Friday, February 6, 2015

Poets and College Curriculum, Online and Onground

Jeannine Hall Gailey has a great post about book sales; it's the kind of post that has links to other posts that discuss the same topic.  She then posted the link to her post on Facebook, which sparked more conversation.  One of the topics that came up was how book publishing has changed in the past 10 years.

One thing about book publishing that has changed in the past 10 years is the explosion of online classes. In 2004, when my chapbook came out, I thought about being a visiting poet in a classroom, which meant travelling to a campus. Now, with so many classes being online, what are the implications?

I wonder how the explosion of online classes will impact the chances of getting one's book adopted for classes.  It would be easier for a poet/writer to visit an online class that adopts one's book.  I wonder if in future years, poets and writers will be expected to have resources for online teachers who adopt the book.  Writers could record mini lectures and/or readings of all sorts.  As an online teacher, I'd be more inclined to adopt a book if it came with resources.  Of course, at some schools, one doesn't get to create one's own content.

And then there's the question of charging for the extra content.  All teachers wrestle with how much content to create for free, and what happens to online content--who owns it?  As a poet, do I want to create readings or lectures for students for free?   Do I do it for love?  Do I do it in the hopes of increased book sales?  Do I only do it if the book has been adopted?

I've been thinking about creating curriculum, if one was allowed to do that.  In fact, I'll be spending some time creating curriculum for an online class called Critical Thinking.  Yesterday, as I was out on my morning run/walk, I came up with a great idea of how to shape the class.   There's a textbook that has sections on Thinking Critically about Movies, Thinking Critically about Music, and so on.  I had a vision of using Gailey's  Becoming the Villainess--most of the poems are based on fairy tales and video games and classic mythology--lots to appeal to student readers, very accessible and also very smart.   
I have this whole series of modules mapped out in my head--students interpreting a poem and discussing it as a class and then bringing the living poet in to the conversation--and from there, seeing how other artists have used the fairy tale--in song and film for example, or TV shows--and from there, having students create something with the fairy tale and/or write an analytical essay or something that involves mixed media, since it is an online class.  Happily, the textbook fits with these ideas, since the last part of the book has chapters on thinking critically about magazines, music, TV, etc.
I had this vision of having the students choose their favorite poem from the text and having to convince their classmates that their choice was the one we should talk to Gailey about, probably by way of e-mail.  It's not the kind of class that happens in "real time"--no online lecture time.
I thought it might be worth her time because there would be 15-25 students who would have bought the book.
But then I found out that we couldn't do that--the online curriculum has to mirror the onground curriculum, which makes sense.  But I might be allowed to go in a different direction if I could create a completely electronic curriculum which wouldn't require students to buy a book.
So, this morning my brain is still whirling.  Could I create a completely electronic curriculum out of my own head?  It would be different from what I've done in the past, which was to create a series of Powerpoint slides based on a textbook.  At some point I might teach an onground class again where I control the curriculum.  My ideas for Becoming the Villainess would make a great base for our onground Topics for Composition class.
And then there's the other set of questions:  if we say that the ideal would be to have students buy the book, but for a variety of reasons that can't happen, are there other ways to incorporate the poetry and make it worth the poet's time to be part of the class?  If one was a visiting poet at a traditional school, one would hope to sell a few books along the way.  In many an online class, I suspect that the students don't have extra funds to buy a book, no matter how much they love the poems discussed in class.
This post has become quite long, so I'll stop now.  I suspect it's a topic we'll all be revisiting again and again as we make our way through this brave new world.

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