Learn-ing n (bef. 12c) 1: the act or experience of one that learns 2: knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study...
Well, after only two meetings, three hours a piece, one of which was given in the flesh, I'm certainly no expert on distance learning. However, as is Howard's intention, I'll use this paper to throw out some of my initial perceptions of what it is we're playing with. Let me go over some of my personal, emotional reactions to the class.
Day one: Friday Jan 20th, 1995. Man! Are we talking startrek or what?! Even though I knew in advance what the technical setup of our class room was to be, I couldn't help but feel a little cool sitting in a plush chair, personal microphone on my desk, video cameras, two massive big screens ahead, and a bevy of technicians working in Sci-fi coordination to make me feel like this was something important. It was impressive, and very needless to say, not like any other class room I had been privy to. Un fortunately, being that I now have to write about it, not much apart from "impressive" went through my mind that day. In retrospect, I would suggest that my lack of contemplation can be put down to a couple of things. Firstly, that this was the first da y of class. My brain doesn't usually fire up until a few meetings into any given class--I guess because there isn't any material to think about yet. We went through the syllabus, covered the logistics, and considering that Howard was in real (as opposed to virtual) mode, there wasnít technically anything "distance" about it. The combination of "no distance" and "no brain yet--first day of class" leaves little, apart from flashy impressions, to think about or discuss.
Day two: Jan 27th. Today my brain was working, and it felt a couple of things. First off--in total reversal from last session--I was starting to have apprehensions about the technical feasibility of what was going on. Howard was in Michigan and all we had in Berkeley was a two dimensional massive head, that couldnít move fast or talk at the same time as anybody else for fear of total bandwidth breakdown. A joke in Berkeley would be followed by a couple of seconds of dead silence then a massive crack-hiss laugh from Michigan--which was often funnier than the joke itself.
The other thing that stuck me from this meeting was how much people seemed to play to the camera. Actually, it was a rather subtle thing, or maybe even just my over worked imagination, but I got the impression that there was a fair bit of posturing and nonsense assertiveness centered around the fact one was being televised across the country. Perhaps it was simply that folks wanted to say something that sounded important and worthwhile being that the camera was rolling, but nevertheless I felt that the class interaction was distinctly different from most of my other classes--perhaps even a little jaded.
Wrapping it up, after only two meetings I have very little idea of what this experience is going to be. It could be a rather superficial exercise in high tech, low quality televised presentation, or perhaps it's the dawn--cliche alert!--of a new era, a learning revolution. Whichever, Iím sure that these initial perceptions are only the tiniest--cliches rule!--tip of the iceberg, and that there is far more to be explored. Stay tuned... more of my reflections on this class coming soon to VDT near you.
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