Today we held the Emerging Trends panel session at the TechKnowledge conference. We’d intended to use an audience response system (aka ‘clickers’), but of course the technology didn’t work at that moment, so my colleagues (Frank Nguyen, Ann Kwinn, and Jim Javenkoski) and I winged it with questions from the audience.
Second Life came up a couple times. Joe Miller was the keynote on Wednesday, and in his far ranging and thoughtful presentation he reinforced my previous thoughts on what the fundamental learning affordances are, and helped illuminate a point that hadn’t really gelled for me.
Using Tony O’Driscoll’s diagram, he elaborated on the topic of the current state of virtual worlds. In 1995, when you first looked at HTML, did you have any idea that the web would grow to where it is today? The argument is similar for Second Life, in that the first generation of the web was “Democratization of Access”, where now anyone could find information. Web 2.0 is “Democratization of Collaboration”, where you can create, share, and comment. He called virtual worlds the “3D internet”, and here it’s the “Democratization of co-creation”.
Besides that, the panel still felt that it’s about socialization and spatial capabilities, and, as Frank said, that if your objectives didn’t match those, a virtual world wouldn’t need to be your solution. I also recited the barriers that Joe had mentioned – usability, download, and processing load -as a way to reinforce the point that there’s considerable initial investment, and I believe that such worlds make sense when you are intending to have a long-term in-world involvement.
Several questions danced around the relevance of instructional design and the teaching thereof. I pointed to the ongoing dialogs, and we generally agreed that the teaching wasn’t as aligned to real world practice as it could be, but, as Ann pointed out, ISD principles still apply (our brains haven’t changed).
Another question came out about the real world validity of Web 2.0. I cited an audiocast of a cutting edge project leader who used BaseCamp, Twitter, Deli.cio.us, IM, and more to keep his team aligned, and my own use of technologies to accomplish various business goals. Jim raised the point that Web 2.0 is a way to have the communication be two way, not just from the designers to the victims, er, learners. These tools may initially take up extra time, but once ‘assimilated’, they are proving to be time-savers in productivity as well.
One individual pointed out how there seemed to be two camps of instructional technology: traditional eLearning which was instructivist and a second that was social. I agreed and pointed out how we really need to wrap instruction with collaboration from the get-go to help learners immediately recognize that dialog is part of the process and enculturate them into the community.
We also talked about the pragmatics of introductions of technology. To a question about moving the government along, I suggested that there’s a ‘late adopter’ advantage of avoiding mistakes (though I’m not so certain it’s strategy rather than inertia :), and that solid examples with ROI were the best leverage.
Another question on how to get people to use wikis seemed to suggest that in the particular instance, wikis were the wrong tool (the goal was capturing ‘stories’). As it pushed one of my hot buttons, I suggested that we should not forget to do a proper match between need and tool, nor forget older tools in the flush of new technologies; in this case a discussion list would probably be a better tool. However, my real answer is that when the need is a resource, a wiki can be a collaboratively improved resource and the way to get participation is to make sure the resource is valuable. I would add, now, that a session I heard indicated success in using incentives to get initial participation, and that may be pragmatic, if not principled ;).
Many thanks to the participants, I thought it was a nice way to cap off the conference.