July 2008


In my attic, stacked rather fire-hazardly, are 32 boxes of newspaper clippings. I have at least 10 hard copies of every story I ever wrote with a word count above 600. Just. In. Case. I. Need. It.

For all of my classes I have dozens of file folders full of copies of copies of copies of stories and clips and lists and syllabi and yellowed pages of copy editing symbols. Just. In. Case.

The orchestra of Oregon forests offered a standing ovation when I went techno, figuring the days of my serial tree-killing madess were over. And they are. I put everything online. I Stumble on it. I share it on my Facebook page, on my Google saving-thingy, in my old-fashioned “Favorites” on the toolbar right up top of my screen. I bookmark it. I Del.i.cious it. I copy and paste it onto a Word document and save it to wherever stuff saves when I hit Save. I e-mail myself two copies to both e-mail accounts. I make my husband do the Flash Drive thing and so it’s all saved on that teeny little wrench thing I put in my pjs drawer.

While it may be true I’m saving trees, I remain a pack rat, a horder. I told this to Jon Dorbolo, the technology in education guru at Oregon State who introduced me to Blackboard and blogs and Shares, oh my. I confessed my repetitive saving/sharing disorder. He’s also a Philosphy prof, so of course he scratched his forehead and said there’s ALREADY A STUDY ABOUT THIS PHENOMENON!!!!

New Media. Old News.

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Don’t ask academics if they have the summer “off.” We do not. I know. I know. It completely looks like we do. We teach for nine months and then summer off the coast or cape of something.

It is, as my brother says, a Jedi Mind Trick. 

I’m full-on technology this summer, in fact. I’m teaching my first online course on Blackboard. I’d like to report that I love it, but I don’t. I miss their faces. I know, as a New Media gal, I shouldnt, but I do. I can’t connect with them and they can’t connect with me in the same way as when we’re in the classroom, together, same time, same station. It’s week four of an eight-week course. I put up all kinds of readings and articles and books and then we “discuss.” They’ll write more formal assignments and I’ll get a better sense of what they know and how they’re processing the material.

I’m also transforming my “Reporting” course, which is normally a three-hour weekly lab/writing intensive funzone, into an online course. How do I do this, folks? I bring in guest speakers, we have writing workshops, do peer edits, cover events together as a class and then brainstorm leads and compare our best quotes. We discuss endlessly. I bore them to death with my old war stories. I even channel my old beloved the (never) late Medill Prof. Richard Hainey (if your mother tells you she loves you check it out!!!)

We argue about ethics right there with each other. I red-ink their papers until the ink seeps off the page and onto their hands like blood. It’s SO GREAT! How do I recreat this? Should I even try? What part of teaching is or should be personality, human connection, inspiration, mutual recursive energy?

I’m meeting with our tech folks tomorrow to learn some of the technical ways to move docs or video and other stuff into where it needs to go. I’m also going to try some video “lectures,” so my charming personality is not silenced by this medium.

Then I’m supposed to completely revamp our intro course, Intro to New Media Communications. Where to begin? What do we want students to know? How do we balance technological skills with content? What is considered content? What’s our responsibility to teach the technology, the software, etc… to our students, versus just telling them they must know InDesign, etc… and then assuming they’ll learn it? What common terms, concepts, histories should they know when they leave? How early do we get them into experiential work? Doesn’t this industry demand experience most of all?

What should and intro course look like? I’m looking forward to meeting with my colleagues in the program to work on these questions.

Lastly, I’m trying to work on a book. Who has time?