As he put it in “Teacher Man,” his third volume of autobiography:
Instead of teaching, I told stories.
Anything to keep them quiet and in their seats.
They thought I was teaching.
I thought I was teaching.
I was learning.
Good words to live by: teaching is learning.
Full story here on Frank McCourt’s teaching (and learning and writing) methods from the New York Times:
McCourt: A Storyteller Even as a Teacher
Posted via email from afewgoodpens posterous
So… I think I’ve finally gotten this site and afewgoodlenses pretty well situated, and it’s time to switch my focus back to the kind of content I’ve wanted to develop all along. As my regular readers might have guessed from the flurry of activity around here lately, I’m between classes. I won’t be starting up again until mid-October, so that has given me a few months to do all this, and hopefully crank up a regular level of writing (and photoblogging!) that I can maintain fairly well once classes resume. I’m not sure if it will actually work out that way; I find it pretty hard to keep the blog updated when I’m in a class, so let me just say I have a goal of trying to do that, and we’ll see what happens. Priorities, you know….
I had forgotten about one last plugin that I had already deployed on afewgoodlenses until this evening when I was reading some comments left on my most recent delicious links post by Cooper and Rod. The Get Recent Comments plugin by Krischan Jodies lets you embed code in your sidebars (or elsewhere on your site) that fetches and displays as many comments as you want from your posts. As with many of the great plugins I’ve written about so far, Get Recent Comments provides a comprehensive set of configuration options you can use to tailor the appearance of the comments. Among other things, you can configure the number of comments you want to appear, the maximum number of comments to display from any single post, and the number of characters to show per comment. You can also restrict comments to only those posts from certain categories and display Gravatars for folks that have an account there. You have complete control over the appearance of comments via several templates provided with the plugin that you can change as you wish or just use the defaults. In my implementation in the sidebar to the right of this article, I’ve used the default templates, and selected my favorite setup option — which groups the comments under the post title so that visitors can see the flow of comments on a particular article and get there very easily. This is definitely one of the top plugins in my opinion, especially because of the options it provides.
In the coming days, I’ll pick up up on a a couple of article series that I’ve not finished yet. I developed a number of articles (already posted here) from my research into Oakland Cemetery,and have one more that’s nearly complete and will appear here shortly. I doubt that this next one will be the last one, since my explorations extended out into my neighborhood and took me down several paths into Atlanta’s early history, and I doubt that that I can stop writing about it all any time soon.
I wrote an earlier article on the book No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life by Heather Menzies, which examines the relationship between time and technology, and discusses its effects on modern life, modern society, and culture. I finished the book a long time ago, and many of the author’s ideas still resonate for me. From about twenty notecards I accumulated while reading the book, I plan at least two more articles. There are some areas where I disagree with Menzies’ conclusions that I’d like to explore also, and I’ll be interested in any reactions my assessment of this book generates here. It will be fun to debate what Menzies has to say, since she puts forth some very compelling questions about how technology effects us that I believe should be explored. I also stumbled across a companion book along the same lines, but with a more personal focus, called The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity by Stefan Klein. I will play those books off each other, so to speak, and see where that takes me.
I also just finished reading Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in American Zoos by Elizabeth Hanson — a really fine exploration of the genesis and history of zoos in the United States from the early American Victorian period through the end of the twentieth century. Zoo Atlanta gets several mentions in the book, as its history is very typical of zoos throughout the country. Discussion of zoos, American culture, American interest in animals and nature, and the rise of leisure time in the Victorian period are deftly woven into the story of zoological history, in this very unique book. I think I’ll attempt a traditional book review and post it here, just to see how that goes.
I’m also planning a series of articles that will contain reflections on my undergraduate history classes and the amazing learning experience that has turned out to be. The series will be called “Excerpts from My Education” — where, at least in part, I’ll use many of the forty or so papers I’ve written for the classes so far as starting points for articles. The first one, possibly two weeks down the road, will cover the class I just finished, Pacific Asia: Culture and History.
As always, thanks for stopping by, thanks for reading … and … stay tuned!
From Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage:
We have now become aware of the possibility of arranging the entire human environment as a work of art, as a teaching machine designed to maximize perception and to make everyday learning a process of discovery.
I’m putting together resources for a research paper on the cultural and social impact of photography. McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man is one of my sources, but I also picked up The Medium is the Massage, because it looked interesting (and, for a change, SHORT). I’ll have more to say about both books in the upcoming weeks, but I liked this quote about learning and thought I’d share it.
McLuhan’s books are full of gems like this. I just started browsing through them and didn’t know what to expect when I started; but nearly every page strikes me in some way or another. This particular quote leads a short piece that expresses admiration for the potential of technology, but simultaneously contains the warning that we aren’t good at grasping the effects of technological transitions. We lock ourselves in psychological and intellectual straightjackets, McLuhan suggests, because “the interplay between the old and the new … creates many problems and confusions.” McLuhan’s remedy:
The main obstacle to a clear understanding of the effects of … new media is our deeply embedded habit of regarding all phenomena from a fixed point of view….
The method of our time is to use not a single but multiple models for exploration….