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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.


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

  1. Tina
    March 15, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Please have a look at this article from Peter Stindberg, which highlights the potential privacy risks of shared media, i.e. webpages on a prim.

  2. Tina
    March 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Please have a look at this article from Peter Stindberg, which highlights the potential privacy risks of shared media, i.e. webpages on a prim.

  3. Josain Zsun
    March 15, 2010 at 4:52 am

    I was intimidated the first couple of times launching V2B. The first couple of logins, AV & World are grey for several minutes, while V2B is rearranging menus and database/file structures. Then it seems to stabilize.

    Fleep Tuque posted a Quick Primer of tips & tutorials collected at SLPro that I worked through one evening and have been using V2B since.

    I unsuccessfully searched for the "Clear Cache" button/menu choice.
    Fleep suggested Preferences>Setup>Cache Location>Reset
    Seems to do the job.

    I've since noticed switching between clients (V2B > RC, RC>V2B), seems to clear cache, as launch takes longer and the AV & world is grey for quite a while, on login.

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      March 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

      Excellent points and very much worth considering. I do think LL is trying to be more accessible to educators and these tools will morph and grow with experience :-)

  4. rikomatic
    March 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    We cover related ground in talking about education and the new viewer. Here's my somewhat similar list of "Five Reasons Why the New Second Life Viewer is Good for Education, Nonprofits & Governments":

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      March 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      Great minds think alike! I hadn't read your article, but I am now a subscriber, and look forward to reading more :-) I like that we approached the article differently, and, read together, they are a nice pair!!!

  5. rikomatic
    March 15, 2010 at 3:12 am

    We cover related ground in talking about education and the new viewer. Here's my somewhat similar list of "Five Reasons Why the New Second Life Viewer is Good for Education, Nonprofits & Governments":

  6. Dirk Talamasca
    March 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    The new viewer has a long way to go and when it comes to education and training of corporate clients new to SL, I am sad to say that creating tutorials for the viewer in its current state would be an exercise in futility. While we would all like to move forward with this sort of work quickly, it just isn't possible.

    There are many things broken, missing or in the wrong place in this viewer that need to be rectified and there are going to be many people that refuse to use it. It is important to remember that the viewer is a BETA.

    I would be very apprehensive in scheduling a class or a meeting that relies on the new tools unless you can absolutely guarantee that everyone in attendance can in fact use the BETA viewer. Many residents simply cannot. There are connection and graphic issues that prevent them from even trying it. There are issues with parcel media conflicting with media on a prim that can be a hindrance as well.

    Working around the new viewer is not the answer. The viewer must be workable and it is important to be vocal and contribute positively until that is so.

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      March 14, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you for the excellent comments, Dirk! Your experience in SL and in helping new residents has always been superb, and I appreciate your ideas. What things do you feel are "broken, missing, or in the wrong place"? Do you think LL will correct these problems in Beta or will they let the problems stand? I am interested in your ideas about the release of Pathfinder Linden, as well. He was the advocate for education before Iridium, Blue, and Claudia, and it seems that his sketchy "release" might have something to do with this viewer and its impact on education. Do you agree? What have you heard? As always, Dirk, it is great to talk to you!

  7. James
    March 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Very informative and well-written. I have tried the Beta version and maybe either I am too lazy or do not possess enough time to stand afk long enough to figure out how to clear my cache in this viewer....but the normal viewer we all have grown-up with is still my viewer of choice. I will continue to use it until I am forced to come join the show using beta.

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      March 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      Thanks, James! What do you think LL should do to the new viewer before it leaves beta?

      • James
        March 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm

        Well Beth...they need to consider the usability of it. The current client and the evolution of it has maintained itself in a state of being user-friendly.

        Beta is too "different" as compared to the client we are currently used to.

        I feel that before LL decides to make Beta mandatory, they should get some of their User Experience Designers (if they have them) in a focus group with us in-world to discuss ways to make Beta more user friendly.

        I like the technical nature of Beta. I am a technical person and I see things from the perspective of someone in the human computer interaction field. But if Beta is going to be of any value...the users need to be able to use it and know how to use it. If it is going to be of any value in education and training, the educators and trainers need to be able to use it.


        • Beth Ritter-Guth
          March 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm

          Thanks, James. I wonder if they still run SL Views, and if the next cohort will discuss this sort of thing? I love the HTML on a prim concept (because my students always get lost when they have to toggle) and I like the one button talk feature. But, I wonder if we have seen the peak of educators in SL? It strikes me that some perceive LL as being less education friendly than it is has been in the past (admittedly, Philip Rosedale cared very much about educators, and M Linden cares very much about business). So, is it imprudent to create a new viewer if all the educators are already in world using the old one? Or, do you think this viewer might be a draw for those that walked away from SL because it was too hard to navigate?

        • James
          March 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm

          I have heard many educators discuss that SL is becoming less education friendly, but I tend to see things differently. I am not a formalized educator so I cannot speak with such authority.

          On the other hand, I met many educators in SL during my work on my first masters (which was the use of virtual media in K-12 education and corporate collaboration) and they all appreciated how SL was a wonderful medium to teach digital learners; especially, those educators that subscribed to Gardner's view on multiple intelligences and how SL fit into all of that.

          Maybe its just going to be an inconvenient learning curve for some to learn and adapt to the new viewer once they fix all the problems Dirk made mention of and LL's taking into consideration its current state of usability.

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