Monday, October 5, 2009

First Draft of Proposal


‘Schools kill creativity’. Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and education,goes on to assert that throughout the entire academic track from grade school to university level education, creativity is systematically eradicated. Public education has been designed as a process that values certain subjects above others, ‘strip-mining’ students’ minds of particular commodities and leaving the rest (creativity in particular) behind. (

If we are to adequately educate the upcoming generation for a future that we cannot yet even envision, we must reinvest in the commodity of creativity. Facts and knowledge will be ever changing, but the creative process, or the production of valuable, novel ideas, will endure. Einstein, himself, proposed that creativity was to be more highly prized than knowledge.

The task of educators today, should be to focus on the power of creativity by encouraging students to unwrap their own personal gift of human imagination, and explore the energy of this valuable commodity. Current technologies provide an increasingly relevant venue for exploring this under-developed resource.

Virtual worlds allow art students (via their avatars) to literally walk inside an Escher painting, following the winding, nonsensical maze of staircases and allow architecture students to visualize buildings from every conceivable angle, as they build, rotate, and walk around their products. In both cases, the creative process seems to be enhanced by immersion in a 3D virtual space. Virtual worlds, or those “computer-based simulated environments intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars”, (Wikipedia),certainly seem to hold promise in promoting creativity. Since students today are, as a whole, accustomed to interacting with computer technology, educators can capitalize on this interest and provide opportunities for creation that are more easily accomplished ‘in world’ than in the traditional classroom.

Johnson and Levine state that: "From the earliest models of learning that we know of, immersive experiences have proven to be effective, effecient ways to learn at high levels and quickly". Virtual learning is certainly immersive, highly social, and lends itself to learning quickly and encourages higher forms of abstraction and experimentation than more traditional lecture methods.

Harry Pense, noted author and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Suny-Oneonta in N.Y. states:

It appears that 3D virtual worlds are poised to make a significant contribution to higher
Education…the potential applications offer many exciting possibilities…Millions of
teenagers are already involved in virtual games…and when they reach college age,
they will expect to see this technology that has become familiar to them. The widely
respected Gartner Research Group has predicted that 80% of active Internet users will
have a “second life” in some virtual world by the end of 2011. Developing effective
pedagogies for teaching in virtual space may be the most serious challenge to face
higher education in the coming decade (J. Educational Technology Systems, vol.36(2)
171017, 2007-2008).

It is crucial to develop pedagogies that take full advantage of virtual education and especially as it relates to student creativity. By developing such pedagogies, and testing their efficacy, we will be able to more accurately answer the question, “When university level students are presented similar tasks, how much does student creativity increase in an online, avatar-represented virtual classroom as compared with the creativity of those who participate in a traditional class room setting?”

If we are to prepare today’s students adequately for tomorrow, educators must accept the challenge of reversing the accusation of Sir Ken Robinson, “Schools kill creativity” to read “Schools kindle creativity”, which might well be accomplished in the virtual classroom.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dissertation Question Analysis

Is there something (unique) about (virtual world) (education) that (lends itself) to (cultivating) (creativity) in (university level) students?

unique: novel, new, uncommon, innovative, singular, different,

virtual world education: immersive, avatar-represented educational experience to be found within the confines of an online, virtual world.

virtual world education: educational pursuits conducted in a web-world environment.

virtual world education: learning strategies experienced in a virtual world environment.

virtual world education: learning experienced within an online, virtual world.

virtual world: online, web-generated world

education: process of constructing knowledge


Is there something singular about learning experienced within an online, web-generated world that fosters novel thought in university level students?

Is there something unique about learning experienced within an online, avatar-represented immersive web environment that fosters novel thought in university level students?

Is there something unique about learning experienced within an online, avatar-represented immersive web environment that fosters novel thought more often than in a conventional, university classroom setting?

Title: "The Pitfalls and Promise of Virtual Education"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Disciple Scholar Thoughts

It's the start of another Fall, and a new school year begins. We're washed away in the tide of studentism, and our separate identities merge with an innumerable host of others. Our minds are busy adding to a voluminous "to do" list, preparing for the wave of work to come. But just for a moment, we stop to think about what we are thinking about. We attempt to look down at ourselves from somewhere above the world, and survey the seascape, or should I say, the mindscape. How do the concepts of gospel discipleship and gospel scholarship fit together in this ocean of people and information?

To answer this question, we might, at first, be tempted to capture the sand and waves in separate jars, neatly compartmentalizing them into their own sterile units to understand their separate properties. But the fact is, that neither the ocean nor the ebb and flow of life are amenable to this we venture into the water, we become increasingly aware, that the waves are, moment by moment, curling around each and every grain of sand, creating new and ever changing swirls and imprints beneath our feet, unsettling the very foundation upon which we stand.

As we acknowledge the idea that our lives are in constant motion, being shaped by the Spirit, being guided in an upward path that might not always seem straightforward, but might seem to swirl and change and leave us feeling unsettled at times, we become more comfortable with the counter-intuitive, more at ease with the perplexing, more willing to find peace in the unanswered questions of life. For me, my life is about finding truth in everyday living, whether it be studying words in a book, or by studying the words of a child...and the meaning of my life is formed by taking those words, and allowing them to infiltrate my soul like the waves do the sand to create something of worth and beauty.