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Archive for September, 2007

Tired of that sad ‘ol picture you use to populate your MySpace, Facebook, website and other social networking tools?  Well…mEgo is here to help!  Design and build your own customized avatar to use on the web and share with your friends.  What is neat, though, is that you create the look of your avatar, even as you create “hot spots” on your mEgo body that link to your favorite content (polls, websites, blogs, etc.).  Interesting concept and bound to take off.

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Our local newspaper, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has a front-page story about Facebook and the dispute over safety on the popular social networking site. State officials are investigating the solicitation of minors and the use of inappropriate images on the site. Two teens interviewed for the story expressed little or no concern over their privacy being violated by online predators:

“Aixin Wang, 17, of Brighton and a member of the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board’s Teen Council, said she has an account with Facebook, which she said “has been really safe in protecting my information” and “I haven’t had a problem with anything.” But she said that “if there seems to be a problem, it’s a good thing to check it out.”

Fellow Teen Council member Sujay Tyle, 14, who attends Pittsford Mendon High School, expressed similar sentiments. He said he feels secure on the site because he believes it adequately restricts contacts to invited friends and other members of his school.”

I have a problem with this, because no child or teenager should wholly trust a company to protect their privacy and their interests. This is the parents’ responsibility, who should be monitoring the teenagers and their use of online networking sites. It strikes me as an issue that needs to be addressed in the classroom, whether through the library or primary teacher, but a class on Internet privacy and information ethics should be an essential component to information literacy instruction.

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I’m currently taking a class in Second Life and we posted our first impressions of the virtual world to the class forum today.  One of my classmates posted this interesting article about a professor’s “second thoughts about Second Life”, which raises some important legal and ethical concerns about institutions of higher learning using and requiring students to participate in Second Life.  Among them:

What about a complaint by a student who agrees to meet the teacher’s avatar outside of class but in-world and then witnesses or engages in an unwanted virtual act? Or a claim of emotional distress filed by a student exposed to virtual shootings or any number of sexist, racist, homophobic, or offensive avatar behaviors?

Who is responsible?

Did you, as a faculty member who assigned your students an exercise on Second Life, have appropriate warnings in your syllabus for such scenarios? Will you have to pay legal fees to defend yourself if you signed up for Second Life and required your students to do so, too, without informing your supervisor?

Does your institution’s top administration or its legal, ombudsman, and equity offices even know about sexual harassment in virtual worlds? Has your campus teaching center promoted virtual-life games without investigating guidelines for use?

Based on its terms of service, Linden Lab may have anticipated some of those questions. It identifies itself as a distributor of content and, as such, “has very limited control, if any, over the quality, safety, morality, legality, truthfulness, or accuracy of various aspects of the Service.

That burden may fall on you.

These issues need to be discussed before land is bought, avatars created, classes formed inside the virtual world.

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Kathryn Greenhill writes about the shifting of libraries’ power and Library 2.0 on her blog, Librarians Matter.   Kathryn makes some valid points about this shift in power:  users creating their own idea of a library and the power of libraries to take risks.  I think for years we were so bound by tradition and the idea of libraries as gatekeepers that it is exciting and liberating to be out there risking change to these traditions.  I know many libraries are still struggling with this fearsome idea of change and risk-taking — I mean, come on, many of us did not become librarians because we are in it for the adventure!  Taking on social networking tools and risking the house on letting users add tags to your catalog can be scary stuff for those who have done business the same way for forty years or more.

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EDUCAUSE Centre for Applied Research has just released the latest report in its longitudinal study of undergraduates and their use of information technology. It is called, “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2007” and is,

“…based on quantitative data from a spring 2007 survey and interviews with 27,846 freshman, senior, and community college students at 103 higher education institutions. It focuses on what kinds of information technologies these students use, own, and experience; their technology behaviors, preferences, and skills; how IT impacts their experiences in their courses; and their perceptions of the role of IT in the academic experience.”

There could be some really useful stuff in this report for institutions of higher learning who want to use information technology in a meaningful way for their students’ learning.

 Read what Inside Higher Ed has to say about the report…

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News junkies beware: The New York Times released a beta version of myTimes, a customizable homepage for your favorite Times content. TechCrunch is not impressed, although Jenny Levine at Shifted Librarian makes the comment that this is a “tipping point” for the mainstream public and their acceptance of RSS and news aggregators. Plus, if you are a New York Times fanatic, its fun to play with all the widgets!

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Library Journal‘s September 15th issue features an interesting article about what libraries are doing with tagging and social bookmarking tools.  Some exciting examples are Ann Arbor District Public Library’s experiment with a “social library catalog“.  Scroll to the bottom of the screen to find their tag cloud, a wonderful tool to browse subject headings which works conceptually once you get past the error code at the top of the screen.  Another library, Nashville Public, includes tag clouds right on their homepage, in their case on the front page of their teen web services.  Tags and social bookmarking tools seem a natural segue from traditional, subject-expert dependent catalogs.  Web 2.0’s very unique nature is “user-centered” and libraries need to find a way to incorporate this into their websites in order to stay relevant to their users.

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