Monday, January 21, 2008

3D learning environment from Sun Microsystems...

Many educators are beginning to hear about the potential for 3D learning environments. Perhaps the best known emerging platform is SecondLife. For all it's promise and interest, early adopters of the SecondLife platform find many problems and difficulties as a "ready for prime time" platform. Part of the problem relates to the question of openness. Linden Labs, developers of SecondLife, has been struggling with the inevitable challenge of moving towards a more open framework in order to encourage a broad development community, while maintaining their early advantage of a "for-profit" business model.

Finally, Sun Microsytems' DarkStar project shows some real promise towards overcoming the practical problems of "bandwidth" and processing power that currently makes working with virtual world environments klugey in classroom settings. Sun's design creates a peer-to-peer network of user computers that overcomes the processing limitations of a server-client network in much the same way as bittorrent does for large video downloads and streaming. The MPK20 Sun Virtual Workplace demo, while graphically uninteresting as an early version of the technology, nonetheless shows some of the promise of 3D virtual worlds in education.

Five Technology Trends that Change Everything in Curriculum Design

Social Production
  • Production costs have gone to “0” in the digital age. Learners are now producers of content; not simply consumers of content.
  • Examples: blogs, wikis, podcasts, and video production systems
  • Social production technology provides learners with the opportunity to “learn to do.”
Social Networking
  • Social networks enable affinity groups that build learning.
  • Examples: Facebook, Ning, and eLGG
  • Social networking provides learners with identity building tools; the opportunity to “learn to be.”
The Semantic Web
  • Web 3.0 tools are emerging that make the Internet a powerful repository of knowledge.
  • Examples: Photosynth and ”friend of a friend” (FOAF) applications.
  • The semantic web provides learners with an increasing efficiency to acquire knowledge; the opportunity to “learn to know.”
Media Grids
  • Media grids create virtual worlds and 3D simulation environments
  • New technologies make virtual world processing inexpensive and practical.
  • Examples: SecondLife or MPK20 Wonderland (from Sun Microsystems)
  • 3D simulations and virtual worlds have the potential to permanently alter our sense of time and space in learning environments.
  • 3D simulations and virtual worlds amplify learners’ opportunities to “learn to do” and “learn to be.”
The “New Zoo” Metaphor for Knowledge Creation
  • Biology opens new windows on the world of information and knowledge creation.
  • Decoding the human genome is a significant development in our understanding of knowledge. The rate of new knowledge is on pace to grow at unheard of exponential rates.
  • The biology metaphor for knowledge creation amplifies learners’ opportunities to “learn to know.”