GODDAMMIT.

Okay, so first, I wrote a post about HOW MUCH I SUCK AT BLOGGING since I got sick and then stopped updating this, even though I have desperately wanted to, but just never found the right moment to do it.

Then I was all like “Publish Post” AND IT WOULDN’T WORK DKHS;DJHSGDHFG. So, I clicked this other button and of course, my blog post disappeared, so now I am extra angsty.

How are you guys doing?

*crickets*

Oh, okay.

Well, my third week of being a ~UNCA student~ has ended, and I’m completely swamped with work, readings, all of my personal stuff, I still haven’t found a job, I have like 8 applications to fill out, I feel like I have no friends (more on that later), so that’s pretty depressing, and so on and so on.

I will ATTEMPT to publish another post later this weekend, once I’ve gotten through some of the aforementioned work and I need some way to procrastinate that doesn’t involve cleaning my house. =D

I Feel Like Crap

I’ve been sick for a while, they gave me some antibiotics and an inhaler and I thought I was getting better, but now it looks like I’m not actually better and I might have to go back to the doctor and pay them another $35 co-pay…even though I really shouldn’t have to since I am still sick with the same thing that I needed help with before and what they did did not help. At least I have insurance…! >=[

Weird things going on with school. They did FINALLY get my last AP credits in, and processed my financial aid, so I don’t have to worry about tuition or anything like that. However, I was checking out my class schedule (I check it compulsively almost every day for some reason) and although I am still registered for it, one of the classes I was most looking forward to (Feminist Science Fiction) no longer has an instructor, a room, or a time. The schedule for the entire school says that the class has a limit of 0 students, even though there are 22 people enrolled. I don’t know what’s going on and I’m really hoping it’s just a glitch, I would be so upset if that class got actually cancelled for no real reason. Plus, I’d have to find another class to take at the last minute, which will not be fun. Top contender right now is a Sociology course called “Women of Color and Feminism” but it’s really awkwardly timed (Wednesdays nights 6:00pm-8:30pm, but my Wednesdays already start at 8am…) and I was REALLY excited about that science fiction class. Balls.

 

My First MOOC: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

The first Coursera class I signed up for officially opened today!

The professor running the course, Dr. Eric Rabkin of the University of Michigan, is a pretty good lecturer, and the video clip lectures are actually much more engaging than I expected. I don’t know if courses presented by other universities will have a similar format, but in the clips for this course, Dr. Rabkin sits right in front of the camera with his notes and a computer, so you feel like he’s talking more directly to you, rather than a traditional large lecture class where you might be sitting very far away from the lecturer. Of course, at this point this is a one-way dialogue, and I wonder how more interaction, in a traditional seminar-style class, would affect my learning (particularly once he really starts presenting in-depth material on each unit).

The course has a novel or novel-length reading assigned each week, and students are to write an essay (270 to 320 words) that will “enrich the understanding of an intelligent and attentive fellow student.” We will also be evaluating the work of four other students each week, which I think is very cool. My World Literature course (online) at AB-Tech was structured in a similar way–a reading each week, with a forum post (350 word minimum, no max restriction–one of my essays was over 1000) responding to certain general ideas about the work. However, in terms of “peer evaluation,” we were just supposed to “respond” to two other posts. Some of the responses I got were along the lines of “I agree!” and “I liked your essay.” Not exactly constructive or thoughtful.  I am hoping that the hypothetical “intelligent and attentive” students that are my peers in this course are a bit more insightful!

This week’s reading is the 1886 (I believe) Lucy Crane translation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with illustrations by her husband, Walter Crane. There is a free .pdf of the book if anyone else would like to read it, and the text really is wonderfully illustrated. I do have to say, though, particularly if you’re not familiar with old fairy tales, be prepared for the stories to be pretty dismal. “Happily ever after” is not a thing in these stories.

One more thing I’d like to note about this class and presumably other MOOCs: the (optional) discussion boards are a little bit overwhelming for someone that doesn’t regularly post in a massive forum, BUT there are students in the class from ALL OVER THE WORLD, which is just amazing! I am not sure if anyone is going to build any lasting relationships getting to know each other in this way (some of my classmates are setting up Skype groups with folks from their geographical region though), but it’s still pretty awesome that this format has opened up the same content to such a broad international community.

Men In Science (That Used To Be Women), BYOD, I Really Hate Cleaning Product Ads

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My top link of the day: this absolutely incredible article about a transgender scientist’s experiences. He transitioned from female to male and offers amazingly personal insight into what he believes is a major reason for the dearth of women in scientific fields (active discrimination). I found the concluding sentence to be so telling: “People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.” I think even those of us that aren’t in the sciences are familiar with that particular experience.

I found this blog post highlighting the author’s disagreements with Diane Ravitch on online education and technology in education pretty interesting, because unlike him (pretty sure it’s a dude) and most of the people commenting, I am totally with her. I really don’t feel like, using the quotes given, you could call her “anti-technology.” Honestly, from all the reading on this particular subject I’ve done lately, I think that anyone that’s not 100% on the bandwagon is at risk of being branded anti-technology, which isn’t accurate and isn’t fair. I feel like those of us in the “anti” camp are really in the “let’s assess where the use of technology will actually help the students in a productive way and how to incorporate it in such a way that the entire curriculum doesn’t turn into Math Blasters on an iPad” camp… But that’s not as catchy as equating us with a bunch of Luddites.

One of the hottest topics in technology in education is BYOD–Bring Your Own Device. This article asks if schools should really embrace this idea, so I was hoping for a slightly more balanced response than the one given. They only lightly touched on the pitfalls–affordability for some students, for example–without actually explaining what was going to be done about them. School rules about bullying and harassment don’t stop bullying and harassment, so I think their offhand comment about school policies on technology is extremely short-sighed. I also wish they had explained how the schools that have implemented BYOD are addressing the needs of students that DON’T have a smartphone or an iPad or a Kindle to bring to school with them (although this article, “10 Things In School That Should Be Obsolete,” claims that students have access to this technology regardless of income bracket, which just sounds insanely ignorant. Interesting article in general though, even though I don’t agree with every point.). I’m deeply disappointed with the quality of discussion on this topic that I’ve seen online so far.

This article about Mitt Romney and the “war on women” isn’t all-the-way real (the quote, specifically), but don’t you get the feeling that it’s much closer to the truth than is comfortable? Lest you think moving out of the country will solve your problems, think again. Turns out plenty of men in other countries are disgusting pigs too.

Since women in the workplace has been such a hot topic lately, I am super interested in reading Shortchanged, by Mariko Chang, and the discussion of why the wealth (not pay) gap between men and women persists, as well as possible solutions.

In yet another entry (this link brought to you by Rae) into the “Comedy vs. Feminism” melee, this is an excellent piece that points out that who’s “right” in this case isn’t really the point. While Tosh may have the legal right to say what he said (and pretty much anything else), that does not diminish the right of other people to be offended, to complain, to criticize, and to boycott.

On the other hand, this article highlights the still-urgent need to stand up for rape survivors and stop perpetuating rape culture. Apparently, rapes happen because there’s not enough laws about what women are allowed to wear. I don’t know how people making this argument don’t see that it’s also offensive to basically paint all men with the “sex-crazed immoral lunatic” brush while they’re trying to control women, but whatever. Women in countries with draconian dress codes still get raped and otherwise sexually violated, so I really don’t think our clothes are the problem here.

In all this newly discovered feminist consciousness, people are paying more attention to and criticizing women’s magazines. This post offers a thoughtful defense of that particular form of media, without ignoring the legitimate problems of the “women’s interest” section of the magazine rack.

Also in media news, so glad that what we already know is being pointed out here: cleaning products (and parenting-related things) are still almost exclusively marketed to women, and we still do most of the chores, regardless of outside commitments. Let me tell you, my rage knew no bounds when I saw this one ad (a while ago) of a dad playing with his two kids in the living room…while the mother cheerfully Swiffered the floor. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

Moving on to more political things, I am not sure what to say about the idea that rich people do deserve their wealth, if they worked hard, but not if they obtained through political machinations, gaming the system, etc. When people talk about how the infrastructure contributes to the success of entrepreneurs, they aren’t saying that wealthy people should have to give up all of their money. They are saying that your success, while admirable, does not entitle you to then screw over the society that made it possible for you to be where you are. Plenty of wealthy people, while they may have worked hard, are where they are because of luck. One company succeeds while another one doesn’t–show me the direct evidence that it’s because the founder of one company was super-hardworking and busy while the head of the failed company was secretly a lazy schmuck. What kind of logic is that? I also think that the author’s talk of focusing on those that game the system is somewhat fatuous; who is going to be the arbiter of that? For that matter, people do try to focus on those who game the system and are routinely subverted or ignored. Argh.

As always, you are more than welcome to leave thoughts in the comments.

More About MOOCs, The Guy Mopping The Floor Has a B.A., “Female Privilege”

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Appropriately enough since the last post was about my own foray into MOOCs, a couple of articles on the subject showed up in my newsfeed. Ian Bogost suggests that this new trend is nothing more than a marketing tactic, and that participating universities are “drunk on the dream of being “elite” and willing to do anything to be seen in the right crowd making the hip choices.” On the other hand, this article from Slate mostly echoes my sentiments, that Coursera and similar resources won’t  replace traditional education, but can be useful tools to enhance it, or provide access to people who might just want to learn something new. On the OTHER other hand (my foot?), this article talks about what teaching a MOOC is like and how many disadvantages there are. I consider myself to be, overall, an honest and ethical person, so the point that MOOCs were a “cheating-rife” environment had not occurred to me. Also, although there’s talk of students grading each other (pretty sure that’s how my Science Fiction and Fantasy course is going to work) and essay autograders (no idea how that’s supposed to work), I think it’s very important to note that the MOOC format just may not be a good fit for subject areas where discussion and collaboration are more vital.

Also in higher education, Continue reading

Putting My Non-Money Where My Online Mouth Is–Trying Out MOOCs

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I just signed up for a couple of classes on Coursera!

Surprised? After all, I have spent quite a bit of time railing against the treatment of online education as the second coming of Jesus Christ, so you might think I’m wholly opposed to it. That’s just not true–I’m only opposed to the emphasis on online education to the detriment of traditional face-to-face learning, which I really think there’s no substitute for. Not only that, but I have personally benefited greatly from online courses already–they gave me the flexibility to take a huge course load at the community college, work part-time, and finish my Associate’s in a year. Online education can be a great supplement to traditional education, a good option for non-traditional students, and definitely a fantastic resource for people that aren’t currently in school but want to broaden their horizons. It is not and should never be a wholesale replacement for interacting with students and professors face-to-face.

Anyway–I’ve signed up for:

There are fairly detailed course descriptions on each course page, and signing up was super painless. Please check out the links if the courses sound remotely interesting to you, I’d love to have a “classmate” I actually know to discuss the work with! There’s 111 courses on offer so far, so if you want to join me in my experiment generally, check out the listings on the Coursera site. I’ll be blogging about everything the whole time.

*I had reservations about signing up for this course, since it overlaps with my last week of classes at AB-Tech and my first six weeks of classes at UNCA, but since the courses are free I decided to take the plunge and sign up, since I assume there’s no real penalty for un-enrolling. Let’s hope I don’t find out otherwise!

Empowerment (Don’t Just Point!), The Failed Meritocracy, A Pregnant Lady in Charge?

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Spent like, 12 hours from Monday night to Tuesday morning catching up on all the math homework I neglected when I was sick–paid off, since I aced my test (a lucky guess helped too). Now that I’m pretty caught up with math and reasonably well-rested, I can get back to more important things, like reading all of the internet. Continue reading

Femininity and Masculinity

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Quick update, again because I just posted on FB a whole bunch of times and I don’t want to anymore. So: first I read this, which was great (although primarily aimed at a younger audience), and someone in the comments linked to this, which I have read before and generally do agree with. But then I got to this line:

“Masculinity” is as damaging to men as “Femininity” is to women. Neither is something to aspire to. Women who understand this are called feminists. Men who understand this aren’t called anything yet, but maybe they can just be called feminists too.

At first I was like “Yeah!” and was going to post the quote on FB, but then I paused and had to question what exactly they mean. Do they mean rigid ideas of what is masculine and what is feminine, and that deviating from the gender role assigned to you by your biological sex shouldn’t be socially punished the way it usually is now? Or do they mean what I feel some people mean when they say things like that, that the gender roles are inherently bad and that conforming to them even if that is who you are is bad? If it’s the former, then yes, I completely agree. Forcing people into cookie cutter stereotypes is incredibly harmful to everyone, not just women.

However, if it is the latter, I strongly have to disagree. I am SO GODDAMN TIRED of this mistaken idea that some people seem to have that if you are a woman that presents with a lot of traditionally feminine characteristics you’re somehow not really a feminist, or you’re letting the movement down, or setting the movement back, or whatever-the-fuck-else. Sometimes, I even find myself thinking this way–my current chosen career path, teaching, is an extremely feminized profession. Am I letting women everywhere down by not going into a more “masculine” field? Should I at least have tried for being a math or science teacher (even though I don’t enjoy those subjects at all)? Even worse, do some people think that I am going into teaching because I am a woman, and not just that I am a woman that happens to be going into teaching?

I don’t know, maybe only people that don’t know what they’re talking about think that way, but I have seen a lot of hate on femininity and personal expression that isn’t “I’m going to quit shaving my legs and become an engineer!” and I just don’t understand. Feminism is supposed to be about CHOICE and INCLUSION, and that means that the woman in the mini-skirt that loves make-up is JUST AS WORTHY as the woman that calls herself a “tomboy” (shouldn’t even be a word) and plays football and every other woman out there, for that matter.

Fall Classes!

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[Meant to post about this, like, weeks ago, but I kept getting sidetracked (and then I was super sick for nearly two weeks, which meant not a lot of energy for blogging).] I am SO excited about my schedule for the fall, even though most people seem to think I’m crazy for doing 18 credits at once. Maybe I am crazy, but I won’t know until classes actually start. I think the fact that I’m way past the heavy drinking/partying phase of my life will work in my favor, plus the fact that I’ve always been a good reader. On the other hand, my work ethic leaves a bit to be desired and I consider myself to be a god-awful writer, which leads me to put off a lot of writing assignments. On the OTHER hand, maybe I’ll work better since I’m actually taking classes I’m interested in, instead of bogus gen ed stuff that I took just to check things off on the list of classes I needed for my A.A. By the way, wish I had known about pre-major sheets earlier–definitely would have changed some of my electives.

The classes I’m taking are: Continue reading