i never got myIggy Pop "Some Weird Sin"
license to live
they won't give it up-
so i stand at the world's edge
i'm trying to break in
oh i know it's not for me
and the sight of it all
makes me sad and ill
that's when i want
some weird sin
In my mind, the Gaia theory of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis represents the narrative theme through which all our stories unravel as it is the planet's narrative matrix through which all stories are made manifest (Lovelock, 1979). Most of us, however, are out of touch with our stories, and even if some of us have found our elements stories, we have no way to connect them to the global story. What I am searching for is an avenue through which the stories can be shared. Once stories have been shared, communities can form, or at least a sense of community can develop. The problem is based in our physicality, our bioregional location. But since our bioregional existence is what places us in contact with Gaia in the first place, there is a tension that exists between that which gives us place and keeps us from a global experience of community. I see a possible direction, perhaps even a solution, to be found in the direction of CMC (Computer Mediated Communication). Despite the problems of genesis, ownership, and intended use I can conceive of the valuable aspects of the Internet to herald a new age of the sharing of stories, and through the sharing of stories, a sharing of future stories (Moore, 1994, p. 4-10). But this is the subject of another paper, one that I am presently working on for a different course.
What I intend to do during my time at OISE is investigate how integrated curriculum theory can be used to integrate ideas of a holistic and transformative nature with Educational Computer Mediated Communication (Ed-CMC) on the Internet. I am currently pursuing this in the other courses I am taking: "Research Methodologies for Educational Computer Mediated Communication" and "Education and Cosmology."
What I am studying is how to design a curriculum foundation, based on the Integrated Curriculum model, for a family of polysynchronous, user-extensible, Internet computer applications known collectively as MU*s, though they are commonly referred to as Muds. MU*s are known as Muds, Mushes, Moos, MultiUser Dungeons, MultiUser Dimension and have existed on the Internet for over a decade (Curtis, 1992). They have evolved from an interactive adventure game of the Dungeons and Dragons ilk into a sophisticated set of tools for social communication and education. Among other things, Muds allow users (often called players) to communicate with others in real time, individually or in groups. They also allow for users to design and manipulate objects in this text based environment. A user could design a nightclub, complete with a bar and dancers, and invite people to visit. Or an educator could design a course of study and hold classes in a Mud. Both of these scenarios are already happening. There are Muds for K-12 users as well, running out of MIT's Media Lab (starting Summer, 1995) and Carleton's Schoolnet Moo (Bruckman, 1994a).
What I plan to do, as part of my doctorate, is to design a MU* that incorporates ideas of Integrated Curriculum and holistic/transformative Learning into the development of curriculum materials that will allow a teacher to facilitate student development of a peer to peer learning environment focusing on global and environmental themes. I will also be the administrator and researcher of this project, running it on a Unix computer that will allow 30-50 simultaneous connections. This is my dream and my nightmare. It is an idea that I had before I ever got into OISE (my present story), and it is something that I will do even after I get out, if OISE does not cooperate.
To this end, I have planned. I have created an Internet gopher, and more recently WWW site dedicated to collecting papers, articles and ideas that focus on the educational use of Muds. It is probably the most up-to-date source of information on the Internet. I am currently running an experimental Moo called MOO-oise (Moosie-a tribute to Amy's Moose-crossing) in which I can learn more about how the integrated curriculum experience might manifest itself in a final project tentatively titled Holon. I am also moderating a month long discussion exploring the research questions that can be asked on this topic. The following is the introductory posting that greeted new members of our discussion:
"3519 MUDS" by JASON NOLAN on March 23, 1995 at 02:00EST, about JOHN AND JASON'S MODERATED PARTI SPACE FOCUSING ON THE USE OF MU*s IN EDUCATIONAL CMC.In order to facilitate a consideration of my project within the `Story Model' of Integrated Curriculum, this paper will include two of the three stories outlined below: my story, the project, and the anticipated student's story, the third part will form the research data for the doctoral thesis itself.:
John Oughton and I (Jason Nolan) will be moderating this discussion. We hope you find it interesting and not too painful. My (Jason) interest as I've mentioned in previous postings is in the use of existing Internet resources for Educational CMC. John has similar interests, but I'll let him state his interests in his own posting. We envision this discussion as focusing on the use of MU*s in educational CMC, and how one might conduct research in an attempt to determine the usefulness of this form of EdCMC in teaching writing, literacy skills, and general peer to peer learning. I would add that my interests include incorporating a holistic/global Ed. edge to the aforementioned functions. Of course, we encourage you to view this discussion through the lens of Gowan's Vee, and I promise a free Gowan's Vee T-shirt to anyone who makes an outstanding contribution to our discussion (no joke, I scanned the page!).
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.Dylan Thomas, "Fern Hill"
In the past, I have not been so enamoured with the educational system. I guess you would say that my "call to adventure" never intersected with the institutions at which I spent a little over a decade of my first two. My call to adventure has repeated itself a couple of times, but has always resulted in an aborted myth cycle, all elements beyond the "call to adventure" always unfulfilled (Drake, 1993, p. 8). It was only the point at which the "call" lead me away from education, when I dropped out of school, that my adventure took on a scope which has modelled that of a mythic struggle for being; "the path of personal growth" (Miller, Cassie & Drake, 1990, p. 22).
This call was away from a sheltering, mediating environment devoid of meaning or meaning makers. Those whose ideas did stimulate, stimulated me away from what I thought education to be. I was called to reject education, the social status that it stood for and the employment opportunities that it offered. I chose, instead, to make my way as a wage slave and pursue a precarious music career. The future looked much more promising than anything that my education offered, even from my present position of reflection. The separation was only from that which I hated, so it was more with relief than dread that I easily cast off my past in the act of "separation" (Miller, Cassie & Drake 1990, p. 18). The parts of my old life that came with me, or which I thought were coming with me, were shed later-the last shard of which fell from my shoulders less than a week ago (Spring, 1995). I spent a year working and rehearsing; making the great commitment to my art. A commitment that I felt was shared by those around me with whom I worked and practised.
Twelve months (to the week) and three jobs later (as a computer operator, warehouse worker, and record exporter), I had returned to school. This step represented the first time that my story had moved to the level of "struggle;" to set myself on the path from which I'd been driven. I returned to a school of my choosing. I accepted, as much as I was able in those days, the loss of financial independence; the lack of freedom; the self-discipline requisite to the task. I was ready for personal transformation and the pain required to achieve it (Miller, Cassie & Drake, 1990, p. 22). What I was not ready for was where the path would lead. I had no idea of the struggles that would assault my being. But, as it was a path of my choosing, and as I had no alternative path that lead towards the growth that my youthful energy demanded, I kept to it.
What makes this element of my story of value to me, as I pursue my doctoral studies in a context seemingly so divorced from where I heard my call, is that I see so often the elements that drove me from education so long ago. Upon reading Roland Case's attack on reform, for not being perfect before it is studied or implimented, I was reminded of the attitude of educators in my own high school experience (Case, 1994). For them, the correct "Way" was what they had done with the previous year's class. There was a pervasive sense that novel ideas impeded the hierarchical transmission of knowledge, and that the purpose of knowledge was to confer a competitive edge on the knower; and a `knower' was something they thought I would never be. I found that there was no place for knowledge to be shared, to be appreciated for its own intrinsic value to the individual, or, most important for me, to find a voice in non-linear, transdisciplinary thinking. Though Case properly assesses the uncritical nature of some reform implementation ("The analogue in medicine would be to perform surgery on the brain by jabbing indiscriminately with crude instruments."), his unspoken conclusion, of advocating stasis unless `perfect' reforms can manifest themselves seemingly through divine implimentation, is in direct opposition to what I though, and still think, the purpose of learning to be (Case 1994, p. 80). I see, in the teacher of my past and the word of Case, educators who are less interested in education, than in making neat discrete units out of the whole "education game" that fit into mechanistic paradigms derived from the ideals of scientism and the industrial revolution. My response has not changed much since I was 16: if teachers and researchers want to go on babbling about bullshit that is irrelevant to what I and my society perceive as my learning needs then I'll just go and do my learning somewhere else.
Education quickly became a personal, private, individual experience that occurred in opposition to the institution I was in. When I did return, I finished high school on the bus and in coffee shops and later in pubs. In university, classes got in the way of learning. Education came from reading, thinking, combined experimenting and integrating. I learned how to write essays by observing how I wrote songs while taking a course in Experimental Electronic Music. I still use the skills I learned. I learned how to communicate effectively through battling the bureaucracy to get into courses and get money to pay for them. The university was to be endured so as to get a paper award at the end. It was to be respected in that it provided me with an interesting environment in which to meet people and share ideas without the work place imperatives hanging above me. It was nothing more.
I cared not for the consequences, but wrote...William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"
The struggle was, for me, relatively minor. It was mainly the struggle to accept the possibility that institutionalized education could perform a social function greater than that of mechanistic indoctrination and keeping students out of the work force for as long as possible. Well, the struggle also entailed my coming to an understanding that I had a place within said institutions. Spending a year teaching E.S.L. in Japan did not fill me with a sense of mission; to change the world through teaching. It merely showed me that I could pull off another scam on the system by appearing as the competent teacher that I was not. It paid the bills, and if I'd followed through on an educational career at that stage, I would have become one of those "in it for the money" educators who are chained to a job that cannot rid itself of them. Also, completing my Masters in English did nothing to change my attitude to education, as I don't think that Graduate Studies has a lot to do with education. No, what changed me was something that happened during my Masters' experience, between November 1989 and April 1990. I had realized that my writing skills were poor, though improving, and that I'd need some help to get through my writing assignments. I ended up at the Computer Assisted Writing Centre at York University. Though I'd always had an opposition to computers for the obvious paranoid reasons (ones that have not changed much), the computer taught me how to gain a necessary perspective on my writing to the point that I now compose papers like this with very little external organization and planning; though it still shows. I went to the CAWC advisors who were mostly undergraduate students. They directed me to the tools that I needed, answered my questions, and left me alone. With others who needed more intervention the steps to meeting their needs were taken. I found that what I learned was not merely a technical skill, but a way to approach the concept of education itself. Aside from what I was required to learn just to use the computers, what I learned was based on what I thought that I needed to learn. I was able to learn on my own terms, and I was able to decide when I thought that I had succeed in what I needed to learn. What a major revelation to come from the hands of some undergrad students making $12 an hour whose only training was to be told that their job was to answer student questions without making them feel inferior.
By March, I knew more than some of the staff, and spent a portion of my time helping out my peers when the Advisors were too busy. Finally, when I was helping one of the professors who had founded the centre, I was asked when I had started working at the centre. I replied that I didn't, but that I was just a `user.' By April, I'd been offered a job. I became an advisor, then I taught introductory classes in computer use, advanced classes, classes to foreign language students, finally I was a Course Director/Writing Instructor (untenured part-time faculty) teaching and writing manuals. My final gigs at York University were as a Teaching Assistant in a course in Computer Mediated Communication and an Electronic Writing Tutor. I have never had a job since that was not predicated on my skills in dealing with computers and computer users, yet until I entered OISE, I had failed the only computer course I had ever taken (Actually the teacher, Mr. Payne, passed me on the condition that I never take another course in computers.). I have never fully analysed why this experience has made me into the educator that I am today, but I believe that the result came from the combination of meeting of needs and individual learning styles, and that the experience occurred in the periphery of the educational system.
Experience was the manifestation of my "rebirth-reward" (Miller, Cassie & Drake, 1990, p. 28). It also precipitated my desire to return what I had leared to a community that might not otherwise learn what it really means to learn: students themselves. The experience was enough to crystalize my half-baked plans for the future into the goal to become an educator whatever the path that may take. It has lead me to wed my interests, skills and experiences in language, the environment and computers into one matrix within transformative learning.
The cosmogenetic principle states that the evolution of the universe will be characterized by differentiation, autopoisis, and communion throughout time and space at every level of reality.(Swimme, Berry 1994, p. 71)
While reading Ivan Illich earlier in this course (I'd seen him quoted in the past, but had never encountered his texts), I was struck by a quote that echoes my aversion to the institutions of education: "the institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degredation and modernized misery" (Illich 1971, p. 1-2). I would say that this holds greater truth now than when Illich said it first in the 60s or when I first felt it in the late 70s. But what drove me to realize my innate interest and ability as an educator (versus a teacher, instructor or academic) was when I found, through my experiences at CAWC, that what I should be doing as an educator was, to paraphrase a definition of art: not to give the people what they want, but to give them what they didn't know they wanted. Note that this is different than the advertising industry's goal of making people want what they neither want nor need.
What I am talking about is providing students with the opportunities, tools and skills that they need to make sense out of the world around them; opportunities, tools and skills that will allow them, as much as possible, to confront the issues that confront them on an equal intellectual and experiential footing. I see teaching as a revolutionary act, a subversive experience, and a confrontational event. Neither violent, manipulative nor agressive, my vision of the educational process manifests its revolutionary nature in opposing the atomistic stasis of the mechanistic institutionalism, it subverts the indoctrination of success through compliance and is confrontational in its opposition to divisive competition.
As it stands, I am impressed with what many teachers do with what they have; students continue to suprise me with their accomplishments; and I love education the more time I spend in its fold. But anything that does happen, happens despite the institution of schools, the inertia of teachers' unions, fears of parents, and the apathy of students and teachers. That is, useful things `happen' amid the `old story.' But since no thing or person questions the roles of all these people, we are stuck in the old story. It is my opinion that we will not have a new story, ever, until we, as Illich puts it, deschool society (Illich, 1970). This will not happen in my life, but this does not mean that I am helpless. Since schools are physically and temporally fixed, I have the opportunity to circumvent schools, subvert curriculum, and leap past the instutution and all of its baggage. I hope to do this while getting paid by the institution (I do not live by theory alone), while working within the institutions, and by making those who attempt to steer these institutions quite happy with they think that I am doing. Experience over the past decade has shown that this works. I do not intend to offend, confront, or disrupt, but to provide students with learning experiences and the requsite skills to enable them to critically assess their place in the world and hopefully act on what they discover. Few people who are actually capable of seeing the world around them need to be told what to think about it if they have learned how to assess what they see, internalize what they experience, and manifest their experiences in their lives and actions. Though such people are rare.
I seek education that transcends the institution, physically and intellectually, that indoctrinates students to an ideology of proactive critical assessment of themselves and their world, that seeks to build connections. My goals are clear. My medium is before me. I am ready to consider how my ideas will manifest themselves in the medium I have chosen.
The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leasure with a liberal allowance of time.Henry David Thoreau
Since the Internet started in the early 1970s as a method of computer communication capable of withstanding a nuclear attack, the Internet has taken on a life of its own (Moore, 1994, p. 4). It has become an anarchic refuge of student and scientist around the world. Rules are not externally inforcable, and the only things that defines who you are are your ideas and your skill in presenting them. Despite attempts of governments to externally regulate the Internet, its original design makes it impossible to be accessed and regulated (Krol, 1992, p. 11-13). You can shut it off, but as soon as you open yourself to what is on the net, there is no way for it to be externally controlled. Strangely enough, the Internet is self-regulating, and members of the Internet community have been very successful in stopping what it collectively thinks is unsuitable use.
The present "call to adventure" through which Computer Mediated Communication is becoming a tool of alternative learning is not anti-institutional, but it is trans-institutional. That is what happens on the `net may result from some institutional initative or it may conform to some institutional interests, but there is nothing inherent in Ed-CMC that dictates an institutional genesis. Many tools that have developed on the Internet have been turned towards the ends of education despite their origins. One such family of applications, collectively called Muds, grew from the venerable father of computer games: adventure.
Muds, Multi User Dungeons, first appeared in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s. (Poirier, 1994, p. 1120-1121). They were basically text based virtual realities; rooms defined by narrative through with computer users could wander and talk to one another. They grew in sophistication, into the LPMud family of `combat' Muds; where users fought text based monsters and demons, and other players. The best players became "Wizards" able to actually write new parts of the adventure, as well as "new room, objects, bots [robots], and commands" using a built in programming language (Poirier, 1994, p. 1121). TinyMud, which by 1990 had over 3000 players and 14 000 rooms signaled a shift, as players focussed on "conversation and room building in order to promote creativity" (Poirier, 1994, p. 1121).
In text-based virtual reality, educators quickly realized the potential for the exploration of creative social issues. Because Muds are basically role-playing, they can both mirror or widely differ from society. Since a player designes his or her own character, it is possible to define ones gender (many muds provide for 3 or more distinct genders), virtual appearance, and method of interacting with other players. A student can present their daily real life persona, or they can appear in a Mud as a piece of talking furniture. The only limitations are imagination, experience, and creativity. Amy Bruckman, a Mud researcher at MIT's Media Lab is a major proponent of Muds as a vehicle for constructivist learning (Bruckman, 1994a) She notes with reference to the social qualities of Muds, that they:
These attributes make Muds particularly useful for social interaction and experimental learning. There are already a number of Muds available on the Internet specifically for this purpose. Chief among them is LambdaMoo, developed and adminstrated by Pavel Curtis of Xerox Parc, which has had around 150 active users whenever I have checked. Pavel's description of Muds is interesting in that it provides a description from the point of view of someone who has created one manifestation of the program itself:
A MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or, sometimes, Multi-User Dimension) is a network-accessible, multi-participant, user-extensible virtual reality whose user interface is entirely textual. Participants (usually called players) have the appearance of being situated in an artificially-constructed place that also contains those other players who are connected at the same time. Players can communicate easily with each other in real time. This virtual gathering place has many of the social attributes of other places, and many of the usual social mechanisms operate there. Certain attributes of this virtual place, however, tend to have significant effects on social phenomena, leading to new mechanisms and modes of behavior not usually seen `IRL' (in real life). (Curtis, 1992)
Other Muds are specifically directed towards education. Diversity University offers courses on whatever subjects an educator cares to design (code) into the database. Last year the New School for Social Research offered credit courses through Diversity University. MicroMuse and MariMuse are two of the largest Muds specifically designed for k-12 students, and Schoolnet's bilingual "SchooNet MOO - Le MOO du RSC" is bringing the experience closer to Canadian students (Telnet: schoolnet.carleton.ca 7777).
At present, there is no indication that Muds specifically oriented to k-12 students are oriented to specific pedigogic, curriculum, experience, or educational goals. Amy Bruckman's Moose-Crossing, which should open this spring for children aged 6-12 years old, builds on Seymour Papert's theories of Constructionist learning, but this seems to be the first concrete step in orienting a Mud to a specific theory of learning (Bruckman 1994a). It is easily concievable that as Muds work their way into the learning of K-12 students, they will manifest themselves as diversely as they have in the adult world.
May I use them skillfully to preserve our precious planet.Nhich Nhat Nanh
The future story for Muds/MU*s as a vehicle for transformative/holistic learning stems from three main elements that make it a fundamentally different experience than classroom learning: user extensibility, virtual location beyond the classroom, and global communicativeness. These three are in addition to other elements that are in common with the "story model" : connections based alinearity, learning as adventure (we surf the net), and story or narrative as a main form of communication (Drake, Bebbington, Laksman, Mackie, Maynes & Wayne, 1992, p. 23). The following is a transcript generated entirely within MOO-oise between two fictional students, from the perspective of the user named Juan. The italicized text indicates what Juan types. It shows the level and flexabilty of interactions, as well as some of the possibilities for both the story model and integrated curriculum.
HostName tortoise.oise.on.ca PortNumber 7777The Muds that are considered useful as educational environments contain an internal programing language that allows users to design into the database rooms, objects, events, robots, and anything else that the user thinks will further the experience he or she hopes to present. This is called user extensibility: the ability of someone participating in a Mud to modify the database and design their own narrative into the collective Mud community experience.
TELNET Welcome to MOO-OISE (Moosie)
MOO-OISE is an experimental implementation of Pavel Curtis' LambdaMOO core. It is an intended precursor to a global MOO project to be developed by students in Ontario, Alberta, Iceland & Japan. As part of an experiment in Transformational/Holistic Learning, students will develop and participate in a text based virtual experience of sharing personal, community, and bioregional narratives with other students around the globe.
Or at least this is how far I've thought it through to date ;-)
If you have an account, type "co name password".
-> connect Juan Juan
The Global Commons
This will become the Global Commons from which the rest of the Moo will diverge along various lines. It will grow, slowly and purposefully. You see a sign scrawled into the earth beneath your feet, and a small hole down to your left. Wizard is here.
Wizard bows gracefully and walks over to say hi.
-> "Hey Wiz, what's happening?
You say, "Hey Wiz, what's happening?"
Wizard says, "Not much... but I've started work on my new 'space.'"
Wizard says, "Wanna see it?"
-> "sure, tell me about it
You say, "sure, tell me about it"
Wizard says, "No problem, just read the sign at your feet!"
Wizard goes home.
-> read sign
There appears to be some writing on the note ...
The Global Commons goes on forever. No tracks are yet visible across the heath, though you see an interesting hole leading down. Don't forget to put the note back for others to see if you picked it up.
(You finish reading.)
-> Look down
A little hole that you can just fit through, if you inhale a lot. It looks very inviting.
-> go down
Wizard's Brew-Pub and Office.
A nice place to get a guinness and plan 'stragidy' but there's not much happening yet. You see a small door in the corner that has the word Guinness written on it in barely readable letters.
You see a can of guinness and a small lump of putty here.
Wizard is here.
-> get lump
You take A small lump of putty.
-> look lump
It is somewhat greenish and possibly alive.
-> drop lump
You drop A small lump of putty.
-> "Cool place wiz, what are you going to do with it?
You say, "Cool place wiz, what are you going to do with it?"
Wizard says, "Well, actually, I'm going to do my independent study assignment on the history of brewing around the world. I'm going to build this bar and invite people into it so that I can ask them questions regarding the brewing traditions around the world."
-> "This sounds pretty neat. But what's so traditional about beer?
You say, "This sounds pretty neat. But what's so traditional about beer?"
Wizard says, "I don't know too much, yet. But I read that they drank beer in Egypt. And that one of the first western technologies to get going in Japan after it opened its borders was a beer factory. I think that I could get a lot of information and experiences by just finding out what people know in their own country, eh?"
-> "This sounds good, but the assignment was not just to gather the information, but to figure out how to place it in the MOO. How you going to do that?
You say, "This sounds good, but the assignment was not just to gather the information, but to figure out how to place it in the MOO. How you going to do that?"
Wizard says, "No problem. When I have a story about one culture, I'll code it into a story for that type of beer and put it on the menu. When someone comes in and orders that beer, they'll get taken into that narrative."
-> "Too much. But why did you say that this "is a good place to get guinness"? What's guinness?
You say, "Too much. But why did you say that this "is a good place to get guinness"? What's guinness?"
Wizard says, "Guinness is a type of beer that is from Ireland. My uncle always drinks it, and he says that its taste comes from the natural yeast that grows only in the part of Ireland where it is made. He said that guinness made in Canada is not really guinness because they don't make it the same way they do back home in Ireland."
-> "Hey, this fits with what we're suposed to study... family stories and stories that show bioregional heritege. You've been really lucky with this assignment.
You say, "Hey, this fits with what we're suposed to study... family stories and stories that show bioregional heritege. You've been really lucky with this assignment."
Wizard says, "Well, all I had to do was sit around and listen to some of his old stories and ask a few questions. It wasn't that hard." -> "But what's that lump of putty for?
You say, "But what's that lump of putty for?"
Wizard says, "I don't know. I was thinking that it might be some "Irish moss" that they use in brewing, but when I looked it up in the library, I found that "Irish Moss" is seawead that comes from Canada. I think that I'll make it into some Guinness yeast."
-> "Hey, do you want to go and see the story that I'm working on? We're taking rivers that run through Rekyavik and Edson and writing stories about people who lived there in the past, present or future. The river will have some villages with tools and people that can tell stories and explain about the cultures.<
You say, "Hey, do you want to go and see the story that I'm working on? We're taking rivers that run through Rekyavik and Edson and writing stories about people who lived there in the past, present or future. The river will have some villages with tools and people that can tell stories and explain about the cultures."
Wizard says, "Hold on... I though you were from Brampton?"
-> "No, I'm from Edson. Tanya's from Brampton. Where you from? You say, "No, I'm from Edson. Tanya's from Brampton. Where you from?"
Wizard says, "Me? I'm from Japan, but my dad's Irish, and I spent my last summer in Dublin."
-> "Cool. Anyway, wanna go see how far I got? Just teleport to #11 You say, "Cool. Anyway, wanna go see how far I got? Just teleport to #11"
Wizard says, "Sure, I'm gone"
Wizard disappears suddenly for parts unknown.
-> @teleport me to #11
Muds are a function of the Internet, and as such they are beyond the classroom. Though they are physically located on a computer in some room, they are accessed through the net. It does not matter where you are in the world; if you're on the `net, you can access the Mud by typing in the address of the computer and the port that the Mud is listening to. Since most muds require fairly powerful computers, it is unlikely that a school or single school board could run one alone. This means that the Mud is a global space virtually placed beyond the classroom. It is a space where the rules, since they need to accommodate users from so many different places and backgrounds, will probably be widely different from what the users face-to-face (F2F) classroom experience has been. The inherent flexibility necessary for a wide variety of users to participate in a Mud implies a wide variety in possible interactions. This distance and varriation in the `rules of the institution' offers some students the opportunity to grow through a variety of educational experiences, but for a student whose learning styles conflict with those of the institution a Mud may offer the alternative focus for their learning needs.
Though the Internet functions as a means of global communicaiton, some students will probably never have access to the Internet and educational opportunities such as Muds. The Internet is predominately a product of `over-industrialized' countries. However by 1992, out of the 237 countries/independent states there were more than 45 countries with Internet access and 99 with none whatsoever. The other hundred or so had some intermediate form of access to global electronic communications (Krol, 1992, 350-352). Since global Internet use is commonly thought to double in size every year, so hopefully will the scope of access for students.
Many countries, however, are far ahead of Canada when it comes to Internet access. E-mail is often what is used to share personal stories, ask research questions, and just communicate. This makes the experience primarily person to person. Where Muds are used, the experience becomes much wider in focus, though not losing the intimacy of direct communication. Students can present narrative artifacts that reflect their experience, discuss them directly with other students from within the narratives themselves, and create artifacts of a collaborative nature with students from around the world.
Looking at Muds themselves, their very nature is one of making connections in either a linear or non-linear fashion. Muds are basically massive relational databases. To the user, they do not appear as such, but they function in a manner that allows the user to add data by creating rooms and objects that incorporate a narrative, and by connecting their creations together and to other aspects of the database, or in fact to other databases and forms of information retrevial. Muds hold in common with Hypertext, the abiltiy to make links and connections from any point in a text or narrative to another point within the text or without. The ability to click on a word in an electronic document or to click your way through the World Wide Web is the ability to move in a non-linear fashion through Hypertext links through the Inetnet as if it was a global relational database.
This opportunity to follow connections that suit personal interest or study, create new connections for others to follow, and to combine new materials and narratives to the global database is a totally novel concept in education. Mudding, as a means of making connections, transcents the classroom while incorporating it within the matrix of connections. The opportunity for "making connections between mind and body; self and inner self, self and envirionment; subject areas; logical thinking and intuitive thinking" (Miller, Cassie & Drake, 1990, p. 21) is built upon students bringing the experiences from their physical world within this global narrative virtual world to share with others. For the first time, students are able to make sense of the world in the manner of their choosing and make their understanding of the world part of the same meaning making environment they used to build their understanding.
The experience of working within the Internet or Mudding community is one that naturally follows Drake's Story Model. The novelity of the Internet and Mudding is usually a call to adventure in itself, though not necessarily for the reasons one might like. There is definately a new world that beckons people who see it for the first time, and the adventure is to explore, understand, or make meaning of this virtual world opening in front of them. The journey metaphor has often been applied to the Internet, though not from the same source as it is considered in holistic learning. When I first saw the "Journey" illustration, I saw my Mud experience immediately before me as a mythic adventure (Drake, 1993, p. 7). The Call/Catalyst of new virtual vistas of community and communication has an obvious appeal, and, as a teacher/consultant who often encounters new computer users, the accompanying Resistance that follows the initial exhilleration is always lurking. When a new member to the Mud community (called a Newbie) realizes that all the bright lights and sounds do not indicate a solution to his or her problems, but merely new tools and experiences with which problems may a addressed, and that new problems will arise as a result of the new tools, resistance is swift and direct.
The Endings/Loss that comes with joining the Mud community is a loss of innocence; moving from text to hypertext, passive consumption of data and information to being awash (surfing) through-participating in the creation and interpretation of-facts and data that become wisdom through your narrative. The Struggle/Anxiety Conflict is the unending learning curve that never levels out, though it flattens after the first year. The realization that to participate in Muds is to never cease to learn new things, new ways to interact, new interactions to interpret, new chapters to add to your story causes a major conflict in people who see learning as some quantum event that happens in descrete units that can be taken, like pills, in isolation from past or future experience. But as the wave/partical theory of light reveals that light is both a continuous wave and a series of descrete units, so the Internet experience forces a recognition of the similar manifestation of learning.
Once the struggle is accepted as another aspect of being, the Joy/Beginning creeps into the experience. The individual gains a sense of the true scope of what global Mudding or Internet means, what a global sense of community offers in its solidarity and diversity. An understanding of both how and why the Internet is as the individual sees it (for we all see it differently). This point, where the individual has a sense of personal space and ownership, in the sense of participation rather than appropreation, the Return/Service quickly follows. For to create, on the Internet and in a Mud, is a public experience. What you make with/in cyberspace is created to be shared, linked, connected to other things. The entire purpose of the cyberspace community is the communicating and sharing of ideas, virtual objects, cooking recipes, anything. As the individual creates his or her WWW homepage, helps out a Newbie, provides information and wisdom to an online discussion, opens a virtual narrative in a Mud the Return/Service step is initiated and the mythic journey cycle has completed a revolution in the life of the individual.
As new avenues for communication and expression open on the net, I repeat the adventure cycle. I started with e-mail and Usenet news in the late 80s, moved on to Internet Relay Chat and Muds, and most recently Gophers and the World Wide Web. All these cycles existed within the entire cycle of my personal growth as an individual, and my CMC experience but they all took different times and paths. The Muds cycle that started in 1990 is still in some tension between Service and Struggle five years after the journey began. It is potentially my most rewarding journey. The Gopher/WWW cycle took less than 8 months (July 1994-January1995).
Through Muds, or rather in them, users, be they students, teachers or parents, can tell the stories in order to make meaning of the world. The main, though not sole, medium of communication is text in the form of narrative, converstation, and text-described action. As meaning makers, Mud users can share what they have experienced and learned. Muds either facilitate or necessitate all of the holistic learning strategies that Drake outlines as part of her story model (Miller, Cassie & Drake, 1990, p. 21; Drake, 1992):
Hige sceal the heardra, heorte the cenre,The Battle of Maldon
mod sceal the mare, the ure margen lylath
I am not at the end of my story with relation to Muds, let alone to transformative/holistic learning. I'm only beginning to consciously integrate the Story Model into my life as an educator. As things stand, I'm applying the ideas that I'm developing to my personal learning, and as such, I'm at the point of my Struggle. Joy is on the distant horizion, and the Service is something that manifests itself only in my dreams. But the Service/Return is the end to which my sights are already set. Each step in my learning initiates a plan or strategy to be initiated on my Return. My successes and failures, learnings and sharings will hopefully prefigure the transformative experience available to my students.