How many of you attend classes, conferences, artist talks, readings and the link, only to be distracted by the rumpled, mismatched dress of the presenter while being bored senseless by the lackluster powerpoint presentation and lack of engaging verbiage and audiovisual accompaniment. These avoidable faux pas only serves to distract our audiences from our content and visually undermine the expert standing that we work so hard to attain within our respective fields. I say that this is a condition of academic adulthood. We have forgotten how to have fun, and we do a great job training students to do the same.
I wonder, how can we challenge ourselves
How can we challenge ourselves to craft conferences, lectures and presentations that would be interesting to our students, or friends and family and colleagues in different academic disciplines? One suggestion I have is to shape craft research questions that are amenable to data collection and analysis using technologies and methods and collection sites that engage more than the visual cortex. Let us not fear different approaches to interesting ideas. What about the Dance Your PhD contest from Science Magazine? Why aren’t there more unique programs like Brooklyn College’s Borough as a Classroom which demonstrates the real world applicability of lectures and reading via field trips for experiential learning and group bonding? And why the heck don’t we academics dress elegantly and stylish when teaching, or attending and presenting at conferences?
Academics and other professionals who take themselves and their work too seriously, are ADULT adults.
The reality is that most of us have become proficient at “de-funning” this life long process we embarked on – the privilege of seeking answers and inventing new ways of delving into THE most intriguing questions that we can think of; the honor of spending our days, nights, weekends and summer vacations engaged in conversation with people who are similarly enraptured with and “expertised” in related topics. People with whom we can explore topics at levels of theoretical abstraction or scientific precision, conversations that are not ‘par for the course with our loved ones’. Is this a sign that we should aim for general understandability? Should we be able to talk passionately about of favorite subjects while being understandable to the greater majority? I offer a resounding (((YES!))). I think that our sometimes masturbatory use of abstract concepts and scientific terminologies prevent us from sharing ideas or discussing our work with people outside of our discipline or education level.
Questioning our choices and thinking about options:
- If we be schlubby dressers, who lecture AT students without the benefit of the dynamic multimedia of their everyday life, doesn’t this in effect show that we already do not care about them, their world outside of our disciplines, our classrooms, the world in which our students live when they are not in our classes?
- How then to interest students in what you have to offer? Even if it is to refute the accuracy claims of commonly used opensource media such as Wikipedia, etc., we must incorporate those things which are relevant and interesting to students. If we make the conversation accessible and participation will likely follow. The world has changed. The privileged mediums for transmitting information now includes Twitter feeds from favorite and Facebook posts of NYT Online , news articles. Wikipedia is the choice du jour for quick research projects and many of us likely receive term papers with Wikipedia citations. What to do then? Is the use of Wikipedia information sub-par research or is the student’s vetting of the information more the concern. Either way, it is a conversation that is grist for the mill, WITH our students.
Any other ideas? A couple of my esteemed colleagues and I discuss these and other issues at length. In our everyday, travels, we strive to spread the message both verbally and by example. You can visit their blogs via the links below. I also wonder how many of you made it to the end of this posting…hmmm 🙂