Monday, June 9, 2008

Reflection: An Academic Librarian - Leading My First Discussion In Second Life

This post is a reflection on my experience leading a discussion on InfoLit Island in Second Life (SL). Here is my original post: "An Academic Librarian-Leading My First Discussion In Second Life."

All in all, the discussion went well. It was well attended and I received positive feedback. Most valuable to me was what I learned from the experience. I had already attended a number of events and discussions in SL so I was familiar with the chat discussion format. I found that attending/participating in a dicussion and leading a discussion using chat are very different experiences. I found it both challenging and rewarding.

I knew I couldn't fully prepare because you never know what will happen in SL. Sometimes there are technical issues (and a couple of attendees did crash during my discussion). And sometimes people show up in the middle of a discussion and want to know what is being discussed (that happened too). But usually there are core folks who attend because they are interested in the topic and really want to learn something. You have an opportunity to share what you know and to learn from others who attend.

So how did I prepare? Well I spent more time than I want to admit researching the main tool I would discuss, the Sloog HUD (an in-world social bookmarking tool much like I also spent a fair amount of time looking into the Salamander HUD.

Next, I created my notecard in SL and sent that on to Sheila Webber, the island owner, so she could set up the poster, etc. in the building where we would meet (the notecard is what the attendees receive when they touch the poster and is all about the topic I chose titled, "Expanding/Enhancing Information Literacy Using In-World Tools.").

I then wrote some notes that I would share with those who attended using Google docs so that I could copy and paste into the chat text field as I lead the discussion. I figured that would help things move along a little smoother. And it did, but it also hindered some as I had to be sure to keep track of where I was in my notes and keep track of the questions people were asking, and greeting people who arrived late and so forth. I also thought the notes would help me to stay on topic, and they did serve that purpose, though with discussions of this type you also have to follow the attendee questions to a degree. And that's not as easy as one might think.

One of the main problems I had was that I rushed things. I was concerned about not covering everything. I really wish I had allowed more time for people to continue writing where they were from and for questions and input from the attendees.

The biggest mistake I made had to do with timing as well. After about 25 min. into the 1 hr. disucssion, I asked whether the group would like to walk outside to get one of these tools themselves from the vend machines I had brought. I was excited about having them do this (it's always fun to get free things in SL), and I still think it was a great idea, but I really wish I had continued for 20 more minutes and then at the end offered them an opportunity to get a free Sloog and Salamander HUD. It was tricky to get everyone back in the building. I should have known better because if you gave me a new tool in the middle of anything, I too would be playing with it the rest of the time.

Once folks were back in, the questions had a lot to do with how the HUDs worked. This information was included in the help notecard that comes with the HUDs, but of course most had not had time yet to read those. So anyway, I did not really get to cover as much as I would have if I had waited until the end to share the tools.

So now I know I would do some things differently if I ever lead a discussion again. And I also feel I gained confidence in leading this way. The more time I spend in SL actually doing things, the more confident I feel. Even non-techie folk like myself can lead in virtual worlds. It's really a matter of being willing to spend the time to learn how things work. And a willingness to take risks, and maybe make a fool of yourself at times helps. I found that since I could hide a little behind my avatar, that it wasn't quite as nerve wracking as giving a presentation to a group in real life. But it was close. And I feel like I gained confidence through this experience that will help me with real life presentations as well.

Here is a link to the chatlog (transcript) of the discussion. Here is a link to Sheila's blog "Adventures of Yoshikawa" post on my discussion (check out her whole blog by clicking on the home link towards the bottom). A copy of the notecard as a pdf that was handed out from the poster can be found here as well, along with a slurl link to her InfoLit Island in SL (in case you want to visit). This one also contains some good snapshots of the event. I was too busy to take any myself that day. Though I will include one here I took the night before while getting ready.

And here is a link to the Information Literacy Weblog post on my discussion, that Sheils Webber co-authors along with Stuart Boon. I so appreciate all Sheila's hard work in providing a venue for discussions on her island. I've learned a lot from her and recommend her information literacy discussions to all.

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