April 17, 2008
Baraka: An example of sociocultural learning approach
I recently brushed up on the learning theories through the video series at https://masielearning.pbwiki.com/theory . As a followup to my own adult learning experience, I wanted to encourage my own higher level functions of assimilation, observation and integration to play with the concepts under the three theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Socioculturism as laid out by Stanton Wortham of UPenn.
Tonight we had a family over for dinner and we watched the silent movie Baraka. If you dont know Baraka, you wont need to do much searching before finding more about this thought provoking, visual treat spanning 24 countries. It has no dialog, no narration, no captions or subtitles. Just rousing music and moving images.
As the camera showed up scenes from Brazilian slums, Indian scavenging grounds and Grand Central station, all the four adults engaged each other in a learning experience where everyone came out richer.
Two of us had lightly better general information about the context in which the scenes were shown. In a silent documentary, all four of us became narrators and educators. The scenes ranged from common sterotypes to rare nooks of earth which tested our knowledge. The air was thick with interpretation and the experience more interactive than any other before.
At the end, I strongly felt that this experience qualifies as a top notch sociocultural learning experience marked by the following characteristics:
1. Contextual interpretation
2. Richness of symbolism through noises, patters and color
3. Body of knowledge depending on the sum of the mings of us four viewers, the sum being greater than anything we could accomplish in isolation.
4. Guiding each other through blond spots and working like a team of sailors who are collectively responsible for positioning a battleship on the waters (to use Wortham's metaphor).
I could clearly see that the most efficient adult learning can happen under the flag of sociocultural active learning.
April 12, 2008
Virtual Worlds: An imagineer fulfills a 20th century dream
What is common between Prof. Randy Pauch of Carnegie Mellon and CS Lewis, author of the Narnia books?
The force that drives innovation in technology is human sensitivity, perception and enlightened thoughts. As we herald a new age of vLearning or learning within Virtual Worlds like Second Life, we face a wild and wide open domain of alternate reality. But alternate reality in itself is nothing new. 'Virtual Worlds' is our answer to the question posed above.
The extended entry follows:
C. S. Lewis, the author of the seven Narnia books can be easily said to be a pioneer of Virtual Worlds, along with contemporaries like JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings). Yes, what they built was virtual worlds in within the computing resources of the reader's brain. And what a fascinating way! One would expect the worlds they created to be inaccessible to adults who cannot learn through reading. And in part that is true. Children absorbed Narnian concepts more easily than a distracted busy adult would. The child's mind would do the necessary computing with relative ease to create the virtual worlds in the mind... rendering imagery more vivid than any computer can generate. If you have the right imagination and experience. I would like to quote two paragraphs from Lewis's biographical worl, "Surprised by Joy" to illustrate the genuis' process of conjuring virtual worlds. This was way before he created Narnia. In his childhood he created "Animal-Land" and "India". He later combined them into a single world with but still, two administrative divisions: Boxen.
"And now that I have opened the gate, all the Boxonians, like the ghosts in Homer, come clamoring for mention. But they must be denied it. Readers who have built a world would rather tell of their own than hear of mine; those who have not would peraps be bewildered and repelled." (Chapter V, Suprised by Joy, Lewis).
Lewis says a lot above with reference to creation of virtual worlds: Virtual worlds, once created, need to address the individual stories of all and any creatures within it. This is impossible to address in the written word. But if he were alive to see that every resident of Second Life can live and experience their own storyline within the virtual world, that would have greatly amazed him.
Yesterday I stumbled upon the "Last Lecture of a Dying Professor", Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon, who could be called a pioneer, not just of building virtual worlds, but more importantly an educator who has helped many others learn this craft in the best way possible. Through a course in virtual world, taught for ten years, Randy has addressed the eternal child within all his students who shared that timeless urge with writers like Lewis and Tolkien. That intense desire to tell a story in their own world, not in this disorderly and fate-controlled real reality. Here is the video that tells all, famously titled "Last Lecture of a Dying Professor":
Randy's accomplishments include being an imagineer who created the Alladin virtual reality ride for Disney. With the advent of Virtual Worlds, the time has come to pay tribute into that 20th century tradition of fantasy and rededicate it to learning objectives.
April 12th, 2008
My introduction to virtual reality was through Michael Crichton's book, 'Disclosure' which was later made into a hit movie starring Michael Doughlas and Demi Moore. It was a fascinating but not an awe inspiring presentation of the basic capabilities of augmented reality and relied heavily on a virtual guide within the world. This remains true today in Second Life, with the difference that the helper avatars are for most parts driven by real people, self-driven and localized to their parts of the world.