Teen Grid Gone. What’s next in Virtual Worlds for Teen Students?

The recent announcement of the discontinuing of the Teen Grid on Second Life and allowing 16 and 17 year olds to register on the Second Life Main grid has sparked much conversation regarding digital responsibility and safety on the Internet and Virtual Worlds.  In conversations with colleagues, educators using the Teen Grid, Second Life residents and students I have some thoughts about what could and maybe should happen.

Operating a secure closed grid was a complicated venture and educational organizations were not exactly flocking to take advantage, for several reasons.  Costly fingerprinting and background checks for people who already have fingerprints and background checks, a reputation for adult content (despite the security and separate grid), and a general lack of knowledge and understanding of VW among educators were all barriers to taking advantage of the the Teen Grid.

One possibility now is for companies who are developing on Opensim or who have already developed Virtual Worlds with a more educational/student focus could fill the void.  Reaction Grid and Kaneva are both viable possibilities.  A safe environment designed for students under the age of 18 where student participation is monitored.  Supervision is key, one educator told me that even on the Teen Grid students figured out how to smuggle in or create inappropriate content (just as they do in the real world).

The second possibility is to use the Main grid on second Life, not a possibility for my district.  Certainly individuals under the age of 18 will now be allowed to register but a school district will not likely be convinced that the SL main grid environment is safe for students and there would be no liability issues.  Students I have talked to about this tell me that “it is boring” and they would rather play World of Warcraft with a pre-defined objective, points and great graphics and action.  Sims devoted to this type of activity may indeed draw some gamer youth, but not for educational purposes.

An electronic border is used to prevent an avatar from entering a restricted area.

If an educational institution does decide to go this route they could develop filters and restrictions to keep students in appropriate locations and to keep intruders out.  Filters would need to be in place to prevent particular activity and content, possible but complicated.

It is a complex issue,  one widely publicized, inappropriate event involving an underage person could set the entire focus of using these environments for purposes of education into a tailspin, not to mention what it could do to the student.  Educators who are interested in and involved with using the virtual environment for education are clearly innovators and are working for the benefit of children.  In their enthusiasm they must not forget safety and security of the students they teach and should ensure the teaching of digital responsibility to their students.

2 comments on “Teen Grid Gone. What’s next in Virtual Worlds for Teen Students?

  1. as Maria said, a private OpenSim grid is a great option being used more and more for educational purposes

    the option to install OpenSim on of your own servers is ex cellent! installation is not terribly difficult or you can hire someone to install it on your own box

    i have what i consider to be a very good grid for under $200 a month (i speak from having 19 sims in Second Life)

  2. One option for education institutions is to set up a private grid or mini-grid in OpenSim. You control all user access, and all content on the grid.

    If you need to travel to other grids you can enable hypergrid teleports and disable them again when school is in session, or enable them for just part of a grid.

    You can use hypergrid to visit freebie stores or shopping centers on other grids to get content — shopping works great on the hypergrid, and you can you PayPal or one of three different multi-grid currencies: V$, G$, and OMC.

    You can also use hypergrid to have other people visit your grid from other grids — say, designers you want to create content, who need to bring their existing inventories with them in order to have access to their textures, building materials, and scripts.

    All our “Editor’s Picks” hosting providers will help you set up your mini-grid or full grid.

    The list is at: hypergridbusiness.com/opensim-hosting-providers

    The difference is whether your grid runs on a single server, or is big enough to require several servers and, thus, centralized grid administration. If you’ve got 16 regions or less, you can run a mini-grid, which is much less expensive. You can always upgrade from a mini-grid to a full grid.

    General pricing guidelines:

    Expect to pay $10 to $25 a month for a “light use” region — only a few simultaneous visitors, no heavy scripting. Good for parks, landscapes and water regions, residential, sandboxes, and small-group meetings.

    Expect to pay $25 to $75 a month for a “moderate use” region — medium-sized meetings of up to 15 people or so, average use, average builds, average scripts.

    Expect to pay $75 and up for a “heavy use” region — lots of commercial traffic, heavy scripting, meetings of 50 or more people at once.

    Most hosting services today offer groups, hypergrid connectivity and voice at no extra charge.

    Expect to pay extra for integration with student directories.

    If you have extra servers in-house and some technical talent, you can run OpenSim free over a local network. In addition, some hosting providers — including ReactionGrid — will set up and manage your internal OpenSim for you.

    Running OpenSim over a local network means better performance, more security, and easier integration with local document repositories or directories. You can still enable hypergrid when you need it, even if you run OpenSim locally.

    — Maria Korolov
    Editor, Hypergrid Business

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