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Transcript of EDUC5252M
Learning with Virtual Worlds
Computer Mediated Communication
Microworld and Constructivism
How does Logo use Constructivism and Microworld?
Scratching the Surface
Once again the online world does not lack Adaptive Tutoring Systems like Quizlet, Hot Potatoes or ScootPad. Adaptive Tutoring Systems are interactive exercises the student can work out from a computer station, giving him drilling and immediate feedback, often scaffolded according to the student's success rate in the set exercises with the additional feature of recording the students' progress to be accessed by the teacher. These systems provide differentiated instruction such as providing additional help for struggling learners, help which confident learners would not use, since this would reflect itself in the final score. For instance, these exercises are ideal to enrich vocabulary and confidence with mathematical sums through repetition.
However, these tools follow Behaviorist theories of learning, which might be considered their major weakness. Learning has been changed into chunks of workable exercises which students struggle to see as relevant and meaningful. These exercises teach no skills but only rote learning. Furthermore, unless accompanied by a tutorial, whether notes or video, the exercises must make a lot of assumptions about the students' present level of achievement. The tuition is rather cold, in that the student is interacting with a machine with the distant figure of the teacher being provided with his failures.
Having said so, it is equally true that unless one is an avid reader or immersed in the language, some degree of rote learning is required.
In online exercises a student can repeat the same exercise as often as he needs while in class quicker students would start fidgeting if the teacher keeps repeating for the sake of the struggling students.
In exercises prepared by HotPotatoes, I can include an encouraging comment to be displayed every time the student submits an answer whether this is right or wrong, thus providing immediate feedback. On the other hand, I don't always have the time to elicit answers from every student.
Unlike other online educational approaches, ATS is more faithful to the existing examinations students sit for, so the teacher can easily integrate this approach to her existing scheme of work.
HotPotatoes does not include the feature of monitoring students' progress as found in other ATSs like ScootPad. Monitoring students' attempts and results makes these exercises more relevant to the classroom framework.
HotPotatoes presents the final output in a very stark window, presentation of the exercises could be improved and modernized to make the layout more audio-visually appealing.
Rather than Constructivism, the way the learner internalizes knowledge, S. Papert (1999) has stated that Logo was built upon the concept of Constructionism, the way the learner uses tools to externalize knowledge. I knew how to create triangles and squares but making the turtle do things I knew was not easy. The process by which I externalized my knowledge to teach the turtle reinforced what I knew and made me rethink the steps I would have otherwise taken for granted such as RT 90.
I used Logo in two stages. The first time, I learned the basics following simple instructions. This was followed by extensive reading about the use and potential of Logo in education and the different existing projects sounded intriguing if rather beyond my average students' interest and commitment. The second time I used Logo I attempted more challenging exercises with less success. As a learner who needs immediate feedback the turtle's "I don't know how..." and lack of audiovisual tutorials made my learning a painstakingly slow process which was frustrating and tedious.
In all fairness, my frustration with the program may be partially blamed upon my present lack of familiarity with mathematical concepts, considering, the last maths lesson I took was over ten years ago. However, I struggled more with the language of the program than with the mathematical aspect, since things got harder when I tried using variables and procedures. I recall using these in my ordinary level ICT project while using Pascal, however, both then and now, I still struggle to internalize programming language.
There are many mind-mapping tools online, such as Mind Genius, Twiddla, Mind 42 and Popplet. I chose Popplet because it proved to be the simplest to use, quite interactive and visually appealing. Furthermore, most of its functions are free and need no downloading. There is a limited number of Popplets you can do but if you are a frequent user you can purchase an upgrade. It is ideal to brainstorm, organize ideas, create and explain connections and also aid memorization. Another plus is that the features are easy to use, no tutorial was needed as the options are self-explanatory. That means that instead of spending a lot of time grasping the intricacies of the tool, I could immediately start exploiting Popplet for my projects. The next frame will demonstrate how I created a class poster.
How does Popplet use Collaboration?
A group of users can work synchronously and asynchronously on the same project. The users can leave comments on how to improve the Popplet as well as make instantaneous modifications.
The user can provide feedback which is discussed within the Popplet community of practice. (Wegner and Lave) One such user suggested that the programmers include a feature which would allow teachers to monitor the progress of their students as they collaborate on their Popplets.
The Popplet community provides technical support and records instances of successful usage of the programme in a blog where I found loads of interesting ideas on how I could integrate the program in my lessons.
The user can share his mindmaps over social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Collaboration in Popplet
CMC has flourished in Multi-Player Online Games such as Runescape, WorldofWarcraft, GuildWars2 and ClubPenguin. I chose to explore the latter because this platform provides the safest environment for educational purposes and provides a fairly free access. ClubPenguin is a gaming arcade where kids can explore, play, challenge and socialize in a safe platform. The primary quest is playing games to accumulate coins which can then be spent on clothes, to decorate your igloo and take care of your pet Puffle. The users can play a variety of mini games both multi-player, like Sled Racing, two-players, like Find Four and one-player, like Bean Counter. The next slide will take you on a trip around ClubPenguin with BoogeyPenguin.
The user can also join the communal spirit of the game. The game organizes many activities to promote this community spirit including contests and competitions. At the time when this review was being written there was a contest for the igloo with the highest number of likes so many users could be found asking for likes. One of its strengths is multimodality and the integration of computer-mediated communication both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (posted). The user can chat with other penguins to challenge them in a game and give feedback. Veteran users can eventually start giving tours to newbies meaning that the user can upgrade his role in the game. When no other human users are online you can interact with chatbots, like my tourguide, BentenMax. Our communication was very much one-tracked as he ignored most of my questions but he was very helpful in taking me around the place. However, the game is popular enough to need several servers which tend to be nearly full during peak hours, so in general you find human users willing to answer questions. There are many instances of asynchronous communication through e-mails, sharing of comments in the blog, sharing of pictures as well as contributing to the club’s newspaper. The fact that one’s voice is public motivates the user to contribute to the community.
The website ensures safety thanks to a number of measures including using a predefined menu of phrases and actions when chatting as well as moderating comments before these are published in the blog. Users can join the EPF (Elite Penguin Force) and report inappropriate behaviour. The implementation of excessive safety restrictions meant that sometimes my comments were not even posted for other users to see while I was not being informed. As a result I ended up feeling ignored and frustrated as I was struggling to figure out which parts of the game are accessible to non-paying members. The merchandising aspect of the game is tangibly felt as many areas are blatantly restricted to paying-members.
How does ClubPenguin use CMC?
Exploring ClubPenguin with BoogyPenguin
How does HotPotatoes use ATS?
In the same way that life has moved behind the television screen, nowadays, people can live multiple existences as the inhabitants of another world, conversing with fantastical creatures such as in League of Legends or exploring simulated worlds in Second Life. Education is trying to catch up and educators have been investigating the educational potential of these virtual worlds. It is not easy to draw a clear-cut line about what constitutes a model, a simulation and a game because the use of these tools often overlap. Possibilities can be projected in models such as the successful planning of a city. The models can save the project managers money by preempting future problems. Operations can be simulated for trainees to practice on, by changing variables they would learn the consequences without experimenting on real patients. If one adds the competitive and/or collaborative element, one has the makings of a very successful game. Online games are effective educational tools because learners lose their inhibitors, learning becomes essential to integrate yourself to the gaming world. There is educational value both in creating and using them.
I will be using the term online games to incorporate simulations and modelling programs to avoid redundant repetition.
How does Scratch incorporate Modelling, Simulation and Games?
While using Scratch, I had to concentrate on the function of every component and re-evaluate how each element contributed to my program every time the program did not execute as planned. Through a combination of trial and error, use of tutorials and reference material my learning experience became smoother and more satisfying. When the user learns without the physical guidance of an expert that means that the learner has become a a successful life-long learner, a skill our students rarely attain due to excessive spoon-feeding in schools.
A characteristic of online gaming is the community of practice with whom the user can share his work or experience. So apart from exploring the program, while using Scratch I spent a lot of time looking at tutorials, projects and wikis prepared by other Scratchers for help and ideas. If I had the time I would also have commented on these projects and I am tempted to upload my work to get feedback. This communal sharing, breaks all the misconceptions that online gaming is a solitary experience which breeds anti-social behaviour.
During the past few months I felt like I have accessed my students' world as we talked about our successes and failures. I was amazed at their degree of expertise and equally surprised to learn how much communication takes place during gameplay. I was missing out from this world and I could see that this is a shortcoming of educators in general because my students showed disbelief that an educator was willing to access their world and proved to be very eager to speak about these topics. Apart from improving my relationship with the students, my new-found knowledge of myself as a learner has brought new ways of approaching my teaching.
Microworlds put the learner in direct command of the machine, the learner instructs the machine and through this process achieves new knowledge. This attained degree of control means that virtual learning has shifted from 'technocentrism' as defined by Papert (1990) to learner-centred instruction granting more space to the learner's creativity and independence. Knowledge is no longer compartmentalized into meaningless bits but is immediately available.
Different kinds of learners will react differently to these microworlds but this allows for individualized learning.
Piaget (1962) identified four different stages of development which correspond to the learner's age. His point is that learners achieve a higher degree of abstract reasoning, the more experienced they become. However, I remember discussing profound theological and moral issues at fifteen but it took me three years to figure out how to drive a car.
The theory of learning associated to these programs is constructivism whereby the learner gains knowledge while interacting with the machine. Little, if any, social interaction takes place and in my opinion this is the weakest aspect of constructivism.
Write a brief reflective account of your experience with each piece of software covered in this module.
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