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Musing about learning, knowledge and Second Life

Thinking about what Judith said yesterday about research questions.  What is it that I am actually interested in about Second Life (in a learning context of course)? Woke up thinking about this and the word which was very much in my mind was ‘ownership’.  I guess that has been a key word for me for many years. In my social work days, it was about whether people owned their problems or externalised them in some way as somebody else’s fault or responsibility. As a community worker, and later managing staff involved in multiple projects, it was again about who owned the project – the people involved in it directly or the organisation working with those people.

Another discussion yesterday which started in the lab meeting but continued in Plurk was around learning, information and knowledge – when does one become another, for example it was suggested that learning is when information becomes knowledge. Another suggestion was that information becomes learning when it is used.  I don’t feel particularly satisfied with either of those.  For me there is more than one type of learning. Some of what is learned is static; it is information/knowledge which is learned for a purpose, eg passing an exam, but once the purpose is fulfilled, what has been learned is of no more relevance to the learner.  It may be remembered and dragged out of memory in a quiz or conversation, but the learner is not owning, using and developing what has been learned – it has not been internalised to become part of them and their way of thinking. Some of what is learned is utilitarian – tools which enable other learning or activities. For example once we can read, that process is learned and internalised providing a means of accessing other information.  This may link with threshold concepts – troublesome learning which once learned is obvious.

A further aspect of learning is a dynamic one, where there is something of interest to the learner to the extent they own their own learning and engage in an exploration which goes beyond what is taught – the initial learning experience is a springboard for further exploration and discovery.  Here ownership is paramount – the learning experience is owned and given meaning by the learning whether or not it has anything to do with necessary or assessed knowledge.

Thinking about this in a Second Life context – and also musing a little about that discussion about immersive virtual worlds – it is possible to be an observer is Second Life, to participate in something but do nothing with it.  Yesterday evening I had a look at 2 interesting models being developed on a medical sim.  My purpose was purely utilitarian – I wanted to see these models and with a view to including them on my list of places to share with students.  I was not concerned about the content, though I was very impressed with the build and the achievement in creating them.  They did not impinge on me in a way that led me to want to know more about the subject or to make me want to start building and creating myself.  I was a voyeur, an observer.

What, if anything, does an IVW offer to move the learning experience from observation and learning the facts to involvement in and ownership of the learning experience?

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