Most of last week I was tied up with the NMC Symposium on Creativity, and specifically with the Studio Session "Opening Pandora's Box: Creating an immersive environment." You can read the course blog for a more day-by-day account from me, and the various people in the group.

Now I've had a bit of time and space to catch up on it, I've got a couple of thoughts I wish to blog.

We lost people along the way - this is perhaps inevitable. One or two stuck with us as long as possible, and struggled because they were very new to SL and we'd asked for people who were already familiar with building, making notecards etc. One or two gave up because the times were inconvenient - whilst I understand that, I have moderately little sympathy: I managed to be there at 3-5am to teach, I bet none of them found it that inconvenient! - and I also wonder two things:
  1. How readily would they change times to suit their students?
  2. Did they actually read the course materials, which indicated times and were available for 2 weeks before they could sign up?

Those hardy souls that stuck with us to the bitter end produced excellent environments, in limited time and with limited resources. An indication to me that, although some may not have liked the style of what we did, we did reach most of those who came, and they learnt from us. I didn't really doubt it, but it's still gratifying to see at the end of the day.

Of course, as anyone knows, the first few times you teach something you end up learning more about it. The need to articulate it, to answer questions and the like makes you learn it better. One person who didn't attend the course, but followed the blog commented to me that he was surprised at how well we coped with answering the massive range of questions - so we obviously did know our stuff pretty well.

What did we learn?
  • Desi summed up one lesson nicely on Pandora's Box- it's an easy trap for the teacher to assume that because they're immersed, their visitors will be.
  • There's a tension between the "Information wants to be free" and the "I need to give knowledge to my students" aspects. Immersive environments sit between them - they sit on the the side of "Information wants to be free" but they don't replace the teacher entirely. People should be able to learn from them without the teacher however.
  • I won't name names or details, but I saw one or two things where I said "no, missed the point" at various times. We're either lucky or brilliant, but so far we've managed to largely avoid these pitfalls. One thing that came out quite strongly, immersion runs very much parallel to engagement - not just in learning, but in activity. Learners need to be encouraged to DO in order to engage and in order to immerse themselves. Quizzes, scavenger hunts, taking photos, changing clothes, they're all good things to "do" that raise the immersion quotient.

I also came out with more and more requests for a "3D data-display tool" based around the spidergram. I'm not sure when it will appear, but it will be along when I get the chance. I already have some idea of how to do it. I'm planning to add tools to give notecards and to open URLs, what else would you like to see, IM me in-world or leave a comment!

Thank you to everyone who stuck it out, and to NMC for hosting us. It was long and tiring, but so, so worth it at the end of the day.



  • Rex Heer  

    I was one of the participants that stuck it out and was there every day. I must admit that I was exhausted by the end of the week - mostly because this is the busiest time of the year for me at work. But you and Desi made it definitely worthwhile! You had the perfect style of facilitation for my learning preferences.

    You mentioned in your post here, "there's a tension between the "Information wants to be free" and the "I need to give knowledge to my students" aspects. I think I understand what you mean, but I think is about much more than information. (Yes, I know you know that too! ;-) )

    So I'd just like to add to that something that I was trying to convey in my project. Learning in an immersive environment is a social activity - even if nobody else is around at the time. It is learning by doing: cognitively engaging with the shared knowledge, practices, perspectives, artifacts of the discipline. And participants should experience their engagement as meaningful. In other words, the learning environment should enable learners to relate to - and build upon prior knowledge.

    In our studio sessions, you and Desideria provided that kind of meaningful experience for me and others!

    (SL: Thursday Xu)
    • Eloise  
      Bah, was tidying up spam and deleted my own comment by mistake!

      Anyway... glad it was so good. I don't necessarily have a "blogging style" but I quite often use slogans ("Information wants to be free") because of all the other stuff that comes with it. If I was writing an academic piece, I'd be writing a lot more, but blog entries that run to thousands of words don't usually do it for me.

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