Independent Teaching Networks

In the wake of my announcement that I’ll be going full time with Reclaim Hosting, more than a few folks wondered whether I’ll be teaching in the future. This came as both a surprise and honor. I build my teaching around the things I am interested in, and I have been fortunate enough that UMW has let me try this on numerous occasions over the years with various partners.

Howard Rheingold commented, “You are going to jones for students. I know that I am.” And David Kernohan echoed a similar idea:

I can’t see I world where I don’t do teaching either. In fact, of the list of classes I want to teach, only one of them (the Library of Congress Movie MOOC) would really depend on being at UMW (or at least in the area) for the full imagined effect—though it could definitely still be done. The others, like the seminar about Italy during the Years of Lead, a course exploring Domain of One’s Own, a refresher on Zombies and Copyright, or a fullblown cultural hist0ry of Sharks are still very much in my future.


In fact, with the work I’ve been doing with Zach Whalen on the Console Living Room,  I started thinking the the 1980s course I talked about co-teaching with Dr. Garcia in that list post could be even more pointed than a whole decade. What if we had a course about a 16 weeks of a single year*, say the Spring or Fall of 1984 or 1985. What’s more, it would never happen in anything resembling a classroom. Rather it unfolds as a 16 week media experience of television, radio, cinema, etc. in a living room across roughly those same 16 weeks 30 years earlier. The idea was inspired by the broadcasting of 1980s TV Michael Branson Smith setup in the UMW Console last month.

Animated GIF from Atari 5200 ad thanks to Zach Whalen!
So, rather than having a course where you talk about 1980s culture. You setup a framework (or a living room) that over the course of 16 weeks recreates a culture across the axis of television, radio, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, vinyl records, books, magazines, etc. Students (or anyone else in the community) could come into that living room and grab from a library of VHS tapes, video games, cassette tapes, books, records, magazines, etc. and experience those various bits of culture. What’s more, they could watch TV across numerous networks and/or tune into radio across various stations. And they would blog and reflect on those various moments they experience, and the cultural assumptions of the moment. They could go there to watch together, do it alone, or explore and share back new elements of media from that moment. In fact, Zach and I have started the the initial TV programming of the TV portion at least.

This could be reinforced and framed by various readings from that year focusing on broadcast TV, radio, video games, etc. I am planning on doing research this summer around history of network and independent Television stations in light of the rise of Cable TV during the 1980s—not to mention the explosion of VCRs. I’m intrigued by that idea, and that could be one whole part of this class that isn’t taught, but experienced in a way other than a classroom. I love this idea. It’s exhibit meets classroom, and I wouldn’t necessarily need to be there to “program” it.

I can’t imagine I’ll stop having ideas like this, and you can teach classes like this anywhere. In fact, there has got to be a department out there somewhere who might see the opportunity of bringing in various folks to teach courses with an eye towards the long, diverse, and complex history of media and edtech.  I’ve had an amazing experience teaching with folks like Martha Burtis, Alan Levine, Paul Bond, and Maggie Stough. And I want to teach with more and more people. I want to teach a course on radio with GNA Garcia, Noise Professor, and Grant Potter. A course 0n 80s cinema with Mikhail Gershovich, Scott Leslie and Martin Weller. A course on the technology of poetry with Chris Lott. A course on the history of edtech with Brian LambAudrey Watters and Mike Caulfield. A course on the history of the internet with Alan Levine and Howard Rheingold. A course on Digital identity with Bon Stewart. A combined #Rhizo106 with Dave Cormier. A course on gothic tech with Bryan Alexander and Audrey Watters —and that’s just spitballing it. These are all courses that could be done without me, and if I thought a bit longer I could come up with 50 more. Teaching is just plain fun for me.

That said, it helps (at least for me) to have a specific group of students at a school who are taking it for credit for consistency and focus, but that could parallel an open and online presence fairly easily. I guess all this is to say I think this move to Reclaim Hosting may very well free me up to teach even more through a “ds106 network” of sorts, and I’ll be doing just that this summer with prisoner106, and again this Fall as a “silent partner” for Tales from ds106 with Paul Bond at UMW. Hell, I might even be teaching for UMW still if it makes sense, and I’ll hopefully try out some of these courses. But there is no reason to wait on any one institution or MOOC provider warehouse, we should be doing this as our own independent teaching network of awesome. Cause that’s what we are, and the teaching is one way to both enjoy it and push ourselves to think more deeply about what we are doing. Bryan Alexander said it better than me:

…we independents should form an alliance. Or a cult, a secret society, a union, a triad.


*Years ago Larry Hanley was talking about focusing a distributed course across several countries on one specific year, I think it was 1977.

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6 Responses to Independent Teaching Networks

  1. I’d love to go a class on Gothic + tech w/you and Audrey.

  2. Tom says:

    I want in on the technology poetry deal if it kicks off.

    Also wasn’t there something about shark attacks.

    • Jim Groom says:

      I think you and I need to do an entire class around Nonprogramistan, and use all these themes as ways to approach the tech : Poetry of splots, magashark design visualizations, plotting movie plot points, etc. It would be the epic wrapper course, and you should really propose it at VCU< I will co-teach. No strings attached.

  3. john says:

    A small fraction of these courses would fed my obsessions for a long time.

    Congratulations on the move, reclaim already has a claim on my heart, letting me do stuff ( I certainly could not afford anywhere else with gold standard support.

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