Saturday, January 27, 2024

Random bullets of teaching in the new semester: Zoom, teaching, AI


- It's my umpteenth year of teaching in person and my umpteenth year of teaching online as well. Does it take far longer than I ever imagined to prep courses that I have taught before? Yes. Is it exhausting? Yes. Do I still love it? Also yes.  

- I love the energy of teaching in a classroom and seeing the students' expressions.

- Teaching via Zoom on occasion: I still like it, and the students are old hands at it by this point.  But I had to stifle a laugh at the image that came to mind when they all logged on and then immediately turned off their cameras: it was like Sean from The Good Place sealing himself inside a cocoon whenever he heard something he didn't like. All those little black squares = all those little cocoons. (Image via DeviantArt.)

- That doesn't mean that I'm opposed to the Zoom cocoon. Indeed, during Zoom presentations when we're asked to turn off our cameras, I can listen a lot better, especially if I can move around. I don't know what it's called, but I can either (1) look intently at the speaker in person or on Zoom but not hear a word that they say or (2) look down, take notes, walk around, or whatever and be fully engaged with the topic. 

- Apropos of the last point: I think the MLA should place a walking meditation labyrinth in all of its larger meeting rooms, maybe in back of the chairs. Those who can watch a speaker and sit still and listen can sit in the chairs, and the rest of us can walk the labyrinth and listen in our own way. Activity is the key to engagement for some of us, as it is in the classroom, and conferences would be so much better if we could move (and also if the room temperatures were set at something less than blood heat).

- We are going old school in my classes this semester: writing drafts by hand and revising drafts in class. I have a lot of reasons for this: (1) replicating the experience of giving an uninterrupted space for students to write; (2) being able to comment on their drafts before they revise them; (3) giving them time out of their busy schedules to focus; (4) being there if they have questions. 

- The whole AI thing is about a distant number 40 on that list. Yes, I suppose they could have AI write their papers, but the vapid nonsense that AI usually spews out--like a mission statement on steroids--would be a waste of their time. 

- It would also be a waste of mine, and spending any time at all on wading through that slush and figuring out whether it was plagiarized or not would be maddening. Sometimes students write slush--don't we all? and haven't we all?--but if it's honest slush, it has promise. If it's AI slush--well, why should I bother to read what no one was bothered to write? 

- About reading what no one bothered to write: I grant you that the Washington Post and New York Times seem to have dispensed with their copy-editors--you know, those people who catch things like geographical errors and subject-verb agreement--but I'm not paid to read them, and if they have news (hint: read the digital images of the print edition rather than the fluffy stuff that they put on the front pages of their app), I don't mind as much. 

- Speaking of reading the news, I picked up and reread Rosemary's Baby the other day and laughed when I realized that I would rather read about the literal Satan incarnated than the former guy.


gwinne said...


Also old school! I am having an analog revolt in the classroom. I am less concerned about writing long hand (though I do encourage it) than not having laptops open during class except when explicitly needed. Engagement is SO MUCH BETTER. Email me if you want to 'chat' about this off blog.

gwinne said...

I had left a comment that disappeared into the ether,... I am also on an old school gen x analog tear in the classroom. Would love to chat more.