Meaningful Meanderings

Chris Mark's Blogfolio

Second LIfe? I Don’t Even Have Time for a First Life!!! July 23, 2010

As part of IT 860 we learned about Second Life and how it can be used for education and learning.  I have been a resident of Second Life for about 2.5 years and I am so amazed by the potential impact on education.  Second Life is a 3-D virtual community imagined and created by its residents. It has a real economy, property ownership, and avatars (powered by people) that engage in many interactions and activities.  This is my avatar Crystal Zhangsun:


Our assignment for this part of the course was to participate in a symposium showcasing our research.  We were assigned an alcove area on the Golden Eagle1 Island where we put up 5 slides explaining and outlining our research.  Participants were then invited to come and walk around and ask questions.  Our alcove (see picture below) was set up with our photograph where participants could click and get a bio and they could click the title slide on our podium and get a handout.  We were not sure how the symposium would go or if anyone would come.  We were pleased that we had over 50 participants who attended, looked at the alcoves and asked questions.  It was fun to talk to the various people who came by.  They were all very encouraging and supportive of what we were doing.


I think the symposium provided one example of the uses of Second Life in education.  It is a great venue for sharing ideas and learning from each other.  I spoke to a teacher from France which is pretty amazing.  Classes and workshops can be designed that encourage collaboration and participation by students in a global context.  Students can meet and interact with students and teachers around the world without ever having to travel.   I can also see Second Life being used to as a way to conduct online classes.  It does create a sense of presence and community that one would not get from Blackboard.  I think SL teaching as opposed to the Blackboard environment has the following advantages:

  • Appeal to today’s visual students
  • Collaboration between campuses, disciplines, students/nonstudents
  • Distributed learning
  • Authenticity
  • Sense of Presence and connectedness
  • Social Networking w/ global reach


Needless to say, this was favorite assignment.  I think Dr. Mark did an outstanding job preparing the alcoves, uploading all the materials and training everyone (of course I may be a little biased…).


Final Thought on IT 780 May 1, 2010

I can’t believe the semester is over.  So much has happened in the last few months.  IT 780 was a very good experience for me both personally and professionally.  Personally it was a valuable experience that I will not forget.  The opportunity to meet so many other people with a similar interest in technology and teaching was wonderful.  I had the opportunity to socialize with some of the other students in my class.  We went out to dinner which proved to be a great opportunity to get to know each other and our interests in education.  I also had the opportunity to attend and present at two conferences during the semester where some of my fellow students were also attending.  This was a great opportunity to further get to know them and we supported each other in what we were doing. 

This class also helped me professionally by introducing me to so many great Web 2.0 tools.  By learning the advantages of this technology and its uses for education and learning I was able to integrate these tools into my classes immediately.  I am using a Wiki in my Human Resource Management class.  We have discussion of cases, communication, etc.  I also incorporated the social network Ning into a new class I am teaching, Introduction to Business.  The Ning is a wonderful tool that has allowed my class to have discussions, work together in groups and stay connected.  The class also helped me professionally as far as developing new ways to communicate and stay connected.  For instance, this blog contains a great variety of information that I can share with my colleagues and students.  I intend to continue adding things to my blog for a long time to come.  The class also allowed me to see many different tools and techniques that I never knew existed.  The only problem is there is not enough time in the day to check out all that is available. 

I am sure this will end up being one of the classes that I look back at and say I learned a lot and am actually using and applying what I learned to be a better teacher!!!


Views on Social Networking April 18, 2010

I read 2 articles for my IT 780 class about social networking.  The articles were Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in e-Learning Courses by Steve Chi-Yen Yuen and Harrison Hao Yang and Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities by Ann Dutton Ewbank, Adam G. Kay, Teresa S. Foulger and Heather L. Carter.  I found these articles to be very interesting and thought provoking.  I am using a social network to aid in teaching one of my classes currently so these articles were relevant and timely. 

I thought these two articles were very helpful to my understanding of the nature of and issues involved in social networking.  The first article did a very good job explaining what social networks are and how they can be used in education to gain benefits such as sense of community and enhanced learning.  I thought the comments from the students involved in the study were interesting and insightful.  I have taken online classes and usually feel isolated and alone and oftentimes confused as to what the direction should be.  I can see where having a place to communicate and share ideas would make the experience so much better.  I think it would have been interesting for the authors to combine the two classes and have the students collaborate and communicate on a global level.  I am not sure if there were language, time or other barriers but I think this would be a great social experiment. 

The second article brought up some very though provoking issues about social networks.  Social networks have grown so much and so fast that I think the legal and social systems have yet to catch up.  I am not sure society is prepared to face the issues and answer the questions brought up by the cyber world and Web 2.0 tools in general.  For instance, Second Life, the popular 3-D virtual world environment social network had some recent court cases emerge which questioned the rights to intellectual property and copyright for things created in the Second Life environment.  Courts are at a loss as to how to address these issues because the creations in Second Life don’t actually exist and Second Life is a global platform.  Society is not ready to deal with such issues but as Web 2.0 expands and evolves these types of issues are going to become more and more common. 

Social networks definitely have a place in education and learning despite the social and moral issues.  I started using a social network, Ning, in a new class I am teaching.  The class is face-to-face and I am using the social network mainly as a means to have discussions, make announcements and post materials.  I was surprised when the students starting going to the network and began posting pictures and comments and friending each other.  Some students even voluntarily adopted the social network as a means to communicate about their group project.  I think they are used to Facebook and like to interact on a social network and it comes naturally to them.  I would like to conduct a survey much like the authors of the first article to gather their feelings about how the social network enhanced their learning and experience in the course.  It would be an interesting comparison to the authors’ study.


Ning – Another Social Networking Site (for Now) April 17, 2010

Filed under: Ning,online teaching,Social Network,Teaching with Technology — Christine Mark @ 7:07 pm
Tags: ,

For my class, IT 780 at the University of Southern Mississippi I was required to create a social network using Ning as the platform. I had some experience in being a Ning user before I created my own Ning network. My IT 780 class is using a Ning network. I also belong to a professional organization, NBEA (National Business Education Association) which has a Ning network.

For my assignment I decided to create a Ning network I could use in my class that started on March 22nd, Introduction to Business. It is a face-to-face class and I need a place for out-of-class discussion and communication. The social network is very easy to create. There are many templates to choose from and I think I tried them all before choosing the one I am using. It was quite easy to arrange the layout by clicking and dragging content place holders from one side to the other. Ning allows for as many text and descriptive boxes as needed which was nice because I could put the information about the class as well as an area where students could link to my website where they could get course materials such as PowerPoint presentations. I set up several items on the Forum including a request for each student to write a bio and forum for discussion questions. I then invited the class to participate and the results were surprising. I had students posting their bios, albums of photos and friending each other even before the class started. Since they are mostly Freshmen I was surprised how eagerly they adapted to the Ning. The NIng network has been extremely easy to maintain and add more content as the need arises. It has definitely been an asset to my teaching this class.

The bad news is yesterday the new President of Ning announced there will no longer be any free accounts on Ning. Their new strategy is to concentrate on their premium customers so all free accounts will be asked to pay or to transition from Ning. I think Ning is such a great tool for educators and I would hope he would allow free education accounts but that is not clear as of today. Meanwhile I know I will continue using NIng as the students like it and it is a great way to communicate. Follow the link below for an update on Ning.