Amazing tech or Amazing environments?

I read Betch’s post about being AMAZING – or rather what is AMAZING technology. He observed …

The teacher was all effusive, gushed about the Ning’s “amazing” features and wanting to show the students all the “amazing” things it could do… “Look! You can use it to leave messages for each other!”, she said excitedly.

So what is AMAZING? I have to say STORYTELLING and writing. But it means getting out the comfy chair again.

Increasingly virtual worlds and games offer tools that are more engaging than those Chris mentions — and even pre-schoolers are using them. Transmedia is now the norm in publishing. You can’t seriously leave the reader – just a reader. They want to participate. Check out for a nice example of this in action.

STORYTELLING and more specifically — digital narrative — plays out in the lives of young people though their use of consoles and games. The development of the story, the realisation through images, sounds and immersion in ‘open’ worlds will be more familiar to kids than anything else.

Call of Duty $3billion dollar game — a significant reason for games/entertainment to find increasing synergies between telling stories and being immersed in stories. They are skipping past he blogs and portals — and putting their audience in world, not on the web. Developers have learned that we don’t just want to play — we want to connect, share and customise ourselves and the environment.

Sony PS3 Little Big Planet is about to offer online creation and other games such as Spore have already discovered that creating a character is more engaging that just choosing one and even separated the character tools from the game itself. Pre-schoolers love to create Mii’s as much as play the Wii – and no MMO would dare show itself unless you could dress up your avatar.

What has this got to do with school? — Literacy. We like to create and visualise outside of the reading. We want to combine characterisation with avatars and we want to experience the worlds and situations that we create. This is what made Peggy Sheehy’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird” sim on the Teen Grid so brilliant – way ahead of its time – kids could be part of the book, not just observers.

Schools right now have multiple options to use virtual worlds. The AU RRP of PS3 is under $500 — and of course will play DVDs — so why not replace the DVD player with a console? OSGrid, HyperGrid, ReactionGrid all offer affordable, reliable and safe places for students to create content.

Second Life has well established places to gain teacher inspiration — and the fundamentals of writing are no secret online. So why not use them? Here are two photos from Second Life – what story could you build around these? – Of course! – BUT you have to be in world to take the shot — and that seems outside of what even the most Webby teachers like to do.

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I had the good fortune to spend an evening with Dr Larry Johnson, CEO of NMC this week following his trip to VITTA. We talked about the Teen Grid and a lot about Open Grids. At VITTA he was keynoting about the Horizon report. He made several points about Second Life — not least that the ideas founded in virtual worlds are more important that the world itself, saying that if Second Life closed tomorrow, they it would not matter to NMC — Second Life is the now technology which is why they use it to create ideas and generate new directions for learning.

It seems a fundamental issue that Australian attitude among administrators and IT managers is to block the use of virtual worlds, even on a small scale. From a story creation, literacy viewpoint they offer far more than adding Google’d images on a powerpoint blah. But teachers don’t spend time in them, don’t explore them and don’t understand sufficiently that the decline of passive media online is being amplified by games and virtual worlds – it is not blogs and wikis that drive out portals exclusively — it is the multi-billion dollars in games and the millions of people immersed in their story.

Yet, Second Life and Game remain something missing from the PLN – get connected slide-decks that we see presented at conferences. Twitter, FB, Ning et al – but not Blue Mars or MetaPlace, not even Second Life.

Kids don’t need Twitter — they have MSN and Mobile Phones. They need immersive, motivating environments. We need to recognise that teaching story telling and literacy need to happen ‘in world’ – and not just on Ning — that consoles are every bit as valid in class as a DVD. Chris has hit on a big issue. We should be AMAZING when it comes to using technology with students for engagement, assessment, inclusion and most of all – learning to be creative, critical thinkers.

I’ll be running some classes in-world next year via Jokaydia on using Second Life in English … via Second Classroom. If you are interested let me know.


2 thoughts on “Amazing tech or Amazing environments?

  1. Excellent post highlighting the strengths of virtual worlds — and man am I jealous regarding the time you got to spend with Larry Johnson!

    Educators who want to dive in need to experience worlds in action and being used so they don’t replicate the mistakes made in the real world then blame the new platform.

    Creating instructionalist environments in virtual worlds — and you and I have experienced more than our fair share — of rows of chairs facing front, a presentation and being told to stop commenting until after the presentation is finished — is going to be LESS engaging than in the real world.

    I dislike the term “best practice” because one size will NEVER fit all.

    What I’m doing for is creating a space where educators can experience the why of using virtual worlds. I think that’s the key question that needs to be answered.

    If there isn’t a compelling reason why – then it isn’t going to happen. Storytelling is one compelling, powerful, primal reason and you’ve made a passionate case for it.

    It’s such a priviledge sharing my learning journey with professionals such as you, Jo, Angie, Judy and Al — and even better that we’ve developed good friendships. And that’s another compelling argument for virtual worlds — but for another day, another post.



    • Larry pretty much said that to bunch of academics who kinda wanted to know the ‘win win’ and ‘the best’ — they predictive path. It was great to see how he dismissed that as an idea for anything, not just second life – saying that there is no panacea, nor should you look for one.

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