ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Tag: teaching

Weeknote 19

I meant to write a post at the beginning of the week. Hah. It’s already Friday and I’m not sure where the days went.

WORK

It’s he start of school, which means finishing up the syllabi (always at the last minute for me, always), remembering to hit the “publish” button in Canvas if you want the students to have access, and negotiating a waitlist that is almost as long as the size of the seminar. I drove a few students away with the class requirements, but not enough. I’m almost there, though. The annual meetings always disrupt this process because we teach a class or two and then go away for the rest of the week and then come back and have Labor Day off. I wish we started on the Tuesday after, the way sensible east coast universities do. But the midwest schools have a long semester calendar. Thanks, annoying accreditation association.

I don’t always go to the meetings because they’re disruptive, but this year I had to go and I wound up having a good time. Did the work I needed to do and got to spend time with old friends.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my committee’s work, at least for this iteration. We’re not done by any means but we’re winding down for a while. But there are still visits to confirm and plan (so many emails) and memos to write. But I’m not behind. It’s a miracle.

My grad classes are starting out well and the students look interesting and engaged. One of them is half lecture, half seminar, and the other is all seminar. Come to think of it, I’m mostly teaching in seminar format this semester. That’s unusual for me.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Reading, what is that? I did not come anywhere near finishing my 20 Books of Summer challenge, although I enjoyed what I did read and I started a bunch of the books on the list. Barb was so right when she said it was a challenging list. I’m not sure why I read less this summer than last year. Part of it was that our holiday didn’t have much reading time, and I think the other part is that I was working more this summer than I was last year, so there was more academic reading in my schedule. And the Booker reading swallowed a big chunk of time. Still, I enjoyed the challenge and I’ll definitely keep on with the list. I’ll write up a separate post soon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Weeknote 18

It has begun. School, that is. There’s something weird about spending one’s entire life on an academic schedule, but it’s too late to change now. August means ramping up the work, stress, and pace. I do feel refreshed from my semester off, though. Now if I can just keep up my exercise schedule.

WORK

Our road trip back to St. Louis was uneventful and relatively quick (2050 miles in three days). The dogs were very cooperative and so was the weather. The house was in one piece when we got back (always a relief, and once we hacked away the hydrangeas and viburnum from around the a/c, the house cooled down well (don’t worry, the plants are fine, it’s just that all the rain made them grow enormously despite being cut back in the spring).

My committee work is proceeding well. A couple of complexities that had to be dealt with, but they eventually were and we’re moving along. Lots and lots of phone calls and emails and meetings, but then, it’s a committee.

My classes look like they’ll go well, at least the two that have already met look good. The undergrad one has a waitlist as long as the enrollment (it’s a writing in the major seminar on immigration, so it ticks a lot of boxes). But eventually it will resolve with some happy students and some disappointed ones. The usual. I’m happy with the tweaks I made to my syllabi, though. I have to completely revamp the grad one but while it will be a pain to do, it will greatly improve the course. The only blot on the landscape is Canvas, our online teaching “aid.” I thought I hated Blackboard, but Canvas is even worse. It has many ways of doing things I don’t care about and no ways of doing the things I want. I copied a previous course and then had to update everything manually. No bulk changes and the syllabus doesn’t let you upload a syllabus. You have to type everything in manually. Yeah right. Grrr.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I haven’t been reading, as in eyes on page, much the last couple of weeks. I managed to enjoy and finish my TBR Challenge book, but I’m in the middle of one that really should be read in a couple of sittings and I’ve been dragging it out for a week. It’s Kevin Barry’s Booker longlisted novel, and it’s good, but I’m just not in the mood for it right now. I’m feeling kind of—I don’t know what the right word is … frustrated? grumpy? dissatisfied? Some combination of the three—about my reading choices right now. This happens to me on a regular schedule: I started chafing against lists and challenges and reading the new new thing. I want to read all my 20 Books of Summer books, for example, but I don’t necessarily want to read them now. I think next year might be a year for classics and books in the TBR that have been there forever. Just avoid the new new things for a while. On the other hand, I am thinking about reading Anniversaries a chapter per day (it’s written as a chapter a day in 1967-8), so I’m probably incorrigible.

Read the rest of this entry »

What I’ve been teaching: Privacy

This spring I’ve been teaching a course on the politics of privacy. I first taught it as a summer school course two years ago, when I had half a dozen students and ran it as a seminar. It was a lot of fun, and I got to try out unfamiliar readings and unusual assignments. The following spring TheHusband taught it as a lecture course, and now this year it was my turn again (we plan to alternate).

It’s a pretty interdisciplinary syllabus. We start with sociological readings from the 1960s on the social construction of the self and the self in public, because you can’t understand the private sphere without thinking about the public sphere. The reading list includes everything from law articles and legal cases (including Romanceland’s own Carolyn Jewel) to economics articles to current EU, Canadian, and US statutes on privacy. And also Gawker and Reddit (yes, your tuition dollars are being spent on teachers who send their students off to read stories on Reddit. I’m sorry). We finish up by watching a couple of recent documentaries, 2014’s The Internet’s Own Boy (about Aaron Swartz) and CitizenFour (the 2015 Oscar winner about Eric Snowden, now on HBO, GO WATCH IT EVERYBODY).

I tell the students at the beginning of the class that teaching this class is in many ways a selfish act on my part. Those of you who followed my VM blog know that I’m very interested in the digital divide and uneven access to technology. My more than two decades online, especially the last decade and the explosion of social media, has made me think a lot about the intersection of technology and privacy. But as a certified member of The Olds, my take on these issues is very different from that of my students. Policies and laws are passed and implemented by people who are closer to my age than theirs, but they are the ones who have grown up in a connected world and will never have the option to leave it.

One of the truisms I see a lot in online discussions is that millenials “don’t worry about privacy.” That is not my experience at all. Some of them are blasé but many are not. Granted, I have a self-selected sample of millenials who are more likely to care about these issues. But even within this group, while attitudes vary about how much privacy they want or expect, they’re not ignorant about the benefits and drawbacks.

That said, they’re not always fully aware of how many ways privacy is not in their control, and one of the things I try to get across to them is an understanding of what kind of data are out there. They do an assignment they call “internet self-stalking,” in which they go to computers that they don’t usually use and surf via a variety of browsers to see how much information there is about them online, and where that information might have come from. Some of what they discover is expected, but other results are not. The students are often surprised by how much information is put online by other people. If they have commonplace names or share names with more famous people then they are safer, because their results will be lost among the rest. But if they have even slightly unusual names, they’ll show up.

Read the rest of this entry »