A new academic year begins…

… which means a new term kicks off of my third year module, Victorian Literature, Art and Culture.  It’s had a name change since last year as the title now has to function as a potential catch-all for two different types of content, depending on year.  A decision was made to get rid of one of my Victorian modules entirely in Wolverhampton’s en masse move from a 15 to 20 credit system from last academic year to this.  As this was undoubtedly one of the low points of last academic year for me, the only way I can ‘save’ both my Victorian Vision module and my Fin de Siècle module is to rotate them every other year.

Jake von Slatts' Steampunk computer

And as an added twist, I’m not actually teaching the module this term in the classroom (colleague Lorna Shelley is doing that part), but I am overseeing the online component of the course — pretty much entirely from a distance and thus all online.  I went into the first in-class session on Friday to introduce the online component of the course to the class but all the rest of my involvement will be made in the discussion forum itself.  I’m writing this on a Sunday evening and I’m pleased to say that there’s been some activity in our first discussion forum over the weekend.  For the first Victorian Vision Online (VVO) exercise the class have been given some extracts from ‘Victorian overview’ books and, in conjunction with the discussion about the Victorians that they started in class, are invited to consider what the Victorians’ legacy is to us today, in our postmodern world.  I’ll post again later in the week about how the session has gone overall, but thus far I’m pleased at how it’s started off. 

I’ve spent a bit of time this afternoon fiddling around ‘behind the scenes’ with the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) area for this module — where all the action happens.  I’m always trying to make the technology work better for me, particularly by way of presentation and how it looks to the students.  I’ve added an instruction on how to turn text into a live weblink if students want to do that in posts and have modelled including a few such links in my own posts.

The image above came from doing a Google image search on ‘Victorian’ and ‘computer’.  Jake von Slatts’s Steampunk computer is sadly not something you can buy at PC World.

My first experience of being tweeted about.

I’ve been blogging for just under a year now, and will be carrying on for another.  I will endeavour to keep it e-learning related a fair bit of the time, although it may well stray off the subject on occasions.  In all honesty there’s not been a lot of e-learning going on in my life over the summer, folks.   On a few occasions over the past year I’ve sent the link to my blog to friends if I’ve posted about something I thought they might be interested in, and then got terribly excited when the ‘Stats’ section showed I’d got (comparatively) lots of hits.   “You must get out more, Rosie”, I hear my lone reader saying gently to their computer screen.

A few weeks back I had my first experience of being tweeted about.  I’m not on Twitter and as yet I’m not persuaded I want to be.  The first time I logged on to it, some months ago, the laptop I was on instantaneously caught a virus which resulted in a £40 trip to the local Computer Doctor.  However, at the end of August I went to the Greenbelt Festival and had a great time, then wrote a poem, ‘If heaven (2)’, in response to having been there.  I sent it to a few friends who had also been there, and one of them, media gal and writer Jo Ind (formerly a journalist on the Birmingham Post), tweeted it about the place.  Now, as Jo is apparently an ‘influential’ tweeter, as Topsy tells me, this meant my poem got sent to lots of people and they forwarded it on to other folks and it ended up back on the Greenbelt Blog.  I was delighted that the poem seemed to be enjoyed by people, and the buzz of it all was fun for my five minutes of fame.

I tend to think that (some) poets are often still quite suspicious of the flickering unstable screen of the web.  When the poem was first put up on Jo Ind’s blog some of the line breaks were wrong, so it wasn’t presented correctly.  Jo corrected this straightaway when I pointed it out, but I fully understand the nervousness of poets at having their poems misrepresented or just not copied correctly on the internet. And to put something up on the web is of course to publish it.  The paradox of this in relation to poetry is that a poem on the internet has far more likelihood of reaching a wider audience/readership than if it is published in many a slim volume…

Happy birthday to the English Subject Centre!

Today the English Subject Centre are celebrating their tenth birthday with a glass of wine, a peanut or two and maybe a slice of birthday cake.  Tenth birthday cake

Over the years they have become a well-established and respected part of the HE English Studies ‘scene’ and their events are interesting, stimulating, collegiate, and a good way of meeting colleagues within the discipline beyond usual research networks.  I have appreciated their support and encouragement of my e-learning work over the years very much.

Here’s to the next ten years!

On blogging…

There was a vaguely ‘e-’ related follow up to my previous post about Extreme Flower Arranging … namely that the day after I was fit for nothing but watching the DVD of Julie and Julia (2009; dir. Nora Ephron), which is an enjoyable but romanticized version of the true stury of a young woman called Julia Powell who comes across Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), which introduced French cooking to a wide American audience.  Powell decides to work her way through Child’s book, making all the recipes one by one, and then blogging about doing so.  And this was before blogging really took off (it took place circa 2002 I think).  The film intercuts the developing lives of the two women — Julia Child as she moves from country to country as an attaché’s wife, but becomes ever more full of belief in the delights of French cooking, and Julie Powell as she finds meaning in life beyond her dead-end New York office job and discovers the joys of food and finds a voice through blogging.  Julie Powell’s original blog got noticed by publishers and was published as Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (2006).  I looked up Ms Powell to see if she was still blogging … what I found wasn’t terribly interesting, to be honest, and rather confirmed to me the schmaltzy hollywood makover that the actual, real-life stories had no doubt been given, but the film offers a stonkingly entertaining performance by the incomparable Ms Streep (who towers over everyone in the film as Julia Child was apparently vey tall), and a lite reflection on the potential power of blogging to give people (women?) a voice.