Sunday, 9 March 2008

Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education, Museums : Part 3

This is the third report from the Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education, Museums conference that took place in Second Life on 8 March 2008. I will summarise the remaining sessions I attended (I am pictured, right). For the 3rd parallel session I dipped briefly into Applying Distance Educational Theory to Virtual Worlds presented by Rebecca Hedreen (Library Coordinator for Distance Learning, Southern Connecticut University; Spiral Mandelbrot in SL). I realised after a little while that, although useful, it was not really new stuff to me. However, you may be interested in her website at

I was a little delayed finding an alternative session, since my 2nd choice had been cancelled, as the presenter hadn’t managed to get online: one of the hazards of a SL conference. My final choice was a session on options for young people, Virtual Worlds for Children presented by Fleet Goldenberg. He was giving the pros and cons of various virtual world s such as There, Whyville and Furcadia. The advantage that the SL teen grid has over most of these is the opportunity for original content creation, but each has their advantages.
One of the trends that Fleet saw was "Cross-compatibility of avatars between different platforms, enabling the creation of a true '3D Internet' of interlinked worlds that are linked seamlessly with the traditional 2D World Wide Web.” He also mentioned the use of virtual worlds in home schooling: not something you get much in the UK, but I think it is more common in the USA. Fleet finished by saying "In the meantime, LEM [Librarian, Educator and Museum] professionals ask only this: “Give us the tools and we will give you the world”. Some of those professionals are unwilling to passively wait for the tools they need right now to bring their ideas to life and are leading the way in designing them themselves or campaigning for their production."

Discussion afterwards focused on issues such as monitoring of access by adults and the impact of commercial interests (using virtual worlds to influence children’s “pester power” – trying to get them to want to buy things). Fleet gave out a link to his website with material, including videos, on virtual worlds:

After this session there was a three hour break: rather irritating for me since it meant that the next session started at midnight! The first event was a “buzz” session with discussion around the kind of support that librarians wanted to give to learners and educators, and what they would like to see themselves in SL. Different perspectives emerged: with some interested in bringing in external resources, some in “standards”, some in more exploration of the affordances of SL. Personally I think it is valuable to exploit the skills of the library and information professional, focusing more on these rather than on “the library” and its RL resources. The chat transcript of this session is at

After this there were shorter presentations from Christi Confetti Higgins (Sun Microsystems: Violet Portola in SL; it says in her profile "I am a librarian at Sun Microsystems managing the digital library program."), Doug McDavid (Doug Mandelbrot in SL, who works in IBM), and Tom Peters (Maxito Ricardo in SL). It

I think Violet was one of the people who talked about 2008 as the year of virtual worlds. She felt that in SL relationships (with customers/ potential customers) developed more quickly. There are regular meetings within SL for Sun employees - instead of using conference calls, for example. They apparently have replicas of products in their buildings and librarians are included in staffing the Sun island, to greet and answer questions. There are going to be Digital libraries and research events in SL for employees. She said a little bit about Sun's own virtual world, Wonderland. It has a Java 3D based graphics engine an is open source, so can be downloaded from the Sun website. Relevant web addresses are:, and

The final session before I left with my eyes drooping (at 3am) was a discussion about self-directed learning in Second Life, facilitated by Corwin Carillon. Apart from being interested in the topic, I was also attracted by the format: any more powerpoint and I would not have remained conscious. The chat transcript of this is at, though as some of this was in Voice (I was using Voice a lot of the time in this part) the transcript is rather enigmatic. One of the things that it made me reflect on were the varying terms that are used – particularly when talking to educators outside the UK – to mean similar sorts of things. Interesting to thinking about what “self-directed” really means. Issues to do with planning, supporting and student reaction were discussed. After this, I flew homewards and logged off, reluctantly missing some interesting sessions later on.

No comments:

The blog of Sheila Yoshikawa on her adventures in Second Life. This may be very thrilling. Or possibly not.