Walls Optional: Camosun's Annual Teaching and Learning Event

Walls Optional

I am very excited about Walls Optional, the annual in house professional development day we organizes for Camosun faculty, staff and administrators and the main reason for the excitement is our keynote speaker, Dr. Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina.

Alec’s keynote is title A Tweet and a Poke: How Educators Harness the Power of Social Networks. And it promises to be a good one as the buzz around social networks in our society increases with every new Twitter and Facebook account created. Where education fits into the social network landscape is one of the focus areas of Alec’s keynote.

New this year is the expansion of the planning team to include the entire Educational Support and Development department. This means a wider variety of workshops, with a particular emphasis on the newest members of the ERD team, the Camosun library. Sybil Harrison and the library staff are preparing 2 excellent workshops; It’s Not Just About the Books which will take a look at the ways libraries are evolving in the digital world, and Copyright in the Remix World.

DE will also be offering our usual assortment of workshop goodies, including an Overview of Desire2Learn for new faculty who haven’t yet taken the plunge into the D2L world. Also on the D2L front, Camosun instructors Pasquale Fiore and Rosemary Mason will be doing a workshop on how D2L saves them time with course administration. Meghan Moore is offering a workshop on Blended Learning, and Jennifer Stein is teaming up with Dianne Binn from Aboriginal Education & Community Connections to talk about a new tool available to faculty to help with the Indiginization of course material. Rounding out the schedule will be session from Joan Yates in the School of Business on characteristics of the new student, based on research work she has recently completed as part of her Masters thesis.

Finally, I’ll be poping up with a session that, well, looks like a joyous mess. For now I’m calling it EdTech Bootcamp. The idea is that I am going to throw out a bunch of ideas and tools and let the participants decide where we will go. I am making the lab tech’s quite nervous because they keep asking me to tell them exactly what I need to have installed on the computers in the lab. I don’t know. Just give me Firefox and the ability for users to add some plugins and off we go. Yes, it will be messy, but then again, learning is messy. I suspect there will be some stuff on wiki’s and blogs, YouTube and podcasting. I’m using a wiki as a scratch pad if you want to watch an unstructured session (d)evolve.

We’ve capped registration at 125 and have limited it to Camosun faculty, staff and administrators. If you want to find out more or are from Camosun and want to register, you can visit the Walls Optional website.


Create virtual worlds using Metaplace

While I am intrigued by virtual worlds like Second Life, I still find there are real barriers to using it.

First, the Second Life learning curve is steep and, in my limited experience with it, intimidating to novice users. You have to invest a lot of time before you can do even the most rudimentary of tasks. Why Second Life needs a credit card when you create an account is off-putting (but this may have changed since I created my account a year and a bit ago). The Griefers on Second Life also seem particularily unpleasent when compared to the Trolls you find in other online communities. And finally, I do not like downloading and installing client-side app’s on my PC. I much prefer to have my virtual experiences in the familiar enclave of the browser.

The browser based virtual world is one of the reasons Metaplace looks promising to me. Similar to the (now defunct) Lively by Google, Metaplace is a browser based virtual environment. While it looks a bit cartoonish, some have already begun to wonder about the possibilities that Metaplace has educational potential as a browser based virtual environment.

I appreciate the user-friendly language Metaplace is using on their website to describe the service: It’s not just for techies anymore — it’s for everyone who uses the Web today. Sounds to me like the goal of the Metaplace developers is to lower that steep learning curve that so many novice Second Lifer’s experience.

While the options for creating your world will be fairly limited when compared to Second Life,  it looks like you will be able to pull and push content from other sources into and out of your Metaworld virtual environment, which leads to all kinds of mashup possibilities.

I have not tried Metaplace as they are currently in private beta right now. I’ve signed up and am now playing the waiting-to-be-asked-to-the-dance game. Hopefully I’ll be able to take Metaplace for a spin because it looks like a promising tool. Here’s the video.

Photo credits: Second Life: For all your WTF moments by Torley. Used under Creative Commons license.

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