Information, Communication and Technology for Emergence (ICT4E)– An Immersive Learning Community Blended with Virtual Worlds and Web 2.0

There is an urgent need to transform our educational ecosystems and address the rapid transformations occurring in our world, especially the crisis confronting our survival. Are these needs linked and can we address them together? Educators around the globe are discovering and embracing virtual worlds, such as Second Life, for immersing their students and reinvigorating their pedagogy with 21st Century Literacy’s and Learning Skills–But how do we make our classrooms immersive? What will it look like to shift our pedagogy from one based on teaching and specialties to one based on student centered learning– pluralistic, hyper-individual, eclectic, diverse, and emergent? ICT4 Emergence and the International Telecenter movement offers an opportunity to leverage this transformation.
I’d like to suggest a scenario for transforming our classrooms and learning institutions. We can achieve this by creating a learning community that blends the engaging and transformative power of virtual worlds, with immersion in practical hands-on experiential learning for sustainability and prosperity. Participating in a massively multiple on-line virtual world such as Second Life, or creating your own community specific virtual world through the open source community of Open Sim–educators are provided with an evolutionary step unparalleled in media ecology. Using social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and nings–free, open source platforms–global interaction and collaboration tools are available to every classroom, spurring innovation and emergence.
What I am suggesting is moving into a blended learning methodology that leverages the emergent technological platforms of the immersive internet–virtual worlds, web 2.0 and serious gaming–while addressing the urgent needs facing us as humans and as educators. Estimates are that world wide we will need to build a major university every day for the next 3 decades to accommodate the growing population and learning needs of our young. In that time span much, if not all, of the polar ice will have melted. Virtual worlds offer a 24/7/365 synchronous and asynchronous model of learning without the need for bricks and mortar. As for the bricks and mortar, these energy consumptive, water wasting, and unsustainable facilities offer the ideal laboratory to transform our learning applications into concrete, practical and life giving learning communities.
How then, do we transform our schools? Consider that the community is the curriculum: the whole systems which sustain the local biome– food, water, waste, energy, culture, government, the environment, the economy–are the topics we address, investigate and may redesign for a sustainable future. Apply systems thinking and ecological, synergistic practices to our curriculum. This is the vision of a design science formulated by Buckminster Fuller that sees nurturing our innate creative and design prowess as the answer to solving our dilemmas. By applying these techniques to the systems which sustain life, students are empowered with the tools and opportunities to transform their communities. In the process they develop the 21st Century Literacy’s so essential to their success and offer solutions to our most pressing global challenges.

More about Ontogenetica

The ceation of being. Not in a heavy sense. Not burdoned by being, but the incredible lightness of being. And this is offered in a ‘hyper-techontic’ fashion, energized by the quickly evovling web and technology. But this is not a constructivist theory. Being, resonating emergence, is a spontaneous ever changing phenomenon which we participate in with various degrees of awareness. So you could say awareness of being accompanies creation. Its clear that in order to deeper understand the roots of creativity and innovation one must be in tune with the spiritual dimension. But as I try to understand this evolving state of communication, of fascilitating, of evolution there has to be an organic, ecological way to integrate this with the other dimensions of the new pedagogy. The thing is, its happening at break neck–quantum speed before our very eyes.  I’m trying to comprehend what I see fantastically.

The medium is the message. Thinking about this in the context of my curent exploration of web 2.0 and the emerging pedagogy–the ecological neccessity makes perfect sense. Everyone is keen on naming the age–I’d venture “The Age of Ecologies.” As if we have suddenly been made aware of systems in nature and society.  Media ecology has a neccessity that is dawning on me.  Simultaneous with the swiftness of global climate change, the swiftness of evolving forms of media and communication–and our comprehension of them. Peaks and valleys in a temporal landscape (the earth) situated within the cosmos.

But there is more here, tons of  lightness. I have to go back to the recent conference on Education in the New Environmental Economy–see my previous post–reflecting upon the conference speakers, the passion and urgency that I seemed unaware of while attending, now is crytalizing. There is a rising sense in the media and the blogsphere of the inescapable truth that good ecology means good economy.  Isn’t this the ultimate expression of the idea of environmental economics–ie., the opposite of what it serves to remind us–that all activity has an effect throughout multiple environments and wealth emerges from the ecological economy of motion?  So I’d have to say that an economics (as presumably past ‘fossil fuel’ thinking is) that is unaware of the environmental costs is not a very accurate model and has had a devastating effect upon the earth.  So the urgency is twofold and upon us as the ultimate survival game: can we bring about a paradigm shift and transform our societies into ones of ecological economies before the planet is destroyed, or much of it? And this: can we evolve our consciousness and behaviour fast enough to precipitate a paradigm shift?

This is an ontological dilemma. Our very being depends upon our success of recreating our being with an ecological awareness. I thoroughly believe we have the means and ability to achieve this.  We are developing the tools to collaborate and solve this problem as a species through the World Wide Web.  My very important act of writing this blog serves to build the synapses as millions of others contribute.  I find the timing auspicious, contemporaneous, synergistic.

Architectonic

I’m begining to understand the activities of engaging in the virtual creation of being as creating an architectonic. I’m specifically using this to describe the elements of my web 2.0 activity as revealing a design ecology where by the aggregating elements hold together in a non-linear fashion. (Granted, I’m just begining to stumble around) What adds excitement and motivation to this journey is the imaginative and visualization possiblities in a 3D world such as Second Life. In my own practise of lighting and scene design, and specifically its pedagogy, the advent of 3D software is concurrent with this process and so part of the architecture. I was fortunate enough to have Valy Tremblay of Proluxon as our instructor in WYSIWYG.

WYSIWYG Quad View

This 3D CAD software permits precise real world scaling in a virtual environment with stunning results.

Here is a rendering one of my students (Jeremy Laclair) did for his eportfolio.

WIG Rendering

But as Valy so clearly pointed out–the whole purpose of the software is to get something out of it into the real world. This transition occurs nicely in the environment of the learning community of the performing arts center that is our immersive environment–Dibden Center for the Arts. So here is a picture of a very talented student–Matt Zimmerman–displaying his actualization of the visualization process, lighting the Sierra Leon Refugee All Stars Band. The shot clearly shows the computer, the lighting plot, the rendered view, the band on stage performing and Matt realizing his visualization and design in the Real World.

Matt Zimmerman Lighting Designer

The components of this project are begining to come into focus with the insights and contributions of others.  Specifically the interrelated connections that I am coming to understand as a media ecology. Initially I found the idea of media having an ecology as absurd.  Oddly my own yearnings to integrate seemingly diverse elements in the experience of creativity, and the struggle to understand the creative process, brought me to ecology. I’ve tried to get at this with my post on Immersion. To dwell in an ivory tower, or the black box of the stage, seemed  unnecessarily disjointed. To consume massive amounts of power for a stage production has felt consumptive to say the least.  For years I have lived the seemingly paradoxical extremes of back to nature homesteading while working in the citadel of technology–technical theater.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to engage in much collaboration with diverse disciplines.  Academic departments are full of people who have the same interests, and this has stifled creativity and led to the petrification of academia.  So I have reveled in the diversity of my students and our programming.  My collaborators have been the students more than any other group. I fully intend on continuing this collaboration as it is very rewarding but has left me somewhat disconnected from my peers, and yearning for this interaction–hence the blogging.

The next pillar of the acrhitectonic is Second Life.  Excitedly I anticipate simulating the ecology of creativity, if you will.  The aspect of community and visualization is very exciting and this blog will continue to chronicle and mine this experience.  I am a member of a Facebook group, Theater Think Tank, which I am going to experiment with translating into Second Life.  What a blast!

Media Ecology Musings

The media is the message. How very apt for Second Life. I’m just begining to graple with these things and feeling like I’ve been asleep at the wheel. Since i’m new to blogging, the blogosphere is overwhelming. I’m one of those people for whom 1 + 1 = one.
mt-foliage.jpg

So muddling along, what I wanted to add to the discussion from the other night with Bob Logan, is a comment ascribed to St. Augustine. Namely, that he was aware for the first time that he could read without speaking–that he could do what we call ‘reading to ourselves.’ This comment really blew my mind in the context of evolving consciousness. It seems a necessary precursor to the famed subject/object dichotomy in Western thought. Has anyone else ever heard of this comment by St. Augustine? I wonder. If we cast our minds back to a world where the word = the thing, naming as a human act of spontaneous creation, how far we have travelled! Witness the proliferation of words and blogs. Here we are in numerous ecologies. We are becoming aware of ecologies and out interdependence within them. We are creating new communities. We are synthesizing anew our compartmentalized reality.
Going back to the discussion with Bob, and the moveable type printing press, which appeared shortly after St Augustine, a suggestion of the democratization of knowledge accompanied this paradigm shift. The oral traditions passed from the mystic past were codified and subject to manipulation and monopoly by the Church. Now with books the many could have access, potentially, to what was the domain of the few. The vestiges of this monopoly remain today in the cult of the faculty–but it is changing fast!

—I know this is somewhat muddled, i warned you.

Bob Logan mentioned we are on the cusp of something. Clearly something is occuring in terms of this new media of the internet, blogging, web 2.0. If this media environment is the message, as I struggle to comes to terms with its meaning, another paradigm shift is upon us. Because I am in an educational environment, I feel it in the need of my pedagogy to evolve. The realization that students are no longer consumers–as the catch word goes (one that always bothered me)–but now are contributors, changes everything.

So I have to take this the next step, –most likely way too much for one blog–it follows in my non-linear thinking that the ultimate contribution of an individual would be their reality, i.e., virtual reality. So when i stumbled upon Second Life what impressed me most was the creative prowess of the platform.

terraforming-ontos_2.jpg

So in some way the circle has come round reinvesting our naming facility with the power to create in this new environment.
This is what I call ‘virtual being.’

I have one last part to add to this. Working in a rural impoverished college I am concerned with equity. That’s why the ‘democratization of knowledge’ is of interest. My responsibilty to my students (and myself) is to prepare them for a better, more enlightened future. A certain urgency accompanies this given the state of the world ecology. Socially the implication reverberates around the world in terms of class and opportunity. Richard Florida’s apt characterization of the emergent ‘creative class’ could not be more relevant. Here a separation is occuring before our very eyes. Social networking consists of contributors. The consumers are passivley receiving, watching television if you will. The emergent creative class is contributing.

Media Ecology

Attended the in world lecture by Bob Logan on Media Ecology last night in Second Life. I still don’t have the slightest idea what media ecology is. The idea that mathematical need and writing occured simultaneously–with priests counting cows or whatever in Mesopotamia–is interesting and I have to think about that. I’m looking forward to reading more of his ideas.

Bob Logan Media Ecology Lecture

Thank you Bob Logan and Ken Hubble.

I enjoyed my brief exchange with someone from SLCN.tv. And I’m looking forward to more of this trancsending time and space that SL affords. The opportunity for avatar interaction at a meaningful level is to me, in a nut shell, the beauty of SL. It comes down to choice. That’s where the writer from Good Magazine in the Nov-Dec issue on Hi Tech and Lo Tech “Get a Second Life”, exemplifies a spoon fed mentality more akin to web 1.0 consciousness. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the article w/o subscribing) If you choose to spend your in world time with sexual persuits this defines you during that precious time. The journalist only reveal themselves, but not really anything about the topic. This would be my response to Yankee Group Research Inc’s latest dismissal of the future of SL: mobile technology may be helpful and useful for certain actions–but deep, thoughtful, meaningful ones it isn’t–I can’t see the tiny screens on those things either. Anywhere, anytime works just fine for SL–but not only as eye candy.