by Stephen Downes
Mar 14, 2016
Virtual Worlds on the Go
Stephen Downes, Mar 13, 2016, Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education, Online, via AvaCon
In this presentation I speculate about the future of virtual worlds in learning when they are mixed with mobile devices and performance support systems. Presented inside a virtual world using AvaCon.
I have never understood the desire to speak only amongst one's colleagues, but perhaps this is more my journalistic self speaking than my scientific self. This article makes what is to me the very good point that if academics want to have any impact on the world, they have to start talking to other people. And, I would add, they have to start listening to other people (and maybe even giving them credit for their work). Stating in the way of this outcome are several barriers, according to the article:
But it's time academics got out a bit, experienced the real world, dealt with people and not constructs, and opened their writing - and their thoughts - to the rest of us to scrutinize. Via David Wiley.
We see an awful lot in our field about what "the research tells us", typically stated in such a way as to suggest we are charlatans if we don't go along with it. I see this a lot, on a daily basis. "The research" is the basis of enterprises like the Campbell Collaboration, the promotion of various educational theories, and the authoring of well-meaning blog posts. But there is substantial reason to be sceptical. "All the old methods are in doubt. Even meta-analyses, which once were thought to yield a gold standard for evaluating bodies of research now seem somewhat worthless.... If you analyze 200 lousy studies, you’ll get a lousy answer in the end. It’s garbage in, garbage out." The crisis can't be wished away, nor can the basic lack of reproducibility be whitewashed. It's easy to hack your way to the conclusion you want to support. The phenomenon is well-documented, and we in education and technology should reserve judgements established through increasingly questionable methodology.
This post is a response to Jeff Noonan's recent post against learning outcomes. Noonan writes, "there is no clear pedagogical value to learning outcomes. If there is no pedagogical value how are we to understand the current fad? As part of the attack on the professional autonomy of professors because it constitutes a barrier to the imposition of market discipline on universities." The response is less a criticism and more an exposition followed by as assertion generally of the form "x is not necessarily the case," which is always true, but a feeble objection.
This article looks at four dominant metaphors for music streaming used by aficionados to describe their experience: streaming as tool use, streaming as entering places, music streaming as a way of being, and music streaming as lifeworld meditation. The study "demonstrated the complexity of individual online experiences" and the author notes that "this level of complexity was heightened when mobile and ubiquitous Internet characteristics were included, in turn incorporating notions of immediacy, serendipity, restlessness, fluidity, and fragmentation." For me, streaming means immediacy and presence; I like to close my eyes and let the sound surround me. As a kid, I listened to the radio using earbuds. I carefully wired them from the radio on the dresser, down the wall, under the carpet and under my pillow. I live that same experience today as I listen to 1950s radio dramas, baseball games, and yes, streaming music. It's hard to describe, which is why we need metaphors. p.s. death metal in a basement in Bergen - still one of my travel highlights.
There's a danger, writes the author, in danger, writes the author, in the ascendancy of social media networks. "We are handing the controls of important parts of our public and private lives to a very small number of people, who are unelected and unaccountable." True, and it's a concern. But it should be noted that before social networks, we weren't any better off, as our media were handled by "the staid, politically entrenched, and occasionally corrupt gatekeepers we have had in the past." I grew up delivering newspapers, spent my youth learning the trade, and love journalism. But I didn't miss newspapers, because they had long since sold their integrity to the highest bidder. This is something publishers and educators need to keep in mind as they face their own challenges from the digital world.
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