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Linden Lab, the creators of the popular multi-user virtual environment, Second Life, have launched a shiny new viewer that promises to be more user friendly to the non-gamer.

Over 5000 educators use Second Life to teach including Harvard Law professors Charlie and Becca Nesson.  The new viewer promises to draw more teachers to the fold as virtual life is a lot easier for newbies and inworld tools are a whole lot more collaborative.

What new tools for educators are breathing life into Second Life?

HTML on a Prim

In Second Life, sharing websites has been slightly cumbersome.  In the old-old days, the only way to do it was to open a browser outside the SL platform.  While not terribly taxing, it was a pain for students to toggle back and forth.

Those days are long gone, and improvements and upgrades allowed you to set a parcel to a specific web page for viewing, but NOW you can actually WRITE ON the prim, click it, use YouTube, search for images, Google, check email, or even edit a collaborative wiki.

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second life educators

The only thing I couldn’t do when I tested it was use Google Docs.  Hopefully, they can work that out during the Beta phase.

This is an uber cool feature for teachers because it allows them to use a wiki as a live chalkboard.  While students will have to refresh their views to see updates, they won’t have to leave Second Life to do it.  Sweeeet.

Easy Peasy Menu

In the old viewer, the infamous pie wheel appeared when you right-clicked on yourself.  Now, life is not so complicated.  There is a menu bar on the right side that hosts all of the options you will need as a new or advanced user.

second life educators

This is truly helpful to teachers because most of the initial class time spent in world was devoted to trying to show students how to find things like their inventory (hair is really important in creating your second self!).  Everything a new resident needs is on this new side menu.

People Locator

One of the fair criticisms of Second Life is that there is never anybody in it.  That isn’t actually true, since 65,000 users are always logged in and millions of people have accounts.  The problem is, like in real life, people are scattered and pockets of people are hard to find.  It isn’t any different than real life; if you were to go to a bank at 3AM, you would hope to find it empty.

second life educators

Since Second Life is a 24 hour operation with people from every corner of the earth, there is a great chance you are logged in at a time when other folks are sleeping.  The new people locator helps you find the hot spot pockets of people.  If you want to send your students to do a survey or to observe avatar behavior, they can simply click on the people finder and teleport to the nearest cluster of people.

Clothing Bin

One very cool addition is the “My Outfits” tab on the menu.  This helps you to organize all of your outfits and role playing costumes into one place.

My avatar, Desideria, has a zillion different outfits, and it helps to have a place to store the best of the best.

If you are a second life educator teaching a course on avatars, gender, or social issues, it is helpful to have “stock” costumes on hand.  In teaching literature, wearing costumes for role playing activities can bring boring texts alive. Students will now being able to quickly access that Wife of Bath frock and won’t have to hunt around a crowded inventory to get to it in time for class.

Easy Talk

The new viewer includes a much easier way to use the voice system.  Now there is one simple button to push, and you are able to chat away with your students.  The old menu wasn’t hard, but it was a bit cumbersome and not at all intuitive.  This one-button approach will help students get connected instantly.

Educators in Second Life

Educators will love the new Second Life viewer because it is easier to use and more functional.  Less time will be spent showing students how to wear shoes, and more time can be spent working in groups on collaborative content.

Lots of seasoned SL bloggers have been discussing the new viewer, and experienced users have mixed emotions about the new look and feel of it.  How do you feel about the new viewer?  Do you think it will be easier for educators to use, or should Linden Lab tweak it a bit before it goes out of Beta?

Image credit: Daniel Voyager

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