Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

carpe diem?

I guess, because of my age and that I’m an academic so I default to thinking education matters, I’m bemused by many of my student’s attitude to university. (I say my age because it just sounds like an observation that when I was a child was described by the then fashionable term of the ‘generation gap’. In other words it has always been so.) In the Australian education system high school is full time, students attend (for the most part), all the time. In the later years of high school all the focus turns toward what in Victoria is the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) which also serves as the ranking process for university selection. Schools are defined by their VCE success rate. Parents chase schools, suburbs, and so on based largely on nothing more than a school’s VCE success rate.

So, students treat this pretty seriously (it’s hard not to, the entire apparatus of high school, the teachers, your parents, and then uni revolves inexorably around it) and it becomes the key thing to getting in to what you want to do at uni. The key.

So we get to uni and the shackles are off. Different teaching, timetables, rules. You’re granted the autonomy of adulthood for the first time in your educational experience. Heady stuff. What is missing though is the understanding that your education shouldn’t have been thought about as getting to your preferred uni course. Because then once you’re there the default behaviour becomes that you’ve already done what was needed. What we need to instill is the realisation that it is at uni, what you learn and do here, that makes possible what happens next. Which is your life. If you realise that then university has the opportunity to be the most important educational experience of your life. However, like the real world and unlike high school, it is not delivered to you. You have to work to make it happen.

I’ll go back to telling very bad anecdotes in lectures of my childhood now.

Teaching Honours

Yesterday I had my media objects lab, first session of the year. Caught the train after taking ms 7 y.o. to school, all good. Except everyone had to get off at Macleod – a long way out from the city – due to an ‘incident’ (which, sadly, is generally a euphemism for suicide by train). This means no trains. Bus companies are called, they need to find busses and drivers, and it was nearly an hour before I was heading towards Clifton Hill station. For a 10:30 class scheduled to finish at 13:20 I arrived just before midday.

Via Facebook I told everyone I was late, and why, and that the reading was available online. They should get it, start reading the first chapter, and after forty minutes or so stop for coffee. Once I realised how late I’d be I also sent through the suggestion they eat, as once I got there we’d work through without a break.

I walk into a seminar room deathly quiet. Everyone huddled over the text reading. Taking notes. All present. All stayed. All worked. We then had a pretty good conversation setting up the semester. Honours, it’s a treasure.

Sessional Teaching, Interactive Video Subject

I run a subject (“Integrated Media One“) within the RMIt media degree program. This subject has students using their available resources (i.e. smart phones) to record brief videos. These then become a small personal interactive film (using Korsakow). From this we then make a larger, small group, interactive video project (using Korsakow). There are lectures, and a weekly lab with approximately 20 students in each lab. I am delivering the lectures and two of the 5 or 6 labs. This means I am looking for someone to teach the remaining labs. The curriculum is described at the post industrial video site. The subject blog I use might be useful too.

Details. It is here in Melbourne, Australia. It begins end of February. Sessional means you are paid for the teaching hours you teach. You assess the students in your classes. You attend the lecture (and should be paid for doing so). You should be familiar with Korsakow, network literate/savvy, and have a minimum honours degree in a relevant discipline/field. Would be good that you’re interested in innovative teaching practices too. If you’re doing a Phd in or around this area and interested, this is a great chance to get some teaching, and also learn a lot, quickly.

Get in touch via adrian dot miles at rmit dot edu dot au

Affective Media

From Hannah Brasier, an honours student I am supervising (we’re working in Korsakow):

How do I conceive of and make a slow interactive online video work? This is a problem because there is little work available that considers the slow in relation to interactive online video. Deleuze’s concept of the affect image provides a possible framework and method for how to make and theorise such a work/project. This may provide a method and theoretical model for making and understanding complex multilinear videos in the context of the slow.


Massively Open Online Courses, in the spirit of Stanford’s recent AI course, now one of the flavours of the e-education month. Some associated with the Stanford project have now spun off Udacity and Coursera. The education platform wars are beginning. For someone like me at a piddling regional university, this really is a great opportunity. Some of the grunt work of content can be farmed out to these sorts of eduservice providers freeing up time and resources for real engagement and learning. It is obvious that while these services may address the content issue, they are going to struggle with the epistemological and ontological facets of university education which revolve around learning how to be (a designer, media practitioner, economist, doctor).

Or just use the current ‘flipped’ model, send them to do something like Networked Life at Penn which they do in their own time then in class, let’s do, hey, I know, diaspora (or some similar enquiry based learning action) in our face to face class time. And note to self, what would a course on post industrial media look like in this format? Why?

Participation in the subject

It might not seem so but it is a bit of a radical step to let students assess their participation, themselves. Most of the time most teachers at uni don’t trust students to know how to do things like this (I’m not sure why), but they can, and they almost always do it very well. We spend time on this in the first class, revisit it in a few weeks and quite a bit of time in the last one. Why do we do this?

  • because we want participation to be a diverse range of things relevant to the student
  • and only they know if they have done them or not (since most of the things that count as participation are invisible to me in the class and in their submitted work)
  • because we are always told that if you ‘put in’ you will get ‘more out of it’ so I put my money where my mouth is and make it worth their while (say, 30% of their final mark)
  • it helps students to define who they are to your peers, so is actually about building and maintaining a reputation come trust network (and in an intimately networked world getting an understanding of this as an ethics matters
  • if I have to assess it then it becomes little more than attendance, which is certainly no measure of something as diverse and complicated as ‘participation’

This is why it takes a while to do. We discuss how it went last time, what might be done differently this time, and then make a list of all the things that might need to be done by you to learn successfully across the semester. The small change this time, since they had experience of doing this already, was to use some ‘filters’ on the list: what would be the two easiest things for you to do? Why? The two hardest? Why? And which two would make the biggest difference? Why?

Just a Riff (Teaching Your Elites)

I was at a really interesting seminar the other day which was largely about writing and the cinema. Was too short. But some of the incidental conversation was troubling. The visitor was pointing out how many of the undergraduates (as opposed to the postgraduates) struggle to get what is being discussed, or why it matters. There were supportive nods of heads and comments about how one or two would get it, the intent being that these are the ones who matter. This is self serving romantic nonsense that is the university myth we all hold dear. Imagine if primary and secondary school teachers had this understanding of their role and value as educators, and if your child wasn’t one of those one or two. The problem I have with this is that I was once one of those students. I relished the university experience, but the university didn’t teach me how to relish it, it didn’t teach me how to be ‘theoretical’, I came primed and already ready. Most of my peers, as with most of my students, don’t get ‘theory’ in the way we academics do, but we teach it as if they should and those that do get HDs and those that don’t get confused. When do we stop and wonder how to teach to the other 22 in the room? Surely that is what constitutes good teaching? All of us can wheel out our HD students as evidence of our teaching brilliance, except these students will almost certainly already be academically inclined and this will have had little, if anything, to do with us. This is another version of the ‘little academics‘ model, a Lacanian mirror phase moment where we misjudge the reflection of ourselves in these students as an imprimatur of our own ability.

A New Semester Is Upon Us

So, next week teaching starts. I am program director for the honours program, and do a lot of teaching into that, but the main teaching I’m concerned with at the moment is for Integrated Media One (a subject that is need of a name change). In previous years I’ve used a different blog to teach from, for the undergrad stuff, but last year that ended up containing some good stuff about interactive video. So, this year, the commentary is coming into here. I’ve archived all the courseware from 2010, and am in the process of building the site for 2011, as well as a generic HTML portal to the old stuff. Stay tuned.

Honours 2010

This years students have submitted, the work is out for examination, now we wait…. A mix of thesis and project outcomes. This is what was created: