Well apologies for the silence, having been way too immersed in the first assignment, but at last it’s time to return to the blogging fray and my continued exploration of Web 2.0 technologies, and in particular social media.
Venturing into a virtual world, Second Life in this case, has been quite an experience. It takes a while to get the hang of an avatar and moving about in a completely different space but I can see how it can easily become addictive (though not too addictive one hopes). Initially skeptical about how my alter ego running around in an alternative universe could have any bearing on life as an information professional, I soon realised the range of features that can support and enhance learning experiences. What’s key to me is the ability to interact and talk in real-time to others in the ‘in-world’, as it’s known. This enables groups to have online meetings, and make and watch presentations, without anyone having to leave the comfort of home, or worry about how they look in real life – great for those that may normally feel self-conscious about interacting with a group. Imagine being able to attend a conference held on the other side of the world without having to even get out of your pyjamas?! Great for professional networking and development too as you can join groups with a shared interest. And as John Helmer points out in his comprehensive overview of Second Life, you can boldly go where you haven’t dared before, with little risk of embarrassment in the real world if it doesn’t all go to plan.
Having a second life isn’t without its frustrations, and simple things like learning to sit down, or change clothes without revealing all, have to be mastered, so there is a steep learning curve (Zhang, 2007). Problems with bandwidth can also affect sound quality making it difficult to interact with others on occasion.
An academic library can use Second Life to support both employees and users. Numerous library-related conferences are held around the world, and librarians, if they are lucky, might get to attend one or two, but with Second Life, several librarians from the same institution can attend numerous virtual conferences, network, and even present papers, at little or no cost, and taking up far less time than an overseas trip (not to mention being far more environmentally friendly). For a library supporting distance learning, Second Life also offers the potential for e-learning with virtual tutorials and lectures, as well as training sessions on a variety of information-seeking skills. It also enables students to connect and interact, creating a sense of community and enhancing the distance learning experience. This YouTube clip offers an excellent overview of the educational uses of Second Life.
Zhang, J. (2007). Second Life: Hype or reality? Higher education in the virtual world. Retrieved from http://deoracle.org/online-pedagogy/emerging-technologies/second-life.html