Near the forge, which is the heart of the dwarf strong hold of Ironforge, is the library, gathering together dwarven histories so that the past is not forgotten. It is a discussion space too, where ideas which have not been written into books can be shared and tested. The library is circular, with floor to ceiling books, some of them are scattered on tables for reading and research. There is a librarian who will help with quests for further knowledge. In the middle of the circular library, stairs draw one down towards the centre of the action as Gamr and L√∏b√∏, two visiting worgens start to speak about how they use board games in their school. The worgens are toons being run by Christopher Harris and Brian Meyer, two school librarians from upstate New York who are talking about how their schools use board game as part of the education of the students, explaining how board game which match the curriculum are really important learning tools for students. Brian and Christoper are the latest speakers in a series of talks which take place in World of Warcraft, in the Ironforge Library in the Saurfang realm. These talks bring together library, IT and university staff to discuss how games can be used in our work environments. These talks take place about every six weeks, and people need to have a subscription to World of Warcraft to participate. This costs less than to going to a film.
The speakers are library workers, games researchers, and educators from Australia, Canada and the USA. They allow access speakers it would otherwise be difficult to hear. The talks take place through in game instant messaging as this is the lowest technology entry point making it easy for new participants (and new players) to fully participate quickly. It also means that full transcripts of talks are available for people who were not able to be present. The talks are very interactive. The lack of true body language somehow seems to make it easier for people to ask lots of questions. There are a lot of actions and emotions which can be conveyed by the in game toons, but it is not the same as seeing someone in a face to face seminar. The interactivity is impressive as people readily ask questions. Speakers are briefed about the high levels of discussion, just so that they are aware of how it is likely to proceed. All the speakers are highly experienced with games, not all have prior experience with World of Warcraft. This has not been a barrier. Not everyone invited to present in this environment is willing to participate (and there would be a lot of reasons for this), and some have mentioned concerns with this environment. Other speakers have been very keen to present in World of Warcraft.
The transcripts of all the talks are available on a games and libraries wiki, usually on the same day as the talk. Coming events are also posted. Planning will shortly take place for the 2012 series of talks, so suggestions for speakers to include in this series would be welcome. The talks have been running for just over a year, with participants from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
People are quoting from the talks, and referring to the ideas raised in them, just as they would if they had participated in a face to face seminar. It has been very interesting seeing the flow on effect from a series of talks about games and libraries which takes place in a library in game.
The next talk takes place 18 November. Crystle Martin will be talking about cognition and learning in MMOs and the constellation of information that surround them, focusing on topics of literacy including information literacy. She is the lead project assistant for the PopCosmo research group led by Constance Steinkuehler and a member of Games+Learning+Society. Come along and see what the sessions are like. Information about how to participate is available from the Games and libraries wiki, and you can contact me for further information or if you have any questions about this.