21 February 2010

Digital Media and Learning Conference - A few more highlights and thoughts

The session I got the most out of was Expertise and Digital Media because it rubs up close to my interests in the skills and knowledge developed (actually or potentially) in virtual environments and with digital media, and to my interest in assessing learning digitally*.

Over-saturated with the attention paid to engagement as a rationale for technology for learning, I was glad to see Kelly Page's work measuring expertise. Rudy McDaniel talked about the challenges of developing our own expertise (i.e. conducting research) in digital media as an interdisciplinary knowledge domain. I appreciated his references to critiques of technology, such as Jackson's Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Birkert's The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in the Electronic Age.

Then Robb Lindren's discussed 3 studies on the role of perspective taking in developing expertise and the importance of it in designing learning.  He found that a 1st person (rather than 3rd person) perspective was more effective for learning. I talked with David Kirsh, from cognitive science at UCSD about it too, in another session, on 3D simulations and modeling. Kirsh explained that virtuality currently does quite well with haptics, but poorly with what he called "hefting" that is, interacting with the weight of objects. The 3D simulations session was on cyber-archeology projects, so the stuff of the demo was about rendering physical places and artifacts.

The big take-away on perspective taking and visual perception was that we think with objects, so that how we visually perceive them is critical to our learning. Interestingly the cyber-archeology simulation used a 1st person perspective too. Robb concluded that as designers we have control over the perceptual field of learning with/in digital media, and that we should be paying close attention how we manipulate it.

The workplace challenge is developing design (instructional and media) expertise among educators. I say that cautiously because I'm unconvinced that K-12 educators or college instructors can or should also become designers. It's usually in a resource-poor environment that one person wears many hats. Rather, we should be thinking in terms of educational-design collaborations in which several people wear 1 or 2 hats. 

* I don't have a definition for this, I wanted only to state succinctly "learning that's situated in and with digital technologies".