Monthly Archives: December 2006

Henry Jenkins in Second Life

Henry Jenkins recently visited the Teen Second Life, a visit organised by Global Kids and the New Media Consortium. A review of the meeting is up on the NMC blog here. The review includes a number of quotes, including:

…the educational value is in being able to reinvent the world. And that’s a powerful educational thing. it’s about being able to bring together people from many different spaces and have them co-exist together and have a kind of communication that’s possible through distance learning… in a much more embodied way.

It’s what you do in Second Life that’s educational. There’s nothing intrinsically educational about Second Life. It’s certainly educational to have a world where most of the content is generated by the users– the opportunity to program and build stuff in Second Life is pretty awesome. Again, it’s what you do with it — technologies don’t have an inevitable consequence; it’s based on the choices we make on the ground, within our own societies, for how we use these technologies.

Well said.

The 1% rule

Meant to blog this earlier, but forgot. The 1% rule (well, its more of an observation and rough generalisation, but everyone calls it a rule, so its a rule!) holds that for 100 online users, 1% are content creators, 9% are commentator and the rest are consumers. You can read a Guardian article on it here. There has also been a little published research which generally supports this notion, as mentioned here.

Basic take home point: Digital natives are not necessarily all uploading fantastic user-generated content onto YouTube. Most might not be uploading very much at all.

Is Second Life a Teaching Tool? Part 2

Graham Atwell doesn’t think too much of SL‘s current capability for supporting educational work. Sean Fitzgerald disagrees with many of his points.

Indeed, when Graham concludes

“But the learners must be able not just to select form a selection on Linden sanctioned appearances and names but to really shape and develop their own environment and to collaborate in the development of its social norms and social environments.”

then he really has missed the point that it really is possible to shape and develop the environment. He also spectacularly underestimates the capability of the free building tools included in SL. On the names he may have a point – albeit a minor one.

Learning through play in Scottish schools

I have mentioned the role of play in learning previously. I’m happy to report that my local council is one of those leading the introduction of ‘learning through play’ into the primary school curriculum in Scotland. This is reported by the BBC today:

Schools will still use traditional methods when necessary to teach pupils to read, write and count.
But the Scottish Executive also wants teachers to use play-based techniques.
It means drama, music, art, sand and water will replace worksheets or teaching from the blackboard.

The focus currently is on the first year in school (post nursery/ kindergarten), but I think many of the ideas continue to have value as children grow older.

Online and DVD replaces broadcast for OU

Times they are a changing… The Open University will no longer broadcast its course related programmes (though it will still contribute to BBC programmes). Instead, videos will be downloadable or distributed by DVD by mail. This end-of-an-era news courtesy of the BBC.

For overseas readers, this might not seem like a big deal, but the OU broadcasts are something of an institution in the UK. Hard to imagine life without them!

Schome is not school and not home

Peter Twining of the Open University sent this link appended to an email. Schome is not school, not home. The grand concept is to provide means for education in the information age – grandly put on the home page thus:

Schome is going to be a new form of educational system designed to overcome the problems within current education systems in order to meet the needs of society and individuals in the 21st century.

They have an island in Second Life, a wiki and a forum already set up. The wiki looks like it already has a lot of information there on a wide range of different educational systems and approaches. Some of the wiki entries are clearly placeholders, but there is a LOT of information and there are many citations for further reading. Worth a look if you have a few hours to spare!


Noticed a new European Commission supported online journal on e-learning, elearningpapers. First issue is online now, and includes one paper that I think is relevant to the use of Second Life in education – although it isn’t about SL at all – “User-defined content in a constructivist learning environment” by Johnson and Dyer.

I have not yet had a chance to read the whole paper, but the following para from the abstract explains it quite well:

This research argues that … user-generated content has an important part to play in defining new pedagogical approaches to learning. Where the social constructs of community build confidence and self-esteem, individuals are able to take charge of their own learning and develop a sense of ownership through “community pull”.

Conferences, conferences, conferences

Whole bunch of call for papers. I hope to submit to at least some of these. Fingers crossed.

The Higher Education Academy – Information and Computer Sciences subject group 8th Annual Conference, Tuesday 28th to Thursday 30th August 2007, at  the University of Southampton. Some of the key topics for the 2007 Conference are Emerging Technologies,  Outreach and Widening Participation and Ethics and Social Responsibility. Deadline 16th April 2007.

The Association for Learning Technology has its 14th conference, ALT-C 2007, in Nottingham, 4-6 September. Deadline for papers 14th Feb.

Blended Learning 2007 is also backed by the HEA, and takes place at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield on Thurs 14th June. Deadline for submissions is the 9th of Feb.

XNA Game Studio Express

At Paisley we’re taking a close look at Microsoft’s XNA. Free by itself, but with the annual subscription-based Creator’s Club, it’s possible to develop games which will run on the XBox 360. Nevermind that that process of creating games is largely unchanged, there is something that student’s find appealing in writing software that runs on a console.

Garage Games’ Torque X game engine is also launched to further simplify game creation.

The key benefit of XNA is it drastically simplifies development compared to using DirectX. Most colleges teach OpenGL over DirectX for various reasons – ease of use for learner programmers being a big one. I can see this tempting many more colleges to consider the Microsoft alternative.