Day of Larry Swain

March 22, 2010

My Digital Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — larryswain @ 9:10 pm

Day of Digital Humanities…..ah, the best intentions of mice, men, and machines.  I am actually composing this post about my Day of Digital Humanities two days later due to some machinations and honestly a very busy day.

My digital day began really as a spill over from March 17, day of St. Patrick’s.  I had been working later Wednesday night on some grading for my online course and preparing for a stressful Thursday.  At nearly 1 AM my time, a nephew celebrating St. Patrick’s in the way we modern USA folk do but in a fashion so inimical to St. Patrick himself (ah, the irony) to let me know that he’d consumed copious amounts of whiskey, both Irish and Scotch.  He thought I’d like to know this since he’d often turned up his nose at some sipping whiskey I’d offered him over the years.  Then he drunk dialed my sleeping spouse.  It was an amusing way to start the day and is included here because it was more interesting than the grading and since he used a cell phone and the event is now storied ONLY through electronic means via this blog and Facebook.

After a few hours kip, my day proper began with as most of my days do: herding our three pugs out the door for their morning constitutional, returning for pug food, fixing some coffee and sitting down to check email, the news, and a few blogs and so on.  On Thursdays this semester, I teach in the morning and afternoon.  So after my relaxing coffee and breakfast with my computer, I’m off to my first class which is on ground.  It’s a 200 level Shakespeare course which has been great fun, and I hope somewhat educational.  
Today the class was finishing up their presentations of the first group project: a presentation of a play we are not reading in class.  The class is doing amazingly well with these and I’m looking forward to the next stage and the second group project.

In this course I have wanted desperately to incorporate other materials into the class.  Sadly, few rooms are wired and I don’t have one of those rooms, and other sorts of equipment hasn’t been working well in class.  SO I’ve been putting up links via the course’s Blackboard page to film bits and play productions that make their way onto you tube and other places as well as incorporating web sites and electronic papers into the course also delivered via Blackboard.  

Once the office hours and the Shakespeare course are over, a 3 hour commitment Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m off to the train and home to walk the dogs and prepare for my second class of the day.  This is a composition course delivered solely online.  There are two classes a week that I hold, “live chats” which allows for real time interaction.  I use voice and text to interact with the students, they use text in a large chat window to communicate with me and each other.  It does involve some different pedagological applications than does teaching the same material on ground.  One can not simply assign exercises or an in-class writing assignment or even a quiz in this online environment because of the way they have it set up.  And of course in a purely online course, the class does not have to be attended live, so there may potentially be no interaction with the students at all if no one comes.  I’ve always had at least one person show up, but it does make teaching a bit difficult.

After this course is done, it’s tea time.  And time for some grading.  On this day, I was grading the debates from my Monday and Wednesday night on ground composition course.  This course is the rhetoric version, so I divide the course into three components: argument, essay composition, and grammar.  We’re in mid-semester now and the students are working on their second papers.  The debates are designed so that preparation for the course debates helps them engage in the pre-writing stages of research, organization, development of a thesis, and supporting arguments and dealing with counterarguments.  

What interested me in this first debate sequence is that even though we’ve not yet talked about visual arguments in the course, the students have nonetheless engaged in visual arguments.  One debate was over gun control  and one student for example dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, western shirt and had a huge belt buckle with a pistol on it.  In the other debate, on pro-choice versus the moral wrong of abortion both sides engaged in visual argument.  One team member on the pro-choice side dressed as octomom and had all these baby dolls attached to a night gown over her faux pregnant belly.  Wow.  On the other side, there were a large number of very stomach turning photographs of abortions and so on.  

The class is divided into four groups working on aspects of their two topics.  All four groups without prompting from me opted to build websites and power point presentations for their debate and to use in convincing their classmates and I of their “win” in the debate.  I found this very interesting; in fact, never before has this happened that all the groups engage in this; in fact, there have been times in previous courses that no one has used anything digital or electronic.  But in this class, everyone did.  

For all these classes, I use an electronic gradebook that the students can see each time a new grade is posted.  So there was lots of grading to do that afternoon, some of each of those courses.  I had to rush through the grading because my spouse and I were meeting up with some friends and heading off to a concert Thursday evening.  I thought that this was an appropriate way to end the day of digital humanties by taking in the fusion of a light show done via Microsoft windows computer (I stood next to the tech booth at the venue and could see everything the stage and sound people were doing) and music delivered these days via digital bites sent through the equipment.  T’was a bit disappointing; good, but not as good as I had hoped or expected.  Still, a good time was had by all.  Then home to bed and realizing that as I closed my eyes for much needed slumber that I hadn’t posted anything for my Digital Humanities Day blog and knowing I wouldn’t have time until Saturday to get to it.  But there it is.  

I have many thoughts on Digital Humanities and where it is going and where it hasn’t.  Perhaps in days to come I’ll share some of those as well.  Just what you were waiting for, I’m sure.

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