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Open plenary session, ELI annual meeting 2009

This is the post of the opening plenary session.

Participation, collaboration, and social learning is the focus of this year's meeting.

They focus on:
• Different learning styles (ugh, get over this pseudo-science please)
• Learning spaces
• Informal learning
• Learning from others

Oy, they are doing an online game so people can look for "clues". Oy vay.

Discussion by Constance Steinkuehler from U-W Madision, from the games+learning+society initiative. The punch-line is that online virtual worlds are naturally occurring. She studies mmogs. She particularly studies WOW.

13.5 million people are playing the 4 most popular games. There is a significant population and amount of activities and times they are playing. She thinks they are culturally significant -- people know what these things are and meet one another on there. The "new golf" -- business transactions happen here.

She thinks these games are also intellectually significant. She thinks that building a repository of knowledge in the game and ways to achieve complex results in the game is very like the scientific model of collecting facts and then putting them into models that explain what they've observed.

//NOTE: This may be so -- but does it actually translate to an understanding of what is happening in the world?

They focused on three things:
1. Discursive practice -- do you know how to make an argument based on facts and data and how to argue with others?
2. Model based reasoning -- can they translate facts into predictive models? Can they adjust based on new information?
3. Tacit epistomology -- wanted to make sure that she wasn't seeing backward engineering and calling it science.

She decided that talk was actually productive. Overwhelmingly, talk on game sites is problem-solving rather than social banter (87%).

People built on each others' ideas, used counter arguments, lots of people used data to back claims, etc.

Most people (65%) were evaluative in their analysis of the problems in the game -- which is much higher than national averages (Kuhn, 1991) which is at about 15%. Evaluative says "Hmmm...I understand that theory, but I think the data suggest something else is at play. Let's figure it out?"

She is pushing the idea of collective problem solving rather than collaborative problem solving. Lots and lots of people are making small, incremental contributions. The ratio of posts to members is 1.8/1 -- so everyone averages about 1.8 posts. That's awesome, not one person posting 1000 posts and everyone watching.

//NOTE: I wonder if this is because people find contributing to this environment and being wrong to be low-cost. Its OK to theorize and be right or wrong. There is lower performance-avoidance orientation.

She coins the term "pop cosmopolitanism", a willingness to navigate this globalized, diverse world. It is fostered in digital technologies, very much in WOW.

There are social norms and practices that are being pushed out into homes.

//NOTE: It is very interesting that she is not interested in the content of the game, but rather the discussion *about* the game. She is very interested in what the game is about, but rather in the meta-analysis of the what people are discussing.