When Did You First Enter a Virtual World?

A twitter chat question asks “When did you first start using virtual worlds and what subject do you teach with it?”
As school librarian, teaching information literacy, I heard about the virtual world of Second Life over ten years ago and signed up in 2006. My “rez” day (the day we first came into a virtual world) is June 9, 2006. Almost ten years!

When I came inworld, I wanted my purpose to be clear, so I chose the name Valibrarian (Valerie as a librarian). Unfortunately, my computer graphics card would not support Second Life (SL), so I could not get into the world.

A year later, I got a new computer. I remembered my inworld name, Valibrarian Gregg (Gregg is my husband’s name). I remembered my password, too! Sitting at my computer on a June morning (summer is always a good time for learning as an educator because school is out!), I remember feeling this excited feeling. I was a bit nervous and felt like I was entering another dimension. I typed in my name…. my password….and I entered a new world. There were sounds! I could fly! I could teleport to new places on a gigantic map.

The first thing I searched for was librarians and I found them! The American Library Association had an island and many librarians helped me learn how to maneuver. I met educators from all over the world and attended professional networking events.

I wanted to learn to capture the amazing 3D places I visited. My daughter, a tech-savvy young woman, had also explored Second Life. She met me inworld and we explored places together- including the Community Virtual Library- which was called the Alliance Library at that time. My first machinima shot I ever recorded was my daughter crossing a bridge on ISTE Island. The quality is terrible—grainy and hard to view. But, I am glad I captured these early images. The shots of the library, my cottage and some of the places in SL bring back memories as powerful as any physical world memory. You can see, in this machinima video, shots of my daughter and me enjoying a cup of virtual tea together in a virtual library. We are immersed in a shared experience which may not be understood by simply observing us.

Now, graphics have improved and there are many more virtual worlds for educators: OpenSim, Kitely, and Inworldz- to name a few. Second Life continues to be an enriching environment for professional development and immersive learning. The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference 2016 was held in Second Life and also in OpenSim, an open source virtual world full of potential for education. I continue to explore immersive learning and believe it is less “disposable” than many apps, social networking tools, and online platforms for learning. Whether or not one enters a virtual world with an avatar, we all live in global digital participatory culture. Choosing the best platform for learning is a critical skill and my time spent in SL has been intentional immersion with a clear purpose.

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