Teaching TV, Twitter, and my Textbook
The semester launched this week at Middlebury. Due to a little enrollment shuffling, I’m only teaching one course this semester: Television and American Culture. (I’ll certainly be sufficiently busy reading the hundreds of job applicants and actively working on the college website makeover project!) This is the first time through using my textbook, Television and American Culture, in published form, so it’s quite exciting to see people reading it around campus. I’ve heard from a few other folks who are teaching with the book this fall, but if you are and have a link to your syllabus, please share it here!
One of the new wrinkles I’m trying in the class this semester is to use Twitter as a discussion stream – I’ve squatted on the hashtag #tvamcult for things related to the class, and certainly invite other people using the book to join that conversation. I was inspired to do this after hearing a presentation by Eric Gordon and David Bogen about attention in the classroom – essentially, they argued that instead of fighting to eliminate distractions and split focus, try to channel other media back toward the class content and dynamic. So I plan on having a second projected screen of the Twitstream running beside the main screen with my slides and videos, allowing a backchannel conversation to emerge publicly as the lectures proceed, as well as extending beyond.
The permeable boundaries of Twitter conversations emerged today in an interesting way. Last night, we watched the Homicide episode “Subway,” and this morning I offered a prompt for students to share their thoughts about the show. Of course, that was seen by not only my class but by anyone who follows me on Twitter or searches for terms of interest. So far, more people outside of the class have replied to my prompt than actual students! One of the responses was from Shawn Ryan, who besides being a Middlebury alum and a friend to our department, is a very successful television writer/producer (The Shield, The Unit, Lie to Me). So while I have no idea how successful the Twitter conversation will be as a pedagogical tool, it’s already surpassed the threshhold of “how cool is that?” to have a major producer drop by the class like that!
I’d love to hear from anyone else who has channeled Twitter into their courses for any tips for managing the conversation and/or encouraging participation – as well as anybody using the book this fall.
Filed under: Academia, Middlebury, Teaching, Television, TV Textbook | 4 Comments