It has been a while since I’ve been able to blog due to a cross country move and new job. This past summer I successfully defended and submitted my dissertation “Becoming: The Evolution of a Learning Organization in a Social Virtual World” (abstract at the end of this post) and in September I started a tenure track position in the School of Information and Communication at Rutgers in New Brunswick. Now that I’m finally settled I will be updating this space more frequently. In the upcoming weeks I will be posting links to a three part video series about teaching in Second Life that features interviews with previous students and discussions about their learning experiences. I will also be sharing details of Leslie Jarmon’s HUGE Second Life initiative through the University of Texas System. For those on Twitter you can follow me @joe_sanchez

–Dissertation Abstract below —
Becoming: The Evolution of a Learning Organization in a Social Virtual World
The Educators Coop is a group of forty-two educators, researchers, and librarians that are interested in learning how to teach and conduct research in the social virtual world of Second Life. This naturalistic inquiry examines how the group utilized the virtual environment in order to meet their goals during a six-month period in 2007.
Members of the Educators Coop exhibited three key behaviors that helped members accomplish their goals of learning how to teach and conduct research in Second Life. Members 1) engaged in a continuous knowledge spiral involving the transfer of tacit and explicit knowledge; 2) were supportive of each other’s ideas; and 3) participated in social networks that often extended beyond the virtual world. Members of the Educators Coop used the virtual world as a complimentary piece to their Real Lives; there were not any synthetic or virtual aspects to their relationships.

One goal of the study was to identify the culture created by the members of the Educators Coop using Choo’s (1998) definition of group culture. Members of the Educators Coop created and participated in a group culture where they 1) articulated a group identity; 2) displayed a common set of beliefs; 3) performed a pattern of behaviors
leading to a leveling of social status; and 4) shaped a group teaching philosophy. The culture of the group created an environment of support, acceptance, and mutual respect for one other’s professional work.

The second goal of the study was to observe and understand how members of the group would alter their virtual environment in order to better perform their work. Members of the Coop altered their environment by creating coordinated weekly events in order to maximize their opportunities for group collaboration. They also used the affordances of Second Life to create a community art space that encouraged a creative and playful environment for interactions. More surprisingly though, the environment altered the members of the Educators Coop as they began to feel embodied by their avatars and the virtual place of the Educators Coop became a real life working space.