Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Professor, Avatar, Student, Writer, Editor, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, and Friend

It is wicked exciting to see your name in print; it is even MORE wicked exciting to see it in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Andrea Foster did a nice job of writing up a ditty about some awesome work going on in Second Life. Balancing out the article from last week, I thought Andrea did a nice balance...she didn't sugar coat life in virtual space, but she didn't slam dunk our efforts.

What strikes me about the article, though, isn't about what she wrote, but about who she wrote about. These folks are some of the most talented folk around, and they are super busy. I know - for a fact - that Intellagirl must be busy; she has THREE wee ones, and I merely have two. All of the people represented there are super crazy busy, but all of them take their time to do an excellent job in this life and their virtual lives.

So, that lead me to think of the roles we all play. In real life, I am NERD...FT professor to students at a community college and PT professor to students at an awesome 4-year private Catholic college. NERD is a nickname that the honors students tapped me with a few years back, and is, evidently, easier to say than Professor Ritter-Guth. In this role, I am zany, unconventional, fair, but tough.

In real life, I am a student in the Tech Comm and Rhet doctoral program at Texas Tech University. I read volumes, write volumes, and discuss all sorts of theory. I am not as zany or unconventional, but I do my best and act like a nerd.

In real life, I am a writer. Mostly, I blog, but I do other sorts of academic research and writing, and I am working on creative things that aren't public. I also write lots of notes to teachers, therapists, and government officials. I write lists that I lose. I write cards that I forget to send.

In real life, I edit things. Most recently, I accepted a guest co-editorship for Innovate on a special issue about Second Life. I also do reviews and other editing work for journals and student conferences.

But the best roles, are the ones that don't involve work. While I am not so domestic, and only roughly know the makings of an oven, I enjoy my role as Mom. It helps that my kids are wicked cool and creative, but still at an age where Mommy is awesome, and all other girls have cooties. My husband tells me that this Mama worship will end soon, and I have seen my five year old eyeing up Daisy, it must be true. In the mail today, two packages with 50 Spider man toothbrushes and the other with 25 Superman spinny toothbrushes. We have to give them out, you seem in the impending birthday bags...because we simply can't let our friends wander around with yucky breath. In the washing machine is the purple sheet used to create the Bat Cave in the living room...the polar bear flashlight has fresh batteries, and the AWESOME new batman costumes are hanging near the door - waiting for their owners to slip into them for another day of fighting the bad guys and saving the day.

In my email bin are recipes from my mother who is convinced that I can still learn domesticity, an email from my brother begging me to bid on a paintball part for his birthday, and a bunch of emails from my best friend from college who is having her very first baby (do I have any advice? Yes..get the epidural...screw Lamaze...bathe alone now as you never will again...remove all sharpies from the house...lock the toilet...invest in Magic Erasers).

So, we all play many roles...we mix and match, and some of us run to virtual worlds to do all that we can there that we can't in real life. The most important thing, of course, is to love all your roles and realities.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Students in Tech writing talked about the use of virtual worlds in technical fields; we ended class with a visit to IBM's codestation Labyrinth.

My kids have these tapes - you remember them....the Magic School Bus? Well, Sharpie Boy has an addiction to the Busasaurus tape. We have watched it at least 568 times (exactly). Fortunately, his fearless accomplice, Giddy-Up Man, is currently addicted to Smallville, and we ALL know how cute Bo Duke is at any age.

Sadly, you can not watch both Smallville and Busasaurus at the exact same time. Even though we have multiple DVD players, everyone has to be in the exact same room. Generally, this is the same room I am in.

So, as I was stopping WW3 in my living room today, I was thinking about manners in virtual worlds. I am amazed by how many people do things in SL that they would never ever ever do in real life. For example, in real life, no one would ever walk into your classroom and start chatting about your shoes. Now, I only wear sandals or hiking boots, so maybe they WOULD talk about my shoes if they were at all interesting, but I doubt they would do it in my classroom. In real life, no one gets bent outta shape when you say, "sorry, I gotta run - I have class in 3 seconds." In virtual worlds, some folks think you are blowing them off when you say that. As a person with 6 classes inworld and 176 students, I can honestly say that if I say "I'm in class" or "I'm with students" - It is very likely true. It doesn't mean that the person isn't important; it just means that we have to catch up at a different time. Finally, no one would run up to me at the start of a class, tell me 10000 important things and then say, ok, gotta run. I have no way to focus on that kind of information. Email or a notecard is WAY WAY WAY better :-)

Anywho. In stopping the fight over Busasaurus and Smallville, I had some sort of epiphany. I am not sure what...but something...something creeping up and saying that in addition to everything else my students need to learn in SL, they need to learn manners. Manners are transcendent.

As we remember the vicitims of 9-11, please visit Liam Kanno's memorial inworld (search for 911 Memorial). May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace and rise in Glory.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


OMG! I am guilty of blog neglect!!!!

The last few weeks have been a landslide of various things, so please accept my dear apologies for leaving you hanging around for new news.

The most important of the "busies" happened yesterday, as my little dude, dressed like Superman, walked into his first day of school. He, of course, was not at all sentimental. I, however, had two cameras and 3 boxes of Kleenex. Things were pretty bad when his wee little self poised himself in the Car-Seat-of-Wonder (we know it works, but none of us truly understands how - though we ALL adore the cup holders) and said quite frankly, "Mom. I am going to be just fine; you just wait and see. I promise...I will come home to eat." So, off he went in his cape to save the day.

All of the other Moms (the good Moms), waited at the door looking perfect; they were wearing cute pickly matched coordinates, glorious up-dos, and purses. They were all dressed up for the Biggest Day of The Child's Life. I, on the other hand, was wearing a ripped up Harley Davidson t-shirt, scrapply jeans, and sandals (the only thing a woman can do when she cries is wash the kitchen floor on her hands and is true). Smelling like lemon and sponges and something none of us should try to identify, I smiled weakly as the other Mommies got out their cameras and tissue boxes. Praise be! There is justice in the world.

Giddyup Man (this is his own creation and designated super hero name) loved (LOVED) school, and brought home his very first picture...a picture of a gun, 2 police cars and the General Lee. Written nicely above it, the teacher wrote "The Duke Boys chasing the bad guys and being chased by the cops." Ah, my boy...his first act of brilliance involved the Dukes of Hazzard and a pistol. I need to talk to The Boss about educational programming. He even got homework....the beauty of private which he profoundly said "Mom. I am 5. I simply DON'T DO homework." Ye gads. It starts already.

In any case, I think I will need to buy MORE tissues for when he starts Kindergarten next year (oh yeah - I DID mention that this was just preschool, right???).

So, this major event comes at the end of a rush of things. Starting with the SLCC inworld education conference (which was a blast), moving toward the start of classes (and 176 immersed SL students), and now has been hectic.

I am sad to report that in the time since I last wrote I have lost some RL friends (Jeanne and Mr. Gloss), and an SL friend, Billy Hartmann. I have also parted ways with my SL partner, a wonderful and kind man that deserves the world. As he moves on his SL, I wish him all the very best of both worlds. We parted with a beautiful friendship and some excellent memories, and it was with a sad heart that I watched him teleport away. We both knew it was coming; education is now my major focus in SL. But, he was with me back in the Days of Noob. And, as I remember him stumbling in from the snow wearing, um, well, a Noobie outfit, I remember fondly what it was like when SL was about exploration. I hope that my students, all 176 of them, find amazing friends like him.