This week I taught 3 sections of EN102 in the Q&A format. For those sessions, I had the students submit research questions ahead of time so that I could form a lesson plan based on the sessions. One issue that I ran into was the fact that the Q&A was not scheduled well based on other assignments in the class. The first class had just finished an assignment, and they did not have many questions at all related to research. This made the session a little less successful in my opinion. The second two sessions were situated better in the course. The students had many thoughtful questions about research and the reliability of sources. I co-taugtht this session. Having someone else helping with the class and having more thoughtful questions made it much more successful. In the future, I would want to schedule these sessions closer to an actual assignment so that the students are more engaged.
After finishing Academic Ableism, we have turned to reading Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble. In this book, Noble uses the lens of black feminism to critique the way Google displays and categorizes search results. The impetus for this book was her experience searching “black girls” on Google and the resulting search including porn as some of the first results that come up. Since then, Google has changed the algorithm so that this is less likely to happen. In the first chapter, she also discusses the problematic way that Google has displayed results for the word “Jew” in the past. When Google tried to fix this problem, they displayed results without informing people than certain results had been omitted. While this may prevent people from seeing antisemitism, it does not fully solve the problem. She then discusses how ads work and why this can be problematic as well. At the end of chapter one, she argues that “despite the widespread beliefs in the Internet as a democratic space where people have the power to dynamically participate as equals, the Internet is in fact organized to the benefit of powerful elites, including corporations that can afford to purchase and redirect searches to their own sites. “
Last week, I taught two sections of EN102. In the first session, the students were learning about source evaluation and finding sources using Scout. I started the class with a Kahoot.it quiz. I felt like the students were not totally prepared for the session, but it could have been some nervousness on their part to be with a new teacher. We then did an overview of Scout. Most of the students were able to easily find their sources, but I wish I could have had a few more questions.
In the second section, the class was a little more talkative. For this class, we just went through how to use Scout and the library resources. I had them brainstorm their topic before class and generate key words so that they would be ready for our session. Most of the class completed the assignment beforehand. This gave plenty of time for everyone to research and find 3 different types of sources for their paper. Overall, I felt like this class was successful. I do like the approach of having students prepare keywords ahead of time.
In this chapter, Dolmage uses the spatial metaphor of the retrofit as his next example. The chapter opens by discussing the failure of the American Disabilities Act (ADA). He discusses the various ways that the ADA sometimes provides fixes for issues that do not really make things easier for people with disabilities, one example being a ramp that was built to help someone enter public houses. The ramp looks pretty ridiculous and has 10 levels to it. Rather than trying to find the best solution, the builders designed something that makes it much harder to use. The ramp was supposed to be built to help the girl who lived there access her house, but in reality it makes it very time consuming to even try to enter.
One line that resonated with me was: “Disability also can’t be seen as something frozen in time and frozen in othered bodies—it has to be embraced as an always-everywhere, as a material but always changing reality” (73).
Essentially, this chapter questions the rhetoric of accommodations and the way the system is currently set up to make the student have to seek help rather than the system being originally built to accommodate people with a range of disabilities.
In this chapter, Dolmage uses the metaphor of space to discuss academic ableism in the university. He argues that:
“if rhetoric is the circulation of discourse through the body, then spaces and institutions cannot be disconnected from the bodies within them, the bodies they selectively exclude, and the bodies that actively intervene to reshape them” (44).
The first space he examines are the “steep steps.” He discusses how these steps are both a metaphor for the elitism of universities and a reality in many of the physical structures of campuses. The steps, along with the symbol of gate, set the university apart from the rest of the world. He goes on to talk about the way we construct what disability means and how the term has negative connotations.
I found it really disturbing to think about how to a certain extent eugenicist principles continue in universities today. He gives the example of how the top schools tend to pool from the same top 20% of students who in turn marry each other being a continuation of these principles. I had certainly never made that connection myself.
The introduction to “Academic Ableism” by Jay Dolmage opens with an example of a steep set of stairs. The stairs are seen as a part of the university’s identity, and they serve as a barrier to those who might try to enter. Dolmage then discusses the history of asylums in North America, focusing on how universities have a similar way of isolating people from society at large. While asylums kept the “lowest” of individuals, universities chose only the “best” to enter its gates.
I found the history he gave on the history of eugenics and how it changed academia both fascinating and disturbing. While I was aware there was a large movement in the early 1900s, I did not know that it has weaseled its way into the university curriculum to such a degree.
Following the section on Eugenics, Dolmage discusses the lack of funding for students and faculty with disabilities as well as the lack of representation of faculty with disabilities.
Some of the discussion and space and disability made me reflect on the construction going on in our own library to make the buildings more accessible. The main library itself is also framed by those high steps.
Last week, I taught my last class of the semester with my co-worker Mason. Previously, I had taught two sections of this same course. The course theme was Shakespeare adaptations. In this class period, we broke everyone into groups for about half the class and had them create their own Shakespeare adaptations. For the second part of class, we had them search in four different databases to find the 3-6 sources they needed for their final paper. The first class was a little more resistant to group work than the second class was. At the end of the class, we had them fill out an assessment reflecting on the class section. Overall, the students seemed to find the session helpful although a few people responded that they did not like the group work or that more modern databases would be nice. I feel much more prepared to teach this kind of class in the future.
This semester I have been working on a primary source video project. I have been using Camtasia to create videos introducing primary sources. The toughest part of this is getting the audio just right and knowing when to show a picture versus display text on a screen. I am sometimes unsure of how much needs to be written on the screen versus only said aloud. I have been trying to keep accessibility issues in mind while creating it as well. Right now, I’m working on the second draft of my first video and then creating a short video on paratext. I am looking forward to diving in to the primary source databases and creating videos on those next. I enjoy the video software, and it has definitely been a learning experience to get comfortable with the recording booths on campus.
We have turned from reading Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to bell hook’s Teaching to Transgress. In her book, hooks reflects on her journey through academia as a black feminist teacher. She discusses how some people in the academia, particularly white women, can be resistant to bring race issues into feminism. In the same vein, she says that black men and women are sometimes resistant to feminist issues as well. She talks about her relationship with Friere, who she says has someone issues of sexism in his earlier writings. Even so, she is inspired by his idea of conscientization. I am currently in chapter seven, and I am interested to read her next chapter on the feminist classroom. These are complex issues to tackle, and I have enjoyed reading about hooks’ strategy in her classrooms.
Last week, I taught four library instruction sections of a EN101 Shakespeare themed course. I used the Online Shakespeare Bibligraphy and the Proquest Newspapers database in the first sessions to help the students find resources for their papers which were required to be on an adaptation of a Shakespeare play. They used Bubble, a mind-mapping software, to write about their play, and then dived into the databases. I believe that the newspaper database was potentially more useful for them than the more scholarly Shakespeare database because many of them were writing on less known movies and episodes of TV shows. In the second section, we talked about analyzing reviews. I broke the class into groups of 3-4 and they each received an example review from me. They then had to research the review to determine if it was a high enough quality to use in their paper. For the second half of class, we looked at movie review databases.
Overall, both classes went well. We had some technical difficulties accessing the work sheet, and I have learned that it is probably better to get the professor to post the work sheet before class rather than have students attempt to access a live link. We also had technical difficulties with the computers not connecting to the internet at one point, and that made the first class start off to a rocky start. However, I have learned from these experiences and I feel more prepared to teach the next class on November 7th.