Friday, June 29, 2007

Library Journal: SLIS Program at San Jose prototyping virtual graduate school?

San Jose SLIS Embraces Second Life
Last year SLIS San Jose received a grant from the Souros Foundation to purchase and create an information island in SL. Several of its classes now include labs in using Second Life.

Info Island this week

Alliance Second Life Libary one of six Sirsi-Dynix Building Better Communities Award at ALA
Alliance Library System was one of 6 winners of Sirsi-Dynix's Building Better Communities award for its Second Life Library.

Seminar: Self Esteem and Empowerment Seminar at Health Info Island.
For all SL educators and helping professionals
June 29, 1 & 3 PM PST
HealthInfo Island 130, 140, 22

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Virtual Classrooms at Harvard

I'm both intrigued by and skeptical about using SL as a virtual classroom. There are certainly a significant and growing number institutions holding classes partly or entirely in SL. Several of the Library and Information Science classes I have taken at Wayne have had a significant online component, using Blackboard, as well as synchronous and asynchronous broadcasts of lectures. While grateful for the convenience, it's difficult for me to develop a sense of involvement with either the instructor or the students, and for me, that's central to a good class. So a well conducted class in SL could create a compelling online classroom. What would that look like?

Harvard Law School has boldly pioneered in this area. The Harvard Extension School is offering a class in SL this fall, Virtual Worlds, and here's the course description. Wish I could take it!

The instructor is Rebecca Nesson, who was one of the instructors for Harvard Law School's first SL based class, Cyberone. Ian Lamont publishes an interview about teaching in SL on Terranova (Teaching in SecondLife). Several things she mentioned didn't surprise me; at first the environment was chaotic. There was "culture shock" at first for those new to the environment.

The surprises? "a text-based environment has a whole lot of advantages over the face-to-face environment that I just hadn't anticipated." Rebecca found that "problem of students not participating in class discussions just totally disappeared". And that "we didn't have any trouble with students who dominate the discussion". Chaos was not a lasting condition as people developed new classroom norms. Who had the hardest time? Those who were "comfortable writing traditional response papers" who were not comfortable with the spontaneity of the SL classroom. She actually says "So for me the idea that I would actually end up almost preferring to run a class in a text-based environment to a voice-based environment, that was a huge surprise."

Read the interview here.

Indiana University's Synthetic World's Initiative

Indiana University has a research center devoted to the study and development of virtual worlds; The Synthetic World’s Initiative. Their purpose is to “promote innovative thinking on synthetic worlds ". They hold bi-annual conferences (the “Ludium”) and are developing Arden, a virtual world based on the life and works of William Shakespeare. At the Ludium II Conference “Attendees were charged with hammering out a well-considered platform to guide virtual world policy.” The result is:

A Declaration of Virtual World Policy

made by representatives of law, industry, and academia, assembled in full and free convention as the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.

Among the ten clauses in the declaration are calls for a player’s bill of rights, universal age verification, net neutrality and the statement that “fair use may apply in virtual worlds”. The declaration can be read here at TerraNova SWI's Declaration of Virtual World Policy:

Today’s Chronicle of Education’s Wired Campus makes note of the conference in the article Public Policies for Virtual Worlds.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education: Online communities changing online activism?

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation has given a $550,000 grant to the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy to "examine the role online communities can play in fostering real-world activism". (the rest)