Category Archives: Technology

Bye Bye ICT… Hello CS

As covered on every news site (e.g. BBC) and every blog everywhere… schools in England will be dropping ICT (Information & Communication Technology, or ‘How to use office software and send email’ as it was generally taught) and introducing Computer Science – including programming and software development – in its place. It seems that even Michael Gove can get things right sometimes.

Of course, software development (including game development) is already part of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence – but the greater challenge comes with developing teacher skills and knowledge and getting the technology in place to support the curriculum. According the Ian Livingstone interview on Today, only 3 of 28,000 qualifying teachers in England in 2010 had Computing Science degrees (seems a dubious statistic myself, not sure what the origin of the stat is), so there will be significant need to support and develop teacher expertise. If schools are merely given the option of including programming, then relatively few may benefit from what has been announced as a very major shake-up.

I’ll leave final words to Prof Steve Furber (who as one of the creators of the BBC Computer, was responsible for the introducing many British school children to programming in schools):

“We look forward to hearing more about how the government intends to support non-specialist teachers who make up the majority of the workforce in delivering an excellent ICT education without official guidance on lesson content,”

Are Virtual Worlds (still) Relevant in Education?

Sarah Smith-Robbins asks whether virtual worlds are (still) relevant in education in the current issue of eLearn.

Sarah identifies many of the reasons why VW have slid in popularity and hype. I think learning technologies (and the people interested in them) are still prone to hype and despondence -  augmented reality and gamification to name two of the more recent hype cycles. As the dust settles, there will still be people using VW in education – though unlikely as widely as the hype was leading us to believe.

Sarah’s article does a very good job of explaining some of the key reasons why the recent Second Life centric wave of hype burst – as virtual worlds re-emerge it will presumably be with less wild enthusiasm and a more pragmatic and realistic basis.

ARVEL SuperNews

A mixture of magazine, journal and blog, with a blend of irreverant, useful, bizarre and thought-provoking pieces, ARVEL SuperNews has arrived. Includes lists of upcoming games and virtual world conferences, lists of some current projects, book and film reviews and contributed articles by Jon Richter and Jeremy Kemp and others. By far the weirdest bit was the Dear Chris page… did Chris Dede really write that? Mind blowing. Worth a read for anyone interested in Game Based Learning and Virtual Worlds – you are sure to find something of value inside.

Get your SuperNews here:

MIT follows Stanford: Certificates for external students

Now MIT will follow Stanford in offering certificates to external students who complete online courses based around free materials. Like Stanford the exact financial details are yet to be revealed – but students wanting certificates will be paying. More at the Chronicle, here. Off hand, this seems different to the AI-Class model which implies (but may change) that the class will be offered to institutions who then enroll their students and allow the credits to be used towards local degree awards.

Meanwhile, a quieter way that Stanford appear to be commercializing their free offering… by inviting top performers to submit CVs, which Stanford then forward to companies looking for talented employees. Recruitment agencies generally make their money when they provide CVs of people who end up being hired – and here Stanford might make a small, but no doubt useful, pot of cash based on their free offering.

I think few UK universities seem to be institutionally aware of what is going on here – most are still focussing primarily on the campus based student (where the campus may not actually be in the UK…) and trying to get the maximum in fees for students attending courses. Meanwhile the US based private universities are looking at the margins available on extending offerings to massive numbers home based students at low individual costs, exploiting systems that remove much of the costs associated with teaching and supporting those students. Automate the testing and evaluation and support self-organising study groups, removing the burden on the tutor altogether.

I think universities are going to have to face this head on, acknowledge what is going on and work out exactly what their strategy is to survive the next few decades: When education is free, and certification costs are marginal, what are people getting for their money when they attend university? But I don’t currently see this happening – at least not in the UK, where everyone is too distracted over current issues surrounding fees.

But perhaps the most interesting point about the MIT offering is at the very end of the Chronicle’s article:

The core idea of OpenCourseWare—free online content—spread far beyond MIT. The institute hopes this project will also catch on elsewhere. To help make that happen, it will release the MITx open-learning software at no charge, so other educational institutions can adopt it.

Depending on what the software does, and how adaptable it is, other universities will be able to follow suit – but few have the MIT brand to attract students.

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:

Using Web 2.0 Tools to Develop and Support a Multi-Campus Class

I was at the JISC RSC Scotland SW Future Focus event on Friday. There were some great sessions during the day – Jane Hart gave the opening keynote, with a very motivational (and fun) afternoon keynote from Gavin Oates of Tree of Knowledge. In between I attended a couple of sessions related to games and 3D technologies in education: Dr Vassilis Charissis 3D training applications for surgeons and medics, and Keith Quinn’s demonstration of the use of the PSP Second Sight application to develop augmented distance learning training packs for Glasgow City Council. More details on these and other talks in the full programme.

The event closed off with an awards ceremony awarding prizes to some of the institutions and individuals who submitted case studies to “Best of the West” – a collection of examples of effective and innovative practice, to help share knowledge and expertise across the region.  There are about 50 of these, and they are well worth a browse – covering a wide range of tools and technologies across a range of disciplines in FE and HE. My own case study – Using Web 2.0 Tools to Develop and Support a Multi-Campus Class – has a bit of everything bar the kitchen sink, as I used a bunch of different resources and technologies to allow me to develop new materials for a multi-campus class with limited time. The class finished after writing up the case study, and I’m pleased that it received some of the most favourable feedback I’ve ever had from students. Re-writing the module as it was being taught was undeniably hard work – but the technologies and resources used both made it easier and made it better than it would have been otherwise.

On Friday I was extremely surprised to find out that my case study was one of six shortlisted in the Teaching and Learning category of the awards – and somewhat taken aback when I was awarded a Highly Commended prize. As you can see by the breadth of my smile here.


Computer Games and Instruction

Nothing for ages, then it all happens at once…

My short piece for EDUCAUSE Review “Second Life is Dead. Long Live Second Life?” is now online. I’ve had a few emails from different folk, generally in agreement. No hate mail yet :-)

In the same week, I learned that Computer Games and Instruction, edited by Sigmund Tobias and JD Fletcher, is now available. I co-wrote a chapter in this book with Jon Richter on Multi-User Games and Learning – trying to encapsulate this broad, broad area in a single chapter, quite a challenge. The book also contains chapters by James Paul Gee, Chris Dede and Kurt Squire amongst others – so we are in very good company. I’m looking forward to receiving my own copy, but for now I have to settle for scanning the pages available via the Google-books preview (available from the book page, here)

Table of contents below.

Continue reading

Article: Virtual Worlds, Standards & Interoperability

New paper just published… sadly not free to view. Not even sure if I get pre-prints to distribute :-/

Livingstone, D., & Hollins, P. (2010). Virtual Worlds, Standards and Interoperability. International Journal of IT Standards and Standardization Research, 8(2), 45-59. doi:10.4018/jitsr.2010070104

It is well documented that virtual worlds today are applied in both educational and commercial teaching and learning contexts. Where virtual worlds were once the reserve of entertainment, they have now taken on a variety of roles as platforms for business meetings, simulation, and training and education. In this context, the integration and interoperability with both online and offline resources and technologies is important. In this paper, the authors review progress toward increased integration and interoperability from the first virtual world games to today’s virtual world platforms. This paper highlights opportunities that will arise from further improvements in the ability to create virtual world platforms, content and activities that are truly interoperable, as well as more significant challenges along the way.

Open Access Again

Peter Miller reminds us that it’s Open Access week again, and shares instructions in a nice and brief tutorial that will get you set up with OpenSim on a USB stick and loading and saving sim archive OAR files. Very handy. Peter also points out usefully that OAR has some limitations – notably that it does not preserve (for now at least) information on who actually created the objects in the archive. I guess that that is one area where OAR (and OpenSim itself) could be improved – with the ability for objects & entire sims to preserve real IDs for creators, and attached licenses.

My own contributions for Open Access this year are little to do with virtual worlds – but over on I’ve been posting tutorials, labs and comments on 3D game development with OpenGL.