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Video Killed the Radio Star - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Video Killed the Radio Star
My big class is in a room where the students sit at a series of long tables. The set-up is that of a school lunchroom or mess hall. I've been teaching the same sort of classes for so long that I'm in the habit of making heavy use of the whiteboard, both for structuring my own points and for recording students' comments and questions. In this classroom, though, the whiteboard is too small for me to use efficiently, particularly since not everyone can see it. This means that I either have to come in with all my content prepared in advance or use the virtual whiteboard that requires me to draw with a stylus on the computer monitor at an awkward angle. I suppose I could just lecture, but somehow the technological excess of the classroom makes that seem like a perverse approach. Today I'd prepared a Powerpoint presentation only to discover that something had happened to the document when I saved it, rendering it unusable. It was a very frustrating discovery.

The anxiety of having to move on to Plan B, coupled with the difficulty of using the virtual whiteboard, had me feeling like a fish out of water. And then I started to obsess on the fact that many of the students in the class aren't even looking in my direction. It's not their fault, obviously, since the tables force many of them to look elsewhere. But gazing out at a sea of students with their back turned to me, watching the screens that project whatever I write on the virtual whiteboard, had me feeling extraneous. Loss of confidence is not the pathway to successful pedagogy. I'll pull it together and get things working better for next week. It really bothers me, though, that I'm going to have to expend so much of my preparation time on technological details. I suppose the labor will turn out to have been good for me in the end. Right now, though, I'm feeling bleak about the semester of "New Media" teaching ahead. At least my morning class went well. Apparently my relief at having a functional whiteboard in that smaller classroom makes me excel.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: January 27th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But, also, there are always faltering days in one or both of the classes after the exhilaration of the first couple weeks. In my 380 today I ran into my own usual frustration -- a student arguing with me in a kind of hostile way, trying to enforce an allegorical reading of a poem. It's something in me that draws this, seems to invite it. Is it because I am a girl? Is it because I often say, my stock phrase, "Feel free to disagree with me?" Or is it because they suspect the truth, that not all of their comments are equal to me, no matter what I may say? L.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 27th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Right. I know about the faltering days. But this one was particularly galling. I couldn't do my usual improvisational thing to compensate for the technological glitch and ended up staring out at the backs of students' heads. Weird.

I get the same sort of responses you describe. Maybe that means I'm a "girl" in the classroom. I suspect, though, it's because you and I aren't into projecting an authoritarian demeanor. And that's to our credit.
xxxpunkxgrrlxxx From: xxxpunkxgrrlxxx Date: January 27th, 2006 01:28 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
the fact that it sometimes automatically erases things aside, i think it works. and, hey. the virtual whiteboard is "postmodern".
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 27th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It is! The only problem is that I'm not. . . :-)
frostedfuckhead From: frostedfuckhead Date: January 27th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


Some of these new classrooms were just coming into use during my stay at the university. My good friend and I could not help but laugh at how horrid they were. All I could think about was what a waste of money it was to have a 'self-rising desk' when the university couldn't afford to keep the classrooms stocked with markers. The superneatofuturisticadvancedtechnology, more often than not, was a hindrance. It rarely worked as promised, and the net result was more fumbling and less learning.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 27th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: heh

Precisely. I mean, I suppose I could get everything to run smoothly, but that would require more hours in the day than I have. Besides, I'm a big fan of improvisational pedagogy, where the necessary material gets covered, but not in a strictly pre-set order. This classroom prevents me from doing what I do best.
katieengl From: katieengl Date: January 27th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

aw its not so bad.

Generally i dont read what you write on the boards cause its something you've just said... and im not a visual learner, im an audiolearner. Doesnt help though that im viciously hard of hearing, so i have to stare pretty instensly to match your mouth to what youre saying. So if you ever feel like no ones paying attention you can rest assured im probably staring at you =)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 27th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: aw its not so bad.

I'm going to have to use the microphone, I think. I'm an audio learner too, which is part of the reason why this technology-intensive space is driving me batty. Maybe I can get the clip-on mic to work?
frostedfuckhead From: frostedfuckhead Date: January 28th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: aw its not so bad.

i can sit in an english classroom half (or even a quarter) conscious and still pick up most of what is being taught. i am an audio learner in this context, but it's really quite remarkable how dependent my brain is on visual cues for memorizing new words.

this has become apparent with mandarin. if i can get the pinyin (chinese roman alphabet) for a new word, i'm set. i won't forget it. without this cue, it is in one ear and out the other.

interesting eh?
kolakoski From: kolakoski Date: January 28th, 2006 08:37 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I always appreciate the documenatary aspect to the whiteboard at the end of each class period (something I noticed particularly while taking your class on the documentary impulse). I often contemplated bringing my digital camera into class in order to take a snapshot of the weekly conversations captured ephemerally on the whiteboard. Not only would it have been a useful study-aid, it also would have turned into an illuminating documentation of the semester in general. Anyway, I thought it was one of your strongest pedagogical techniques (second in line to the LiveJournal), and just wanted to let you know that I think it's a shame that the new and "improved" classrooms at the U of A hinders this aspect of your teaching strategy.
dlowestanimal From: dlowestanimal Date: January 28th, 2006 04:19 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
"Loss of confidence is not the pathway to successful pedagogy."

Well said. I teach the same class four periods in a row, and on those days in particular when we are reading a story in class, my confidence can either be bolstered or shattered based on the students' reactions. This week we read Steinbeck's "The Leader of the People" and two classes widely enjoyed it while the other two seemed bored by it. In those latter two, I felt that my confidence and then my effectiveness hit the shitter.
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