Saturday, May 07, 2005
OK here's a public backpack site for my project to put my intro to lit class online. This 37Signals and they are creating some simple, interesting, and useable sites with Ruby on Rails. I want to learn that programming language.
So why do I like teaching undergraduates? Because I am not dismayed by the prospect of a world in which at least one-sixth (and as many as one-half) of my auditors-students-interlocutors take seriously the possibility that they will use the critical tools I try to wield and to offer for further use. I’m actually rather cheered by the idea. I think of it this way: On my bad days I teach to tbe six young adults who just might pursue literary and cultural studies for much of the rest of their lives, but on what scale of values does that constitute failure? Another twelve, maybe another twenty, might be motivated, by me and by my colleagues, to continue serious, critically reflective reading in their adult lives, and how could I possibly hope for a better "rate of response" from anything I might publish in a "public" forum? College teaching is, as many teachers have pointed out in the past decade, a substantial form of "public intellectual" work. And isn't pedagogy, in the end, one of the principal reasons that literary journalists have such complex and conflicted relations with literature professors —because we work the same beat save that they have readerships and we have students?
Berube, Michael. Pedagogy, Winter2002, Vol. 2 Issue 1, p3, 13p
Michael Berube justifies the literary game. Teachers should focus on students much as writers should pay attention to their audiences. Is this so obvious to belabor? No, because I honestly don’t see many teachers doing that. What would happen if we really thought of students as our audiences not only now but after they have left our classrooms? The classroom then becomes 4–D and time outside the semester becomes an element. How to do this? Continuing to serve your audience through weblogs, listservs, email zines, contests, surveys, consulting, etc. The classroom is not a linear thing, an object plopped down in a plaza for all to view then walk away from. A classroom is an inconceivable conflux of thread and space that spins out from one short moment in time. Practically speaking, it can actually be this now much more than ever before because we don’t have to abandon that web each semester. I want my teaching to be this way because I think that it is a continuing part of the “public intellectual” work that I embrace out of choice. It is a duty, too. I owe my students that much because they are also my colleagues and friends .
Yesterday was the last day of finals, graduation was slated for the evening and I was returning some books to the university library. One of my former high school students walked through the doors to do the same thing I was doing, but it was also his graduation day. James and I talked about his years in college, his plans, and his dreams. It was a closure moment for both of us when he told me what he remembered most from my classes—media analysis, especially movies, and most notably by the Wallace and Gromit movies. If I had had an enlarged view of teaching like I am proposing, I could have shared more of his story and would have had a fuller life in doing so. As James wished me a fond goodbye, I said I would start some cool rumors about him.
I don’t express myself well here, but that’s ok. Blogging can be so much thinking out loud and still be just fine.
A recent discussion on Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed and a synchronicitous listen to a Steve Dembo podcast of Teach42 .
Dembo says in effect that blogging is not an intuitive and that's why you need to do the blogging 101 thing over and over. Part of the reason I don't blog personally as much is because I am doing a lot of this bloggo a bloggo interaction. So... let's keep doing the 101 thing, but let's also figure out how to make blogs "useable" to the novice. Any ideas?
Schools become invisible when they engage students with real-life problems.
I am not sure who said that originally, but I wholeheartedly agree. This has always been a goal of mine. I don’t want to objectify school in somebody’s head, I want somebody to extend themselves into the world. I am engaged in the process of gettng my intro to lit class on the web. How do I make that place invisible?
Friday, May 06, 2005
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
America’s high schools are obsolete.
By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points.
By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.
Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
We need to know what our tech tools do best and then back off if there are other alternative tools available. Wouldn't we be better off developing methods which help teachers decide on the best mix of all available tools and that includes which ones fits our teaching personas best. That's a lot more nuance than most of us blogvangelists have been able to muster. Until the ed schools get off their butts to do this, I think we better get started with it.
Will at Weblogg-ed broaches this topic. I think he is dead on when he says that we must continue to get the message out. I thing the best way to do that is by making these tools part of the larger mix of tools. We must co-op the old tools just as the Catholic Church co-opted pagan holidays by squatting down next to, say... the lesson plan and taking it over incrementally. And we need to make damned sure that the mix makes their teaching lives better in demonstrably easier ways. Technology must pay for them in their own way first. If they come to see it our way so much the better, but until that tipping point is reached we are pissing in the wind by just putting the food down where the goats can get to it.
"Although Half Life 2 is, as Steve points out, far more complex than the previous generation's Pac-Man, for all its amazing physics and integrated puzzles and pretty good pixelated acting, HL2 gives us a toy world. The world of Emma Bovary, on the other hand, doesn't resolve to rules and puzzles. It's messy, ambiguous, and truly complex. Of course Steve knows this, but he underplays it when pointing out the hidden complexity of video games."
Could literature get more respect from students by a head on comparison with video game narrative? I should think that any lit teacher worth his water should be able to do that. That would be the real marketplace of ideas in action. I think I can win that debate.