A bit more about the Public Archaeology Twitter Conference (PATC or Patsy to friends henceforth) to be held on the 28 April 2017. Please see previous post for more information and how to submit to the conference.
It is on Twitter, so you don’t need to be anywhere, or travel, or even get out of bed.
There will be two key note presentations from Professor Shawn Graham from Carleton University and Dr Colleen Morgan from York University. Both are active and very well respected researchers, teachers, and authors on numerous publications related to the subject of digital archaeology.
Each ‘speaker’ will get a 15 minute slot allocated under one of 7 thematic strands, outlined below. During this time, they can tweet between 6-12 tweets using the relevant hashtag about their paper.
Speakers can include any kind of media in their tweets, from images to GIFS (as long as they…
I’m guest-hosting at @wethehumanities this week, February 27 to March 5. Here’s an introduction to me–what I do and what I hope to talk about this week. Come join the conversation on Twitter!
Hello! I’m Alison and I’ll be curating @wethehumanities for the week of February 27th. I’m looking forward to chatting with you about diverse topics: social media, blogging, podcasting, pedagogy, and public engagement in the humanities.
A bit about me: After completing a BA Hons in history, I worked in the museum field for several years before deciding to return to university to do a second degree and graduate school in Classics. I eventually received my MA in Classics at Brock University, Canada, in 2013, with my thesis “Gender and Healing in the Hippocrates Corpus.” I made the difficult decision not to continue with PhD studies but to look for other ways I can stay connected and contribute to the academic community.
One way I stay connected is through my work as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Classics at Brock University. I started there in 2009 as part of my MA funding plan and found, through the mentorship of professors and the professional development opportunities on campus, a passion for teaching and working with students. I have been fortunate to TA for a wide variety of courses, including topics such as Greek and Roman history, cities and sanctuaries, Cleopatra, women in the ancient world, and Greek mythology.
I found towards the end of MA my academic interests had shifted somewhat. I remain very interested in ancient ideas about gender, medicine, and science, but I am also interested in how Greco-Roman ideas have influenced modern ideas about gender and the practice of health care. I have also developed interest in the reception of Greco-Roman mythology and female figures within mythology.
More recently, I began work as the Social Media Coordinator for the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University. This has been an exciting venture, as it is a new role within the faculty. I manage the faculty’s social media accounts—Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram (@brockhumanities), and blog—covering the news and events within the faculty. This has allowed me to connect with students in a new way and to experience the diversity of humanities from a new perspective.
My social media work has been a great fit, as I am passionate about communicating the relevance and necessity of the humanities to an audience beyond the university. The idea of public engagement is an important conversation happening now in the Classics community and I have been fortunate to participate in this conversation somewhat through social media. I am interested in hearing about the conversations happening in other disciplines.
In addition to my own Twitter and Instagram (both @innesalison), I also blog at http://AlisonInnes.wordpress.com, where I work out my ideas about academia, pedagogy, and social media. I am interested in hearing from others how they use social media in their academics and ways we can use it to encourage interdisciplinary work and engage non-academics.
Finally, I am also a podcaster. I co-host and produce MythTake with Darrin Sunstrum (@DarrinSunstrum). Podcasting is experiencing a surge of popularity at the moment and I am interested in ways that the academic community can capitalize on this for both pedagogy and public engagement.
So that’s me! I look forward to meeting you and sharing ideas February 27- March 6. I hope you’ll join in!
It’s a pretty big, and pretty important, question. When I’m asked, I usually say something along the lines of it being academics on Twitter, but that’s not quite right. It’s more than that, but it’s hard to explain until you experience it.
I’ve brought together some of the responses to @savsavasava’s question here, so that those not on Twitter can hopefully get a glimpse of why some of us like it so much.
The modern water cooler
I like to say that Twitter is the modern agora. It is a (privately owned) public space where people come together to chat, exchange knowledge, do business, complain, share cat pictures, and generally try to make sense of what’s going on in the world.
Twitter–any social media, in my opinion–should be about the people who use it. Social media is simply being social through a medium. This allows broad communities and networks to form, which in turn fosters creativity, connection, knowledge exchange, and public engagement. Academic Twitter breaks down the barriers of status–tenured faculty, contract, independent scholars, alt-academics, para-academics– and becomes about the ideas people have, not the rank a person holds in an institution or organization.
@savasavasava a loose collection of academics, alt-academics, and para-academics who often chat about scholarship- & college-related topics
A never-ending conference may not sound like fun to some, but in some ways, that’s what Twitter is. But don’t worry: It’s the fun networking in the bar after the panel presentations part of conferences, and you can dip in and out of it as you wish. Also, no expensive hotel fees or air fare.
@savasavasava One of the many ways I think about Academic Twitter is like an ongoing, time-shifted interdisciplinary conference.
Twitter is public and provides a platform for us to do our discipline publicly. But it’s not just about sharing facts on ancient Greece, say. @OmanReagan hits the nail on the head: Twitter allows us to humanize our work. When we allow our personality and personal interests to come through on Twitter, the public can see scholars as relatable. Our enthusiasm comes across. We are interesting people doing interesting things, no more or less human than anyone else. Engagement is about connection, and we best connect with people when we allow ourselves to be seen as people.
@savasavasava Academic Twitter is also a way to *do* your discipline in public: to read in public, to share research, to explain your field.
The importance of Twitter and social media to the disabled community is often under-appreciated, but it is a vital tool. Live-tweeting may make a presentation easier for someone to follow. Networking on social media doesn’t require the same energy investment that travel and meetings do. In addition, Twitter is a way to find other marginalized people who share the same challenges and can provide support during difficult times.
@savasavasava Other things: a disability resource to improve access to community, conversation, professional networks.
A network that breaks down institutional hierarchies and silos
Twitter allows us to engage with other people as people first, and gives us access to people who we might not otherwise meet. It’s pretty awesome to be able to tweet to someone you respect, and even cooler when they reply or RT. I know I’ll never forget getting a RT from an academic hero!
Twitter gives space for the voices that are often marginalized and unheard in traditional spaces. By listening to –and amplifying–people from marginalized groups, we learn to be better people and better academics. Twitter is a classroom where, if we choose to listen, we can learn from each other.
@savasavasava the network that connects shared intellectual interests beyond traditional institutional models.
Twitter, if used well, breaks down barriers of disciplines, departments, faculties, and hierarchical rank to encourage cross collaboration. It’s way to work out ideas and get input from other perspectives.
@savasavasava Collaboration: Every paper panel, conference paper, and journal article I’ve written in last 3 years has started here.
Classics has been in crisis over its relatability for the entire time that I have been a classicist. But increasingly there are classicists who are interested in speaking to an audience beyond just the one which has typically been granted access to a classical education — and for these scholars, “outreach” is an ethical issue. There are groups of people, underrepresented and/or maligned in the past, which are now becoming more visible than ever. And one of the ways in which these groups have become more visible, is due to the power of representation which social media give them. When scholars engage online – even if their research has nothing to do with social issues – they can be witnesses to the kinds of problems which their students and their colleagues face that don’t necessarily occur to them from just their own experience.
If you enjoyed my post “Thoughts on Twitter Outreach,” please take the time to read Hannah Čulík-Baird’s post “Review: ‘Social Media for Academics’–Mark Carrigan” . I am currently reading Carrigan’s book, and it is a great resource on how to think about social media and academics. While specific social media platforms will come and go, social media itself is not going anywhere, and Carrigan provides an excellent argument for how engaging with social media enhances our work as academics.
As scientists, we owe it to the world to do a better job communicating the wonders of science, and the incredible discoveries being made by our field, to everyone around us. And in this moment of history, when addressing scientific issues has never been more urgent and important, we have a special duty to share our knowledge, expertise, and passion with the wider world. It is part of our social compact as scientists.
Naturally, I am not suggesting that everyone should do everything — run a big lab, teach several courses, and then write a blog, regularly engage with journalists, publish a popular book, get on social media, speak in public forums, produce a podcast, do a TED talk, and so on. There are always limits of time, energy, and skill to consider. But each scientist can at least do something to communicate their science to broader audiences — and find a niche that works for them. Try something. Experiment. Be willing to invest the time needed to master another aspect of your profession. And stick with it.
Shortly after I wrote my post, Hannah brought this to my attention via Twitter. Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) wrote “Science Communication as a Moral Imperative” on The Macroscope. While it’s written for scientists, it is equally applicable to the humanities.
I had planned to spend a day off from my social media work doing non-social media things, but then I checked Twitter, where @RogueClassicist had shared a recent post (excerpt below) on the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) blog.
My experiment with Twitter proved to be a failure. I began by obeying the rules of etiquette, then breaking them deliberately to see what worked. For example, I retweeted my own material (a big no-no on Twitter), I pestered others to retweet for me, I stopped following others when they got political, and I refused to discuss politics myself. Many followers soon unfollowed me, but I still ended the year with more followers than I started (c. 600). The problem is that from start to finish, most of my followers were either classicists or friends of mine. My conclusion—again, an unpopular one—is that Twitter is an echo chamber. It’s terrific for communication among classicists and highly educated fellow travelers, but not beyond—certainly not for reaching millions of non-classicists.
Before we can use social media effectively, we need to know what it is we want to use it for. We need to have a clear idea of what we want to communicate and with whom we wish to communicate.
We talk about outreach, but what do we mean by this term? Do we all mean the same thing? What does outreach look like?
As I mention in my tweet, I’m not a fan of the word outreach. It’s far too vague–what are we reaching out about? Who are we reaching to? Is the focus on those doing the reaching or those being ‘reached’? Why are we trying to reach them? What, exactly, do we hope to achieve by reaching out?
There are other words that might better reflect what we’re trying to do. My personal preference is the term humcomm–humanities communication, modelled after science’s scicomm. I also like the term engagement, as it conveys the idea of a two-way exchange. I believe that is what outreach should be about–communicating the importance and relevance of humanities (and in this particular case, Classics), to others. It is about engaging people in conversation, talking with them rather than at them. I believe humcomm–or outreach or engagement, if you prefer–is about people communicating.
Social media is simply being social through one of many various platforms, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. It’s strength is that we can now have conversations with people around the world and across time zones about all sorts of shared interests.
My own goal with my humcomm work is to share the diversity of what we do in humanities and its relevance to people today with people beyond the university’s walls. I want people to see that the humanities are engaged and interested in the world. I want to have conversations with people outside the university environment to demystify what academics do.
As part of this, in 2015 my colleague Darrin Sunstrum (@darrinsunstrum) and I began voluntarily live-tweeting the Greek mythology courses we were both teaching assistants for, and I also used Twitter to engage with current events (such as the destruction of Nimrud/Mosul) with archaeology students.
While most students use Twitter passively, reading tweets rather than actively tweeting, we did engage with some of our students directly on Twitter. What was really encouraging though, was seeing how our tweets about myth got picked up and shared around the world. People were interested!
We experimented to see what resonated with people and played to our own strengths. Darrin connected mythological themes to pop culture and superheroes; I tended to connect themes to art history or astronomy. Anything related to archaeology or that could be illustrated with coins always seemed to do well. People are interested in the past and its stories.
Our Twitter conversations also brought about professional connections that have continued. Through our tweeting, we connected with two Classics professors at other institutions who also taught myth and we shared each others’ tweets and hashtags. This not only amplified each others’ voices, but also gave anyone following the course hashtag insights from other scholars.
Some people seemed to follow the hashtag regularly and engage with us, while for others it was probably more a retweet of a neat image popping up in their time line and passing it on via RT, but the point is this: for two hours every week we had a conversation about Greek mythology and heroes on Twitter with interested people from around the world, and those people got a glimpse into a university lecture hall. The university’s walls disappeared.
Twitter: A lost cause?
Which leads me to the second aspect I wish to address: Twitter itself.
I began by obeying the rules of etiquette, then breaking them deliberately to see what worked.
Fontaine’s social media strategy here really baffles me. I’m not clear what he was trying to accomplish.
The “rules” of etiquette exist to make people comfortable interacting in a given setting. Social media has its own etiquette. Being aware of and respecting these guidelines is important to fostering positive interactions.
I am puzzled why Fontaine would deliberately break the “rules” of Twitter. While some Twitter errors are less egregious than others, it seems counterproductive to actively choose to engage in potentially obnoxious behaviour if one’s goal is engagement. We would hardly show up at a dinner party and put our feet on the table, so why do so when someone has invited us, literally, into their hand?
Many followers soon unfollowed me, but I still ended the year with more followers than I started (c. 600).
Despite the prominent place Twitter gives to the followers/following numbers, it isn’t actually the best metric for assessing one’s Twitter effectiveness. While it’s a number we always like to see increase, it needs to be considered alongside reach, impressions, and, most importantly, engagement.
The followers number can be misleading for two reason: firstly, a person does not necessarily need to be a follower to see your Tweets (provided your account is public). They may find your tweet through Twitter’s suggestion algorithm, by someone else retweeting it into their feed, by searching for a particular hashtag or keyword, by subscribing to a Twitter list you are included in, or by seeing someone they follow engage with it. Your tweets reach more than just your followers.
On the other hand, your followers likely include a number of business or spam accounts that have followed you in the hopes that your account will automatically follow them back and they can advertise to you. Or it may include people who liked the pics of your cat but scroll past your other tweets without reading them. Or people who didn’t want to get inundated with your Twitter chat and muted you and forgot all about you. It happens.
Fortunately, Twitter provides more useful metrics. Impressions tells you the number of times your tweet got served up in users’ feeds. Reach tells you how many individual users got your tweet in their feed.
And engagement–that’s the magic number. That number tells you how many users actually interacted with your tweet. They clicked on your tweet to expand it, they liked it, replied to it, retweeted it, followed a link, played the video–in short, they interacted with your tweet. Twitter provides an engagement rate as a percent; while the number seems small, a rate of 1% is actually good.
My conclusion—again, an unpopular one—is that Twitter is an echo chamber. It’s terrific for communication among classicists and highly educated fellow travelers, but not beyond—certainly not for reaching millions of non-classicists.
The accusation that twitter is an echo chamber gets trotted out so often, I’m starting to think I should get a t-shirt made:
Yes, Twitter can be an echo chamber. So can Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. So can our newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And our book club, our coffee club, our drinking buddies, our lecture hall. In short, we can turn any social interaction and information consumption into an echo chamber if we wish.
I really disagree about twitter being an echo chamber. If you use it to listen as much as broadcast, it’s not. https://t.co/dNbrX9f3jL
But as Hannah Čulík-Baird points out, it’s only an echo chamber if that’s what we make of it. Twitter can be a fantastic window on the world. It can be opportunity to engage with people we may never have talked to otherwise. I know that I have met many interesting people via Twitter that I may never have struck up conversation with in real life, either on account of geography or life circumstances. My Twitter network goes far beyond Classics, or even academia, and I don’t think that’s at all unusual.
The SCS needs new networks beyond Facebook and Twitter.
While I agree with Fontaine’s conclusion that SCS needs networks beyond Twitter and Facebook (Instagram and Snapchat are major players with our current generation of students, and who knows what will take off next), I strongly disagree that Twitter is a lost cause.
Each social media platform has its own demographics and is used in different ways. Current students, for example, do not use Facebook the way we did in its early day, and they generally tend to consume Twitter passively, rather than actively tweet. (I recognize that even these generalities can be dangerous because every user is unique in their preferences.)
When we know who we want to engage with (other scholars? students? future students? parents? retirees?) and what it is we want to achieve with this engagement, we can choose the medium that will be most effective. There is no one social media platform that is going to reach everyone all the time. The key is to find what suits our audience.
Not everyone has the inclination to engage with Twitter, and that is perfectly okay. But, if we dismiss Twitter as an effective communication tool, we are also dismissing those who are already using it for Classics outreach and devaluing their work (which is a whole other post for someone else to write!). I can easily think of a half dozen Classics people on Twitter who are doing a great job engaging others and fostering conversations: @opietasanimi, @rogueclassicist, @AvenSarah, @greekhistorypod, @SarahEBond, @EllieMackin, among others.
Every public conversation these scholars have about Classics on Twitter is outreach; even if that conversation is with a fellow scholar, it may be followed by anyone. Direct outreach with non-Classicists is important, of course, but we can also think about ways our engagements with other Classicists on social media can also function as outreach.
We don’t need to start from scratch
I think there is much we can learn about outreach on social media from our colleagues in other disciplines, both within the humanities (#medievaltwitter and history twitter come to mind), but across the university as well.
Scientists seem to have recognized earlier than us the necessity of communicating what they do to the public–to demystify the white lab coats and experiments with high-tech equipment. While perhaps we were generally complacent that the greater public understood the importance of humanities, scientists were breaking a new trail and leveraging the power of social media for scicomm– communicating the value and importance of science to the public.
There is much in Classics that I believe the general public would be interested in–people are still fascinated by archaeology and the past, and I don’t need to explain to fellow Classicists the relevance of many themes we deal with to today’s society.
We don’t need to start social media outreach from scratch. We can look to what our colleagues in other disciplines are doing and learn from them. How do they capture the public interest? How do they engage the public in conversation? How do they capitalize on current issues and interests to bring their discipline into the spotlight again and again?
As Hannah Čulík-Baird points out, the key to successful social media is to listen, listen, listen. Listen to what others are saying. Watch what others are doing on Twitter. For example, @alongsidewild (David Steen), @whysharksmatter (David Shiffman), and @astrokatie (Katie Mack) do a wonderful job engaging the public on Twitter and are well worth following.
It takes time, patience, and experimentation to build a social media presence that fosters conversations with non-academics. It doesn’t happen over night–it can take months and years. It’s never quite finished. It isn’t easy–there’s no formula to follow– and it’s not for everyone. As academics, we’re not always comfortable with the nature of such public experimentation, but it is necessary.
Social media is not going away, so let’s embrace it with enthusiasm and make our discipline part of the public conversation. It isn’t a problem, but an opportunity to shape a new conversation. Enough from me! Please share in the comments examples of academic Twitter accounts (any discipline!) who you think do a great job engaging non-experts. I would also love to hear how you have used Twitter to break down the university walls. And give me your thoughts on humcomm/outreach/engagement, too–who should academics be trying to reach and why?
It was such an amazing adaptation and performance that I haven’t stopped thinking–or raving– about it yet. There are so many delicious ideas I want to dig into with this play! Ten minutes in, I really wanted to bottle up the show so I could use it to teach my students what myth is really about.
One of the Classics professors organized a Q&A session with the director, Colin Bruce Anthes, and one of the actors, Hayley Malouin. I was able to attend this and live-tweet it as part of my social media job. You can read that Storify of this Q&A here.
Ancient Athens meets modern Niagara in Twitches & Itches Theatre’s production of The Bacchae. This very timely modern adaptation of a play originally performed in 405 BCE challenges ideas of identity and explore what happens when extreme left- and right-wing politics collide.
When the ensemble began working on their production in February 2015, they had no idea how timely it would be when presented on the eve of the presidential inauguration of 2017.
“We had no idea Brexit and Donald Trump’s rise to power were just around the corner,” says director Colin Bruce Anthes. “The play was miles ahead of us. Many of the play’s original themes are shockingly reflected in our present society.”
The play engages with current social issues, as Dionysus, an androgynous foreigner, arrives in St. Cadmus and starts changing the entrenched norms. The conservative rule of King Pentheus is challenged by this new god of wine, theatre, and ritual madness and the women who abandon the city core to follow him.
“Some of the dialogue looks like headlines stolen from today’s newspapers,” explains Anthes. “In our production, the priest of a new religion arrives as a David Bowie-esque glam-rock star, bursting through a city’s eternalized film-noir surface.”
As Hayley Malouin explains, the work questions how we can be certain of our convictions and moral compasses when the legitimacy of facts are questioned. “Uncertainty breeds dangerous extremism, but can also provide space for positive change. We see all kinds of uncertainties in The Bacchae.”
Issues of identity are also central to this play: xenophobia, transphobia, and fatphobia are all challenged.
Brock alumnus Iain Lidstone found playing the role of androgynous Dionysus both rewarding and exhausting. “I am a trans man playing a gender-fluid character,” he explains. “On the one hand, I find utter relief and excitement that as a queer artist I get the opportunity to give a voice to queer identities on the stage.”
Lidstone’s own experiences informed the development of his character. “My character’s gender-fluidity and “effeminate” nature means I am constantly challenging my own internalized transphobia and trans-masculine identity in order to authentically portray our ‘queerified’ image of Dionysus.”
Malouin plays the role of Agave, mother to King Pentheus. “As a fat actor I’ve seen my inordinately unfair share of motherly characters,” she explains, but Agave is different. “She’s a person before she is a mother, and this production pays particular attention to her journey as an intelligent, politically savvy, but ultimately oppressed agent.”
General manager Marcus Tuttle describes the production as “a play that makes sense for St. Catharines.” Niagara issues are woven throughout the play: the disappearing manufacturing economy and the experiences of migrant workers, as well as challenges faced by the LGBTQIA community.
The physical theatre style the group uses would not be too foreign to an ancient Greek audience, either. Rather than relying on props and special effects, the technique emphasizes the use of the voice and body. This method requires long term commitment from the actors to physical and voice training.
Twitches & Itches Theatre is committed to developing local acting talent. The group was founded by Anthes and Tom DiMartino in 2009 and moved to St. Catharines in 2013. They have gradually built up a core ensemble of nine performers, eight of whom trained at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
This is the group’s sixth full production, and their first independent production at First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. The group also does various community and charity fundraiser performances. They emphasize cooperation and collaboration in their work, with all members having equal voices in what the company decides to produce.
The Bacchae runs at First Ontario Performing Arts Centre from January 19 to 21, 2017.
Alumni: Iain Lidstone, Hayley Malouin, Sean Rintoul, Kaitlin Race, Sean Aileen McClelland, Chelsea Wilson, Marcus Tuttle, Colin Bruce Anthes
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.
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.
I found this in my Twitter feed this morning! Hannah Čulík-Baird has written a summary of a conversation that took place during the AIA/SCS annual conference.
Remember I was just blogging about my conflicting feelings about not being there? Turned out, thanks to Twitter, I was still a part of the conversation! Not only was MythTakes briefly mentioned in a panel (unbeknownst to me), but by picking up on the #aiascs hashtag at the right time, I joined the conversation about podcasting Classicists. This is a perfect example of the power of Twitter to widen conversations!
It’s also a very important conversation and I have more thoughts on it that I plan to work out here, but for now, please enjoy Hannah’s post!
As I prepare to re-enter the classroom this January as a Teaching Assistant, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review my statement of teaching philosophy, which I first wrote in 2010, update it, and remind myself who I seek to be as a teacher. I share it here.
Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. (Chinese proverb)
I believe that learning is a partnership between the students and the teacher.
Learning is a cooperative experience between student and teacher as well as between students. All parties must engage with the process to make learning happen. I see my role in the classroom as that of a facilitator who guides students through the learning process rather than solely as an expert on the subject matter at hand. I encourage peer-to-peer learning by emphasizing participatory learning and planning activities which meet a diversity of learning styles. In my seminars I attempt to break the teacher-student power dynamic by creating a supportive atmosphere where all students can learn from each other. I believe it is important to meet students where they are and guide them to where they need to be while still allowing them to take ownership of their learning.
All tutorials were well put together with opportunity for discussion. Themes of lecture were reinforced in class. (Student, Fall 2008)
I thought that you didn’t ‘sugar coat’ your comments and feedback. You provided examples and were very thorough. This was extremely helpful. (Student, Winter 2009)
Since learning is a partnership, students share the responsibility for their learning. They have the right to not engage in seminar and to fail assignments. Students have the right to set their own priorities, and while I encourage students to engage in the learning process by using a wide variety of teaching techniques, I also recognize that there will be some who choose not to make my seminars a priority. I offer my students all the support I can, but I also respect their right to not participate and I recognize that I cannot force a student to learn.
I don’t think the main issue is the activities you provide or your seminar style, but rather the issue is that most people don’t participate/read for class. I’m not saying that I am not a part of the problem (I know I haven’t kept up), but that is probably the overlying issue. (Student, Winter 2010)
I believe that the classroom atmosphere is critical to learning and teaching.
Learning cannot take place if the students do not feel comfortable in the classroom. Every person in the classroom brings something of themselves to the class that can enhance the learning environment. By tapping into this resource through student-centered, cooperative and participatory teaching techniques, I aim to give all students the opportunity to fully participate in seminar learning.
One way in which I do this is by using small group discussions. Because the group size is less daunting, quiet students feel more comfortable voicing their views and more students are able to adopt leadership roles. Students learn from each other in the small group settings and teach their fellow students when they are brought back to the large group. While I circulate among the small groups to pose and answer questions as necessary, I encourage students to take an active role in guiding their discussions. Using such peer-to-peer learning techniques balances the classroom power dynamics between teacher, student and curriculum and encourages the students to take ownership in their learning.
I enjoy the overall flow of class, participation is nice as a whole class with the whiteboard activities but nice to talk in smaller groups as well. People have different comfort levels so this is nice.(Student, Winter 2010)
I endeavour to create a classroom atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect and students feel comfortable and free to participate fully. As a part of this, I give my students a clear description of what I expect of them and what they can expect of me. In addition to basic information such as my office hours and my email address, I outline what I look for in terms of participation so students know from the beginning what is expected of them. By providing students with university’s grading guidelines (as presented in the undergraduate calendar), I am letting them know from the start what they need to do to earn an A or B on their assignments. I attempt to be as fair as possible in my marking and I encourage students to come see me after they have reviewed their assignment if they have a question or concern about their mark.
I endeavor to set realistic expectations which encourage the students to expand their abilities without becoming overwhelmed. For example, I use in-seminar exercises to equip students to move beyond the simple five paragraph essay style taught in high school and to refine their theses and ideas into tighter arguments. When students come to see me individually about their papers, I will often indicate certain grammatical structures or styles of writing that they can use to further their papers. I refer students who are struggling with basic essay writing skills to campus workshops and drop-in hours. Such students are often embarrassed about the difficulty they are having so I do my best to mitigate feelings of shame and remind them that asking questions is a part of learning!
Good attitude, friendly environment. (Student, Winter 2010)
I found it very helpful when we read/review the readings as I sometimes have a hard time understanding some of the readings when I read them on my own. The group work is also helpful. (Student, Winter 2010)
I believe that the skills students learn are as important as the material they learn.
Since I TA for a humanities context credit course, I recognize that very few of my students will continue in the field of Classics. I therefore attempt to show my students the relevancy of the discipline while emphasizing the development of skills which will be useful regardless of their academic course. I place high value on my students’ development of critical thinking and reading skills. As I guide students through the literature of Greek mythology, I teach them how to interact with their texts to get a deeper understanding of the poems and plays we read. I show students how to mark up and annotate their texts, since this is a skill that is not always intuitive. I give students plenty of helpful feedback on their written work so they can improve their writing skills. I incorporate writing activities and essay-writing workshops into my seminars so students can get comfortable expressing their ideas in writing. The skills of reading, thinking and writing will help them whatever they choose to do.
I believe it is necessary to remember that students are whole people.
Students bring all kinds of different experiences and skills to class. Some students come with strong reading and writing skills, while others come terrified at the thought of writing anything. I let my students know that in a first-year course I expect them to only have first-year abilities. Depending on class dynamics, I will sometimes structure group work so that students with stronger writing abilities can help those with weaker abilities. This provides stronger students with a way to stay engaged when the material may be familiar to them.
Thought it was helpful that anything you were unsure of, you found out. (Student, Winter 2009)
My words and actions as a teacher can have a larger impact on students than I might expect. One of my most poignant reminders that I teach the whole person came from a mature student in the winter semester of 2010. I could tell from her seminar participation that she sincerely desired to do well in the course and was working hard. Part way through the semester she disappeared from class and a while later I received a very anxious email from her. Some rather tragic events had happened in her personal life and she was now distraught as to how she could finish the term. I immediately reassured her that not all was lost and, after consulting with the supervising professor, proposed several strategies we could use to help her finish on time. I also directed her to on-campus resources that could help her academically and personally during this difficult time. While ultimately she withdrew from the course, the email of thanks I received from her (quoted in part below) showed me that my instinctive response had a far more profound impact than I expected. While fortunately circumstances such as these do not arise every semester, it is a good reminder that every student I teach has a life beyond the 50 minutes a week I spend with them.
Alison, Thank you so much for your help with this, a large weight has been lifted off of my shoulders… I have been to Brock before but I have never honestly met someone so caring and helpful as you, and it has been a great relief to have someone like you helping me… Thank you again for being a kind and amazing person, this will come back to you threefold. Thank you, thank you. I cannot express how amazing you have made me feel. (Student, Winter 2010)
I believe that learning to teach is an ongoing process.
Teaching requires constant development and reflection. I incorporate reflective practices into my teaching so I can remember which approaches worked and which didn’t. At the start of each semester, I lay out my personal goals for how I want to improve as a teacher. At the end of each semester I write a summary of the things I did and how students responded to them. This gives me a resource to draw on in future classes. I also share particularly effective lessons with my supervising professor and with fellow TAs. In addition, I encourage feedback from my students over the course of the semester. I provide them with the opportunity to offer me written, anonymous evaluations during the semester so I know what needs to be change to improve my seminars. I also work closely with my fellow TAs and my professors to ensure that my marking is fair and the material I am teaching is relevant and accurate.
Professional development workshops are invaluable since they give me the opportunity to connect with TAs from other faculties and departments. Hearing the experiences of other TAs encourages me to reflect on my own teaching practices and look for ways to improve.
I am really enjoying this course. You make the 8am seminars painless so thank you! (Student, Winter 2010)
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 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!