All entries for Thursday 07 June 2007

June 07, 2007

What about Second Life?

Writing about web page

There are lots of librarians talking about Second Life, and I have been investigating if and how the library could use it.

Classes could be taught on SL, perhaps information skills classes, but then you would have to make sure that all your students had access to a computer with SL software on (I don’t think they can they download softare to networked PCs on campus), high processing capacity and a fast broadband connection. All your students would need to create an avatar (character) and work out how to reach the class in SL. This is all too much of a major hurdle to have to overcome before learning about information skills!

In theory we could try to create an info skills class in SL with the aim of reaching just those people who are in there, but it would be worth finding out how many of our students are on SL first.

SL can overcome some barriers and inequalities that exist in the real world, as characters (avatars) can walk around, fly and teleport to anywhere, and can be made to look however you want them to. There is a certain level of anonymity provided, which can be both helpful and a barrier in itself, depending on the circumstances. However, the visually impaired cannot really use SL and those who can’t type fast are at a disadvantage. The way to talk to other characters is to type in the “chat” box that acts like instant messaging, which makes SL something of a glorified chat room. If you want to overcome real life physical distance, then video conferencing would probably work better for a small group.

The connectivity that can be made with Internet resources through SL has enormous potential for the electronic library but unfortunately links to the Web are extremely slow from SL at the moment, which of course is another disadvantage if you’re trying to teach information skills. Web pages open up in your browser, rather than on a “screen” in SL, as far as I can see, although presumably SL could be made to work in that way. SL is full of notice-boards although I haven’t seen an interactive whiteboard in SL. Books in SL can be read on screen, but it is not easy to do this, or to find the books in SL libraries. It is much, much easier to find and read a web page.

So what can we do with SL? Well, you can put video clips into SL, so Captivate tutorials and videos of information skills teaching could be put into a library in SL. The University of Hertfordshire SL Learning Resources Centre has a video, although I couldn’t watch it as I don’t have Quicktime installed!

I hear that there are conferences in SL, and that this offers the synchronous networking opportunity that is sometimes missing from other virtual conferences. So I might attend a SL conference if I hear of one on a library topic.

SL is exciting and has potential but there are other far more practical Web 2.0 tools out there, that could be used with far less investment of time at the moment… but I would still like to ask a question or two at the SL library reference desk!

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