Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Experiencing Information Literacy in Second Life

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Experiencing Information Literacy in Second Life

Article excerpt

Abstract

Brave or naive, but aware of the research, teaching and play potential, the authors plunged into teaching part of an employee communication course at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Second Life, a virtual environment. Using the analytical tools of observational protocols, and discourse analysis of rhetorical accounts found in student and teacher reaction logs, discussion transcripts and focus group interviews, we situated ourselves among the learners to explore the threshold concept of information literacy in our classroom in Second Life.

Introduction

Perhaps brave or naïve, but always aware of the research, teaching and learning potential, the authors-a librarian and a professor-plunged into teaching part of a fourth-year professional communication course in Second Life during the 2007 winter term. Through experiential learning, our teaching goal was to help the students better understand how to critically evaluate the various communication tools and social environments available to them in the university and the workplace. Our research goal was to investigate the effectiveness of this 3-D virtual environment as a teaching environment in order to answer our research question: Does Second Life offer an effective learning environment in which to facilitate students' grasp of information literacy? We define information literacy as a constructivist process that reflects a student's ability to employ critical analysis of communication and information gathering tools, processes and networks. We wanted to know how well Second Life allows for the facilitation of this process.

Second Life, a 3-D virtual world, has been written about extensively in the popular press and in professional journals from the perspective of the new users and new services (Bell, Peters, and Pope 10-15; Grassian and Trueman 84-89). Second Life is being used as a service point and learning environment for both business and academia (Antonacci and Modaress 36 pars; Foster A35-A36). While it has been differentiated from online gaming environments and redefined as a community space (Grassian and Trueman 84-89), few systematic studies to define Second Life as a platform for course delivery have been published. There is cautious optimism that the now available and more inclusive, participatory Web 2.0 technology, which Second Life is part of, will lead to enriched learning opportunities although critical evaluation is required (Childress and Braswell 187-196). The literature considers other online platforms and learning (de Freitas 6-73), there are some accounts of instructional experiences in Second Life (Lee and Hoadley 383-389) at the secondary level, and only a handful of studies of Second Life as a university teaching and learning environment. Aaron Delwiche (160-169) used Second Life to teach a course on game design and found it to be an effective learning environment. Megan Conklin (6-31), has written a primer for setting up and delivering courses in Second Life, but has not conducted an assessment of the classes delivered from the perspective of instructor or student.

This article is an account of our ethnographic study. After defining information literacy as a "threshold concept" as outlined by education scholars Jan H. F. Meyer and Ray Land ("Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge" 1-14; "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (2)" 373-388), we identify what we see as the "troublesome knowledge" inherent in defining information literacy as a constructivist concept. We also introduce the "troublesome" nature of Second Life as experienced by ourselves and our students. The article's methods section illustrates the research tools and processes we used, and introduces the particular nature of the students we both learned with and taught. Our conclusions section argues for a cautious employment of Second Life as a learning environment for teaching information literacy, in particular, but offers advice for those educators willing to explore the platform. …

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