From Radio to Television to Wire 106 or, Why I teach

Iicon_4661 already blogged a bit about the Wire 106 listen along last week, and this week’s watch along, but I want to take a moment to reflect on these particular course activities. The shared object of attention for this course is The Wire (Seasons 1-4), and we spent last week focusing on listening closely, and this week exploring the visual elements of the show. Having the online students of wire106 come together in a distributed manner through the “radio” (i.e. ds106radio) and “television” (i.e. Synchtube) has worked wonders for course community. We were able to spend several hours listening and watching together, and we were linked through our course hashtag #wire106 on Twitter.

icon_66074Creating a virtual framework for fostering community is pretty much what I’ve been doing the last nine years. I’m not an expert in digital storytelling. I make no pretense to being a master teacher—there are scores of faculty at UMW alone who can claim that mantle before me. And I’m certainly not overly technical, probably one of my greatest strengths in edtech. I’m simply trying to find ways that we can build a sense of rich, dynamic course communities for a class through virtual, distributed online spaces, and then translate that experience back to others. The work the last two weeks with the radio (kudos Grant Potter) and synchronized video streaming (something Tim Owens and NoiseProfessor were exploring back in 2011) is yet another moment wherein I feel there’s so much rich potential beyond the fluorescent-lighted LMS environments (now with canned video lectures!). And what’s interesting is this distributed approach mimics seemingly trailing edge technologies like radio and TV, but adds interactive, immediate conversations through Twitter.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 7.11.08 PMI am not suggesting this approach is anywhere near perfect, and I do my fair share of manic repairs on the Millennium Falcon of course spacecrafts that is ds106. That said, these targeted moments of communal listening and watching gets at the idea of a unique shared experience that we can return to in targeted group video discussions to explore the themes that emerged through the conversations we had while listening and watching. And the students are integral to these conversations and discussions—it’s pushing beyond easy, lazy outs where teaching online is synonymous with simply broadcasting in one direction. In ds106 we control the vertical and the horizontal, and we are sure as shit not lazy!

And this all returns me to the work happening with Connected Courses this week, which asks us to reflect on the question “Why do you teach?” I teach for a lot of different reasons: ego, performance, pushing myself to learn, sharing my passions, money, social capital, social justice, etc. And when it comes to online courses, it’s all those things and the idea that every time I do it’s another opportunity to push on the idea that distributed, online learning can be every bit as engaging and community forming as face-to-face. Not so much because I want to pit the two against one another, but because the privileging of one often ghettoizes the other. And, as a result, elides the conditions of labor that make a good online course possible. And then there’s the fact I am not a professor, I just play one on TV—and thankfully UMW has let my alter ego reign up and until now. But more on Dr Oblivion in another post.

Image credits: Radio designed by James Fenton from the Noun Project. Television designed by Arthur Shlain from the Noun Project


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5 Responses to From Radio to Television to Wire 106 or, Why I teach

  1. Pingback: New blog post: "From Radio to Television to Wire 106 or, Why I teach" #ds106 #wire106 #ccourses

  2. Tom says:

    I was never a huge Star Wars fan but I’m reading the Star Wars trilogy book to my kids right now. It makes me appreciate the Millennium Falcon reference all the more. Makes a nice parallel to my life as well.

    You are, by the way, the only person I know who can pull off ego as a teaching rationale.

    • Jim Groom says:

      I think someone has referred to ds106 as a ducted taped Millennium Falcon, which I really loved. BTW that Haynes Millennium Falcon book is a real thing. So awesome.

      As for ego, I refer to it more generally above, and I have always kidded a certain amount of shit talking ego isn’t a bad thing. I certainly feed off some of it for ds106. But I think I’ve matured, if I can be so bold, since 2008. I’ve recognized that the solitary hero is a myth, and ego is better served reinforcing and building upon another’s. It’s what’s happened in DTLT and I think the assignment bank is an excellent example of that. I had to let go of my idea of ten sacred assignments—in part thanks to you—but it helped me fine tune the distributed, open nature of the class (alongside Martha and Alan). All those people involved made in 5000x better than if it were just me and that is a lesson I won’t forget anytime soon.

      Coming to terms with accepting I have an ego (who doesn’t?), but learning how to let go of the small shit and focus on harnessing a broader vision has made me a happier person professionally—and I think easier to work with and a much better teacher (but that might be my ego talking 🙂 ). In some ways Dr. Oblivion was both all ego and the suppression of that ego (I was one of ten or twelve people build that storyline, and that felt so much better that pretending to be the one). That was a trippy experiment if for no other reason than how it forced me to push on deeper questions of identity and who we are online. Particularly as “the professor.” Also, I don;t think I have taught a course alone since, which is another interesting part of what I learned about teaching from all this. Obviously this could have been a longer post 🙂

      thanks for the comment, dude.

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