The task and its aim
For our task on Collaborative tools we (Misy Ferraris and me) decided that instead of providing a simple list of tools that might be used collaboratively, we would prepare a sort of guided tours through some tools and invite people to use them in a collaborative way to encourage discussion on collaboration in SL.
Personally, I think that collaboration is not so easy in SL, for different reasons: lag, difficulty to use contemporarily the same tools, lack of the body language we are used to interpret unconsciously, etc.
This experience has been very useful for me because it forced me to see and notice how most of the people (me included) behaves in SL, sometimes making me aware of the difficulties this new media presents, sometimes contradicting many of my deep rooted pre-concept.
In addition, I had the wonderful occasion to observe 3 groups interacting with the Collaborative Tools House.
What I learned from the feedback:
Giving instructions in SL
Many people had problems in understanding the instructions. That means that explanations were either unclear/imprecise or too long.
In SL we are not expecting to read long text, but to experience things. Instructions/information should be kept brief and delivered in short chunks when the user needs it, not before.
Overestimate SL skills
Many did not know what an “HUD”, independently from their rez date.
This is a very common mistake: think that everybody know what we know. We thought that we had kept it simple, but we hadn’t. Most SL users are more than satisfied with those basic skills that allows them to communicate and explore.
Is SL a social media?
Many of our visitors did not have any “buddy” to visit the Collaborative learning tools house with.
I confess that I was surprised by it in a first moment, but then I realised that we spend most of our time in SL alone. When we are working on something, we are alone, when we are preparing an activity, we are alone, when we are exploring, we are mostly alone. Even when attending events, we “go there” mainly alone, although we them meet friends and colleagues. Sometimes when communicating by IM with friends and colleagues I feel that I’m loosing time, because I’m not “doing” all the things I have to do.
The big shopping mall
Most of the feedback we got was about the impossibility to “click on the tool and take a copy”. (If you had this problem: to know more about the tool and to find out where to get it, click on the drawing pin).
Here again I was surprised, and then I understood that I was wrong to be surprised. Most of us “consume” SL exactly in the same way: when exploring, we take a first quick look and decide whether it’s worthing to come back with more time to visit it (and usually do not bother with the reading of notecards); if it’s a shop/library/repository of tools, we quickly take what can be interesting and leave (and then spend ages tidying up our inventory). Most of the time we don’t even bother to “walk”, we move around using camera controls, clicking on what strike our attention. And I wonder if this is the right approach, if we are not missing the really important stuff.
What I learned from the direct observation
First of all, thanks to Xilin Yifu, Lefresne Bernard, Baldric Commons, Percival Bookmite, Heimlaga Svenska, Enrico83 Rossini, Selene Meredith for their time and collaboration.
Xilin and her friend Lefresne: They knew each other (were friends, came together), Xilin is an educator, I ignore about her friend.
They were not sure of what they had to do at the beginning, and I had to help them. They were the only one who wrote collectively on the blog http://collab2.wordpress.com/ .
They spent a good time on the first floor task (discussion), therefore it was immediately evident that examining all the tools required too much time and was becoming a sort of torture. I suggested to choose only one or two tools for each floor.
I was surprise to notice that they did not know all the tools or all their uses.
They enjoyed the photo/seasonal greetings part and skipped the 4th floor.
Baldric, Percival and Heimlaga did not know each other, have different level of SL skills, two are educators (Baldric and Percival) and two of them are not English native speakers (Percival and Heimlaga).
They too need help to start, and since some had problem with the hud I did not insist on the second one (the bloghud).
Although this was the first time they met, they did not have any problem in working together and interacting.
They too spent quite a good time discussing on the first floor, and they too needed help on the second floor, and they too enjoyed the comic bubbles with background on the third floor and skipped the fourth.
Enrico83 and Selene work for an Italian university. They did not have “voice” enabled and Selene did not have much time so I accompanied Enrico in the visit.
Therefore this time instead of observing I was participating. I did not feel comfortable in this situation because I felt that I was directing him too much and therefore his response was not natural.
From the observation I’ve learnt that:
a) No activity should last longer than 15-20 minutes.
b) The best tool to enable collaboration is voice, followed by chat. Visual aids are appreciated as well. People enjoy to communicate, all the other tools should be an excuse, a stimulus for communication, not the tasks itself.