Should SL Educators Selected to Get a Sim Discount Take It?

SL education discount

SL educator Joe Essid has a compelling post in response to the news that Linden Lab is quietly reaching out to selected schools and nonprofits who lost their 50% sim discount. Should they take it? He argues this is not a good idea for several reasons, including one related to this picture of a pixie, which now graces the Second Life homepage. Since Linden Lab has only been pursuing online social game consumers in the last few years, Essid argues, "[I]t would elicit laughs in the classroom and worse in the IT conference rooms where purchasing decisions get made. It illustrates how far the Linden Lab strategy has shifted, and I don't think a granting agency or IT department would look at today's SL and say 'here is your $150 per month, prof. Go play with Victoria's Secret pixies.'" Essid offers another reason that's even more compelling -- Second Life is a platform out of touch with how Millennials generally communicate and use technology:

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Linden Lab Quietly Offering 50% Discounts to Select Non-Profit & Educational Groups Who've Given Up Their SL Sims

AM Radio Second Life

Ball State's IDIA Laboratories, one of many SL sims abandoned after losing its educational discount in 2010

Linden Lab has been quietly contacting a select number of non-profit and educational institutions who've abandoned their Second Life sims over the last few years, company spokesman Peter Gray confirmed with me last night, offering them 50% tier discounts. I learned this earlier yesterday when an educator told me about receiving an e-mail to that effect, offering his organization a full private island for $1,770 per year, or $3,540 for two years. This move partially reverses the company's 2010 decision to end the 50% discount on educational/non-profit sims, which is generally credited for the loss of hundreds (if not thousands) of sims whose organizations couldn't afford to pay standard tier.

"I'm not able to share numbers," Gray e-mailed me, "but can confirm that we've extended this special offer to a targeted number of educational and non-profit institutions that have recently left Second Life." The next question is how many institutions they're offering this to, but there, he is mum. Furthermore, there's no way for former sim owners of this variety to request this discount:

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How to Stop SL Land Loss: Require Land Ownership to Sell Lots of Items in the SL Marketplace (Comment of the Week)

Second Life Marketplace

Private estates in Second Life like these two beautiful classics keep going away at an alarmingly fast rate, but in the fascinating comments to last week's post, Shockwave Yareach links this loss to the rise of the SL Marketplace e-commerce site, then proposes a pretty brilliant (in my opinion) solution:

"[Private sim owners' revenue model] worked fine until Linden Lab cut their funding by implementing the Marketplace in the way they did. Linden Lab's making land irrelevant for shoppers means businesses aren't keeping stores in-world anymore. Thus the funds to keep the sims up is going away, and the sims are going away too.

"So soon you'll be able to click and buy a new dress, and have no place to wear it.

"The solution is to put limits on the Marketplace. The number of square meters you own divided by 100 and added to 10 is the number of items you can have on the Marketplace. No land at all? You may have 10 items in Marketplace. 8192m^2 storefront? You can have 91 items in the Marketplace."

Emphasis mine. I think this is brilliant for many reasons, among them this: Linking land ownership to web-based item sales extends the virtual world metaphor into the e-commerce side of Second Life, and (as Mr. Yareach suggests), directly conveys how interdependent the world and the website are to each other:

"Both in-world stores and the Marketplace are necessary. Cut one out, and both die... [W]e are already over the precipice and the monthly losses are only going to grow and grow and grow as the world shrinks and land owners have less reason to keep their playground online."

The need for this change is dire, he goes on, arguing:

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Report on Sim-on-a-Stick as an Education Tool

Sim on a Stick for education

I just talked about the real world commercial applications of Sim-on-a-Stick (or SoaS) made by Renee "Ener Hax" Miller, and now Ms. Hax tells me about a cool application of SoaS for learning: Here's the summary of a paper by Lisa Jacka and Kate Booth of Southern Cross University (be sure to read the .pdf at the link), recounting their experiences with SoaS in an educational context. SoaS, the authors write, enables schools to use a virtual world inside a school system's firewall, and one of the projects they note in the full report is this recreation of a Nairobi village students built together, pictured here. I see this as a solution alongside Minecraft for education.

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Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: Get a 20% Discount, Meet Co-Authors Tom Boellstorff and Celia Pearce in SL on 8/30

Ethnography virtual worlds

Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method is a new book from Princeton Press by my pal Tom Boellstorff (author of the acclaimed Coming of Age in Second Life), and three other experts in the academic study of virtual worlds: Bonnie Nardi, Celia Pearce, and T. L. Taylor. Thanks to a media partnership between Princeton and this blog, readers can get a 20% discount on the book: Click here to order it, and then enter the discount code P05169 at checkout. But wait, there's more:

On August 30, 12:30pm SLT, Tom Boellstorff and Celia Pearce will appear in Second Life on the Bowling Green State University virtual campus. [Click here to directly teleport to the event].

More info on the August 30th appearance below, via University of Richmond's Joe Essid, who's helping run the event with the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable:

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Johnny Cash's Childhood Home Recreated in Second Life by Arkansas State University

Johnny Cash home in Second Life

Click here to virtually visit the place where America's most legendary and universally beloved country/Western icon was born. I'm talking about Johnny Cash, of course, and his childhood home of Dyess, Arkansas. His house has been recreated in Second Life, as has the surrounding town, built to resemble the place as it was in the early 20th century, when Cash was a child. Fittingly, this project is by Arkansas State University (lead designer known in SL as Painter Meriman), and it looks like a fitting tribute to the state's most favorite son. Read more about it on Shinigami Kayo's blog.

Link via SL's Reddit group, submitted by "SpaceCaseM". This post needs some Cash accompaniment, which I've embedded below:

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Checking Out Martian Rovers at JPL's Official Island in SL

Martian Rover Second Life

Click here to visit Explorer Island in Second Life which is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's official site in SL, where there's a large installation for JPL's Martian efforts, including this pictured probe which resembles the Curiosity rover that just successfully touched down on Mars. Unless I missed an update, Explorer Island doesn't seem to have been updated in the last few years, but it still exists in-world, and has some pretty good (if pre-mesh) virtual artifacts of JPL's efforts in Mars... and on Second Life.

If you know of any current SL events and other content based around Curiosity's active investigation in Mars, please post in Comments. I'm also asking the scientists and engineers who've done previous aerospace projects in SL, so will add updates as they come in.

Why An SL Educator Switched to Mobile Apps Instead

SL education

Educator Joe Essid has a good explanation of why he switched from being an evangelist of Second Life as a pedagogical tool to getting behind mobile apps. (Replete with an increasingly obligatory Second Life problems meme.) Sample:

Whoever gains (or in Apple's case, maintains) dominance and establishes the standard matters less to me than the fact that SL and OpenSim do not run well, if at all, on tablets. Unity 3D does for iOS and Android... Concurrent to all this churn, we are moving to tablets on our campuses for consuming media. If Moore's Law holds true, these devices will become better and better at creating content. One does not wish to be on the wrong side of history, and I think SL evangelists are clearly on the wrong side, unless they are early in their careers and have a Plan B for research and teaching.

Read the rest here, it's full of good points. However, I do think Second Life has significant advantages over tablets for many educational applications, which mysteriously, are still under-utilized. For example:

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International Spaceflight Museum Update: SL Sims Get Full Funding by Donor, Volunteers Promise Site Revamp

International Space Museum SL update

More good news for SL's International Spaceflight Museum, which was returned to the grid last meek after unpaid bills, community outcry, Linden intercession, etc. "The ISM has received a pledge of FULL ISLAND FUNDING for both Spaceport Alpha and Spaceport Bravo," longtime museum volunteer Katherine Prawl (Kat Lemieux in SL) tells me. The donor wishes to remain anonymous (for now at least), but "The funding doesn't have a termination date." So for now, it seems, the International Spaceflight Museum will again become a regular part of SL.

However, this doesn't mean the ISM will continue to look as it did in 2006-2007, when it was first created. Many have pointed out that the site, while a historical landmark in SL, is also showing its prim and script-heavy, pre-sculpty, pre-mesh age, But Kat tells me that it's starting to be revamped in the run-up to its official re-opening next month:

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International Society for Technology in Education Leaves SL for OpenSim

While community outrage and Linden intercession saved the International Spaceflight Museum in SL, other education-oriented efforts are not as lucky: On March 1st, The International Society for Technology in Education will close its in-world presence. At least in Second Life, that is, because the large organization is setting up a presence on the OpenSim-based Jokaydia Grid. Educator Joe Essid has a sad summary here.