Friday, June 13, 2008


Edutopias Educational Tools For Today’s Student,
By Today’s Students.

MATX 690-901 Fall 2007
Submitted by Gloria D. Brogdon-Grantham

The days of rote memorization in education are gone. Constructivist learning is the key to education in the 21st century. With the rapid developments in technology and availability, there is a need for a generation of people who can analysis and reason in this age of technological growth. The use of technology in education cultivates constructivist learning. This type of education is key to the growth of our nation. The public educational system in the United States will be forced to change or continue to fall behind in the global educational system. (Brogdon, 2007)


Edutopias are the new tools and philosophies that fuel the global educational system. It is the use of digital edutopias that is making a monumental impact on today’s educational process. These tools have opened the door to a vast wealth of global knowledge that has never been seen before, and continues to grow as technology develops.
“The word Edutopia represents an ideal educational landscape, where students are motivated to learn and teachers are energized by the excitement of teaching. In these schools, parents and other professionals from the community -- architects, artists, physicians, and writers, among others -- contribute their expertise and resources. Technology is readily available and enables students, teachers, and administrators to seek knowledge and expertise beyond the school building. “Edutopia” is a vision of powerful teaching and learning.” (Wikipedia, 2007)
In this technological era, most children have been exposed to technology since birth. This exposure has created a generation of children who require a different mode of
learning and dissemination of information. Because of the rapid pace and the nonlinearity
they receive information outside the classroom, many of them have difficulty handling the traditional linear and slower paced classroom setting.
By using technology one can deliver information in a non-linear fashion, enabling students to understand and learn the required information and skills to succeed in life based on their particular learning style. It also gives students an upper hand in the familiarity of the usages of technology as they matriculate into the job market.

“The educational process in America has not kept up with the changing pace of technology. Although, most schools have access to the Internet, much of the content of the lessons taught don’t involve the usage of computers as a daily learning tool for a specific lesson.” (Lepper)
The disparity in the availability of technology and large class sizes among public schools in the U.S. creates an educational environment for limited learning. Many teachers still rely on the rote memorization method to disseminate information. This method of information dissemination only allows the learner to memorize the given information, opposed to having an in-dept knowledge of any given subject using the constructivist learning approach.

Education must keep pace with the changing trend in technology and use the new
technologies as learning tools. Meaning, educators must immerse students into
the world of learning any given subject, just as their video games immerse then into the game they are playing after school.

Many of these games allow the player to create their own realm, thus constructing individual meaning and knowledge to the playing field. They become immersed in the activity. Likewise, the education environment must allow students to explore the use of the same type of technology to facilitate classroom work using the constructivist learning process.

“Learning is the process where individuals construct new ideas or concepts based on prior knowledge and/or experience.” (Pedroni) This type of learning environment gives the student the opportunity to construct knowledge, based on his/her experience during the activity. It also allows for collaboration and exploration, to create deeper meaning in the learning process. I will explore some of the Edutopias, which are changing the course of the learning process in America.

The use of technology in the classroom fosters Constructivist learning. This type of learning enables students to become active learners, thus taking responsibility to learn concepts and facts for themselves.

Much of today’s education is still based on rote memorization learning, and not constructivist learning. Unfortunately, this method of learning does not allow students to explore educational subject matter in-depth. Whereas, constructivist learning is an inquiry based learning style that fosters in-depth learning. This method requires the student to construct his or her on knowledge by inquiry through in-depth research and practical application.
As early as 1929, Alfred North Whitehead argued “the way students learn many things in school produces inert knowledge - knowledge that can be used to answer items on a school test but which is not available to the student when he or she is trying to solve a problem that requires that knowledge.” (Flavell)

An Early Edutopia Icon
Sesame Street - One the early edutopias in America, Sesame Street created by Jim Henson, premiered on November 10, 1969 on The National Educational Television Network, later know as The Public Broadcast Service. Bert, Ernie, Grover, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the rest of the Sesame Street Gang have educated and entertained children, as well as adults for almost 40 years.

Sesame Street uses a mixture of puppets, animation, and real actors to teach young children the fundamentals of reading, mathematics, as well as geometric forms, and organization. Since the show's beginning, other instructional targets have been necessary life skills, such as how to cross the road in safety, good hygiene, and healthy eating lifestyle. (Sesame Workshop)
The show displays a understated sense of humor that has appealed to adult viewers; this was devised as a means to persuade parents and elder siblings to watch the series with younger kids, as a result becoming drawn into the learning process, rather than having Sesame Street act as a babysitter. (Sesame Workshop)

“The Sesame Workshop Model is a unique integration of educational, research, and creative expertise that informs everything we do”. (Sesame Workshop) Due to their instinct, children are attracted to this edutopia because it offers a constructive learning environment.
Sesame Street has helped thousands of children get a head start in their educational endeavors. It gives many children the tools and social skills they need to succeed in the classroom prior to entering the traditional classroom.

New Edutopias
Virtual Reality - “Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it a real or imagined one. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones.” (Wikipedia) Loeffler and Anderson define it, “as three-dimensional, computer-generated, simulated environment that is rendered in real time according to the behavior of the user.”

Morton Heillg was considered the “Father of Virtual Reality”. In 1957, he invented the Sensorama Machine, the world’s first visual reality machine. It was a 3-D motion picture machine that the viewer could experience vibrations in the seat, stereo sound, smell, and wind. His intention was to create the “Cinema of the Future.” He stated, "Thus, individually and collectively, by thoroughly applying the methodology of art, the cinema of the future will become the first art form to reveal the new scientific world to man in the full sensual vividness and dynamic vitality of his consciousness." ( Heilig)

This type of technology is being used by students’ everyday outside of the classroom. Video game systems, such as Sony’s Play Station and Nintendo’s Wii, are very popular Non-Text Based Virtual Reality games. The user becomes part of the virtual environment through the use of handheld devices. They can play against the machine or an opponent, where in the opponent may be in the same room or on the other side of the world.

Non-Text Based Virtual Reality - There are many possible uses for non-text based Virtual Reality in education. As a Constructivism learning environment, it has the potential for students to become completely immerse in the lesson they are studying. The same way they immerse themselves in video games. As a result, this type of technology will allow students to explore places and gather information they normally would read in a textbook.

Through this exploration, they can be guided by a detailed lesson they researched prior to participating in the their virtual journey. This virtual reinforcement will enhance the ability of the student to retain the information they are studying, because not only did they read the information, they experienced it.

“A basic concept in teaching,” according to Heilig, “is that a person will have a greater efficiency of learning if he can actually experience a situation as compared with merely reading about it or listening to a lecture.” (Rheingold)

Developing a Virtual Reality Learning Environment for Education
Virtual reality as an educational tool is a must, with the growth of video games, Play-Stations®, Wii®, and other interactive games and virtual players on the market, it seems the natural course for virtual reality devices is in the classroom. It is apparent this generation is a visual generation, thus we must teach them at their level.
The development and cost of these types of devices seems expensive, but as we reflect on the personal computer, as it first entered the market, it too was expensive, but look where we now. Computers have become cost-efficient, and user friendly, allowing greater access to the masses.

Creating a virtual learning environment, is as simple as searching the web, there are many websites that host virtual learning environments. Below I have cited three sources for virtual learning.

Second Life
Second Life is one of the most popular virtual worlds on the net. This web-based virtual world allows participants to create individual identities, and construct an interactive virtual environment.

This type of environment in education opens doors to allow students to construct and learn in virtual classrooms. This creates a collaborative environment that extends the reach of their educational experience. It allows them to interact with students from other schools in the U.S. as well as other countries.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. is a good example. This interactive museum located on the web. It takes you on an exploration in to African American history and culture. It can be found at Exhibition material for this web museum comes from African Americans across the country. These materials can be in the form of old letters, audio recording, photographs, and genealogy records, stories, and other types of media. Any type of media that gives insight in to the history and contributions African Americans have, and are making in this country.

This is a great website to create a WebQuest for in-depth inquiry learning. Each WebQuest team can be assigned different aspects of the museum to research. When this is completed, the class can create a power point presentation and post it on the class website. offers many tools to assist in creating exciting and engaging lesson plans. In the areas of Science or Geography, the Google website hosts:
Google Maps at - Detailed Map of the earth
Google Earth at - Detailed 3D look at the world.
Google Earth Blog at - A Blog allows the student to communicate to others about their experience on the site.

These website allows the student to see in-depth details of the earth. There is also free 3-D modeling software that allows for easy creations of models that can be placed on the web.
Text Based Virtual Reality - Text based virtual reality is a tool used in some classrooms around the country. Ann Parson states, “Text Based Virtual Reality or MOO can be used in many different ways. It is a fluid medium and is only limited by the imagination of the teacher, parent or student who uses it. Here are some obvious benefits: promotes literacy by encouraging reading and writing in a natural way; can be used as a way to communicate in real-time with people at a distance; can be used to teach descriptive writing and poetic expression; can be used as an environment in which to role play or act out plays;” (Parsons).

The WebQuest is one such technology based Edutopias. Created in 1995 by Dr. Bernie Dodge, Professor of Educational Technology at San Diego State University. A WebQuest as an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet, (Dodge).

WebQuests are structured, well planned, and focuses on a specific topic chosen by the instructor. Most often the WebQuest is conducted in a group setting, of 3 to 4 students. Each student assumes a specific role. They follow and complete the tasks presented to them in the web links provided in the section.

After each student has completed their tasks, they compile the information in a website, video, power point, or some other multimedia presentation.

Many WebQuests include the following elements:

1. Introduction 2. Task
3. Process 4. Roles
5. Evaluation 6. Conclusion
7. Credits

These elements guide the user to research information on the web, based on links the instructor provides in the WebQuest. Although the WebQuest may have specific links for research, the Quester may also utilize other links they find in their Internet research. This type of guided research enables the student to become an active participant the learning process, thus creating an environment for constructivist learning.

It too can be considered a type of Text-Based Virtual Reality, due to the structure and its ability to immerse the participant in the subject it is focused on. This experience enables the student to become an active participant in the learning process, thus creating an environment for constructivist learning.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is making great strides in revolutionizing education with the development and use of technology. The MIT Media Laboratory is instrumental in designing and creating new and innovative methods to facilitate the education process in a total digital environment.

This digital learning environment is enabling children to construct their learning process, by becoming fluent in new technology. “Technological fluency means much more than the ability to use technological tools; that would be equivalent to understanding a few common phrases in a language (like English or French). True fluency involves the ability to express, explore, and realize ideas” (Papert & Resnick).

The Computer Clubhouse
The Computer Clubhouse is a community based learning environment organized by The Computer Museum in Boston, in collaboration with the MIT Media Laboratory to service inner city youth. Through the Computer Clubhouse children are becoming fluent in the use of technology.

“These young people become designers and creators--not just consumers--of computer-based products. Participants use leading-edge software to create their own artwork, animations, simulations, multimedia presentations, virtual worlds, musical creations, Web sites, and robotic constructions” (Resnick & Rusk).

There are four basic principles that drive the Computer Clubhouse (Resnick & Rusk).
Principle 1: Support learning through design experiences

Design activities:
• engage youth as active participants
• encourage creative problem-solving
• can facilitate personal connections to knowledge
• are often interdisciplinary
• promote a sense of audience
• provide a context for reflection and discussion.
This principle is based on constructivism. Learning becomes a process, and people actively construct knowledge from their experiences.

Principle 2. Help youth build on their own interests

When youth care about what they are working on, the dynamic of teaching changes.
Rather than being "pushed" to learn, youth work on their own, and seek out ideas and advice. Youth are not only more motivated but they also develop deeper understandings and richer connections to knowledge. When youth care about what they are working on, the dynamic of teaching changes.

Rather than being "pushed" to learn, youth work on their own, and seek out ideas and
advice. Youth are not only more motivated but they also develop deeper
understandings and richer connections to knowledge.

Principle 3. Cultivate "emergent community"

For young people to become technologically fluent, they need a similar type of immersion. They need to live in a "digital community," interacting not only with technological equipment, but with people who know how to explore, experiment, and express themselves with the technology.

To foster this type of community, the Computer Clubhouse includes a culturally-diverse
team of adult mentors--professionals and college students in art, music, science, and
technology. Mentors act as coaches, catalysts, and consultants, bringing new project
Ideas to the Clubhouse.

Principle 4. Create an environment of respect and trust
The Clubhouse approach puts a high priority on developing a culture of respect and trust. These values not only make the Clubhouse an inviting place to spend time, but they are essential for enabling Clubhouse youth to try out new ideas, take risks, follow their interests, and develop fluency with new technologies.

There are many dimensions to "respect" at the Clubhouse: respect for people, respect
for ideas, respect for the tools and equipment. Mentors and staff set the tone by
treating Clubhouse youth with respect.

These types of principles create the ideal learning environment. This allows young people to concentrate on developing and learning in-depth concepts and principles. It opens the door to developing and constructing their creative ideas, rather than just reading about it. These are vital skills young people need to develop, to be fluent in the digital global workforce.

Blogs are daily out of school activities for most students. Blogging is a very popular out of school activity. This is one way this generation communicates and share information.

The introduction of the Blog has fueled a surge in personal writing among youth. Like-wise, blogs are becoming a vital tool in education to encourage students to read and write.
In broad terms, a blog is commonly thought of as an online journal, though they can range from intimate personal diaries to more journalistic newsletters. Some blogs focus on a narrow selection of topics of interest to the author, while other blogs cover a much wider range of topics. (Lange, 2006)

The features of a blog include instant publishing of text or graphics to the web without sophisticated technical knowledge, ways for people to provide comments or feedback to each blog post, the opportunity to archive past post by date, and hyperlink to other bloggers. (Huffaker, 2004)

There are many reasons why people blog. Penrod offers five of these reasons.
1. Blogs are easy to publish because of the technological advances.
2. Blogs mix pleasure with information to create an information reformation.
3. Blogs are a malleable writing genre.
4. Blogs allow writers to generate new personas and construct new worlds.
5. Blogs empower those who are often marginalized in society.

Adolescents make up a large part of the community of bloggers, often referred to as the blogosphere. Perseus Development Corporation, for instance, finds 51.5 percent of all blogs are being developed and maintained by ages 13–19 (Henning, 2003).

According to the “Blog Herald”, an online blog newsletter, the number of blogs worldwide is estimated to be greater than 34.5 million. (Blog Herald) This is perhaps a conservative figure. “Newfangled Web Factory”, an online tracker of blogs estimates the number of blogs to be over 70 million, and the growth doubles every six months. (Newfangled ) No matter the number of blogs on the World Wide Web, it is obvious blogging is a very powerful communication tool, with a global reach.

This type of tool in the classroom creates a learning environment with no boundaries. Allowing students to collaborate, explore, create, and learn globally. It breaks down the walls of the classroom, thus allowing the world to be the classroom.

These are a few of the edutopias that are starring to fuel the educational arena. As technology advances, and cost of equipment reduces, more of these edutopias are becoming major players in the classroom. Educators are beginning to see the importance of these tools for the next generation to compete in the global arena.

Works Cited
Blog Herald. 19 Jan. 2008 <>

Dodge, Bernie (1997). “Some Thoughts About WebQuests.” 19 Dec. 2007

"Edutopia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 1 Aug 2007, 03:06 UTC.
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 11 Dec 2007

Flavell, J. (1963). The developmental psychology of Jean Piaget. New York:
D. Van Nostrand.

Henning, J., 2003. The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most
Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned. Braintree, Mass.: Perseus
Development Corp.

Heilig, Morton Sensorama (1962). Art Museum. Net

Lange, Ryan “ Blogs For Learning” Blogging: A Brief History and Overview”. 28 August 2006. Michigan State University, 26 November 2007

Lepper, Mark R. and Chabay, Ruth W. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and instruction:
Conflicting views on the role of motivational processes in computer-based education, Educational Psychologist, 20:4, 217-230

Loeffler, Carl Eugene and Anderson, Tim, The Virtual Reality Casebook, New York:
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1994.

Newfangled Web Factory 21 Jan 2008

Nicholas Negroponte, Mitchel Resnick, Justine Cassell(MIT Media Lab)
Creating a Learning Revolution.

Papert, S., and Resnick, M. (1995). Technological Fluency and the Representation of
Knowledge. Proposal to the National Science Foundation. MIT Media Laboratory.
Cambridge, MA.

Parsons, Ann Head Gardener, Text-based Virtual Reality ESF Partnership Project.
Text Based Virtual Reality PART 1 Purpose and Potential GrassRoots

Pedroni, Leilani, (2001) Instructional Development Timeline. 11 Dec 2007

Resnick, Mitchel and Rusk ,Natalie , The Computer Clubhouse: Preparing for
Life in a Digital World, IBM Systems Journal, vol. 35, no. 3-4, pp.

Rheingold, Howard, Virtual Reality, New York: Summit Books, 1991

Sesame Workshop 3 Jan 2008

Wikipedia -

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