[-empyre-] Pedagogy and curating
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.
Media Arts and Production
University of Technology, Sydney
UTS CRICOS Provider Code: 00099F
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