Avatar Identity and a Virtual World Learning Theory; VWBPE 2018 day three

Today was the final day of the VWBPE 2018 conference, for me it has provoked and challenged me to think from different perspectives, answered some questions and asked many more, troubled what I thought I knew but did not fully understand,and exhausted me.

I hoped to get to four presentations today to which I was 50% successful. The first presentation that I saw was about using reflective learning techniques using the avatar as the site for reflection on the learning process in a virtual world. The second was a research presentation of a grounded theory study that proved invaluable for my own process of writing a research proposal for my PhD studies.

Liberate Agency Amplification Via Avatar Identity

The process of projection, identification through representation and reflexivity that avatars create and provide for students is nuanced, complex, resource and time intensive, immersive and complicated. The first session is called Liberate Agency Amplification Via Avatar Identity by Renne Emiko Brock/Zinnia Zauber (Avatar) and will be interesting. Avatars, identity has always fascinated me since first entering Second Life and virtual worlds.

Let go of control. Instructors empower students through agency with active learning ownership, not with ultimate authority. Build validating lessons prior to entering virtual situations with surprising personal investigation, mood board creation, and character sketches. Develop education buy-in through accelerated and immediate avatar customization to reveal individuality and unlimited potential. Use reflection exercises to reveal how this experience exposed their real investment in themselves. [source]

picture taken at VWBPE 2018 Liberate Agency Amplification Via Avatar Identity

Learning in a virtual environment being mediated by an avatar can be a unfamiliar experience for most students and educators alike. This presentation demonstrated how through careful course design the process of getting an avatar setup for the course can provide a valuable reflective space. Two of the strategies resonated for me in relation to my educational therapist training project called MTS Training namely, creative journey journals and the reflective blog essays using external blogging tools like WordPress or Medium.

Creative journey journals is something that I have included in my own project using the Moodle assignment type database and assignment where over the course they compile a visual and media portfolio that reflects there learning throughout the course. Moodle has a forum activity and using the ‘ Standard forum displayed like a blog’ that students could use to post to. However, the use of a blogging platform like WordPress or Medium they can own and use the content they create in whichever way they want.

[12:26] Zinnia Zauber: They reveal how the mood boards and sketches become thoughtful application of ideas and engagement.
[12:26] Zinnia Zauber: Through field trips, shopping, and working on inworld projects, the students document people, places, and their skill progress.
[12:26] Zinnia Zauber: Each Journey Journal is unique. Screen shots and snapshots while inworld and working on assignments are collected and curated in virtual galleries and in their web portfolios.
[12:26] Zinnia Zauber: A blank page can be terrifying or inspiring

Combining the database activity and what Zinnia described as a reflective blog process a reflective learning account to could form additional and supporting learning experiences alongside the contents of the MTS Training course over time. Over the duration of the course both students and the creator of the journal and the reflective blog making use of the commenting feature can discuss their experiences and comment in an ongoing process throughout the course.

[12:30] Zinnia Zauber: Reflective Blog Essays
[12:30] Zinnia Zauber: In all my classes, my students are required to have a WordPress Blog for their E-Portfolio and where they publish their weekly blog posts.

The reflective nature of theses activities feels appropriate for post initial therapy/counsellor training therapists, supervisors and trainers undertaking a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activity.

picture taken at VWBPE 2018 Liberate Agency Amplification Via Avatar Identity

There is allot to unpack and digest from this session and re watching the video will be needed to get the most from the suggestions and strategies outlined. Using OpenSim as the virtual world for MTS Training means that much of what the presenter discussed is relevant with adjustments for my learning and student experience.

Attribution: Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar) (2018, March). The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

You’re Grounded! Theorizing Virtual Learning Space

A research presentation describing the methodological design and analysis by Yen Verhoeven/TheoreticallyBlue Resident (Avatar) which combined participant observation, survey and interview data to create a theory of learning empirically derived from Second Life.

The digital landscape has opened a range of possibilities for understanding the different ways we learn in a virtual environment. To explore these ways, a new multidimensional learning theory, called Interactive Spatial Learning Theory (ISLT), was developed from a qualitative study in Second Life using constructivist grounded theory (GT) methodology. This presentation showcases how this methodology led to the development of ISLT and presents virtual world examples of its application. [source]

picture taken at VWBPE 2018 You’re Grounded! Theorizing Virtual Learning Space

If you are interested in the study itself I highly recommend that you watch the video below. What follows is my reflections of the session in relation to my future PhD studies. The presenter made three interesting links methodologically, (1) participant observation as a qualitative method as part of the research design, and (2) the participant observation data become a source of data for the grounded theory (constant comparison and triangulation) and (3) participant observation creating research questions for additional phases of data collection.

The comments below about participant observation as a qualitative method highlight the possible way that participant observation in a grounded study design may suit my research questions. From my preparation for my own study exploring different methodological strategies(phenomenology, ethnography and grounded theory)grounded theory seems to fit and make sense. Collecting and analysing ethnographic data from participant observation (point one above) combined with a second phase of data collection to address questions from the first phase (point two and three above) also makes sense.

[14:01] TheoreticallyBlue: Participant observation is one of the mainstays for a qualitative researcher, and this was the primary way I collected data for Phase I.

[14:01] TheoreticallyBlue: One of the key tenants of participant observation is immersion, which It involves extended time in the field trying to understand the environment, the culture, and the interactions between participants, their community, and their environment.

picture taken at VWBPE 2018 You’re Grounded! Theorizing Virtual Learning Space

I am hoping to carry on my studies and the preparation and writing has recently felt stuck. Listening to the presenter a feeling of seeing more clearly a strategy that could be useful to my own study. An example like the one presented today for me clears up the chaos enough to see a different way of approaching something and this is what happened to me. The clear methodological articulation of the presenters study helped me to grasp the methodological foundation I was trying to build my study on.

[14:01] TheoreticallyBlue: My interviews and surveys took place in Phase II, after my initial analysis and coding.
[14:01] TheoreticallyBlue: Here, I used my survey to collect demographics about the BB community.
[14:01] TheoreticallyBlue: I used both survey and interviews to get answers to some of the research questions that came up during my Phase I analysis.

Attribution: Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar) (2018, March). The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

I managed to miss a couple of sessions to day that I thought looked interesting and luckily there was a video made of them both. I have added them here but have not watched them when I do I will add notes then.

Cultural Appropriation? Cultural Appreciation?

Attribution: Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar) (2018, March). The VRevolution calls for a new digital literacy. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

Bridging Worlds: Learning in a Strange Land

Attribution: Bryan Alexander/Bryan Zelmanov (Avatar) (2018, March). Bridging Worlds: Learning in a Strange Land. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

Final Statements

That brings the conference to a close for this year and it has been amazing and so much to mull over. Writing up each day from the conference although exhausting and a little more than I had anticipated it becoming. The value from it has been unexpected and is something I may do more of. Each of the sessions that I attended has been rich in learning and reflection both on the content of the talks and presentations but also in relation to my present and future projects and endeavors.

Below are some useful VWBPE 2018 web and social media links:

Having the streams available after the sessions and being given permission to embed them on my blog is greatly appreciated. Until next year I am signing off from the 11th VWBPE 2018 conference.

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