Social Networking and Teaching

I put in some time today creating sections and assigning them to myself and the other GSIs (graduate student instructors or teaching assistants, in Berkeley-speak) on our automated class management system in preparation for the coming semester. I’m excited to help teach Introduction to Archaeology again, and it’s interesting to be the head GSI this time. I’ll try not to let all the power and glory get to my head. ha.

I also took the time to update my section syllabus, which is a supplementary syllabus to the main class, wherein I make my specific expectations plain. It’s not really all that different, but I do quote Kai Chang’s powerful polemic on political correctness, specifically:

“The phrase “politically correct” can be used in two distinct ways: either with its original literal meaning, or with the mocking sarcasm that’s common these days. As it’s commonly used, “PC” is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn’t to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated. Thus, the Herculean effort required to call me “Asian American” rather than “chink” is seen as a concession to “the PC police”, an unsettling infringement on the free-wheeling conversation of, I suppose, “non-chinks”. (…) Underlying every complaint of “PC” is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry.”

I find that stating this up front can really be helpful for discussions about the human past in a class full of people who are so used to cultural insensitivity (and their own positions of privilege) that they hardly notice it any more.

I also added a new bit about social networking sites:

Punctuality, Cell Phone Use, and Social Networking Sites: Be punctual, silence your cell phone, and I will attempt to do the same. As a rule, I do not accept Facebook or Myspace friend requests from current students.

If that sounds a bit abrupt, I’ll be going over the syllabus in class with them so I can make the requisite “you keep your weekends and I’ll keep mine” joke. This forestalls the awkwardness that comes when you accept or reject ‘friendships’ online and still have to grade the person. Maybe I’m too formal, and I know that online privacy is nonexistant, but in this situation a little decorum goes a long way. I’m relatively easy to find, and I’ve made my peace with that (under the precepts of Hamilakis’ figure of the public intellectual…though I could hardly claim that title) and my blogging performance takes a more generalized audience into account. Besides, I really don’t want to know which of my students was doing keg stands the day before the final.

Anyway, quoting blogs and defining online relationships right on the syllabus…it’s a brave new world of teaching.

Here’s my section syllabus, for the curious. I still need to update it in accordance to the general syllabus (I don’t think we’re using the CDROM again, it was utter trash) but you get the general idea.

Section Syllabus

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