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An exploration of the island

Page history last edited by Sheila Webber 15 years, 8 months ago

Thoughts on the island's design and places, by Sheila Yoshikawa (Real Life - Sheila Webber)


This was prepared for an exploration of the island that took place on 10 November 2008. It is available as a noteacard in the main Departmental building in SL. The notecard with all the landmarks can be found at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Infolit%20iSchool/128/224/22/  I will add the SLURLs individually here in due course.


My background.


A  few words about me, since I am mostly responsible for the island's design. I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Studies, Sheffield University, UK. Originally I had a humanities background but now I would say I'm a social scientist. I started using online early on, and used the web from 1994 to provide resources etc for students. My main research area now is information literacy. When I first started using SL in May 2007 I was immediately attracted, and could also see educational uses, so I applied for and got funding for the island (though not for my time).


The island

We got the island in October 2007. The first year's funding was from the Centre for Inquiry Based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS) at Sheffield University. The second year is being funded jointly by Information Studies and the School of Education.


I did all the landscaping and the vast majority of the building, though with increasing amounts of attention to feedback and consultation with others, and reactions to the way the spaces are used. At the moment this is informal, but I am planning a small scale research project to gather people's thoughts about the spaces.


The builds are prefabs, often with some modification from me (from simply taking out the doors, to more radical hacking about and retexturing, to the limit of my fairly basic building skills). This means the cost of furnishing the island has been low in financial terms (though not in terms of my time).

Especially as it is funded by CILASS, the underlying pedagogic approach is inquiry or problem based. Therefore there aren't any lecture halls - where people do want to have sessions with powerpoints and an audience, we can use the outdoors or one of the platforms.


The aim was to create a variety of spaces where people could have discussions or activities, suitable to a few people or larger groups. There is a largish area with nothing permanent on it as a sandbox area for building, playing about, or events.


The ambience is sort of idyllic semi-rural, which partly reflects my own preferences for relaxing in SL, but also I wanted to create an environment that was not too challenging/ threatening for newbies and which had some detail and interest to explore.


Main uses of the island


The biggest use has probably been for the discussion series, focusing on information literacy and education. Apart from the actual events (including a conference track), this has attracted people who (in particular) are interested in information literacy and who browse around (one person in a newsletter described the island as an "information literacy treasure hunt" ;-)


Last year the teaching (which is repeating this year) is:

- first year students who have to analyse transcripts of research interviews carried out in SL (27 students this year), so the SL activities prepare them for that.

- Masters students doing a module "Educational Informatics";  they have a group project in which they have to propose ways of using various environments, including SL, for specific learning outcomes.


Teaching was done by me, by librarians at Sheffield and at other universities, and by a couple of colleagues in my Department. This year this includes a Research Assistant who was a student on the Masters programme last year.  Last year's UGs did not respond to invitations to help teach others.

This year the School of Education will be using it for a few cohorts, including students on the distance learning MA New Literacies programme. We will also be inducting more students who are interested. The main problem currently is that the University has not yet put SL on the desktop, so that restricts who can  use it (we have a lab of our own).


Locations for the exploration


1. Centre for Information Literacy Research  & Department of Information Studies

This is a real life Centre, though in RL it has no physical office. Here there is information about discussion sessions, some posters about information literacy, and links/displays from IL weblogs.

There are also some boxes of freebies and t-shirts etc. and seating arrangements (this has been a discussion and interview venue).

We just moved into this new building, and I want to rearrange the posters a bit - people have said they find the information useful -  but it's a bit messy.

We also need to incorporate more information about the Department, I think. Upstairs is probably going to be used for temporary exhibitions and special meetings. I'm just setting up a display of student ppts (on the dangers of SL).


In the same building: Entrance hall - we are still discussing how to use this - the platform at the back is being used as a discussion venue.


Education wing of the building. Again, there are still discussions of what else this can be used for. There is a meeting and presentation space. 


Note that it does seem useful to have a formal focus for a particuar Department's staff and students.


2. Regent Plaza

This is where there is a teleport board to major locations and a poster with a notecard about the island. At the moment there isn't a Greeter function (do people have opinions on the use of these?) .  There IS a notecard greeter at a landing point halfway up the hill, which is in the dead centre of the island (in case people search in Map and click without giving coordinates).


3. Centre for Inquiry Based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS)

This has some general information about IBL and CILASS, plus links/material from a conference track at the Learning Through Enquiry Alliance conference 2008.

There is a magic bench outside it that can rez a skybox.


4. Build/ practice area

This is roughly landscaped to give some areas at different levels. It has most recently been used for induction sessions, and there are still posters etc from that lying around. It was the main place used for the LTEA conference track.


5. Conference platform

In fact this has never been used for conferences. At the moment there are posters from last year's students, and it will soon become a skating rink. The posters will go onto a small platform of their own somewhere in the sky.


6. Mountain campfire

Discussion/ hanging out. You can walk to the tree house and over the bridge to the mountain-top hot tub.


7. Farradane Centre

Platform area, currently showing some posters (from a discussion session) and with choices of seating for interviews.

I have been wondering about having a holodeck here with different seating arrangements to click through

You can walk through the water garden (with cushions for 3) along to the Hobbiton House which is for people who like cute. Watch out for the wasps and the poison tea (etc etc)


8. Common room and "offices"

A common room space, plus homes for a few colleagues including Ishbel, who is a librarian at St Andrews University and has been part of the teaching team in SL both years.

This is a new build (installed a couple of weeks ago). It's a more colourful building with some things to interact with. Last year we had student residences here, but not many students choose to make their homes here. The ideal would be to let them build what they like, but I don't feel we have that much space - there's a sky settlement where they could go, but I haven't been pushing that aspect much. We had intended to have an OpenSpace for that kind of thing, but I didn't get an order in in time, and now it's too expensive.


9. Information Literacy area

This is under development. There is an opinionator that people could use to pose questions about people's information literacy and a very basic model of the Seven Pillars of IL, plus links to a couple of websites. The most developed things are the

"Bird flu" example of IL


The steps in the research process (which isn't just about IL)


These have both been used as objects to trigger discussions about information literacy and research with students. I would like to have more co-builds, but an issue is getting people to/with enough confidence in building to participate in realising their ideas.

With the Information Literacy build, there have been a couple of meetings with educators/practitioners, with a little bit of co-building and some interesting ideas which we hope to develop over time.


10. Library

This is still under development by the two librarians who have worked in SL, and it has some links and a Sloog HUD-giver. Maggie Kohime has written a couple of articles about libraries and SL.

Outside the library is a cafe area which has food and drink to interact with (as icebreaker etc)


11. Sakura House

This has a discussion area (probably the one we have used most up til now) with a circle of seating, and my "office" upstairs including Mitsy the cat (unless she has wandered into the sea).

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