Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teaching in virtual space: An interactive session demonstrating Second Life simulation for haemorrhage management (Ascilite, 2009)

This was a presentation given at the Ascilite conference in 2009, hosted in Auckland, NZ.

Michelle Honey, Scott Diener, Kelley Connor, Max Veltman, and David Bodily began by introducing the ‘virtual’ presenters who were present in Second Life, and then gave an overview of what they were planning to present. It was interesting that while they were using cutting edge virtual world technology, they had the plan on a piece of paper which was placed under a document camera, and which was almost impossible to read! What does this suggest about the use of technologies here…?

Beginning with learning outcomes, the presenters then articulated some of the strategies they applied (such as ethics – the subject was not an exam subject, just in case it was not effective).

Once something is built in Second Life (SL) it is pretty easy to modify and add to it. This particular project was an international, collaborative effort and is an open environment where people are invited to come in, and can ‘take away’ the simulation to install it on another island should they wish to.

It was interesting to bring in presenters through SL although there were issues with feedback to begin with, and obvious relief that the technology was working ☺. The time lag was a little difficult to begin with, but was fine once the presenter got going, although the sound broke up a little bit. It was odd to listen to someone presenting and watch the avatars on the screen, shuffling around, looking ‘awkward’ apparently with nothing to do. It’s almost as if the visual was beside the point, and brought home again how much we rely on visual cues, or meaningful visual input while listening.

There was some discussion about the issues of collaborating internationally, where it is not possible to bump into each other in the hallway for a quick chat. However, they did use the Second Life environment to meet, and get a sense of each other. Several of the developers have not met except through SL.

It was fascinating to hear about some of the limitations, or specific requirements of the environment such as requiring a lot of space in the ‘patient room’ so that the avatars had plenty of space to move around without “jumping all over each other”, and enough room to move the ‘cameras’ around. In the future, they are also going to ask students to set up an avatar with their first name and middle initial rather than pseudonyms to avoid confusion etc..

In NZ there were broadband issues, and it was not easy for students at home even if they had broadband. Scaffolding was provided for students to set up via multimedia. Also, they had a ‘sandpit’ room for students to go an try out the environment so that once they got involved in the simulation it was about the learning, rather than trying to figure out SL.

The highlight of the session was a demonstration of the simulation, although the sound was awful with a lot of feedback, mainly because of the strange set up of ‘presenting’ the simulation. It was strangely compelling to watch the simulation, which was set up as a role play with the new mother, father, and nurse played by the presenters. It was almost as if the drama of the simulation drew us in, although the fact that when, for example, a couple of the physical checks were underway, the avatars do not actually ‘touch’. The debrief at the end (‘attended’ by other members of the ASCILITE conference) was a great way of showing the guided reflection process that learners would experience having been part of the role play. After the debrief, if things need to be reinforced, the students can go through the scenario again.

In the situation with real students, students worked in threes, as it was hoped that there would be some teamwork. Students’ feedback to the simulations resulted in, for example, the development of the sandpit room where they could work out what they could and couldn’t do in the SL environment. The students were overwhelmingly positive about the simulations. Being able to participate from home was seen as a real benefit. Also, students really like the microphone rather than the text chat facility, which they found frustrating, and it also interfered with the feeling of realism – which was vital for the simulation to work. I wonder also if it because learners were having to use dual channel processing (visual input as well as written and spoken words) which interfered with the problem solving capability? Students were really enthusiastic, and often would not want to leave, and would want to stay in SL to discuss things further, and came up with ideas for other simulations.

Another take on this presentation written by the SLENZ team can be accessed by clicking HERE.

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Karen Day and Stewart Wells - Adapting social media as a scaffolding tool for teaching health informatics (Ascilite 2009)

This presentation was given at the Ascilite conference 2009 hosted in Auckland, NZ. The full paper can be accessed by clicking HERE.

This presentation focussed on the principles of how information is managed in health care, and included a very brief overview of the necessity for scaffolded learning. The presenter discussed the ‘digitally minded’ nature of students entering the programme, but the difficulty of getting students to talk.

A survey indicated that 100% of students owned a mobile phone, 81% used all their fingers to type, and only 29% had done a basic course in computer science.

One of the strategies they used was discussion forums with very specific instructions, and expectations. A group activity involved selecting an article; one student had to summarise the article, another to review the article positively, the final negatively. The students had a marking rubric to access. They then had to comment on other postings. Average grade was between 3 and 5. The students fed back that “Discussion were really good prep 4 exams. 1) made sure that I started early, didn’t procrastinate, 2) helped to know that you were (or weren’t) on the right track. Tutors made ongoing formative feedback throughout the process. One risk was cheating: “Online discussions became sort of an easy way to put together assignments. Many would copy and paste under heading from discussion and not sure if this is a good or bad thing.” Tutors used Turnitin, and copy/pasted discussions to see if students were copying someone else’s, or their own, work.

The following year the group decided to use, and opened the discussion up in the global world. Students were asked to contribute to the forum, with a max of 150 words, and have a reference. The forum was open to all comers, and included responses from, for example, a CIO. It was a dynamic, interactive discussion. One drawback of the software was that they could not comment directly to any response.

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ICTs in the daily lives of Australian students – Matthew Riddle (ASCILITE); 9th Dec 2009

This presentation was given at the Ascilite conference 2009 hosted in Auckland, NZ.

Matt Riddle started by giving a bit of background to the study (which was funded by Blackboard). He advised he used the ‘day experience method’, which followed the use of technology in students’ daily lives. Students were given a kit which they used via their own mobile phones. The idea was to build up a picture of students’ lives – a day in the life of…as opposed to the institution expectations of what a student’s life actually comprises. Data included photos, notebooks, videos etc.

To the question ‘what are you using?’ – the use of technologies and techniques was very broad – pen and paper (53%), and face-to-face (38%) – only 17% mentioned laptops, but 100% said that they had their mobile phones with them at all times. One example…a student using a laptop in the bookshop to search for an item. Power points were mentioned as an issue where people wanted to use their laptops but could not as their battery would run out, and this could be a reason that they didn’t use as much technology as they might otherwise do so. Comfort (e.g. people smoking in non-smoking zones where there is wireless, meaning that students would go home to study). Some students were reluctant to bring laptops on campus, in part because the wireless coverage was too restricted – in coverage, and they could only access the intranet rather than the internet. The policy has since changed, and students can access the wider internet, but the physical coverage has remained the same.

Taking notes

Image by hazelowendmc via Flickr

Feelings were mainly positive with ICTs (64%), with only 14% feeling frustrated. In summary, students are using technologies throughout their day and everywhere, on campus, in transit, at work at home. Institutions need to a better job in providing comfortable spaces – with power - in which to study.

Not really surprising results…and perhaps suggesting that the reason tertiary education institutions are not seeing more ubiquitous wireless mobile device use around campus is practical rather than philosophical.

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