Learnt Lessons from a basically well done Presentation

The presentation on May 2, 2013, of the project team’s work on “Future of Education” as a final completion of the virtual study at Dublin Institute of Technology in between social media and virtual worlds with the title “Is One Life Enough?” has now been done – and well done. All foreseeable technical and other challenges had been taken care of prior to the final presentation and luckily the system and all server sided capabilities worked blameless this night, including the voicing, so that good communication could be carried out.

Round table talk connected to the presentation on "Future of Education"

Round table talk connected to the presentation on “Future of Education”

Nevertheless there also were some lessons to learn from a project show taking place in a virtual world:

  • There could have been the try to promote the event even more intensively, maybe by involving some selected persons personally at an earlier stage of the preparation of the presentation to ensure a wider audience.
  • Bill and me could have designed the presentation form more interactively, maybe by doing parts of it as a role play with interviewing and questions and answers leading to our core thoughts to make better use of the options a virtual worlds holds and to ensure a more lively experience for our guests.
  • We had a lot of topics on the agenda for the short time the presentation could take and some of them we had to skip, such as the hands-on activities, which had been prepared with huge amounts of time. Also the use of supporting music for the event felt unsuitable in our chosen setting of presenting mainly oral and by the slideshow.

With this said, we are pretty satisfied with the presentation as it turned out. It has fostered a fine discussion of the topic of contemporary web 2.0 tools and soon to come hardware inventions entering the traditional scene of education and turning around the requirements for, what the education of the future has to face, e.g. by implementing new roles for both teachers and students in learning processes, that include the use of social media and virtual worlds to a higher extend.

Discussion of the "Marriage" of Social Media and Virtual Worlds

Discussion of the “Marriage” of Social Media and Virtual Worlds

A very interesting discussion was about the question, whether we would see a more advanced “fusion”, a “marriage”, of the use of social media and virtual worlds.

In our project team we had used integrated social media in the virtual environment from the beginning of the study and in our preparing work, so that it also was natural, that the presentation platform at BABEL Language School contained several boards and screens of our content with the ability to be used actively by the use of the “shared media” feature of Second Life, which now also is available on Firestorm and Singularity viewers. For the hands-on activities 6 boards were prepared with documents on Google drive, to offer the option to combine social media examples, which our audience would estimate, would make their way in the future, as well as to add comments on the necessary evolvement of educational practices for inspiration of all and to bring the discussion of the topic further. In the same way, we had our material from Youtube and Flickr on screens and we initially also planned to view our slideshow directly from Google drive. This showed closer to the presentation day sometimes to give transmission delays, so that we changed the slide viewer to be static on SL-premises by the use of forwarded images on the scripted viewer board.

As a good completion of the presentation, and after our collegue Eliza’s presentation was done too, we also got time for a relaxing dance to world music and music of Pink Floyd. Thanks to Elfay for moderating the evening and our lecturers for their constructive comments, as well to our guests, who all, in pirate outfit or not, gave us their attention and contributed to a splendid atmosphere.

Standing ovations to Eliza's presentation at the  presentation platform at BABEL Language School prior to the informal and relaxing dancing time :)

Standing ovations to Eliza’s presentation at the presentation platform at BABEL Language School prior to the informal and relaxing dancing time 🙂

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Produser Etiquette in Social Media and Virtual Worlds

Social Media
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.

Virtual Worlds
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

Avatars in the Comfort Zone

A year ago a model was developed and published, which intended to explain, in which way efficiency in team collaboration was supported by the use of 3D virtual environments. It is also highly relevant for the understanding of our ways in virtual worlds in general.

Figure 1: Theoretical model

depicting how capabilities of 3D virtual environments affect information processing and communication processes, leading to shared understanding

van der Land et alt., 2011

Presence
When the lecturers of the “Is One Life Enough?” course in this third class asked us to sit down in the comfortable armchair lounge at the DIT classroom to head towards the topic “Personal branding”, the situation immediately felt homely and invited to share experiences, thoughts and outlooks.
A convincing setting, which constituted a high extent of immersion, i.e. that “one feels perceptually surrounded in the virtual environment rather than one’s physical surroundings” (van der Land, 2011, 4). Furthermore the expectation of interesting aspects to be turned around in this close round circle of engaged and to the topic dedicated people, opened for the wish to involve and to contribute in the best way.
At class in BABEL Language School we also use a round table to be seated at, for literally to “surround” the class topics in focus, or we chose sitting in sofas when watching a video episode from screen, for the demonstration of, that we now have to focus on a common source for our further together work.

Realism
As the voice function this time did work for all of us, and we had a setting, which easily enabled us to zoom in to the speakers with our camera and to notice and follow their lip synchronisation and facial expressions, a high extent of realism of the class meeting and the ongoing discussion was given.
Also the occasionally used written chat supported common understanding of remarks and comments, e. g. when Locks Aichi added: “someone said facebook is where you lie to your friends and twitter is where you tell the truth to strangers…they hadn’t gotten to linkedin” (On Thursday, February 21, 2013 in the “Is One Life Enough?” course’s discussion [2013/02/21 12:53]).
According to van der Land, 3D virtual environments compared to 2D representations “offer more cues and provide a higher degree of reality, which might positively affect information processing” (van der Land, 2011, 5).
Moreover, both in the IOLE module and in BABEL Language School’s methods, it is included, to explore virtual sites and spots in Second Life, to open up for the feeling of being settled in life-like situations with a representation of realistical objects to navigate through.

Interactivity
Even though sitting in the audience or at a roundtable doesn’t open for much interaction with 3D objects for the student, there is no doubt, that we find huge possibilities for the control of surroundings and their behavior and the constructive process in the virtual world. At BABEL Language School at least a mug of coffee and a plate of fruit is served to take from during classes. The teacher will be the most active user of tools such as whiteboards and presentation boards in class, but the Media Board with the content for repetition and for homework is provided to the student, who then interactively can proceed with it in her/his own pace.

Also the IOLE module from DIT is expecting from the project teams, in the end to present their results with the variety of media in use, which is possible in a virtual environment – including to carry out promotion for a guest audience to come and join the final project show as an event. It will at that time hopefully be easy to experience, “that users are active rather than passive in their engagement with the information” (van der Land, 5), because of the highly interactive options in a 3D virtual environment.

Social Presence
One of the tasks to do for class this time was to make contact with at least two people relevant to our interests. I have to admit, I like to dance. Some would say, I talk too much, while I dance. Also I am a member of a couple of communities, which frequently announce nice and funny themed dancing events.

I attended a “Best in the 70’s look” event and went there early, for not to miss anything. It was amazing to see the efforts done on the club decoration, which I now could study some better. The played music was totally in format. The Volkswagen bus was interactive and I could sit on it’s roof and meditate.The water pibe allowed smoking … But I stopped it, when the first other guests arrived. I didn’t want to send out this signal – some don’t like the smell.

An intensive local chat started, commenting on the surroundings and the tunes. As this beautiful and Woodstock alike dressed or partly undressed girl arrived, I was lost. I had to dance with her. I send her an im (which is only between the two) and complimented her fitting look and said that I felt beamed back to the 70’s by looking at her and asked, whether we should try a dance together to the next song, which already was to be announced – it was “Joe Cocker – Unchain my Heart”. She said “yes”. For the rest of the night we switched through the talks in im’s, funny remarks to the others in the local chat, and we even did some voice talk. It wasn’t easy to get my attention away from her lovely brown eyes, but I also managed to make another friend this night, who was the dj, and who I tipped eagerly and wished music from.
What made a difference this night is just what is stated theoretically in the model (van der Land, 5): “Avatar-based interaction offers a wide array of symbol sets: it is synchronous, uses text or voice interaction, and offers more cues than text-based interaction, such as gestures, avatar appearance and avatar behavior.”

Self-presentation
I have to add, that I also ran into business related talks at the party this evening. From the presentation of my avatar, some saw, that I drive BABEL Language School. After having given out the official notecard on the school’s offers and the other one with practical informations for teachers, I both had a request for learning Spanish and a potential teacher to be trained to carry out some English classes.
In this moment I looked back to the discussion we had in the IOLE class earlier this week: We need to be in control of our virtual identity on the folio of, what we want to use it for. If we want the freedom in the virtual world or in social media use, to explore and to live independently from our real identity, or to let our entrances be as determined as possible for the particular outcome we want from our presence, we have to reflect our self-presentation pretty well, herunder which informations we expose in profile and our choice of nom en ligne (Sitearm: “Nom en ligne  – online name. December 23, 2010, accessed February 23, 2013: http://sitearm.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/nom-en-ligne-online-name/ ) and whether either our profile or our nome en ligne or none of them should carry any  connection to our real life identity, and if, to which degree and about what in detail.

Locks Aichi put it this way: ”If you are not paying …you are the product” (On Thursday, February 21, 2013 in the “Is One Life Enough?” course’s discussion [2013/02/21 13:01]).
It is also easy after these examples and at this point, to follow van der Land’s conclusion, that “in real life there are physical boundaries that limit one’s ability for strategic self-presentation. Online, these boundaries exist to a lesser extent. People have more freedom to present themselves the way they would like to. These opportunities for strategic self-presentation also exist in 3D virtual environments through the manipulation of avatars.” (van der Land, 6)

Anyway, this night was an experience of the better, and I love this study and to be send out for these tasks, the IOLE course has for us, to get conscious about the means and purposes we join our virtual environments with and to get better to determine the direction we want our virtual existence to move into and to bloom in, as well as to be pushed to achieve the position, to make our own agendas in virtual worlds.

Van der Land, Schouten, van den Hooff, Feldberg: “Modeling the Metaverse: A Theoretical Model of Effective Team Collaboration in 3D Virtual Environments.” Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 4 (2011) 3: 1-16. Retrieved February 11, 2013 from: http://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/index.php/jvwr/article/view/6126

Educational Media

Organisation of learning materials in Second Life

BABEL Language School - March 2009

To support the students’ learning process, this school – BABEL Language School –  has chosen to implement the instruction in equipped classrooms. The set up in classrooms covers actual Media Boards, Study Boards showing grammatical structures, video screens for displaying web based podcasts, like a broadcasted news program or a popular science episode from tv-stations web pages.  Not all residents of Second Life have a place where they can put training material and practice. These avatars like to get back to classrooms between classes, in order to deepen what is learned.

The normal communication is written chat, which generally gives the students fairly good writing skills, but according to the teacher’s planning also talk via the built-in function “voice”, which corresponds to speak with each other through Skype, is incorperated in language courses. In all cases, the used teaching materials will also be sent out to the students’ avatars to use for homework. System limitations are so, that students will need to be in Second Life to work with the lesson material. Often they will draw their homework on the so-called “note cards” and send them to the teacher’s avatar. Guten Tag - Deutsch 1.1.5 - BLLB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Board, containing the material of 4-6 lesssons. In the top frame the controls for browsing through and playing the related  audio content are found. Furthermore there are buttons to let the Media Board board give out a task notecard and to open a webpage with an online dictionary. At the bottom of a frame, the user goes through the pages of the chapter.