Learning Frowns and Teaching Moments

It’s something of a pattern in your life as a teacher, though not one with high frequency. Once a  semester, maybe? Hard to tell. Though it’s a striking occurrence, the overall emotional impact is stronger than the situation’s specifics. You remember some of the most recent cases and you think a lot about them when they happen. But it’s not something constantly on your mind. It’s parallel to your core experience as a teacher, not the main thing you do.

Though it happens on occasion, it’s not something you can accurately predict. It’s neither surprising nor predictable.

You’d get some frowns during class. That part is common enough and you’ve learnt to interpret these frowns as moments of puzzlement, which lead to learning. They’re directed at you, the teacher. “How dare you challenge what we know?” So far, a pretty common case. Happens every week, probably. In William Perry’s classic description, you might guess this marks the transition from one position to another. The usual stuff of teaching.

But then, there’s this one student whose frowns become more insistent. Often a young woman (but you mostly teach young women anyway). Chances are that she comes from outside your field and took your class for quite specific a reason. Not the all-too-typical “trying to get an A in this class”. It’s not about raising a GPA. But she could be saying “I’m an A student” (to which you reply “well, you’re A student”). Or maybe it’s a completely different situation, having little to do with grades or signs of academic success. This dimension isn’t a necessary part of the pattern. Especially since the sample size is so small.

As her frowns get more frequent, other reactions might come up. Including vocal ones, possibly in a confrontational tone, demanding straight answers to what appears to her to be straight questions. Frowns have escalated into frustration. Your empathy might make you feel this student’s pain, but these comments aren’t a problem. They express something important.

What may be worrisome, to you, based on experience, is when this student tries to get others on “her side”. If she succeeds, it can be toxic for the classroom dynamic. But it can also be part of the peer-learning process.

Then, one day, you receive an email. A strongly worded email. Maybe the student is making demands. Maybe she’s more conciliatory. Those things vary quite a bit. But, still from experience, you recognise this email as a step in an important process. Your temptation might be to reply on the spot but you realise that a realtime interaction is more appropriate and you try to make an appointment with this student. Best possible use of your office hours.

If there’s a bit of time elapsing between receiving this email and getting the student’s visit, you might feel a bit of tension during classroom interactions, though you’re quite confident that something good will come out of all this. Of course, the tension was already there, what with all those frowns. But now things could be getting trickier. Or not. With experience, you’ve learnt to take these situations for what they are. Learning experiences.

By the time this learner comes to see you in your office, you have a fairly good grasp of how her semester has been going. But you still need more insight into the situation, so you start by asking a broad question.

And something clicks.

At this point, it’s clear to both people involved that you’re trying to help and the learner’s ready to learn. Even if you might be a tad bit defensive about some of the comments made, it’s quickly shifting into a teaching moment.

In some cases, it could also be an informal advising session. At other times, it might be closer to a discussion of pedagogical principles. But it’s clearly not anything like a griping session, though the frowns might continue throughout the whole interaction.

There’s a phase in which you learn the specifics of this particular learner’s case. Sometimes it might be quite personal, including family background, cultural identity (you teach in quite diverse a context), or “hopes and dreams”. Sometimes it’s restricted to the learner’s academic projects. But you come to understand this one pattern, this one thing which can help this one learner find the key to unlock her learning experience. Even if it plucks at your empathetic strings, you get to focus on the learning experience.

Obviously, you take the time it takes. This is one reason it’d be strange to think of your teaching work as being paid by the hour. This might be the most valuable part of your work and the most rewarding. But you don’t get paid extra if you do it well and you don’t get paid less if you don’t do it. It’s the teaching equivalent of bedside manners and it probably requires experience more than pointed advice. You may write about this type of thing to help other teachers. You might use some examples from these experiences if you act as a pedagogical advisor. But there’s no guarantee that others can learn directly from your experiences.

It’s on a case-by-case basis.

 

Coursenotes, Week 2, ANTH326 – Peoples & Cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa

Africanist Anthropology

ANTH326/4A – Peoples & Cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa

Meeting 2: January 19, 2015

Last Week: Basics

Reflection Posts: Infrastructure

Jigsaw

Activity 1: People’s Thoughts on Africa

  • Patterns?
  • Representative?
  • Perspectives?

Topics

Africanists

Trends

  • Exoticism
  • Dispelling myths
  • Diversity
  • Wisdom
  • Postcolonialism
  • Postdevelopment
  • “Voluntourism“

Interdisciplinary

  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Literature, Fine Arts, Humanities…
  • Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies
  • Language, Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Economics, Environment, Health…

Programs

  • Mostly US/Europe
  • IU, SOAS, Leiden…
  • Post-Colonial

A Few Authors

  • Bâ, Diop, Mudimbe
  • Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Senghor, Nyerere
  • Fanon, Soyinka, Achebe, Appiah
  • Dieterlen, Griaule, Evans-Pritchard, Southall, Turner
  • Cole, Ferguson, Comaroffs
  • Grinker and Steiner

A Few ConU Resources

African Diversity

Regional Diversity

Cultural Diversity

Linguistic Diversity

Common in Africa?

  • Generalizations
  • Colonial
  • “Non-Western”
  • Diffusion
  • Globalization

Next Week: Perceptions and Superstructure

Exercise I: Perceptions

  • Find an object, a media item, or a person from outside of Africa
  • Which perception of Africa can be found in there?
  • How much does your perspective on Africa differ or relate to this one?
  • Does it perpetuate stereotypes?
    • If so, which one?
    • If not, how can we assess the accuracy of this perception?

Journal 2: Learning Journey

Reflection Posts 2: Superstructure

Africa, Fourth Edition

  • Chapter 5– Religions in Africa
  • Chapter 8 – Visual Arts in Africa
  • Chapter 9 – African Music Flows
  • Chapter 10 – Literature in Africa
  • Chapter 11 – African Film

Activity 2: Quotes

  • Pick a quote
  • What does it say about Africa?
  • How would it differ from what you would say?

Chinua Achebe

“I know the source of our problem, of course, anxiety. Africa has had such a fate in the world that the very adjective African can still call up hideous fears of rejection. Better then to cut all links with this homeland, this liability, and become in one giant leap the universal man. Indeed, I understand the anxiety. But running away from myself seems to me a very inadequate way of dealing with an anxiety. And if writers should opt for such escapism, who is to meet the challenge?”

Africa and Her Writers, p. 627

Desmond Tutu

“ When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

— Stephen Gish,
Desmond Tutu: A Biography, p. 101

Haile Selassie

“This world was not created piecemeal. Africa was born no later and no earlier than any other geographical area on this globe. Africans, no more and no less than other men, possess all human attributes, talents and deficiencies, virtues and faults.”

OAU Speech 1963 African Summit

Banyoro Proverb

“A child does not grow up only in a single home.”

— H-Net  Thread about “It Takes a Village”

Playful Gamification?

In part because of this EdTechTeam badge (and because we’ve been working on badges), I’m encouraged to write something about my involvement in using “game principals” to motivate learners positively. This despite the fact that I’ve been quite critical (on the record, on more than one occasion) about gamification, especially in education. (In this context, “Serious Games” are a separate issue.)

So here’s what I did last night, which does relate to game mechanics, in some ways, and did sound like it was quite motivating…

Prepping for the final exam, students in Cyberspace Sociology course http://learn.enkerli.com/category/coursenotes–2/cyberspace-sociology/ had to create lists of threads and themes from the semester. Nothing gamified about this, though (as with every activity in this class) learners were posting their lists to a peer-rated forum.

Made a scattered map out of all of these items, to serve as a master list of sorts. As per my own policy, exam questions may only come from these items.
SOCI221 Threads and Themes

So… here’s the playful and game-like part: I allowed students to take off some items, but they had to team up and select only two items per team, for elimination.

After teams debated list items for a while, we went through all the teams and tallied the “votes” for those items which should be avoided on the exam. One item had the largest number of team votes, so I deleted it right away (after discussing it). Three items had the same number of team votes so we did a quick raised hand poll and noticed that one of the terms could stay (only a few hands went up to eliminate it). Chatting with the class, we eventually decided to eliminate both of the two remaining terms.

Here are the other terms which had at least one team vote:

  • Cyberasociality
  • Algorithm
  • Centrality
  • Cyborg
  • Recursive Public
  • Intersectionality
  • Onground

How does this qualifying as using game mechanics, if individual students didn’t receive extrinsic motivators, individually? That’s where it becomes somewhat subtle. I did use a type of “Carrot & Stick” approach, in that they had to go through the classroom activity or get stuck with things they didn’t want to have on the exam. But the real effect of the activity is that students were discussing most of the items in the list, explaining things to one another. Sneakily getting students to do a bit of peer instruction isn’t something I’m ashamed of.

One effect of the activity was similar to gamification effects. Members of a team who had been the only one to vote for “centrality” to be eliminated were experiencing the small frustration of having “lost”. Given my empathy levels, it didn’t feel extremely good at first. But after a quick explanation of the concept, the teammates sounded relieved.

The major effect, in my observation, was that the atmosphere became remarkably playful. To me, playfulness in the classroom brings a lot to the rapport established between people involved. As with rapport, it has to do with mutual respect. And I really care about playful living.

To me, playfulness (open play) is the mirror image to gamification (game mechanics). I’d go as far as to say that gamification is “gaming without playfulness”.

After that very informal “team vote” activity, students had to discuss items which still weren’t clear, identifying some things which were obscure to everyone in their team. We then discussed those items with the whole class, getting people to provide explanations.

Something to note about that “team vote” activity is that in no way does it ensure appropriate representation of diverse voices. In other words, it wasn’t really meant to be “democratic”. But it did allow for diverse forms of participation. Some learners involved did a lot more peer-teaching than they had ever done during the semester. The extrinsic motivation (to show off, to get a good grade…) is already there, so I didn’t need to add much of an incentive.

The resulting list is the basis of a collaborative study guide, to which students are contributing in diverse ways. And it helps me prepare an exam which many might consider fair.

SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace, Meeting 12

SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace

Meeting 12: December 1, 2014
Posthumanism to Facebook

Posthumanism

Facebook Man, by Maxo CC-BY–3.0

Logistics

  • Class meeting tomorrow (same time and place)
  • Exam in one week: Monday, December 16, 7–10p
    • H–1011 AL—HAF
    • H–820 HOR—ZAF
  • Exam prep together

Last Week

Posthumanism

Is the human condition a problem to be solved?

Activity: Project Plan

  • What interests class members? Any pattern?
  • What would be outcomes of research on online groups?

Required Texts

Chapters 1–2 in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705

Cool, Jennifer. “The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman.”
Tufekci, Zeynep. “We Were Always Human.”

Cool

Cool, Jennifer. “The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman” in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch, 11–32. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705

  • Post-/Transhumanists
  • Phatic communion
  • Liberal subject
  • Embodiment

Tufekci

Tufekci, Zeynep. “We Were Always Human” in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch, 33–47. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705

  • Identity formation, online
  • Cyberasociality
  • Third digital divide
  • Digital Natives?

Tomorrow

Facebook

What can sociology learn from online social networks?

Activity: Themes and Threads

  • To help everyone prepare for the final exam, list some themes and threads for the semester as a whole.

Required Texts

Lim, Sun Sun, Shobha Vadrevu, Yoke Hian Chan, and Iccha Basnyat. “Facework on Facebook: The Online Publicness of Juvenile Delinquents and Youths-at-Risk.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56, no. 3 (July 2012): 346–361. doi:10.1080/08838151.2012.705198.
Madge, Clare, Julia Meek, Jane Wellens, and Tristram Hooley. “Facebook , Social Integration and Informal Learning at University: ‘It Is More for Socialising and Talking to Friends About Work Than for Actually Doing Work’.” Learning, Media and Technology 34, no. 2 (June 2009): 141–155. doi:10.1080/17439880902923606.

Lim et al.

Lim, Sun Sun, Shobha Vadrevu, Yoke Hian Chan, and Iccha Basnyat. “Facework on Facebook: The Online Publicness of Juvenile Delinquents and Youths-at-Risk.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56, no. 3 (July 2012): 346–361. doi:10.1080/08838151.2012.705198.

  • Singapore at-risk or delinquent youth
  • Link to social work, criminology…
  • Face work
  • Facebook diversity

Madge et al.

Madge, Clare, Julia Meek, Jane Wellens, and Tristram Hooley. “Facebook , Social Integration and Informal Learning at University: ‘It Is More for Socialising and Talking to Friends About Work Than for Actually Doing Work’.” Learning, Media and Technology 34, no. 2 (June 2009): 141–155. doi:10.1080/17439880902923606.

  • British (pre-)undergraduates
  • Link to education
  • Informal learning
  • Tracing links

Ethnography

Descriptive approach to cultural diversity. – Alex

  • Fieldwork
  • Establishing rapport
  • Insider and outsider
  • Participant-observation
  • Cultural translation (making exotic familiar and familiar exotic)

Surveillance Society

  • Panopticon
  • Sousveillance
    • Surveillance, sousveillance and PRISM – an op-ed for Die Zeit | … My heart’s in Accra http://lar.me/2zk
  • Internet Bill of Rights

Coursenotes, SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace, Meeting 11

SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace

Meeting 11: November 24, 2014
Cultural Contexts to Posthumanism

Posthumanism

Self portrait for LinkedIN profile picture. SteveMann with EyeTap, by Glogger (CC-BY-SA–3.0))

Last Week

Cultural Contexts

Activity: Online Interview

  • How easy was it to find an interviewee?
  • How did you prepare?
  • How did you conduct the interview?
  • What kind of insight did you gain?
  • Would a face-to-face interview be preferable?

Required Texts

Horst, Heather “Free, Social, and Inclusive: Appropriation and Resistance of New Media Technologies in Brazil.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 437–462.
Kelty, Christopher. “Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 185–214. doi:10.1525/can.2005.20.2.185.

Horst

Horst, Heather “Free, Social, and Inclusive: Appropriation and Resistance of New Media Technologies in Brazil.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 437–462.

  • Unexpected uses
  • Networked sociality
  • Similar experiences?
  • Different Internets?

Kelty

Kelty, Christopher. “Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 185–214. doi:10.1525/can.2005.20.2.185.

  • (Re)constructing the Internet (links to Leiner et al.)
  • Science and technology studies
  • Technology and law (copyright…)
  • Dense network of influential people
  • Transhumanism

Next Monday

Activity: Project Plan

  • Based on your experience with an online group (field entry, interview), what type of research could you do in this context?
  • What type of insight would you try to gain?
  • Which methods would you use?
  • How would you explain your project to others?

Required Texts

Chapters 1–2 in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705
Cool, Jennifer. “The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman.”
Tufekci, Zeynep. “We Were Always Human.”

Cool

Cool, Jennifer. “The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman” in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch, 11–32. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705

  • Post-/Transhumanists
  • Cyborganic ethnography
  • Liberal subject
  • Who decides?

Tufekci

Tufekci, Zeynep. “We Were Always Human” in Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch, 33–47. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2012. doi:10.5876/9781607321705

  • Technology and society
  • Facebook ethnography and surveys
  • Responding to media
  • Embodiment
  • Cyberasociality

Ethnography

Descriptive approach to cultural diversity. – Alex

  • Fieldwork
  • Establishing rapport
  • Insider and outsider
  • Participant-observation
  • Cultural translation (making exotic familiar and familiar exotic)

Surveillance Society

  • Panopticon
  • Sousveillance
    • Surveillance, sousveillance and PRISM – an op-ed for Die Zeit | … My heart’s in Accra http://lar.me/2zk
  • Internet Bill of Rights

Coursenotes, SOCI221 Meeting 10

SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace

Meeting 10: November 17, 2014
Ethnography to Cultural Contexts

Diversity

Diversity-Discrimination by Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany (CC-BY–2.0))

Last Week

Ethnography

Activity: Field Entry

  • Which groups?
  • Expectations?
  • Entering the group?

Required Text

Coleman, E. Gabriella. “Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39, no. 1 (October 21, 2010): 487–505. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.012809.104945.

  • Diversity
  • Almost historical
  • Anthropology and sociology
  • Global inequalities

Next Week

Cultural Contexts

Activity: Online Interview

  • Find someone from your new online group who’s willing to serve as an interviewee.
  • Prepare a few questions to gain her/his insight on the online group, the importance of technology to group members, or any other topic you find interesting.
  • Conduct a brief interview through whichever means you find appropriate (email, Skype, chat…).
  • Post one thing you find insightful about the exchange.

Required Texts

Horst, Heather “Free, Social, and Inclusive: Appropriation and Resistance of New Media Technologies in Brazil.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 437–462.
Kelty, Christopher. “Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 185–214. doi:10.1525/can.2005.20.2.185.

Horst

Horst, Heather “Free, Social, and Inclusive: Appropriation and Resistance of New Media Technologies in Brazil.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 437–462.

  • Understanding Brazilian society offline and online
  • Digital inclusion
  • Technological appropriation
  • Distinct usage

Kelty

Kelty, Christopher. “Geeks, Social Imaginaries, and Recursive Publics.” Cultural Anthropology 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 185–214. doi:10.1525/can.2005.20.2.185.

  • Geek culture
  • Distinct fieldwork experiences
  • Public sphere: Habermas
  • Recursivity
  • Ron Eglash on African fractals (TEDtalk) http://lar.me/ig

Ethnography

Descriptive approach to cultural diversity. – Alex

  • Fieldwork
  • Establishing rapport
  • Insider and outsider
  • Participant-observation
  • Cultural translation (making exotic familiar and familiar exotic)

Surveillance Society

  • Panopticon
  • Sousveillance
    • Surveillance, sousveillance and PRISM – an op-ed for Die Zeit | … My heart’s in Accra http://lar.me/2zk
  • Internet Bill of Rights

Coursenotes: SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace, Meeting 9

SOCI221 – Sociology of Cyberspace

Meeting 9: November 10, 2014
Generations to Ethnography

Digital Natives?

Bronislaw Malinowski with natives on Trobriand Islands in 1918. (Public domain)

Last Week

Generations

Activity: Knapsacks

  • Features of privilege
  • Intersectionality
  • Online privilege

Required Texts

Digital Natives?

  • Us/Them
  • Birthyear
  • Early access and comfort?
  • Residents and visitors

Next Week

Ethnography

Ethics

Ethnography

Descriptive approach to cultural diversity. – Alex

  • Fieldwork
  • Establishing rapport
  • Insider and outsider
  • Participant-observation
  • Cultural translation (making exotic familiar and familiar exotic)

Activity: Field Entry

  • Select an online group (forum, network, service, community) of which you’re not a member.
  • From the outside, take some notes about features of that group, how it works, what seem to be unspoken rules, etc.
  • Enter the group, introducing yourself to everyone. Notice reactions. Are you able to establish rapport?
  • Post a description of the group and your fieldwork

Required Text

Coleman, E. Gabriella. “Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39, no. 1 (October 21, 2010): 487–505. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.012809.104945.

  • Review article (like annotated bibliography or metastudy)
  • Recent research
  • Diversity
  • Program for future research