Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Metassaince Awaits!

I would like to introduce you to one of my mentors, Peggy Sheehy (Maggie Marat in Second Life).  Peggy is a middle school library media specialist in Suffern, NY, and in my opinion, is just doing everything right!

Not only was she involved with Second Life's Teen Grid (when it was up), but she has also been heavily involved with using World of Warcraft as a means to teach kids on their own turf.  I could go on and on about the amazing things she's done with WoW, and how she's helped other schools start their own programs, but that's not what I want to talk to you about today.

Today I want to talk to you about the recent presentation she made at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference last week.  For those who are unfamiliar with the VWBPE, "the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants in all virtual worlds to share current teaching, learning, and research practices in 3D virtual environments. Conference presentations focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education".

For a complete transcript of Peggy's keynote, please visit her blog here.

Peggy was one of the forerunners in applying the affordances of Second Life's Teen Grid to children and education.  When Linden Labs closed the Teen Grid, she had the choice to give up, or find some other way to continue the fight of bringing education and virtual worlds together.  Obviously she chose the latter. 

After searching through many companies, she found Pleiades, which "is working towards a world in which learning is affordable, accessible, personalized, and recognized across institutional lines."  When coming to a decision, Pleiades wrote Peggy the following letter.  I would like to share it with you because it affected me just as much as it affected her.  She shared it in her keynote and there are so many powerful and resonant concepts buried in every sentence, I don't even know where to begin.  Just give a read, and you'll see what I mean:

“We  are  approaching  a  turning  point  in  our  mission  to  restore  game-­making,  the  spirit  of  a  curious,  boundless  imagination,  to  the  formal  education  of  students.    The  connected,  digital  world,  to  those  born  into  it,  is  not  an  extension  of  the  telephone,  or  of  the  photo  album,  or  of  the  video  game.  It  is  an  extension  of  the  self.      It  is  the  chosen  and  natural  medium  for  expression,  identity,  and  exploration.      To  a  contemporary  student's  growth,  online  communities,  resources,  and  games  are  not  irrelevant.    A  school,  however,  that  proscribes  or  clumsily  ignores  them,  is.    As  educators—and  we  count  ourselves  among  you—the  onus  is  on  us,  first  to  earn  the  attention  of  this  generation  of  students,  and  then  to  help  them  flourish  and  replace  us.  It  is  too  easy  to  forget  that  attention  is  only  skeptically  given.  We  earn  it  by  being  elevating,  by  being  inspiring,  and  above  all  by  being  relevant.  We  intend  to  be  a  technological  enabler,  a  point  of  contact,  an  Earth  on  which  a  new  and  great  ecosystem  of  education  will  lurch,  flower,  re-­‐make  itself,  cross-­pollinate  and  blossom  into  every  niche  and  form  imaginable  or  not  yet  imaginable.  With  you,  we  are  going  to  advance  into  this  unimaginable  future  knowing  only  that  it  owns  us  more  than  we  own  it,  and  that,  like  our  students,  we  are  at  our  best  when  we  are  fearlessly  improvising.    Our  first  priority  is  less  to  build  infrastructure  up—we  have  been  doing  this  for  years  already—but  to  tear  barriers  down.  The  user  interface  has  been  a  barrier.  The  price  to  play  has  been  a  barrier.  The  restrictions  against  freedom  of  information,  especially  where  these  have  come  from  a  mis-guided  approach  to  creative  rights,  have  been  a  barrier.  Even  the  idea  of  a  single,  immobile  and  immutable  garden  for  all  people  and  all  purposes,  has  been  a  barrier.  The  world  we  want  you  to  live  in  is  inexpensive,  and  permits  free  passage  between  regions  in  a  loosely-­coupled,  but  searchable  and  backed-­‐up  metaverse.  It  is  decentralized,  and  permits  grids  to  connect  to  each  other  no  matter  who  owns  them,  on  terms  the  grid  owners  are  free  to  negotiate  and  agree.  It  is  permissive  and  operates  under  the  assumption  that  all  content  is  educational  in  nature  and  in  use.  We  look  forward  to  seeing  where  you,  and  this  generation  of  students,  can  take  us.

Every time I read and reread that passage I want to jump up and shout YEAH!  That's what I'm talking about!  We have to look beyond what has been done, listen to how are students are learning and communicating, and learn their language.  During the keynote, Peggy spoke about a "metassaince" and once again, I will directly quote her rather than fail to accurately express what she means by the term:

THE  METAISSANCE  is  not  a  group  –  it  is  not  a  company  –  it  is  not  a  place ­‐  IT  IS  AN  IDEA ­‐  A  VISION  –  a  MINDSET  if  you  will  –  it’s  an  attitude –  that  demands  we  remember  that  any  virtual  community    must  be  part  of  a  larger  global  community  –  we’re  all  in  this  together  –and  together  we  can  take  learning  into  the  future…

To Peggy, and to anyone else reading this, I am the metaissance.  I am here.  I am ready.  The future is now and class is indeed in session.  Bring it.

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