Not sure if you saw this or not. It's a letter that appeared on the Web site for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the day after President Obama's State of the Union address. The author is Diane Auer Jones, vice president for external and regulatory affairs for the Career Education Corporation and former U.S. assistant secretary of postsecondary education.Here's a taste, and this is a direct quote from the letter, which is written as an open letter to the president:"As you said, the rules have changed and technology has led the way. You said that technology has changed the way we live, work, and do business. Why, then, is your Department of Education doing everything in its power to make sure that technology can’t change the way we learn? It would seem to me that if, as you put it, anyone with a computer can open a business, hire staff, and sell a product, then we ought to be focused on getting more of our students comfortable working and learning in the online environment. Online technology gives students the unique opportunity to continue the conversation beyond the 50-minute class, to allow students to work in groups regardless of conflicting work or lacrosse practice schedules, and to let a student in New York work on a project with a peer in Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. Online instruction allows students to get help when they just can’t figure out that one last problem, or when they are studying for an exam and still don’t understand some important but complex concept. In the online environment, the student can go back and watch the lecture again, read through the chat again, participate in a study group while on a dinner break at work or reach out to a classmate or instructor for additional help."
So, can anyone tell me what this is?
They don’t look like it, but I would submit to you that these are ALL classrooms. These are all learning environments. These are all excellent examples of what Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner call “The New Social Learning.”Tony and Marcia will tell you that nearly all learning is social in nature. In other words, most of what we learn on a day-to-day basis is stuff that we learn from our interactions with other people. THAT is where most learning takes place, and THAT is what makes social media such a compelling tool in an educational sense.Yet when you think about education, what picture enters your mind? Desks in a classroom, right? Very traditional.I’ve got news for you, though. Today’s kids are about ready to turn that traditional notion of education on its ear.
That’s Claus Nehmzow. He’s an entrepreneur and strategic innovator, and he’s also CEO at the 3D Avatar School in Hong Kong. According to his research …At the beginning of 2009, more than 400 million people were using multi-player online games and social environments. Less than two years later, that number had jumped to more than 1 billion.That's almost 1 million new users per day using these virtual environments.75 percent of them are between the ages of 10 and 25. And the majority of those users are between the ages 10 and 15.These young people are using these environments to learn from one other, to solve complex problems with one another, to think strategically and collaborate. We’re going to talk about all of that in just a few moments.
First, though, what are these virtual worlds? Here are some of the more well known ones:Incredible numbers. You know, when I first heard Claus Nehmzow’s estimate that 1 billion people were using these virtual spaces, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that number. Seeing *these* numbers, though, makes it a little easier to believe. And this is just a handful. There are dozens upon dozens of these worlds out there, each with its own loyal following.And you’d better believe there are implications on the education front here … and beyond.And why? Well, ask yourself: Who are all these people?They’re our current students, yes, but more importantly, they’re our future employees, co-workers, bosses, members. They’re the people who will be running the show in 10 to 20 years. And they’re going to be doing things differently. You’d better believe we need to be paying attention to what they’re doing now.
And how has education responded?Hence Diane Auer Jones’s letter to President Obama.It’s time to drag education along with us into the 21st century.Happily, some folks are already doing it. Let’s look at some examples.
Let’s start with CPAs.The Maryland Association of CPAs started building CPA Island in late 2007. My boss, Tom Hood, had started hearing a lot of buzz about virtual worlds and Second Life in particular, and one of our members had built a virtual presence for his firm in Second Life – and had found some real-world business as a result. That, to us, was like the holy grail.So we decided we wanted to build the first virtual space dedicated to the profession. We wanted to have a virtual home where all CPAs could go to explore virtual worlds and find out what they had to offer.We built two islands in Second Life, and we focused quite heavily on networking. We wanted these spaces to be places where CPAs could come and interact with one another without having to travel long distances to do so.These are just a few of the structures we built on the islands.
Maybe one of the most concrete examples of the power of virtual education came during the 2009 AICPA Tech-Plus Conference.So let me set the stage for you. We had a live group of attendees in Las Vegas. We had a group of presenters in Baltimore. And we had presenters from all over the country, all joining us virtually on CPA Island in Second Life. And anyone who joined us in this virtual space had the opportunity to hear from the likes of Phillip Rosedale, founder of Linden Labs and Second Life, and these folks as well. Let’s take a listen. Here’s actual video footage of the virtual event.
We did something very similar with the 2009 XBRL International Conference in Paris.Beyond these two “big-stage” events, we’ve held many smaller CPE programs for MACPA members in Second Life. They all qualify for CPE, they’re all virtual, and they’ve all received glowing reviews.The interesting thing to me is this: Almost all of the reviews deal with the material itself – not with the format. That tells me that Second Life is doing its job here – delivering quality content to our members. And that’s been our goal all along. So that’s a big win for us.========BenefitsSense of selfDeath of distance (AICPA study)The other neat thing about SL is you can bring in speakers from all over the world to speak to students without paying for travel. Our events -- XBRL, etc., with XBRL experts Mike Willis and Eric Cohen. Dr. Kraten has brought in a gentleman from China to talk to his class. Bob Tarola, a Maryland finance expert and MACPA member, has visited Dr. Kraten’s Suffolk "classroom“ via Second Life You can expose these students to thought leaders throughout the world and can interact much better than a conference call.
And we’re not the only ones doing this stuff.North Carolina State University is collaborating with Ernst & Young to create a campus dedicated to accounting education. It includes a “Beer Factory Audit” and a virtual “Walk Through Accounting History.” And Ernst and Young has recreated its Times Square corporate headquarters there as well. Auditing Professor Stephen Rowe of Southern Cross University in Australia has collaborated with fellow Professor Allan Ellis and several American accounting professions to create Commerce Town, a virtual reality business district with an accounting firm, a hotel and conference center, law courts, a health clinic, an insurance company, government offices, a commercial bank, a winery, a flour mill, and numerous retail establishments. Rowe & Co. is the name of the fictional CPA firm that maintains offices in Commerce Town; Ellis and Rowe are now collaborating with several American business faculty and practitioners to create live video game simulations and machinima of challenging real-world client service scenarios.The Financial Accounting Standards Board offers FASB Research Office Hours at a virtual office in Second Life. And the Internal Revenue Service is there. They have a campus in Second Life designed to attract college students to a career with the IRS. But there’s lots of taxpayer information there, too.
The general idea is to bring a level of engagement and fun to education and training. Consider this example from Claus Nehmzow, in which he’s using Second Life to teach the Chinese language to young students. This video is just a couple of minutes long, but it’s pretty cool – take a look:
All this stuff might be cutting edge from an educational point of view. But if you REALLY want to get cutting edge, you have to listen to Jane McGonigal.She is a Ph.D., a world-renowned designer of what she calls “alternative reality games,” and she has a big dream: She wants to use virtual worlds and games to solve BIG real-world issues, like .How can she do that? Start with understanding what gamers are really good at:Urgent optimism: They want to act NOW to overcome obstacles, and they believe they’ll succeed.Weave a tight social fabric. We like people better after we play a game with them. Playing a game together builds bonds, trust and cooperation.Blissful productivity. We're happier working hard than we are when we are relaxing or hanging out.Epic meaning. Gamers love to be attached to awe-inspiring missions.The problem is, they’re really good at these things IN THE GAME. In the real world … not so much. They’re using the games to ESCAPE real-world problems.So the question is, how do we bring that level of virtual engagement to real-world issues? And McGonigal thinks she’s found a way of doing it. First, right now, today, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games and hanging out in virtual worlds. To solve our big issues, McGonigal says we have to INCREASE that to 21 billion hours per week.But they can’t play just any game. They have to play the RIGHT games. And McGonigal is busy helping to design online virtual-world games that allow gamers to use the traits that they’re really good at to solve real-world issues. Let’s take a listen:
Learning With Avatars
Learning with avatars<br />Bill Sheridan, CAE<br />Maryland Association<br />of CPAs<br />How virtual worlds are redefining<br />the classroom<br />
Resources<br /><ul><li>www.CPAIsland.com(the MACPA’s Second Life blog)
“The World Has Changed, So Why Not Higher Education?” (Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 26, 2011)bit.ly/TheWorldHasChanged
“The New Social Learning,” by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner www.thenewsociallearning.com
Video: “CPAs in Second Life at the AICPA Tech + Conference” bit.ly/AICPATechPlus
Video: “19th XBRL International Conference Broadcast in Second Life from Paris” bit.ly/XBRLParis
Video: “TEDxPearlRiver: Claus Nehmzow: 3D Avatar School” bit.ly/AvatarSchool
Video: “Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world” bit.ly/JaneMcGonigal</li></li></ul><li>Bill Sheridan, CAEaka “Billy Mapp”Editor, Maryland Association of CPAswww.MACPA.firstname.lastname@example.org<br />Follow me :<br /><ul><li>Twitter.com/BillSheridan