Category Archives: Learning

Urban Legends in Education

A recent article in Educational Psychologist sets out to debunk three urban legends in education: Digital Natives, Learning Styles and Self-Educators. This takes me back to the early days of this blog – which was started in no small part because I had a bad feeling about the idea of ‘Digital Natives’ as presented by Marc Prensky and similar ideas from others.

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Festival of Dangerous Ideas

I’m not sure how many dangerous ideas there will be (some?), but the Festival of Dangerous Ideas will be taking place around Scotland in June.

From the Festival web-site:

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible!

It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

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Badges, Badges, Badges

I have to admit I have some degree of cynicism regarding some of the badge schemes that are out there – I’m waiting to be convinced that something like the Mozilla OpenBadges can service as an effective form of certification – allowing users to effectively advertise their skills, knowledge and abilities with the badges or to be useful to employers when trying to choose employees or contractors. Compared to a portfolio of work, a reference or an accredited certification scheme, the advantages of badges is somewhat lost on me.

Where badges have long been successful is at motivation – particularly for children. Hence the badge schemes of boy scouts and girl guides. A nice current example is that the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles are planning a badge on Game Development. Which led me to wondering if there was something OpenBadges like more aimed at kids – with a good range of technology activities. I’m glad to say there is, and the activities look great and very varied…

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Tapped-In is closing

Tapped-In is probably the longest running, still active, virtual world for educators (If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments!), but it has announced that it will be closing on Friday 15th of March. So now is your last chance to see this world before it disappears… (unless, of course, a mysterious benefactor steps in with money to keep it running)

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Learning about Learning Design and MOOCs

Two upcoming MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses, in case there are folk still not sure what the acronym is for!) that I have signed up for – though whether I’ll be able to complete them I honestly don’t know yet. It is no secret that my blogging, virtual worlds, and research activity have all slowed down over the last year or so – as I’ve had to put increasing amounts of time into my day job of lecturing. But with some luck I’ll be able to get stuck into these two…

Starting soon, will be the Open University’s Open Learning Design Studio MOOC. The course aims are fourfold:

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What do you call a mini-MOOC?

Already covered: A MOOC is a Massive(ly) Open Online Course – whether using traditional or more connectionist models of learning and instruction.

But what do you call a mini-MOOC? Where the numbers are not massive? This summer, and for the second time, I’m coordinating a summer UNversity – which is kind of like a regular university course, but without lectures, labs, class times, set coursework, syllabus, grades or set content. But otherwise, just like a regular university course.

There are rules though:

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Alternate Reality Games, Massive Online Open Courses and Collective Intelligence

George Siemens has a nice set of slides up on MOOC as a new educative practice which do a very good job of capturing the differences between MOOC and the free online courses now offered by the likes of Coursera (the new home of the Stanford free online courses, plus some from other partner universities), Udacity and MITx. Where that latter are offering free online access to a very traditional form of education (based on lectures and learning a set content syllabus), MOOC are quite different. As George states in the introduction to each of his MOOC courses:

“the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person”

MOOC use a far more distributed model of learning and interaction, where most of the content is itself generated by the students as they share their learning.

Outside of education, I would say that the closest thing we have to MOOCs are probably Alternate Reality Games – which have been posited as a form of Collective Intelligence. Some (not all) MMO games also require very large scale collaboration (Eve Online is the one that springs to mind).

I was talking about Massively Collaborative systems in my Collaborative Virtual Environments class this week, and seeing this link between MOOC and ARG, I appended some of George’s slides (properly acknowledged of course) to the existing slides on ARG as collective intelligence (Why I love bees: ARG and Collective Intelligence, and below).

I would also say that while I totally agree with George on the key differences between MOOC and the other offerings, and that MOOC are more interesting to think about because they are a genuine attempt to do something different in a different way, I should say that I don’t feel that MOOC threaten the role of teaching universities nearly as much as the likes of Udacity.

Complete free online course text books

I have OLDaily to thank for discovering this excellent resource… are building a library of high-quality free online texts for a wide range of university courses. These all follow US based curricula outlines, but of course most will be equally useful anywhere in the world. The courses are arranged and grouped according to degree subject areas. So, for example, substantial progress has been made towards a complete set of texts for Computer Science degree level education.

There is also a current text-book writing competition, the Open Textbook Challenge, with prizes of $20,000 for accepted texts – and a number of job vacancies. I’d be very tempted to apply other than the requirement to attend monthly meetings in Washington D.C. (a big commute from Scotland!)

Cypris Chat at the Global Education Conference

I’ll be in Edinburgh when his online session is on, but I know Mike will be great (he always is!)- so I just have to share the following post from Mike McKay (ProfessorMike Merryman if you know him from SL):

**Please Twit, share, post, or 1+ the following to help me promote virtual world language learning. Thank you so much! On with the show!**

I will be presenting at a fairly major international online conference next week and thought I would pass on this information to you. Many of you are aware I have been researching ways to use virtual worlds like Second Life for language learning. In the past few years I have grown my community, Cypris Chat (, to over 500 active members from more than 40 countries. The conference I will be presenting at is focused on global awareness and education. I think it will be very exciting to show how a community like Cypris Chat has brought the world together with one main goal in mind, to learn or teach English. I hope this presentation will help promote this fantastic medium for educating students.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 15th from 10:00pm to 11:00pm JST – 1:00pm – 2:00pm GMT

WHERE: Blackboard Collaborate link will be provided here on the 15th: Please find my presentation in your time zone (Cypris Chat) I will be on Facebook during the presentation. Cypris Chat members can help you on our Facebook group page and chat channel here:

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Tranforming Assessment

The new season of online presentations on Transforming Assessment continues on the 7th of September with a presentation on “Stealth assessment: embedded evidence-based assessment in games” from Valerie Shute

During gameplay, students naturally produce rich sequences of actions while performing complex tasks, drawing on a variety of competencies. Evidence needed to assess the competencies is thus provided by the players’ interactions with the game itself (i.e., the processes of play), which can be contrasted with the end product(s) of an activity—the norm in educational environments.

This presentation will describe the design and development of evidence-based assessments (embedded in a game) to measure 21st Century competencies. When embedded assessments are so seamlessly woven into the fabric of the learning environment that they’re invisible, called ‘stealth assessment’ (Shute, 2011; Shute, Ventura, Bauer, & Zapata-Rivera, 2009). Stealth assessments within games provide a way to monitor a player’s current level on valued competencies. That information can then be used as the basis for support, such as adjusting the difficulty level of challenges or providing timely feedback. One to two examples of the approach will be provided, time permitting.

Audience members are encouraged to participate and contribute.

More details, including link to local times for your time zone from the Transforming Assessment site: