ReLIVE08 Closing Keynote – When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up

Back from two days in Milton Keynes for ReLIVE08, the Open University’s conference on Researching and Living in Virtual Worlds.

The abstract said that

Roo Reynolds has offered to not pre-prepare any slides for his closing keynote, but instead create a short presentation on the fly during the other sessions. Drawing on the notes and photographs taken
during the conference, he’ll act as a virtual cheat-sheet for the event.
He’ll share his notes, including what he found most interesting and what he’ll take away from it, wrapping up the two days by distilling any key themes and considering what we’ve learned about learning. Perhaps he can pull the threads together into something which will make sense. It makes predicting what he’s going to say particularly tricky, but it could be fun.

The results from this afternoon are embedded below. I’ll let you decide how well I met my (scary, self-imposed) brief. I would say that I didn’t take as many photos as I planned (I either need a better camera or a portable lighting rig), and I ended up trawling my own back catalog of photos to illustrate certain points. Also, I was a smidgen more didactic than I’d intended. I was (and am) very tired. In fact, I was up at 2:30 am this morning pulling together my notes from yesterday. Four hours sleep is not enough for me and perhaps being tired made me more challenging – and less congratulatory – than I could have been.

More importantly, my apologies for only drawing on a very small selection of the papers presented at the conference. With 4 or 5 streams running at once (and especially with the rooms spread across the campus) it just wasn’t possible to see everything. Much of what I did see really impressed me and I really enjoyed the conference.

View SlideShare presentation

WebcastUpdate: a video of the presentation, with the slides nicely inter-cut, is now online.

Want more?

19 Comments »

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  1. Outstanding Roo, it must be great have such a visual ability. Me? 10-yrs of PowerPoint and I’ve lost any visual flair I had.

    Comment by Mark Cathcart — November 22, 2008 #

  2. Good stuff. Have you been thinking about the kinds of tools that would have helped you do this?

    Where technology and education is at the moment is Wii fit, Brain Training, Eye Training(!), whatever that quiz game is for the PS. People are turning to technology for their mentoring.

    As far as play/learning goes, play has always been how we learn. As far as I’m concerned friendship and education are the same thing. If I look back in my life, the times I’ve been best academically, and learnt the most is when I’ve had friends interested in the same things I was. That’s when you learn the most without even realising you’re learning.

    Comment by kyb — November 22, 2008 #

  3. Mark: thanks! I have to keep remembering to put the words in the speaker notes and just a simple image on screen. Of course, it’s a terrible form of presentation when you want to distribute afterwards (unless people are going to make them listen to it all too). People are still going to want bullet points for certain sorts of communications, and I’m still struggling with that.

    Kyb’s question about the kinds of tools that would have helped is (I think) going back to a conversation we had last year about live slide-jockeying, perhaps with someone helping a presenter pull together websites, images and words on the fly. At my best, I have lots of browser tabs open and ignore slides altogether (sometimes retro-fitting slides later as a reminder, like these in the Augmented Reality panel in LA this year).

    I think I’ve developed a reasonably fast technique for making these ahead of time now. The idea of finding or developing a tool which would allow me to visually compose something like I did here (maybe based on paper-based notes), in real time rather than over two days, both excites and terrifies me.

    And I completely agree about play + learning. I sense (some) educators are a bit scared of it and like to keep a distinction there, but they were certainly challenged by Ted’s talk to reconsider the role of play.

    Comment by Roo — November 22, 2008 #

  4. Roo, thanks for a great talk. I’ve had an entertaining evening listening to you and also following up some of the links you suggest. Sarah’s research will be REALLY helpful I think in terms of clear thinking about what virtual worlds are and aren’t and give us a vocabularly to talk sensibly about them.

    Comment by Kevin Aires — November 23, 2008 #

  5. I watched your talk earlier. You are ‘sickeningly’ good at talking in public! Well done. You made something that I have absolutely no idea about really interesting. It was also great to see what stuff you’re up to at the moment :o)

    Comment by Kaman Chan — November 23, 2008 #

  6. Hi Roo,

    I was at your presentation, and really enjoyed it. I picked up two really useful tips. One was the usefulness of the backchannel, though I’ll need a lot of practice before I can use it myself. The other was Worldle, which is just brilliant.
    I think I also picked up an even more useful take-home-message about VWs. Not just from your presentation, but from the conference as a whole. I was the grumpy old academic that asked whether universities should keep out of SL. When I set out to come to Milton Keynes I was full of ideas for filling SL with earnest learning opportunities; for example, I was thinking of it as a set for role-plays, hoping that it would help our students in knowledge construction. Now I think of it in the same way as I think of Facebook; as something that should be owned and organised by the students. New students’ own Facebook groups are almost always more useful and reliable than induction and pre-induction material posted by the staff. So, do you think I should recommend that we use most or all of our SL space to allow our students to organise (or disorganise) whatever they like, and that we (the grumpy old academics) should promise to keep as far away from that activity as we can? I think you mentioned the idea of SL as a home for the sort of learning that happens in student-to-student discussion after class, and I agree. I also think that that works best without academics, without the inevitably associated threat of assessment. As lots of people, including you, said, “play”.
    Thanks again, for your really useful contribution to a really useful conference.

    Comment by Liam O'Hare — November 23, 2008 #

  7. Kevin & Kaman: thanks!

    Liam: regarding the backchannel, I’ve mused about it once or twice here in past, which I hope you’ll find helpful.

    Thanks for your question at the end of the talk. I certainly agree with you about leaving the students to self organise and use whatever social tools they find most effective. They’ll do so anyway of course.

    There’s probably still something that educators can use virtual worlds for in teaching, but one of the many things I agreed strongly with Ted on was that it should be something that you’re not already able to in the classroom. Rather than recreating the classroom, or even the venues for the after-class conversations (which will be virtual without you needing to set them up. I remember spending hours on the telephone talking to my friends at school. These days it would more likely be via games or instant messages) we should probably be thinking about the things that games and virtual worlds make possible which impossible, or at least very difficult, in the real world. Liz Thackray‘s talk about things which are ‘Difficult, Dangerous and Impossible’ to teach in the real world may prove useful.

    If virtual worlds are going to be used effectively in teaching, they obviously need to be doing more than acting as a virtual classroom for students who are already meeting in a real classroom. It takes us back to the backchannel. Perhaps there’s a role there for enhancing or augmenting a real world classes. To be honest, I’ve personally found lighter-weight tools like Twitter offer many of the same benefits and fewer of the drawbacks, making them more effective for me – or rather, more effective for me when I’m physically in the room. If I’m attending the real life event my attention is already fully absorbed taken up with the real world, and I struggle to socially engage both face to face and electronically at the same time. I’m talking about conferences as much as classrooms here, but it’s probably true for both. If I wasn’t attending in person, and was visiting from home, I’d certainly want that richer sense of presence and attention. Interesting asymmetry there, and divided attention is an obvious hurdle for people setting up virtual facets to real world events; keeping a level playing field means giving equal weight to the remote participants. Very difficult when the physical participants have such good bandwidth between them in the real world. Perhaps we won’t see the the very best uses of virtual backchannels while we’re still also running the physical events, or perhaps we’ll start to see approaches in which the virtual communications are as valuable to the physical attendees as they are to the virtual ones.

    Niall Sclater’s latest blog post is entitled “What educational question is Second Life the answer to?”. I showed a screenshot of it near the end of my talk, but I wish I’d pointed out that his title. It’s the best summary I can imagine for the conference.

    Comment by Roo — November 23, 2008 #

  8. Liam, that’s a deep insight I think: “New students’ own Facebook groups are almost always more useful and reliable than induction and pre-induction material posted by the staff.”

    I’m sure that’s true, however there are two provisos before you just leave it all to the students.

    1. You should be using the best tools for the job. I’m doing an OU short course at the moment, and the web interface looks like it’s from the 90s. There’s a lot that can be learned from all kinds of social media and virtual worlds, and on the occasions that it truly can give you as an educator something, you should be using modern technology.

    2. Spaces that students create themselves will be more useful than spaces you create as you say, but you can provide two valuable functions – encouraging them to create things out there – without specifying what technology or site they should use (the right one will probably be different for different groups of people), and each time a student does set something up, publicise it and encourage other students to try it. Use it yourself too.

    Comment by kyb — November 23, 2008 #

  9. Roo:
    First, it was incredible to meet you and I think that everyone at the conference would agree that your talk was a perfect ending to an awesome conference.
    I think your post and the process of your talk is a great meta topic worth thinking about. I also ascribe to the Presentation Zen type of slides where images are used to evoke and idea rather than using lots of text but then, of course, the slides are less useful when they stand alone.

    Barry Joseph, of Global Kids, gave a talk at the Second Life Community Convention this fall and gave me a handy way to think about the issue. He said we have to think about three audiences: here, there, and then. Here is, of course, the audience in the room. There is the audience watching from a distance via a stream. Then is the audience who watch the stream later or look at the slides later.

    This “Then” audience thinking is powerful but really tough. We want to be sure we create materials that are useful later but it’s so tough to recreate the context in which the slides/notes/photos make sense.

    I’ve thought a bit about how to do this and I almost wish I could find a way to capture and present multiple forms of media at once. I want to share the slides, the twitter chat, the photos, other backchannels…everything that is necessary to really give folks a full picture of the moment in time. To turn the Here and There audiences’ experience into a time capsule for the Then audience. My slides alone don’t present the full picture and they leave out every voice but mine which I think is tragic. The dialog is so key.

    Hmmm…still thinking but I think we’re on to something. :-)

    Sarah/Intellagirl

    Comment by Sarah "Intellagirl" Robbins — November 23, 2008 #

  10. Roo, interesting what you are saying about keeping slides visual. Nancy Duarte talks about the three uses of slides – teleprompter, take-away documents, and presentations – of which only the last is really valuable to the audience during the presentation.

    Where I have enough prep time, I’ve taken to writing in longhand prose a version of the talk in the slide speaker notes. I rarely actually say exactly what’s in there, but at least there’s something coherent there for people to look at later. The exercise of doing it, though, really seems to help with the overall coherence.

    If I may indulge in a moment of self promotion, I have talked a fair bit about all this in my video :)

    Comment by Ian Smith — November 23, 2008 #

  11. PS: I also really enjoyed the video of your talk.

    Comment by Ian Smith — November 23, 2008 #

  12. Hi Roo, missed being at the conference, but enjoyed listening / seeing your presentation. Yay for thinking / making bigger things happen ;-D

    Comment by Rain Ashford — November 23, 2008 #

  13. Sarah: you’re definitely on to something interesting there. I love the idea of not only displaying the backchannel during talks/panels, but capturing and including it in the permanent record too.

    Ian: thanks. Your teleprompter / takeaway document / delivery amplification model is very helpful, and your (excellent) examples of avoiding death by powerpoint definitely helped me in rethinking my own approach last year.

    Rain: thanks. Sorry you missed it, but I’m very glad that the conference provided streaming video (and now, archived video) for the keynotes, panel, and some of the talks. The wireless at the conference was impressively good too. Well done to Anna and the other organisers for making it a properly online experience.

    Comment by Roo — November 23, 2008 #

  14. I am not sure I agree with the whole premise of “using virtual worlds for things that you can’t do in a classroom” thing. My experiences of a lecture theatre and many conferences is that the whole being that in-person thing is over-rated when you examine it in terms of ROI. So… even if you simply mimiced them in a virtual world that would allow you a good (?) starting point to then go try some cleverer things that virtual worlds are even better at.

    I do take your previous point about it being hard to start relationships at virtual events, but perhaps then conferences and classes should be less frequent with more virtual and followup exercises using other media. I am sure that education has changed a lot even in the 10 years since I was at university, but I imagine that they still use lectures a lot and probably even more powerpoint than they did then.

    I wish I’d attended the ReLive08 virtual event to see whether my premise is true. Having some of the videos I feel I at least got some good learning and have made a good contact in intellagirl.

    I think much of this will be academic soon. Companies will be cutting back on conference spending sharply with the global downturn and virtual spaces of all persuasions are going to be bubbling up the list of people’s “find out abouts”.

    Comment by Kevin Aires — November 25, 2008 #

  15. Where can I find events like these? I really wish I had been there as this is something my sector is involved in but my clients are apprehensive about and have yet to even minutely understand.

    Does anyone know where I can find events like these? Especially anything specific to the scientific or healthcare sectors.

    Comment by Cat — November 25, 2008 #

  16. I had a great (and busy) time at ReLIVE, and enjoyed chatting to you Roo.

    I questioned Ed at the end of his keynote, because he wasn’t talking about play – but about games. I think a great deal of educational activity in virtual worlds is playful, but only a small amount is actually game based. I don’t think we need to turn everything into a game to make it valuable or engaging – and some things might actually be diminished by trying to force them into a game structure.

    #Liam – when students do set up networks, electronic or otherwise, they can be very effective means of peer support. Sometimes they are anything but – and I’ve known recent examples of both kinds, and of groups of students who simply fail to form cohesive communities at all.

    My reason for not trying to join them on Facebook or Bebo is not because I think my presence will destroy the dynamic of the group – like you I don’t want to invade ‘their’ space, but more importantly only a minority of the students we get actually use Facebook and Bebo and I don’t want to find myself supporting an in-clique and ignoring the outsider students falling by the wayside.

    Because *some* students do a good job of creating their own support networks, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reach & support the students who for whatever reason are excluded from those networks. This year a colleague set up a Ning network, and this we hope will bring some of the benefits of student-created networks (they can still create their own groups and forums) while being more inclusive. It seems to be working fairly well, and we’re getting used to seeing our faces superimposed on game adverts and screenshots…

    Comment by Daniel Livingstone — November 26, 2008 #

  17. ps Roo – have you seen Tony Hirst’s Feedshow – http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/feedshow/ – turns an RSS feed into a web-page presentation. Add a bunch of links to del.ico.us with a new tag, grab the RSS url and instant presentation…

    Just throw in a different RSS feed and… pages for a presentation about robotics

    Comment by Daniel Livingstone — November 26, 2008 #

  18. Daniel (with apologies to Roo if this is hijacking his space)

    I completely take your point about how important it is to remember that not all students use these social tools. I suppose Tinto was here before us; students are most likely to succeed when they feel part of a group. SL, Facebook, the pub, the SU, societies, whatever – different students find different places to get this student-to-student support. I wouldn’t call them cliques, but I agree that we should do all we can to encourage existing groups to be more inclusive and supportive as well as to create opportunities for a wider variety of groups.

    Comment by Liam O'Hare — November 28, 2008 #

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