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Issue #174 - The Spaces in Between
It’s been a busy week. The semester is about to kick off and I’m still getting a few things ready. For many of us teaching, this is the last chance to cram in meetings, so I’m feeling talked out.
We’re leaving behind summer micro issues for the real thing, although just as every year that I do this, there’s so much to talk about when we’re away that it just seems like a continuation. At least I give myself the option of writing or not, a little break seems healthy. It’s been a while though, I had to look at some back issues to remind myself of the format.
I want to say thank you and welcome to new readers, a few more people subscribed over the summer and I didn’t have time to say hello. To remind myself and everyone else, this is a newsletter talks about teaching & learning, exploring new technologies, and my life as a Franco/British person living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Over the years the lines between what interest me for work and the things I like to explore in my everyday life inform each other, and that it is all in the pursuit of artistic expression, making and doing. I want students to share from their personal lives (if they want to) and find ways into learning through the things they like and are interested in.
So, this week, a bit of prep, some new things, and the usual start of term anxieties.
Teaching & Learning
It’s this time each year that I’m wrecked with self doubt and anxiety about my courses, my ability to teach and facilitate the class; and I have to remind myself that I’ve done this before and I’ll be okay. But maybe too that I should be wary of dismissing those feelings so readily, that a few nerves are good to keep me on my toes.
It looks like I’ll be teaching only one full semester course for the Fall, which is useful because I have a great deal of planning for Spring, and Summer next year which is already looming on the calendar. We are planning a few things, a new study abroad program, a fringe festival of immersive film; and I am thinking about a co-taught course, a couple of papers, and a book chapter. I’m waiting on a few new publications, hopefully appearing soon, and I’ve enrolled with a new group that is designed to fix my academic writing problem, well. I’m hoping so.
I’m teaching 82.250 Digital Realities: An Introduction to Immersive Technologies for Arts and Culture for the second year, and have a healthy class of around 20 students. There’s always a bit of settling and shifting at the beginning of the semester, but hopefully not too much. I’m looking forward to meeting the group. I’ll publish my Canvas course and send out an announcement this afternoon.
Each week suggests a theme, there are always questions of pedagogy, some routine, so new. I’m sure there will be discussion of Ai, but I’ll try not to trouble you with it too much, there are other more informed newsletters that you can seek out if you’re interested.
Just a quick mention that I visited the Global Hub at the University of Pittsburgh, which is a brilliant space with some cross-over to the Global Languages & Cultures Room. Hosting a full calendar of activities, and inviting student groups, and language learners, and those with an interest in studying abroad to meet and find out more.
I am wearing a mask on the bus and considering whether to do so in class. It is hard to find current information, the CDC still has a Covid tracker and the NYT reports an increase in hospitalizations in Alleghany County, which I know isn’t an accurate indication, but pretty much all there is at the moment. What I hear is that this new EG.5 variant is spreading rapidly and is now the dominant strain. Each new strain has the potential to escape immunity, so although we keep having new strains, and there probably isn’t too much cause to worry, it will be important that we formulate new vaccines, and keep taking them.
I attended a student event this week at the Heinz History Center and only after I thought, just as some of the students were masked, that I probably should have been too. I still carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer too, but I’m sure that only helps a little bit. Let’s see what happens, hope everyone is safe and is sensible, and that the general outlook gets a little better. Anyway, it was lovely to meet new students, we chatted to as many people as we could, just for a few moments and found out where they were traveling from and what courses they were looking forward to. There were a few students of British origin and lovely to hear their accents, that moment of recognition on both sides, a delight.
Lost and Found
Okay, some links for you.
I mentioned that my youngest is gathering an interest in electronics, he’s already made some fun things including a cookie alarm. He has a box of components and figuring out what each one does is tricky, thankfully he had a trip around the brilliant physical computing space at CMU, and has been using a combination of Tinkercad and this great site, The Engineering Mindset with lots of simple explanations and ideas for projects.
Last year I met artist Dorothy R. Santos who came to give a talk about their work at The Frank- Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and enjoyed a lovely conversation about language, love and writing. I had no idea that Dorothy has a substack, which is honest and fascinating, a space for reflection and exploration of life and practice.
I updated educate.spaces and you access some resources for the course that I’ll be teaching. I have no idea about visitor numbers to this site, I don’t really advertise it very well, but I finally caved and bought a stats plugin for wordpress, hoping to gain a little more insight.
Enjoyed this film from the Open University about endangered languages and what some people are doing to save them. It is quite simple and straightforward, but very accessible and wondering whether I can create something similar for my room.
Finally, I made the jump from a suitcase record player to something a bit better, an Audio Technica LP3XBT. It is a beauty, easy to set up and sounds great, a huge improvement. I bought a few new records from Bandcamp, next week will be a bandcampfriday which means all the money goes directly to the artists. I bought UFOF by Big Thief, which includes this wonderful song Cattails.
Family are back into routine too, at work and school. We have soccer games and usually a few things going on. I’m hoping the weather settles and I can get out on the bike, maybe early mornings these usually work out. The weather will get a little cooler over the next few weeks, an although there’s often some rain, there should be some clear days too.
Last night three storms rolled in, one after another. The first woke me, up, distant rumbles and then heavy rain, the sky flashed with lightning, some of it a bit close, with whip crack thunder making me jump. I got up and went downstairs, dozing on the sofa until it had all gone by and then returned to bed for the last few hours of the night.
Okay, still need to finish a few things, I hope that you’re well. Please like and share this issue, just so that I know you’re out there and you’re doing okay.