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Progress notes

This is the planning page for the collaborative staff presentation.

You can download a copy of the REVISED PowerPoint template here. Please forward your slide (or two) to PeterT and he'll incorporate it in the group presentation file.

3rd October 08   Abstract submitted 

Title: Learning and research in the Schome Park Programme - a range of (adult) perspectives


This has now been submitted - so no point changing it any further! PeterT 10:55, 3 October 2008 (BST)

The Schome Park Programme set out in late 2006 to use virtual worlds to extend thinking about what schome (the education system for the learning age) could/should be like. The original team decided to adopt strategies that would encourage participation in the research by a wide spectrum of people. This included:

  • Employing PhD students from across the Open University for a maximum of 6 hours per week each.
  • Encouraging volunteers to join the project.
  • Encouraging participants to focus on their own particular research interests, whilst maintaining a clear central focus for the core research.

From late 2006 to mid-2008 around 70 adults signed up to act as 'staff' within the Schome Park Programme. The vast majority of these people were volunteers in as much as they were not funded by the Programme.

Some of these 'staff' will provide personal perspectives on their experiences of engaging in the Schome Park Programme, with a particular focus on methodological issues and future plans.


PeterT to explaining the open approach to staffing/research that the SPP adopted (to be presented by Kieron/Schome Malone as he was in on it from the very early days)


  • Open - deliberately not badged as OU to make it easier for folk from external orgs to get involved
  • Loose alignment (let a million flowers bloom) - providing space for people to follow own (research) interests so long as generally fitting overall Schome Initiative objectives
  • Part-time - needing to provide 24/7/365 staffing so lots of staff needed
  • Interdisciplinary networking - wanting to involve folk from range of subjects across OU and other organisations
  • Cost-effective
    • employ PhD students (relatively cheap - enthusiastic - wide-ranging expertise - provide bridge for networking with other discipline areas)
    • encourage volunteers to get involved (even cheaper - enthusiastic - broaden range of expertise - provide bridge for networking with other organisations)

'In Practice'

  • From Phase 1 to Phase 3
    • reduced funding
    • growing reliance on volunteers
    • too loosely aligned (reduced coordination/management)
  • Adult numbers
    • Signed up but no avatar - 15
    • Inactive - 24
    • Limited activity - 14
    • Active at particular times (eg Phase 1) - 24
    • 'Consistently' active - 8
    • Director - 1

Sections by different members of staff

About their own work/research within the SPP (focused on methodological issues and future plans)

Britta Pollmüller - Norwich University College of the Arts

Britta won't be attending the session - so needs someone else to present her slide - any offers? PeterT 06:08, 6 November 2008 (GMT)

What teens are learning from animation and machinima production.

My research will explore what young people learn from traditional animation production in the classroom but also specify virtual learning teenagers encounter when producing 3-D realtime animations such as machinima. It will also compare forms of media literacy and learning by conducting different learning activities. The analysis will focus on three key themes. Firstly, it will explore what young peoples’ cultural interests, needs and motivations are. (Informal knowledge) Secondly it will debate in what sense this is creative and nurtures imagination. Thirdly the thesis will explore pedagogies and modes of learning originated both from Media education and Art education.

The research contains two case studies of action research that explore approaches to ‘camera-less’ animation, drawn animation, model animation and machinima carried out in Norfolk Secondary Schools and Schome Park.

There are three main kinds of data, observational, semi-structured interviews and work produced by young people. The data will be interpreted through comparative analysis and qualitative coding to what has been identified from the literature review and theories. The video and visual data will be further analysed in relation to conventional grammar of the moving image and the grammar of visual design.

Julia's bit

Download Julia's two slides
Began while at Open University, continued when moved to Lancaster Literacy Research Centre. Main research focus: developing analysis and methodology for 'virtual literacy ethnography' ie using a mixture of methods to attend to (multimodal) literacy practices of Schome Park. Key influences: 'new literacies' work of Gee, (site of naturally occurring learning) Lankshear and Knobel (creativity and collaboration) Kress (rather than reading and writing texts - semiotic transformations) also corpus linguistics - getting huge amount of data eg chatlogs and finding 'keywords' etc.

Am interested in contributing to and sampling a range of the activities and practices of Schome Park (constantly feeling inexpert in each single domain)

Aim to seek research funding to develop work further, particularly participating in improving the pedagogic effectiveness of Schome Park (using that notion very broadly) without sacrificing anything of the collaborative, creative ethos, indeed seeking to support that development further. & to continue to work on analysis, methodology and theories as to how we can best understand the communicative practices in the various domains of Schome Park.

Chris' bit

Use of virtual worlds within the school curriculum

Focus would be on use of Teen Second Life and Schome Park during school time and within the curriculum

- overcoming barriers e.g. convincing management teams and the local authority of the potential for learning within virtual worlds and demonstrating robust eSafety

- technical issues

- the curriculum imperative and possible mention of the machinima work

- how to demonstrate learning? Some thoughts...

We would have a copy of the Teachers TV film by then (I would think) - might be able to show a clip?


To explore use of Second Life within a mainstream educational context

Key targets

- To explore the notion of using virtual worlds as an educational tool within the 'curriculum' - To establish open access to SL world from within school - To identify how to move learning beyond acquisition of a skill-set to a curriculum-enhanced approach


No. of schools/ localities expressing interest | No. of schools/ localities directly involved

                         12	                              6

No. of adults directly involved | No. students directly involved

            9	                             26

Staff Time in-world | Staff Time on wikis/forums | Students Time in-world | Students Time on wikis/forums

 219	                  19	            277 	       21

Staff - No. of posts to forum/wiki | Students- No. of posts to forum/wiki

              82	                               85

Significant milestones

- Engagement from schools, students and staff (as above)

- Open-access to SL from school in 3 settings

- Learning built around a curriculum area in 1 context - led to the Machinima

- Teachers TV film (partly focussed on SEGfL work)

- Renewed funding for a larger second year project from SEGfL

Some reflections

Working with the OU was an extremely positive experience for our team. It enabled us to experiment with the fledgling use of virtual worlds for a range of students in mainstream educational settings. It was not without frustrations. Procedures were cumbersome at times, permission to initiate activities were occasionally frustrating because e.g. of building regulations or a perception that this activity was not what was wanted by some existing/older/more experienced students and staff. The quality of dialogue and engagement from students within the blogs/forums and wikis was exceptional. But once again the actual functioning and complexity of those tools was also a barrier to all but the most determined.

If use of technologies such as SL are to become mainstreamed the most important barrier to overcome will be how to demonstrate learning. It is relatively easy to demonstrate skill acquistion but much harder to quantify learning against a curriculum base. This will be the major to embed learning through some form of curriculum base.

Rebecca's bit

I've got four slides - but I'll go through them quickly, honest :-P

The theme in my section is some of the different ways in which staff learned from the students - and I'm going to focus on the Time Explorers.

Slide 1: Staff and students working together

  • Time Explorers developed from an original staff-led strand.
  • It was initiated and co-ordinated by students.
  • Staff and students shared their experience and their knowledge.
  • Students put a lot of work into creating building, clothing and resources.
  • Sessions were planned in advance and made full use of Second Life's facilities.

Slide 2: Students developing new teaching techniques

  • Student familiarity with the environment led to the use of innovative learning techniques
  • Recreation of the eruption of Vesuvius
  • Virtual visit to the Caves of Lascaux
  • Building a shipwreck in order to discuss underwater archaeology

Slide 3: Students sharing expertise in a variety of areas

  • Comparison of this picture with some of the standard ones produced by adults in conference presentations.
  • Expertise with Second Life skills
  • Expertise with art and design
  • Expertise with knowledge-age skills such as motivation, communication and creativity

Slide 4: Students passing on expertise to others

  • Participation in the Y Factor competition
  • Machinima, photographs, text, presentation skills
  • Skills developed in Second Life put to use in real life.

Shri's bit

A study of learner experiences and perceptions of the Schome environment Joined as a learner, supporter, parent, volunteer and informed critical friend

Initial interests included

  • The “big ideas” behind Schome
  • Learning experiences in the combined virtual world / web based environment
  • Learners’ experiences of joining the community
  • Extending the Schome Park model to support informal learning for adults (ACL interest)

These developed into my current research interests

  • The study of the ‘dimensions’ of Schome and how they can be developed further
  • The integration of new members into existing communities
  • The big picture overview of what really happened

Planned future research

  • An analysis of models of community participation. To what extent can projects which invite open involvement from the wider community support the activities of those from outside a small elite group of real-life colleagues, let alone from those outside the traditional higher education research establishment?
  • An exploration of some inherent tensions. Virtual Worlds seem to hold out the promises of a egalitarian, democratic society which afford a level of anonymity, with implied equality. How does this balance with real world power structures and practical communication constraints which none of us can escape?

Incidentally, evidence of the overwhelming success of the Schome programme in achieving its ambitious goals is the fact that so many of us are here and presenting at this conference

Summary of how well we think it worked (so far)

'it' in this context is the approach to 'staffing' the Schome Park Programme.

The abstract says that:

Some of these 'staff' will provide personal perspectives on their experiences of engaging in the Schome Park Programme, with a particular focus on methodological issues and future plans.

At the moment most of the staff bits focus on your research focus and future plans - rather than 'experiences of engaging in the Schome Park Programme'. So should we include more reflections on 'what it was like for me' (as well as highlighting your research interests/plans)?

Pragmatics were sometimes problematic:

  • lack of support for staff development (often unsure what to do in SL / Schome or how to do it)
  • lack of coordination of staff activity (development of understanding of the Schome Initiative, strategic development of publications, etc)
  • disjunction between in-world and academic world statuses.
  • volunteers need support - can feel like outsiders - shouldn't be seen as 'cheap option'
  • paid staff and researchers also need support, direction and leadership

We were aware of many of these issues - but lacked the resource to address them adequately.

However, the fact that even once all funding for the project ended adults were (and still are) contributing to the project (eg Coordinating Space Competition entry, Coordinating Y Factor entry, doing data analysis, contributing to this session, attending meetings about the Schome Initiative, etc) is a sign that something has worked! We have built a strong core group of adults who are interested in moving the Schome Initiative forward. This would suggest that despite the practical shortcomings the principles are good ...

I would have put this on the discussion page but thought it would go unseen (I tried doing that with the wiki front page :-)) Just to say I like this all and particularly think this end bit is nicely balanced and ends very appropriately - please can we keep it!--Julia G 08:31, 5 November 2008 (GMT)

I like it too! Though not sure what 'disjunction between in-world and academic world statuses' means? PeterT 15:49, 7 November 2008 (GMT)