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Wednesday, October 26 • 1:45pm - 3:15pm
Atomic Studio - Toward Channeling Cognitive Surplus for Open Education

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Atomic Studio is a free 3D atom modeler that utilizes the Wikimedia Commons API to populate the interactive application with up-to-date, community-provided media.


Atomic Studio was created as a design-based experiment for supporting the creation of complex open educational resources.  It is built in Unity 3D and is provided as a free, web-based resource for students and teachers to support learning surrounding the periodic table.  By using the tool, users can select an element from the periodic table, view an interactive 3D model of the element at the atomic level, and browse a gallery of images to gain an understanding of what the element looks like in real life.

In the currently developing participatory age, we have come to see the need to channel what Shirky (2010) calls a ''cognitive surplus'' or the result of our ''fusing ... means, motive, and opportunity'' out of the raw material of accumulated free time'' (ch. 7), which culminates in the development of potentially incredible products developed by the masses (e.g. Wikipedia, YouTube, etc.). However, the glaring limitation of such participatory endeavors, at least as they currently stand, is that they rarely take form in any positive way and, rather, reflect what happens when "ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule" (Keen, 2008, p. 9).  Due to their organic nature and the extremely simplified structures of the connective technologies they utilize, online participatory endeavors typically do not foster the development of complicated, high-quality products, like effective educational media.  In the case of open educational resources, then, there is a need to understand how to weld diverse expertise together into a medium that supports effective, contextual learning for all.

Unlike traditional educational software development projects, which rely upon careful, planned collaboration between subject matter experts, designers, and developers, this project's goal was to create an interactive application that is dynamically updated by unintentional community contributions.  In other words, the final application was intended to serve as a shell for channeling collective intelligence of the masses toward very small, specific educational purposes.  By using the Wikimedia Commons API, Atomic Studio is able to dynamically feed images and illustrations directly from community-maintained resources into the 3D interactive application, representing them in a medium that is suitable for teaching and learning in a more contextualized and engaging manner.  By harvesting undirected community resources (that by themselves might be educationally negligible), Atomic Studio gives us a glimpse into what can happen when the design and development of educational applications are driven by a desire to direct a cognitive surplus toward achieving the goals of open education reform.

avatar for Royce Kimmons

Royce Kimmons

Interested in Social Networks, New Literacies, Sharing, and Identity.

Wednesday October 26, 2011 1:45pm - 3:15pm MDT
White Pine, Painted Horse, Arrowhead

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