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?
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Mobile Me
With the summer winding down, I made a long list of things to get done before the fall semester starts up. ...give the house a top-to-bottom cleaning, stock up on quick-to-fix meals, catch up on household finances, reorganize the home office... At the top of the list was to buy a MP3 player.

Well, I can check that item off the list. Originally, I planned to buy an iPod Shuffle. Then I heard about a deal through where I could sign up for a monthly subscription and receive an MP3 player for free. I figured since I planned to sign up for anyway, I might as well give the free player a try.

The player is not a name brand. It's a Nomad MuVo, which I think we can all agree is a really stupid name. But it is a cute little thing. It fits in the palm of my hand, and easily slips into a pocket. My first download was Anna Karenina. Always meant to get around to reading that one. So far, I'd discovered the MP3 player makes ironing less annoying. And it has already inspired more exercise walks in one weekend than I usually eke out of an entire week. I foresee the MP3 player accompanying me on expeditions in weeding, on the road when I need to travel for work, and to the mall when I finally must do some shopping.

(What, I don't like shopping? Yes, it is true. I consider shopping an odious chore, roughly equivalent to scrubbing out the build up of grime in the drain at the bottom of the sink.)

So what's next with the MP3 player? For now, I foresee sticking to some turn-of-the-last-century books for a while. I'd like to catch up a little in this area. I've never read a lot of Dickens, and I like the idea of listening to some H.G. Wells and Robert Lewis Stevenson, just for fun. We'll see where the Nomad takes me.


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