Who hasn’t enjoyed sitting down with a good book in a sunny corner with a cat purring at your feet? In all honesty, a lot of people. That image is a stereo type concerning “sitting down with a good book” However when we think about literacy and learning the first thing that often comes to mind is reading. The next image is upright in a hard back chair, at a desk with pencil and paper writing words, checking off boxes, erasing numbers and of course, watching the clock waiting for something more engaging to come along when the bell rings. This is an image of what many consider “learning” With emerging technologies however learning can be speaking a foreign language with some one in Spain, or actively participating in a robotics experiment hundreds of miles away through remote programing and video. The simple act of writing a story can be adding images, sound, video, and animation to truly bring it to life and if desired share it with any audience one prefers. The first images I mentioned fills me with a bit of nostalgia and also a bit of grimace, but with emerging technologies, the potential is exciting and engaging. That is how learning should always be. With technology we can make that happen as parents and educators, for our children and even for our employees.
I have been working with technologies of recent I never intended to work with, due to my own stereotype of these platforms. These are Kitely and Second Life. I considered these “adult” platforms for fantasy role play and in being as such assumed that these were inappropriate tools for creating serious and safe learning environments. I am more comfortable with Kitely after being in the environment for awhile and hope to learn more concerning how to create safe virtual areas as I am now learning how this platform can be used as a motivational learning tool for youth. I have not yet explored second life due to time constraints but may do so in the future.I still have my concerns, much like the same concerns I have for gaming scenarios that are based on role playing in an immersed environment. That concern is the possibility of becoming absorbed in the environment for long periods of time in nonproductive actions where the learning is not learning but simply participating in activities with no long term benefits.
I am very pleased to be working with a group of colleagues during this exploration. It is helpful to see that others share my same concerns and also share the optimism of the potential these platforms might bring. When working with others we are more motivated to explore and less intimidated by our own thoughts and doubts. An example of this was my initial concern that I would be seen as technologically illiterate or antiquated just because I did not have prior experience in the use of avatars and gaming. It is intimidating to bring up security and ethical boundary concerns when most people one might find in these environments are there to enjoy the role play and fantasy aspect rather than seek to use the tool for educational means.
Being dual motivated to create learning environments for children, my own included, educate and explore for home school support networks, and distance education for adults, I also have to consider the appropriate application for employee education through e-learning. The virtual avatar platform may be a possible solution to creating a culture within the organization, however it is unlikely to be embraced. To introduce this concept I can see Kitely being used as a “fun” gathering meeting place to educate the corporations distance educators and even at some point for managerial meetings. I do not see the platform being used at this time for initial employee training. It is something that may be more developed in the future as technology continues to advance. In as little as five years everything I am writing now may in fact be antiquated.