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Progress in little steps

Since my recent embarking on doctorate research, I was becoming a little despondent – even troubled at the low level of support I was getting from non supervisory academics outside of University of Strathclyde I contacted for help.  It seemed especially obvious where I might be encroaching or suggesting extending their areas of research.  Perhaps I am naively thinking that this extending through collaboration was the whole point of research contribution, and this of course can be sped up by getting an inside track to the originator’s thinking (if alive of course :o) ).  One academic friend confirmed this feeling by saying, “oh no – people are living off their research, going to conferences and extending their fame….oh no – they don’t want some up-start like to you shortening the life of their hard work!”.


Could this be true?  While this seems to be true in my experience (so far) there has been one group that I have found to be the exact opposite, a group of educators and researchers in Second Life (SL).  This week I sent in a question on project costs to their mailing list, and after only a day there arrived a flood of responses.  They may just have restored faith in people, nevertheless,  I am happy to be part of this inspiring early adopter community.


Normally when I sit down on my weekend and think about writing my blog – one big topic jumps out at me to write about. But these past two weeks have been unusual and full of inter-dependent but much smaller activities like evening meetings, emails, presentation updates, reading, investigation into project costs, and evaluating the trade-offs on various decisions I could make for this research.


In light of this realization I’m simply going to go with the flow here, and tell you about my past two weeks progress in a series of non relating sometimes ill-defined bullets!


  • The Academic Proposal presentation (ver 2.3) has been updated and now contains a new research question – “Can cybergogic 3D learning create enough immersion and educational effectiveness to enable value shifts for individuals towards sustainability?”.  The cybergogy paradigm is a combined concept of pedagogy, andragogy, web 2.0, and eLearning/eTeaching combined into one new paradigm (Scopes, 2009).


  • After being a little worried a few weeks back about not finding a values model for sustainability (see my blog entry “Crocodiles are scary!”) I have been in touch with Dr Margarita Juarez-Najera who extended Schwartz’s moral norm-activation model for Sustainability Behaviour Change (2010), and it looks like a model I can use to determine sustainability values and therefore over time actual shifts.  Margarita, says that the model is exploratory, and tested only statistically so it will be interesting to see how it works out in practice.


  • During the past month I have uncovered many trade-offs that need to be analyzed with my advisors in terms of project scope.  These types of trade-offs can change dramatically the personality of the project and the interest of those who might like to fund or support it.  These trade offs include offering: Full Virtual Institute requiring lots of investment, or wander the commons for free? Take participants from a Business (private), or University (private/graded) or virtual world resident centered (public)?  If it is from the University will it be a single discipline or cross discipline?  Is it global or local coverage? Will there be multiple learning archetypes and levels of interaction offered in the institute either simulation, scenarios, discourse and awareness or a mix?  Will there be measures of value shifts or stay at learning archetype effectiveness? Will it be Sustainability in its broadest sense or one particular sustainability issue e.g. renewable energy usage in business? And finally, will it have an iterative research method or stick with the waterfall method?


  • As mentioned in my opening paragraph, via the SL educator communities I have been investigating project costs.  Lot’s of help arrived, however, more importantly I realized that there is still the question of scope first, and the need to make some hard decisions on mission and objectives before costs can be accurately worked out.  To help see the design pictorially I have created the following DNA design to capture my thinking. This will likely keep changing shape over the coming months as my supervisor rightly warns me.




  • Yesterday I had a meeting with the education technologist Howard Ramsay from the Management Science Department in SBS.  The good news from this meeting is that I have been given a virtual building to use on campus in SBS/SL, and subsequently I created an associated group called “Sustainability Institute” inside SL to gather interest from inworld.  The new building is the picture at the top of this blog, and yes it has my plane parked outside!!!!  The next step is to complete the DNA design so more specific details can be sorted out so that Sustainability Education activities can be designed and built on the other SBS’s virtual Island.


  • Although coaching as a concept is taking a slight back seat to adult learning theory, I am continuing with the coaching certification training. I had sought help from Dr David Rock a CEO of a company that uses Nueroscience and brain-based methods to explain the coaching systems effectiveness, but unfortunately he is not interested to participate in any manner.  Nevertheless, the spirit of coaching brings with it a much more democratic and co-learning style that I still think works very well with Sustainability Education.  All things being equal I should complete this by end of 2010.


  • I had a meeting earlier in the week with an inspiring practitioner Gayatri Raghwa who manages Sustainable Schools Initiative amongst other related projects here in the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.  To be frank, I was simply knocked over by the depth of her experience in Sustainable Education.  She is a very humble lady but I would add she is truly really amazing and a very special person.  After speaking with her you just want to jump up and act, go out into the community and help!


So, all in all it has been a very productive month, which leads me to share one final insight – is this high effort I am putting in sustainable over 4-5 years?  Realistically I think not, and therefore I have decided to do the majority of my work alongside the university semesters and build in some breaks!


Considering the next Semester starts in October, I think I need to build in a short break between now and then, before I take on the first class – Research Philosophy.  So don’t be surprised if there are some light blog entries between now and October – I’m now on a short holiday :o)


References this week:


Juárez Nájera, M., 2010. Sustainability in Higher Education. An explorative approach on sustainable behavior in two universities.


Juárez-Nájera, M., Rivera-Martínez, J.G. & Hafkamp, W.A., 2010. An explorative socio-psychological model for determining sustainable behavior: Pilot study in German and Mexican Universities. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18(7), 686-694. Available at: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0959652609003175.


Scopes, L.J., 2009. Learning Archetypes as tools of Cybergogy for a 3D Educational Landscape : A structure for eTeaching in Second Life. Social Sciences, 95.

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