Last fall I began teaching the “Media, Technology & Culture” undergraduate course at UMass Amherst. I decided to run a “flipped classroom,” wherein students would listen to many (though not all) of the lectures outside of class and we’d spend our time in person discussing the material.
In addition to opening up lots of class time for more in-depth and personable discussions, the main attraction of this format has been that it’s allowed me to introduce lots of voices into the course that aren’t just my own. As I’ve put together the lectures—all of which are formatted as podcasts—I’ve taken the opportunity to invite scholars in each of our subject areas to read from their work or answer interview questions. I’ve also helped wherever possible to arrange for researchers to talk to students for their own podcast assignments, which get screened for the class.
In the two semesters I’ve been running the course, I’ve gotten positive feedback from students and some amazing scholars have leant their voices and expertise to lectures and student projects. These have included Nancy Baym, Richard John, Joshua Meyrowitz, Valérie Bélair-Gagnon, Stuart Allan, Graham Meikle, Andrea Hickerson, Ben Peters, C. W. Anderson, Rod Smolla, Mary Gray, Timothy Dwyer, Gabriella Coleman, Nikki Usher, Tarleton Gillespie, and Mike Ananny. (Thank you all!)
Within the bounds of fair use, the podcast format has also enabled me to take advantage of the tremendous wealth of recorded conference panels, book talks, and symposia available online to provide excerpts of the scholars we read speaking in their own voices.
My ambition in all this has been to give students the sense that the materials we read and the researchers we cite over the course of the semester aren’t engravings from Mount Sinai, but rather are all part of a living conversation being had by real people.
Whatever my pedagogical hopes for the class, though, I must say that I’ve felt incredibly blessed each semester I’ve taught the course—both because the flipped format has given me more class time to get to know UMass’s amazing students, and because all of us have been the beneficiaries of the generosity of an incredible community of scholars. (Again, thank you!)
A number of the researchers who’ve offered their voices and their time to these audio lectures have also given terrific feedback on them, allowing me to iterate and improve upon the materials for the course. (Thank you, thank you!) That’s been a huge benefit to me personally—having these sorts of conversations around my teaching materials has not only sharpened my thinking, it’s changed the experience of teaching to something that feels less like a series of compulsory lectures and more like the hallway of a great conference where I get to hash out ideas with both researchers and students.
Opening up my classroom this far has been such a great experience for me that I’d like to take it further and make some of my lecture materials open-access. To begin with, I’m sharing the audio from course’s opening unit, which asks the obligatory question for a course on contemporary media technologies, “How new are ‘new media?'” They feature guest appearances from Nancy Baym, Joshua Meyrowitz, Richard John, Ben Peters, Rod Smolla, and Graham Meikle.
I’m posting these recordings under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license for anyone to use and iterate upon. Given how common it is in our cluster of disciplines to spend a unit defining “new media” and placing them in context, I hope that these recordings can find a place as assigned “readings” in various undergraduate classes. In releasing them into the wild I also welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvements. The objective is that they’ll get better over time to everyone’s benefit. I’m also open to collaborations on future materials.
Here are the lectures for streaming and download:
Unit 1: “New Media” in Context
Unit 1 Part 1 // Messages About the Medium [Download MP3]
Unit 1 Part 2 // Yesterday’s “New”s [Download MP3]
Unit 1 Part 3 // So, What’s New? [Download MP3]
And here’s a permalink to the bibliography and music credits for the lectures; anyone using the lectures should provide a link to these, as they give full attribution for—and, where applicable, links to—all the sources of audio and scholarly material in the recordings.¹
If folks find these recordings useful I can share more in the future. I’m in the process of a) polishing these and other materials, b) tracking down permissions for clips, and—most importantly—c) seeking to incorporate an increasingly diverse set of voices (one area where I’ve come up short so far and something I’m working to correct).
Thanks for listening and thanks, as always, for your feedback. I hope you find something you can use.
Addendum: I’ve found, if not an error in Part 2 of the lectures, at least something that’s not as well characterized as it could be. As promised, I will be iterating on the content to keep improving it. In the meantime, here is a written addendum to Part 2 that should be useful to students/instructors.
[Featured image: “Rétro” CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Guillaume DELEBARRE (Guigui-Lille)]