Category Archives: miscellaneous

Teaching with technology materials


Materials for my two sessions are available in a google drive folder here. If you want easier access to the google doc on using google drive (very meta, I know!), I’ve made it public to anyone in the world to view; here’s a link to it, and it’s also embedded below. Now that I’ve put this link here, you should be able to search the web for it!

Here’s the google doc on using images in the classroom; I’ve also published and embedded it below.


Revising Critical Theory


I’ve been teaching a MA-level critical theory course for a couple of years now, and while I think it’s effective on some levels as-is, I would like to offer a more curated, in-depth approach. Currently, the course is organized loosely chronologically, using the 2nd edition of the Rivkin & Ryan anthology–what I used in graduate school. The second edition is much more usefully selected than the first edition, and the introductory notes are excellent; the problem is that, using an anthology like this, one seems required to skim–the anthology sets up reading habits that encourage “dipping into.” The benefit of this approach is that students are exposed to a variety of theorists in (outside of translation) their own words, which allows eager young minds to grapple with and work through difficult prose. It also provides a toolbox-like set of concepts that are definitely useful for basic analytical purposes–defamiliarization, close reading, concrete universal, panopticism, the culture industry, and so on. The problem, however, is that skimps on historicization and debate between; additionally, it has been my experience that working through the primary theoretical texts takes so much time that we have less to devote to seeing how this material has in fact actually shaped the kinds of analysis we do and students are being asked to do.

Should we favor the Pu-pu platter approach for its ability to intrigue, delight, and stimulate further study? Or, should we favor a more selective approach that will necessarily skip important theorists but allow students to engage some ideas more fully? Is there a way to incorporate some of the Pu-pu platter approach in a more highly curated classroom?

I’m considering something along these lines. I’d like to assign three or four full-length texts–tentatively, The Well-Wrought Urn; the Barthes/Foucault works on authorship; The History of Sexuality, Volume 1; and Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism. I might swap out Foucault for something from the Frankfurt School, or that and add Zizek’s . This might give us a pretty good overview of the shape of modern and postmodern theory, while making visible some gaps. Readings would be supplemented by student presentations on other theorists–who they are, major works, basic ideas, impact, and sample analyses. These presentations might go into a class website or database–and later classes would extend and revise each term’s statements.  I also want to fit in a project that requires students to locate, read, assign to the class, and report/lead discussion on contemporary critical work that incorporates our theoretical contexts. The big problem I’m having is that I want the class to be able to work through these ideas in practice–but I cannot guarantee that all students will have a specific text-repertoire from day one; which means I have to assign a literary/cultural/visual text or three. This has always been a bit of a hurdle–what to choose? How to keep them vibrant and the students interested? What works well without simplifying the theory, privileging the literary source?

So, these are my thoughts right now, which I wanted to get down on electronic paper while I was ruminating. As always, insight and advice are much appreciated!


Forking for Beginners


I’ve been trying to wrap my head around github, and while it’s been a slow process, I think my experience may be useful for other folk like me–those of us who have just enough knowledge (and the curiosity, and the really big eyes) to make a mess of things. So, I thought I’d make a screencast of my adventures in gitland–this video is basically me fumbling my way around forking a collaborative public repo, adding a file, committing it, pushing it, and then sending a pull request. I did edit it a little, to get rid of some of the dead time and add a few explanatory titles, but the basics are pretty simple. The video has no sound, FYI.

Vimeo: Forking for Beginners




Electronic workshopping with google docs


In the past several years, I’ve tried many, many different workshop methodologies–the full class single-paper workshop one day, followed by small-group workshops the next; round-robin workshops; lightning critiques; the simple exchange/read/comment; send your draft to a peer through email and use Word to comment/merge; in-class electronic workshopping with a peer; in-class polishing at the computer lab, and more. The list seems to be endless, and it feels as though none of them have really worked. This term, I’m trying google docs. I don’t really know why I’d not tried it before for workshopping; I’ve used it for other kinds of collaborative writing, like class creation of course policies, group notetaking, and so on, but I’ve not tried it for workshopping per se.

Tonight, we’ll see how it works in a small class. Students were asked to bring their laptops and an electronic document, which we’ll post to a shared folder I’ve created (this could be done prior to class, and I did encourage students to do so, but I am banking on there being stragglers!) and convert to an editable format.  The major questions students addressed as concerns the previous class included 1.) accuracy of theoretical understanding, and 2.) the usefulness of the through narrative they’re to construct for the assignment.

I’ll have students spend a little time crafting questions specific to their own essays at the head of their draft, and adding two or three questions at specific points throughout–this has the added benefit of allowing us to assess any difficulties with the technology. Then, students will work with three other essays in turn to address the extent to which it fulfills the goals of the assignment, in particular by making at least six positive suggestions for changing or refining the content. This can involve suggesting:

  • a quote or a paraphrase,
  • a logical connection,
  • an alternative formulation,
  • a re-organization,
  • a transition, and so on.

Students can reply to or otherwise comment on other reviewers’ comments, as well. Then, I’d like to have students spend a little time crafting a final comment regarding style–in particular, what writing habits did you notice that the author might want to examine during the revision process? What citation habits might the author want to revise? The goal with these specific tasks is to limit and structure the kind of comments peer reviewers can make. By the end of the workshop, each draft should have three reviewers’ comment–students will have to look at the comments to assess whether that draft needs another pair of eyes.

The next step will be downloading the draft as a Word document–this should retain the comments. The essay’s shape will have to be revised, as well as the content, because the upload/comment/download process will strip some of the overall formatting.

Has anyone else used a shared google docs folder for workshopping? I’d love to hear about your experiences!