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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

The Show Must Go On

Well, that happened quickly. On Friday, the latest coronavirus update from the university offered the first indication that they were considering switching teaching delivery from face-to-face to online, from 23rd March, with a decision to be made on Monday. On Sunday afternoon, the decision was confirmed. On Sunday evening, the 23rd March switchover was a minimum, with colleagues in humanities encouraged to change their approach as soon as practicable; I’d been thinking about how to do this for a while, seeing other universities in the UK and US making the change, so was all set to record short audio files, set up discussion boards, contact students etc. Then Monday evening all classes for this week were cancelled so students can, where practical, make arrangements to go home. (more…)

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One of my favourite passages in classical literature comes from the sixth-century CE historian and poet Agathias Scholasticus; it’s a poem preserved in the Greek Anthology (11.365), in which the farmer Calligenes goes to the house of Aristophanes the Astrologer and begs him to say whether he’ll get a good harvest. (more…)

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One of the new courses I’m doing this year – new to me, rather than to the curriculum – is the big survey course on Greek History: 160 first-and second-year students, forty hours of lectures (plus seminars, which are delegated to minions – I’m equally glad not to be doing an extra six hours every fortnight or even every week and sad not to see this side of the students’ development), starting in the Bronze Age and finishing somewhere yet-to-be-precisely-determined around the expansion of Rome into the eastern Mediterranean. No, the title of this post isn’t actually commenting on my knowledge of archaic Greece and the rise of the hoplite, to pick one of many possible examples – but it could be; I have been learning a lot over the last couple of months, refreshing some very out-of-date knowledge, and this is certainly one of the major reasons why this blog has been quiet of late… (more…)

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This week is especially heavy on travelling, which is terrible for doing all the writing I imagined I’d get done once marking was out of the way, pretty terrible for my waistline as I resort too often to coffee and cake to keep going, moderately good for starting to work through the long list of overdue book reviews, and very good for blog posts. I’m currently, in theory, on my way to Zagreb for a doctoral workshop on pre-modern economics [update, three hours later: finally on the move…] On Tuesday I was in Manchester, and on Wednesday in London, for teacher-training sessions for the ‘Understanding Power’ project – aka ‘Thinking Through Thucydides’, but that name isn’t going to pull in the punters – that Lynette Mitchell and I have been developing with the Politics Project.

This was tiring, a little stressful – and finally a joy. (more…)

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It’s interesting – I can’t work out whether it should also be sobering – to reflect that my main ‘legacy’ to academia, broadly defined, may have nothing at all to do with any of my miscellaneous scribblings about Thucydides, the ancient economy, historiography, the influence of classical antiquity on the development of 19th-century social theory or counterfactuals. It won’t even be directly related to my teaching, but rather to my past identity – somewhat out of step with my usual academic persona – as ruthless academic bureaucrat, determined to bring order and consistency to the organisation of teaching and learning at department, faculty and university level. As a legacy of my time as Faculty Education Director in Bristol, and more specifically being named on the website in such a role, I still occasionally get invited to apply for positions as Pro-Vice-Dean for Educational Enterprise, and even occasionally wonder about that alternative career path. A certain preference for tidyness leads to guideline writing, guideline writing leads to subject review processes, subject review processes lead to the dark side… (more…)

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One of the incidental benefits of researching the piece I’m currently trying to finish, exploring my attempt at turning the Melian Dialogue into a ‘choose your own adventure’ game, has been the discovery (courtesy of an article by Shawn Graham) of the concept of the ‘creepy treehouse’. To quote a definition from Jared M. Stein (cited from this blog, as the original page seems to have disappeared from the internet and links are broken):

Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards. Such institutional environments are often seen as more artificial in their construction and usage, and typically compete with pre-existing systems, environments, or applications. Creepy treehouses also have an aspect of closed-ness, where activity within is hidden from the outside world, and may not be easily transferred from the environment by the participants.

A concrete example: the blog or discussion board facilities on Blackboard and similar Virtual Learning Environments. We look at these and see a useful tool for our teaching, encouraging students to engage with the topic and with each other outside class, hoping to draw on the fact that they allegedly spend all their time online anyway; they see somewhere that is trying to look welcoming and familiar but isn’t, because they didn’t build it, and so at best this is a bit creepy, and most likely it’s some sort of trap… (more…)

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There’s been a lot of discussion on the Twitter this week about an advertised vacancy for a fixed-term teaching position that expects the successful candidate to devise an MA module related to their own research. I’m going to out myself as an Old Person, and possibly bring a shower of condemnation on my head, by confessing that my feelings about this are more mixed than the prevalent judgement that this is obviously and unacceptably exploitative. In my day, when I was applying for such positions, I was far more attracted to positions that offered such freedom rather than defining the job in terms of which pre-existing courses should be taught – and, yes, it’s entirely revealing that I think of this in terms of ‘freedom’. (more…)

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