My Final Reflections

It’s May 2015 already, the year has gone by so quickly and my final college exams for my last year in DIT are coming to a close. It has been an interesting year to say the least. There was one module that was the most interesting in my last semester and I have to say it was my Virtual Environments module. It has been an experience I have never had and that is something I know I can take away with me. To recap in one of my very first blog posts about the module I discussed my expectations, here is what I thought would happen:

“I hope to be able to expand on my technological knowledge by the end of the module. I hope that I will have learned to communicate and work collaboratively in a cross-cultural environment by working with my SL friends from DIT and SL friends from Akron University.”

This is something I have felt that my group and I have definitely achieved. It was a challenging task, but I learned a lot more than I would have expected to. Firstly, my technological knowledge has expanded greatly, I now know how to use word press and create a blog, which I think is a very good skill to acquire. I have also learned how to use Second Life and most of the intricacies that come along with it. A tool that I feel has really helped my confidence with presentations online is the speaker tool on Second Life. I found that gradually over the first couple of weeks I was shy to use voice, but after a while I got used to the idea, and now I am more comfortable to speak when I have something to say.  Secondly, one of the hardest challenges I think I have learned was working with people I have never met before who live thousands of miles away on a different Time Zone to us. Communicating with the Akron Students has presented some difficulties with timing schedules and roles in our group, so I think the most important thing I have learned from this is patience. I have had to bite my tongue on many occasions to keep the peace, but I have also learned to speak up when necessary, and I think these skills have enabled our group to complete our project and presentation smoothly, and this is something I have learned from this module.

This module has been beneficial to us because I feel all of these skills of being able to communicate with people across the world and online, will be something we will probably have to regularly in future employment. For example online conference calls and presentations, these skills will be very useful to us and this module has given me the confidence to engage in a job that uses the virtual world as a means of communication.

As linked to us in the virtual environments blog there was an article explaining why and how we should “clean up” our online content for future employment (link below) and I definitely agree its something we as a society need to be aware of. However I will not be “cleaning up” any content from this blog that I have written about this class because I am quite proud of it. It is the first time I have ever written a blog and I must say I really enjoyed the experience even though it pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I feel that this module and the content I have written, is something that I feel okay to leave in the World Wide Web, as it has been a beneficial experience for me.

Lastly I would like to thank all of my Virtual Environment lecturers for their guidance and interesting discussions over the past few months. I hope we made the experience just as enjoyable as you did for us. I hope to be able to use this experience for my future endeavors in the REAL WORLD (wow how scary).

Thanks again!!

From Rachel.

 

 

P.S Here is me setting up our presentation. Wish me good luck!!

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(1) https://uk.news.yahoo.com/tweet-paris-brown-controversy-how-to–clean-up–online-to-land-that-job-103722398.html#UHrVQin

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Collaborating across Time Zones

Over the past couple of months, my group has been working towards our module assessment in our Virtual Environments module. In our group we have two students from Akron University in Ohio, and two students from Dublin Institute of Technology in Dublin. We have been asked to collaborate together to create a project and presentation for our class assessment. This has definitely been an interesting task we have had to undertake. It has been the first time I have ever had to work with students from another country and this has had its benefits but also some difficulties.

One of the best benefits about collaborating across time zones is that we can work with people that we have never met before and it’s amazing that we can share our ideas without having to be in the same room as them. Technology has given us the opportunity to create global networks without the cost of paying for transport. “Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have provided the infrastructure for multinational businesses, created new cultural connections irrespective of geographic boundaries and distances, and allowed an increasingly mobile global population to be connected to their friends, families, and cultures no matter where they are.”[1]

As part of our group assessment we found that a benefit of collaborating across time zones was that we did not have to meet up all of the time to get our work done. We were able to use our Facebook page to communicate with each other without the hassle of scheduling meet ups every week. This benefitted our work because we were able to concentrate on our work when we each had the time and this seemed to work extremely well for our group. A difficulty with collaborating across time zones was that we would have to wait to here communication back if we were working at different times of the day. For example if I decided to write a message in the morning I would have to wait until the afternoon to get a response and this can cause fragmented and sluggish movement when trying to get things done under a deadline. Overall the Time Zones did not create too many difficulties to our project work and this shows that today using technology enables us a society to connect frequently and efficiently.

[1] http://www.hicss.hawaii.edu/HICSS_48/Tracks/IN/INGlobal.pdf

Consumer to Producer

One of the topics that seemed to interlink nicely with our Virtual Environments module (http://virtualenvironmentsmodule.com) was the topic of Consumers to Producers. With the introduction of the Internet and social media, this has become an extremely important topic to discuss. The ability to be able to use the Internet and add content to it, through the use of social media, is a benefit to society. It gives the public an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas, rather than just consuming the information, the public now have the ability to become producers themselves. Social media has allowed us to connect, endorse ideas and brands, collaborate with each other and be creative in ways that have never been done before. However of course it still comes with its drawbacks. One of the main issues seen nowadays is that our personal information is easily accessible with just a click of a button. We have seen that employers now have been using this to their advantage. Employers can now search for  your information online that you have uploaded and by doing this they can make a decision whether or not to employ you. There has been an influx of cases that surround this issue and that is something we have discussed in our virtual environments module. We need to be aware that every piece of information that is posted by ourselves on the Internet can be found, even if it was something written on a social media page when you were a teenager, these things can come back to haunt you for future employment. For example the case of the police commissioner in the UK who had to step down from her post as her employers read tweets she had posted at the age of 14 and 16 that were homophobic and had reference to drugs. [1] Companies want to make sure that you will represent their image outside of the work environment; any hurtful information uploaded would in turn affect their reputation by association with you. This case highlighted the importance of regulating your content online and that cleaning up your social media pages can be a smart move for the future.

[1] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/tweet-paris-brown-controversy-how-to–clean-up–online-to-land-that-job-103722398.html#UHrVQin

Our plans to spread awareness

As part of Virtual Environments assessment, our group has been working towards sharing awareness about the topic of Homelessness. As discussed previously we had decided to take the route of raising awareness Homelessness as cause instead of just picking one charity because we found that it gave us a broader scope to work with and that the awareness of Homelessness as a cause was just as important as picking an individual charity. To do this we created four social media pages and our overall aim was to create awareness locally, but most of all create awareness globally. With these pages we hope to keep the public connected with updates on a variety of websites, and motivational quotes that encourage the awareness and seriousness of Homelessness. Linked below are our social media pages, if you are interested please check them out!

 

Blog http://homelessawarenessproject.wordpress.com

Instagram https://instagram.com/homeless_awareness_project/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HomelesAwarenes

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/428029980712816/

Is the Medium the Message?

Week 8 of our Virtual Environments module[1]. The topic of discussion was Marshall McLuhan’s theory “The Medium is the Message”. The lecturers posed a question to the class, ‘Does the Medium matter?’ After a few minutes of silence (presumably everyone was deep in thought behind their computer screens), people started to give their opinions on whether the medium mattered, a fair debate ensued and the class gave their thoughts on the topic. Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher and intellectual came up with this idea that the medium is the message. He predicted the Internet and its impact before it was even brought to commercialisation. What is interesting now is that we are now analysing our relationships with the Internet and technology by reflecting on his theories that were created way before the World Wide Web was invented. A fascinating thought that one man could predict something that would eventually be an integral part of modern society.

After learning this theory that ‘the medium is the message’ on reflection it is definitely something that informs the thinking behind our virtual environments class. We use computers, the Internet and Second Life to communicate with each other as part of our module, and these mediums affect the way in which the ‘message(s)’ is/are received. The difference between an online class and a class in real life is the way in which the ‘message’ is perceived. From my online class experience, I have found that the way in which my ideas come across differ to that of a class in a real life setting. I feel that when I want to say something online there is sometimes a delay in communication as I have to type it up and this can affect the flow of the debate we may be having, even using voice it can be difficult to get your turn in without speaking over someone. In comparison to a real life class setting, we are able to see each other and raise a hand if we want to speak and this keeps the flow of the conversation running smoothly. However an online class can also give you the time to think through what you would like to say before you send it, and that can be beneficial. This shows that the ‘message’ itself can change slightly depending on the medium that is used. Also another question that was asked during class, which related to McLuhan’s theories, was whether or not technology has become and extension of the human body. As written by Marshall McLuhan himself:

Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.[2]

To understand this philosophical theory, we can relate this to smartphone technology. The class seemed to engage far better with this question, as we seemed to all have a response to put forward. Smart phones give us the ability to connect and communicate with each other at a click of a button. We have access to more information on a smart phone than a lot of people did generations ago. This has also come with its drawbacks. The ways in which we speak to our friends and family differ between something as small as an app. For example speaking on the phone to a friend is different to chatting to them via Facebook messenger, where you have the ability to use ‘Emoji’s’ or send pictures. This will in turn affect the way in which the ‘message’ is perceived. From the class discussion, this was something a lot of people agreed with. Overall I think the medium does in fact affect the the ‘message’.

 

If you want to read more about Marshall McLuhan’s theories, here is a link to an extract of his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/mcluhan.mediummessage.pdf

[1] http://virtualenvironmentsmodule.com

[2] McLuhan, Marshall (1966/1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill. Paperback edition, 1966.

 

Approaching the Task Ahead

This week as part of our Virtual Environments module, (Here is a link to our class blog http://virtualenvironmentsmodule.com) we had a class discussion about the the progress of our group projects and how we will raise the profile of our chosen charity/cause. We discussed how we are communicating with the members of our groups and what social platforms we were using to do this. One of the issues brought up in class by another group member, was the difficulty in making a decision with what charity they wanted to use. The advice that was given by our lecturers was that the importance of the project was the process of how our groups work together online and how we collectively work on a project more so than the detail of the project itself. On reflection after the class, I took this as a useful piece of advice for my own group project. This was useful to me as I was finding it difficult to delve deeply into our topic of Homelessness as  I have not been affected directly by this problem and so felt it was difficult for me to give information about something I do not know a lot about. However from discussion with our group we found that it was a worthy cause to give online awareness to and from this I have learned that the process of our group working as team to raise the profile of the cause was much more important than whether the detail was correct. This has given me a clearer view on what we should be doing as part of group project.

This week we have been quite quiet with regards to communication partly because our full class group (DIT & Akron) were not all at class last week due to mix up of timetables and partly to do with St Patricks day being a bank holiday in Ireland. However we have been contacting slowly but surely on Facebook to pinpoint exactly which route to take with regards to Homelessness and whether to raise awareness of one charity or raise awareness of Homelessness as a cause. So far we are still in discussion as to what way we will go with it, but I think going with it as a cause will give us flexibility to talk about Homelessness in Ireland as well as in America and take awareness global. In my opinion, our group have been working well to think through ideas and the relevance of Homelessness as a global issue. For us the Facebook group we have set up allows us to post links and long posts to each other wherever we are and at any time in the day, and this has been working great so far. The next step our group needs to take is to organise a timetable and our roles in the project so that we know exactly what we have to do so that there is no confusion. This would be one the areas that if we were to start again we could have organised a schedule a bit sooner, however overall the process of communication and working collaboratively online has been successful for our group.

Group Project: Development Stages

As part of our group project, we have decided after much deliberation we will choose Homelessness as our focus for our project. As discussed previously in this blog, we have been using the social media platform Facebook as our means of communication. We have found that it has been extremely helpful in keeping our group updated with ideas at any time of the day. We have been able to post links and ideas on the topic of homelessness and how it is something we all feel interests us. The angle we plan to take is to look at the similarities and differences between Ireland and America with regards to Homelessness as well as looking online in Second Life at virtual communities that deal with the issues surrounding Homelessness. Our group has worked well in finding a balance between ideas and choosing a topic that interests us all. At this stage of the development process each of our group members have contributed equally to the development of the idea process, and in the next stage of development we will assign roles/tasks each member will undertake in order to fulfil the needs of the project. Overall our online communication has worked exceedingly well and I hope it will continue to do so in the future.