Posts Tagged ‘Lectures’

Friday Fragments on a Saturday? Why not…  As I get back to blogging after the semester and dissertation, I’m trying to organize how I blog. “Friday Fragments” has a nice ring to it. Now to get it out on Friday, instead of Saturday. In no particular order, here are some things that I took note of during the week. Just FYI, I’m getting more opinionated as time goes on.

1. Trigger Warnings. My friend David Perry wrote a great column for CNN earlier this week discussing the calls to place “trigger warnings” on course syllabi. I think he hit the nail on the head, as he so often does. My own opinion, take it or leave it, is that I study and teach war: the subject should really be its own trigger warning. But why I teach war is important too: it is to educate, to increase understanding, to help students think through complex issues of organized violence. Simply showing a lot of shocking war violence (combat, atrocity, sexual atrocity, etc.) “because that’s war” really does nothing to help educate. So, in pondering David’s column I realized that I do often find myself reflexively cautioning my students if a movie or documentary film clip that I’m about to play is particularly bloody and gruesome. Which is to say, Tim O’Brien notwithstanding, the academic study of war isn’t simply one obscenity after another, and I don’t focus on that all the time.  You don’t need to see graphic images of war to know, while you’re studying it, that at its root war is horror. But focusing on what violence looks like can be very useful, particularly if students are tending to romanticize war (which is very common, both among my military and non-military students). Medieval warfare is often romanticized, and I’ve found nothing sobers up a classroom quicker and makes them put a physical reality to the stylized narrative, than a few minutes of National Geographic’s Warrior Graveyards: The Crusades, which reconstructs the siege of Jacob’s Ford in 1179.  The same goes for Little Big Horn, or the Battle of Towton.  So, I do not, and will not, put “trigger warnings” in my syllabus; I assume that if you’re in my class on warfare, you’re not asking to be “intellectually pampered” as Bret Stephens scornfully put it in the WSJ the other day, but that you’re there to be challenged and to learn. But if something I’m about to show goes outside our day-to-day discussion of warfare, I tend to warn you. Because, and this I believe very strongly, the moment you tell the unknown student who is silently suffering the post-trauma of violence to “Get over yourself,” you’ve ceased to be an educator.  If our scholarship hasn’t taught us to be kind, we might as well pack it in right now.

2. Remember that huge fracas about dissertation embargoes after the AHA had the *audacity* to suggest that perhaps grad students should be allowed to decide how best to handle their dissertations? Man, were there a lot of self-righteous open-source idiots pontificating on that one. [As you can tell, I’m still rather ticked off about that.]  It was good to read from the editor-in-chief of the U of Illinois Press that the AHA was right on target. Her advice on what publishers are looking for in the dissertation-to-book is very valuable, and generally confirms what I’m planning on doing with my own dissertation.

3. Watch Frontline’s United States of Secrets for a depressing look at the NSA after 9/11 (press release here). In broad strokes, reminds me a bit of this 2007 column on the show “24.” Similar mentality, whatever it takes. And a confidence that you can reinterpret law as it suits you.

4. The Met has made a huge chunk of its collections available for free on line, and even with permissions for scholarly work. HUGE thanks to the Met!

5. If you’re interested in World War II unit histories and reports, check out the Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library, at the Command and General Staff College. Eclectic, as you may expect, but that’s to say that they have thousands of documents as opposed to tens of thousands.  I’ve managed to find the diary and official history of the 82nd Recon Battalion, 2 Armd Division, for example, thus partly closing a major gap in my class’s document packet for Operation Cobra.

6. “Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too.”  Which statement becomes contextualized in the article when you realize that a) they’re talking about STEM classes, and b) they’re not talking about doing away with the lecture (which, given budgetary constraints, isn’t going to happen for a while), but instead incorporating “active learning techniques” into the lecture format. Personally, this hand-wringing over lectures is annoying, and getting old. I already use  these “dynamic” techniques in my lectures, which by all student accounts achieve exactly what these studies say you *can’t* achieve in this format. Yes, Bligh’s 2000 “What’s the Use of Lectures?” lays out how they can’t promote critical thinking or influence behavior, and if it’s simply a professor reading his/her notes of course that’s the case. But that’s not how good teachers lecture to begin with.  And for every study that disses the lecture, one can always reply with the 2010 Harvard study that declared the lecture a fine tool for enhancing student performance. Not surprisingly, most SoTL folks don’t like referencing that study…

Ok, rants done.

Interesting array of articles, this time drawn heavily from InsideHigherEd.

–Could this be a “game-changer,” as they say?  Not sure: Academics Launch Torrent Site to Share Papers and Datasets.  Could definitely lead to some interesting legal situations.

–Perhaps THE most interesting and read article from this past week: “Keep the ‘Research,’ Ditch the ‘Paper,” by Marc Bousquet, from Feb 10.  He makes a lot of valid points, including some that I’ve noticed over the years in teaching history-based writing courses. If I had more leeway in terms of assigning homework and making demands on my students’ time, I would try more of his and Rebecca Schuman’s suggestions for making students’ efforts worth their while.

–Interesting article about issues in Canada’s newspaper digitzation initiatives.

–Great article, as always, from the Dean: if you see a search is running again, after you’ve already been rejected once, don’t hesitate, apply to the job: When Searches Fail.

–Purdue University’s IMPACT site, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) page and resources.

–Really good article by Elizabeth H. Simmons from Friday the 14th, “A Scholarly Approach to Your Career.”  I think the bottom line of the article is “figure out what you need to be successful, and then go make it happen.”  Common sense, but still, you’d be surprised how many people go to grad school without realizing they’re responsible for their own professional development.

“Let’s Scramble, Not Flip, the Classroom,” by Pamela E. Barnett. We shouldn’t make every class a discussion-based, interactive format.  Lecture has a place as well.  Good to hear that–there is a tendency among pedagogy folks (including SoTL enthusiasts, I’ve sensed) to roll the eyes at the thought that lecture could be an effective teaching/learning tool.  Given that a lot of schools do not have the luxury of making every section a seminar-sized one, I’m glad there’s recently been a push to show that lectures are effective learning tools.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is dropping “grades” and moving to “proficiencies” in its curriculum. Look forward to seeing how this works.

–Post from GradHacker: “Maximizing Methods Courses.”  Good advice: you don’t want to come out of these feeling that you lost time.

“How Should Big-Time College Sports Change?”  Good grief, don’t get me started…

–Thoughtful article, “There Is No Demand for Higher Education.” Key quote toward the start of the article, about the assumption that there is a huge demand for education (and hence the need for MOOCs, etc.):

[T]he more I think about MOOCs and consider the nature of this demand, the more I come to believe that there is no inherent demand for education, and definitely not for the education they’re peddling as a possible substitute for the traditional system of higher education.

Because the demand isn’t for education, per se. It’s for what we believe education can provide: a secure, stable life. This narrative may not even be true, as Freddie DeBoer argues in a recent post, but we cling to it anyway, because what choice do we have? If we instead believed that painting ourselves purple from head to toe had the same effect, we’d all be walking around looking like Barney the dinosaur.

Have a great week, everyone.