For people interested in developing new technologies for learning, the enormous growth in online social networking (through Web 2.0 applications like Facebook and MySpace) seems to offer a way forward for student-centred, collaborative approaches. Enthusiasts for new technologies are also hopeful that it will change the way we teach and learn – shifting relationships between tutor and students, and instigating informal and social rather than formal and hierarchical structures.
The big question here is, does social networking translate to education, and if so, how?
At the same time, with virtual and immersive environments like Second Life also becoming popular there is another thread developing which looks to computer gaming for a model; with its task setting, competitive sharing and increasingly difficult levels, is this more like education? As part of the reLIVE Second Life conference (see previous post) I helped a University of Brighton researcher called Lars Wieneke with participant feedback. Lars is developing web interfaces based on task sharing/gameplay for learning about cultural heritage and his audience was asked to ‘perform’ a painting in Second Life. What was most interesting was that, first, everyone found it difficult NOT to engage with the painting by wanting information about it; and that, second, as they performed its characters and their relationships instead, they all wanted to go and see the actual work. So an action in Second Life was leading to a motivation to do something in the real world. That seemed like a positive and creative outcome, even if neither Lars nor I had been expecting it. So that is another thought which may lead somewhere, but not quite sure where...
image of the painting workshop participants were asked to 'perform' in character - Velazquez's Las Meninas 1656