Tag: learning (page 1 of 7)

Virtual spaces for learning and collaboration

Today, I’ve been doing a UCL short course. As we were coming back from a break, we were discussing the lack of ’embodiedness’ in virtual interactions. This reminded me of experiments with different platforms that WAO did during the pandemic.

This post by Alja from Tethix is prompted by a challenge-based learning platform that I took part in last year. They’re focusing on tech ethics (hence the name) and their approach was great. It was just that the tools got in the way to some extent.

I think, after reading this, it’s time to experiment again with some of the tools mentioned in the post. Sometimes you do need a sense of play and feel like you’re connected in ways that go beyond small boxes on a screen.

The Tethix Archipelago emerged from the Challenge Based Learning pilot we did in March last year. For the pilot, we designed a unique collaborative online learning experience in tech ethics and used Mural collaborative whiteboards and visual storytelling to situate the learning journey in a fictional world: the Tethix Archipelago. The Archipelago consists of four islands that emerged from the four essentials skills of the Challenge Based Learning journey: collaboration, exploration, practice, and reflection.

Mural turned out to be a great tool for collaboration and live session guidance, but it didn’t really convey a sense of place. Clicking on a link in a Mural to visit the next leg of your journey just doesn’t feel like traveling, especially when you’re trapped in the same little Zoom box during every live session.

So we started exploring tools that could help us convey a sense of space and discovered Gather and WorkAdventure, among others. These tools offer two-dimensional virtual collaborative spaces where you can walk around a space with your avatar and have proximity-based conversations by using your microphone and camera.


You might be thinking: this is cute and all, but is this Archipelago all games and play? Well, playfulness is a big part of why we’re experimenting with these game-like worlds; we know that play helps us learn better and can unlock our imagination. But there’s much more to it than just millennial nostalgia for pixel graphics.

As already mentioned, Gather allows us to build a sense of place, both inside rooms and between them. And a sense of place helps with learning and memory encoding. Historical records show ancient Greeks using the method of loci or memory palaces, a technique for improving memory encoding and retrieval, and humans have been developing other mnemonic techniques based on spatial relationship for much longer than that. We’re physical beings, uniquely equipped to understand space, whether physical or represented by pixels.

Source: Welcome to the Tethix Archipelago | Tethix

AI everywhere in education

Jon Dron makes a good point here that we need to put the humanity back into education, otherwise we’re going to have AI everywhere and a completely broken system.

I thought it would be fun, in an ironic kind of way, to use an AI art generator to illustrate this post…

To a significant extent, we already have artificial students, and artificial teachers teaching them. How ridiculous is that? How broken is the system that not only allows it but actively promotes it?


This is a wake-up call. Soon, if not already, most of the training data for the AIs will be generated by AIs. Unchecked, the result is going to be a set of ever-worse copies of copies, that become what the next generation consumes and learns from, in a vicious spiral that leaves us at best stagnant, at worst something akin to the Eloi in H.G. Wells’s Time Machine. If we don’t want this to happen then it is time for educators to reclaim, to celebrate, and (perhaps a little) to reinvent our humanity. We need, more and more, to think of education as a process of learning to be, not of learning to do, except insofar as the doing contributes to our being. It’s about people, learning to be people, in the presence of and through interaction with other people. It’s about creativity, compassion, and meaning, not the achievement of outcomes a machine could replicate with ease. I think it should always have been this way.

Source: So, this is a thing… | Jon Dron

Image: DALL-E 2 (“robot painting a picture of a robot painting a picture of a robot, in the style of Rene Magritte”)

Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible

Can on rotary phone. Everything is pink.

👯‍♀️ Secrets of the VIP Party: Why the 1% Love ‘Ritualised Waste’ — “Post-pandemic, in a broader sense, you glimpsed an immediate reckoning and disgust with ostentatious displays of wealth in the context of COVID-19. We saw some instances where people would make statements like ‘we’re all in this together’, while broadcasting from their luxury yacht or private island, followed by a backlash. I think they’ve quickly learned not to do that since…”

This is an incredible read: an interview with a former model turned sociology professor.

💳 Germany To Let Citizens Store ID Cards On Smartphone — “The Interior Ministry said Wednesday that from this fall, citizens will be able to use the electronic ID stored in their smartphones together with a PIN number to prove they are who they claim to be when communicating with authorities or private businesses.”

It’s Germany, so I’m sure they’ll do this sensibly, but it’s incredible to think how quickly smartphones have become an essential part of our everyday life.

🏛️ ‘A very dangerous epoch’: historians try to make sense of Covid — “It is not just the Covid pandemic that can make these feel like unusually significant times. Populism, Trump’s rise and (perhaps) fall, Brexit, the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo protests, mass movement of refugees, the increased might of both China and India and many other issues have contributed to a sense of humanity having reached a historic moment, all while the climate crisis rages with ever more urgency.”

People always think they’re living through unprecedented times. But in our case, we probably are.

🚸 Why there’s no such thing as lost learning — “The fact is that we – as a community of politicians, teachers and education experts – decide what any child must know, understand or be able to do at each age, not some natural law of learning. Why should a child know the structure of a cell membrane by the age of 16? I couldn’t know that information at 16 because it had not yet been fully discovered and described. But I learned it at a later stage.”

This is a useful post to point people towards, as the author does a great job of pointing out the ridiculousness of putting an arbitrary body of knowledge before the well-being of young people.

👑 Should Elizabeth II be Elizabeth the Last? At least allow Britain a debate — “But none of [these revelations] reflect the real damage the monarchy inflicts on us. It’s not their money nor their abuse of power, but their very existence that ambushes and infantilises the public imagination, making us their subjects in mind and spirit.”

My views on privilege hardly need rehearsing here, but suffice to say that one of the main problems with our tiny island is the delusions of grandeur we have through outdated institutions such as the monarchy.

Quotation-as-title by Anthony Hope. Image by Tyler Nix.