left.
All and any from school and the connected community were present, lined up for performances, translating, explanations, for serving refreshers and to make us feel comfortable. If it is possible to welcome through singing and dancing, playing bagpipe and together to jump over the fire in the school yard as a part of these rituals of the celebration of the 1st of March, we felt it here. I have a Martenitsi wristband at my left hand still, which is expected to stay until the first green of the spring outburst is seen.
Later during the visit we visited even more churches, the old town of Plovdiv, which showed the very little of the origin Bulgarian architecture after the many centuries of oppression of the national culture, and we participated in the rituals of Kukeri dances in the poorer mountain site of Shiroka Laka.
People were on the streets and gathered in this festival atmosphere on outside terraces and balconies for the first time in this year. The parades and together chain dances of everyone, inhabitant or guests and visitors, were testimonies of the togetherness these rituals should trigger – including all and everyone present. We had some tough negotiations with some street sellers of folkloric souvenirs, who seemed very much in need to get just a little money for their day from us, but also that was done with a final smile.
Looking back on what this visit showed, it was amazing to see the identification the Bulgarians have with their cultural heritage and the wish to share it as their valuable contribution to a more friendly and including world. Where no common language is available, warm smiles and taking in arms come easy as an expression in a very natural language. There were not many computers seen on our way, but the best educated friends we met worked in huge and networking companies. Nevertheless it also felt, that there is a huge need for development of several parts of the infrastructure and to get into joint ventures, such as the Japanese investments, which were done, to maintain some of the old houses in Plovdiv – the country needs the friends from abroad, who they welcome so warmly, in many ways.
Language Learning on top of the user list in virtual worlds
From a study in May 2012 we can make the conclusion, that foreign language learning with 25% is the most frequented field of the educational use in virtual worlds (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 12). Of all educational ventures, the most are carried out in the Second Life metaverse with 35% (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 9).
Figure 7: Analysis of reasearch fields using virtual worlds by majors
Kim, Lee, Thomas, p. 12
Reliable data go back to 2006, which means that just at the time, when BABEL Language School was established by Mike Meltzer early in 2007, many others have made their entrance and have consolidated in the field of foreign language learning since.
We still are very concrete in our thinking: Eventually nations have a strong identification with their languages, landscapes, heritage and boundaries etc. In virtual worlds our identification could reside e.g. in the present multiculturality, the creation of virtual spaces, the online history and the absence of uncrossable borders, which we act in between and from. The research focus on virtual worlds in these years “is now focussing on understanding the immersive characteristics of virtual worlds, such as making learners feel as if there exists an online learning space” (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 15).
When will we feel, that also our mental orientation in an online existence will claim a substitute for or an extension of a former “national” feeling from us individuals behind the avatar, who act and develop so much in virtual worlds?
Bon voyage, Mike – from this study you have something to meet and contribute with, when you now travel to Bulgaria with it’s strong traditional national feelings.
Sahoon H. Kim, Jiyeon Lee Lee, Michael K. Thomas: “Between Purpose and Method: A Review of Educational Research on 3D Virtual Worlds.” Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 5 (2012) 1: 2-15. Retrieved February 17, 2013 from:
I must admit, that I dread for this trip a little – It’s a little too much getting in touch with the real life for my taste. It needs 2½ hours to come out there, where we should meet our Bulgarian partner school seen from the airport in Sofia – And the weather, how would it be?
But I also love it – not only, that Virtual Online Language Learning and BABEL Language School have made it possible for me to take the study at Dublin Institut for Technology, they also let me go and – last but not least – cover the additional costs for me to be out there in what is pretty much nowhere land for me. I believe they must have gotten the idea, that our brand both at the school and at the blog is taken pretty good care of, by me travelling around too and to explore and to come home with new exciting impressions to be put in shape for a new promotion when back here.
Sadely I still fear the work they could figure out to put on me afterwards and the far away reality there out at the foot of the mountains at Asenovgrad. I never met a teacher or a student from Bulgaria at BABEL Language School and I really have no idea, what this language is about and the culture …
They provided me with a laptop, and I hope I will be able to get on any internet connection there, so I maybe could add a little here. For now just the welcome video we got from there, so there is a little impression to share. See you next week!