Universities Discover Second Life

Second Life

A number of Universities are now opening cyberspace campuses in Second Life, allowing students around the world to participate in the three-dimensional world.

Second Life

When I talk about this, it’s amazing how negative educators are about the idea — something that is very much in it’s infancy, and evolving/improving on a daily basis. They compare it to learning models literally hundreds of years old and call out multiple issues:

  • Lack of interaction (Somehow this wasn’t a problem when we were shipping videotapes of their lectures back in the 70′s)
  • Technical issues (Yes, I used to try to get higher-ed faculty to use email in the 90′s — they are some of the most technophobic folks on the planet. But their learners are immersed in this world, so they’ll come along soon.)
  • Violence or assaults (Glad this never happens on a college campus.)
  • Intellectual property issues (Also glad this never happens in the real world.)
  • The learners won’t listen to me lecture (Supply your own sarcastic comment here — I’m not even going to waste the effort.)

Elliott Masie said it best five years ago, when he said “there’s no such thing as e-learning.” We never had chalkboard learning, or filmstrip learning, or overhead projector learning. It’s all just learning. The form factor will continue to evolve.

Storytelling — The Best Way of Passing Knowledge

Jon Revelos (Director – Story Based Learning at TATA
Interactive Systems)  has a great post where he posits that storytelling is the most effective means of passing knowledge from an expert to a beginner.

Using the example of “corporate earnings were 3.2 billion dollars as a data point” he shows that, depending on the story, that might be good news or bad.  It might indicate an upward path, a downward path, or just general confusion.

Imagine the final step in this example chain – instead of
being given a bulleted fact, or even a graphical chart, you are provided a
compelling narrative of the events that influenced a company’s fiscal
performance Maybe a story of how a small oil and gas company played a role in
one of the largest bankruptcies in US history? How recognizible and
well-understood are terms like “securities fraud” in the post
Enron/Worldcom era? Why?  Because stories
were told – stories of greed, arrogance, fraud, trust, loss, and ruin – that
brought obscure accounting terms and practices out of the textbooks and into
the personally relevant world of everyday people.

I’ve always tried to follow Joseph Campbell’s “The Myth of the Hero” model, where he describes the universal pattern of storytelling. 

In this study of the myth of the hero, Campbell posits the
existence of a Monomyth (a word he borrowed from James Joyce),
a universal pattern that is the essence of, and common to, heroic tales
in every culture. While outlining the basic stages of this mythic cycle,
he also explores common variations in the hero’s journey, which,
he argues, is an operative metaphor, not only for an individual, but
for a culture as well. The Hero would prove to have a major
influence on generations of creative artists—from the Abstract
Expressionists in the 1950s to contemporary film-makers today—and
would, in time, come to be acclaimed as a classic.

One of my favorite applications of this model is “Beyond Bullet Points” as described by Cliff Atkinson.  He gives you a great model of how to take a typical boring PPT presentation and re-work it into something that is moving, effective and anything but boring. Each year at TechEd I would see speakers grow and improve using just this model.

“This fellow can make PowerPoint do things that I never knew could be
done at all. What he says is not difficult to do, it’s just a different
way of thinking about how to make a presentation.”
John Matlock Amazon.com Top 500 Reviewer

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LMS As A Service

Articulate has created what looks like an online LMS in what they’re calling “Articulate Online” — they say you can track how employees, customers and prospects interact with your e-learning courses, assessments and presentations.

Their bullets are:

  • Don’t need an expensive or complicated LMS
  • Everyone can get results without the usual hassles
  • Affordable, all-inclusive plans starting at only $199/month

I’m watching a little three-minute demo from Alli Star, a Product Evangelist.  It’s a nice clean screen, the audio is clear, and even the animations are only a little bit jerky.

You can pull in PPT content in a couple of clicks — converting to SWF — and then you’re asked if you want to manage the content.  You can launch directly from the web, get reports, share it, set permissions, or email an invite.

At least in the demo, it seemed to work very cleanly.  (I’m guessing they weren’t doing the demo over a typical net connection, but I’d love to be proven wrong.)

The reports are very clean and readable, with percentages and some pretty colored bars.

Questions I’ve got:

  1. Where does this data live?
  2. Can I buy a server version, so I don’t have to go outside my firewall?
  3. How can I customize reports?
  4. What other formats can be imported?
  5. How does this system play with the more traditional LMS world?

Do You Multi-Task? Subliminal Learning On the Desktop

Do you do more than one thing at a time?  How’s that working out for you?

Right now I’m reading mail, surfing Google Reader, listening to a podcast (Run-As Radio) and posting a blog item.

I have to admit that the podcast is just running in the background.  Sometimes I’m listening, sometimes I’m completely focused on other tasks.  But every now and then some interesting tidbit tickles the lizard stem in my brain, and I surface to listen.  (It’s a technical podcast that’s above my head, but I’m interested in the concepts they’re talking about.)

I’m wondering what this means in the world of learning.  I’m not sure if this should be called “subliminal” learning, “parallel” learning, or “intermittent” learning.  Whoops, just paused to listen with full attention for about 30 seconds.

Most people in the “Gen X” and later do this as a matter of course — lots of IM windows, cell phone, email, etc.  Does that mean that we should be designing learning in ways that learners can have several different experiences going at the same time?

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RSS In Plain English — Really Simple Syndication 101

If you’d like to make your life Really Simple (well, your life online) you need to know about Really Simple Syndication (RSS).  This is a system where you can automatically know that your favorite blog has new content.  No more going to the web page each day to see if there’s something new on “Quilts of Yugoslavia” and “Care and Feeding of Killer Bees.”

Here’s a video that gives you the basics in a little more than 3 minutes.  You’ve got three minutes, right?

It’s worth it.

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