I’m teaching first semester students right now for the first time in a while. Like most of us, I spent my grad school years teaching first-year classes. My post-doc and my first tenure-track job where much the same way. So from 1992-2001 I’d say 80%+ of the courses I taught were of this variety. Since then, though, I’ve taught mostly courses in our major and some grad classes.
I don’t want to generalize from a small group of students, and this is really about me and my teaching than anything about them anyway, but here are my perceptions. There is a heavily built-in expectation that I am going to orchestrate every event in the classroom. That I am going to provide specific directions that students can carry out. That I am the source of expert information and that their job is to injest this information. Yes, all this is quite familiar. I had just forgotten the intensity of this expectation. It’s as if I am supposed to care whether they learn or not, but they don’t have to.
This course and learning community are really heavily invested in creativity. The students are learning video production, audio production, digital imaging, drawing, and non-academic writing. They are investigating the world as it becomes shaped by the digital. In essence, the students have cameras, microphones, blogs, computers, network space, ipods, and so on, and they’ve been asked to go out and make something: to create a networked identity for themselves through blogs and podcasts; to experiment with the broad variety of tools available to them; to explore their creative process through composition in a variety of media; and to consider how the network and the tools play a role in their creativity.
I can still recall being 18. My friends and I had made a couple videos/films on Super-8 and VHS, but you couldn’t do anything like what you can now. Anyway, my real interest was in writing and music (Sad to say, I actually wrote a musical…sigh). I am trying to imagine what I would do if I were 18 now. If I could make videos and music and distribute them to the world. Well, I guess I’d be doing what thousands of others already do on YouTube and MySpace and elsewhere.
That’s what I want to see these students doing. They’re all majors in Professional Writing or New Communications Media or New Media Design. It seems to me they should be naturally inclined to creating media and getting it out there. And the thing is, I’m sure they are. But something happens when they step into the classroom, and I just haven’t been able to break them of it yet.