Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Robert Schneider sees things clearly

Professor Robert Schneider sees things clearly:

Podcasts of university courses are not "every student's dream"; they're totally bogus, a thin surrogate for real instruction, a fig leaf for disengagement, an excuse for lack of commitment from professors and students alike. People who believe in the transformative value of higher education will resist podcastification with a passion.
I hope that he's right.

Professor Schneider is writing in response to a student-journalist's commentary on said "dream." He quotes from her description:
Wake up for school, stumble over to the computer, and download the day's class lectures . . . then crawl back into bed -- iPod in one hand, notebook in the other.
This scene reminds me in some way of the picture of intellectual and emotional isolation near the end of The Waste Land:
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
I remember being presented some years ago with the argument that a college course consisting of videotaped lectures was a good "alternative" for students, particularly students who did not seek much contact with professors. "Professor in a can," some of us were calling it (or was it "in a box"?). What would the person "administering" the class (who would not be the professor on tape) do? Give and grade exams two or three times a semester.

As I've written in a previous blog post (about wireless classrooms), technology makes it possible to do things, not necessary to do them. It's possible to be a professor in a can. It's possible to stay in bed and take notes on a voice coming to you through headphones. But there are better ways to teach and learn.

Follow the link for the rest of Schneider's passionate rebuttal of what he calls "dystopian nonsense."
The Attack of the Pod People (Chronicle of Higher Education)

comments: 3

Anonymous said...

If higher education is only a transfer of knowledge, then podcasts are as good as any other method. My Econ 101 class comes to mind. It was a huge class and we met in an auditorium for lectures. No interaction between teacher and students occurred in class and I don't think I ever met the teacher personally. Except for the discipline of attending class, a podcast would have served just as well.

Fortunately, most of my college classes were not such cold transactions. Thirty years later, I still remember some of the interesting discussions of ideas (particularly my literature classes, ahem.)

Anonymous said...

In Vino Veritas
A sour mash -up dialectic

Said the Analog Geezer

At the Ambrosia Symposium,

'Rob Schneider see things clearly-'

That dude from Deuce Bigelow?


He's a Prof who pans podcasts.

From SNL and The Animal?


He knows 'every student's dream'

A cheerleader with keg, sans culottes?

That's memorized all MasterPlots.


He puts down people with passion for 'podcastification'

Spreading it

Across the nation.

You must mean 'The Hot Chick'?

That 2002 body switcheroo.


50 First Dates? Eight Crazy Nights?

Not quite.

The Longest Yard? The Electric Piper? Martians Go Home?

Nope. But getting warmer - try The Attack of the Pod People.

Okay. Sounds like a scifi new release to me.

Could be.

Near the end of The Waste Land:

We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

DRM? I see. Can't use my video iPod for that, right?

Sheesh. Gone is the vino. Goodnight.
A former Brit Lit stu at EIU.

Michael Leddy said...

Genevieve, almost all of my college classes were small (and many were, of course, literature classes). A lecturer can be a compelling presence -- I would love to have been a student in, say, one of Vladimir Nabokov's classes. But my preference, as a student or a teacher, is for some sort of dialogue.

Former Brit Lit student, hello! Thanks for your improvisation. (I knew there was something about the name "Schneider" that was familiar.) I'm not sure though who you are (though I might be able to guess). Could you tell me in an e-mail?