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Synergy Happens January 26, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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talk   On Wednesday, I gave a talk to the college that was a huge hit. Last November, I had the idea of doing a talk about Web 2.0 to my colleagues in the College of Education. I was concerned that too many of us had no real practical experience or general knowledge of what teachers were doing these days with the Internet, more specifically, with the read/write web, sometimes known as Web 2.0.

I reached this conclusion after we had a guest speaker in the College who waxed rhapsodic about virtual worlds, avatars, intelligent agents, and blogs. After speaking with a few of my colleagues, I noted that, with few exceptions, they really did not have much of a practical perspective about his subject matter.

Consequently, I worked up a presentation and contacted the Dean’s Graduate Advisory Council to see if they would host me during a lunch hour brown bag. We had the talk on Wednesday and about thirty showed up, a good turnout. We had faculty, students, and administrative assistants in attendance. From the encouraging comments I received, they were quite entertained and informed.

In response to popular demand, about ten e-mail messages to be precise, this evening I re-created the presentation and dubbed a soundtrack onto it using Breeze technology. I hope to have it posted on a website later this week. What was exciting about the talk was the synergy that occurred toward the end.

In the final ten minutes, I had the opportunity to demonstrate a virtual world, Second Life, with those in attendance. Just as members of the audience were asking what the educational value of such an experience would be, we encountered a pair of avatars chatting with each other through their keyboards. According to their label, one was a French tutor, the other was his student, and they were sitting on virtual chairs in the middle of EduNation, an island dedicated to education.

As I tried to communicate with them, the owner of EduNation arrived to chat with us. His avatar gently dropped in front of us and I introduced myself to him. He was quite intrigued with the fact that I was representing an audience of thirty and he encouraged me to post their questions to him. One of the questions was to find out where he was physically in the world. Barcelona, Spain. That small fact knocked off a few socks.

After only five minutes, we had developed three separate lines of inquiry including one about the use of avatars by disabled individuals. By the end of the week, I hope to have a paper well started on the implications of virtual learning environments for research in the field of disability studies.

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