Yea, I’m slow. The announcement that Second Life would be adding a user-selected display name came out months ago, but I am just getting around to logging pixels on the topic of what this means for educators.
While I’m preparing to duck here, I have to say that, as a teacher, I actually welcome the idea of having display names and user names. I realize that there are issues to work out, especially during the transition. However, I think it would be particularly useful to be able to greet a student in world without having to sort through a cheat sheet to try to line up a bizarre Second Life name with a name on my class list — a list that is, inevitably not handy at the moment when I need it. For class purposes, I would be able to require a student to use his or her real name when doing school-related work … at least if the student wanted to get credit for course participation for that day. It might be useful to be able to switch that name more often than weekly, since I’m sure many students do not want to be identifiable when not at my educational build, but for selfish purposes, my aging mind welcomes the ability to remember one name per student.
My current work around has been to use the various roleplay combat system attachments or roleplay name changers, which bring about their own issues such as scripting lag and the association of school with gaming and roleplay activities. The display name option is, you have to admit, more elegant.
It will no doubt take time for us to adjust. I am fortunate in that I do not have any scripts currently that rely upon user names for security or other reasons, since I base my scripting on active group membership. But, I am looking forward to this, and other recent updates announced over the summer. For good or ill, Second Life remains one of the more accessible and usable user-created content platforms available to the average user.