Digi-learning: maximizing the benefits of social economies

The value of collaborative development is widely acknowledged (see proprietary software development release dates versus those of open source programs – guess which advances more rapidly). How can these proven techniques be leveraged to advance education?  Recent studies by IBM (reign in your scepticism, please) show : “hours spent playing online can hone skills related to collaboration, self-organisation, risk-taking, openness, influence and communication”.  In the article Gaming the System… Herz opines “the networked eco-system of online gaming is vastly more multidimensional than the 19th-Century paradigm of classroom instruction” due to its provision of a greater array of challenges to its users. A single player can be faced with learning the game, coaching newbies on its use, and working collaboratively to solve or further develop the game. Not only do students engage in the content, then, but are deep into “conventions of interpersonal interaction that define status, identity, and affiliation”, or “social ecology”. Doshi notes the need stated by students and staff alike to make sessions in Libraries more interactive; lectures should be molded into “knowledge quests” (Walter Scaachi, quoted by Doshi). Herz presses further: “to become meaningful, online content needs to leverage the social ecology that drives networked interaction.” Yet this does not support the incursion of adults into teen-defined social networking sites, which only reduces the amount of space left to teenagers in which to participate in their own social ecology. Students may benefit more from operating in online environments unmediated by educators’ imposed rules; like Danah Boyd riffing about MySpace, Herz recognizes the importance of defining and enculturating their own norms. (See my earlier notes on this topic.)

Instead, educational models need to develop means in which information learned should be reinvested in projects of benefit to the group. Benefits include not only the gathering of new information, higher rate of encoding in long-term memory, and advanced social interaction development, but recognition from peers (see my earlier posts citing egoboo as it relates to the collaborative activity of social bookmarking). Given the collaborative nature of the gaming world, social recognition of one’s efforts is very high; Herz contends the classic model of education lacks such effective models of team-building. [Herz sends us to Slashdot for a great performance model.]

Herz grabs my attention with the suggestion of a more nuanced model of grading: “instead of a binary framework where… requirements are either met or not met, they might be considered attributes that are continuously strengthened.” In the North American model of public education, students are graded on scales and continually throughout the academic year; the framework isn’t binary. But I appreciate his suggestion for the way in which it could serve to increase the current systems pedagogic influence. Tying grades into group performance, ongoing collaboration, as well as observed effort and demonstrated performance may not be that far from being actualized in the mainstream; after all, instructors of well-designed distributed education courses are already making great inroads into collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools such as social bookmarking, RSS feeds, and online social networking arenas can equip learners with opportunities for sharing and reinvesting their new knowledge and derive greater results with a wider variety of learners than before.

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Best practices for “healthy meetings”

It rarely happens that I so love a blog entry that I want to quote the entire thing, but that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. Check out K. G. Schneider’s latest blog entry on healthy meetings for your organization at Free Range Librarian. It provides a summary of ways to keep your team’s gatherings fruitful.

Response to Stephen Abram on Social Networking sites and Libraries

Demi-god of internet information management Stephen Abram‘s latest monthly e-letter questions what makes social networking sites  site “sticky”, encouraging return visits, and why prods us to wonder why users “willingly create and share…without financial and assessment award”.  Danah Boyd’s presentation to the AAAS covered these questions: youths engage in these social networking sites for interaction with their peers in unmediated space.  These environments are arenas in which popularity contests are fought, norms of interaction are enculturated, individuals negotiate the terms of their identity.  By their nature, then, they are successful because they are not institutionalized in adult communication technology practices.

Christopher Harris is right to speak against Facebook/MySpace bans and instead suggest means of working them into lesson plans.  But libraries go too far when they try to insert themselves into these areas.  Librarians having pages, showing themselves as fun/interesting/interested/approachable, real people with lives outside of meatspace – great.  Advertising library services is an incursion into private teen space.

Abram raises excellent questions regarding learning from these social networking environments to leverage learning opportunities and create educational environments ‘where kids are at’.  I agree that certain aspects of the educational system could be changed to raise students’ success rates, and that SN sites are a wise place to seek gleanings.  As he points out, “Learning is essentially a social activity….skills and competencies in the greater context of society. What are
these Web environments doing right with respect to institutionalizing social networks?”  Instructors of distance education courses already utilize synchrnous and asynchronous ICT’s to link disparate elements of a group, as do far-spread colleagues and friends.  What they all share  with Facebook and MySpace is a reward to the user that is meaningful to them.  (Haven’t we all received something we had no desire/use for, something even beyond the boundaries of a Gifticus present?  To what degree to would that inspire you to continue a particular behaviour?  Right.  Zilch.)

There are a multiplicity of communication gaps, not just generational.  They exist between various levels of our human societies, between groups of different languages, income levels, geographic areas, and career- or work-related fields.  This isn’t new.  The way they manifest may be changing, but their nature is unchanged.  As Librarians, keeping abreast of developments in ICT’s and questioning their applicability to our profession can help us respond to the societal shifts that threaten to widen these gaps.  For example, I recommend checking out Scratch, a “programming environment and toolkit [that] lets kids make games, animated stories, interactive art, and share with others on the Net.”  Harris is probably using it in his classroom right now.

Vatican Library closure

Closed for renovations until 2010, the Vatican Library‘s priceless books will not be directly accessible for research. Here are some extracts from the BCC report on technology in place there that tickled me.

“…the Vatican Library is in the vanguard of digital technology. Microchips have already been installed inside some valuable books, which tell librarians if a book is missing from its regular stack.”

And on the obverse side of the page, keeping in mind that I’ve just finished weeding outdated transparencies from our stacks:
“…stacks of old card indexes still fill one of the reading rooms when the library catalogue has been transferred to a digital database.

‘We shall never destroy them because scholars often prefer to use the old library cards, and they are a permanent record which we can always use to check possible mistakes in the database,’ Mr Piazzoni explained.”

inside the Vatican Library

Text-chat vs Voice in MMOGs: questioning identity

I’ve been riffing a bit about virtual presence lately; the identity construction it represents. I’ve recently created a Facebook account, re-engaged with my old Tribe account, and am mustering up the courage to join an online gaming environment. On top of that is the omnipresent responsibility to keep feeding this blog and thus expose at least part of my soft underbelly to critique. So concepts of self are prominent in my thoughts.  Time to go back to reading Sartre, de Beauvoir…

There’s another facet to online being, now, and that’s voice chat, which gives away more about an individual than text chat indicators.  Clive Thompson was playing in WoW and agreed to switch from text to voice chatting, and experienced a relational shift with his fellow gamer as a result.  Thompson reflects on the incursion of voice chats in MMOGs:
“Ultimately, this is about intimacy — how much of ourselves we’re willing to give away to strangers. Personally, I enjoy being able to construct identities carefully in text; that’s because I grew up with text as my main online mode. It’s possible that the impending generation of gamers will simply find voice chat more natural, in the same way that teenagers today happily blog about their personal lives and post pictures and videos of themselves. They regard personal revelation not as an incursion of privacy but a marker of authenticity.”

Hopefully, though, you’ve mastered your multiplexity of personas and can share some of your insight with me.

Completely Biased SN Recognition Awards 2007

MISU [Most Interesting Sign-up]:  Second Life.  Becoming a resident entails selecting a last name from a provided list.  How about that:  Vonnegut’s Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain was on to something.

IFF  [Instant Friend Factor]: 
Facebook.  Invitations from fun folk I actually know were waiting for me when I signed up.  MySpace takes a second for creator and autofriend Tom.

Tom’s profile serves as a behavioural model for those new to the SN, and reading “Tom’s Friends [sic] Comments” gives one access to users’ shared behaviours.  He’s fairly good-looking, so pouty-faced young females post flirts frequently.  There are also comments like this morning’s from Dezz Da Sh!zz:

” saw you in cosmo girl mag yesterday =P  i like how they said your display pic is the mona lisa of mysapce so true! cant belive how famous you are,i trully love this site,im addicted,ive made new friends in my area cause of you,you odnt know how happy i am!”

and this from **2 Tha World Ur 1 Person,But To Me Ur The World**:  “hey tom….myspace has really effected my life, i found the love of my life on here, i fell in love with the girl of my dreams because of you….if it wasnt for myspace, we woulda never met….so i just wanna thank you for creating this website and helping me find the girl that im going to spend the rest of my life with..”

FAF [Friend Addition Factor]:  Facebook.  The greatest online accumulation of people I want to be in touch with since Tribe.

GCS  [Group/Community Selection]:  Orkut.  Finding new communities/interest groups was very easy.  [Should I be surprised that a Google  product has great search functionality?]  Facebook takes second for its feed of friends’ actions, including their sign-up to new groups.

LaF [Look and Feel]:  Second Life.  It’s sooo bee-yoo-ti-ful.  MySpace should come second for its HTML, but I’m more interested in staying in touch than getting my page dressed to impress.  Next highest honours go to Facebook instead.

WPI [Worst Public Image]:  MySpace.

MySpace has weathered a lot of bad press in the media; adults concerned for the safety of children in a space where adults can prey upon them have well-publicized their fears, crusades, and sometimes the confirmation that a tragedy has befallen.  Yet Danah Boyd opines online environments are are crucial for youths as they offer “youth space”, a place where youths can gain experience with “popularity dynamics”.  Public spaces enabling youth interaction “provide the framework for building cultural knowledge.”  Boyd says those not familiar with the workings of social networking programs like Facebook are wrong to be dismissive, as “popularity dynamics because [are] how we all learned the rules of social life, how we learned about status, respect, gossip and trust.”

L8R [Don’t Look for Me Here]:  MySpace.  Too many artfully-posed shots of teens seeking sexual recognition (at least) from peers.  I feel creepy here.  Online sex and sexual interactions happen – great, keep unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STD’s down, learn how to socially interact gracefully.  Moving about in Facebook was just too reminisent of being the straight female who wandered into the “blackout room” at a gay bar.  What goes on in there?  Things that should remain known only to those whom are meant to be there.

And the most coveted of all the Completely Biased SN Recognition Awards, the lovable “Artie”:

RT [Rocket to the Top]:  Facebook, with its unfair advantage of having been created for my demographic, is my number one pick for social networking site.

Social Networking: CBC report on the new Internet phenom

A quote from early CBC coverage on the Internet likened its rapid growth to that of an embryonic brain. It’s a fascinating report that touches upon many big issues of social networking: behaviour of the anonymous; the ameliorating effect of group environments on anonymous behaviour; posting of “sensitive” information with possible ethical or legal ramifications [here, the leaking of manslaughter trial details]; responsive legislation for controlling Internet use and access to information.

Here follows the report. See an almost youthful-looking Peter Mansbridge! I came across the link in the official Second Life blog while investigating the environment and trying to figure out what I can do in there. This particular blog entry, I, for one, welcome our new avatar overlords is by Torley Linden, Project Manager.