Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Radical Reports In and Things Are Excellent Here in Radical Land

Its been awhile. But don't worry. I'm back, blog-dudes and dudettes.

Since I started Tenured Radical, except for vacation, I do not think I have gone six days without a new post, as I just did. I do not, as some bloggers seem to, experience guilt for neglecting my blog (one of my flaws, I have been told in my deep past by women heading out the door with suitcases in hand, is that guilt and I are not as fully acquainted as we might be.) But I do miss my audience, and I miss writing freely. I miss stealing pictures. I miss Flavia.

One of the reasons I have been absent is starting school in my dual roles as chair of American Studies and the Director of the Castle: it's a little like being Batman and Robin at the same time. There are endless small but necessary tasks to be done every day, from signing many student forms ("Holy oversubscription, Batman!") to making sure we have a proper menu for tomorrow night's Welcome Dinner for new faculty ("Thank you, Alfred.") The other reason I am absent from my beloved blogosphere is teaching. Your Radical is not only teaching the Twentieth Century United States survey to a large and interesting crowd of Zenith students, but there is -- you guessed it -- a blog for the course. This requires some attention too, and is very fun -- it's a little like writing a textbook off the top of your head. And there are also a bunch of links for the students to follow up -- our very own Tim Lacy and Chris Miller, Mary Dudziak, Clio Bluestocking,the HNN gang and the Religion and History folks. How great is this?

Why not GayProf, you ask? Because you have to earn GayProf, that's why.

A little deep background: when I last taught this course, there was no internet. Ergo, there were a great many things I lectured about that I can now assemble on a variety of electronic platforms (I would love to show you my Blackboard, but you can't get in because you don't work for Zenith. Poor you.) For example, if you click on the course blog, you will see Turner's essay on the closing of the frontier, and TR's speech on "The Strenuous Life." Presto -- primary documents delivered to a student's room. You will also see that a couple of my students have commented, and I hope more of them use it as a place to speak out. My idea -- since there are 81 souls in the class, an abnormally large group for Zenith, is that I will get higher levels of participation if students don't have to risk their throats closing in anxious spasms while declaiming in front of 80 other people. And me. And my fabulous writing tutors.

As you can tell, this class is the equivalent in size of a Small Town, with citizens, minor functionaries and a mayor (me.) Think Block Island in the winter, or Burley, Idaho. And one would in a town, we have a movie theater. That's right, all the films in the class can be uploaded to the Blackboard, so that students can go over them again if they like. We are also developing a library: thanks to Google Books, there are all kinds of texts that have been scanned, and can be linked: for free!! (Do you ever wonder how these people make money? I know -- the pop-ups. But really I feel like I am getting the best of the bargain here.) Apparently I can also post my lectures as podcasts on the Blackboard as well, although that is a tad less appealing, since frankly - I would begin to feel redundant, and I think we would be edging over into distance learning. But back to the films. Once I found out that I could upload movies and documentaries, I arranged to post my favorite Reagan-era movie ever, Tony Scott's 1986 homo-military masterpiece, Top Gun -- too long to watch in class, it is now a "reading" for week 11. Ho ho ho.

So really, the danger is not that I will stop posting to Tenured Radical -- that could never happen -- but that I will have too much fun teaching, Someone Upstairs will figure it out, realize I am not busy enough with my other two administrative jobs and four searches, and find something horrible for me to do -- like run the AP Credit Conversion Committee or something. So don't tell.


Susan said...

But don't you want to run the AP credit conversion committee? I think I could recommend you for Tenure & Promotions : )

I'm glad you are having fun teaching! It almost makes me want to take your class.

Zach said...

If you posted a lecture on 20th century US History, I would absolutely listen. I like my work, most of the time, but I miss good lectures and rarely find the time to attend free ones in the city.
You could think of it as virtual learning, rather than distance learning. Wouldn't distance learning invovle grading? Here you could be educating without having to read the papers.
Okay, maybe I just want to be your 82nd student. I'd love if you'd post the syllabus.

moria said...

What Zach said. Just what I need -- more school. (What I need is more historical swagger and snark -- which are your best and most marketable skills, aren't they? Or did I miss something?)

Also, regarding the History 240 blog -- damn, girl. Way to go. I always appreciated courses that did a good job of incorporating electronic resources, but the exigencies of Blackboard can be a bit taxing and limiting. I wonder if you'd be willing to say more about why you decided to use both formats, as well as about how you plan to use the blog -- as a discussion forum for students? Or more simply as a go-to for resources? If the former, I'll be interested to hear how readily your students respond to the availability of the forum -- I'd have had trouble, myself, getting up the guts to post a blog entry aimed at an entire class of quasi-anonymous, as well as extremely judgmental (if I know the Archetypal Zenith Student as well as I think I know hir) folks, not to mention miscellaneous interwob passers-by. Kudos to them if they jump in.

Keep us posted... uh, as it were.

GayProf said...

I like the idea of being extra credit...

Anonymous said...

I am willing to help with that AP Conversion Committee thing. I have some knowledge in this area. Oh, I will be enjoying warm temps in January. I will stick to Houston.

anthony grafton said...

Go, Radical! The course blog is fantastic, love it. Wish I could hear the lectures.

Lesboprof said...

I love this idea and may steal it myself! You lead the way! I will read over the semester, to see how it progresses.

And Gayprof, I always considered you extra credit!

gwoertendyke said...

and don't feel guilty, we keep coming back for you...you have many balls in the air.

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