Teaching requires thinking and a few other painfully obvious observations.

1 11 2010

College Misery is not nearly as much fun as its predecessor, the sorely-missed Rate Your Students. How could any blog be? My theory is that this is simply a function of editing. Whoever runs CM gave out usernames and passwords to something like a hundred people. It is simply impossible for all of those people to be as interesting as the “pick and chose the cream of the crop” formula that guided RYS.

I read CM regularly though because every once in a while a really good post comes up, the kind that makes me wade through the unremarkable bellyaching on its average days. Besides having a very interesting story in it about pre-prepared PowerPoints distributed by publishers the discussion in the comments is both civil and informative. What I liked the most here though are the questions at the end:

They [meaning publishers] are ENCOURAGING professors to suck. Is it a conspiracy? If they make enough of us worthless, are they going to take over the world with online education? WTF?

Much as I wish this was a conspiracy, I think the causation here is probably reversed. I recently got called out for complaining about lazy professors, and I think there is some truth to the point that economic conditions rather than character traits might explain the use of technology to cut corners.

Nevertheless, I remain unsympathetic. It wasn’t that long ago that my teaching load was five sections of survey each semester. I specifically remember demanding that I be allowed to teach both halves at the same time because I couldn’t stand the prospect of boring myself.

Consider this line from the comments to the CM post:

I used PowerPoint during my first year of lecturing, to hide behind.

[Emphasis added]

I don’t think she was hiding from the fact that she wasn’t prepared for class. After all, she had enough time to write the PowerPoint. What she was hiding from was the need to do any thinking because she wasn’t sure enough of her own authority. Without thinking, you might as well just hit the play button and show movies every day. Giant publishers will probably be delighted to provide you with those movies very, very soon, but in the meantime we should resist that future with every fibre of our being.


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