Meta Dreams

My dream is a continual question for meaning. What it means to be alive….the awe of it. That has always been my dream and why I chose to be a librarian. (We are on a dream collecting quest.)
My dream is a constant journey, a spiral, just like life. Seasons come around again and again and every year they’re the same yet different. Old- yet new.
My dream of meaning is a collection of oxymorons that illustrate the tensions of opposites. We live in a world of them.
I dream in poetry but balance my mind by writing research.

What does life mean? Human culture has attempted to answer that philosophical question through different lenses of perception over the centuries.

The Post Modern Era is over and we have yet to agree on the term for the cultural moment in which we live. Post Postmodernism sounds redundant. Some, myself included, prefer metamodernism. Digital life is spent in the “about”: sharing life on social media, creating memes and living in digital spaces. Literacy has become metaliteracy. The metaverse exists but can’t be defined by any location on any particular server.

photo from from

Virtual Worlds Will Survive

I am sitting in a virtual book orchard listening to relaxing music as I write this.

CVL Write-In August 2018

Finding the right setting and time for writing is not easy in a world of constant distraction. A virtual world “Write-In” provided focus with the encouragement of others around me. Yet another example of the potential for virtual worlds. The Community Virtual Library offers programs such as write-ins, poetry events, research exhibits and everything a physical world library might provide.

Advantages of using an avatar
No cost
No travel
Sense of presence with community
Creative tools
Access to helpful resources
Unique experiences

With rising costs of travel to conferences, virtual worlds provide a cost effective way to network and present information in any field. The Virtual World MOOC 2018 brought learners and educators from around the world into Second Life and a networking forum at the Community Virtual Library sparked conversation on the future of education, libraries and learning in digital culture.

Community Virtual Library Networking Forum August 2018

Yet, after years of gathering evidence about the potential for learning in virtual worlds, all I hear about day after day is AR and VR (augmented reality and virtual reality). In fact, Hypergrid Business announced “winding down” coverage of virtual world grids as virtual reality hype continues to rise. Will the Metaverse ever become an interconnected landscape that can actually be navigated? Or are we heading to an uncharted sea of information chaos in mixed reality forms?

Oculus Go Headset- example of VR tools

While VR developers race to create experiences (which may be dangerous to young minds- who knows?), virtual worlds continue to provide a range of uses for all age groups.

From Ocean of Tricks- Fortnight

Accepting the fact that entertainment is the big money focus- not education- it is not surprising the current TOP DOG video game is Fortnight. Yet, it is more than a video game, Fortnight is a virtual world. Virtual worlds are certainly a part of virtual reality and immersive environments.

So- in a nutshell- virtual worlds are here and they will survive. But they are mainly used for battles and zombie-slaying! I certainly do not blame teachers for a lack of interest in virtual worlds. Having spent 25 plus years in education, I understand curriculum mandates, testing procedures, parent conferences, and never-ending paperwork. Learning and embracing virtual worlds has to be done outside the classroom on your own time. Yes- your “own time”! But you are not alone! Educators and learners around the globe face the same issues of understanding and utilizing new media and new technology tools. We will learn the best practices and we will survive. Virtual worlds will survive.

Who is Your Sidekick?

Everyone needs a Robin. Batman simply cannot do it all alone.

Think about who you can count on day in and day out to encourage you. Who do you turn to at a time of struggle? Who do you know you can depend upon?
I have an inspiring sidekick at the Community Virtual Library without whom I am certain the library would not have thrived in a virtual world. Virtual worlds hit a stage sometimes referred to as “the trough of disillusionment” in the Gartner Hype Cycle which analyzes adoption of new technology innovations.

Yet, CVL survived the mass exit of educators after an economic downturn largely because of our head reference librarian, Carla (Suemoon).

Carla, a law librarian in a physical world library, tirelessly persevered through thick and thin to update resources in the Community Virtual Library and train other librarians and volunteers. Carla was Hamlet’s Horatio- a good friend through it all. There are other literary sidekicks we all know and love as well as famous movie companions or real world right arms.

Sidekicks often do not receive the awards or recognition they deserve! But without the involvement, encouragement, and steadfast commitment of a good sidekick, projects can wither, falter and fail.

Think about your sidekick for a minute. Teamwork is crucial to processes of growth in any field. Members of a team work together. Yet a sidekick is an individual. In digital culture, we can connect to thousands of people and communities across the world. Perhaps we need a reminder about the importance of one individual in our lives.

My Thinkerer Award for Virtual World Contributions to Education & Librarianship

Virtual worlds provide unique educational opportunities for learning in digital culture. How honored I am to receive the 2018 Thinkerer Award for contributions to education in immersive learning environments. The silver statue holds a glass ball in my favorite shade of blue!

Virtual worlds are often misunderstood and people think of videogames when they hear the word avatar. But an avatar is simply a representation of one’s self. Jaron Lanier (often credited as being the Father of Virtual Reality) says, “The visceral realness of human presence within an avatar is the most dramatic sensation I have felt in VR. Interactivity is not just a feature or a quality of VR, but the natural empirical process at the core of experience. It is how we know life. It is life (2017, 173)”. Having spent a number of years teaching, learning and developing a professional network across the world through my work in virtual worlds, I have come to understand the best practices (both advantages and disadvantages) of using an avatar as a librarian.

You may ask What does a virtual world librarian do? My virtual world library work is basically the same as the work I have done in libraries for over 25 years! As Director of the Community Virtual Library, I have witnessed and helped implement library programs similar to those found in physical world libraries, such as book discussions, writing workshops, exhibits, speakers, reference services and more. Imagine not just reading a book….but entering the book! Library visitors have the opportunity to enter historical eras (like the life of Anne Frank or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). Moving pictures brought stories and books to life over a hundred years ago. Now, we can enter stories (both fiction and nonfiction) and experience them together. This interactivity with others is imperative to learning because we do not learn in isolation. All media formats are valuable for various purposes: movies, images, sounds, as well as immersive virtual experiences (and certainly print).

I think the real reason I continue to work in a virtual world is because the children growing up today will never know a world without constant incoming information on mobile devices. Exploring ways to use technology for deep learning (not disposable quick apps) and to promote digital citizenship is the purpose of the Community Virtual Library. A team of great librarians, educators and volunteers share my passion. Thank you mentors, friends, family and colleagues who inspire me to persevere in an ever-changing information landscape. So many of you are the reason for this lovely Thinkerer Award!

Examples of CVL Programs and Projects
Exhibits and displays (Genealogy, Art, History, etc)
Monthly book discussions & literary study
Digital Citizenship Museum in Kitely
Poetry garden and writing workshops
Art study group
Trivia nights
Reference services
Virtual World Database
Virtual World Bibliography
Book Orchard & immersive learning spaces
Virtual world networking of educational communities
Historical role play for immersive learning
Charles Dickens Resource Center (for historical simulation)
Gutenberg Press (for historical simulation)
Presentations & speakers
Virtual archives

Lanier, Jaron. (2017) Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. Henry Holt & Company.

Valibrarian on digital culture: “Whether or not one has an avatar, we all live in virtual worlds”.

Virtual Worlds vs Virtual Reality: a Comparison of Immersive Experiences

After a decade in virtual worlds and a few years of exploring virtual reality (VR), I believe I understand the difference and predict that both have purpose and potential for learning. In my view, a virtual world is a persistent “land” space and virtual reality is a disposable “bubble” experience.

Virtual Worlds are persistent spaces of land

Virtual worlds can be visited again and again. One can explore spaces, build them and watch communities grow. An example is the Community Virtual Library which has recently undergone a huge move to a new space near educational writing/publishing communities.

The Community Virtual Library (CVL) houses a main library building, a networking hub, a pier on the beach for events, a library pub, four exhibit/gallery/display areas, an art study group space, book discussion space, virtual poetry garden, book orchard, and other immersive experience locations. Library Land (on Cookie Island in Second Life) can be visited over and over just like a physical place. CVL is a real library.

Virtual Reality is an experience bubble

An example of a VR experience is my recent “walking out on a beam over the city”! It felt so real. Looking down below, my knees were shaking and then a helicopter came by right at eye level.

Other “bubble’ experiences (meaning one time experiences- then ‘pop’! it is gone) include: climbing an ancient rock structure, stabbing zombies, shooting arrows at medieval warriors, and working inside a rocket ship to troubleshoot the engine. While most developers focus on entertainment, there is obviously potential for education in virtual reality.

Teachers should use with caution as studies have not fully examined the impact on the human brain. VR can sometimes feel as real as the physical world, making it nearly impossible for young children to distinguish between virtual and physical world experiences. Reality is changing and anyone working in virtual worlds understands that they are “real” places.

One of my favorite VR experiences so far is Google Tilt Brush. It is like stepping inside an empty canvas of space to create digital art! Similar to programs like Paint, Photoshop or other applications, you choose colors, brushes, textures and tools to create and sculpt in 3D. What is amazing is that you can save your 3D work and share it with others allowing them to step inside. The ability to share work with others is unique to this VR experience and similar to the collaborative work I have experienced in virtual worlds. Most VR experiences are limited to a short period of time with little opportunities for user-generated content as developers create the space in programs like Unity or Unreal Engine.

Social VR is on the horizon with Facebook opening a VR platform on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. This social interaction will look entirely different than the learning communities already available in virtual worlds. Most of the demonstrations I have tried focus on entertainment because developers find it too expensive and time-consuming to research educational needs for high quality accurate subject-specific content. In virtual worlds, educators and experts themselves can build and share accurate content for learning.

Augmented reality may be more useful for consumers than virtual reality as it layers information into the physical world rather than separating us from it. Augmenting of a digital space is certainly possible in virtual worlds as content is layered and embedded.

As we enter 2018, nobody can predict how virtual reality and virtual worlds will evolve. Currently, they are very separate ‘animals’ and I find the potential for collaborative (constructive) learning in virtual worlds to hold much more potential than VR. This fall, I worked with the Community Virtual Library to create a research center for the Dickens Project which centered on A Christmas Carol and the Victorian Era. Twelve research presentations were shared within a simulated “London” with live tours, events, and readings throughout the month of December. A virtual library connects the traditions of high quality literature throughout the past with technology tools available today while connecting learners across the globe in real-time. I find that more amazing than a disposable bubble.

Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #3): Be conscious of digital citizenship

The physical world is tangible and concrete, making it easy for us to understand the scientific rules of gravity and space.  We learn as an infant that when we fall over, it can hurt.  We also soon learn that the people around us can see our actions, so we don’t yell out in public or step in front of people in line.

The virtual world is abstract and there is a tendency to believe we are unseen or anonymous. This makes it easy to ignore people and to simply “scroll” along until we find what interests us. Consider, though, the fact that we are still unique individuals and our digital footprints follow us in ever-increasing ways.  The comments we make, the links we share, the “brand” we put online is as important as anything we do in the physical world. Perhaps it is even more important because it is often archived.

Balance Tip #3:  Be conscious of digital citizenship

Sounds super easy, doesn’t it?  What is not easy, is to keep in mind that the physical world provides a small “neighborhood” of people around us most of the time.  The virtual world is full of social media sites, apps, links and limitless connections.

When we make a mistake in the physical world, such as bumping into someone or interrupting someone, we can quickly apologize and it is over.  In the virtual world, our presence lingers in text, photos, comments, links, tweets, likes, etc.  Is it ever really “over” when we walk away?

Perhaps we still have much to learn about how the Internet has affected our lives.  Toward that end, a current project I am working on will share Digital Citizenship at a virtual world exhibit at The Community Virtual Library in Second Life.  Some of the topics might include digital footprints, “over-sharing”, privacy, cybersecurity, online ethics, respect for intellectual property and the current barrage of “fake news”.  These elements of digital citizenship have become absolutely critical for us all- from age 2 to 102.

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Imagine! Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #2)

I wonder….
What the world will be like in ten years?
What does it feel like to fly like a bird?

 We have a changing relationship with “wonderment” (my daughter recently told me).  Not long ago, we used to start a sentence with, “I wonder…” while we just sat not knowing and wondered for awhile.  Now, we start a sentence that way and seconds later, we ask Google.  Are we losing our ability to wonder?  To sit and ponder in awe?

 Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge”; yet, in today’s age of information, we expect instant access to answers.  We hand out Ipads to kindergarteners in the hope that they can learn and create better than ever, yet perhaps we are robbing them of wonder and creativity by providing creative apps and instant answers.


BALANCE TIP #2 Spend time imagining

Deep thought requires wonder- not answers. Doesn’t critical inquiry drive knowledge toward wisdom much more than a list of facts?  Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”.   If we lose the ability to “hold on” to a question and only value having answers…

 I wonder what will become of us?

Imagine image at

Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #1)

Da-ding, Da-ding!  Is that your phone notification of something incoming?  Hadn’t you better check it?


Over the past few years, as more people utilize smart phones for instant access to information and communication, I keep running into the same concerns.  Time and time again, a new smart phone owner will tell me “It has changed my life!”  Then, I observe them exit our physical reality to enter the “other places” that await us on mobile devices: news sites, social media, photos, memes, content creation tools, curation applications and innovation entertainment activities- just to name a few.

We all see it everywhere we look….people staring into screens.  Yet, what do we reach for the moment we awaken each day?  Our phones.  How do we feel when we forget our phone at home?  I have heard people say they feel everything from vulnerability to actual fear.  

Just where IS everyone heading?  I took this picture on the bus because everyone near me was on a mobile device.  Nobody was “on the bus” with me!

Eric Pickersgill, an artist who photographs digital culture, shares some haunting images at Removed.  We all see people “removed from our world” every day.  I have heard jokes about the zombies around us- people who are not really with us.

My daughter, a tech savvy creative and intelligent young woman, recently suggested I write a blog post with tips on balancing physical and virtual life!  She had not heard of FOMO and realized she had personally felt that sensation (FOMO= fear of missing out) that her phone was beckoning her to a world beyond….a world where important things were happening.  The world beyond our physical surroundings, on our digital devices, takes us to a place where boredom no longer exists and where we can be both active and passive with no rules or constrictions.  Yet, deep in our souls, we feel a slight discomfort (if not horror) knowing that we can never master keeping up with the incoming and never really exit the small reality of our tiny individual life.


Which leads me to BALANCE TIP #1 Intentional Disconnection Time

Find a time to leave your device and do not touch it!  Schedule yourself a PHYSICAL WORLD ONLY time, if only an hour a day.  During that time, focus on physical reality:  deep breaths, trees, textures, hot tea, smiles, and your five senses.

You could add prayer, yoga, meditation, or a walk outdoors, or even housework!  But, the idea here is to be consciously disconnected.  While connecting with others across distance is an amazing new opportunity, it can overtake and overwhelm us unless we can find a balance between the physical and the virtual world.

Contemplate your disconnection time.  This may seem too obvious or too easy.  But it really isn’t when you think about it.  Our phones are always with us and it takes intentional effort to disconnect for a period of time.

More tips to come!


Stories and Art in 3D: Wander the Watercolours

Artists and writers have new media opportunities to explore with digital tools.  For example, artist CK (Creakay Ballyhoo in the virtual world of Second Life) created watercolour (spelled that way in her part of the world!) paintings in 3D to illustrate a story presented in a virtual world.  Read the story of a little girl on a watercolour wander.

A group of educators, the Virtual Pioneers, take virtual field trips to simulations in Second Life.  A recent trip allowed the pioneers to wander through CK’s story paintings.  This machinima shows the educators inside A Watercolour Wander.

The Virtual Pioneers  are an open group, welcoming others to come along on virtual adventures.  Through collaboration with groups like this, the Community Virtual Library strives to connect virtual communities with high quality simulations.  This machinima illustrates how the future of libraries and the future of education may include mixed reality and amazing new ways to enter art, history, and all subjects for all learners.  Learning will never be the same.

Marking a Digital Decade

Ten years ago in April, I posted on my blog for the very first time. What a significant decade… a transformation not only for me but for all of us, as we moved from primarily being physical world citizens in local communities to become digital citizens on a global scale.

Highlights of my Digital Decade

Exploring virtual worlds

Shortly after starting my blog, I entered virtual worlds for use as a library and information science professional. Life in networked culture became the main focus of my blog and virtual worlds (for education) became my research focus. I earned my PhD in Library Science in 2012. DrHillatGraduation

At first, I found virtual worlds a unique and almost unbelievable experience. After meeting the librarians in Second Life, I used the experience to enhance my academic journey and my dissertation was “Factors Contributing to the Adoption of Virtual Worlds by Librarians”.

Observing students in my school library, as well as individuals everywhere on digital devices in coffee shops and on streets, I began to realize we all live in virtual worlds– whether or not we enter them with an avatar.

Building a PLN

Even the brilliant experts of computer science and metadata are struggling with concepts of cybersecurity, privacy and digital citizenship.  Currently, the FBI is working on how to get through encryption to fight crime, parents are concerned about the future for children in a world that is dependent upon digital information, and the tools we use are constantly changing.

The benefits of networked society are huge but so too are the problems it presents.  A PLN (Profession or Personal Learning Network) has become imperative to understanding life in digital culture.  I wonder, though, if we put too much emphasis on following our PLN blindly.  When I click “agree” to the lengthy TOS (terms of service) on apps, I justify my lack of knowledge about the legalese and shrug it off thinking, “I know Mr. X, Ms. Q, and Mrs. K Teacher all use this app so it must be okay.”

I have found most people are generous, helpful, and willing to share knowledge and information.  Twenty years ago, my learning community was a small local group but today it is gigantic and spreads across the globe. Do we really understand the enormity of this?  I don’t think it is possible to realize the consequences of toppling of the information hierarchy which happened so abruptly at the close of the Gutenberg Parenthesis.

The Power of Twitter

Currently, Twitter exemplifies the power of connectivity in digital culture. Everyone has a voice.  Through key words (hashtags) those voices can be heard instantly across the planet.  Very few people have had any training at all in using the power of Twitter and (IMHO) most of the content is trivial, disposable media, such as humorous memes, gifs, and witticisms.  The potential to utilize the power of networked culture for high quality deep learning and edification is buried under millions of tweets. Digital citizens are challenged to dig for buried treasure.

What will the next decade bring?

Sometimes, when I discuss digital citizenship, I see fear in the faces of parents or learners who see themselves becoming “addicted to screens”.  It is certainly too late to put the Internet cat back in the bag!  Networked connectivity happened without providing a training.

My tips for coping with “the online sea of chaos” over the next decade:

  1. Take digital citizenship seriously
  2. Strive to share only positive meaningful information
  3. Continue building a PLN both for learning and teaching
  4. Recognize the need for time to unplug, reflect and appreciate the physical world
  5. Seek solutions that always provide hope and reduce fear

Here’s to the next decade: Less fear- More hope!