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K-12 Groups Stranded in Second Life Teen Grid Shutdown
The Teen Grid--a sub-domain of the immersive 3D world Second Life--will be shutting down by the end of the year, stranding some K-12 organizations that had been experimenting in virtuality.
The lifespan of the Teen Grid in Second Life has been dramatically shortened with the announcement this month that Linden Lab will be shutting down this section of the 3D virtual world. Teen Grid, which opened in 2005 and was available solely to children age 13 to 17, will close Dec. 31.
Second Life is used by a number of educational institutions: universities and colleges on the "main grid" and K-12 on Teen Grid. According to Second Life's Web site, there are eight K-12 "islands" within the Teen Grid. Peggy Sheehy, a teacher from the Suffern Middle School in Suffern, NY, said at the same conference that her island alone has put through more than 2,500 middle school students over the years.
Linden Labs explained in a blog posting that the decision came down to economics: "In the five years since it opened, the Teen Grid has been a space of incredible creativity for teens and also home to a number of innovative educational projects. However, supporting and developing for two separate grids has been a challenge for us, and has slowed progress on improvements that benefit all Residents. To help us focus our resources and development on the Main Grid, we have made the difficult decision to close Teen Second Life."
Many teachers and other content owners have invested much in the way of time, and sometimes money, to develop their educational tools on the Teen Grid. Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale said there would be ways for people to retain and transfer the investments.
"Transfer to where?" will be the question. There are options, but it will likely take some time before the education community in Second Life determines the safest, most economical virtual location for continued K-12 education. One option being discussed is moving to OpenSim virtual worlds, which are hosted by third-party companies. One such OpenSim is ReactionGrid, where there is already an education presence. Pricing varies on these third-party worlds. The services provided also vary: some include currency for trade; some include voice chat (generally considered important to in-world teaching); and some offer completely private islands versus those connected to other populations (an important safety factor to control who is interacting with underage children).
As one upset user posted anonymously: "Speaking for myself, I would have been open to paying more for our islands to keep them up than to see the Teen Grid shut down. No matter where we go now, it will cost more in service fees, hardware, people, and other costs that were not budgeted for this school year. It's bad news for sure."
Denise Harrison is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, specifically in audiovisual and presentation. She also works as a consultant for Second Life projects and is involved with nonprofits and education within the 3D realm. She can be reached here.