pedagogy

A note on distance learning

When the medium is finally the message, I say the message is the message.

I jotted this note in 2002: 'For people who run universities, especially those hard pressed to claim innovation and to respond somehow to the "information age," the allure of cliche postmodernity is great. The medium, to them, is the message. (Finally.) "Distance learning" is a fat pipeline, a delivery mechanism for content, the content being secondary ("x," a curricular blank to be filled out of material already in the course catalogue). But content, roughly speaking, has been the means by which intellectual communities have formed, and in the politics of the supposed coming cyber-university, real virtual communities are labor-intensive and expensive. And they have all the down sides that any communal activity does when it functions freely within a centrally organized organization. To resist, we assert that the medium is not the message. If the message has been experimental, either pedagogically or aesthetically (or both), then we can say that the message is (and has long been) the message. The phrase "distance learning" is replaced by "distributed learning." The community is enriched rather than dispersed by the introduction of e-media to teaching and learning.'

While I'm thinking of higher-ed pedagogy...

Forcing our students to write conventional literary-critical essays is no less a form of pre-professionalism than the assignment given by a marketing professor who tells his students to create a new ad for Coke.

The workshop poem

What is to be done?

If you want to get rid of the workshop poem, you have to get rid of the workshop.

Modernist pedagogy

I have a long essay on modernist pedagogy coming out in a new book edited by Peter Middleton anI have a long essay on modernist pedagogy coming out in a new book edited by Peter Middleton and Nicky Marsh. The book is Teaching Modernist Poetry and is being published soon by Palgrave Macmillan. You can pre-order here.

Other essays in the volume include Peter Nicholls' "The Elusive Allusion: Poetry as Exegesis," Carol Sweeney's "Race, Modernism and Institutions," and Charles Bernstein's "Wreading, Writing, Wresponding."

Myth at Yale: undergraduate teaching requirement

Below is the first part of an article appearing in today's "Yale Daily News." For the full article, click here.

One of the Yale Admissions Office’s favorite selling points to prospective students — that, unlike at many other large research universities, all of Yale’s tenured professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences teach undergraduate courses — is widely believed by students and faculty.

But it’s not that simple. In fact, there is no policy requiring professors to teach undergraduates, and in any given semester, a handful of them, for a variety of reasons, do not.

According to this year’s Yale College admissions viewbook, “100 percent of tenured professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences teach undergraduate courses.” Interviews with professors in several departments reveal that faculty members believe this to be a rule. However, Deputy Provost J. Lloyd Suttle confirmed Thursday that no such policy exists.

Indeed, a search on the Online Course Information Web site reveals at least a dozen Yale faculty members who are not teaching undergraduate courses this year. In many cases, Yale College students still have the opportunity to be taught by these faculty members if they enroll in graduate-level courses, and administrators said that (while they do not have formal records) they have not identified any professors who routinely do not teach undergraduates.

Still, admissions representatives often use the idea that professors must teach undergraduates to emphasize Yale’s focus on undergraduate teaching.

“Most of the tour guides when discussing the introductory biology courses will mention that, even at the introductory level, there are Yale’s most renowned professors in the classroom, for example [Nobel laureate] Sidney Altman in MCDB 200: Molecular Biology,” tour guide Matthew Sheehan ’11 said.

While Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he understands that scheduling conflicts can preclude professors from teaching undergraduates in a given academic year, he said he still believes Yale expects all tenured faculty to teach undergraduate courses.

“Our viewbook states that 100 percent of tenured faculty in the Arts and Sciences teach undergraduates, and we convey that to [prospective students], because that is Yale’s expectation,” Brenzel wrote in an e-mail.

Online advising

Screenshot from Action News story on online advising, 1999.

In 1999 I was interviewed for the local television news (Channel 6, an ABC affiliate in Philly) about the online pre-freshman advising course I was teaching. Here is the recording.

The future of research

“The income-producing research activity will follow the trend of moving into nondepartmental locations — institutes, centers, and programs — that can be closed with less fuss if the income dries up.” — MARC BOUSQUET, Associate professor at Santa Clara University, and author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (New York University Press, 2008)

From: “FORUM: The Faculty of the Future: Leaner, Meaner, More Innovative, Less Secure,” Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tim Carmody, whom I admire and whose blog, Facebook updates, and now tweeting I follow, has a statement here too, part of which reads:

The curriculum, especially in the humanities, valorizes thoughtful curation and recirculation of material rather than comprehension or originality. The traditional unidirectional model of knowledge transmission (best represented by the now-deprecated “lecture”) has been effectively discredited, although it persists through habit, inertia, and whispered doubts about the efficacy and rigidity of the new model. Many professors periodically pause to lecture, but only apologetically, or when distanced by ironic quotation marks. / The ’teens are as widely remembered for technical innovation and radical dissemination of knowledge as the ’20s are for job loss, technological retrenchment, and economic concentration. In 2019, when Google used its capital to snap up the course-management giant Blackboard and the Ebsco, LexisNexis, and Ovid databases, it effectively became the universal front end for research and teaching in the academy.

Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I would (and do) disagree with Tim’s use of the lecture (his valorization of it and pre-nostaligia for it) in this scenario. His error is to tie inextricably the “traditional unidirectional model of knowledge transmission” (which he implicitly commends) to the techno-corporate consolidation of profit-making information providers.

Now, as for “originality” in this context: oh, don’t get me started. For another time. I promise.

Six poets each teach a poem

A few weeks ago I wrote about having invited six poets each to teach a short poem to high-school student. I commented in particular about teaching the constraints of the haiku and its possible special connection to high-school kids’ understanding of poetry today — what with their sense of extreme limits (texting, Twitter’s 140 characters, etc.).

The prof you know personally

Social media Henny-Pennyism comes to the university

John Housman playing a crusty old-school law prof on TV. Not much chance of friending or following him.

A year ago (3/20/08) I wrote this:

In today’s NYT “Thursday Styles” section the lead story, under a huge photo of a famous crusty TV law prof, is a story about “the professor as open book.” Wow! News! Now students and others can discover their professors’ red wine preferences, their favorite films, their social-networking profiles, “friend” them. Or not — or not — if the academic in question does not choose to put such stuff up, which is most often the case, even at this late date into the internet age. So what really is the story here? The key perhaps is where the story runs: the “Style” section, not the higher-ed page/half-page in the main first section. This story befits the My Space/You Tube/no-one-is-private-anymore craze and has nothing to do with academics or education or the professoriat per se.

Regarding and beholding

Teaching Stevens's "The Snow Man"



Each January, at our "Mind of Winter" event, I lead a communal interpretation of Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man." This year we caught it on video, and here it is.

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