Connectivism, Siemens, and teaching in 3D Enviroments

This week I was struck by the Siemens’ article Connectivism: Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Siemens states, ‘Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning. Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Technology is altering our brains => the tools we use define and shape our thinking.” I believe Siemens (p.8) makes an excellent point in relating learning theories and the impact of technology and new sciences => chaos and networks.

Again, I am looking at what this means in relation to teaching ESL and ELA in Virtual 3 D environments. My predisposition is the belief that learning is about to enter the “chaos and network” realm. Furthermore, the concept of “unbundling” colleges and universities might put much of learning online or into 3D environments, which is more aligned to hybrid constructivist – chaos approach where “learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences.”

VW’s strengths as learning platforms for English language teaching and training lie in their multinational, multiethnic, and multilingual set-up. “The organization and the individual are both learning organisms.” VW’s essentially are sandboxes for highly immersive experiential learning where almost any conceivable educational scenario can be simulated and carried out. In-World students often identify strongly with their alter-ego avatar. Avatars can manipulate and use objects while socially networking in a 3D environment. With an alter ego buffering the self-conscious hurdle of fluency practice participants are more likely to speak to peers and mentors, join or form groups to meet like-minded persons, seek out casual conversations and enjoy educative congregating such as coffee house socializing, fire-pit talks or rezzing in to meet new group members for hang-outs.

Hodges notes:

Conversations depend on action-perception systems operating in dialogical arrays to orient us to the ecosystem and to identify its goods, and the directions in which we might go to realize them. Language, thus rendered, is a values-realizing activity, one that allows us to engage in the moral tasks of caring for others, ourselves, and the ecosystem within which we all live. (Hodges 2007b, p. 602)

Again this points to  networks, an interconnected world and “decision-making itself [as] a learning process” (Siemens p.5)

Once participants become comfortable in their virtual learning environment, they experience VWs as places that enable both native and non-native interaction with a potential for community building and Virtual World –> Real World (RW) carryover. Particularly favored features are instantaneous virtual traveling (teleporting) to a variety of locations on SL, the existence of support groups and forums for formal and informal learning, all of which enable L2 language acquisition through innovative experiences.

L2 is furthered not only through voice communication and interacting with a broad range of accents, pronunciation, and language usage but also through lectures, presentations, RL-like lessons, team teaching, collaborative projects, quests, storytelling, games, and roleplaying. Other favorite activities include holodecks with instant simulations focusing on situation-based learning, which potentially leads to higher retention due to word, image, action and experience association. Speed writing is inadvertently practiced through in-world blogging, twittering such as BlogHUD and SLTweets with choices of private versus public text. VW’s encourage volunteerism with eagerness to participate and connect to RW supplemental experiences such as web 2.0, are opportunities for introspection, self-examination, observation of others, and the ability to log out at any time => self-organized, controlled experience.
In VW’s there is a new orientation and (de)evolution of the teacher status as hierarchy has no place in VW, all are learners. The teacher’s role becomes that of a “facilitator” of both content and process. In the content area tasks, subjects, problems are being addressed while in the process area it is the how which is being addressed. Procedures, format, tools, style of interaction and group climate play a significant role in enabling students to interact and reach their fullest potential. So facilitator-teachers essentially become guides or discussion leaders. The process of facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins. A facilitator’s job is to get others to assume responsibility and take the lead. I believe this reaffirms “Chaos,” as the “cryptic form of order” – the connection of everything to everything section in Siemens Alternative Theory part (p. 4)

Skepticism for professional ESL teachers centers around possible gung-ho adoptions of lessons, an undefined SL learning curve due to a lack of clear objectives since most of the learning arises from self-determined experiences.Other issues center around confidentiality (recording chat), certified vs. non-certified teachers who have various linguistic backgrounds, reliability, and other collaboration difficulties, plus no apparent dominant standard such as American, British or ‘Globlish.’ In his article “Rethinking Language Learning: Virtual Worlds as a Catalyst for Change,” Dongping Zheng of University of Hawaii cautions “that many educators simply apply their classroom approaches in the virtual space, treating the environment merely as input.”

In my interpretation of this quote, this means that ESL teachers try to transfer their Behaviorist or Cognitive teaching approaches into the Chaos and Networking Reality – an unsuccessful approach which does not work in a 3D environment.

I believe that Virtual World – 3 D learning will one day become a standard tool in the 21st Century classroom, especially with the rise of 3D technology. However, there is a tendency in educators, particularly administrators, to look for a panacea. As virtual world technology strengthens, some will look to these virtual worlds with just such an eye. Sydney Papert and the predictions he made in Mindstorms asserts that we are “…indeed in the world of the future, a world where connectivity spawns creativity, where the ability to transcend barriers to communication and to spread seeds of growth and knowledge has been enhanced to a point almost beyond comprehension just thirty years ago.”

Virtlantis self portrait.PNG

Author: drcowinj

Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today,” determined Malcolm X at the O.A.A.U.’s [Organization of Afro-American Unity] founding forum at the Audubon Ballroom. (June 28, 1964). (X, n.d.) Dr. Jasmin Bey Cowin a Fulbright Scholar, SIT Graduate, completed the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP™) at Columbia University, Teachers College. Dr. Cowin served as the President of the Rotary Club of New York and Assistant Governor for New York State; long-term Chair of the Rotary United Nations International Breakfast meetings; and works as an Assistant Professor at Touro College, Graduate School of Education. Dr. Cowin has over twenty-five years of experience as an educator, tech innovator, entrepreneur, and institutional leader with a focus on equity and access to digital literacy and education in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Her extensive background in education, administration, not-for-profit leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and technology innovation provide her with unique skills and vertical networks locally and globally. Dr. Cowin participates fully in the larger world of TESOL academic discipline as elected Vice President and Chair-Elect for the New York State, NYS TESOL organization, for the 2021 conference. Ongoing research, expressed in scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge is demonstrated through publications, presentations, and participation in academic conferences, blogging, and other scholarly activities, including public performances and exhibitions at conferences and workshops. Of particular interest to her are The Blockchain of Things and its implications for Higher Education; Current Global Trends in TESOL; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English; E-learning; Micro and Macro-Methodologies in TESOL; E-Resources Discovery and Analysis; and Language Acquisition and the Oculus Rift in VR.

One thought on “Connectivism, Siemens, and teaching in 3D Enviroments”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: