Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eduverse in Second Life

Spent the day at the Business Exchange streaming the fascinating Virtual Web Symposium from the Balie in Amsterdam. The stream will be available on the web, and they will be producing a report on it.

I was sad to hear the contribution from the Educators Coop, a gated community in Second Life for elegible educators only. I think that the virtual world has the opportunity to be so much more than the real world, and that should include open access to education, and collaboration across professions and with people of no profession, many of whom have found their forte in the virtual world of Second Life. I think it will be a great shame if educators fence themselves off from the rest of SL.

I was interested in many of the segments, the virtual journey through the testes by Dr Danforth of Ohio State, the augmented reality of Georgia tech, and the learning technologies of NASA.

Two segments stood out above the others for me. One was the use of The Voice, a pair of glasses providing aural feedback to blind people, allowing them to navigate their environment and recognise objects. It was amazing, completely fascinating, and annoying that one of the questioners in the audience didn't seem to be paying attention to the information that had been provided.

The other, which preceded it, was the talk from Rhett Gayle from Colorado University.
Strangely enough we had been talking amongst ourselves earlier in the day and I introduced my fellows to the writing of John Taylor Gatto "What must an educated person know?" If you haven't read it I commend it to you. In short, the list, which comes from harvard Business School, is all about skills and hardly at all about knowledge.

Although it was briefly touched on in the course of the day, I think that the education industry has yet to recognise that education has to change. I think they could learn an enormous amount from home educators, although few of them would recognise that to be true. The difference between education and schooling was brought home by Rhett Gayle's anecdote about market a student's paper, where an A will make them feel good about themselves and an F very different, even when appended to the same piece of work.

I believe that the new media will very quickly change the nature of education and enable an individual education tailored to the child and their interests and abilities. I think that home educating parents have in many cses already made vast progress towards the aim of tailoring education to the child, and this is particularly true of unschooling parents like me.

My vision for the future of education is to have a virtual space with countless levels of information and training which can be freely accessed. I think people will quickly find their own level... you won't find people capable of degree level English pottering around the remedial English classes unless they are there to help others.

I think the virtual world could be so much richer, more interesting, more creative and imaginative, and more open than real world colleges and universities, and could gain as much from opening their doors as they ever can from closing them.

Professor Gayle talked of the way in which 70% of students admit to cheating in order to jump the hoops that are set in their way to decide whether they move onto the next stage. What I wonder is whether, if you removed all the tests, all the hoops, people would then be able to settle down to learning for learning's sake... attending lectures and studying subjects because they are interested in them and wanting to do them.

I thought the day was challenging and thought-provoking, enjoyable and inspiring, and I look forward to many more in the future.

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