Monthly Archives: July 2010
We are asked to teach online because we need money and the University of Phoenix has a corner on that market here. I might be better at teaching online than some people just because of my blogging and web design experience, and my interests in media. However, there are serious reasons not to volunteer.
Some reasons why people resist teaching on line:
+ prior bad experience with e-books, commercial course websites and workbooks, and CMS software that doesn’t work well and is tedious;
+ because the most fun and creative part of teaching is the face to face part — without which all one has left is the tedious parts (grading, e-mail, updating clunky websites, dealing with other technology driven problems that limit one rather than expand possibilities);
+ because we are given static, bureaucratic formats for online courses, so these are far more antiquated in terms of format, content, and skills development than what can be done in person;
+ because whereas faculty members create their own in person courses, it is not clear whether we will even be considered “stakeholders” in the determination of content for online courses.
Why online courses might be useful for me and mine:
+ for the same reasons as we have had distance learning by video. This had problems, including the fact that there was an actual and also a remote classroom. But an online course, if the teaching modules and software were good, and if it were not 100% online for all students but could be hybrid in some way, with the possibility of some face to face meetings and events, could serve the purposes of the older distance learning program in a more functional and interesting way.
How I think this whole initiative could be made attractive:
+ allow for a lot of control and creativity by the actual professor, in terms of decisions about content and delivery;
+ make sure content created could also be used in face to face courses, so that effort is not toward a one-off thing or toward the creation of something that will pass out of one’s control;
+ let faculty members in on the decisions about technology.
What I think is wrong with the hopes expressed above:
+ the “live music” aspect of face to face teaching — it cannot be replicated.
+ the fact that students would have to be seriously trained to take online discussion seriously. I strongly discussion skills are best learned in person first.
Everyone I know who has taught on line is dissatisfied with it. Everyone I know who has taken online courses says they had their reasons for being glad the option was available, but had they been in a position to commute or move they would have preferred an actual class. What would you add to any of this?
ONE: The Emeritus Professor used to say you had to be from the upper classes to be an academic. I would laugh, as we are not ourselves from the upper classes, and also because whereas the Emeritus Professor worked at an institution where one could have research expenses paid, I do not; to function I need a salary, not an honorarium. However, I have recently been listening to two people I know well and who are very successful academics talk about their internal struggles with academia, and I realized that the issue was in part class.
Even after all these time, neither feels he belongs; both are always seeking models and instructions — not just checking on examples and rules, but seeking instructions. A third person of their stature, whose family was too poor to have furniture when he was a child, does not have the same problem — but then she is white and is living in her region, and is studying a subject that has made her a heroine.
Both of these first two professors invite me places on occasion and then stare at me. How can I work at an institution like mine and respect it? How can I say we have very good people here? How can I feel I have any authority to speak when I am only me? I do not know what I could do to instill more confidence in them, or more democratic feeling, or less adoration for certain dubious authorities at their own institutions. I do not know what I could do to get them to believe anything I might say could have value, given that I have not attained their official stature. Therefore I am not in a position to impart peacefulness to them.
TWO: I had to have one of those dinners academics have to have (and I had to pay for it, which is another reason I need a salary and not an honorarium). Since it was one of those dinners, the Blackguard had to come. I invited my youngest brother, partly because one is supposed to have family members at these dinners, partly because I thought he would actually like to meet some of the assistant professors who are his age, and partly on the general principle that I should invite him to more things and this was a thing.
So he came and made an interesting friend, and I took the opportunity later to ask him what he thought of the Blackguard. He said: “Why does this Blackguard smell and talk like a truck driver?” I thought: “He doesn’t, because an actual truck driver would not smell or talk like that at a dinner such as the one I gave.” Which means our man either truly does not know how to behave, or is behaving poorly on purpose. I believe the latter theory, but can anyone make an argument for the former one?
These songs of freedom.
It seems that items 1-3 are inalienable to me, but items 4-5 can be stolen. The reason for this is not actually bad — it is that cultural flexibility that enables me to adapt, it is that empathic insight, it is that shamanic wound (if you will).
These are actually my main characteristics so it should not be surprising that they are the ones which can be kidnapped. That would be the case even if they were not characteristics which are themselves vulnerable to kidnapping.
If I named what I lost in Reeducation on this scale, it would be items 4 and 5. The source of these items is in the part of my life Reeducation deemed invalid.
In The Amulet, the children travel into the past to find what was misplaced there. In this story too, the lost items are not hidden horrors but keys and crowns and rings.
Z: This group is rather odd. I do not know that I can relate.
Whiteman: You are not better than anyone else here, and we all have the same problem.
Z: I never said I was better than anyone here, nor that we did not all have the same problem. I said it was a rather odd group, and that I did not know that I could relate.
Whiteman: We are all equal!
Z: But not exactly alike.
Whiteman: I, too, once wanted my disease to be unique.
Z: I have always wanted my diseases to be known diseases, ideally with standard cures.
Whiteman: How arrogant! You expect a cure! We are all equal, I told you!
Z (off): Perhaps you and your group do have an incurable disease….and not one I know….
Here is a rare interview of Víctor Jara by Nicomedes Santa Cruz, done just a few months before Jara was killed. They are both important people, and if you do not know about them it is easy to find out.
I never saw Jara in person and it is not easy now to find a recording that is clear in both sight and sound. But the remnants always show a life so different in tenor from that of his death. Here you see pictures mainly of Santa Cruz, but you also hear Jara’s gentle voice.
Santa Cruz’ “Canto del pueblo” begins:
El canto es como un pañuelo [Song is like a handkerchief]
que enjuga el llanto a la vida [that dries life's tears]
cuando esta es paloma herida [when it is a wounded dove]
que no puede alzar el vuelo. [that cannot take wing and fly.]
Puede el canto ser consuelo [Song can be a consolation]
que mitigue la aflicción, [that assuages affliction]
mas nunca resignación [but it is never resignation]
para el pueblo que lo escucha, [for the people who listen]
puesto canto que impide lucha [since a song which impedes struggle]
no es verdadera canción. [is not a real song.]