H809 – Schome Park (A13.4b)
First, I will answer the basic questions provided in Block 1 and second, I will answer the corresponding question to Gillen’s reading and third I will check with my peers 🙂 and in case nobody produced a summary of all the answers given, I will approach it. Because Gillen’s reading is one of the readings for the upcoming assignment and we have to write a critical review.
Well, I started pretty critical, not to say I pretty much took the article apart ;-), but I might have been not objective enough. I definitely go back to this part of our study and read the corresponding course material and the readings.
Questions: What research questions are being addressed?
Gillen want to explore/investigate the range of literacy practices taking place in Schome Park.
However, she also wants to demonstrate/proof that new literacy practices are best approached by a new synthesis of methods, thus requires a new appropriacte methodology. She calls the approach virtual literacy ethnography.
Setting: What is the sector and setting? (e.g. school, higher education, training, informal learning)
- Schome Park a three-dimensional (3D) virtual island world, first European enclosed island only for credentialised adults and young people aged between 13 -17.
- innovative out-of-school project lasting over a 15-month period
Concepts: What theories, concepts and key terms are being used?
- Theory – virtual ethnography
- new approach/methodology – virtual literacy ethnography
- New literacy – concept mostly but not entirely mappable onto contemporary digital technologies and the methodologies with which these are studies
- post-typographic era is not only affordances of digital technologies, but associated new opportunities for collaborative meaning-making, rapid dialogues in diverse formats and potentialities for communicating across time, space, and aspects of embodiment including dis/abilities in the real-world.
- ethnography (definition from Gillen) – commitment to use mixed method approach to endeavour to explore the research participants’ own perspectives on events, to recognise the complexity of influences on practices and events and to seek to reflexively consider the researcher’s development of interpretative understanding.
- virtual ethnography or cyber-ethnographies – researchers use interpretative methods to explore the dynamic culture of online communities or virtual worlds – social science methodology
What methods of data collection and analysis are used? (e.g. the number of participants; the type of technologies; the use of interviews, surveys, observation, etc.)
- Non-interventionist research method
- Observer – Gillen is studying (partly) by watching and noting down what happens (field notes – 6 months later?p.63). The intention is to be detached and not affect the phenomenon being studied.
- Participant observer – Gillen attempts to become one of the group under observation, although her avatar Rowan displays as researcher a message saying ‘logging chat’. Gillen feels not well represented with her identity of a member of staff, but views herself as researcher, but also as learner.
- Gillen uses written evidence from chat logs, threads from Schome park forum, or excerpts from wiki pages, but also makes use of the history tab
- Sources of project data include: wiki postings (including images captured in-world to record events), forum postings, in-world sensor measurements (how many people are in-world and where, every minute) chat logs of near-synchronous dialogues and instant messages, field notes
- analysis of data – tools of discourse analysis
- corpus linguistic analysis – large, randomized sample of the students’ turns in chat logs
- student turns were extracted and analysed using WordSmith 4.
- a frequency list of words was created and compared with a 4-million reference corpus to compare lexical items featured particularly strongly in-world in comparison with a large sample of language across a wide variety of genres (newspaper articles, correspondence, everyday conversation by adults
- No detailed information are provided about the participants e.g. the number, age, characteristics, background, only that participants aged between 13 – 17
- technology – 3D virtual island world in general and in particular three main communicative domains of the project: chat logs, wiki and forum
- chat logs – in-world interactions (Table 1, p. 62)
- asynchronous forum – can be accessed without going in-world, constant used means of communication in the project, monitored by staff, forum is used to collaborative plan events, discuss happenings within the project, its interaction with the wider world, self-contained forums for games and discussions on topics like school dinners, archaeology (Figure 2, p.64)
- wiki (Figure 3, p.64)
Gillen itself claims that her virtual literacy ethnography delineate the mixed method approach she employs to study her research question.
Findings: What did this research find out?
In-world communication (p.67)
the corpus linguistic analysis revealed the following results:
- students turns were characterised by considerable interrogation and inquiry, preponderance of question words such as how and what in comparison with their occurrence in language overall
- students used words such as time, here, there, now to deal with positioning in space and time
- think and because appear far more frequently than in the reference corpus, as well as yes is high but not no, thanks and please, meeting and library.
- lexical analysis revealed a positive relationship building and collaborative activities
- genre-specific terms – such as schomer, RL and IM are high indicating shared level of familiarity, sharing of discourse
- thing, things, make and stuff indicate activities around the construction of objectives and scripts – appear more often as in comparison with language overall
Gillen also conducted a small-scale analysis of the chat log extract presented in table 1. However, her analysis is beyond me, I am drawing a blank on that one 😕 What are the findings, can anyone please penlight me?
Gillen field notes confirm students technical abilities and their creativity.
Asynchronous forum (p.69)
Gillen uses the thread on the forum where two Trixxiee’s suggest to create a dictionary/glossary and explains/concludes that Trixxiee’s work which is on the boundary of Schome Park activity, not directly related to in-world activity is what Gillen calls a new, yet not untypical, instance for new playful genre taking advantage of the affordances and constraints of the domains fo Schome park. Hmm, … (lease see limitations, or how convinced I am)
Again Gillen refers to the work of Trixxiee who suggest to create a glossary in the forum and then quickly realized that glossary, almost on her own and with great effort in the wiki.
Gillen now concludes that a wiki is a channel that leads itself well to collaborative authoring (don’t we know that already through Wikipedia?). Gillen found out that patterns of contribution were diverse. Well, if you check the history tab of one of our wikis you will find evidence for that as well 😉
Gillen then refers then to the automatically recorded accounts behind the history tab and how surprised she was that participants annotated the automatic record in order to enhance the quality of information available to anyone. Her analysis of every 50th wiki page confirmed her intuition that one or two changes at most are common and annotations rare except. Gillen states that the dictionary is part of the Schome Communities discourse.
Gillen claims in her conclusion (p.72) that the evidence presented and discussed combats the ‘consistently negative representation of young people’s new-media language and she states that new literacy practices demand attention to all features of text, moving beyond the linguistic and semiotic disposition. Literacy practice involve cultural knowledge, the employment of artefacts and representations fo the world and are thus part of a ‘cognitive ecology’ in which various representational technologies constitute one anothers functional environments. Creativity is present and the roles of readers and writers overlap.
Limitations: What are the limitations of the methods used?
- missing context
Also she describes very detailed the Schome park project and the Schome Park, as well as the three main communication tools, forum, chat and wiki – I am still missing the surrounding context. I know the course material refers to a previous reading, but I think an article needs to be meaningful and informative on its own. What I miss is what are the students suppose to do? One time she refers during her thorough description of her avatar Rowan and the surrounding environment and the features that can be found in menus and submenues that she – well, her avatar is standing in the “corner of the steam museum which has been built very recently and which is about to be associated with a ‘murder mystery’ event”. Ok, which murder mystery event? She also explains that “a student has made the two artificial steam engines visible as 3D objects in-world – was that the task the students were asked to do? or where they free to choose what they want to do within the environment?
- missing validity
- missing information about participants – age, gender, background, characteristics (e.g. first time users or familiar with MMOGs) – gifted and talented youth? p.59
- No case and controls
- random selection? – invited – what selection criteria where applied?
- how many students participated?
- how representative is the study?
- missing reliability
- it would be interesting to know if the results from phase 2 and 3 of the project correspond with those in phase 1 of the project
- missing objectivity
- participant observations are inherently characterized by some degree of subjectivity. It is quite difficult to be objectiv when you are part of the online community (virtual world)
- Gillen talks about her intuition (p.71) how objective is that?
Ethics: Are there any ethical issues associated with the research?
Gillen addresses some ethical issues of working with children in virtual words.
- enclosed environment – restricted to children invited to join the project, usually via their schools, with the written informed consent of their parents and schools as well as themselves.
- only credentialised (checked through the Criminal Records Bureau) staff members are allowed in Schome Park
- anonymity of students is preserved, only a few members had access to it in case that on-line and real-world events requires to contact with an actual individual and his/her parents/guardians.
- Although Gillen had access to the database with contact information, but never used it and thus do not know the students outside their pseudonyms, avatar representations and writings and on rare occasions she heard a tiny amount of speech in-world.
What are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further research?
The interest to introduce digital games in HE is increasing and advocates of game-based learning point to its role in supporting collaboration, problem-solving, communication and active learning (NMC,2011). Digital games include games designed for computers and console systems, and online games. Serious games, massively multiplayer online games (MMOG e.g. Everquest), or alternate reality games (ARG e.g. World without oil) are some types of digital games (NMC,2011).
However, more research is needed to provide empirical evidence for how game-based learning can be used more effectively (de Freitas,2006). After reading Gillen I would join in and would call for more research to enlarge upon Gillen’s findings, to provide more context to allow comparison, and to provide more valid and reliable data using e.g. other methods compared to Gillen’s chosen approach.
Table 11.1 Non-interventionist
Observer – Gillen is studying (partly) by watching and noting down what happens. The intention is to be detached and not affect the phenomenon being studied.
Participant observer – Gillen attempts to become one of the group under observation, although her avatar Rowan displays as researcher a message saying ‘logging chat’. Gillen feels not well represented with her identity of a member of staff, but views herself as researcher, but also as learner.
- Old – observations in real-life environment,
- New – observation in virtual environment from Schome Park, observer is represented by an avatar
How convinced I am by the research
Gillen aims to build bridges to those interested in literacy education, but have not yet engaged with cutting-edge technology innovations. I am interested, but the bridge she offers is more a makeshift bridge, not really capable of taking enough weight for those who want to cross.
I am not really convinced by her analysis and findings of the in-world communication. Genre-specific terms or jargon are typical for e.g. professions or young people and within this group, e.g. physicians the use of this terminology is of course higher as in the reference corpus. Similar if I construct something the usage key words are higher as in comparison with language overall.
Gillen claims in her conclusion (p.72) that the evidence presented and discussed combats the ‘consistently negative representation of young people’s new-media language and she states that new literacy practices demand attention to all features of text, moving beyond the linguistic and semiotic disposition. I agree with both of her statements, it is important to take the context into consideration and of course you cannot generalise that all young people’s media-language is not bad. However, her few examples she highlights are examples of a couple of students, and that is not really representative for all.
This was my first part 😉
I know again pretty long I know, but I was carried away, considering that I will need it for the TMA. I think some questions still need some closer consideration and I need to reflect on them once again.