A summary of the work of my PhD, explaining the role of presence, embodiment and identity in learning in virtual worlds. This was presented as a keynote at the SOLSTICE conference in Ormskirk in June 2011.
Theatron – exploring theatres from different times over the past 2,500 years
Another theatron activity, blocking out the final scenes of Hamlet
Disaster management communication – roleplaying and simulation – better for students more realistic than RL
Exploring identity and the experience of being an adolescent through SL
Exploring WWI battlefields
Ville Valo ... More identity work, this time with FE students
Wandering around, trying to walk, fly sit down, and you have a dragon stuck on your head
Dealing with the interface, maps, text chat, notecards inventory
But this is what we get from any learning software, takes time to learn, though may be more difficult than most
One of the other elements that learners encounter is Distraction – text says why on earth do you keep dancing Rosa
Here she is in an earlier shot
Transcript from other students
Transcript from other students
In very first teaching activity noticed that some activities were successful, others weren’t. More experienced students were able to talk about the emotional experiences of the spaces – confirmed by Csteph – very long term participant was able to talk about communities
Here’s another thing -- the role of presence in learning across all cases.It’s important, so therefore why doesn’t everyone get it?Stress - not related to attitude to technology, or experience
Even when students are competent at using the software, there is still an element to be learned; the way in which they engage with the platform still changes over the following months. So what else is going on?
Venturing out into the virtual world can be intimidating for some people. This is me in 2005, my first session inworld. Watching a colleague from King’s College london taking a shower, as a raccoon.
Visiting my neighbours for the first time
Having a chat with other academics
We develop identities throughout our lives, from random things, from relationships with others, from the roles we find ourselves in, this identity becomes the platform from which we interact, relate to others, become learners. Amongst online environments this is particularly true for virtual worlds, because we have a body there, and can manipulate it.
The need to transmit large quantities of socio-emotional information to strangers over an impersonal mode of communication can make people feel vulnerable and open to personal attacks. So they limit the amount of this type of information … which in turn creates a barrier to communication. (Barrett, 2002, 35)
Alternatively, motivated to project self, leads to development of identity, body image, picking up on others presence, experiencing a connection to others and communication. So for the learner experience to be as effective as possible, this aspect needs to be given support too
Noted earlier that the questions we asked about the spaces made more sense to the students who had been in there longer. Biocca says that cognitive processes are enhanced when we experience presence. Our experience of these spaces will be more intimate and more emotional, when we feel this sense of embodiment within the space.
Observations of the people who come to the WWI sim are that the people who have been using the VWs for a while have a more emotional experience of the space
Why is this? There’s the theory of embodied cognition – that part of the way we process information about the phyiscal world is because we have physical experience of it. This goes back to Merleau-Ponty, the idea that to grasp a concept is a process similar to grasping an object. The distinction between being located somewhere and situated somewhere.
Criticise the concept of interactive learning objects – a stage can be an interactive object, something you just click on to get it to do something isn’t. A book can be more interactive than a website. Point is that Rosa wasn’t just messing about, she was learning to experience the environment. We need to take our students to places inworld that are interactive. Virtual worlds work, not because they are places that can store and convey lots of information, but because they are places where we can dance.
Learning in virtual worlds: why Rosa keeps dancing
Enhancing Learning, Teaching and Student Success in Virtual Worlds Why Rosa keeps dancing<br />Mark Childs<br />Coventry University<br />
So ... why teach in virtual worlds anyway?<br />
Not only good for ...<br />Simulation and roleplay<br />Design / creation / exhibition<br />Exploration and immersion<br />Creating a feeling of copresence at a distance<br />Reification of concepts such as identity<br />...but possibly best medium for learning these<br />
Getting used to distraction<br />Student A: I’m going to try some dancing<br />Student B: (Reading from worksheet) What do you think the challenges for actors and designers would be in the real theatre this model represents? (pause) Stop dancing.<br />Student A: Sorry<br />
Getting used to distraction<br />Student D: ...What’s this? Is it magical toadstools?<br />Me: Who’s got the magical toadstools?<br />Student D; We have! I think they are magical toadstools. ...<br />Student D: I think we are actually getting high on ‘shrooms. Yes we are, we are.<br />Student E laughs.<br />Student D; Look we’ve just eaten toadstools and we’re going crazy. Oh amazing. Awesome. <br />Student E: Do it again. Do it again.<br />Student D: OK let’s have another one. See what happens. Weeeee. Getting high while flying. That’s dose. Weeeeeee.<br />Me: Can we start move back to Theatron? <br />
Theatre Design and New Media<br />Real life theatres in Second Life<br />What do you think the challenges for actors and designers would be in the real theatre this model represents?<br />What would be the challenges for actors and designers working in the virtual theatre in Second Life?<br />Theatres that only exist in Second Life<br />From the stage design (and any other surrounding spaces) what can you determine are the nature of the performances and the communities that built the stages?<br />How do these theatres/ auditoria differ from real life theatrical spaces?<br />
Social anxiety<br />Student E: This is sad...I am scared to leave! I am worried will end up bald, lost, and naked again. One life is enough...<br />Student Z: I worry about looking silly in this because I don't feel comfortable with this type of environment<br />Student D: don't want to look "stupid" ... I'm worrying about sitting down and can't do it<br />
Social presence and identity<br />“I didn't want to look UGLY”<br />“I wanted to look more "personalized" rather then the sample model”<br />“originality seems important to some as well, beauty in the eye of the beholder”<br />“I want to look like I smell nice.”<br />“I didn't want to be too skinny and generic”<br />“it is difficult for me due to not being able to witness other peoples non-verbal behaviors or reactions to comments”<br />
Learner experience 3 months in<br />“Because we've got the atmosphere, because you can play around with the characters and make the audience be back in that century, It encourages as an audience member to actually think ‘wow we’ve actually been transformed’”.<br />“It's not just the idea round the theatres; we actually have to perform in different spaces to get the atmosphere”. <br />
Virtual body schema<br />Given enough time spent inworld, virtual body becomes mapped to body schema, technology “disappears into the architecture of the body”.<br />Around the same time students report “feeling the atmosphere of the space”.<br />A link could be embodied cognition.<br />“Cognitive processes are deeply rooted in the body’s interactions with the world” – Wilson.<br />
Bodies defined by acting<br />Interaction is not what happens in the object, it’s what happens in the mind of the learner<br />“we actually have to perform in different spaces to get the atmosphere”<br />“i like dancing / because we’re on the stage / it feels right” - Rosa<br />
Contact<br />firstname.lastname@example.org<br />SL: Gann McGann<br />Portfolio and thesis at http://go.warwick.ac.uk/edrfap/<br />Reinventing Ourselves – edited by Anna Peachey and Mark Childs, available from Springer later this year<br />