November 12, 2010

Venture capital funding: Create cash flow, don’t wait for it.

Filed under: Uncategorized — JC Consulting @ 9:38 am

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Virtual worlds and real-world learning

Filed under: Education, Online learning, Virtual education — JC Consulting @ 8:04 am

According to Thomas Jefferson, one of the main purposes of education is to know how to read and understand what you’ve read. Another main goal is to enable each citizen to put his or her thoughts down on paper in an effort to preserve their memory, their thoughts, and their wisdom. We, as a society, are well beyond pen and paper. We have arrived on the new shore of the interactive Internet.

While you are reading this, a server looks through the last few sites you visited and sends that information to another server, which in turn two delivers relevant advertising content to your browser. The fascinating back story is that as you click on various advertisements, someone is probably getting paid for your click.

 However, there really ought to be more to this aspect of the interactive web. You can tune in all the educational content that is needed for your personal or classroom use. For example, there should be a built-in link to a dictionary or reference tool available for users to find out more about a particular word on the page, or even a phrase that is difficult to understand.

As it stands now, users must download a plug-in to add reference lookups as a feature or a tool in one of today’s browsers. While we are in a period while younger users are more technology–savvy, they lack common sense and experience. I have seen teenagers get frustrated with the text on a page – and without trying to understand what was said, they give up. A built-in reference tool would allow a user to right-click to access an approved reference source, encyclopedia, or an online dictionary, in addition to the standard search engine option. Depending on the complexity of the page and the skills of the HTML programmer, some words are already linked to a reference search; in some cases, the links are placed as advertising tags to provide meaning and additional content for you in their document.

Ultimately, what I would like to see is a small virtual reality help window that allows the user to select a word and then “carry” the word to a virtual shop, library, or a friend’s virtual avatar. When the idea is to eventually make the Internet a virtual world in which users can interact with other people places and things as if you are physically present. For example, imagine a virtual field trip to the Smithsonian Museum. In a virtual city, a student might ask a question about an animal or an artifact in the museum.

The question could be spoken into the computer and transmitted as an MP3 file or converted to text via speech recognition software, then emailed or sent by instant message to the virtual tour guide. Also in a virtual field trip, objects can be picked up, manipulated, or turned over as if you were there, allowing a much richer experience than a physical trip simply become as there’s not enough time for every visitor to touch the items on display  – and if they did the items would soon wear out! However, the virtual representation can be accessed by millions of people at the same to with no damage to the original artifact.

 Second Life has a very good setup that uses a representation parallel to our physical environment. When you enter the Second Life interface, your character travels between “islands” (which are actually web sites) and the characters interact as they would in real life. For example if you go to the insurance store, you can request an insurance quote. If you go to the bank, you may make a deposit or request your account balance. Instead of simply looking at the screen and typing in the numbers you have a virtual character that interacts with other characters to provide the same services.

For online education and even for special education, the idea of the virtual world appeals to our younger generations. They enjoy and understand the concept of gaming, and in many games there are rules that must be followed. One of the newer and more interesting formats for games are the skills-based games where a player’s character must learn a skill and practice it to achieve mastery prior to completing a quest for a reward. This applies to simple skills, such as selling, cooking, hunting, and combat or magic use.

These ideas can also be applied to real life skills such as writing, math, geometry, history, and science. By coupling game platforms with educational content, you create what is known as edutainment. For students who have difficulty attending school, this type of project would be a tremendous force to encourage potential dropouts to remain in school.

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