Animal Farm 3D #1

Some may know, I’ve been working on and with Jo Kay to build a middle school virtual world based on Animal Farm. It would be easy to build a ‘set’ but we want to build a game based learning world, in which students work in world and in other online spaces – using cybergogic theories and processes. It’s complicated. Here is a look at the rolling hills as Jo shows me the Windmill. Anyone recognise it?

Integrating 3D into English Stage 4

Integrating virtual worlds and games into Stage 4 English isn’t technically hard — although they syllabus only mentions CD-Roms and Websites due to it’s age.

So lets start simply and work through an idea. I’ll add some examples and leave you to explore them later. The point of the post is to clearly illustrate that todays reading list should include things that students find more compelling that websites and CD-Roms. In doing so I’m using just three technologies. It would allow an entire unit of work over a term for US$100.00 and provide an opportunity for team-teaching.

Let’s take FICTION – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins being a great story, brilliantly plotted with tremendous pace. In order to be used “students must study examples of spoken, print and visual texts”. Okay so we can cover the print; but lets look at how games and virtual worlds fit in this. Spoken — well virtual worlds afford role-play in which students play characters, audio readings of the books and streaming of both video and audio into scripted objects and land parcels. Yes Katniss can be visualised as an avatar — allowing students to visualise the texts. All of which meet the need for students to present students with “a range of social, gender and cultural perspectives”. Tick, tick, tick.

The texts on the ‘list’ (why and English teacher can’t align a text without a list seems weird)  have to “challenge the reader, texts that have layered and multiple meanings, and that provoke thought”. Hunger Games does that on many levels, adding a virtual world allows them to rise beyond that – to create and make. Another tick.

Now lets look at what is on the list for a moment in this rough area – Animal Farm, Lord of the flies, The cry of the wolf — all great books — but I’m still sticking with Hunger Games. As one reviewer in Goodreads.com said

“I am a young adult media specialist. I read a lot of young adult literature. I read all summer long, looking for the next IT book. I didn’t find one. Though I enjoyed “The Glass Castle,” “The Host,” and others there was nothing that I thought could match the “Twilight” fever. Suddenly this fall, I have read two books that I think are absolutely outstanding. One of them is “The Hunger Games.

Ah I slipped in Goodreads.com – This is where I’d be putting the class to journal the book as they read it. The syllabus asks us to provision “composing extended imaginative, interpretive and critical texts based on their own investigations and their wider reading”. Hunger Games has wider reading in Fan Fiction for a beginning, so already I am thinking about getting them to reflect using one tool, read the authorised text and compare other texts to it online. We’re already cooking and no-one’s set foot in a virtual world yet.

I’m thinking about how we can not only look at the story, but also at the way we construct stories … with an eye on working towards creating a story narrative in a virtual world. There are numerous examples on Fan Fiction – but I’d choose something like this — so we can pull apart the construction of the writing itself, and compare it to the author’s work. The quarter quell is the topic of the second book. I would not make direct reference to Catching Fire, but allow students to look beyond the ‘task’. There are also stories mashing vampires with Hunger Games, so really what I would like to encourage is that students would find something of personal interest to read from Fan Fiction, as well as the book itself. So now I’m using Fan Fiction and Good Reads as my learning management tools. Nice and simple.

Now lets look more specifically at an outcome

2.1 use a range of listening, reading and viewing strategies, including skimming, scanning, predicting and speculating, reading and viewing in depth and rereading and re-viewing, according to the purpose and complexity of the texts

I am going to meet that by using comments and discussion in Good Reads and by looking at other reviews.

2.15 processes of representation including the use of symbols, images, icons, clichés, stereotypes, connotations, inference and particular visual and aural techniques including those of camera, design and sound.

Here’s the kicker – the easy way to meet this outcome is to create a Power Point, grab a few images off Google, watch a DVD and then get them to respond to some directed questions. But let’s use a virtual world instead — Reaction Grid. This is the place to be in Virtual World Education right now, and I’ll leave you to explore what it is all about except to say, get your IT people to unlock a couple of ports and install Meercat browser, and grab a sim for a term for about US$100.00. Now you are ready to LET THE STUDENTS go nuts in a private, safe, virtual space.

Rule#1 – the sim is only open when a teacher is present. Rule#2, get Reaction Grid people to give you a chat-logger for the island. Rule#3, explain the rules of virtual space – they are the same as any other space — an opportunity to side track for a while to look at digital citizenship and cyber-behaviour that is syllabus-missing anyway. So now you’re adding value and the kids are pumped with ideas around your project. You might go and look at other school-sim rules too, but in the initial phase — you have to keep it simple. Being in-world of course is not a right. I would set in-world time as a reward for completing task milestones. That is significant – it creates group responsibility and encourages the teacher to design learning well enough from the outset to manage computer time. A good habit of mind.

Ah, I didn’t mention the project did I? – Well that’s for you to design – suffice to say, you are NOT going to build anything in-world — don’t panic!

In fact the world itself is just one outcome of 4 or more that you are aiming to hit. It is the activity, not necessarily the assessment. It is the motivation, the chat-room and the social space you need to get them reading and writing in other spaces. The project itself should allow students to visualise and make. Reaction Grid does not require any Linden $ in payment to do this – so you’re going to hit some targets with ICT immediately as you add graphics etc.,

Now go and see a computing teacher or maybe an art teacher, there are multiple lines you can draw – the point it DON’T WORK ALONE.

Computer teachers are probably building boring websites (the syllabus tells them to). If so, add a couple of ICT outcomes to your project — this will also buy you some more computer time if you are not 1:1 access – and it will allow them to look at 3D software, different graphic formats, resolution as well as sound and video. So now you can get year 9 to work with year 7.

By now your students are exploring and making and you’re blending learning and subjects — beginning to team-teach in an enquiry driven approach. You have a book, paper tasks, an online community in 2 and 3D accessible quickly and easily. A class of 30 is now in 6 or 7 groups — and you are beginning to act as the pathfinder and guide — not the font of all knowledge.

I have glossed over the project purposely – as learning about instructional design, project based learning or scenario based learning to me is a given in our hyper-connected world — and is indeed a something new to learn in itself.

However, this approach meets the needs of the syllabus and more importantly will create far greater realism and resonance – as right at the centre of it are motivating technologies – that connect students to their friends and their learning.

You could do this with Sims2, which is pretty cheap – the illustration opposite is fan art using it. Personally I think that would cost more and not provide an open-enough environment as Reaction Grid. Also note that I am not suggesting that as a teacher you would learn to ‘build’ either, that would be part of the skills kids need to develop in their PBL project. But as I started out saying games or virtual worlds — it is a viable option if your network admin believes that the a private virtual world is more dangerous than their filtered web. If that’s the case you have some myth-minded matters to attend to – as there is plenty of academic evidence to counter prejudice and fear — if they bothered to look.

In the new year Judy and I are going to provide a workable model of this though Second Classroom – and teachers will be able to come and learn about the design of projects in more detail. Contact me if you or your school are interested.

Tools needed: Private Reaction Grid sim, Goodreads.com, Fanfiction.com. Nice to have: Picnik browser plug in, Diigo class library browser plug-in
Pedagogy: Enquiry, Group based learning 8/10 students per group
Duration: Over a term
Swapping Out: Quiet Reading time – for active learning time

Wikitree

As if there was any doubt that information is increasingly heading into the Z dimension, Wikitree has gone open source – in response to a need to grow (pun) the solution. Wikitree is a 3D-Wiki plug-in on the virtual world platform, Second Life. Its a wiki, but creates the canopy of leaves represent the information, and versions of it.

Now imagine information is not in fact limited to letters, video, sound or images – but has three dimensions. Let me expand.

This is a Wikipedia page on a Spanish Galleon. I am sure with a little Google skill you can find a video or even a 3D render of one too. In wikitree, there would be a Spanish Galleon. You can rez it, move it, walk around it. With a little more imagination, the galleon is a fleet and the fleet becomes an Armada. Wikitree changes the dynamics of information because the things we want to describe and know about are multi-dimensional and spacial. But it’s not just a rezzer. You can vote, add, comment and do all the connected stuff that we love about wikis in the browser.

Look past the Second Life platform itself and picture this ability in high end game engines that already exist in MMOs and consoles. Imagine what happens when Porsche start releasing 3D information and you can take their prototypes around the track. Imagine when the school wiki – allows you to experience the syllabus in three dimensions.

Wikis are very powerful ways to create, share and store information – Wikitree is a further signal that what is currently in the browser will continue to be augmented by that pesky Z dimension. Perhaps most interesting to me is that it is considered architecture – not ‘media’.

 

 

Teen Second Classroom Nomination

Wow, I was amazed to see Teen Second Classroom, get nominated for an Eddie.

Given the amount of social networks out there, getting noiced is one thing, getting kids to use it another – but to get nominated, just fantastic. Judy O’Connell and I created the space last year, together with Second Classroom. The later, we hoped to gather 100 members by the end of the year, which I noticed we achieved this week. The aim was initially to just connect educators who are looking at virtual worlds, MUVES and games.

Teen Second Classroom we thought would be a place for students involved with this in classrooms, could come to connect and reflect on what they were doing, in an authentic and informal way. One challenge in introducing virtual worlds into a school time-table, is that it has to be accountable.

This is hard to do in Skoolaborate, given that adults can’t go and have a look around.

We felt that reflecting on the experiences was important and develop their fluent use of ‘making and collaborating’ in TSL and reflecting in a blog. A place for students to share development tips as they saw them, and to reflect on their own work.

Consider that students only had 1 hour a week in class, all 9th graders, and apart from being given the ‘problem’, had to work out just how to go about using second life to create a 2 minute Machinima film, based on a Shakespeare play. So this was a huge challenge for them, how to go about doing everything.

The students did spent more time in world, at home, at lunch etc., – and it was interesting to see how their need to ‘learn how’ led them to collaborating with other Skoolaborate avatars. This I guess was a kind of experiment on my part. They knew other people were in there … would they turn to ‘network knowledge’ as a solution – is that how they learn? – and yes, that is exactly what they did. The need to learn, make and do led them to forming relationships with others in Skoolaborate, but wasn’t explictly outlined.

In doing that, they needed to solve a number of problems – how to screen shot, how to write reflectively – what kind of writing would show their progress etc., So the work in there is all self-directed. We purposely keep well out of they way, and it was interesting to see how they started to use it. In the classroom, students worked in-world, but also checked the community for video clips and what others were doing.

The future of it? Well I really hope that some of the educators in Second Classroom, will form student groups in the Teen community – and that students will work to mentor and help each other in these environments.

As I’m not in the school now, Lucy Gresser will pass on my congratulations and continue to work with the students.

At the end of the day, the site is not mine, or Judy’s, but belongs to the students. Its important in all out ‘love’ of SL, that we hear students reflect on what they do, not just report on it as teachers.

Click here to vote if you feel so inclined.

Animal Farm 2.0 – How to

Just spent a fantastic day off and on with Lucy Gresser, who is part of our PLP leading teacher project team. Lucy is one of the most creative, democratic and inspiring teachers in the schools Project Based Learning. She has an absolute passion for English which resonates with her students. I constantly think as a parent – what kind of teacher do I want my kids to know – and Lucy is exactly that.

So we’ve modeled a two week descriptive writing project today and going to try and share how this collaborative project works, and maybe give people some idea of what I consider 21C practice.

Why? Well at the end of very interesting week in which I was asked to ‘describe what it is I do’ in my role as LTST. It’s hard to explain something like this to people who really don’t have a context for it, suffice to say, this is not what LTST does as far as I know. Confused? Yeah, me too.

This is what I do because I hope teachers will do with my own kids in the future.

Overview

Once again, we’ve opted for ‘classless’ grouping of students. I am a massive believer in the ‘collaborative discourse’ community approach to learning.

This means we have 6 teachers working with 160 students – online, but in class, 2 teachers work with about 55 students in two hour blocks – in one room. In this way we blend learning between virtual and face to face.

Components

The project runs over 2 weeks.

Technology

  • it is a digital storytelling set up.
  • It uses reflective writing as formative assessment
  • final product and presentation as a summative assessment.

The first stage is the entry document and project launch – and that is very important. The initial introduction of the project needs to create plenty of questions in the minds of students. As we move through the project, the teacher’s role is to scaffold the learning – to navigate students though ‘way points’ – from the syllabus. How they get to those is largely the students choice.

Preparing the project

To get to the launch – there is preparation. That I did using Second Life. Quite by chance as it happens. One goal of the project is to prevent students ‘creating graphics’ – but to focus on reading and writing. We know that we also need to general visual scaffold and stimulus material in reaching our end product and I’ve been thinking about that. How to make it interesting, but not schooly.

I was talking with Jo Kay, Al Upton and Leigh Blackall at the tail end of a small event – and Leigh got talking about the changes in graphic themes and styles that is maturing in lots of Second Life builds now. Lots of this is soft, organic and a kind of steam punk/manga feel. Korean and Japanese designers are often ellustive to talk to, but they are creating some amazing visual effects and spaces with that are edgy and at the same time highly detailed.

Once such space Jo took us to was JAPAN : Tempura Island. As anyone who knows me, I am an Art Director by trade – so I love to look at the technics of builds. Tempura Island is outstanding.

As we looked about, I took ‘photos’. These images show lots of interaction between characters, elements of nature, man made items etc.,

I was using SL to create a portfolio of images that the students will use as part of their final work – where they will produce descriptive writing.

There are 3 reasons for this. 1. The students respond to this type of ‘gamer’ visual representation. 2. It is very easy to do and 3. It provides the students with a ‘core’ visual stimulus to work around – in what will be a single day of final work.

Observations

Collaborative Web2.0 projects have greater impact if they are broken down into fast and furious hands on activities – followed by more sedate reflection. There has to be a degree of pressure and urgency in the task to push the students in the task – but well resourced so that the distance between a thoughts and a ‘win’ is not too far and reinforced through reflection via Google Docs. The book itself is a class text – but we also provide a Google Books link to the online text, but we want students to go home and READ.

Process

Week 1 uses Moodle and Google Docs.
Week 2 uses Google Docs, Blurb and the images from Second Life, via a Flickr account.

The reason for this lies in the formative assessment tools developed to support this format of learning.

Formation of Groups

  1. We created 6 ‘themes’ for the final product. For example, ‘Equality’.
  2. Each theme is presented to students as a 50 word ‘outline’.
  3. This gives an ‘idea’ of what the end product might entail – but by no means exhaustive – it is named and described to create curiosity.
  4. 160 students are broken down into 7 groups. 6 groups are ‘mainstream’ and 1 group is hand picked based on differentiated needs or students that are identified as needing ‘special help from past performance’.
  5. Moodle is used to form the groups. Here’s how we do that – We open the themes for online enrolment. First in bessed dressed is the way we do it. Kids opt into 1 chosen theme on that basis. They do not know who the ‘teacher’ is who is mentoring the group online. This stops kids trying to get with their mates or hooking into the ‘best worker’ groups – as they fill up fast – and kids soon learn that if they want their pick, then they’d better get on, else that group gets filled out.
  6. Group names. We used ‘Snowball’, etc, to name the study groups – rather than a classname. This again is there to build curiosity and links to the text.
  7. Google Docs – We created 7 Gmail Acccounts for each group. Students invite their mentor – using the given gmail address – to share their individual documents for the project. This makes it simple – and private for teachers.

So at the end of formation, kids have chosen a group, set up a Google Doc and shared it with a teacher – via a special email address. Each teacher will have about 26 shared documents to work with.

Its important to note that the kids in their Google Group – may not actually be in their class. This means that the kids they teach face to face may or may not include those they teach online. This ensure’s teacher buy in and also is a stragic way of norming Google Docs in professional development.

The strategy behind this : The kids are selecting the topic, and have no bias to the teacher and visa versa. The teachers we involved in the process of choosing the ‘theme’ from Animal Farm that they want to teach. This is a strong bargain.

Week 1

Reading is not a normal 9th grade activity. Reading a whole book in a short space of time is even less so. In week one, the students read the 100 pages or so of Animal Farm – which is made of 10 chapters. Our expectation in the classroom is simply reading. 2 chapters a day in class/home. At the end of the lesson the teacher asks one question – relating to the text. This formative assessment is based on comprehension and communication, and equates to 30% of the end mark. The teacher has the ability to vary the question – depending on how they feel the previous responses were made.

I think that it is critical – in 21C learning, that we leverage the teaching experience and skills of staff – and not dictate inflexible lesson planning.

Students respond to each question (2 per day) using Google Docs – together with the a reflective addition – “things I wonder about right now”.

During the first week, the students are learning that sustained, personal reading is valuable. The teachers can allow quiet reading – or model reading with all or some of the students in break out groups.

We are not seeking to explore Animal Farm in a historical context – that is another project. We are also aiming to use scaffold thier comprehension though rising taxonomy as the week progresses.

Week 2 – Descriptive Writing

The first lesson is 2 hours. In the first hour, we show them one image from the Tempura set. In the hour they are asked to write a descriptive text. A saga. So they need to research that. More specifically, they have to write a 50 word saga. This is a soft exposure to descriptive writing – and an introduction of the final assessment criteria. This is 10% weighted and sumbmitted via Moodle. Most kids will nail this – and its really important to start ‘new’ projects with ‘easy wins’.

In the second hour, the kids are given a ‘writing brief’, and watch a short video. This is just an Animoto – using the 6 themes and images from Tempura. This is called the entry document. This informs them of what they will do to create their final product – but at this point the have little idea how to reach the goal.

The end product is a book using Blurb – and the images supplied from Tempura.

  • Each book is a collection of short stories.
  • There are 6 chapers. The chapters are based on the themes and the Google Doc Groups.
  • Each chapter has three short stories (one per student).
  • The story is constructed around the images – and the themes that they chose at the outset – taken from those in Animal Farm – so there is immediate meta-cognition for the students to scaffold from.

This is where collaboration returns. In the first week, they worked in a Google Doc Group as individuals, now they need to work together, so each book is produced by taking 3 students from each theme.

During the week, the teacher models the descriptive writing process. For example a teacher may ask students to write an alternative last chapter for Animal Farm or perhaps the first chapter of a sequel. Again this is open to the teacher to decide.

The end product

Using Blurb, the students produce a short story of 800-1000 words – on a single day. For example, they may create a story called ‘Julies crisis’ – their contribution to the chapter. In effect it means that we have a ratio of 1 teacher to 15 students during the writing day. They will have to use Google Docs to submit an outline by a deadline – which will be graded, then the majority of the day given over to writing.

The final product is the assembly of the book itself – largely a cut and paste task from Google Docs.

Students then submit their final work as a .pdf file into Moodle to time and date stamp it.

Evaluation and Real World relevance

I like everything to have a real world aspect in learning. We’ll invite an external ‘friend’ to read the books and to select a ‘winner’. Each student will then get a copy of the book using Blurb as a hard copy. Each book is then evaluated and feedback given to students.

This gives them incentive – the chance to have a quality portfolio piece  – A professionally produced book, with cool illustrations containing 8000 words on average.

In addition to this, we will offer each of the books for purchase online. Students are invited to consider how to market their work, and as a default position, they will be offered for sale to parents and community using PayPal or Blurbs ecommerce engine via the schools website or their personal blogs.

Summary

I think that giving students not only the opportunity to write a book at the age of 14/15 – but also to sell that book to everyone and anyone is poweful. The proceeds of sale go to the authors. We often talk about each of us having a printing press – but in this case I think its important to show them that not only can they complete this task – but you can put a value on the work.

Designing a project is FUN. Its fairly manic – and we constantly are looking to encourage some activities – and negate others. For example, there is no value to a student in attempting to Google any element of the project and there is not opportunity to move away from reading and writing. There is no ‘graphic design’ and so no need to worry about ‘design’ or allow students to ‘bling up’ their work – that is not the focus.

To me being a 21C Educator is not about delivering ‘content’ but developing learners to achieve authentic goals using technology. This kind of project, and working with teachers like Lucy to unpack ‘how they learn’ not ‘what they learn’ is the difference between so many teachers, but anyway – this is what I do (or did).

If you want to know more, talk about it, comment on it – then I’m more than happy to do so!

Merging virtual and real world learning gets younger!

 This is an interesting article with advice for educators and Linden Labs about the issues in using Second Life in educational settings. I particularly like the advice in general and the specific information on running alternate viewers. The recent manditory update to the Linden Client poses yet another úpdate of the school network.

In another article on Terra Nova, there is some great advice on Protecting Children In Virtual Playgrounds. Anyone with children will have noticed that kids toys in the high street are increasingly connected to some form of virtual world. The ‘pocket”device powered worlds are popping up all over the place which means that there is an marketplace increasinly this is aimed at younger children.

Webkins is an example of the real world of play merging with the virtual word – which is not as much about play, as it is about social interaction and collaboration.

Chat is not ‘open’ but constructed, which Webkinz claim makes it

“The Webkinz Clubhouse is a place for kids to socialize with friends in a fun and safe environment. In the KinzChat area, kids use our pre-constructed chatting system called KinzChat. Members cannot type in their own words in KinzChat; they can only use the phrases and words we’ve created.”

But the point is, that children f this age, are communicating online with avatars, and in tern, children whom they would otherwise probably never meet. Give then pre-school to elementary age of the target market, products such as webkinz are creating a ‘norm’with kids that online communication in virtual spaces is as acceptable as playing a computer game with their friends in their lounge room. Webkinz in making ‘virtual’ learning a norm, though play and social interaction.

Freaky Creatures – targets slightly older kids – and uses Freaky Creatures gives players a toy with a USB key that they then train online for battles . Again signing kids up for online experiences based on a toy, mashing reality play with virtual play – connecting socially. This genre of toy development is firmly focused on leveraging the ‘media age’. Going online to look for ádded information’ as it used to be – buy the toy – then look at the website for éxtras’ was simply a hook to get you to look at more product. Now the product is the online facet, not just an add on.

Plush toys are not missing out either.  http://www.zibbiezone.com/ Zibbies now inhabit their own virtual world – The Zibbie Zone! The “Zone” is a virtual world where children play and interact with the quirky and cute characters created by Play Visions. ZibbieZone.com was created by children’s book author Stephen Cosgrove (Penguin Publishing). The plot involves the imaginative premise that plush toys begin disappearing into the Internet. Zibbiezone is combining traditional toys, virtual worlds and a respected childrens author (who has previously created flash books) to again create a pre-school social network.

So while many educators debate the benefits or otherwise of Second Life, Active Worlds, Teen Second Life, the reality is that the is a growing immersion for kids in social-based learning and play – online. And its not all marketing, there are multiple benefits in using something like Webkinz or Freaky Creatures.

For example – boys love Ben 10, they like scary creatures and fantasy books such as Deltora Quest. The ‘flat primary’ internet used to be given over to product promotion. A few slick graphics, flash games, colouring pages and maybe a flash movie. It was all about engaging with the character, buying into the marketing message. It was a pull technology.

Deltora Quest’s website is mearly a reinforcement that there are books. Emily Rodda is one of Australia’s most successful, popular and versatile writers, and has won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award  five times. Together with illustrator Marc McBride, their books are hugely popular. The internet presense is quite different from Zibbie. Parents however are used to seeing young kids on the internet sites of their favourite ‘products’, but now those products have a new ‘pull’ factor that parents may not have any reall understanding of.

Webkinz needs you to look after your pet – online. Freaky Creatures wants you to battle online to power up your toy. And Zibbies live in the internet as well as the kids bedroom. Quite simply reality play, imaginative play, and virtual play are fast meshing to just become ‘play’. The humble plush toy are plastic action figure now has a social life – all be it one managed by a commercial interest.

This trend is something that primary teachers can use to their advantage. There are numerous ways in which they can use these emerging technologies to engage kids in their classroom – as now they will be doing it more an more at home. So Media Literacy is important to not just high school (still debating Second Life), but to primary school. Perhaps more significantly, the toy industry is not going to get into such moral debates. They know that social networked based media has fast overtaken the idea of us living in the ínformation age. As kids flocked to online teen plus games such as Age of Empires, World of Warcraft – now the see that technology is now present in the home, to allow even younger kids to ‘get online’.

Club Penguin is now be called Disney’s Club Penguin There have been rumors about another player in the ring ever since Sony backed out of its potential $500 million deal to buy Club Penguin.  PaidContent is reporting the deal was “a cash payment of $350 million and an opportunity to earn out an additional $350 million between now and 2009”. Such is the power of brands, when they move on a social trend.

The shift to virtual play is as sure as the move from trains to space rockets, the moment they landed on the moon. 2D experiences online are less appealing to kids that the integration of a physical toy into a 3D environment with social aspects. Immersive worlds that connect to the real world are here to stay, even if as an educator you cling on tight to the idea that MS Office activities is enough.

The ‘reality’is that hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in virtual worlds. Toys are connecting to them, and giving kids exposure to immersive media. You can deny it, you are argue against it, but the brand power and marketing machines behind the entertainment industry are not.

They know that their linear, 2D offerings are being downloaded and their market revenue is falling. Music, Videos and Stand Alone games are easily pirated. DRM was not the solution and proved un-popular. There is no doubt that reality play and virtual play will continue to merge. Technology, speed and access to 3D based experiences – outside schools – is now as simple as anything else online.

Yet the use of socially connected devices and worlds in school is still seen as óut there’ which is rediculous. What is not happening is that teachers have the opportunity, desire, awareness or ability to look beyond their ‘training’ and consider how using online virtual worlds should and could be blended with everyday learning – as it now is with our students – informal learning.

Designing Teaching and Learning experiences to take in ‘now’technology – is critical.

PSPs, Nintendo’s, Webkinz and more are all low cost, durable and perfect tools to engage students. It just requires educators to be more ‘media aware’ and to accept that ‘media literacy’ is not limited to 2D websites and books.

The horse is already out the gate … I can’t see much point in denying that immersive learning, 3D environments, games, and mobile devices are not as relevant as rulers, text books and calculators.

At the rate we are going, schools are going to been seen as learning museums in a few years by students. The world does not require approval to re-organise how kids want to learn by educators. It will do it through product and social networks.

I think we are reaching a massive ‘moral and ethical’ watershed in education – and we talk about ‘safety’ – as if that is just a school issue and sufficient to circle the wagons and do almost nothing more.

I think is is firmly a social issue – and personally, I’d rather not leave it to massive commercial brands to set out what is good/bad/safe or educationally beneficial for students. After all, they may get educational consultants in the design process – but focus groups and marketing ultimately has the last word.

Teachers need to be active in the development of these technologies, not deny them. And the best way to do that is to use them – or at the very lest – explore them away from class and make a more informated decision. The established communities of practice, such as ISTE Island or Jokaydia have established learning networks to offer advice. There are regular online events to attend or join. Virtual Professional Development and Seminars are probably the best way to convince ‘nay’ teachers of the educational benefits of what is currently in store now.

Skoolaborate Kids Congress 2008

“We are keen to encourage this important global collaboration opportunity amongst our communities. The congress will provide a significant boost to the skill levels and understandings of the staff and students who participate. They will make a significant step toward building those skills they need to succeed in a increasingly global workplace.”

Skoolaborate Kids Congress was held in Sydney 31 July to 2nd August 2008. Students and teachers from around the world attended the f2f event at MLC school, and others attended ‘in world’. There were a number of projects, keynotes and speakers broadcast live into Skoolaborate via quicktime. Part of the day, students we’re collaborating to build some furniture, learning the basic contruction methods needed. Our students decided that outdoor furniture was the go (being Australian), and that it should be BIG – due to the Australian love of the ‘BIG’ prawn; pineapple; guitar; cow; sheep etc., which stand besides the road of many Australian country towns.

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I won’t be at day 2, but it was great to be involved with Chris’ PBL project in world, and great to see so many kids working to realise their ideas. Here’s a quick animoto of the stuff our kids made.