January 6, 2009
I met a friend of my brother’s over Christmas who works in a non profit that helps amputees in developing countries. We talked about his work and then about virtual worlds. In explaining virtual worlds I tend to think about applications to people’s own work or lives. Wouldn’t it be powerful for an able bodied person to step into a disabled person’s shoe (s) and experience what it was like to have only one leg or one arm? This first hand learning is already being done in a different context in Second Life: the UC Davis “Virtual Hallucinations” lab is a powerful learning experience for someone to learn what its like to live with Schizophrenia.
The opposite is true – it is a powerful experience for a disabled person to suddenly be able bodied in a virtual world. This is beautifully illustrated in the ‘Better Life” machinima. This should not be underestimated.
So instead of adopting Walther’s theory of strategic self presentation, the use of imperfect avatars in virtual worlds can be a powerful learning tool indeed.
December 17, 2008
The first time I ever heard a “gogy” term was when I was studying Adult Education at the University of British Columbia in the early 1990s. I was impressed. It sounded sophisticated and most, importantly it made sense. The “gogy” I am referring to is “androgogy” and the context was a class discussion on how teaching adults (androgogy) was different than teaching children (pedagogy). Malcolm Knowles theory of adult learning is rigorous enough on its own but by popularizing the term androgogy, a whole new field of teaching was birthed. Many have contributed to the field of androgogy and in my opinion, adult learners have benefited.
One of my academic interests recently has been looking at the potential of virtual worlds as a learning tool. I was fortunate enough to write (with Terry Anderson) one of the first peer reviewed journal articles connecting Second Life (a popular public virtual world) and learning. In this exploratory study I observed five diverse learning events in Second Life. It was quickly noted that teaching in a virtual world is very different than teaching in any other environment. Different barriers exist and the real time 3D environment offers learning enhancement opportunities to both the teacher and the learner.
I am not the only one interested in learning in virtual worlds – as evidenced by the high volume SLED list. Indeed, many in the education community have already contributed useful ideas and resources for teachers.
I think it is time for a new gogy because teaching and learning in a virtual world is vastly different than any other environment. Introducing Avagogy: leading avatars. The terms pedagogy and androgogy are both 100% greek (peda=child gogy=leading, andro=man gogy=leading) and while the term avagogy is a hybrid, I think the term accurately describes this new, cutting edge field. It could help and further the field..
I floated this term to my mentor Terry Anderson. He liked it and suggested a starting definition: “the strategy, design, art and
technique for teaching and learning that uses avatars to represent learners in immersive environments.” Its a start to a new field.