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Information Literacy Trends: Within the Virtual World of Second Life

October 15, 2007

Information Literacy Trends: Within the Virtual World of Second Life
Alexia Hudson, Penn State Great Valley/Donna Upshaw, Avatar Persona

What is Second Life?
An online, virtual 3-D multi-user, avatar-based “virtual world”developed by Linden Lab
More than 9.9 million ‘residents’ as of October 10, 2007
Membership is free; your avatar provides a catalyst for individuals to assume a “Second Life”
Alexia staffs the online virtual reference desk within Second Life

Why are people interested in Second Life?
It’s fun, first of all. Can do all sorts of things virtually; quadriplegics for instance can ‘fly’ in Second Life.

Second Life Demographics
~63% are between 25-44 years of age; avg. age is 33 (in adult grid)
~42% are women
-US constitutes about 26.5% of residents followed by Brazil, Japan, German, the UK, France and Italy (there is a translation device called ‘Babbler’ which doesn’t work in Japanese yet)

Type of info you have to give to register – name, credit card, has to be real name because of cultural norms which are tracked

Real Businesses & Educational Institutions
-Virtual Currency is called Linden Dollars, is exchanged for services & items in SL
-Current exchange rate $1 = $186 L
-Business Week featured first millionaire in Second Life in 2006
-Electric Sheep Company is one of the companies specializing in developing and managing virtual networks

Ed institutions using SL:
-Harvard Law School
-Penn State, etc.

Penn State Second Life Pilot Project
ETS (Ed Tech Services at PSU) purchased several virtual islands within SL (Penn State Isles) – Penn State Educational Gaming Commons Blog
-Penn State began investigation in 2005
-They believe avatar based learning applications will become the ‘norm’ for the next generation of Penn State students

Second Life’s Connection to Librarianship and Info Lit
-at Penn State, have used in 2 courses:
Operations Management and Information Science Seminar, total of 43 students; built a virtual library for students

-Students & their employers identified the library as the place for info & instruction of Second Life
-Librarians gave students a space in Second Life to play with and learn aspects of SL
-Virtual Reference/Distance Ed: time in SL given course-related instruction, reference consultations, and providing resources (landmarks) to qualified SL locations for Research projects

It’s essentially a tool for distance education, only avatar-based. For example, a class will meet online in a room with avatars. There is more classroom interaction with avatars since it doesn’t require the bandwidth that webcasting does.

May need to add more RAM on computer to sustain gaming environment. Crashing computers is a fairly common occurrence.

The pilot courses using Second Life are synchronistic, not asynchronistic; students have to be there at the time the course meets.

Probably not appropriate for vision-impaired students because SL is so visually oriented.

Lots of questions from the audience; for many of us, this is a new concept and people are trying to ‘wrap their minds’ around Second Life.

Can be highly addictive in terms of time; do have to manage your time.

Is a highly monitored environment; ‘Big Brother is watching’ — socially inappropriate behavior is monitored and banned.

Learning Ecology
–can simulate a possible ‘real world’ business scenarios prior to implementation
–fostering a unique learning environments

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