Second Life and Open Sim for Newbies (like Me!) – Day 1

If you and I follow each other on Twitter, you'll know that my ninth graders (a/k/a the Digiteen Dream Team) have been building a virtual world to teach digital citizenship on ReactionGrid, and OpenSim.  Boy, I'm a total beginner (feel about like this kitty on a laptop) but learning a lot, so I'm planning to share the things I've learned with you.

Just remember I'm a beginner – if you're a supergeek then head over to Beth Ritter-Guth, Peggy Sheehy, or Kevin Jarrett and the other many educators who leave me in the dust, but if you're trying to figure this out, maybe this will help!  I'm putting this in my own words, so I hope the experts will correct me if I mess up.

Basic Terminology

Virtual World – A virtual world, some call a metaverse, is a place where you can operate in 3d environment.  Everything is in 3d space which means it has x, y, and z coordinates for those who actually start building in these worlds.  There are many out there, but perhaps the “grandaddy” of virtual worlds is Second Life created by Linden Labs.

Grid – A series of servers that work together to make a “world” or joint spaces.  Sometimes if you have too many scripts or things taxing on the server too close on the grid it can cause your sim (simulation) to crash – so often I tell my students to “spread out on the grid” which we sometimes call the sim.  

Second Life – A virtual world created by Linden Labs. There are two primary “grids:” adult and teen.  Once a person turns eighteen in real life they “graduate” to the adult grid, although there is no age verification in Linden Labs.  Although it is free to join Second Life, sometimes it is difficult to find places to build and create things because everything has an owner.  In order to edit and change things you should have permission and in fact, permissions are set on every object in Second Life.  For this reason, there are specially made “clothes” objects, and things of all kind for “sale” using Linden Dollars in Second life.

Avatar – This is you! In RL (real life) you have a body, in a virtual world you have an avatar.  You can change body shapes, genders, and even species if you take the time or buy the different types of bodies.  If you're going to present in a virtual world take time or find a friend (like Beth Ritter-Guth did for me) to improve your avatar.

Prim – This is also called a primitive.  These are the objects that are created.

Script – This is a program that is attached to the objects or prims that make them do things like rotate, or hand out items like notecards or landmarks.

Teleport – Just like in Star Trek – you will be immediately taken from one place to another.  If you bookmark places on the grid (called making a landmark) you can teleport to places you've marked.  If you find a place you like ALWAYS make a landmark and rename it in your inventory.  Even now I get stuck underwater or a student closed the door on the room I was working in – I had someone teleport me out and dealt with the student by walking up to him in my classroom and discussing that we don't lock the teacher's avatar in a room! ;-)  Your friends can teleport you to where they are and it is very useful.

Inventory – All of the things that belong to you.  Your clothes, your actions (what you can do), your landmarks, notecards, scripts – everything.  Make copies.  Rename things.  Back things up.  Your inventory is your life in a virtual world.

Trigger – You “own” actions.  If you don't have an action, your avatar cannot do it.  So, if you want to smile or laugh or anything, you have to have the action.  Well, some actions have triggers. This means, when you type a trigger word in the chat, that your avatar will act a certain way.  So, if I type lol, my avatar laughs because it triggers the action “laugh.”  Again, get friends because they will give you actions.  Also, you may find boxes of clothes, actions (also called gestures), and other things in some places that cater to beginners and you can take those things and add them to your inventory.

Rez – This means to create an object or make it appear.  “Rezzing” means that something is materializing.  Today I was taxing the grid and my pants looked like rainbows – they “rezzed” for quite a while and turned into my favorite pair of faded jeans.  It is OK, be patient.

These are just some terms, there is a Second Life wikia full of terms.  Bookmark it to look things up.  These are the terms that I had to learn just to be able to communicate with those who are “in the know.”  And beware, Google define does not work for many second life terms – the wikia is the best place to go for this.

8 Great Guidelines for Joining Second Life

  1. Find a Fast Net – Have a good computer with an excellent Internet Connection
  2. Find a Friend to Take You In – Have a friend who knows a little bit take you “in.”  DO NOT go in alone.  Kind if like signing up for twitter an dnot adding any friends.
  3. Bail on Beginner Island – As soon as you are “born” have them teleport you OFF beginner island.
  4. Have a Sense of Humor (but stay dressed!) – Prepare to totally be clueless, get stuck in walls, and be frustrated – have a sense of humor and get over it.  Whatever you do DO NOT triple click on your clothing or take off your clothes – you'll be embarrassed.
  5. Get Out a Bit – Attend an event of some kind where you can meet people (ask friends to recommend events for educators or join SLED – Second Life for Educators) or go somewhere like ISTE Island to see some neat set ups.  (ISTE has set it up so you can join and go straight to their island.)
  6. Find Friends – Ask your friends already on to add you as friends.  Like twitter, SL makes NO SENSE without your friends.  Using connectivism in action, you have got to join some good groups and have some friends so they can help you and teach you, maybe even give you some space or an office.  Remember, though that many of them are going to be working in SL and it is NOT play for them — maybe they will let you watch while they work.  And hard work it is.
  7. Inspect Everything – Once you understand how to move around a little, Right click on objects and also touch things.  Accept notecards and landmarks and read everything.  Begin to think of it as a virtual world.
  8. SL isn't the only place you can go – Realize that there are many other options OTHER than Second Life using the OpenSim protocols.  I go into Second Life to look at things, review scripts, look at objects, and show my students cool things they can do (I show it on the smartboard because they can't go on the adult grid.)  

More Terminology

LSLLinden Scripting Language – This is the programming language for scripting in Second Life AND OpenSim which uses the Open Source version of the Second Life browser and tools.

OpenSim – This is a 3D application server which can be downloaded for free from OpenSim.  Some schools put this on their server and run it at school and then work with companies like ReactionGrid to plan “field trips” into other OpenSim worlds.  We have a parcel on Reactiongrid adjacent to NASA and Microsoft and sometimes it is possible to find sponsors for your sim, however, it is very affordable – you can get started for around $25 a month on an OpenSim on reactiongrid which is very affordable as technologies go.  You can use an OpenSim viewer (we use HippoOpen Sim which is based upon the Second Life browser and can actually be used to log into Second Life.)  This is very similar to Second life.

Can I move things between Second Life and Open Sim?

Well, at this point, the way I've moved just scripts is to copy the script into notepad and then make a new Script in OpenSim and then paste it into the new script in Open Sim — I DO NOT run both Second Life and OpenSim at the same time.  LSL is used for both.  Supposedly there is something you can buy in Second Life that lets you move your inventory but at this point I haven't found it.

So, right now I've got a ‘scripting shack” for teaching my students and will be cutting and pasting HOW to do things.

So, if you want to step into Second Life and OpenSim with me, here is your assignment for Day 1 (which may take you several days)

Day 1

  1. Join Second Life and follow the 8 great guidelines listed above
  2. Keep a list in a simple text editor like Notepad of the things you see that you'd like to do– you'll use these in a later assignment here.
  3.  Make at least 10 “friends” – you can add me, I'm CoolCat Whitman but I'm not on SL a lot- am on reactiongrid and OpenSim because that is where I work with my students.
  4. Go to ISTE Island, sign up for their group, fill out their survey, and try out things there.   
  5. Landmark ISTE Island.  Go somewhere else and then teleport back.
  6. Blog, share what you've learned and inquire.  Seek out experts and reflect — experts need to see the reflections and thoughts of beginners.  With everything you see, ask yourself – could this be used to teach? If so, how?
  7. Feel free to share your questions and frustrations here if you wish – or link back to me and I'll find you.


Oh, and if you want to be in my family, I'm a Whitman as my last name.  My students are all Radikal! ;-)

If you're looking for people in Second Life you can use the hashtag #secondlife in twitter and then search for that, but perhaps of more use would be the tag #sled taking off on the SLEd group above.

Now, experts out there – help me and the other Noobs here — give your tips, blog posts and point us where we need to go.  I'm sure that there are so many things I don't know.  Sorry for being a beginner but as I've always said, there is power in being  a newbie!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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