Teaching students how to student

There’s an expression about how the shoemaker’s children have no shoes. Well, the social media consultant is terrible at her own social media!

I’ve clearly fallen behind in my New Year’s resolution of a blog post a month. I thought I might catch up when I had a month off work this summer, but somehow social media was the last thing I wanted to work on.

But I’m back at work now and busier than ever. In fact, this fall will be the most paid work I’ve had at once since I quit a full time job to go back to school a decade ago.

I’m have resumed my social media work with the Faculty of Humanities at the university and what a difference a year in the job makes! I feel really comfortable in the position, now that I’ve figured out what I need to be doing, and I’m seeing the benefits of the connections and network I’ve been building. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead!

I’ve also been fortunate to pick up several other small contracts to flesh out my hours and paycheque. I’ve just started working with our Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) where I’m helping out with a number of very interesting projects, including TA training, support for those teaching large classes, and research into the perceptions of the value of teaching. I have a lot of experience as a teaching assistant (TA) in the classroom and even helping professors develop pedagogical resources, so it’s exciting to be thinking and learning about pedagogy from a different perspective.

Finally, if enrolment numbers permit, I may get to spend a little time in the classroom again this year as a TA.

Which relates to the Twitter thread I want to share with you. @atrubek shared this really great thread tonight and it so important! I think when we’re teaching it’s so easy to get caught up in the transmission of content and forget about the transmission of skills. I don’t mean discipline-specific skills, but the “how to be a student” skills.

It’s easy, when we’ve been academics for 5, 10, 15 years or longer to forget that we, too, started someplace. We didn’t enter university knowing everything. Sure, we like to think we were more self-sufficient and self-starting than “today’s students” but hindsight can have a gloss superiority to it.

Our students come to us from a wide variety of backgrounds and face a diversity of pressures that we may not have faced.

In my case, for example, my mother had attended university and I had two older sisters in university as well, so I had lots of support at home in navigating the system and knowing what I needed to do.

But not every student has that privilege. Some will be the first in their families to attend university. Some will be far from home and perhaps struggling to make friends and navigate a strange system with strange titles like “registrar” and “dean” and “chair,” never mind the myriad of acronyms we use without thinking!

High school today is different from high school “back in our day.” Again, students will have had a diversity of experiences and come with–or without– skills we deem necessary.

So @atrubek’s thread is such a timely reminder. We need to not assume that our students know how to navigate the system socially or how to access resources. We need to teach them how to take effective notes, how to use the library, how to identify a scholarly resource, what a database is.

Because after the final exam, the student may very well never think about our course content again. But they will be taking other courses, and we can equip them with the skills they need to succeed there, too–whether it’s something we teach directly, or we direct them to campus resources.

We don’t just teach content, we teach students how to be students.

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Reblogged: “Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity” (Classics and Social Justice)

Some really fantastic classicists got together recently to discuss ethical engagement and classics. Several of the talks were posted on Classics and Social Justice by Jess Wright, Matt Chaldekas, and Hannah Čulík-Baird.

It’s a long a read, but a very good one. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I’ve copied below a few snippets that particularly jumped out at me.

Classicists are in a particular bind: we must argue for the salience of antiquity to a modern world preoccupied with the effects of European imperialism, and we must do so without resorting to the imperialist argument that the Classics are the foundation of humanistic endeavour….

How does our study of antiquity inform us as ethical subjects? How does our pedagogical approach to antiquity shape our students? Through what strategies and initiatives might we render “Classics” a term that evokes social and ethical engagement, rather than elitist isolation and the ivory tower?

Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/

 

The common idea about the canon is that it is inherently valuable because it articulates the best that has been thought and written or some such. This notion of values is both a stumbling block and a powerful entryway. For instance, is “the unexamined life not worth living” irrevocably damaged as an ideal because of its elite original context? Or should we aspire to democratize the concept through education?

Nancy Rabinowitz, Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/

Edelstein cannot have known that his work on the Oath would directly affect the lives of literally millions of people. But here’s the thing: you can’t study any aspect of what many consider to be the foundation of modern Western society and ignore that your work is potentially relevant in modern discourse, even if you are limited in your ability to understand how. Classicists are ethically and socially engaged, whether we acknowledge it or not, and because we’re all engaged in this way, we have at least two tasks… 

The first task is to attempt to dissuade modern consumers of our work from using the ancient world as direct precedent for modern legislation, for good or for ill…

Our second task is to recognize that people are going to use our work however they want to regardless of what we say and therefore to be responsible in our research.

Deborah Sneed, Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/

Choosing a different path

Friday evening a Twitter friend announced she was officially leaving her MA program.

It is a courageous and difficult decision to leave academia, and particularly to leave mid-program. So much time, money, and effort has been invested in the pursuit of a degree, yet so much more investment is still required. Is it worth it? The answer isn’t easy.

To those who choose to leave for a different path, I want to say: Academia, like banking or plumbing, is not for everyone, and it’s ok if it’s not for you. You are not a quitter if you leave. There is no shame in finding a different path that is more rewarding and better suited to you.

Your well-being, health and happiness are more important than any degree. If your degree is not giving you that, then look for a different path. Without health and happiness, what is your degree worth?

Leaving doesn’t mean you don’t care about your field or discipline. It doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to still contribute if you wish.

It’s such a shame.

But she was so close to finishing!

He just couldn’t hack it.

Why on earth would she quit now?

I heard he quit after just one semester!

To those who stay, I want to say: Please think before saying things that suggest shame or failure when someone leaves your programs. Others are listening and internalizing what you say. From faculty, fellow student, friend, or onlooker, comments that suggest it is the leaver’s “fault” they “couldn’t make it” contribute to an unhealthy culture.

Framing it is a the leaver’s fault also obscures the role that academia as an institution may play in that decision. The system is far from perfect, and many good scholars with excellent ideas get forced out or flee from toxic departments before they can realize their goals.

So yes, I applaud those who take the brave and scary step to leave their programs because they know it’s best for them.

#CAMWS17

I live-tweeted the Wednesday evening session and some Thursday panels of the 113th Annual Meeting of The Classical Association of the Middle West and South at Kitchener/Waterloo (April 5 & 6, 2017).

Panels/Sessions:

Opening Evening Featured Panel: Grace Harriet Macurdy (1866-1946) and Her Impact on the Study of Women’s History (Elizabeth Carney, Ann R. Raia, Maria S. Marsilio).

Euripides: Gender and Sex (Joshua M. Reno, Teresa Yates, Thomas K. Hubbard, Daniel Turkeltaub)

Roundtable: The Thersites Project (Monica Florence and Dianna Rhyan)

Roundtable: Increasing Diversity among Classics Students (Debby Sneed and Lauren T. Brooks)

Pedagogy: Tools and Resources (Ann R. Raia & Maria S. Marsilio, Marie-Claire Beaulieu & Anthony Bucci, Summer R. Trentin, J. Matthew Harrison)

Pedagogy: Classics for Everybody (Lauren T. Brooks, Leanna Boychenko, Blanche C. McCune, Mark P. Nugent, Aaron Wenzel)

The Storify can be found here: https://storify.com/InnesAlison/my-camws17-tweets

Working on a couple of blog posts to get out in the next week or two, so stay tuned!

Blogging your way to better writing

[B]logging is in and of itself academic writing and academic publication. It’s not an add-on. It’s now part and parcel of the academic writing landscape. As such, it is of no less value than any other form of writing. Even though audit regimes do not count blogs – yet – this does not lessen their value. And therefore those of us who engage in bloggery need to stop justifying it as a necessary accompaniment to the Real Work of Serious Academic Writing. Blogs are their own worthwhile thing.

Pat Thomson, “Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer” Times Higher Education 2 January 2016 https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/seven-reasons-why-blogging-can-make-you-better-academic-writer  (Originally posted 7 December 2015 on https://patthomson.net/2015/12/07/blogging-helps-academic-writing/)

Thomson argues that blogging “informs and supports other academic writing” in the following ways. Blogging:

  1. Establishes writing as routine;
  2. Allows you to experiment with your “voice”;
  3. Helps you focus on one point;
  4. Helps you find and write to your audience;
  5. Develops concise writing;
  6. Allows experimentation with different writing forms; and
  7. Develops writing confidence.

Blogging is academic writing

Reverse Outlining

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Reverse outlining is a new technique to me and I’m planning to give it a go. This post by Ellie Mackin demonstrates how the method works.

 

So, what’s the point of reverse outlining? Breaking things down in a paragraph-by-paragraph way lets you look at the overall structure in a much smaller, and therefore clearer, way.  Sometimes, if I am stuck, I will write out the topic of each paragraph of a post-it note and play around with the way they might fit together (another variation on this is to cut out the actual paragraphs and play with the order).  It means I can do some fairly major restructuring with great(er) ease. It often just seems so obvious that the order of paragraphs (and sections) is wrong.

Ellie Mackin, “Reverse Outlining,” Dr. Ellie Mackinhttp://www.elliemackin.net/blog/reverse-outlining 13 March 2015

 

Podcasting in Classics: Thoughts on the Current Conversation

It is certainly exciting times for social media in academics, as the current discussion about podcasting in Classics demonstrates.

As Hannah Čulík-Baird shows in her blog post this past week, conversations about Classics outreach and podcasting at this year’s annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) show that the discipline is starting to recognize the power of social media and its importance for the continued survival and growth of Classics.

Podcasting in particular is huge right now. A quick Google search will show a plethora of articles and statistics on its popularity. More people than ever before are listening to and producing podcasts. Now is the time for the discipline to capitalize on this particular social media platform. The social media landscape can change swiftly and timing is an important part of success.


The suggestion was made on Twitter that the SCS could support podcasting efforts by keeping a list on their website of Classics podcasters. As an independent podcaster, I have mixed feelings about this. I certainly welcome support and the idea of having a list to make it easier to find Classics podcasting is definitely useful and appealing.

But while lists are helpful tools to finding information, they need to be done carefully; a list can easily become (or be perceived as) a gate-keeping device. How broadly do we define Classics in terms of geography, time period, etc, for this list? How much of a podcast needs to be about Classics material to be considered for such a list? David Meadows (@RogueClassicists) has clearly considered some of these questions in his list he released today, but these questions do need to be borne in mind to prevent gate-keeping.

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Having said that, there are some excellent lists out there. As mentioned, David Meadows (@RogueClassicist) has undertaken the monumental task and produced a fantastic list here. Ryan Stitt of The History of Ancient Greece Podcast maintains an excellent list on his website. There is also the Digital Classicist Wiki, which has a list of Classical Studies podcasts (including video). The nascent #HumanitiesPodcasts network on Twitter (@HumCommCasters) includes some excellent Classics and Classics-related podcasts (including ancient Egypt) as well. I keep a running list on the MythTake blog here and Ray Belli of Words for Granted also has a list here. Chris Francese, who spoke on the outreach panel at the SCS, has this Classics podcast list (which can also be found here).

Bear in mind, of course, that with the rapidly nature of social media, there will never be a fully complete list. New podcasts will (hopefully) be always springing up while others may fade away.

The most important support academic organizations like SCS can offer to academic podcasters is perhaps offering small grants to independent podcasters who, by nature of being outside the university system, do not have access to other funding to defray costs. We do not get into podcasting to make money, but the reality is that our projects, which are of benefit to the discipline, have costs.

While it is cheap and easy to start in podcasting, to continue for any length of time and to produce a quality product, investment of time and funds is necessary. Equipment is an obvious expense; A good, basic podcasting microphone, for example, is easily $100 (Canadian funds).

Podcasts need to be hosted online someplace, and hosting services are businesses. Free plans may suffice for a few episodes, but are quickly outgrown. Plan costs vary by service, by storage amount, and by bandwidth. At the time we set up MythTake, for example, the cheapest plan I found was $60 a year; 18 episodes in, we have hit our storage limit. We are now in the position of having to remove older episodes to make room for new, which is far from ideal.

Website hosting is also another financial consideration. Again, free services may work in some situations, but at some point the podcast is going to need it’s own URL for marketing and promotion.

An informal survey of a few #HumanitiesPodcasts members suggests that between equipment and hosting services, a podcaster might spend anywhere from $200 to $500 a year. Some podcasters use Patreon, with varying success, to defray costs.

The investment of time that podcasters put into our work shouldn’t be overlooked, either. We do our podcasts because we love our subject and we want to share our passion and enthusiasm with others. But it does take time, and I think it’s important to recognize that. Depending on the show format (scripted vs conversational, for example), researching, recording, producing, and promoting might take as much as 10-15 hours per episode. And, as one podcaster pointed out, that is on top of the years of university training we’ve already done!

We podcast out of passion, a desire to stay connected with our material, and a desire to share our subject with the public. Providing small financial resources to defray expenses would send a very powerful message about an organization’s commitment to non-traditional scholarship and actively demonstrate a desire to bring non-traditional scholars on the fringes into the community.

Individuals Classicists also have a role to play in supporting the podcasting community.

The most obvious and perhaps the most simple is simply listening to podcasts and providing supportive feedback. Rating a podcast on iTunes may not seem like much, but iTunes search results are based on podcast ratings: the more highly rated a podcast, the more likely it will turn up near the top of the search. Recommending podcasts to peers and students is also very important.

A more innovative approach, which I have been investigating recently, is incorporating podcasts into students’ learning experience. There are already great podcasts out there about ancient history, archaeology, myth, and literature that would make great assigned listening to replace or supplement student textbooks. There is not only pedagogical value in this, but it also shows our students that Classics is relevant, current, and accessible. The podcasters’ enthusiasm for their subjects comes through in a way that it can’t in a textbook, and the literature we study was experienced by its ancient audience aurally, anyway. Podcasting and video casting is closer to the Ancient Greek experience of literature than reading. (I plan to write more about this in a future post; If you are already doing something like this, please get in touch!)

Those of us at the fringes, who are doing our academics independently through social media, have much to offer the traditional scholarly community. We are already on the front lines of humcomm–sharing the diversity and relevancy of humanities with the public and engaging them in conversation. This work is critical to the discipline’s survival and growth, so our voices need to be a part of this conversation. The SCS’ conversation about supporting social media efforts within the Classics displine will be most fruitful and most effective when non-traditional social media scholars have a seat at the table.

on conferences and identity

My Twitter timeline is full of conference hashtags this weekend. The AIA and SCS are holding their join annual meeting for classicists and archaeologists this weekend in Toronto; historians are gathered in Denver, CO, for the annual AHA meeting; and  the MLA annual convention, the largest in the humanities, is on in Philadelphia.

I have yet to make it to one of these big conferences, but I do miss academic conferences from my grad student days. I miss the renewed enthusiasm that comes with such gatherings. I miss the sense of community and shared purpose that comes from talking with other scholars. I miss meeting new people and learning about the diversity of work we do.

The best conference I went to as a grad student was Inter-Disciplinary.net. I presented part of my MA thesis research at the Evil, Women, and the Feminine conference in Warsaw in 2011.

A number of EWF 2011 conference papers (including mine) were voted to become a part of the conference book.
A number of EWF 2011 conference papers (including mine) were voted to become a part of the conference book.

The conference was small but wonderfully diverse. I think I was the only classicist there. I met scholars from around the world who were working on the theme of evil women in a diversity of disciplines: Japanese theatre, Harry Potter, film noir, werewolves, Elizabethan literature, and comics and cartoons, to list a few.

Meeting these scholars expanded my network and showed me how I could take my MA interests beyond the field of classics– and why it was important to do so. I made new connections that I’ve kept for the past six years.

Most importantly, though, the conference introduced me to the idea of the independent scholar. Until that point, for whatever reasons, I associated research with the institution of the university. At EWF, I met scholars who were not associated with universities but were using their academic training to pursue their research interests.

Since 2011, I had to make the difficult decision to not pursue a PhD and take the route of the independent scholar. The drawbacks, of course, are the lack of dedicated research time and access to funds to attend conferences and travel for research, but the scholars I met at EWF inspired me to rely on my MA training to keep being an academic, to keep researching and thinking on the subjects that interest me.

I have mixed feelings about not being at the AIA/SCS this year. I’ve never been, and as it’s only a few hours down the road from me this year, I used to think that this would be the year I would go. There’s good reasons for me not to be there- I’m not a grad student anymore so I’m not immersed in the culture of the department to the same degree; conferences are expensive and I don’t have access to funding; my own research interests go beyond the traditional bounds of classics; and, finally, I doubt a multi-day conference is the best environment for recovering concussions, anyway!

So far now, I will live vicariously through Twitter!

What counts as academic writing? #AcWri – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

The truth is: YOU ARE WRITING EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even if you are sending emails to a coauthor about how to craft a specific section, THAT COUNTS AS WRITING. Why? Because you are sharing concept notes. You are shaping how your argument is going to be structured. You are discussing the data. Are you reading and taking notes off of each paper you read? You are WRITING.

Are you drawing tables by hand to decide how you’re going to present them in your paper? YOU ARE WRITING. You are, in fact, WRITING.

Source: What counts as academic writing? #AcWri – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

I highly recommend following Raul Pacheco-Vega on Twitter (@raulpacheco) and his blog. He offers great resources on planning, organizing, and writing. In fact, reading his Tweets has motivated me to make this blog more of priority in 2017. I’m setting modest goals (surely I can manage just one post a month?) in the hopes that maybe I’ll exceed them.

I found this particular post, which he shared recently on Twitter, very encouraging for thinking about my own writing practices. I don’t consider myself a writer, as I don’t write as much as I think I should.

I like the idea that all the various bits of writing I do every day– emails, social media posts, jotting notes–all count as writing. So maybe I do write more than I think and maybe I can produce a blog post (or two or three?) a month for a year.

Source: What counts as academic writing? #AcWri – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

launching our myth podcast!

This is a test run of a new podcast!

My colleague @darrinsunstrum and I are starting a myth podcast! We’re both academics with close to 20 years experience teaching myth between the two of us (yikes!). We like to talk, so our podcast is the two of us discussing Greek and Roman myths for 40-45 minutes. Each episode we’ll choose a different literary passage from the ancient sources and discuss its mythological and historical contexts as well as explore some of the key themes. Our first run at this is Euripides’ Medea, lines 476-492 (text provided below so you can follow along).

Episode 1: Medea (Part 1) https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BytS8FtLYgBGbzVDWnVma0RjZjA

(I’m still sorting out the tech side a bit; for now it looks like you’ll have to download the file from GoogleDrive before playing it.)

We’re still working on coming up with a name (suggestions welcome!) and some artwork and even a schedule of sorts. We’ll sort these things out eventually, but for now we hope that you enjoy our ramblings! Leave a comment for us to let us know what you think and to make any special requests!


I rescued you, as the Greeks know who were
your shipmates long ago aboard the Argo,
when you were sent to master the monstrous bulls
with yokes and sow the furrow with seeds of death.
The serpent who never slept, his twisted coils                             480
protecting the golden fleece, I was the one
who killed it and held out to you a beacon of safety.
I betrayed both my father and my house
and went with you to Pelias’ land, Iolkos,
showing in that more eagerness than sense.
I murdered Pelias by the most painful of deaths,                        485
at the hands of his own daughters, and I destroyed
his whole house. And in return for this, you foulest of men,
you betrayed us and took a new wife,
even though you have children. Were you childless,                  490
one might forgive your passion for this marriage bed.
But now the trust of oaths is gone.
(Eur. Med. 476-492)

Euripides. Medea. Trans. A. J. Podlecki. Ed. Stephen Esposito. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2004. Print.


You can also read Euripides’ Medea (Trans. Kovak) online for free at Perseus.tufts.edu.
Music “Super Hero” by King Louie’s Missing Monuments from the album “Live at WFMU” (2011). Used under Creative Commons license. Available online at Free Music Archive
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/King_Louies_Missing_Monuments/

Intro/exit music from “Holding out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler (1999 version). Go buy it on iTunes**Update (09/04)–Since it’s not 100% clear that using this song in our podcast isn’t in violation of any copyright, we’ll be changing up the theme to a work licensed under Creative Commons and reposting the episode. We want our listeners and supporters to know that we value and support artists’ creative work. As academics, we appreciate the importance of intellectual property rights and recognize that we need to set a good example for the responsible use of others’ works. (***It’s still an awesome song. Go listen to it in full if you haven’t already!)