segunda-feira, maio 23, 2016

MULTIS architecture for integration of virtual worlds in information systems

Aye, it is a great day for me and my team today.
After a long wait, and a longer still period, we finally published our early approach for integration of virtual worlds in information systems - Learning Management Systems (LMS) in particular, but actually applicable in most business information systems.

We called it MULTIS - the name of a project funded by the company then called Portugal Telecom Inovação (now Altice Labs). It enables customization and control of the learning experience in virtual worlds, from the traditional backoffice of a Web-centric information system.

The paper also provides a detailed literature review on such efforts and related technology.

Now off to write how we used this architecture and what we achieved...

Schematics of the MULTIS architecture

segunda-feira, setembro 21, 2015

iLRN 2015 conference - Immersive Learning Research Network

I'm the programme co-chair for next year's iLRN 2016 conference in Santa Barbara, California, USA.

Last year's event was a terrific meeting of people from around the world, pushing forward knowledge and technology about immersive learning.

It's not just for computer scientists and educational sciences. It's not just for educators. We need all on board: interaction designers, philosophers, social scientists, ethnographers, economics, and more.

Submit your work and join us in Santa Barbara for a great event.

terça-feira, maio 19, 2015

III Seminário - "Tolkien - Construtor de Mundos"

No próximo dia 29 vou poder conhecer mais apaixonados por Tolkien, no ambiente académico do III Seminário "Tolkien - Construtor de Mundos", No Anfiteatro III da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.
O meu tema será a relação do universo de Tolkien com os videojogos. Nem sempre (ou quase nunca) pacífica, mas profunda e sustentada.

É que se hoje em dia há conceitos transversais, como anões fortes e de trato difícil e elfos altos, com uma magia inerente, espécie de mito primordial deturpado em fadinhas vitorianas, a Tolkien isso se deve.
É que provavelmente não seria assim. Veja-se, por exemplo a diferença entre os elfos do Dragon Age (imagem da esquerda) e os elfos do Pai Natal (à direita).

O mesmo se constata nos anões. Tal como os elfos de Tolkien são encarados como um mito primordial que se concebe deturpado nos elfos natalícios e vitorianos, os anões são igualmente concebidos de igual forma. Aliás, na mitologia de Tolkien os anões foram criados antes dos elfos, por impaciência de Aulë, mas obrigados a esperar pelos primogénitos de Ilúvatar (os elfos), para enfim despertarem. Estes anões de Tolkien são complexos, próximos dos anões nas histórias da Europa Central e Setentrional, mas seriam esses a afirmar-se nos videojogos? Pela mesma altura que Tolkien começava a ser lido, com O Hobbit, entrava de rompante um filme de Disney... A Branca de Neve e os Sete Anões. E nesse filme, o conceito de anão é muito diferente. Mas já num dos primeiros videojogos, ADVENTURE, surgia dentro de uma caverna um anão que atirava um machado ao jogador... Bem longe do Soneca e do Dunga, claramente (até porque esses usavam picaretas).
Disto e de mais, enfim, poderei falar dia 29.

sexta-feira, março 27, 2015

Tese - Enquadramento de atividades de programação com robôs de solo na educação pré-escolar

É sempre um prazer quando um aluno entrega uma tese de doutoramento. E que tese, Clotilde Sampaio!
De facto, trabalhar com uma engenhoca nas escolas durante uns tempos, muitos o fazem... mas... dois anos letivos inteiros? Com robôs? No pré-escolar? Nunca ninguém o fizera.
E muito aqui está, muito mais até do que o que se extraiu para as conclusões... em cada expressão das crianças, em cada atitude... que manancial para reflexão, para pensarmos no impacte das tecnologias na aprendizagem e no desenvolvimento da criança.
Um trabalho que proporciona uma leitura agradável e valiosa.

sábado, fevereiro 14, 2015

Virtual worlds in education: real success beyond 00's rhetoric and the challenges of reality

Serendipity occured, yet again.
Within a year, a pair or papers has emerged, which combined provide a global panorama on the status of virtual worlds' use in education. More on them ahead.

It's been 9 years since the early 2006 surge in the attention given to Second Life by the worldwide media. Other educational communities had been working in virtual worlds for years, using Activeworlds (e.g. Quest Atlantis) and some even remembering the efforts of the late 1980s and 19
90s text-based virtual worlds: MUDs and MOOs (Portuguese speakers can check my written seminar on the subject at this link). But Second Life's 2006 public exposure, 5 years after its creation, really filled the balloon of expectations and enthusiasm, and is to this day synonym for many users with the term "virtual world", even though it never accounted for more than a trifle of virtual world users, dwarfed by most the largest players in gaming virtual worlds, even if one ignores the stratospheric user figures of World of Warcraft. The media's hype went fullblown, expectations ran wild, and many other virtual worlds meant for social interaction were created. Some evolved, some remain with us still, some disappeared, some morphed.

Educational uses are now more solid, research has provided insights and hard data. Experienced practicioners have developed know-how and a trove of exaples. Many bad practices have been exposed, many good practices highlighted. The technology itself has grown more stable, the required hardware has become more commonplace. New challenges such as the move from the desktop to low-cost laptops, tablets, and smartphones has emerged. And then concerns subsided, has the graphics capability of these devices increased and new approaches such as augmented reality started to emerge.

The media frenzy went away, not without announcing the death of Second Life and virtual worlds, eager as always to kill babies themselves had fed with hype. Regardless, Educators kept on using virtual worlds, the number of people at least cursory involved kept increasing, and in some cases they've achieved widespread audiences. Minecraft for young teens is perhaps the best recent example, with such a status that finding its merchandising and inspired toys - and figurines - is now commonplace.

So why aren't virtual worlds being used in most schools or indeed most online educational environments? As research and practice demonstrated over these years, we now know they work - and how to achieve great learning results with them. At the same time, research and practice has revealed the shortcomings that need to be tackled. We've moved on from the hype phase, the media has gone. The post-hype desillusion has also faded from the media, and sustainable, mature use is now growing.

The two papers below complement each other to provide the global panorama.

My own paper brings to fore the technological perspective.
Morgado, L. (2013). Technology Challenges of Virtual Worlds in Education and Training - Research Directions. In "2013 5th International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications (VS-GAMES) - Bournemouth, Dorset, UK - 11-13 September 2013, Bournemouth". Piscataway, NJ: IEEE.
I describe the required research agenda for educational use of virtual worlds to become more widespread, from individual computing issues, explaining the need to have better tools for educators and learners, and the almost virgin path of technology features supporting educational organizations, not just users.

The paper from the Australian and New Zealand Virtual Worlds Working Group provides the complementary educational perspective.
Gregory, S.; Butler, D.; de Freitas, S.; Jacka, L.; Crowther, P.; Reiners, T.; Grant, S.; et al. (2014). Rhetoric and reality: Critical perspective on education in a 3D virtual world. In Hegarty, B.; McDonald, J.; & Loke, S. (Eds.), "Proceedings of the 31st Annual Ascilite Conference (ascilite 2014): Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology, Nov 23-26 2014", pp. 279-289. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago. 
It provides a nice summary of current knowledge on educational practices - and which practices - and then explain the challenges found in the educators' practice, such as adequate learning design and easier to use tool sets, and all the way to the need of a life cycle approach to virtual world use.

The parallels in both papers, developed independently, are almost eerie, and a great demonstration of how the community is reaching similar insights from both perspectives. Let's hope this junction of realizations can bring about more widespread change.

terça-feira, abril 22, 2014

Dissertação de António Botelho

Defendeu recentemente com êxito a sua dissertação sob minha orientação o António Botelho, no Mestrado em Engenharia Informática, na UTAD - Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro. Desenvolvido no âmbito da sua atividade profissional na empresa Portugal Telecom Inovação, em Aveiro, visa constituir um documento factual dos problemas que se colocam aos profissionais de Engenharia Informática no desenvolvimento de software integrado em equipas empresa.

sexta-feira, abril 11, 2014

Dissertação de Margarida Silva - Design iterativo para idosos

Defendeu recentemente com êxito a sua dissertação sob minha orientação a Margarida Silva, no Mestrado em Engenharia de Reabilitação e Acessibilidade Humanas, na UTAD - Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro.

Desenvolvido no âmbito da sua atividade profissional na empresa Cnotinfor, de Coimbra, é um primeiro passo para o que se espera venha a ser uma plataforma social de treino cognitivo para idosos.