Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When is my blog done?

flickr-alamodestuff, creative commons licensed
As I continue this effort to teach students research blogging, I am running into the very natural and somewhat frustrating question, "When is my blog done?" I'm not referring to the practical question related to the course my students are taking (which is really, "At what point and just how will my blog be graded?" which I will come to). No, the issue here is when has a blog reached a point at which it is "finished"-- not in the sense of being "complete" or "done with" but in the sense of being refined. When is my academic blog at a point where it has demonstrable value?

This is a key question for academic bloggers, since the very nature of blogs is continuous, yet schooling or scholarly publishing are not. Semesters end. Manuscripts are published. There is tremendous clarity that comes with academic evaluating: a grade doesn't just signal how well one did; it signals that something is done. A manuscript that's published means a project is completed. Sure, one can always take another course or publish another book, but we see these as separate, subsequent endeavors.

So when is my blog "done"?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shakespeare and Facebook

As announced here, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is coming to BYU (along with Orrin Hatch) for a technology forum on Friday, March 25, at 11am in the Marriott Center. That's where we should all be for class that day. I doubt Zuckerberg or the senator will be discussing Shakespeare, but obviously the digital emphasis of our course makes this a relevant event.

A student from another class shared with me this book, Sarah Schmelling's Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float, which shows what happens when characters from classic literature communicate Facebook style. It's amusing, but not inconsequential. I'd love for one of my Shakespeare students to study this as a digital mediation. 

How does our immersion in social media change the way that we think about communication, or dealing with problems, or negotiating relationships? How much do our online identities become characters, as constructed as fictional characters?

We haven't talked much in class about social media or Facebook in relationship to Shakespeare, but this would be a good time to start. I hope to see you at the technology forum with Zuckerberg. I even submitted a few questions for him and the senator. You can, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Balancing Directed and Self-Directed Learning

What am I supposed to do to prepare for class, my students at times wonder, if I am not being directed what to read or what homework to do? 

A look of student uncertainty (courtesy of jamelah on Flickr)
It's a fair question. I am not following custom in my Shakespeare course. There is no calendar of readings, no exam slated, no paper due. Not even a quiz. In short, I am not providing for my students the sort of completely directed curriculum that they've likely experienced as their professors have handed out a course syllabus with its exact and exacting set of readings and assignments. It's enough to make more than one student feel a little edgy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Digitally Mediating Shakespeare

I'm urging my class to explore the ways in which people are using various media tools to engage Shakespeare. I want them to look at the ways that digital culture is transmitting and transforming the Shakespeare legacy.

Beyond Film
Movie adaptations are more important than ever, but cinema as a form is a 20th century genre that is getting retooled in the digital age. If my students look at film adaptations, I want them to study how these are embedded within digital culture and not just remark on them as adaptations. For example, what does it mean to experience Shakespeare films on a computer screen? on YouTube? Or, how are people remixing Shakespeare or employing clips of Shakespeare in educational settings? How are films adaptations of Shakespeare becoming something different because of the ways they are viewed, shared, or remixed? Here's an example of someone who has collected various uses of Shakespeare's sonnets within contemporary film.

Databases and Search Tools
Shakespeare's texts can be searched creatively and various now. Look at something like Shakespeare Searched or at how you can incrementally search lines or phrases over at Rhyme Zone. Over at Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet (an excellent web portal for the Bard), they list multiple concordances and other search tools to get into Shakespeare's works.

Teaching Resources
All kinds of resources are available for Shakespeare instruction, including these lesson plans featured at the Folger Shakespeare Library's site or some 380+ open content courses about Shakespeare from MIT's Open Courseware archive.

Cell Phones and Twitter
David Tertipes, in his recent post, explained how Shakespeare is being experienced in South Africa via cell phones, with text message versions of the plays. He also directed us to Such Tweet Sorrow, a Twitter-ized performance of Romeo and Juliet done with the Royal Shakespeare Company. And of course, thanks to Joanna, we experienced the live and interactive #askShakespeare event on Twitter (written about by David and Joanna).

One way in which Shakespeare is being re-mediated in the digital age is through various ways in which the text can be presented in digital , explored, or shared. Claire, for example, looked at this from the point of view of digital teaching aids that can help one explore the text of Romeo and Juliet. In her post, she describes the use of Wordle and gives an example of this visualization and analysis tool from R&J:

Interactive Media
Sara introduced us to the very interesting Stage Work Mckellen, an interactive site in which an automated Ian Mckellen discusses Richard III with site visitors.