October 24, 2007

Sarah Robbins (Intellagirl) Speaks at TechTrends Series

Sarah Robbins (aka - Intellagirl), prompted the BGSU Tech Trends Series audience, "The world is changing… are you ready? Are your students ready?"

After presenting a multitude of recent statistics on the technology use habits of 18-22 year olds, Robbins explained how the numbers simply represent symptoms of a larger issue – young people want to express themselves and communicate with others, which all too often ends at the classroom door.

Her remedy for bridging this chasm is to determine what faculty need to know and be able to do in this new, changing world. She suggests that an instructor’s technological expertise should be “somewhere between (knowing) everything and nothing” – enough so faculty can help build a bridge from the place where students are interested and engaged to where they need to go, educationally.

Her overall message centered on three approaches to reach current (and especially future) students:
  1. Second Life – a MUVE, or multi-user virtual environment (not an online game, since there are no game mechanics and no goals assigned; instead, each individual must figure out what to do and has free reign within certain boundaries.
  2. Social Networks – (e.g., Facebook, Ning) where communities are built around common interests, including trends, culture, ideas, events, ideas, and creations.
  3. Contributed/remixed content sites – (e.g., YouTube, Flickr, blogs, wikis) where students can collaborate, create, contribute, and critique – with text, audio, and/or images.
Benefits of these three approaches include:
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Authenticity
  • Community -- around the content; they try much harder – “recreate it for the web”
  • Engagement – students are engaged in participatory explorations
  • Social
  • Local/Global – local issue becomes global and vice versa
  • Immediate – instant experiences; questions researched and answered quickly
  • Participatory -- not just a consumer; students become knowledge creators/synthesizers
Robbins is known to some for her often-publicized, academic exercise where students were asked to portray Kool-Aid people and mill around various Second Life spaces to experience diversity, crowd mentality, exclusion, and discrimination. She explained that because most of her Ball State University (Indiana) students never felt excluded or discriminated against, the “Kool-Aid man experience” was the best way to get them to quickly and easily understand a previously foreign concept.

So how did the students react to this new (and strangely unique) exercise? Robbins said many of them expressed they felt safe because they were in a group who were like themselves; had they been alone, “it would have been worse.” In other words, within five minutes, students learned complex, experiential concepts that were only marginally successful during a 50-minute, face-to-face class.

Robbins shared several other educational uses and applications of Second Life:
  • Chat text from each student can be exported, saved, analyzed
  • Group IM (instant messaging) – allows a lifeline when out interviewing others in SL (like an expert or advisor in an earpiece)
  • Translating metaphorical ideas
  • Role Playing
  • Building, testing, synthesizing theoretical models (e.g., customer traffic flow, chemical molecules)
  • Recreate works from literature to build understanding (e.g., Dante’s levels of hell, science fiction/fantasy recreations or interpretations)
  • Critique and parody
  • Sharing and presenting works to hundreds, rather than only the instructor or single class
  • Student-generated schizophrenia simulator
  • Her students were treated as co-researchers
Robbins closed by emphasizing the need to find and use technologies that meet the needs and goals of the course and your comfort level – not all tools are for everyone or every purpose, just because they are popular or novel. And with that, we’ll close with a few questions about your thoughts… What do YOU think?

How have you used Second Life or other "connecting" tools to engage students? What are your thoughts on teaching/learning in Second Life? (concerns, questions, success stories, ideas, etc.) ...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

For more information:

Intellagirl Website

Sarah Robbins' Ubernoggin Blog

Second Life

(Search for Article) Professor Avatar: In the digital universe of Second Life, classroom instruction also takes on a new personality (from The Chronicle of Higher Ed – September 21, 2007)


cyberdiva said...

I enjoyed meeting Intellagirl.

Yes I have used secondlife in my classes with productive results.


Anonymous said...

The BGNews has an article in today's paper (10/26/07) about SL, Sarah Robbins, and Anthony Fontana.