I was at the JISC Next Generation Environments conference. http://involve.jisc.ac.uk/wpmu/u-and-i
Much of the day revolved around how university-based users use tools (in particular social/ web2.0 ish tools) and the challenges that they bring to the environment. A few things that I found interesting during the day:
Peter Hartley’s articulation of challenge of using web 2.0 tools in learning and teaching looked at the tensions between authority / control and freedom / expression. These tensions were illustrated in the existence of three concurrent learning spaces, for which the following metaphors were suggested:
- Formal public controlled (the Museum)
- Collaborative informal exploratory (the Playground)
- Personal private exclusive (the Refuge)
These metaphors provided a good discussion point. I like them but I think the playground has too much of an advantage (everyone likes to play…); the museum misses the potential interactivity of formal space (e.g. official fora can be the best place for some types of discussion); and the refuge is too calm/ structured/ isolated to represent private ‘learning’ spaces as such spaces are likely to be tied into wider use of web2.0 tools in other areas of life and anything but a refuge.
Dave Cormier’s presentation (Edtechtalk http://www.edtechtalk.com/) discussed the University of PEI’s Virtual Research Environment (VRE) development. They developed this in response to the challenge of too much knowledge – information overload effect everyone except uber geeks who are also really really organised as well. They are working to create virtual spaces for scientific collaboration – specific environments which aim to be:
- a sacred, dedicated space
- supports filtering content for relevance
- is able to offer security (different levels of publicness)
- provides space for collaborative efforts
Two related observations were:
- Within this environment the library has a key role when something is stable and worth keeping the library should be given ownership of it in the system. Librarians have the skills to make it findable and sustainable it in the longer term, so let them do their job rather than trying to get the scientists to become experts in another field.
- There is a need to move the functionality users require into the browser integrate with academic practice (not add new systems to learn).
An slightly off-topic one: Second life represents the pacman of the virtual environment development
Linda Creanor and Ross Graham offered some reflections on the learner’s experiences; these tied in with ongoing discussion throughout the day. In brief (and without the references offered):
- Students want a clear distinction between personal and university space (and are at a stage of life were they can keep this distinct in a way that tutors may not be able to)
- Students want to choose, and personalise tools (and retain control of them)
- If the university supporting use of tools in course tutors have to be able to be engaged with those tools
- How do we prepare and support tutors working in this environment? (and give them the space to use their own tools)
- Podcasts may be suitable for some types of teaching (e.g. kant 101)