The technology infused classroom Y12-13, 2012

being revised August 2006

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1   The technology infused classroom Y12-13, 2012        

or The Perils of ICT

Some educational authors have made futuristic projections so I will dip my oar in the water here. It is important to take on board all the aspects of this exposition despite the huge apparent leap of fantasy, but also to be aware that 10 years ago the www did not exist, even less so interactive VR. This means that anything said about the future, 10 years ahead, may constitute only 10% of what actually develops over that time, simply because we are so severely limited by our imagination. This exposition may well be right in many aspects but is probably wrong in all of them in some way or another.

We will visit an English class in New Zealand 4 weeks into the school year. The classroom is situated in a building in a complex that we would perhaps recognise as part of a Technology Institute. The classroom is the size of a tutorial type room, or a household lounge. It is setup for video conferencing with a wide desk along the middle of the room in the shape of a loose arc on which several 21" monitors are setup. The teacher enters the room and seats herself in the centre of the arc with the monitors and other peripherals about her. Her name is Susan and she is 29 and a graduate teacher of this Institute in which she is currently working. Opposite, across the desk, on the wall is a large wall video monitor.

Following her into the room are five teacher trainees who seat themselves at tutorial desks behind Susan and facing towards the monitors on the desk and the large wall monitor. The teacher trainees are aged between 25 and 32, three of them are overseas students.

Susan logs herself onto the virtual classroom using the VR server which is permanently on-line at the Institute for teacher and student use. While she is setting up, the teacher students do the same on their laptops. They use a number of application programs.

Susan starts the class by welcoming the teacher trainees to the class and telling them what the class is about.

Susan.This is the first brainstorming session for the webscool cohort of senior secondary students in the language cummunication curriculum. This cohort is studying the standard Shakespeare text for this year, Romeo and Juliet, and being the overacheivers that they are, have decided to enter the National Virtual Reality Drama Competition which is now running in its third year. This is their first brainstorming video conferencing session which for me involves conducting the conference, and managing the flow of information during it. This is about as tough as it gets so I will not have much time to attend to you. I suggest that you sit back and watch carefully. The important things to note are the way that the various students signal their need to contribute to the session and the ways in which I use my voice and facial expression to indicate to one student that it is time to move on to another student. While we can see all the students at once, they can only see my face and the face of the other student who I give speaking rights to at any moment. I expect you will see a lot of frustrated faces and waving of hands during this session.

On the left monitor I have the servers. For this session we have the video conferencing server which I log on to as privileged chairman. The wand here is used to direct speaking rights on the video conferencing panel. You simply point and click to the appropriate window on the panel to transfer speaking rights. It takes a little practice to learn to do this accurately but I find it more natural than using the mouse on the server monitor. The wand emits a red light while you aim it and a white light when you click it.

I also have the VR server and the VR World in which this conference takes place. This is a class of VR junkies who like to show off their latest tricks to their classmates and to me so be ready for some surprises. A virtual classroom can be a wild place at times and I have a rule - I dont interfere with their VR tricks as long as they dont interfere with the progress of the class. These students are multitaskers and while the conference is taking place they will be chatting amongst themselves when they dont have speaking rights and showing off some of their ideas regarding the play. Expect them all to turn up in costumes of some sort. Just thank God we arent doing The Tempest this year.

All these students are quite capable of getting together and deciding what they want to do by themselves. The purpose of this conference and my role in it, is it ascertain that all the students are comfortable with the decisions that are made here and are willing participants in the rest of the project, and that what is decided is in line with curriculum objectives, technically feasible given the resources available and in line with the competition guidelines. In other words to be able to determine that the project can succeed successfully with the full involvement of all students.

Now a word of warning. You already know how compulsive VR can be and you are all sitting in on this class in VR with me and the students themselves. The VR aspect of the class is an important part of the socialisation process. You all have monitor rights in VR and can eject any misbehavers from VR. On the other hand you may have to cope with a little attention seeking from the students during the class. I guess you are all old enough and ugly enough to handle a class of stroppy studtends in VR by now, but also remember to pay attention to your real reason for being here, that is to see how to manage video conferencing in this environment and give each student the opportunity to contribute their part to the brainstroming session, assess conformance to curriculum objectives and determine technical feasibilty. I dont expect you to be aware of the details of the Competition requirements.

My personal preference for starting these classes is to enter in VR first. When I am ready to address the class I move from ground zero to the rostrum and then logon to the video conferencer. Are there any questions before we start?

teacher trainee.Do we have whiteboard privileges as well?
Susan.Yes, I believe so, but that is not an issue because everything on the whiteboard gets logged. VR is a bit more difficult because these students have build privileges in this world. It is their own classroom and like any classroom it can be setup with quite a few pranks if you are silly enough to fall for them.
Susan looks at the lefthand server monitor.
Susan.It looks like everyone is here so if there are no more questions we will start the conference.
Susan logs onto the VR world. All the teacher trainees are already logged onto the world and are walking along a path in a garden full of plum trees in bloom with spring bulbs in full flower. On the lefthand desk monitor a large window shows a VR world consisting of an orchard of plum trees in bloom surrounded by spring bulbs in flower with a wide flagstone path through the trees. There is a guffaw from one of the teacher students. Susan looks at him and puts her finger to her lips and smiles.
Susan.If you dont know your Romeo and Juliet it looks like we are in the Capulet's Orchard.
Susan turns back to the screen and navigates her way from ground zero along the path past a student Gorilla avatar holding a sign with an arrow pointing along the flagstone path and with the words "Apian Way". Susan smiles.
teacher trainee.shit!
Susan looks at her sternly.
teacher trainee.(muffled) thepigeonshatonme howdotheydothat ?
Susan.Please! Once the mic is on the kids hear everything.
Susan walks along the path to a large paved area flanked on one side by a pond with waterlilies. The student avatars are collected there in various Renaissance and Elizabethan costumes. The five teacher trainee avatars are also there but look a little out of place in the default tourist garb. The teacher trainees can see that Susan has arrived as Good Queen Bess. She crosses the paved yard to a small circular italianate folly of doric columns. As she steps up onto the dais of the folly, fireworks erupt out of the ground all around. Behind the folly is a high wall of faced stone with some windows near the top.
Susan.I find it pays to keep the VR sound off. Now the mic goes on and no interruptions please.
Susan turns to face the class from the dais. She switches on the wall monitor which now shows a large version of the video conferencing server that is also shown on the lefthand monitor. There are 24 windows, 4 across and 6 down. 20 of them have a face in it which is looking at the lights in the ceiling of the room. This is because the camera lens is at the center-base of students monitors at home. Each window has the student's name in the titlebar. One window shows Susan herself so that the teacher trainees can see her as the students see her. Susan switches on the mic and speakers.
Susan.Kia ora class.
students chanting in unison.Kia ora Mrs. Stokes.
Susan takes her camera from its position above the central monitor on the desk and points it at the teacher trainees in turn.
Susan.As you can see we have some teacher trainees with us today. Let me introduce Peter from Auckland, Janice from Dunedin and three overseas students, Shia from Shanghai, Mohamed from Cairo and Calvin from Manilla.
The teacher trainees smile and wave to the camera and the VR chat window is swamped with a chorus of greetings. Susan puts the camera back on its stand.
Susan.I guess everyone has read the play but has anyone read Brooke or Paynter ?
Hands are waved on the video wall
Susan.Excellent. Who the Brooke? . . . Who the Paynter? . . .And what conclusions do you draw? . . James
Susan points the wand at James' window which changes to a red border.
James.I think Shakespeare compressed the storyline into five days to give the story a greater sense of immediate impending doom. The characters dont know how short their lives are but the audience does. So the audience wants these characters to experience the fullness of life before they get knocked off, and the audience becomes a willing vicarious voyeur to their experience.
Susan.So this falls in line with Drama as Intensity of Experience
James.Yes but I think that in this play it is played up. There is onstage fighting and death, blood, and virginal sex which the audience knows will be followed almost immediately by death.
Hands wave on the wall.
Barry.There is a hidden theme of sacrificial fertility rites held over a short festival period. Two male protagonists fighting, the winner getting the girl, a marriage officiated by a priest, and then dying by poison administered by a woman in a sacred place. Its all very Golden Bough.
Susan.Do you think Shakespeare was aware of this when he wrote the play?
Barry.I dont think so. I think he is aware of theatrical tradition which derives much of its material from the Greeks and their representation of Myth from their Dionysian Festivals. It wasnt till the 19th century that comparative religion and archeology started to uncover the truth about the origins of these myths and their real substance.
Hands are waving.
Xian.I disagree and I cite Act 3 Scene 2 which opens with Juliet delivering an Ode to the Sun complete with classical references and then talks about Romeos death and him being cut up, really dismembered, and his parts set up in the stars, just like the human sacrifices of myth, Castor Pollux and so on.
More hands are waving.
Petra.I think both Xian and Barry are right but I go along more with Barry, because I think Shakespeare knew about the significance of the pagan ritual aspect because the play is full of it. But it is more like ideas he has borrowed and reinvented in the style of his age. I dont think even the ancient greek playwrights knew the reality behind the prehistoric myths they perpetuated.
Susan.What about "Iphigenia in Tauris" ? Has anyone read that? . . . Sam
Sam.I did. I did a search on the Greek Tragedies and thats the play that mentions human sacrifice quite blatantly. But it is set in a distant country in a culture that the Greeks abhored for its savagery. Its like the Greeks are saying, "they did that kinda stuff but we're civilised, we never did that kinda stuff." which of course we know is not the way it was. So its like they are using theatre to repaper themselves with a new social veneer. I dont think the Greeks of the Golden Age even wanted to know about their real past. It is not clear that they really believed that Troy had existed and was a ruin that they could actually visit. I think its even more unlikely that Shakespeare knew what he was writing about.
Susan notices one student who is looking exceptionally bored.
Paul.I dont think it matters what Shakespeare knew or thought. For sure he was conforming to a theatrical tradition that we can trace back 2000 years from his time, which he probably couldnt. But from where we stand today we see a lot more than he could and it is all reflected in the play. So I think we should highlight it, put big rings around it and illustrate the continuity of human experience in the play which covers not just the last 400 years but more like 4000 years. It also creates a foil for the voyeuristic experience, because it leaves the audience feeling a bit uncomfortable that they are indulging themselves in an entertainment that has direct links to a prehisotirc world of human sacrifice and they think they are advanced socialised rational people who espouse human rights. I think the audience will be confronted by some serious paradoxes when the play ends.
Susan.What kinds of paradoxes?
Paul.Just how quick they are to embrace superstitution. How they are so readily seduced into a world of pagan mystery. That the civilised act of attending theatre especially hi-tech virtual theatre in the 21st century is still bound up with the intense re-experience of ancient cults of fertility, sex and bloodlust that have been repeated in an endless cycle for thousands of years.
Susan.So class - do you want to explore that aspect in your entry? ... Barry
Barry.Yes, though not explicitly. We though it would be best to do that by selecting scenes that mirrored the ancient sacrificail rites and putting visual clues in the scenes.
Susan. Ah, that explains this Doric temple in the orchard, but I dont see any sacred oak trees.
The students on the wall monitor look at their cameras and light up with broad smiles. A large oak tree appears beside the folly with a thick bough reaching up to a window.
Susan.What other themes do you want to highlight? . . .Sophie
Sophie.We want to amplify the theatrical theme of intensity of experience. We want to use the virtual reality medium to explore that in a way that ordinary theatre cannot do. And Shakespeare seemed intent on exploiting the sexual aspects as far as he could. He has Juliet stabbing herself with Romeos dagger saying "This is thy sheath" and we all know what anatomy she is referring to. I like the look of this one.
A dagger appears on the window on the whiteboard on the central monitor.
Sophie.Its a sacrificial dagger specially used for disembowellment. But the guys prefer this one.
Another dagger appears on the whiteboard window, this one in the shape of a sharp crescent.
Sophie.This is a dagger for ritual castration which I dont think is appropriate for Juliet, though it does look cool.
Susan.I don't think that is appropriate. So! Where is all this leading?
Sophie.Its not so much about sex. Shakespeare himself was very limited in what he could get away with, but he does exploit the sexual symbolism of death at almost every opportunity. Juliet expresses a death wish for Romeo at almost every encounter and there are lots of references to the jealous moon and the like, which again are references to pagan fertility sacrifices, as if the moon is exerting its presence on these characters and making them reenact prehistoric fertility rites. So it is more about knives dripping with sacrificial blood and stuff like that.
Susan.So this is going to be a schlock horror version ? . . . Barry?
Barry.We dont want to make it overt and ludicrous. But for the tomb scene we want to push the envelop as far as we can. Tybalt in rigour mortis, in a sheet on top of his sarcophagus on one side. Paris on the floor beside him by the entrance oozing litres of blood all over the floor. Juliet asleep on a sarcophagus in the centre, water dripping from the ceiling, Romeos body on top of her in a sexual embrace so when Friar Laurence enters he is not sure what he is seeing in the dark which is why he shouts "Romeo!". When Juliet wakens Romeos body falls off the sarcophagus and under its own momentum it rolls across the floor towards the audience with his face staring at them from the pool of Paris's blood.
Susan hears a muffled squawk from behind her but does not react.
Barry.Then when Juliet disembowels herself we have her on the sacrophagus. The audience is expecting the watch and the page to burst in, but the stage directions say that Juliet falls on Romeo's body. So we have a huge pause and slowly we see Juliets entrails slip over the edge of the sarcophagus and fall onto the floor dragging the rest of her body off it and down on top of Romeo.
There is a muffled cry from the back of the room and Shia makes a dash for the door.
Barry.The idea is to confront the audience with its fascination for death and gore. We want to truly shock. We figure we have a captive audience because the play is judged live so the judges have to stay and see the play out to the bitter end, and we figure the audience wont dare walk out with the judges right there.
Susan.I wouldn't bet on that, you just lost Shia. She had to make an emergency exit.
Barry.Oh I am sorry. Please give her our apologies. . So the idea works.
Susan.Looks like it. So let me get this straight. You want to seduce the audience into experiencing a piece of rich emotionally charged civilised theatre. Expose them to the pagan ritual underlying the story and then confront them with the reality of what that brutal world was all about, leaving them with a feeling of just how thin the veneer of civilisation really is.
Barry.Thats it.
Susan.Sounds good to me. You could well have a winner there. Just a moment and I will get some feedback from the teacher trainees here, what remains of them.
Susan looks behind her to check the teacher trainees.
Susan.Well, what do you think ?
Susan is greeted by blank faces and stunned silence except for Janice who smiles and gives a thumbs-up. Susan turns back to the camera.
Susan.They think it is a stunning idea. Which class did you want to enter; Globe, On Location or Open ?
Tom signals.
Tom.We have not decided on the class yet. We would like to do the Globe if possible but we have some doubts about the level of realism we envisaged. Some of us want to use the Open Class so we can maximise the realism. Others think that the Globe Class gives us enough scope. Barry's description of the last scene was a sort of test to see how effecive The Globe Class could be 'cause we figure that we could do everything he just said within the conditions of the Globe Class. We figure Shakespeare had the stagecraft to have Juliet disembowel herself like that and do all the blood. Of course Shakespeare didn't do any of that cause he would have had to clean up after.
Susan.I cant see a problem with that but one detail occurs to me. Capulet says "it mis-sheathed in my daughter's bosom !". How do you account for that ?
Tom.Well, when Juliet kills herself she starts at the bottom like Sophie suggested and then slowly works her way up. So when Capulet sees her the dagger is in her bosom. She is lying on her back over Romeo's body and her head is hanging down over Romeo's chest with the dagger pointing straight up from between her breasts. We want to use that as the poster image for the production.
A poster for Romeo and Juliet appears on everyones whiteboards with the faces of Romeo and Juliet occupying the centre of the Poster. The background is black at the top shifting to blood-red at the bottom. Juliets face is upside down hanging over Romeo's chest, her long hair trailing in a pool of blood. She is smiling ecstatically. Romeo is also smiling engagingly with his face on its side. The dagger hilt points straight up from between Juliets bare breasts, its ornate golden handle in the shape of an ampersand making the "and" in the title." quote Susan "OK I got the picture and I agree. You can acheive breathtaking effects using quite stylised means. So are there any other issues.?
Tom.Yes, there is the problem of the contrast between very public scenes like the street fights and very private scenes like the orchard scenes and then there is the masque scene which is sort of in between. We want the audience to feel part of the action, to literally be drawn into the midst of it in the street scenes, but they cant feel as though they are overt watchers in the orchard, and the scenes in the cell are even worse. Its supposedly a tiny space so you cant have an audience of 200 in there. In any class the street scenes are not a problem, but in the Globe and On Location classes which are large audience classes we would want to create a sense of claustraphobia with space to intensify Romeo and Juliet's experince of their predicament. One suggestion is that we use a directional atmosphere so that the audience has a kind of tunnel vision. We clothe each member of the audience in night just like Juliet describes, so they can only see the action and not each other. We figure noone will feel like a voyeur if they know that noone is watching them being a voyeur. We are allowed to use atmosphere but noone has tried to use directional atmosphere before.
Susan.How were you thinking of implementing it?
Tom.We could give each client viewer a companion bot which is an atmosphere object which always faces the stage. So the bot moves in sync with the client avatar but doesnt turn when the avatar does. So if the avatar turns away from the action in the orchard, it wont see the rest of the audience, just a dense black fog. But there is still the problem of audience between the viewer and the action. What we would like to do is make the audience invisible.
Susan.Well, the reason the Globe Class exists is to faithfully recreate the conditions that Shapkespeare lived with, in order to work with the theatrical realities of performance practice in his time. Making the audience invisible was not in Shakespeare's power, regardless of what any rules say. You would be disqualified from the Globe Class. But the first rule of lighting is, "if its not lit you cant see it".
Tom.Thats true but the Globe lighting specifications are not all that flexible. We certainly would not be able to replicate the slick horror genre look, and we would like, if possible, to create a unique look.
Susan.I can understand that, but also remember that it is your impact within the stylistic genre that you work with that wins the rankings, not the total impact you might make. You can enter in the Open Section and make an entry with huge impact but other teams may be able to do the same in other ways. If you are sure you can make a big impact in the Globe Class you are more likely to win.
Tom.Yes, that is what we are unsure of.
Susan.In that case you need to select 2 or 3 key scenes and work them up to the point where you can see the difference. You have 4 weeks left in which to enter and you have to specify your class by then. How about Location versus Open Class?
Tom.If we rule out the Globe Class which as you suggest may deliver the best punch within its class, then other issues come to the fore which again we cant decide on. I will pass on to Cheryl who is our admin for the project.
Susan.Thanks Tom. Hello Cheryl
Cheryl.Hello Sue. As you say there are more risks in entering in the Open Class, and the Open Class does not have a lot to offer in this play compared to say The Tempest which is a special effects piece or King Lear or Othello which you can update.

We see no reason to move the play from the Renaissance or Tudor period. But the aspects of sex and horror make this a possible business case. If the play got any kind of recognition in the competition it could be sold, and the audience for the play would be a solo audience.

Only the Open section caters for solo audiences. Some of us believe that the production relies on having a group audience for them to see it right through. Also they think that an Open Class production for solo audience should involve the viewer more directly rather than just as a bystander. In other words, if we did enter the Open Section we would not be maximising on the potential advantages that the Open Section offers. Some of the Open Section entries could be allowing the viewer to take one of the parts for instance. So we have to balance the prospect of the Location class which allows us to use any lighting and to possibly make the audience invisible so that we can squeeze 200 into Friar Laurence's cell, with the opportunity to produce a single audience product for later resale but which might not be maximising its opportunities in the Open Class.

The other problem with the Location Class is that we are allowed any props but not allowed to change the VR world scenery, so this temple and the oak tree would not be allowed. But in the Globe Class we could effectively use dropsheets or stage scenery to represent them.

Susan.So you are prepared to risk the competition outcome on the potential saleability of the production - to who? schools, general home viewing ? . . .
Cheryl.Lets just say schools.
Susan.I get the feeling you are not telling me everything. Let me see if I can fill the gaps. You produce a version for the competition which is suitable for multiple audience viewing but equally good for single audience viewing and hope that it gets the green light from the judges, sufficiently for you to sell it in the education market. You then . . . . actually I dont really want or need to know any more than that. Is there any more discussion about the class selection ? . . . No? Do you want to take a vote now ? . . .OK, hands up for Globe.
5 hands go up.
Susan.Hands up for Location.
No response from the class.
Susan.Hands up for Open.
8 hands go up.
Susan.Well, that is a lot of indecision. It looks like we havent covered everything yet. Who wants to tell me the problem ?
A hand goes up.
Patrick.I guess it just seems like a big step. Some of us are doing classwork, this is a communication course and we study Romeo and Juliet and do a VR production. Its part of the course and then we go on and do other coursework and learn other things. But eight of the class figure they can get together and turn this into a business and base their careers on this production of Romeo and Juliet. They get a platform which may be International if we rank and go through to the first International Competition. They can see themelves doing all of Shakespeare for the educational market and some real intense versions of Othello, The Taming of the Shrew and whatever. As for me, I dont know that I want to be tied into that for the rest of my life.
Susan.Thats a very perceptive view. I will make a few comments on that. Firstly, opportunities dont arise all the time and it is the wise person who recognises great opportunities and doesnt let them slip out of their grasp. As you have already noted, the quote, successful, unquote, people are not just talented, they are also very lucky. Good opportunities happened to them. But good opportunities happen to everyone. Its whether they recognise them and run with them that makes the difference. So the first issue is, do you want to pass up this opportunity right at this moment ? Think about the Beatles. If they had known what they were going to get themselves into they might not have formed a group. They just didnt realise they would become so suddenly famous. And when they did, they tore each other apart and split up after 5 years. But if they hadn't formed the Beatles what would they have become? Probably nothing.

I realise that each of you have different aspirations and it is part of my job to ensure that the pressures of this course do not interfere with your other schooling so I will set a fixed minimum number of hours that each of you will be expected to contribute to this course and you will keep a tally on the project management resource chart. I cannot stop any of you sacrificing your other studies for this project if that is what you want to do. I do have a duty to protect other students from feeling compelled to contribute more than is considered appropriate for this course. Do you have a resourced project chart made out yet ?

A very complex chart appears on the whiteboard.
Susan.I see you sent this Barry. Did you do it?
Susan.At the very least as project leader you should not be doing the project charts. Who have you got assigned to the task?
Barry.Noone yet. Until we know what the project is we cant assign optimal skill resources.
Susan turns to the righthand monitor and types some instructions on the righthand keyboard. She does a database search for students in the class who have completed the project management course.
Susan.Patrick I see that you have done the project management course. Would you please take on this task until optimal skill assignments can be made?
Patrick.Yes Ma'am
Susan.I will come back to the next class with the number of hours. Any hours that any of you contribute to the project over that are at your own discretion and I dont want to hear of any pressure being brought on other students. I suggest that you arrange the project schedule so that it stays within reasonable bounds all the time. I see quite a few red patches on the chart already. I want to see those gone by next week. And I want to see names against everyone of these activities. I will need to get confirmation from the Dean for the number of hours, but I suggest you set the chart up for 160 maximum. What does the curent chart indicate Barry?
Susan.You need to find some way to reduce that.
Barry.Thats OK. We included activities for live performance avatars using dopzoots ( Ed - electronic bodysuits for recording motion sequencing - dopzoot is a contraction/curruption of "doppelganger suit" ) for the fightscenes. We can cut those out. But we were wondering about the possibility of cross-course credit hours. For say the avatar design and sequencing.
Susan.OK I will bring that up with the Dean. But why cant you do that on the avatar course ?. . . Sophie
Sophie.The avatar course is mainly concerned with basics. It doesnt cater to dismemberment and internal organs.
Susan.I think you are stretching the envelope there Sophie, but I will bring it up. And I take it you want to develop live sequencing techniques ?
A hand waves.
Susan.Yes Joseph.
Joseph.It was just an idea, but Mercutio's death relies on Romeo getting in the way. We want to make the fight sequences in the street include the audience so the characters fight around the audience and the audience find themselves caught in the brawl so they actually feel like Romeo, helpless to intervene and stop tragedy. We can't preprogram the bots for a convincing fight sequence in that situation. We need to do it real time in virtual reality.
Susan.Thats a very interesting innovation, but is it technically feasible?
Joseph.We want to try and see. We have access to some dopzoots at the dance school. We only need three.
Susan.OK - I will bring that up too. Are there any more issues ? Are we any more decided ? . . .Patrick.
Patrick.Um - maybe I should let someone else speak.
Susan.OK Julia wants to speak.
Julia.I for one am still concerned about the risk of the Open Class entry. I see the Globe Class as being the best course.
Susan.You have done a risk analysis?
Julia.Yes. The problem is that we see the major risk in the Open Section as a politically correct Maori version.
Susan.Mmmm - yes of course.
Susan.OK, game theory says Globe, linear programmiong says Open. Well I shall apply a different set of criteria, and that is to maximise the learning experience on this course. We can argue about the technical details but it sounds like the Globe and the Open class are not too different. But learning is about taking risks and school is in theory the safest place to make mistakes and learn from them. So it seems to me that the Open Class is the way to go.

Any further comments? . . .Are we ready for another vote?

Lots of heads nod on the wall.
Susan.Hands up for Globe.
No hands rise.
Susan.Hands up for On Location.
No hands rise.
Susan.Hands up for the Open Section.
Everyone waves back.
Susan.Well thats a very brave deicision. So! Next class is next week and for that I want to see the revised program with skills assignments with names and I will allow critical activities in only the avatar and sequencing areas of the chart for now. I want to see a mockup of the death of Mercutio, Act 2 Scene 2 the socalled balcony scene though I must say I like this folly idea a lot, and also the final scene. You all know what that is about, I want to see if our teacher trainees here have the stomach for what you want to serve up. So here is your chance to test your ideas on audience participation and stickability. I want a report on the feasibility of the live sequencing. I think the Poster is just fantastic and I love the costumes. Class dismissed. Haere ra.
students.E noho ra Susan.
Susan turns off the wall monitor and the mic and signs off the VR and videoconferencer. She turns to the teacher trainees.
Susan.Well thats that. The logging is off. Janice, would you please go and see if Shia is OK and tell her it is safe to come back to the class now if she feels able to.
Janice gets up and leaves the room.
Susan.We will wait for their return before continuing with the class. Please use these few minutes to analyse how the transactions in the video conference took place. You might like to note down the structure of the session, the topics that were covered, what decisions were made by the class prior to the conference and what were made during the conference. The role of the class spokesman and the other roles that had been assigned by the class prior to the conference.
Susan sits at the centre terminal and types some notes until Janice comes in with Shia.
Shia.I am very sorry Susan, that will not happen again.
Susan.Thats alright Shia. Please sit down. After class you can review the log of the session. It was an excellent class and I advise you all to review it carefully. Now I have something to tell all of you, not just Shia. This course is about videoconferencing with students. At the end of the course you have to be able not just to sit through a videoconference but to be able to manage one and deal with complex issues as you have just seen. Rushing out in the middle of the session is not an option. I warn each of you that if anything like that happens again you will fail the course.
Shia.I am very sorry Susan. it is just that noone in China ever speaks like that, not even in Shanghai.
Susan.That may be the case but when you get a qualification from this Institute you are expected to be able to work in New Zeland conditions at the very least. You are dealing with top students exploring leading edge technology who are using it to push boundaries of every type. You know that students at this age are still exploring the boundaries of social convention and that at this age they redefine it as they go. So you have to expect this, and if it is not already happening in China, it soon will be. So you have to learn to handle it even if you only ever expect to work in China.
Shia.Yes Susan.
Susan.Now a little test to see if you were paying attention. I would like you to identify which student is playing which character in the play.
Blank looks from the teacher trainees.
Susan.All the avatars were in period costume. It was in fact a "dress" rehearsal. I was the odd woman out so I got the to play Queen Elizabeth which was entirely appropriate under the circumstances. . . .Not one of you can tell me who was Romeo?
The teacher trainees look at their VR windows, but in vain; all the students have warped.
Susan.Come now, noone spotted Friar Laurence? He was a dead giveaway! The nurse modelled after Peggy whatshername from the Zifferelli movie version? . . . You disappoint me.
Janice.I found Sophie's world with her avatar mirror. . . .They are all here. . . .I am trying them out now. . . . Barry was the Prince. Sophie was Juliet, of course. . . . . . . Oh wow! Patrick was Tybalt. . . . That doesnt look good for the rest of the project!
Susan.:Excellent Janice! As you can see, you are looking at five realms of simultaneous information at once. Each realm, the conference board and the discussion, the whiteboard, the databank resources which I keep on my right here, and the VR world all supply huge amounts of information in different forms. You have to be able to read them all simultaneously. Its like a conductor reading an orchestral score in 20 staves. It is not just enough to be able to videoconference, you have to be able to take in information from all sources together, take them on board and interpret them in the context of the lesson and what the students are trying to tell you.

As you can see, I faced a conflict of interest amongst the students in this course that none of them were willing to talk about overtly until I pressed them. These are students who have worked together for a number years and have developed their own areas of interest and expertise. This is their last year and all of them are using it as a spring board to their post-school careers. Some of them have invested their careers in other areas such as live performance rather than VR production. Patrick is interested in moving on to touring mega rock concert performance production. Eight of this cohort have decided to make this project their springboard to their future careers, and the others dont want to let them down but do have other priorities for their own futures. Some of these students already have production and service companies in place. These students have been studying communications as long as any of us here, just from an earlier age; we have all grown up with the same technology. But these students use it totally naturally because it is what they have grown up with, while we have learned it as a second language so to speak.

Mohammed raises his hand.
Susan.Yes Mohammed.
Mohammed.So you already knew that Patrick could do project management. You didnt need to look it up. And you already knew he was Tybalt and that Barry and Sophie and the others had signalled him as an enemy to their project.
Susan.That's right Mohammed. Not so much an enemy, but a possible obstruction to them acheiving their goals. The odd thing is that Patrick could have changed avatars but he didnt, as though he was quite aware of the dynamics of the cohort. So I was actually checking other details, unobtrusively using the project management issue as an excuse, and saw he has done a course in developmental psychology. So I figure he knows as much about the cohort dynamics as I do. I assigned him to project management so that he could ensure that none of the others were bullied by the eight and the eight would know that I would not tolerate any bullying.

Now, I have mentioned four streams of communication so far. The fifth is what is not said. These are students who have been working in a highly intercommunicative environment since they started school. At 4 they were probably emailing each other. At 6, probably using email to copy each others homework assignments. At 8 writing collaborative fiction. At 11 designing MUD extensions to play together. At 13 organising a social studies survey in their neighbourhood. All using a variety of creative computer media. I am constantly reminded of the John Wyndham story "The Midwich Cuckoos" in which the group of alien children have a telepathic connection which effectively gives them a single mind. Here the situation is similar because these students have developed in a techno-culture where they share their ideas and work collaboratively from an early age. But really the situation is very different to the Cuckoos. These students are all individuals, they are individually creative, and that individuality must be fostered despite the collaborative aspects, otherwise, when they do split up at the end of this year, they will feel as though a large part of themselves has died. They are all still in the process of forming their adult personalities, and a large part of the personality that they have at any point in time consists of their interaction with others close to them. These students are probably in closer contact with each other than they are with their own parents, so when they part at the end of the year it will be as if they are losing a parent. Now they have already been through the rebelious stage and created the parent division, but the split at the end of the year will be a peer group split which is even worse. It does not surprise me that we are seeing extremely close bonding among some of the students to carry them past the end of the year, and a symbolic-death-like relationship with others in the cohort about the prospect of their going off in another direction.

My job is to keep the class together. They are all bright students and deserve to complete this course. If any one of them drops out and fails it will probably be my fault.

One more thing I must remind you all of is privacy. Everything that happened in this session is logged and is a matter of record only within the Institute. These students are competing nationally and everything in their project is subject to secrecy. On no account will anything be propagated as to what might have been said, what should have been said or what was not said. Is that clearly understood?

teacher trainees.Yes
Susan.The future careers of some of these students hangs on this project and the Competition. These are high stakes, so if any whisper of any kind comes back to me I will bring all of you to the ethics Committee for a hearing and you will face possible expulsion. Is that clearly understood?
teacher trainees.Yes Susan.
Susan.Good. Now, the next lesson I see you is on virtual reality copyright. Just in case you think it is going to be a boring legal discourse, some of the students in this cohort are avatar builders and will be in that class so you may well find yourself facing Juliet's entrails. If you dont want to fail this course I suggest you go look at some surgery textbooks, cause you can be sure the students will have. Class dismissed. Haere ra.
teacher trainees.seperately E noho ra. and Hei konei ra.

2   Peer Assessment System        

The above story can be used as material in a peer assessment assignment. A set of questions is a ssigned to be answered. The student answers the questions. The first of the completed assignments will be marked by the person setting the assignment. Students who gain a good mark are assigned tutor privilege to mark other assignments. An assignment can be marked by a number of peer tutors and the marks averaged out. Students also get to see other students answers and the marks they received so that they can compare their understanding with that of others.

This process is specially designed for questions with fuzzy answers, questions that involve value judgements, questions that require students to reflect on issues, or to express opinions that reflect their understanding of a subject.

There is some scope for inclusion of questions with "correct" answers but these should be used to set a framework for non-deterministic questions, rather than just for their own sake.

Peer assessment marking is based on the markers view as to whether the student has fully understood the lesson material, rather than on right or wrong. In the process the markers own views may be modified.

Peer Assessment System (PAS)