After reading Beyond the Blogosphere: information and its Children by Aaron Barlow and Robert Leston, which I filled with post-it notes commenting on the digital revolution and how it has changed libraries, educations, and our lives, I thought it would be cool to ask the authors to discuss the book —virtually. Both authors quickly replied to my email agreeing to attend a virtual world discussion in Second Life, which would be sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group (which I am leading for 2012-2013).
As I review recent research literature in the area of libraries and literacy learning, I find repeated articles about gaming and Immersive Learning Environments. I am beginning to understand the power of immersing a learner in a situation that requires learning new concepts and skills. This “situational” learning gives the brain motivation to analyze, synthesize, and comprehend at a high level more effectively than memorization by rote (for a course grade). As leader of the historical tour guides for the virtual Alamo this summer, I witnessed this motivation firsthand. I was highly motivated to understand the historical context of the Alamo and the people involved in a way I had not been through reading books or through movies.
Learning the skills in 3D games and virtual worlds can seem daunting to the newcomer. Other individuals (players or residents) seem highly skilled and the newcomer can be intimidated. The pay off for continuing to learn must be readily foreseen and worth a great effort. Rewards might include: creativity, sense of accomplishment, social interaction, confidence, and knowledge at a new level.
Amazingly, the Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums Conference was just like presenting at a real world conference! My presentation was at the end of the day (1opm my time zone) and I was rather nervous- this being my first virtual presentation. The best part was that my machinima about the grand opening of the Land of Lincoln sim actually played!
The Librarians of Second Life are an outstanding group of librarians who are working together to build information delivery systems with the virtual environment of Second Life. This network is an example of how Web 2.0 allows professionals to collaborate in new ways across great distances. Volunteering time, expertise, and creativity, this group has built numerous in-world exhibits and provides helpful information to newcomers, educators, and individuals from around the globe.
Second Life has been criticized for having a “difficult learning curve.” Finding a network of knowledgeable people to turn to is crucial to learning the skills needed to explore virtual reality.
Without the help of HVX Silverstar, I would not have been able to begin learning machinima (filming within a virtual environment). Numerous other helpful individuals have kindly offered help. As I continue to learn building skills and explore immersive learning environments, such as Renaissance Island, I realize that virtual reality will impact education perhaps sooner than most people think. Children growing up in the digital age are already comfortable with avatars, computer graphics, chat sessions, and Web 2.0. Educators have no option but to consider new technology tools to deliver information to the next generation. Older people are often intimidated and are the ones likely to describe the “high learning curve.” I found the skills needed to learn in Whyville were difficult but children 9 – 13 years of age are apparently quite adept at maneuvering Whyville without difficulty.
I am reading What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. The author believes that video games encourage high level thinking and learning by immersing the learner (just as I am immersed in my experience in Second Life). Literacy is more than reading and writing, but also viewing images, graphics, listening to sounds, etc. How will this change learning for children? Check this article:
Will children find Immersive Learning Environments a way to learn in the near future?