Saturday, August 27, 2005
I'm Ready for My Close-Up
Fall semester started this week at my college. This semester, I'm teaching my first English 110 class, which has made the past few weeks an especially busy time. Our first session was Wednesday night, and I think the students survived unscathed.

I'm teaching a distance learning class. This means there are students in the classroom with me, in addition to an elaborate television and video-camera configuration. Microphones dangle from the ceiling around the room. There are a total of six TV's and three video cameras mounted to the walls. I can control the entire set up from a small console at the front of the room. What's more, our discussion is broadcast "live" to three other locations, where a small number of additional students participate over the TV.

Needless to say, all this technology makes teaching the class extra... exciting. Truth be told, if anyone had mentioned the phrase "distance learning" when I signed up to teach this class, I may have passed on the opportunity. Thank goodness I've had some training on how to use all the equipment. I attended a workshop a couple of weeks ago where an experienced professor demonstrated how operate the camera controls. He was so enthusiastic about distance learning, he made it seem doable. My first night in front of the camera, I tried to remember his relaxed delivery. I didn't carried off the night with as polished as the pros, but then again there weren't any major gaffes, either.

Later in the week, I called the students from the distant sites. I really had no idea how the class worked for them. I can see the distant sites on a split screen TV, but I can barely make out facial features on the screen. What body language I could see practically shouted "this is boring!" Anyhoo, after talking to the students, they all said it's a very different kind of classroom than they were used to, but that they were willing to stick it out. For more of the students I spoke to, the convenience of taking a class close to home outweighs the awkward TV get up. I think the biggest challenge for this class will be to figure out how to keep the students at the distant sites involved in the night's discussion.

Well, now that my television debut is over, the pressure is off. Now, I can relax about being on "live TV" and start to focus on my lesson plan for next week. Which reminds me, I should read through that chapter one more time. And showing a video clip from The Lord of the Rings could be fun. And where is my collection of writing exercises?

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