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?

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