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Old man gets lost in another world

June 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A brilliant guest post from my esteemed friend John Pallister.

“I dropped into a bar last night, well actually I listened in to some folks talking about where they were going to go and I decide to have a look there. I lurked around in a corner for a while, then sat down at the bar and watched. It was a bit strange, the bar did not have a barman, it looked to be a help-yourself establishment. People, who I have to admit did look a bit strange, were helping themselves to some strange things and seemed to enjoy jumping around a lot. They all appeared to know each other and were chatting about some music that was playing in the background. I attempted a bit of chit chat, although my natural reserved stopped me from dancing on the bar. As usual, I very quickly cleared the bar with everyone whizzing off with some feeble excuse about having to build a tower! I wandered a bit and got lost. I ended up in an adult area with a scantily clad Avatar jumping around in front of me and singing. Now that does not often happen to me often, was I dreaming? How could a grown man, who has a thousand and one real interests, find himself wandering around in a virtual world?

During the past two years I have been on quite a steep learning curve. The need, as a partner in the MOSEP project, to collaborate with colleagues from across Europe forced me to master Skype; Net-meeting; Eluminate Live; Media Wiki; blogging; social bookmarking and collaborative writing etc. I became engaged in a number of social networks and got into the habit of following people who had similar interests. I soon realised that it did not really matter if, having contributed something to a discussion, forum or a Blog, you did not receive a response. I realised that the vast majority of people were lurkers and that people were in fact reading what I was writing and occasionally, were using it to help them with their thinking. So there was a reason for me to participate and contribute. I also found that writing things down did in fact help to move my own thinking forward. I began to follow and contribute to communities, setting up a group and most recently experimenting with micro-blogging.

In the process of following the Jisc Emerge community I ended up in Second Life last night. I teleported to a Bar on the Emerge Island. I had to apply all of my Functional ICT skills to master the Second Life interface, I did not really practice my Functional English skills but I did listen to others demonstrating their skills, with one person showing that she recognised her responsibility to move a discussion forward, attempting to engage me in the discussion by employing a range of techniques. The exploding Harveywallbanger was a new one to me! I listened to people agreeing how they would work as a team; reflecting on their own strengths; developing a shared understanding of what it was that they were going to work together to achieve; reflecting on their personal strengths and weaknesses and how they might contribute to the work of the team; etc. I was watching people, in a virtual world practising and developing their Functional and Personal Learning and Thinking skills. Had I managed to keep up with them, I am sure that I would have witnessed more as they built the Tower, although I suspect that they went on to a disco – ‘magic dance ball’?

I am beginning to see more and more potential in these environments for learning – but a bit like Twitter I am overcapacity!

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