Education in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Please Give the Kids Commerce: Second Life and the Teen Grid

The Teen Grid, while technically on the same ‘map’ as the Main Second Life Grid, was always partitioned off with a set of technologies that were difficult to maintain. Any time you made a change to the server code, you’d need to double check to make sure the Teen Grid was still, well, separate – an odd thing to understand, but there were all kinds of protocols built in to the server code to maintain separate access streams and accounts and inventories and whatever else.

When Linden Lab announced that it was ‘merging’ the Teen and Main Grid what it was actually doing was pushing out the separation of the two communities to estate-level controls. It would no longer have to check through the server code all the time to make sure that the kids didn’t have access to Main Grid content. Estate-level controls basically mean that you can ‘pin’ a user to an estate (the Teen sims) and not let them out.

Through this, you can set up a separate registration system for schools and kids and at the end of that process they end up with an account that’s “pinned”.

But with the announcement it’s clear that there will also be some viewer-side functionality as well. Because the Lab will also prevent the teen accounts from accessing the Second Life Marketplace:

The 13- to 15-year-old students affiliated with these organizations will be unable to visit any regions except those of their hosting organization, and those accounts will not have the ability to search the Grid or to purchase items from the Marketplace. Unlike on Teen Second Life, adults that work with these students will now be a part of the broader Second Life experience, allowing them to bring rich educational content to their students. The ability to invite organization-approved guest speakers and other approved members of the community to safely interact these students will further enhance their learning experience. For more details, see the Teen Second Life transition wiki page.

What’s left unstated is that I assume this means that the 13-15 year olds also won’t be able to sell anything. Which strikes me as, well, stupid.

First, the idea here seems to be that the Teen Grid will be for organizations only. Kids will need sponsoring organizations, although I suppose, um, Disney could come in and sponsor some sims LOL.

It would be amazing if the sponsoring organizations went beyond schools. There are all kinds of organizations that could set up on the Teen Grid.

Judging by the uproar in the education community, most of the schools are decamping for OpenSim, or playing a giant game of chicken with Linden Lab on things like pricing and back-up.

But let’s assume for a second that there will be SOMEONE over there on the Teen Grid, remembering as well that U.S. schools aren’t the only ones whose voice should be heard but who, for some reason, are the most vocal.

Why these kids will be excluded from the ability to make and sell stuff is beyond me, unless I’m misreading things – maybe they’ll be able to sell but not buy? Why was this decision made? Why can’t they be excluded from buying things that are adult-rated or something? Is it an issue of them not being able to purchase Lindens or something?

I mean, there’s lots of stuff that you can learn in a virtual world. Identity, history, theater, art…I can think of a hundred subjects, and among them are the lessons you could learn by entering an open market with virtual goods.

Shouldn’t the kids be able to prim out some cool race cars or whatever and take their crack at selling them? Or will this just mean they end up creating alts for the Main Grid so they can take a crack at earning a few bucks?


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