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AI AR/VR/XR Metaverse Twine

Ed tech must reads: Column #38

First published in Campus Morning Mail 7th June 2022

Is information power? Exploring the potential of data and analytics for student representatives from International Journal for Students as Partners

The Students as Partners movement seeks to engage learners in meaningful ways as co-creators of their learning experience. Academics like Kelly Matthews and Mollie Dollinger (among others) have worked tirelessly in support of these more equitable approaches. This paper from Rates and Gašević makes a strong case that giving student representatives in this process access to the rapidly expanding pool of learning analytic data in universities offers great opportunities for even more meaningful contributions.  

The problematic metaphor of the environment in online learning from Jon Dron

The upcoming paper stood out because it relates directly to a piece of work that I am currently engaged in. How exactly do we conceptualise the entangled network of technologies, systems and processes that sit behind learning and teaching to best understand it? The environment or ecosystem metaphor (Ellis & Goodyear, 2019) has been popular but Dron argues here that this way of thinking may lead to simply replicating the problems of the physical world in the online. I don’t necessarily agree but it is a thoughtful piece.

Understanding Group Behavior in Virtual Reality: A Large-Scale, Longitudinal Study in the Metaverse from 72nd International Communication Association Conference

This paper from ICAC (not that ICAC) explores some of the practical aspects of teaching in Virtual Reality environments over a period of time in terms of presence and engagement. Interestingly, providing learners with the ability to customise their avatars increased their sense of self-presence in the space but decreased their enjoyment.

Having fun with Twine from Laura Gibbs

Twine is a delightful open-source tool for creating branching stories – think Choose your own adventure books. This slide deck from Laura Gibbs provides a basic overview of the tool and then a rich set of exemplars of creative ways that Twine has been used to create interactive fiction.

All these images were generated by Google’s latest text-to-image AI from The Verge

The AI-based text-to-image goldrush continues as Google plants its stake in the ground. They have announced (but not yet made available) their tool for creating images from simple text prompts called Imagen. Clearly, they have cherry-picked the most outstanding results but this quirky selection shared in The Verge sends a clear message that the days of believing what we can see are long behind us.

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AR/VR/XR audio Metaverse SAMR Twitter

Ed Tech must reads – Column 13

First published in Campus Morning Mail on Tuesday 9th November 2021

Examination of the SAMR model for effective technology integration through an adaptive leadership approach from i-Managers Journal of Educational Technology (Paywall)

The SAMR (Substitute – Augment – Modify – Redefine) model offers a framework for increasingly sophisticated uses of a given technology in learning and teaching. It is underused in education and particularly in areas responsible for planning educational transformation, but Heatherton and Trespalacios (Boise State University) offer some useful suggestions for its application. While the article does focus on the K-12 sector, their suggestions are easily applicable to Tertiary education as well. Their discussion of the need for flexibility in a space where change has become a constant is equally valuable.

About Twitter Spaces from Twitter

Spaces is new, relatively unheralded functionality on Twitter that enables live audio conversations. It seems to be Twitter’s response to the mobile app Clubhouse, extending some functionality natively to desktop and laptop users. (It is possible to listen to the audio there but not speak). I stumbled across a Spaces session hosted by medical researcher @upulie while idly browsing Twitter one evening and was struck by the tool’s potential for innovative use in teaching and educational CoPs.

Using head mounted display virtual reality simulations in large engineering classes: Operating vs observing from Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

The recent palaver about Facebook’s ambitions in the Mixed/Virtual Reality (XR) ‘Metaverse’ prompted some discussion about one of the biggest practical issues faced by institutions, access to and management of sufficient hardware. Seven scholars from Engineering at UWA explore whether everyone actually needs to have a go to benefit in this handy AJET article from earlier this year.

Microsoft Teams enters the metaverse race with 3D avatars and immersive meetings from The Verge

While we are talking about XR and the metaverse, it’s worth noting that Microsoft announced last week that they plan to bring their own toys (Mesh and HoloLens) into their communication and collaboration platform Teams next year. The most notable functionality in this would seem to be the ability to be represented by an animated avatar in Teams meetings. Given that one of the struggles of Zoom classrooms in the COVID era has been the cameras-on/cameras-off debate, with students feeling over exposed but teachers wanting connection and non-verbal feedback, avatars may offer a middle ground if they work well enough.

Simulating a university Twitter thread from @BryanAlexander

Bryan Alexander is an ‘education futurist’ and one of the more engaging speakers I have seen in recent years. He recently posted on Twitter that he was planning a seminar for his students which would involve a game simulating a university over the next decade. He called for suggestions of random events for them to grapple with. The responses were wide-ranging and at times hilarious.