Project Evaluation Paper

Project Evaluation Paper

PDF: Project Evaluation Paper

Summary

I have outlined my overview of the entire project below, separating each section. The current E-Learning environment, as I suspected at the beginning of the project is very limited and difficult to find. The best option is by using it within higher education, as they are the most likely to know the current available options. Although it really depends on the university, whether or not they have E-Learning options. I regret not having monitored the universities use of Second Life, when it was in its prime in 2007-2009. Since then, the idea of a virtual classroom has lost its appeal. This could be in part due to the difficulties I experienced (and many other’s likely experienced as well) when setting up the program, not having new enough equipment to run the program smoothly, not having high speed internet, and lastly – how busy each virtual world is. If a particular methods relies on group participation to be successful, then you lose that should participation fall. Digital classrooms such as Coursera and Khan Academy offer group participation but solo learning, and this could be a better direction overall. Because they do not corner themselves into relying on one factor for the success of their students. Their web browser environment is also appealing, as it doesn’t limit access to certain operating systems, bandwidths, or even devices. E-Learning options are very limited; they can be found but most expect you to pay for the service. And not everyone can or wants to spend money on further education –even if it’s easy to use, unfortunately. So truly free education options via E-Learning are limited to a handful of options.

Virtual Reality options are at a design and production peek right now, with systems and equipment designed with the consumer (home user) in mind and not corporations. This has led to smaller, compact, and affordable systems. But the learning curve is steep, as many of these systems are designed with the expectation that the user will be tech savvy and develop the code, should a bug or unavailable feature arise. This is impractical on a consumer scale – since these systems are nowhere near intuitive and ease of use is what the consumer expects now, but it is fine for developers who are willing to be the test subjects. So we are heading in the right direction, but at this stage it could be years before we see large, full scale virtual reality systems go on the market. For now, we are limited to extremely small devices (such as the Wii or Kinect) that are designed to work with only one console or piece of equipment. Or if they can be interchanged, require a great deal of work on the consumers end.

Security & Laws of E-Learning and Virtual Environment

I’ve had the opportunity to be doing this project during huge conflicts in the digital realm. During my project the Xbox One was launched and immediately rejected by the consumer base due to the user limitations, higher cost, and privacy concerns it created.

The problem is that technology is at a point where constant monitoring is not only an option but is the default setting now on many electronic devices. As mentioned above, Xbox One offered an ‘always on/always listening’ option so that users could speak within a certain distance and the Xbox One would turn on or follow the command, without the user having to turn a switch or anything other than start speaking. This sounds great on the surface, but consumers quickly realized that in order for the system to know it was being spoken to, it would have to constantly listen and record what was being said within its vicinity. Many people found this rather disturbing, since they had no idea or control over that had access to these recordings or what was being done with them. Another disturbing option that was spurred by corporation greed was the Xbox’s facial recognition feature. The intent was that it would know a user account based on the user’s face. Again, as long as this face was within its camera’s reach, then it had the approval to access the user’s account. But this brought up questions and complications. Some of the complications were brought on by the ever present concern that corporations have over getting the most revenue from their product. In this instance, should there be more than one face within camera view, the system would not work or require an additional game license for the user to play. So what if grandma wanders into the room to read and the Xbox owner wants to play the game? A second license would be needed regardless. There were many other issues that users had that dealt more with corporations attempt at protecting copyright, by limiting one game per system, no trades, no game rentals, and system lock downs if they lost internet connection or weren’t connected within a 24 hour span. Regardless if the game required an online connection to play. These issues fall under consumer rights and delve away from privacy rights. But I mention them because these issues were implemented with the security features.

We are living in a society where our cell phones and laptop cameras can be hijacked without our knowledge and this was the first admitted monitoring, disguised as game improvement.

Another controversial device that has come out recently is Google Glass. Life tracking devices have been displayed in futuristic stories for decades, but this is the first real attempt at it in technology. And not everyone is happy about it. The idea is to track everything the glass wearer sees and hears. The first security issue with this is the question – Where is this data going and who gets to see it? Does it ever get deleted? This broadens questions of ‘what happens if the user does something illegal or something that fine in private but not in public?’ Is the data captured considered public, even in the users own home? Can it be incriminating? There are groups now that have banned the use of Google Glass and similar devices from entering their businesses. There was a physical attack of a Google Glass developer, several years ago, when he entered a French McDonald’s and employees attempted to physically remove the device from his head. (It was surgically attached.) Not only did that case cross international laws but also privacy concerns. What if a person doesn’t want to be videotaped? What if the Google Glass user goes into a public restroom or dressing areas? What if the user records someone using a urinal? Or the video captures a parent changing their child on the changing table? Would the user then be at risk for pornography? How would these be considered against current harassment laws? What are the legal implications of such technology? These are situations that fall under these new devices. So it’s not cut and dry.

Technology is a fast paced, constantly growing and changing area. U.S. laws are not. They take years to go into effect. And in the time they don’t cover certain areas, they put people at risk for becoming victims. This isn’t the fault of the law, not entirely, as it should be the responsibility of the developers of these products. But consumer safety is less important than profit. And our law makers are being pressured into worrying more about the corporations protection than those same consumers. In this day and age, technology can potentially do more harm to the individual than help. People should not have to constantly check that if they decide to wipe their phone or break the warranty seal on their laptop, they will get them sued. But they do now. And because people have little to no rights in this technology realm, when corporations insist on using ‘always on/always watching’ techniques within systems it doesn’t need to be in, they are more likely to fight back.

But Google Glass and ‘always on’ devices are only just starting to come on the market. Let’s focus back on genuine E-Learning environments and reflect on potential security flaws they have.

First – the basic potential security risks remain within the websites themselves. To sign up for free e-learning websites, there is no age restriction. So you potentially have under aged children with adults in forums and discussion boards. The website and instructor have right to monitor and remove those they feel are off topic or offensive. Password strength remains are ideal way of preventing account break-in’s.

There is also potential risk for services that require you pay a fee. Having your credit card information stored in their system, but the risk is no greater than any other merchant site currently available.

The only real concern I found with these systems were potential problems, but since they are not mainstream or used widely, those flaws are limited. If these education sites prove to be useful for younger education, then parents and guardians must monitor the accounts, forums, and games more closely. But no differently than any other website their child visits.

Self-Study Overview

Second Life

I had a lot of trouble with Second Life, especially in the beginning. First with finding a computer that would handle the graphics, and then trying to set it up. It was not a simple setup and may have deterred others. My next obstacle was the time zone difference. It may have been due to the lack of popularity in recent years, or that I was trying to visit Japanese worlds, or both, but I tended to be the only person in the game. Something you don’t really want in an MMORPG. So I wasn’t able to test my interactive skills with others. I also had a lag problem, that could have been due to my internet or the fact my computer was not brand new. Both can still be detrimental to a game, since most users may not be able to afford an expensive computer setup for a free game. I wish my videos were more impressive, but the lack of players and my constant lagging made the process tedious. I spent more time trying to fix problems than actually exploring the game; much less it’s virtual E-Learning options.

I think that when Second Life was young and new, everyone was there and kept the virtual options wide and available. Teachers took their real classrooms there, tutors met students, universities’ used it as a tool to have virtual tours for prospective students, labs used it to do things they couldn’t in the real world, and teams used it for meetings with participants across the globe. And that’s just the academic use. But since it’s lost its appeal, it’s not kept up, there are entire worlds abandoned. And participation is the only thing that keeps the community alive and varied. It’s sad that we haven’t been able to keep it up, or find an appropriate replacement. But I’m hopeful, and if they do, I want to continue the project and explore it.

JOI Video Lessons

These video lessons were an awesome idea. They don’t just provide Japanese but any language. As long as the teachers are signed up. You get to pick what level, time, and the teacher you want. It’s a Skype / Webinar type of lesson, in that you have a live camera of the person you are speaking with and your lesson plan to the side.

I stumbled in the process a little bit, because of how quickly the teacher moved. She expected me to intuitively figure out some of the words. And after repeating the same lines in different ways, I did eventually understand the sentence structure and what was changing. But I would have liked a little more overview on each individual word and why they combined the way they did. My particular teacher was located in Japan, so even though it was about 10pm my time, it was bright and sunny out the window behind her. It was strange. She also yep repeating ‘Hai.’  (Or Yes.) Often, and it took a little bit to understand that was a conversation filler rather than a word I needed to pay attention to. Other than the initial road blocks, I think it’s still a very good alternative to private face to face lessons. It’s the best you will get, and still maintains the same advantages to private tutors. I found it very helpful, even though there are several universities in the area that major in Japanese and have Japanese concentrations and minors, I could not find one tutor in my area. So this would have been my only option, even without this project.

Haiku

For my Self-Study, I started with learning the art of Haiku. I have to say I was not expecting there to be so much history and variety in this poem style. I learned the various techniques, misconceptions, and styles. I also ended the study with creating a Haiku of my own.

Outstretched fingers,

For feline nose,

To sniff.

Go

Go, in theory, seems like a very simple board game. The object of the game is for your stones (white or black playing pieces) to cover more of the entire board game than your opponent. Once a piece is placed, you cannot move it, unlike Chess. You can surround your opponent’s pieces in order to capture them and take them out of the game, without allowing your own to get captured in turn. What I discovered is that I am very very bad at this straight forward game. The simplicity of it allows for so many variations and strategies to be used, in my case, against me. I found it difficult to cover all the potential possibilities of moving just one piece. I can tell this game takes years to master, it’s not what you assume it will be.

Tea Ceremony

I started my tea journey a month before my project technically started, by taking a one night course on tea preparation and history. I have to say that I did not fully understand how ritualistic the preparation of tea could be, until I saw it. How carefully and gracefully the tea was poured, the time needed to let it sit, the smells and flavors that need to be observed and tested. How the seasons, soil, and water can greatly affect the tea. It is quite a sight to watch a real tea ceremony preformed, one I’m so glad I’ve been able to see.

So I went into this tea ceremony with a little bit of a head start. In Japanese culture, the tea ceremony is about the preparation and savoring of the tea, and it alone is considered an art. It is a performance that allows the audience involvement at the end. These ceremonies were normally preformed in Geisha houses or to provide hospitality to guests. There are formal and informal performances, some of which includes food or smaller treats along with the tea. The formal Chaji can last up to four hours in length as well.

The tea ceremony is now considered a transformative practice, sticking to its Buddhist roots and allowing for spiritual appreciation for the human live and existence.

Japanese Cuisine

Traditional Japanese cuisine relies heavily on rice and the miso soup base, as well as fish. Japanese foods consist of a broth, pickled vegetables of varying seasonal types, and noodles. Items such as soy sauce, sake, vinegar, ginger, and wasabi have become stables in the Japanese kitchen. They tend to top these dishes with some seasonal fish as well, since Japan is an island nation and has an abundance of seafood in their recipes. Compared to my Cajun French/coastal foods, this is not at all different. In fact Cajun recipes utilize essentially the same ingredients, only with a more spicy taste. Rice is a main ingredient in some of the cultures famous dishes, such as red beans and rice or gumbo. So switching to Japanese dishes was not at all that different for me.

However, Japan can claim Sushi as their national icon. Many people confuse sushi to mean raw fish, but that’s incorrect. What makes sushi, sushi is not the ingredients but rather how the rice is prepared. Sushi is really all about the rice. A sushi roll can have raw fish, or just as easily cooked fish or no fish at all, in the famous vegetable rolls. Sushi making has become a form of art for Japan. A sushi shop chef can become a great and respected business owner, and there many traditions and rituals involved, even in how one eats the sushi. I was amazed at how detailed sushi eating, as well as sushi making can be.

What I learned from studying Japanese cuisine is that I have found a new variety of food that I really enjoy. A variety that has a long history and identity all its own.

Tai Chi & Yoga

Prior to this project, I have taken several Yoga and Tai Chi classes on my own. I find them very helpful to relief stress, especially during the winter months. I have since then used DVDs, the Wii, and my Roku as refreshers when I want to do these again. I found them very helpful when you have already been taught the basics and just need a guide. I’m not sure how good each is when you are brand new to it.

Coursera, MIT Openware, & Khan Academy

I think out of all three, Coursera was the most appropriate for my particular project. Khan Academy is a close second but since they limit their material to Math, it didn’t apply in this case. But if you want a Math tutor with videos and practice games, they are who to go to. Coursera has a huge variety of class options, with lecture videos, easy to follow lesson plans, and a no cost attitude. MIT Openware is a good resource of their past and archived classes, but is not meant as an online class option. There is a great deal of lecture plan that is missing, simply because the only way to add it would have been through video or the professor notes. So there are gaps and easy places to get lost. The syllabus also tended to include required textbook lists that had on average 10 books. Not an easy thing to afford when you are looking for free online classes. I’m glad it’s an option and there, but it’s not the best class to follow on its own.

 

Virtual Reality Platforms

Wii

The Wii was fun; it is a game console that is very much so geared towards younger children and family units. That’s not a bad thing and in many ways is encouraged. You don’t have to worry as much about what sort of content will be in the games. I liked the controller and sensor in this console, but the motions needed were not easy to recognize. You had to have quite a few accessories, the board, the traditional game pad, etc, to even try some games. In many cases they also assumed you were doing certain motions they could not track. So I don’t think it would be best for say, an instructional exercise or martial art training course. I tried the Zumba game and really, just twisting your mid-section was enough of a motion to get the device to register. There were several ways to ‘cheat’ the sensors. I also tried the boxing games, and having taken kick boxing in real life may have hindered my ability to play. Since I tried the ‘right way’ and kept losing because the sensor couldn’t register the devices. I had to go much slower and twist the controller in my hand, which was the wrong way to hold my arm/hand in a real punch. The Cooking Mama game was a pain. I just could not get the chopping motion down. Most motions were not intuitive or similar to real life motions, and I’d want something as close to reality as I can get, in a virtual game. Overall I think it’s a good start for a console but there were several flaws.

Kinect

The Kinect is a bit better. The motion sensor watches your body. So natural movement is the best option, you aren’t constricted by holding another device and making sure it moves in the correct way to register with the device near your television. The Kinect just watches you. There are several ways to modify the Kinect too, which is awesome. But unless you program, you really can’t take advantage of this, so that rules out a good portion of people.

Razer Hydra

The Razer Hydra is similar in design to the Wii controller. But the movement is more natural to you and watches you like the Kinect. It may be a good blend of the two previous devices. It’s also nice that it works with the Oculus Rift. The sensors are much more sensitive and you can move naturally, quickly, slowly, just as long as you are within range and the range is much wider than the other two.

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift was fun to use. The first thing out of your mouth is ‘wow!’. You really do not expect to see such vivid, real images. I mentioned in my overview that clarity and the faster your video card, the less motion sickness you feel once you remove the device. There is also an adjustment period, where your body is tricked by your eyes to think it should be moving. And when you remain still, you become a bit sick. It’s an amazing discovery, the correlation between our body, eyes, and expectations that each have. We rely heavily on what we see, to work and move in the world.

The Rift itself is a bit bulky, but not uncomfortably so. It’s difficult for those that wear glasses, although they do offer specialized lenses, but it’s an added cost. And you’d have to readjust it before someone else could use the device. It’s time consuming.

I think overall, with revisions and trial and error, they will make the Rift much smaller, easier to change and work even better. I can only see this going in a good direction.

 

Class Overview

Below I will briefly explain the usefulness of each digital class I took over the course of this project.

-Coursera Introduction to International Criminal Law

This was very much so a class for law students, which isn’t bad at all. It went into detail, explaining the complicated aspects of specific and pivotal case studies that have shaped our current laws and set standards that we follow today. It explained how complicated reaching into different countries and dealing with the United Nations can be. It was very interesting and the professor was excited about the topic, which to me, has always made a huge difference in how much I enjoy a class. If the professor doesn’t seem to care about the topic, why should I? So this was good, but be aware it’s a law class so it’s tedious.

-Coursera Malicious Software and its Underground Economy

I both did and didn’t enjoy this class. Yes, it was interesting but it really didn’t go into anything new. The topics and contemplations have all been talked about in any basic ‘hacker’ class. The instructor goes over the history of computers and the evolution of technology that led to malicious software but I really would have preferred more details into what makes up malicious software. And there was only a brief overview of the ‘underground economy’. I would have very much liked going into detail of the dark net and digital societies, complete with currency and communities. But it did not, sadly.

-MIT Japanese I

I had some serious issues trying to understand the format and flow of this class. I essentially referred back to the textbook and my own books, hardly looking at the notes.

-MIT Advanced Japanese I

This was a bit better to follow, but again, the supplemental material were nothing more than questionnaires. All of which you couldn’t really use unless you had a lecture to follow, which you didn’t. So you have to rely on the books. To me, if I’m relying heavily on textbooks to teach me these online classes, then why am I bothering with the online class?

-MIT Japanese Pop Culture

This was exactly as I expected. It was a class, about pop culture. Anime, manga, karaoke, etc. I would have liked a little bit more detail, but it was still a pretty good class. And it didn’t entirely break the bank by asking you to buy tons of books.

-MIT American Asian Studies

What I’ve learned about the MIT courses is that they just love having students buy on average 10 books per class. That feels pretty ridiculous; especially when they only need you read one chapter out of each book. Can’t they scan it and hand out a PDF? Do I really need to spend $50 on a book I will only read 30 pages out of? Other than that, I found the information in this class interesting but difficult to follow through. There was a lack of complete thought in each lecture. What I mean is, there were starts and a direction each section pointed you in, but you had to figure out the meaning on your own. I suppose this may have been the point, but without confirmation I am guessing.

-MIT Beginning Japanese II

This class was alright, tons of material but all of which relied heavily on a textbook to make any sense.

-MIT Introduction to Japanese Culture

I think I got the most out of this particular class. It went into detail on the history of Japan, the shaping of its current culture and why it went in a certain direction.

-Coursera Networked Life

I picked this class because I wanted to examine the effects of our digital society, where we are always connected to our digital persona and our real life and digital life have essentially blended into one being. Whereas previously they were totally disconnected.

-MIT Cultural Performances of Asia

I have to say that this felt like a very fluffed class. What I mean by that is, compared to the other classes I took over the project, the majority of my classes looked at the culture and society of Japan from a sociological point of view or purely historical and compared this to other countries. This class, well first the title could not be more vague and I knew I was in trouble when the final paper criteria stated the essay just needed to address two words ‘Asia’ and ‘Performance’. A quick google search would show that there is a great deal of wiggle room with such a vague description. I hoped that the material covered in this class would be something new, but it reiterates points and topics found in other MIT Japanese classes. The only difference is this class focuses on specific anime shows and pokemon. The only interesting portion was the discussion on social conceptions on performances (such as opera, street dancing, Japan’s fascination with jazz and hip hop) and how it was influenced by other cultures. But that was a very small part of the class. Honestly, I had expected that to be the main focus, not an overview of Blood+ or Samurai Champloo (popular Anime). Disappointing, but what really annoyed me was the amount of contradicting data and guess work. And I could tell it was because of the other MIT classes with obviously well read teachers and course material. It felt like an easy credit class for Anime fans who want to give cartoons a more profound impact. (That’s not to say that anime and manga are not an integral part of Japanese culture, they are. And maybe the teacher would have delved into that more deeply, had I taken the class traditionally.) But as a virtual learner – I’m grateful I wasn’t a paying student, otherwise I would be livid to have had to pay for it and the mountain of supporting books required. Very little new material was offered that you wouldn’t have already gotten from ‘Japanese Pop Culture’ in specific  or ‘Intro to Japanese Culture’ or even ‘American Asian Studies’.

-Coursera Intro Environmental Law & Policy

I’ve actually taken an Environmental Law before, as a part of my Criminal Justice concentration. So much of this information was recap. What stuck out for me in this class and the last was how many example situations seemed to be common sense, or lack thereof depending on the violation. Being environmental conscious is just that, being aware of how your actions may affect your surroundings and those people, animals, and plants around you. Dumping chemical waste into a pond that is used to provide fresh drinking water to an entire city lacks common sense. But happens surprisingly often and mainly because those that do it fail to look beyond their immediate problem. They solve their issue of getting rid of it, by causing a major issue for others later on. The idea can be boiled down to, ‘Pay attention and think about what you are doing.’ This course did go further into case studies than my original class, which was good to know, to know current procedure and how the laws may be changing over time.

-Coursera Videogames and Learning

Videogames have become extremely popular since they caught on in the 1970’s. This past year it surpassed video sales and videogames are being treated as full feature stories and films in their own right. There are now such things as videogame trailers, where the story is heavily advertised much like movies have been for decades. It’s also becoming more and more difficult for people to realize they are looking at computer generated characters and not actors. Too quick of a glance at the television during one of these trailers, and you may mistake it for a movie or real actors.

The military and schools have used video games since I was a child, as a secondary form of education. Reinforcing curriculum and course work in a fun and less formal environment. This is due to the entertainment atmosphere that video games still hold. People know they are being taught something but it’s also fun, so it’s okay.

Again, this is not a new concept but it’s certainly taken off on how willingly people are using videogames to train and teach students and soldiers. In the course we went over research studies in regard to the changing learning and teaching methods that video gaming has opened. How traditional learning has changed, and how much more quickly we’re finding students are grasping material. Students reaction times are getting faster, their brains are adapting to this new environment and the studies want to find out what this could potentially mean for learning in general.

-Coursera E-Learning and Digital Cultures – Delayed until November 2013.

 

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