[-empyre-] Pedagogy and curating

Hello all,
Thanks Tim for 'curating' this break-out into discussion of the war. 
I'm re-listening to Readmylips (http://www.zen15631.zen.co.uk/bb.mpg) 
-- thanks Josephine! -- as I write this. These empyre postings and the 
walk out and protest at Sydney Town Hall (20,000?) help keep the spirit 
up. The moment when the contingent from Sydney Uni marched up 
Parramatta Road and students and staff from UTS joined them was one of 
those exhilarating moments that really matter. The energy and 
creativity of the students, the presence of our union (NTEU) were 
wonderful. So maybe this sense of the importance of both these online 
communities/ communications as well as the face to face, foot to foot, 
in the streets gatherings can serve as an intro to my (following) intro 
for the pedagogy and curating week.

On-line teaching is burgeoning at a time when, in Australia, government 
funding to education is hitting rock bottom – after all, we have better 
things to spend our money on like murdering innocent Iraqis, keeping 
refugees in prison, upsetting the Muslims at home and in our region and 
keeping the US bases on our soil well serviced. So no money to be 
wasted on students and academics, no new jobs for young scholars and 
artists. Luckily there is the online option to provide ‘flexible 
learning’ to keep underserviced students and overworked academics busy. 
And then of course there is the pre-packaged character of Blackboard as 
the ‘universal’ teaching app to contend with.

Given this, many of us academics here have been reluctant to jump on 
board the online teaching bandwagon. My own wary involvement started a 
couple of years ago when I introduced an online component into a 
graduate class on new media aesthetics. Despite ups and downs, in the 
end many said they had never read so much nor worked so hard, and many 
felt freer to discuss online than they did in class.

So when Tim proposed that we teach a class together, using online and 
video streaming, I was excited at the prospect of learning from that 
experience and adding the dimension of an international collaboration. 
I was worried about our under-funded antipodean university keeping up 
with Cornell’s technology, but fortunately had wonderful support from 
our computing manager who managed to get us the same equipment that 
Cornell was using. Our initial plan was to offer the students the 
opportunity to communicate either through Blackboards or blogging and 
we set up the joint course administratively on our Blackboards. My 
course was Culture and Technology and Tim’s was Electronic Innovations. 
My group met early in the morning in autumn/winter and Tim’s met at 
night in late summer/fall. We started a month earlier, which meant my 
class was focussed and bonded before they ‘met’ Tim. He appeared one 
morning, rather like God, though more tanned and relaxed -- a huge 
presence on the big screen that we sat facing in a semicircle (in a 
classroom not ideally set up for such an undertaking). Lesson one:  
work sensitively with the zoom and keep people at a similar size on 
both sides of the camera.

Space was an interesting part of the mix. Not just being in two places 
which most web savvies are used to. The space in the room created 
various challenges. I quickly decided to let my students handle the 
remote so I could concentrate on the pretty tricky task of facilitating 
my class of twenty and his of twenty plus the two  of us and sometimes 
guest artists. The numbers and the technology were a lot to handle, 
especially as my students were very excited and eager to talk. I tried 
to make eye/voice contact so my group spoke to each other as well as 
the camera because the camera was somewhat alienating to begin with. 
Lesson two: make sure the student handling the remote is well briefed 
about group protocols and camera technique,df including being wary of 
its invasive/surveilling potential. And make sure to share it around – 
they love the control!

Not surprisingly the Australian students knew lots about the US and the 
US students had trouble understanding the Aussies – not just because of 
the accent. Luckily Tim could translate on all fronts. Lesson 3 – 
cultural differences emerge in unexpected places but don’t necessary 
prevent exciting and valuable communication and collaboration.

Joint projects were a big plus in the experience. Toward the end we had 
small groups meeting together in class time using the video streaming 
while the other groups virtual chatted. It worked well, wish we had 
started earlier. Lesson 4 -- plan the joint projects and make sure the 
students are in communication with eachother and with the teachers 
about it early on to avoid crossed wires and problems at the end.

I could go on and on but before I say over to you, one more thing. 
Mostly the videostreaming technology worked well though sometimes it 
did interfere, in terms of us having to alter our syllabus and 
presentations in response to what we could do with it. The biggest 
interference was an interesting one when overload on the network 
created interference by breaking up the image. That we coped with but 
broken sound (which otherwise was great) meant we sometimes had to 
disconnect. Before it got that bad, we’d get a lightening bolt icon on 
the screen. That bolt became the theme of one of the students’ joint 
projects, one of the best I’ve seen, so I guess I can’t complain.

Norie Neumark
Media Arts and Production
University of Technology, Sydney
www.uts.edu.au      www.out-of-sync.com

UTS CRICOS Provider Code:  00099F

This email message and any accompanying attachments may contain
confidential information.  If you are not the intended recipient, do not
read, use, disseminate, distribute or copy this message or attachments.
If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender
immediately and delete this message. Any views expressed in this message
are those of the individual sender, except where the sender expressly,
and with authority, states them to be the views the University of
Technology Sydney. Before opening any attachments, please check them for
viruses and defects.

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.