Feature: Teaching in a Pandemic

When the classroom demands new talents and delivery methods, it’s best to plan and practice before class begins. @donovantann spent some time this morning preparing for students and the first lectures of the new year.

Discovering New Voices: Hesston College

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Grad School Q&A: Donovan Tann reflects on the courses and professors who shaped how he now teaches [external link]

Donovan Tann is a 2008 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University who now teaches courses in literature, writing and film at Hesston (Kansas) College. A member of the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program’s first cohort, he earned his English PhD at Temple University in Philadelphia.

How did your academic studies and professors at EMU prepare and inspire you for your graduate studies and/or current work?

Being able to have a faculty member as my advisor at EMU helped me to select coursework that interested me and which has contributed to my scholarship in unusual ways. I might not have taken as much interest in religion’s role in the early modern world without my introduction to theology course. I also had the flexibility to take senior English seminars in both French postmodern literature and transatlantic modernism, and these courses helped to prepare me for graduate school and to develop my voice as a literary scholar.

The mentorship that I received as a student, both formally through the honors program and informally within the language arts department, was crucial to my decision to pursue graduate study. I developed important intellectual virtues of critical thinking and reflection with my honors cohort, and I was honored to share an informal weekly lunch with Jay B. Landis in my last years at EMU. I’m immensely grateful for the way that my professors invested in me as a person and future teacher-scholar.

Read more at Eastern Mennonite University

“What the storyteller narrates must necessarily be hidden from the actor himself, at least as long as he is in the act or caught in its consequences, because to him the meaningfulness of the act is not in the story that fellows. Even though stories are the inevitable results of action, it is not the actor but the storyteller who perceives and ‘makes’ the story”

-Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

First day of class

from The Idea of a University, Cardinal Newman (John Henry Newman)

“It is a case of contract:—’I will speak, if you will listen:’—’I will come here to learn, if you have any thing worth teaching me.’ In an oratorical display, all the effort is on one side; in a lecture, it is shared between two parties, who co-operate towards a common end.”

“The result is a formation of mind,—that is, a habit of order and system, a habit of referring every accession of knowledge to what we already know, and of adjusting the one with the other; and, moreover, as such a habit implies, the actual acceptance and use of certain principles as centres of thought, around which our knowledge grows and is located. Where this critical faculty exists, history is no longer a mere story-book, or biography a romance; orators and publications of the day are no longer infallible authorities; eloquent diction is no longer a substitute for matter, nor bold statements, or lively descriptions, a substitute for proof. This is that faculty of perception in intellectual matters, which, as I have said so often, is analogous to the capacity we all have of mastering the multitude of lines and colours which pour in upon our eyes, and of deciding what every one of them is worth.”

 

[Source: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/idea/article9.html ]

Thinking about course texts and technologies

After teaching a course designed to introduce students to Shakespeare’s plays and to their film adaptations, I’ve been wondering how reading technologies shape students’ engagement with course materials.  On reflection, the traditional screening format for films or film clips (single focal point, lights off) might implicitly invite students to tune out or change their focus when our classes don’t explicitly discuss the assumptions that we bring when we begin reading or interpreting.

When we used electronic versions of the plays (eBook readers, tablets, and laptops), the change in format seemed to free students from the implicit authority of the printed text and spur conversation.  At the same time, many of my students have talked about how their study habits differ when they work with either electronic or printed course texts.  Some prefer to print even short readings because the medium changes the relationship between the student and the text.

How, then, do embedded video clips within a course management system differ from the same clips shown during a classroom session? How do they differ as modes of educational instruction with their own implicit interpretive maps?