As a learner, participation in NGL was useful to me

“Discovering Second Life”

I have always been fascinated by emerging technologies and have chosen to research 3D virtual learning environments as my learning activity for NGL. Study spaces are continuing to evolve, and as I have discovered, magnificent libraries have been built within Second Life.

Researching academic articles, I have found that a fair bit of articles have been published about libraries within Second Life, and quite a vibrant online community of real-world libraries are collaborating in this 3D virtual world. Some researchers consider Second Life to be a dated concept, and have raised questions about its nonexistent cross-platform capabilities but since 3D learning spaces are completely new to me, I thought it a good idea to start my learning journey towards 3D learning space expertise with Second Life.

The first thing I have learned is that Second Life requires viewer software to be downloaded onto your computer. It required around 1GB of space and a reliable internet connection .. with an ‘Important Notes’ section stating it is not compatible with dial-up internet. Technically, I don’t have dial-up internet but I am on the NBN and currently that speed quite often equals dial-up speed!

It is free to join and explore but to build a library, you must provide real money in exchange for Second Life’s currency called Linden dollars. Since this is a learning journey (and I’m frugal), no money will exchange virtual hands!

After creating my ‘Avatar’, a free ‘people’ version called Amy, I tried to venture into Second Life. I say tried because navigating is definitely a ‘learning to drive’ experience. Think Minecraft vs. Mario Kart. I’m incompetent in both according to my son! I have chosen my screen name to be Cyberspace Librarian, and upon first entering you ‘land’ in front of a tutorial board. Which I would have read in more detail weren’t I offered my first bite by a vampire.

I kindly declined the offer.
I haven’t stayed much longer in Second Life after that brief ‘conversation’. Mainly because I was ran over by a Pegasus. Unfortunately that was too quick and I couldn’t get a screenshot. So, what have I learned from my first venture into Second Life?
As a ‘learner’, it is clear that there’s a steep learning curve to navigating around Second Life, and it will take more than a handful of sessions to become adept in travelling virtually around this world. I am enjoying this learning activity quite a fair bit even though navigation is not straight forward.  I do however wonder how much time must have been spent by students attending lectures in Second Life before they felt comfortable utilising it?
As a ‘learner’, I can see the value of utilising Second Life because of the nature of the beast – so to speak. It is captivating and students that are already used to computer games will find it fun to attend lectures in this type of virtual setting. If I were a school teacher, I would probably not encourage the use of it seeing that my first encounter was with a vampire!
Researching literature in preparation for assignment 2, I came across various opinions and observations on utilising Second Life as a 3D learning space.  Mon (2012) studied the impact of “avatar-mediated communication” on the professionalism of librarians, and found that in creating avatars, librarians still prefer to portray themselves as similar to their real-life appearances. On the other hand, Webber and Nahl (2011) said that librarians are more concerned about establishing communication and trust in their Second Life library, exactly as they would in their physical library space.
Mon (2012) found that librarians built their virtual libraries to look similar to those in real life because even virtual patrons still perceive books to be the key to knowledge, even though picking up a book in Second Life could be designed to link to an outside web source.  What I found quite interesting was that Mon (2012) after an interview with a librarian, quoted her in saying that “when I once provided volunteer reference service, someone created a very futuristic looking reference desk. The funny thing was, no one ever used it. Not librarians. Not patrons”.
Taking all these points into consideration, I do think the idea of a 3D virtual space would appeal to students and teachers alike. I can see a real benefit for students with disabilities that prevent them from travelling to traditional libraries and classrooms. In a 3D learning space, they will be able to browse texts and attend lectures, exhibitions and access a community of like-minded individuals.  In conclusion, I might not ever use my new-found knowledge of Second Life to build a digital collection there, but through this learning activity, I have acquired a good understanding of 3D learning spaces within a networked and global learning community.
References:

Mon, L. (2012). Professional avatars: librarians and educators in virtual worlds. Journal of Documentation, 68(3), 318-329. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220411211225566

Webber, S., & Nahl, D. (2011). Sustaining learning for LIS through use of a virtual world. IFLA Journal, 37(1), 5-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0340035210397137

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