Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Creating Culture

There are some days when teaching is a frustrating mess, and I leave the classroom thinking about how I would look in a black suits working the world of all things corporate. Today was not one of those days.

The students in English 104 at DeSales have been struggling. They have no idea why an English class is doing this whole SL thing. They didn't get it.

Today was the day we all hope for...today was the AH HA moment day...

In addition to the World University Exchange program, my students are charged with using SL to create a culture. But, as we all know, culture is not created in a vacuum. Culture is a culmination of events and experiences, good and bad, that make up a fabric. Second Life provides a safe place to challenge students.

Back at the beginning of the semester, students tossed one shoe into the center of the room. Two team captains were picked, and they took turns picking a shoe. At the end, one sneaker was left. The owner of the sneaker became the "king" and the two groups were formed. Various challenges have happened; several assignments have taken place. But, over the weekend, Eloise and I worked magic to change the whole fabric. We took land away from the smaller group; they could either join the other group as servants or they could try to make it on their own.

Today's discussion was AMAZING! They discussed whether a community is made up of land and people or if it is made up of ideals and philosophy. It was a good chat, and one I wish you could have heard.

Monday, October 29, 2007

35 Things

My friend, Tess, told me that in order to earn my birthday present, I had to come up with 35 things I am thankful for...I am not allowed to list any "standards" (house, home, kids, hub, God, Twinkies, her).

So, Tess...this BETTER be some kickin present...

1. I am thankful that I wore my Wonder Woman bathing suit when I had a body to make it look cute;

2. I am thankful for them-there chicken pot pies that can be made in the microwave and that they have crust on the top AND on the bottom;

3. I am thankful that tattoos and piercings were not popular when I was a kid;

4. I am thankful for the makers of the Cracker Barrel;

5. I am thankful for all that tea that landed in the ocean and wish there were some more to toss in for a good reminder;

6. I am thankful for Cocoa Pebbles;

7. I am thankful for Mary Shelley;

8. I am thankful for the new tab tops of cat food; it is less time that my cats scratch me to get food, seeing as they weigh in at at least 100 pounds each;

9. I am thankful for tote bags made of sturdy canvas;

10. I am thankful for Lard;

11. I am thankful that I didn't turn 50 because I am running out of witty things to say;

12. I am thankful for Satellite radio;

13. I am thankful for GPS;

14. I am thankful for Second Life and all the people in it, especially Eloise, Daliah, and Neveah;

15. I am thankful for funnel cake;

16. I am thankful for popcorn and butter;

17. I am thankful that spandex and leg warmers are no longer popular;

18. I am thankful that my career as a rock star lasted exactly 13 seconds;

19. I am thankful for math tutors;

20. I am thankful for cheese wiz and other cheese food products;

21. I am thankful for Aloe plants and neosporin;

22. I am thankful for Pogo;

23. I am thankful for all living creatures, great and small;

24. I am thankful for stick shift cars;

25. I am thankful that they releases retro Atari;

26. I am thankful for those little cardboard coffee holder thingies at WaWa;

27. I am thankful for fudge;

28. I am thankful that the neighbor's dog is scared of pooping in my lawn and that the fear factor is a 16 year old declawed cat named Bertie;

29. I am thankful for the change counter at Giant;

30. I am thankful for being a libertarian, so I can be thankful for my family and friends (the Boss, Moustache Man, and Sharpie Boy especially) and God.

31. I am thankful for bacon;

32. I am thankful for smart people;

33. I am thankful for each breath I take;

34. I am thankful for technology, and

35. I am thankful that you read this whole list.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Good Look Back

Right. So, I turned 35 on the 26th. WHEN DID I GET OLD??? Omg...omg...omg...I think I slept through the past 10 years because I still FEEL 25.

As it happened, my birthday also fell on trick or treat night. Despite the down pour and the Mayor's inability to make a wise choice, we went out anyhow...jumping in puddles...doing the hardcore Halloween experience. Moustache Man was Super Man AND Spider man AND Bat Man. Don't ask; it defied physics. Sharpie Boy was not in the mood for dressing up and simply wore is Spidey poncho.

To celebrate the Great State of Halloween, Desi and the Pussycats are hosting a special Halloween Buzz for NMC tomorrow night at 6 SLT. Not into the whole Halloween thing? Never fear...there is a Harvest Festival over at the Literature Alive! HQ. Don't have a costume? No worries - we even have those. We are giving out tons of freebies...and there are cash prizes for best costume!

Many many many thanks to my gorgeous and talented staff..Eloise, Daliah, and Neveah. They have really helped create a kickin' exhibit! And, of course, many thanks to our sponsors:

Alliance Library System
Eloise Pasteur Educational Designs
The V3 Group
The Foundation for Rich Content

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Muffin Slam

Today was our day to bring snack. Each day, a different child is selected to be the bearer of the snack...the child marches in and announces with the voice of King Richard the III (or Elizabeth the I), "I, Moustache Man (or Princess Carpathia), bear the gifts of Food and Drink; ye all shall be impressed with my Mother's Good Sense and Godly choice of Snack. May you marvel in her Betty Crockerdom and wish you, too, had the Greatest Mother on Earth!"

...and they give you like a month's notice and all....and then I worried for an entire month...what snack should we take? Bottle of juice or juice boxes? Juice baggies? Donuts for the week of the letter D? Healthy? Junk food? My son wouldn't eat it unless it came in the form of a nugget or hot dog, so it didn't much matter to him. If I picked the WRONG snack, will he become a drug addict? Need therapy? Write a book called "My Mommy Messed up Snack Day and Other Twice Told Tales"?

What happens when he finds out that I actually forgot snack day was today after worrying about it non-stop for the past moon...only remembering at the very last possible second and grabbing a new pack of Double Stuffed Oreos and Welch's grape juice...and yesterday I forgot Sharpie Boy's picture day (and he was wearing a HORRIBLE shirt...ugh)....and I took him to school today wearing two different colored socks?

And, then, while driving the Mama van, I realized that World Peace is a problem and not snack day, but, still and all, I am a perfectionist. I can only hope they write something like this on my grave stone:

Here lies our Mama
She loved cats and llamas
She sometimes forgot snack day
but then let us build with clay
our lives so they would be full of wonda

Well, they are 5 and can't spell yet, and it was better than using the word DRAMA!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Def Poetry

I often spend my free time looking for material for my students. I came across this live poem by Suheir Hammad, and was so incredibly moved by it, I had to post it.

Warning: Adult Languag

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bring on the Jeans

So, I have been paying attention to the Web 2.0 Summit this week over there on the other side of the country. There was a GREAT interview with Mark Zuckerberg (you know, the kid that created Facebook) and I was so insanely impressed. Why? Other than liking his shoes, I am just totally impressed with this generation of "Ivy League dropouts" (as the announcer called him).

I get the same good feeling about Mark that I get from listing to Sergey Brin or Phillip Linden or even Howard Stern. No, they don't hold PhDs in whatever-it-is-you-major-in-to-be-important. They each took a concept, made it happen, and, holy pete, they are brilliant!

Let's take a look at each of these guys. They wear what they want. They are doing what they love. They have nothing to prove.

Whatever you may think about the content of the Howard Stern show, you have to admit the guy is totally brilliant. He has over the past 20 years, with his team of loyal employees and fans, revolutionized the radio industry. He didn't sit back and say, "Oh, sorry, I shouldn't have said THAT...I will be more careful next time. " He said, "Look, this is AMERICA...if I can't say THAT here, where on earth can I say it??? And, then he went to Sirius...and I, along with millions of other people, bought the radios, the subscriptions, and tuned in to hear what he would say in a world with no boundaries. Do I like all the stuff I hear there? Nope. But, I don't like a lot of what I hear anywhere. I DO like that he has the freedom to talk about what he wants in the way he wants to talk about it. I like the idea that he has, through all of the fines and bad press, championed free speech and, truly, has done more for the amendment than ANY other media personality. I don't have to like the strippers to appreciate the trailblazing he has done. And, the beauty of freedom is that I can as easily tune out as in, and make my own choices about what is edifying.

In many ways, Howard Stern was the pre-cursor to the freedom we see on the web. Facebook, started by Mark-the-Kid-from-Harvard (who is, in my opinion, way more "seasoned" than CEOs of big-ole stuffy corporations) celebrates that same kind of freedom. You have the FREEDOM to post stupid pics of yourself doing stupid and illegal things. Having the platform doesn't mean you have to do bad things with it. It can ALSO be used for other cool things like getting your band's name out there or meeting new folks at your school. Can it be used for ill? Sure it can. All things can be used for ill, but we don't need big brother telling us what we should and shouldn't use.

Linden Lab is based on that same principle. We are bound only by the physics of SL. Sure, bad things happen in SL. But, hey, bad things happen everywhere and GOOD things happen everywhere. Eliminating an environment like Second Life doesn't lessen the number of crazy people out there. When I met Philip Linden, I was just impressed with how kind and down to earth he was. Like Mark and Sergey, he is a guy doing what he loves and a lot of people love it along with him.

The Google Boys, Sergey being just one of those Stanford crew, have that same energy and light. Let's see what happens when people can be creative. You don't need a degree to do that. You don't need a stamp that says you have jumped through hoops. You prove your worth by the effectiveness of your product. And, by golly, Google has done that. They allow people to be creative.

So, what happens to all the scrambling academics? Nothing changes. We have all known, or should know, that the most brilliant kids didn't and don't need degrees. Just because Stern doesn't have a PhD in Communications doesn't mean he is any less qualified to speak about it. If anything, he is MORE qualified to speak about it because he has been out there on the front lines championing free speech for decades. Facebook is working, and Mark doesn't need to speak the lingo of a CEO to make it work. He doesn't need an MBA from Harvard to do what he is already doing. Second Life works...it isn't perfect...but nothing is...and Philip doesn't need a star from Stanford anymore than Sergey does. They are revolutionizing the world and our job is to watch and participate.

I love the new freedom of satellite radio, the freedom of the social web, and the freedom of virtual worlds.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why I love Teaching

You would think that students in a Saturday morning class would be bitter. It is hard to get outta bed on a Saturday morning to go chat about Huck Finn and the Progressive Era...but, somehow, I manage.

The students are simply AWESOME, and that really helps me get out of bed. They are working on the Progressive Era Plot and have just been AMAZING! Eloise and I can hardly keep up! They designed an amusement park theme to tie together their three projects: sweat shops, rail history, and the rise of (local) Dorney Park.

The student showcase is THIS COMING Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 8:00 AM SLT http://slurl.com/secondlife/Finger%20Lakes%20Island/221/27/23

Please come and VOTE for the best student project!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wicked Cool Slideshare Shows!

I am an impulse shopper. Ask Daliah, Eloise, and Neveah (hereafter called "Desi and the Pussycats")...I bought a covered wagon yesterday...ya know...just in case we decide to recreate Laura Ingalls books.


I went over to Slideshare to upload slides from my Friday presentation on Web 2.0 applications. Before leaving, I found these wicked cool slideshare shows.

Desi's List of Wicked Cool Slideshare Shows

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Catching Up 2.0

Adey immed me...when are you going to blog again? Sheesh....I just blogged...omg...over a MONTH ago! Okay. you can all take away gold stars. I am a sucky blog hostess. I will offer to you my lame excuses, and hope they measure up :-)

Desi''s Top 10 Reason for blog Neglect

Reason 1: GiddyUp Man Started School
Whomever said that life gets easier AFTER the kids start school LIED. As Super-Mom, I now have to worry about school fundraisers, the Marathon, chaperoning the wee trip to the Pumpkin farm, and making sure my son's unruly hair stays down. Then there is remembering that he likes to go 15 minutes early so that he can run around in a big circle with his bestest friends in the entire world...the whole pre-K class. After school, it is mandatory that we go to the park or the nature trail or to Aunt Kerri's house or for Ice Cream or to the Comic Book Store. Sharpie Boy, the accomplice, has been in the IU for his third year now, and they don't have fundraisers. He also passes out from exhaustion once he his strapped into his car seat. If he could talk, he would say, "Mama, lets go home and chill." I can read his mind; it's one of the 7 super secret powers we get at Motherhood School. It isn't as handy as the MAMA VISION we are all given upon graduation (yes, I DO know who sent that blue matchbox down the toilet...MAMA Vision...it is everywhere). Anyway, Sharpie Boy spoiled me...but Giddy Up Man has been waiting his whole wee life to go to school and then drive me crazy with post-academic adventures. His Tae Kwon Do class, of course, has hit parade season. And, as he rode the float today tossing Smarties at the free world, the parents huffed and puffed behind it for 5 miles, I thought that my next book would be titled "The Fat Girls Guide to Gittin' Skinny." Strategy 1: Follow the Tae Kwon Do Cart in a Halloween parade.

Reason 2: The Boss shifted to Middles and the Phillies Made the Playoffs (but lost it all)
It is no secret to anyone living in a 30 mile radius that The Boss likes Baseball and NASCAR. On the day I delivered GiddyUp Man, The Boss watched NASCAR in my hospital room. Feeling lucky that he wasn't castrated after 24 hours of labor resulting in a C-Section, he felt entitled to watch the race and then suggested we name the boy after the winning driver. If I coulda moved...
So, the Phillies, his all time favorite team. made it to the Superbowl or whatever it is they get to before they get to the World Series, and we had to watch every game. Tivo was simply not good enough. On the days he had to work, many a cardiac patient was tortured as he oggled their TV screens. When the Philles lost in the playoffs, he moped around like a sad puppy. GiddyUp Man added insult to injury by chanting "Hey Ho Baseball is OVER!!!!!" ( I secretly sang along).

Reason 3: My Virtual Life has Picked Up
Not wanting to be bored this semester, I decided to take all of my classes into Second Life. That adds up to over 200 students. I can only THANK ME LUCKY STARS for the Dream Team: Eloise, Daliah, and my newest addition, an intern named Neveah. Desi and the Pussycats are always busy inworld, but we are working on some AWESOME projects. The students in Progressive Era Literature have built this incredible environment that looks like a theme park. There is a working train, a sweat shop disguised as a Fun House, and a working carousel, Ferris wheel, and cups ride. They students have added lots of great information about literature and social history of the era, and - truly - have gone above and beyond. Many thanks to Eloise Pasteur for her tireless volunteerism in building for the students. Check it out at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Finger%20Lakes%20Island/218/46/276
The rest of my students are involved with the World University Exchange (see Reason 4).

Reason 4: World University Exchange
What happens when you take a boat load of faculty from around the world and all their students and stick them into Second Life in a virtual Survivor-meets-College activity? Life gets busy! The WUE is an AWESOME project, but it involves daily work and planning. Check it out at http://worlduniversityexchange.wikispaces.com/ As far as we know, this is the largest multi-national virtual project for college students in SL.

Reason 5: People Invite me to Chat
There are so few people in this area doing virtual worlds and Web 2.0 stuff that I get lots of requests to speak. Meeting new people is lots of fun, and it is really rewarding to see people have their AH HA moments right there in front of you. There are lots of opportunities..some near...some far...but I love to travel, so there you have it.

Reason 6: Texas Tech
In the midst of pulling toys out of the loo and correcting the nine BILLIONTH comma splice, I am also taking a class toward that coveted PhD. At the rate I am going, I ought to have it when I am 97. Anywho, the class is interesting, but there is loads of reading, writing, massaging, weeping, and writing some more. The class is a theory one, and my self-diagnosed ADD kicks in when I have to sit still enough to read anything with the word "Thus" in it. It is a lot of work, but it is useful, and I am learning a lot. Plus, it helps to BE a student while teaching students.

Reason 7: Minnie May
The problem with being the family pushover is that when someone finds a stray kitty, it is high time to pick up the phone and call Aunt Beth for a rescue recon mission. I got a call to rescue a cat in the sister-in-law's basement at her apartment building, and after two hours of coaxing, this little sweet kitty emerged and was rescued. Little sweet kitty has claws and teeth of sharpened steel, though. Sadly, she must have been abused and, to make life even more interesting, no one taught her how to keep her paws crossed, so it looks like I am going to be a Grandma. So, since this kitty is not-so-friendly, we have her on the sun porch, and I spend too much time feeding, talking, and trying not to get sliced up by her. I have been giving her mothering lessons and trying to get her to notice that not all humans are jerks.

Reason 8: Addiction to Pogo
The first step in dealing with addiction is admitting the weakness. So, there you have it, I am addicted to Pogo. Specifically, I am addicted to games called Lottso, Zuma, and the Wedding Planner. I am also addicted to the game WeBoggle (thanks, Jean-Claude) and to Tetris on GiddyUp Man's Advanced Color GameBoy. I used to think best when driving, but then a bunch of jerks were given driving licenses, so now I think whilst matching wee little shapes and shooting colored balls into oblivion.

Reason 9: It's Fall
I love Autumn. It is my favorite season, and I like to be out among the leaves and not in front of my laptop. So, lame as it is, I am out and about and not in and glued to my keyboard.

Reason 10: Grading Papers
Believe it or not, I read every assignment twice before grading it. This takes up a lot of time and energy (let alone mood). As papers swing in, I try to have them back within a week. So, grading takes up a large chunk of time.

I realize these are all lame excuses, but it least paints a picture of why I am sooooo busy :-) But, I promise to repent and write faithfully :-)