On mediation in virtual learning environments

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  • On mediation in virtual learning environments

    Larry Daviesa, W. Shukry Hassanb,*

    aMirai Daigaku (Future University), 116-2 Kameda Nakano-cho, Hakodate 041-8655, JapanbCurriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education, Persiaran Duta, Off Jalan Duta,

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


    This article is not about the panacea of computers or technology as the saving grace of education.

    We firmly believe that human interaction, especially as it pertains to face-to-face (f2f ) encounters, is

    certainly the most effective way to communicate and collaborate. However, in an Internet-connected

    world, there are alternatives to f2f proliferating. In this paper, our investigations and ideas pertain to

    enhancing these types of non-f2f encounters, and putting a more human feeling to them. D 2002

    Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Mediation; Culture; MOOs; Humancomputer interaction; ICT; Virtual learning environments

    Die Sprache hat fur Alle die gleichen Fallen bereit; das ungeheure Netz gut gangbare

    Irrwege. Und so sehen wir also Einen nach dem Andern die gleichen Wege gehn, und wissen

    schon, wo er jetzt abbiegen wird, wo er geradeaus fortgehen wird, ohne die Absweigung zu

    bemerken, etc. etc. Ich sollte also an allen Stellen, wo falsche Wege abzweigen, Tafeln

    aufstellen, die uber die gefahrlichen Punkte hinweghelfen.

    [Language sets everyone the same traps; it is an immense network of easily accessible

    wrong turnings. And so we watch one man after another walking down the same paths and

    we know in advance where he will branch off, here walk straight on without noticing the side

    turning, etc. etc. What I have to do then is erect signposts at all the junctions where there are

    wrong turnings so as to help people past the danger points.] (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture

    and Value).

    1096-7516/02/$ see front matter D 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

    PII: S1096 -7516 (01 )00064 -1

    * Corresponding author. Tel.: +60-3-62011522x2421; fax: +60-3-6203154.

    E-mail addresses: davies@fun.ac.jp (L. Davies), wshukry@ppk.kpm.my (W.S. Hassan).

    Internet and Higher Education

    4 (2002) 255269

  • 1. Introduction

    Our paper focuses on conveying concepts of mediation, from several angles. We discuss

    education and technology as they pertain to culture change, social institutions, the Internet

    and computer-mediated communication, software design and humancomputer interaction,

    the use of MOOs, time, place and collaboration, and language. We also share some of our

    experiences with two MOO-based projects to provide examples of the potential uses of

    MOOs in education. In addressing many of these aspects, we hope to convey the

    importance for implementing comprehensive virtual learning environments (VLEs).

    1.1. Culture(s) mediate(s)

    American cultural anthropologist Hall (1976) demonstrated how cultural change is

    necessarily generational. He argued that our current state of Western beliefs about education

    (yet now a curiously cross-cultural phenomenon) were unconsciously formed in the early

    stages of the Industrial Revolution. Educational views came about as the result of the

    second generation of factory workers having been brought up in normal and natural

    conditions to respond to segmented bells and whistles that factory owners used in an almost

    pre-Pavlovian way to subsume workers and families independent will.

    The contrast from the year 1901 to 2001 is astounding. Progressing at warp speed,

    technology has left culture far behind, and culture is chasing technology, struggling to keep

    the gap from widening even more.

    1.2. Social institutions mediate

    As governmental institutions around the world attempt to rethink how people need to

    be educated, there are voices (including us) calling to cognitive psychologists and

    educators such as the Americans Papert (1980) and Schank and Cleary (1995). They

    insist that schools of all kinds around the world must stop testing and lecturing and

    having time-segmented classes if educational institutions are to help students learn. We

    join them in moving away from the typical classroom setup: rows of desks facing a

    teachers desk or podium that is usually placed on a stage at the head of a room in front

    of a blackboard or white board. Brazilian educator Freire (1970) argued that this leaves

    the power structure intact. The typical classroom setup subverts students curiosity and

    leaves them no room to stretch their minds, even to fail at times. Iranians Talebinezhad

    and Aliakbari (2001) in counterpoint to Freire, remind us that many Eastern cultures,

    especially Japan, China, and Korea do hold a diametrically opposed view of learning in

    these matters. These cultures see that failure is a matter of losing face and not the student,

    but the teacher is the root cause of this failure and that is a bad thing. There is a struggle

    between educational and cultural ideologies then in seeking to find new ways in educating

    the young.

    The Japanese national government, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA,

    2000), is proposing its Information Technology or Basic IT plan. The plan is to

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269256

  • integrate Japans infrastructure with wireless technology in all facets of society, including

    of course, education. The Japanese would like to realize the goal that all will be able to

    receive the most advanced level of education they require regardless of geographical,

    physical, economic and other constraints (MOFA, 2000). This is the educational part of

    their goal to have Japan as the leader in IT by the year 2006. Yet, already, it is obvious

    that they will spend a lot of money on the hardware, but little, at least in the educational

    fields, where it is needed most: in teacher training and pedagogical considerations.

    Similarly, the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor project, with the development of

    Smart Schools as one of the flagship applications, has striven to enhance the use of ICT in

    schools. The National Information Technology Council (NITC) has carried out numerous

    projects to educate the community at large about the need for ICT skills. The Ministry of

    Education has long introduced Computers in Education (CIE) in schools to teach pupils

    about IT literacy. There are also many other initiatives that not only provide hardware, but

    also content for learning. Malaysia was also one of the first countries in Asia to have a

    nationwide IT teacher training program (in-service) and a compulsory ICT module in

    colleges and universities. Furthermore, we have recognized that it is crucial to support

    warm ware, i.e., the people involved in applying the technology to the education and

    training system.

    Ironically, the Japanese seem to be ignoring the lessons that the Americans have learned

    about front-loading technology into schools, which is that computers in a classroom do not

    do much if the teachers are not trained to use them. America is now thinking how to solve

    the problem of training teachers in the uses of technology, and might come to a solution

    shortly. We predict that they will spend more money on upgrading current hardware and

    continue to ignore the human side of the equation. This also has much to do with culture

    and the evangelical spirit that is patterned into Americans like Larry. The real revolution in

    education will come from a repositioning, or a reversioning1 of educational values.

    1.3. The Internet mediates

    Computer-Mediated Communication is still a young field of study. We prefer Internet-

    Mediated Communication (IMC) as witnessed by the rapid spread in Japan of new

    technologies such as iMode, which are wireless phones, more like PDAs and other handheld

    computers, that are now ubiquitous in classrooms, but oddly enough not yet used in

    classrooms. Over 90% of Larrys students have a keitai or portable telephone. (Larry has

    one, too!). We will stay with the term computers for now which will encompass all of these

    new devices. Whatever it is at the moment, the Internet-connected device is the MEDIATOR

    or the go-between. As www.dictionary.com (2001) defines the word mediate: To effect or

    1 ReversioningLarry has coined this noun form to encompass the idea that many things that are made for

    one purpose soon find themselves being used for another purpose. The Internet, as the most obvious example, was

    created as a tool for Cold War American intelligence services to gather information about other countries, but has

    since been reversioned to the more general populations of the world. The verb form then, comes from the infinitive

    to reversion.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 257

  • convey as an intermediate agent or mechanism. What the device conveys is the interaction

    of two or more humans. IMC, then, is humancomputerhuman interface (HCHI), and

    where we want to be. We want that tool, that device, to aid the two or more humans who

    want to interact with each other. Now, these people logically are not in the same place, but

    are in the same time. It means that I am here in Japan, and you are there in Malaysia and we

    want to work on something together at the same time. We can do this now, and the

    technologies are enabling us to do it faster and more efficiently, in terms of how big the

    information pipeline is. Larry has a 100 base T connection at his school, and a 900-kbps

    cable modem in his home.

    1.4. Software mediates

    To date, almost 99% of software design in all realms, not just education, lacks the key

    ingredient: collaborative workspaces. We take our definition of collaboration from

    Schrage (1995, p. 33): . . . collaboration is the process of shared creation: two or moreindividuals with complementary skills interacting to create a shared understanding that none

    had previously possessed or could have come to on their own . . . but the true medium ofcollaboration is other people. Note that 99.9% of the software we routinely use is Western

    developed. We rely on the humancomputer interface (HCI) in such fields as Computer-

    Aided (or Assisted) Instruction, Computer-Assisted Language Learning, and the Internet,

    but these remain dehumanizing influences. Communication has nothing to do with our

    interaction with machines, but with each other, those involved in the human experience.

    However, software of the HCI dominates. This has as much to do with the sociocultural

    historical viewpoint and values of the software developers (remember that Americans have

    the frontier do-it-yourself spirit!) as anything else.

    MOO (explained in detail below) offers a unique way of developing software for

    education. It is a type of Middleware, a term used in the development of educational

    software, and is a proposed key to the future of changing the way we educate and are

    educated. Middleware, simply, is the core programming software that exists in the center,

    like an engine of a car. Other pieces of software, in the periphery, then, can be added in

    terms of functionality. Additionally, the core code could be used to develop other tools, like

    adding the body and seats of a car. This means that the software is extensible and is able to

    scale horizontally or vertically. At its core, MOO is open source, which adds value to

    education, as it is free and available to all educators.

    1.5. Time mediates

    As it stands, if we want to write something together, these are the steps we have to

    follow. First one of us has to use our computer word processor, such as Larry is doing now,

    to make this part of this document. Then, I e-mail the document to you and (provided you

    have the same word processing program) you open the document, make some comments

    and e-mail it back to me. Alternatively, you could have a new idea for a machine or a

    product and want to bounce it off me for my ideas. You would open your drawing program

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269258

  • and follow similar steps, and hope I have the same program on my computer. Of course,

    we are a continent apart during this entire process. To continue, you open your drawing

    program and make a gif or jpeg image and e-mail me. I open the document if I can, look at

    it, perhaps make some changes, then I send you some comments back along with the new

    version of the document. In both of these cases, we are forced, by distance, into an

    asynchronous relationship. We cannot work on the same thing or even at the same time. I

    have to wait for your work, and you have to wait for my comments and revisions. There is

    no chance for that magical collaborative chemistry to work with all that time spent in

    between sending, receiving, viewing, commenting, saving, e-mailing, and downloading.

    Under the best of current circumstances, we could chat in one window while looking at the

    same document in another window. We have done this with several colleagues already, but

    we have still missed out on that exciting moment of shared creation that Schrage (1995)

    shows is the key ingredient in collaboration. We still do not have a shared space in which

    to work, either, even if we could work together on something at the same time. We need

    that shared space for any collaboration to pan out.

    Sure, we could use chat to some effective extent. The overwhelming majority of Internet

    users do when they want to communicate with others, but why use technology equivalent

    to the telegraph when you can recreate an entire world and populate it with objects that can

    do a lot of the menial tasks (like recording your interactions and e-mailing you transcripts

    of your interactions) while you and your collaborators have your hands free to do the real

    work you need to do?

    To be fair, there exist some examples of collaborative software that enables two or more

    people to work together on the same document at the same time. There are private

    companies working in these areas now, and developing various collaborative tools (see

    Appendix B). We have seen a few very useful white boards (www.groupboard.com as an

    example). A colleague has shown Larry a collaborative mind mapping/concept mapping

    environment and a collaborative word processor environment. These are large steps in the

    right direction if one wants to create a shared space.

    1.6. Language (human and computer!) mediates

    Recently, we have seen a very nice piece of software that enables video to be

    manipulated in real time with a number of interesting visual effects (see Arkaos, under

    Resources). Our very first lament about this nice piece of software was that it was written

    (by Europeans!) for industrial revolution people . . . those who we are pigeonholed,segmented, and separated from each other and themselves also. It would make an awesome

    piece of collaborative artistic and musical software. However, only one person can use it at

    a time . . . much the same as all other software out there. The software also uses aninteresting array of input devices including a computer keyboard to trigger special effects or

    a pianos keyboard. Unfortunately, programmers do not think like educators, who do not

    think like interface designers, who do not think like performance artists, who do not . . .you get the picture. In all of our separate areas we are constrained by the language we use

    within the boundaries of our profession and our culture (again, culture!).

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 259

  • 1.7. So what?

    Where does that leave us? Not anywhere really, because we continue to think inside the

    box. We are constrained by our culture, our educational systems and other social institutions,

    our previously created electronic artifacts . . . even our subcommunities, be they academic,artistic or what. New software is still being designed with HCI as its basis.

    This is not a pessimistic assessment of things, merely a small lament that we continue as

    an entire species to live and design our tools far under our potential. That the Internet

    values the pieces and not the whole; that the Internet reinforces the digital divide and

    continues to remain, politically, at least, a tool for a particular world view; we view this as

    a sad development.

    2. The black ships of the Internet: MOOs

    To take a short digression, Larry now lives in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan. The

    northernmost island was formally annexed by Japan in 1868 from the Ainu (who are

    now a tiny minority on the island, but are culturally distinct and related to the Finnish

    Lapps and the Canadian Inuit). This city is probably most famous, historically, for the

    Americans Commodore Perry arriving in 1856 with his Black Ships that opened Edo

    Japan up to the rest of the world after 300 years of self-imposed isolation under the

    Tokugawa Shogunate. Perrys ships led to the overthrow of the Shogun and the restoration

    of the Emperor Meiji in 1863, a mere 7 years, less than a quarter of a generation, for

    radical social change in Japan to begin. Hakodate shows many unique Meiji-era trappings

    in terms of the design of buildings and the layout of the city. Much from Perrys time still

    remains, including the distinct cultural outlook of Hokkaidans in general.

    In terms of an artifact that has already been created that addresses all of the above is

    one modest piece of technology that we liken to the Black Ships and their potential to

    revolutionize a way of doing something mired in a long history and tradition. In our

    opinion, the best (but far from perfect) thing we have for online collaborative learning so

    far is to be found under the strange and mysterious acronym: MOO. It is an acronym

    within an acronym. The M itself is disputed.. . . It could be Multi-user domain or dungeon.This is MUD for short. The O-O is simply Object-Oriented, for MOOs are object-oriented

    programmable databases that sit quietly on servers preserving lots of data not only about

    users habits, but their products as well. The products are usually framed within a room

    metaphor, and the entire MOO is a place inhabited by these people and their creations.

    This place is a kind of virtual world. In MOO, everything, including users (also called

    players), is an object, meaning that everything can be programmed to look like something

    and to do something. Chairs can just sit there, but they can also be programmed to float

    away, or morph into a dragon, or recycle themselves out of existence, or e-mail you at

    certain intervals a list of all people who have interacted with it or any other objects within

    its class. Chairs can be any size, shape, smell, color, texture, gender . . . like everything ingood literature, the limits are only in the imagination, as this is, in its current state, a

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269260

  • mostly text-based learning environment. Its first and still present incarnation is a

    command-line interface. It is a programming environment and it is command line interface.

    This is worth repeating.

    Since 1997, there have been moves on at least two different fronts to put a friendlier

    user interface (UI) onto the open-source core software from Curtis (1998) original rendition

    of MOO as a role-playing environment. This fact in itself should make it obvious of the

    potential of the medium. Cognitive psychology and constructivist educators tell us that

    learning by doing and playing is the way infants and children learn. Vygotsky (1978) was

    quite clear, also, on the importance of someone, not something, that would scaffold people

    toward higher thought processes. MOOers, after all, do the programming. The programmable

    verbs in MOOs are programmed by people, usually after long sessions with other, more

    experienced people.

    2.1. Experience mediates

    This other difference, experience, sets MOO far apart from chat (such as IRC chat) and

    instant messenger programs (ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger). There is nothing to learn in

    these latter two technologies. Type into a box and hit return. It does do the job of helping two

    or more people communicate through the Internet, but why use a cup to fill a bathtub when

    you can use a hose? In MOO, like in every other learning situation, things are created things

    with the help and collaboration of others. The created things can be silly things in their own

    right, but learning to program the silliness leads to many complex learning moments and

    opportunities for building a community of knowledge and experience.

    We recognize also that MOO must have pedagogical use; Honebein (1996) summarizes

    seven pedagogical goals of constructivist, learner-centered environments:

    1. Provide experience with the knowledge construction process [student responsibility

    for learning].

    2. Provide experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives [viewpoints and

    problem solving].

    3. Embed learning in realistic and relevant contexts [authentic learning tasks].

    4. Encourage ownership and voice in the learning process [student centered with teacher

    as consultant].

    5. Embed learning in social experience [encourage collaboration].

    6. Encourage the use of multiple modes of representation [different mediums].

    7. Encourage self-awareness of the knowledge construction process [reflection]. (pp.


    Also MOOs can be classified under Rich environments for active learning (REAL) that

    are constructivist-based and designed to encourage student responsibility and motivation

    (Dunlap & Grabinger, 1996, p. 228). MOO, then, lends itself to learning through experi-

    encing. All levels of sophistication can be catered to. Programmers will enjoy the object-

    oriented experience and the myriad ways to get objects to do things.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 261

  • Some of the most basic tools in MOO are the result of simple programming efforts.

    There is the tape recorder object, which can save a transcript of human/human and human/

    object interaction (see Appendix A) and e-mail it to concerned parties. There are

    preprogrammed robots waiting to serve as virtual museum guides, or as characters to

    enhance the spaces atmosphere. There are web projectors that can show pages from the

    World Wide Web directly in the Java enhanced windows of one version of the current

    MOO UI, though the UI itself is undergoing development (Appendix A). There are many

    more things too numerous to mention, but experiencing them is more important than

    writing or reading about them.

    3. Illustrative projects

    A brief explanation of two MOO-based projects will, we hope, give a slightly clearer

    picture to the potential uses of MOOs in education. One of the projects is found at Achieve

    MOO (http://achieve.utoronto.edu:2221) and the other at SchMOOze (http://schmooze.


    3.1. The MalaysianCoventry project at Project Achieve

    It is an initiative to develop and deliver ICT solutions to teaching and learning in secondary

    and primary schools in Coventry and Malaysia. The goal is to nurture a new learning culture

    offering more learner-centered approach, the sharing of teaching and learning materials, and

    the acquisition of new skills and competencies.

    This school link offers an opportunity for the SMART Schools (IT Schoolshttp://

    www.ppk.kpm.my/~wshukry/bestari/) and technology-rich schools in Coventry to be

    involved in the introduction of IT and to facilitate the transition between schools and

    industry. This link is built on commonalities in both the UK and Malaysian initiatives and

    addresses the major challenges of how best to develop and share new practices.

    3.2. MOOrreys entertainment complex at SchMOOze

    Markus Weininger, a German living in Brazil, and his anonymous colleague spent the

    good part of 6 months collaborating on an interactive space in SchMOOze, dubbed

    MOOrreys. The space features a restaurant, where you can order food and drinks from the

    robot waiter, Manuel, a bar, where Iona (another robot) will serve you any drink or learn

    about any unknown drink from you, and a dance floor where the DJ (yet another robot)

    will play any song you request, and add any song that he does not know to his play list.

    Finally, throughout these three spaces is the roaming bot, Kumiko, who is the bouncer

    at MOOrreys. Kumiko brooks little tomfoolery from customers and is quick to dispose of

    you outside the premises. In addition to the interactivity with robots, you can sing in the

    karaoke booths (a later addition) or dance with a partner. All in all, this is an amazing

    piece of interactive programming by two nonnative English speakers. The main intention

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269262

  • of this project was to give nonnative English learners a safe place to practice using their

    English. It is one of the most popular places in SchMOOze where learners go. Some

    students, inspired by this project, have added to Manuels menu, and the music list that the

    DJ keeps.

    These two projects are very superficial overviews of the power of these collaborative

    spaces. The owners of these objects do not need to be present for others to interact within

    the space, and this is what empowers this environment. By interacting with the creations of

    others, you are interacting with that other person, and you learn more about the

    programmer and his/her intentions through your own direct experience with his/her

    creations. This type of hypertext narrative defies simple explanation. We encourage readers

    to experience the MOO and consider some of the pedagogical implications of a space that

    offers full and total access to users with a simple telnet connection or a full-blown Java-

    enabled browser such as Netscape Navigator version 4.5 or better.

    4. The bad news: it is not perfect!

    It is also important to understand some of the deficiencies inherent in the design of this

    software, as with any software. In addition to design deficiencies, there are built-in problems

    of geography and institutionalized conceptions of time and learning spaces.

    Many people experience a general dislike of the command line interface input in MOO,

    and the fact that the MOO is a heavily text-rich environment (very true in Larrys case!).

    There are many arguments from new users on the difficulty of having to learn new

    commands to communicate and move around the spaces. We think these arguments are

    superficial at best, but also affirm that it is an issue that must be addressed in the future

    design of the input interface. People are, after all, more attracted to bells and whistles than

    to nuts and bolts, and MOOs are especially oriented, in their present iteration, to the latter.

    The digital divide means that these spaces are still pretty much for the elite, meaning

    people living in countries with well developed or rapidly developing communications

    infrastructures. People with access to computers still account for a tiny fraction of the world

    population, hence the chance to meet with people who see the world from a very different

    perspective are small.

    In addition, most national governments rarely look outside their borders in constructing

    basic educational curricula. Factors of geography, such as climate, regulate the creation of

    national school schedules. Different countries live on different schedules, so coordinating an

    international project in MOO within the confines of a school year will cause a logistical

    nightmare. Japans school year is from April to March. The US and Canada school year is

    from September to June. Malaysias is from January to November. Other countries? Until

    governments find ways to cooperate and collaborate with each other, there will be few

    chances to have mid-to-long term collaborative projects that can be done in a MOO. As it

    stands, educators can expect a 3-month long project to be a luxury, whereas a more realistic

    goal is 1 month, at best. This leaves an impossibly short time to get to know one another: a

    prerequisite for Shneidermans (1997) view of effective cyber-collaboration.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 263

  • The other factor of time zones is a near impossibility to overcome. Malaysia and Canada

    spend half a year being 12 hours apart in time, as are Japan and Brazil. Projects between

    students from these countries would not be successful in terms of synchronous collaboration,

    until students have 24-hour access to Internet connections. Future University-Hakodate does

    have this, but it is an exception, rather than the rule as it currently stands.

    MOO-based projects are not tailored for current class or curricular structures. If we want

    students in different countries to interact in real time with each other, we can pretty much

    count out using class time for it. Class time is more for personal exploration of the space and

    of the available tools with which to describe and program. We remain pessimistic in seeing

    this point being addressed anytime soon.

    5. Conclusions: the good news: it is real, not virtual!

    VLEs are, in the final analysis, really a misnomer. The human interaction and the

    learning that can happen are very real events, in the sense that there is a sharing of new

    learning, and a sharing of ideas that can be reached through Internet-based communication

    in real time. Stronger than the asynchronous nature of e-mail, and more immediate, MOOs

    are ripe for potential. The payoff with MOOs, however, is realized only after a

    considerable investment in time and human contact. We do not prescribe MOOs for

    teachers looking for a quick magic elixir to motivate students. Initial excitement gives way

    to the reality that MOO technology is a programming environment, a hypertext envi-

    ronment, a community-building-in-real-time environment. It requires considerable time to

    meet and chat with people who cannot be seen or heard. It requires considerable time to

    deal with the multi-threaded nature of MOO conversation, which appears linearly, but is

    not. It requires patience and understanding that the power of the MOO is revealed to those

    willing to believe that the power exists and grow to understand how the power manifests

    itself. It requires, in the end, a belief that humans collaborate best when they get to know

    each other well and can respect that each of us has something to contribute to the VLE and

    to the world.

    Appendix A

    A short transcript of an MOO session where Larry and Shukry plan this paper and

    presentation. This is the chat portion only, recorded by the robotic tape recorder object, then

    e-mailed to Larrys MOO registered e-mail address.

    Start log: Thursday, August 9, 2001 8:53:41 p.m. Achieve time (EST)

    Shukry says, yes

    Shukry says, i might be slightly distracted . . .Larry says, Um, well . . . I think it would be better to put aside the time . . . even if only

    15 minutes.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269264

  • Shukry says, ok right now then

    Larry asks, We can then just plan what we need to do, then get back to doing it.. . . or am Ibeing too linear for you?

    Shukry says, nope, fine

    Larry says, right now then is best . . . 15 minutes of undivided attention.Shukry says, you can start

    Larry says, Yesterday I suggested the following . . . Start with MOO and possibly endwith Hotline.

    Shukry says, yes

    Larry says, I think MOO can very easily fill up a 5 hour playshop.

    Shukry says, yeah

    Larry says, Fundamentals of commands. We can do this as an altogether thing.

    Shukry asks, ok, how many commands?

    Larry says, People log on, then we show them how to talk . . . and how to move around.Larry says, Thats it. Four commands, really . . . SAY, EMOTE, PAGE and no number 4Shukry says, I did a little module for the project

    Larry says, theyll learn to move around when we get other MOOers here to guide them.

    Shukry says, ok sounds good

    Larry says, I suggest, depending on the number of attendees . . .Larry says, that once on the MOO, each Canadian MOOer be a kind of a tour guide

    Larry says, and they can bring them to various parts.

    Shukry says, wookay sounds like a good plan

    Larry says, Then, if we coordinate this right, it becomes like a jigsaw.

    Larry says, We leave the MOO, and in the playshop, people break into groups and

    describe what they experienced.

    Shukry says, aha

    Larry says, Then, they formulate some things that they could prepare for students, and

    share their ideas with each other.

    Larry says, Thats the whole playshop, right there.

    Shukry asks, what would they be able to do?

    Larry says, Experience. Sharing. Brainstorming new ideas.

    Larry says, just the basics, but they need to understand the idea that theres a number of

    spaces here to move around in.

    Shukry says, then we could use inspiration

    Shukry says, as well

    Shukry says, right

    Larry says, and they need to see how to apply those concepts with their own ideas on how

    to create MOOspace.

    Larry exclaims, oh, and I found a program that is . . . in many ways, betterthan inspiration!

    Larry says, but for OSX.

    Shukry asks, what is it?

    Larry says, Its called Omni . . . Giraffe . . . or something like that.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 265

  • Shukry asks, is it free?

    Larry says, check out omnigroup . . . they are totally developing for OSX and nice things.No, but educationally cheap.

    Larry says, about 30 US dollars . . . and Im sure theyll have site licences.Larry says, worth checking out.

    Larry says, actually, lemme download that program on this computer.

    Larry says, well, later.

    Larry says, So.. . .Larry asks, Introductions, who we are and about 10 minutes of historical background?

    Larry says, then a teeny tiny bit of pedagogy/theory . . .Larry says, say, 5 or 10 minutes at the most . . .Shukry says, sorry phone

    Larry exclaims, let it ring, man!

    Larry says, then, 20 minutes for MOO commands, then let them go for an hour at least.

    Larry says, Break time after 90 minutes.

    Larry says, then, shared session for an hour. What they learned, what they saw . . . withthe goal of formulating some basic ideas on how to use the technology.

    Larry says, you want inspiration there? OK, but they need to know the software to

    use it.

    Larry asks, you on the phone again?

    Larry pokes at Shukry.

    Larry says, Oh, you phone people.

    Larry urks.

    Larry waits for Shukry cause I have no other choice . . . SIGH SIGH SIGH . . .Larry goes to download some software.

    Larry says, be back in 10 minutes. Its now 10:15 (JST) here.

    Larry says, www.omnigroup.com the program is graffle . . . very nice . . . very nice . . . butno brainstorming button. I LIKE THAT FEATURE in inspiration

    Larry says, now downloading

    Shukry says, sorry swamped again

    Larry exclaims, gasp! what a surprise!

    Shukry says, being pig-in-the middle again

    Shukry says, i hate it

    Larry says, ok, back to normal

    Larry asks, you there now?

    Larry asks, or piginthemiddle again?

    Shukry says, yes

    Larry says, ok, so, review for me, please . . .Larry says, and then we need to allocate our tasks.

    Larry says, oh, and two other things . . .Shukry says, ok sure

    Larry says, I do not see anything on the website about our workshope either . . .Shukry says, they said they put it on already

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269266

  • Larry asks, Where?

    Shukry says, yes

    Larry asks, you got an URL for it?

    Shukry says, nope, but ill email them

    Larry says, now check this out.

    Larry shares a URL. (http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle/download/

    content.html) hhttp://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle/download/content.htmltarget=_blanki.

    Shukry says, cool

    Shukry says, ill mess with it soon

    Larry says, try it out . . . if we can have OSX, then I want to use it. A little hard to figureout at times, but very flexible.

    Shukry says, wookay

    Larry says, anyway, Im going to spend the next hour or two writing up about MOO for

    us, ok? and poke around the SOLE pages for evidence of our workshop.

    Larry asks, or can you point out the URL for me?

    Larry pokes at Shukry.

    Shukry says, hang on

    Larry asks, see how hard even 15 minutes of online collaboration is?

    Shukry says, sorry cant seem to find it offhand

    Larry exclaims, damn!

    Shukry sighs.

    Shukry says, ok, you do the write up on the MOO

    Larry says, keyboard is weird

    Larry says, seems better now

    Shukry says, oh logitech ne

    Shukry says, drivers are dodgy

    Larry says, dunno

    Larry says, osx is the culprit I think

    Shukry says, also

    Shukry says, but logitech is crappy

    Larry says, mmm

    Larry says, I like the split keyboard, though.

    Shukry says, yes but the MS one is better . . .Shukry says, support wise

    Larry asks, MS is better, did you say?

    Shukry says, yes i did say that

    Larry slaps you silly.

    Shukry says, then washed my mouth with disinfectant

    Larry says, good

    Larry says, ok, time to write . . . please make sure that we have an earlymorning session.

    Shukry asks, tomorrow good for you?

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 267

  • Shukry says, morning as usual

    Larry says, tomorrow is Saturday . . .Shukry says, ok

    Shukry says, no problem

    Larry says, Monday morning is ok, though

    Shukry says, right

    Larry says, lots to do, but have to do it.

    Larry says, including my grades.

    Larry exclaims, yuck!

    Shukry exclaims, oh i cant!

    Larry says, ok

    Larry says, 4th 5th 6th of September PM your time.

    Shukry says, got to chaperone those british peps

    Larry says, oops . . . sorryShukry asks, what is your flight detail?

    Larry says, um, dunno yet, but coming Sept 2, I think in early afternoon KL time.

    Shukry says, ok tell me officially so that i can pick you up or get mimos to do so

    Larry says, yep . . . will send . . . oh, wait . . . I have rough details . . . just a minuteShukry says, ok

    Larry says, arrives 455 pm in KL on the 2nd. do not know the plane yet.

    Larry says, I think Malaysia Air.

    Larry says, but not sure . . . from Nagoya, though.Shukry says, right

    Larry says, right

    Larry says, more details as soon as I know.

    Shukry says, just email to me when you get them confirmed

    Larry says, my travel agent in Nagoya is doing it, and Atsuko has been dealing with

    her anyway.

    Larry nods.

    Shukry says, oh ok

    Larry says, right

    Shukry says, ive got to go for a meeting

    Larry says, ok, just trying to finish up these arrangements with Jason, et. al.

    Larry says, bye, then. Monday no good, then email good times for you next week.

    Shukry says, email me the paper for the presentation ok

    Larry says, right, as soon as I can.

    Shukry says, sure

    Larry says, will spend time on it now.

    Larry says, bye

    Shukry says, ok good

    Shukry waves.

    End log: Thursday, August 9, 2001 9:51:31 p.m. Achieve time (EST)

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269268

  • Appendix B

    A small sampling of private companies working to develop web-based VLEs.

    Centra (eLearning)http://www.centra.com/education/index.asp

    Galton (eTesting)http://www.galton.com/

    Groove (eCollaboration)http://www.groove.net/

    Horizon (collaborative environment)

    Reference Desk Live (librarians tool)http://www.referencedesklive.com/

    Wimba (sound board)http://www.wimba.com


    Curtis, P. (1998). Not just a game: how LambdaMOO came to exist and what it did to get back at me. In:

    C. Haynes, & J. R. Holmevik (Eds.), High wired: on the design, use, and theory of educational MOOs

    (pp. 2542). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

    Dictionary.com. Definition of mediate. Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term =mediating.

    Accessed 10 August, 2001.

    Dunlap, J. C., & Grabinger, S. (1996). Rich environments for active learning in the higher education classroom.

    In: B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: case studies in instructional design (pp. 6582).

    Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

    Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

    Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. New York: Anchor Books.

    Honebein, P. C. (1996). Seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments. In: B. G. Wilson (Ed.),

    Constructivist learning environments: case studies in instructional design (pp. 1124). Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

    Educational Technology Publications.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. (2000). Basic IT strategy. Available at: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/


    Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: children, computers and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.

    Schank, R., & Cleary, C. (1995). Engines for education. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Schrage, M. (1995). No more teams! Mastering the dynamics of creative collaboration. New York: Currency-


    Shneiderman, B. (1997). Relatecreatedonate: an educational philosophy for the cyber-generation. Computers

    and Education, 31 (1), 2539.

    Talebinezhad, M. R., & Aliakbari, M. (2001, July). Basic assumptions in teaching English as an international

    language. Internet TESL Journal. Available at: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Talebinezhad-EIL.html.

    Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA:

    Harvard University Press.


    Arkaosvideo authoring and performance tool for Macintosh. Available at: http://www.arkaos.net/site/en/


    Project Achievehttp://achieve.utoronto.ca:2221 or telnet://achieve.utoronto.ca port 2222.

    SchMOOze Universityhttp://schmooze.hunter.cuny.edu:9000 or telnet://schmooze.hunter.cuny.edu port 8888.

    L. Davies, W.S. Hassan / Internet and Higher Education 4 (2002) 255269 269

    On mediation in virtual learning environmentsIntroductionCulture(s) mediate(s)Social institutions mediateThe Internet mediatesSoftware mediatesTime mediatesLanguage (human and computer!) mediatesSo what?

    The black ships of the Internet: MOOsExperience mediates

    Illustrative projectsThe Malaysian-Coventry project at Project AchieveMOOrrey's entertainment complex at SchMOOze

    The bad news: it is not perfect!Conclusions: the good news: it is real, not virtual!ReferencesFurther ReadingResources


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