Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Category: Ideas

Pedagogical agent bashing

Posted on October 11th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

Lots of my work has to do with “pedagogical agents.” These are virtual characters employed in electronic learning environments for instructional purposes. But what lies behind the lingo? These are images of beings (humans or inanimate objects) that appear in learning modules or tutorials and “do something”. Some of them can hold a conversation with a learner (conversational pedagogical agents) while others present information, decorate the learning environment, or represent some sort of a persona. The second type of agents I call passive or non-conversational pedagogical agents. This is the type that gets employed the most in pedagogical agent research and this is the type of agent that I am going to bash in this post! :)

Pedagogical agents represent one of those technologies that have been presented as greatly beneficial to teaching and learning. Yet, the difference hasn’t been made explicit. Conversational agents, for reasons that I won’t explore here may be beneficial. Passive pedagogical agents however will not have any lasting impact on learning or any lasting impression on students. This is because:

* Pedagogical agents who merely present information to students are boring. Boring is bad. Let me say that again because educational technology researchers/designers might not have got it the first time around: Boring is bad.

* Pedagogical agents who don’t allow from deviation from the given task are “oppressive”. To be clear, “oppression” here is compatible to (or derived from) Freire’s description of classroom oppression and democracy.

While I do believe (and have empirical evidence) that the pedagogical agent’s representation influences how people interact with them, passivity isn’t the way forward.

Apologies for the negative post – but to move forward we need to talk about these things too :)

Evaluation and Design of Educational Software (educ70222)

Posted on September 20th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

Those of you that know me, have heard of my work during the past 3 weeks to design my course at the University of Manchester. Well, I’m glad to say that it’s ready! This is a face-to-face course with distance learning students (DL) signed up for it as well. The DL students will participate online via a variety of tools and methods. This course has it all. We are using WordPress to guide our weekly meetings, Blackboard (or Webct Vista for those of you who are in the US) to hold various discussions, audio and video podcasts for updates and inforation,  and screen-capture videos for software demonstration. The students (regardless of whether they are studying face-to-face or at a distace) will be engaged in semester-long collaborative assignments surrounding the design, development, and evaluation of electronic learning environments. This is going to be fun!

The course is located at: http://edes0809.wordpress.com/

Feel free to follow along if you wish!

Call for Chapters: Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

Posted on July 3rd, by George Veletsianos in cfp, E-learning, Ideas, open, work. 2 comments

Dear everyone,

I am very excited to announce a CFP on the use of emerging technologies in distance education. Specifics are listed below. The CFP can also be downloaded in pdf form.

CALL FOR CHAPTER PROPOSALS

Proposal Submission Deadline: September 1, 2008

Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
edited by George Veletsianos (University of Manchester, UK)

Part of the Issues in Distance Education series
edited by Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada)

and planned publication online and in paper format by Athabasca University Press as an
Open Access publication

Introduction

Emerging technologies – such as virtual worlds, serious games, wikis, and social networking sites – have been heralded as technologies that are powerful enough to transform learning and teaching. Nevertheless, minimal work has investigated the affordances of such tools in the context of distance education. Most often, the literature presents a description of such technologies along with classroom integration ideas, presenting an incomplete picture of how such technologies are used in distance education. In particular, the goal of this book is to amalgamate work in the use of emerging technologies to design, enhance and deliver distance education. Researchers and practitioners interested in the above issues reside in varied academic domains, rendering the sharing and dissemination of their work a formidable task. Via this book, we hope to harness dispersed knowledge and multidisciplinary perspectives. The target audience is both members of research communities and innovative distance education practitioners.

Scope

The book will be limited to the use of emerging technologies for distance education. Recommended emerging technologies of interest for the book include, but are not limited, to:
• Blogs
• Microblogging platforms,
• Wikis and Wikibooks
• Social Networking Sites
• Virtual worlds
• Video games
• Cell/mobile phones and devices,
• Virtual characters, Avatars, and Pedagogical Agents
• Web 2.0 and data mashups
• Pod and video casts
• Online grassroots video
• Open Educational Resources and Open Access Technologies
• Pod usage production models

Invited Submissions

The book will consist of chapters (5,000 – 8,000 words) showcasing best practices, illustrating and analyzing how emerging technologies have been used in diverse distance learning and teaching areas. Via such work, it is expected that each chapter will contribute a list of ideas and factors that need to be considered when emerging technologies are adopted for distance teaching and learning. Equally important, contributing authors should highlight the pedagogical, organizational, cultural, social, economic, or political factors that influence the adoption and success/failure of emerging technologies.

Audience

This book is intended to be used as a one stop locale for work relating to the use of emerging technologies in distance education. As such, it is expected to be relevant to researchers, practitioners, and students. Importantly, due to the fact that interested parties reside in multiple disciplines and academic departments, chapters should be accessible to a broad audience.

Submission Procedure

By September 1, 2008: Submit a 1-2 page chapter proposal summarizing the intended submission.
Papers should be submitted via email to: veletsianos |AT| gmail.com

October 1, 2008: Author notification along with chapter guidelines

December 1, 2008: Full chapters are due.

All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.
Expected Publication date is late 2009.

Designing for engagement, entertainment, and fun

Posted on April 11th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

This day is dedicated to dissertation writing, but I couldn’t pas up on this piece via my RSS feed:

Trying to Design a Truly Entertaining Game Can Defeat Even a Certified Genius
Yep, designing with your users in mind, with an open perspective towards the user/learner experience, and with the understanding that what is not fun it will probably be boring (! great insight, i know!), will (probably) yield some good results. Virtual worlds, and video games, also suffer from the same things that traditional ID suffers from – ignoring the learner experience for “effectiveness” and “efficiency.”  Talking about  the  problems of ID, there’s an interesting discussion over at ITFORUM today where people are at grips with regards to a list of the “Best IT programs” –  I’ve always said that there’s no such thing as “best” and i’d love to contribute to the discussion, but I won’t… I need to write :)

How do we design for learning engagement

Posted on March 28th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, engagement, Ideas, learner experience. 1 Comment

How do we design for engagement? This is a question that has hovered over my shoulders for a while. Although not explicitly verbalized it is part of my work with avatars, pedagogical agents, and virtual characters. For example, see this paper in the British journal of Educational Technology. In addition, in my dissertation, I also argue that pedagogical agents/virtual characters may incite such deep and engaging experiences so as to distract learners from the task they are engaged with (I am of course talking about the conversational type agents and NOT the passive pedagogical agents that prominently appear in instructional design research – yes, I am being sarcastic). Outside of my tiny little contributions, others have thought about this issue. Pat Parrish, drawing on the work of Dewey and others, has written extensively on learner engagement. Charlie Miller, coming for an interaction design perspective, has also talked about engagement. And, the other day, a blog by Joseph from BYU, noting sister issues of engagement, emotion, and narrative. Granted, the ID field has for long (and long overdue) been focusing on information delivery and wow-look-at-what-this-can-do, but I think there are enough people thinking and writing about learner engagement, that the topic may gain prominence – as it should.

 

Back to the original question: How do we design for engagement? Honestly, if I knew how to verbalize this, I would probably write it up. But, I have a few ideas. First, I think that this question spurs multiple other questions. For example, how do K-12 teachers engage children? What are the characteristics of engaging lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging learners? Note that I am writing about characteristics in qualitative (and possibly interpretive, and further, possibly phenomenological) terms. What are the characteristics of boring lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging electronic learning environments/experiences? What is the process of engagement? How do we measure engagement? Again, I think that “measuring” engagement should be done in qualitative terms – this is a poor way of measuring something as malleable and inherent to our existential being, but it’s at least a start. Could we provide some sort of guidelines for the design of engaging electronic learning experiences? What does social psychology say about this? More on the last question in an upcoming post…

 

A set of preliminary ideas that I have is that “fun” has a lot to do with it. The HCI field discussed funology for a while, but I haven’t seen anything recently. Additionally, I think that a sense of achievement, contribution, belongingness, ability to change things, and purpose, matter. That’s an initial list, and it is very rough. There are numerous other ideas that need to be covered, including aesthetics, transformational learning, and, alas, the learner. But, I’ll leave that for a different time because I need to do some dissertation work.

The Experimental College

Posted on March 25th, by George Veletsianos in EXCO, Ideas. 1 Comment

Last year, a leaflet informed me of the “experimental college” (EXCO) as a place where everyone can take or teach a class for free, a locale committed to open access to education (defined in the broadest sense of learning), and lifelong learning. More information is at http://www.excotc.org/. Since then, in the context of an EXCO, I have been thinking about how technology can (a) support the creation of an experimental type of college, (b) allow prospective students to gain a deep look into what prospective courses entail, (c) enable instructors to effectively convey the course content for prospective students, (d) spread the word about such an endeavor, (e) be used to eliminate inequalities arising due to limited access to education, (f) facilitate the development of a completely online (or a hybrid) model of an EXCO, and (g) proactively prevent the development of boring pageturning-kind of online learning.

 

I have talked to a friend about EXCO and we have jokingly mentioned the development of an EXCO in our country. This would be a huge endeavor, but I am at a bit of a loss – I don’t know where to start! I suppose, the best thing I could do is to start writing my ideas and talk to others about it. In this spirit, does anyone have any interest? Do you want to be involved? As you can see, everything is fluid at the moment. We could use anyone with any sort of expertise. Can you teach knitting (maybe online)? How about a beginning Instructional Design Course? Perhaps facilitate discussions on Harry Potter? Or perhaps you’d be interested in the design of an online learning environment (using opecourseware perhaps?) to facilitate the EXCO? Maybe you are interested in evaluation? Talk to us… let’s get a movement started! :)

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Update: This just came through: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/diy-education-teach-yourself.html