“What is it you two are up to?” Nicola asks. Lindsey and I are in Gossip, a small restaurant in Sneem, a rural town on the Ring of Kerry. Nicola manages the Sneem Hotel, where we’re staying for a week, and we had been there two years earlier on another study abroad trip. So we know Nicola, but we don’t know her well.
“Right now?” Lindsey and I are not sure what Nicola is getting at. We’ve brought our laptops to Gossip, but “grading student blogs” doesn’t seem like the activity Nicola is referring to.
“Online. That lively stuff I see on Facebook.” Nicola is smiling, prompting us to understand.
And we do. “WinkyFace,” Lindsey says. Nicola nods.
I launch into my explanation. “We’re learning how to use social media to build an audience because we think that’s an important skill for us to be teaching our students.”
Lindsey adds: “WinkyFace is a fun way to do it. That way we’re excited about our work and don’t avoid it.”
Nicola nods. She clearly understands and appreciates our work. She says, “So you’re just mucking about, then?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Lindsey and I laugh and nod at each other.
I have found at least 3 take-aways from that conversation. (“Take Away” in Ireland is equivalent to “Take Out” in the U.S., but I’m using it here to mean “things I’ve learned.” In case you’re confused at all. I did get food that day, but I ate right in the restaurant.)
1. International love!
I thought about Nicola watching us in Ireland. Later in the trip, I saw my high school friend Jen who now lives outside Galway, and she also watches WinkyFace. I have an academic friend Susan who lives in Australia, and I imagine she’s viewed at least a couple WinkyFace videos. WinkyFace is an international YouTube channel. How cool!
2. Mucking about
Lindsey and I are indeed mucking about. We are both planners, and we both tend to be organized, and we both get a lot done in a day. All of those traits are applied to WinkyFace. However, at the same time, we are exploring and goofing around and having a good time. I don’t think Nicola was minimizing our WinkyFace work, though she may have been teasing a bit. I do think she recognized the fun. Which is a very good thing! No one wants to watch us on YouTube if it looks like a horrible chore for us.
Sometimes in my everyday life I don’t think about WinkyFace and the way many people I run into have seen me dressed as Dracula or sobbing over an article that was rejected. In real life, I act like a relatively normal person. I chat with cashiers, coaches, teachers, other parents. I blend with the crowd in the way I dress and behave. Sure, I can be silly, but it’s only a small part of my real-life persona.
And then someone from everyday life (like Nicola) asks about WinkyFace, and suddenly I wonder how many other people have seen me acting like a complete fool online. Part of me hopes it’s a lot of these people I run into because Lindsey and I are definitely trying to build our WinkyFace audience. But another part of me dreads the thought of being viewed by people I know in real life. I don’t want everyone to know what a weirdo I am!
Then again, Nicola seemed okay with having a couple American goofballs around. So I guess I’ll just have to trust that others will be okay with it as well.
“Those rules aren’t real.”
(from Regina George, in sweatpants on a Monday, commenting on the Plastics’ rule that you can’t wear sweatpants on Monday. She was not allowed to sit with the Plastics.)
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of Mean Girls. And Regina George’s comment about rules is right on. “Rules” are often social constructions, agreed-upon guidelines, used to help people make decisions and belong to a community with shared values and clear expectations. Yada yada yada.
And then, on days when the rules don’t work because the sweatpants are the only things that fit, you say, “Those rules aren’t real.” Because they aren’t real. They’re made up.
But then the other members of the community won’t let you sit at the lunch table with them, and you wonder: “Are the rules real after all?”
The other day, I was talking with a science teacher friend of mine and he was talking about race not being real. It’s a construction, and we pretend that there are these hard and fast lines between one race and another, but really any particular trait (skin color, hair texture, and so forth) exists on a continuum. We just go along placing people in categories as if the categories are real, even though they’re not.
And that’s how places work, too. I travel from Pennsylvania to New York to Connecticut, and it’s arbitrary where one state is divided from another. Sometimes a river or other landmark is used as the dividing point, but often the highway moves from one state to the next, and the only way I know I’ve changed states is by the sign on the side of the road. It’s an artificial division, not a real one.
But, of course, all of these divisions are real. They are real in the sense that they have real effects. Divisions and rules that are more-or-less agreed upon in a community may sometimes be overlooked, may sometimes be negligible in their effects, may sometimes be blurred so regularly as to be meaningless.
More often, however, divisions and rules affect us. And they often come to seem natural rather than artificial because we are so used to the divisions and rules and their effects.
It only makes sense that we don’t wear sweatpants on Monday! And we wear pink on Wednesdays. That’s how it has always been!
I’ve been trying to find recent stats about the ages of audiences on YouTube. I found that 80% of YouTube traffic is from outside the U.S. I found that 18-34 year olds spend more time on YouTube than on any cable channel.
Aaargh, I thought. What am I doing playing on YouTube??? And why won’t my students or kids take on the job when it would be so much easier for them to build an audience?? Why am I trying to show them what’s possible?? I am TOO OLD.
And then I stumbled upon this site. Well, actually I googled “YouTube age demographics” and found it. And it shows that YouTube is also for older people. Like me!
Okay, so that solves one age problem. YouTube viewers are people of all ages, so people who are my age may like seeing someone from their generation act like a goofball online.
The next problem? My behavior may not seem appropriate for a 45-year old. Especially when I’m pretending to be a young girl like Katniss Everdeen or Ophelia from Hamlet (that latter vid will be released soon!).
In the scripts for these vids, we added lines that directly acknowledge age issues. Katniss has had a hard life. And Ophelia has done a lot of drugs. Forgive them for looking 45!
But I’m sure it will still annoy people. In my How To channel, I sometimes dressed in ways that matched the theme. When I danced like Peanuts characters, I dressed sorta like a Peanuts character. When I did a bubble-gum bubble-blowing lesson, I dressed like a kid. I did kid-like things with my hair for both of those videos. And those choices annoyed several people enough that they decided to comment on it. (Sometimes in the past I deleted mean comments that were posted to my vids, so you may have to trust me that several people made such comments. I wouldn’t make it up. Really. I promise.)
My point? My point is that many of us regularly go around saying that age doesn’t matter. But we act like age matters on a regular basis, whether by making choices about what we will or will not do because it’s easier to follow the “rules,” or by judging people who don’t follow the “rules”—even if the rules are stupid and tell us that we can’t wear sweat pants on Monday.
The unspoken rules about YouTube and age that are regularly policed through viewer comments?
1) You have less right to be on YouTube if you are a female older than iJustine. (I’m less familiar with the male guidelines, but John Green may be the cut-off.)
2) If you are going to be on YouTube, you’d better behave in age-appropriate ways. (And somehow we are all supposed to agree about what is age-appropriate, right?)
But somehow, I’m channeling my Regina George—the Regina George who is too fat to wear anything but sweatpants. Because that is my favorite Regina George! And I’m not acting my age, and I’m risking rude comments, and I’m probably embarrassing my kids.
But I’m hoping that in defying the rules, we reveal their artificiality. And maybe we stretch the rules in ways that include and open instead of excluding and closing. And maybe we end the day with Captain Jack Sparrow who insists that the Pirates’ Code is more of a guideline, really.
At the end of kindergarten, I was supposed to go on stage in the cafeteria/auditorium with the rest of the kindergarten kids and perform for the whole elementary school. I cried that morning. My mom asked me why, and I told her I didn’t want to do it, and she didn’t make me. I stayed home, relieved.
Part of me wondered what I missed on that day, but I did not regret missing that stage performance. I still don’t.
When I was a little older, maybe in third grade, I performed for the rest of the school on that same stage. This time, I danced the hora with my class. I think I was wearing green corduroys. I was good at the hora, but I hated the fact that everyone was watching me as I circled around, facing away from the crowd so that they could see my backside but I couldn’t see them. Afterward, a neighbor girl who was a grade above me told me that her classmate said I looked fat. Or something like that. I thought a lot about the remark at the time, but the particulars have faded now.
I was in a talent show in sixth grade. I did a terrible job, and I knew it. Let’s not revisit that.
In between, I was probably on stage a handful of times with the whole class, playing a flutophone or singing holiday songs or whatever, and it was all good. I blended in, which was my goal.
In high school, I did make-up for the theater kids. I loved doing make-up—using thick creamy sticks of foundation, knowing where to apply the rouge, drawing lines to make teenagers look old. But I was never on stage.
I was a rather shy person, and I still am, sometimes. Everyone knew I was shy back then. Now, hardly anyone would guess it.
I was actually just talking about shyness at a conference I attended. I didn’t have a go-to person with me, a person who knew me well, so in order to be at all sociable, I had to reach out. And people are generally friendly, so it all worked out well. I spent a lot of time laughing and a good bit of time learning, which both seem important at a conference.
But the things I’ve been doing with WinkyFace videos go way beyond reaching out to other scholars. I actually have no idea who will end up seeing some of our footage, though I know it’s likely that many viewers will be less friendly than my conference community. And the things I’ve been doing have no room for shyness.
But, you know what? Acting crazy on camera has been fun.
At this point, I have been in several WinkyFace vids as parodied versions of myself. And I’ve played fictional characters in three WinkyFace videos: Katniss, Dracula, and Ophelia. It’s been pretty goofy.
After editing one of the parody vids, Lindsey said, “I think we should act even more over the top in future shoots.” Okay! Good times!
For the fictional characters: I love dressing up in costumes and doing my make-up with the character’s style in mind. I love thinking about how the characters might talk and behave if they were to come to life. I love saying outrageous, ridiculous, and even slightly offensive things…with none of it being from me at all.
The only thing I have been paranoid about is my age, especially when portraying teen girls. I’m familiar with the expectation that women of a certain age should, well, act that certain age. And it’s not easy to change that expectation, so, instead, we made sure Katniss and Ophelia had a chance to comment on their aged appearance. (I won’t give away their rationales for looking a bit older, but I think they’re pretty good!)
Yup, I’m 45. And I’m acting 15. But with way less shyness than when I was actually 15!
I spent a good portion of today writing. I spent a good portion of yesterday doing video editing.
What a mess!
What feels even messier is that I’m drafting part of an article Laurie and I are working on about writing (and digital composing) being messy. Here’s just how messy my draft is looking right now:
And, as I write, I keep thinking to myself,
Yep, this is how it goes. Be one with it. Own it. Go with the flow. Embrace the mess.
But it’s making me nuts! I can’t stand when my house is messy. The same goes for my writing. I even tweeted this earlier today:
Writing is messy. Like a tornado. I can practically see the Wicked Witch’s shoes peeking out from beneath my draft. #scholarlyprobs
It’s true, though, that writing and composing isn’t a neat process. And it is a frustrating process. Hence, why I’ve abandoned my draft to write a blog post. The messier the writing, the more breaks I seem to need to clear my head from all the clutter.
Video editing has proven to be equally messy. Given its non-linear nature, plopping in footage here, sound there, cropping this, don’t-forget-to-go-back-and-fix-that-part-at-the-beginning, it’s a time-consuming process. And, in some sick way, like writing, it’s also enjoyable.
If you asked Laurie, she would confirm that I said to her just yesterday,
I’m actually looking forward to doing some writing.
Yeah, until I actually started writing, that was. It’s such a love-hate thing. Can you relate? Share some of your writing secrets in the comments below. What helps you break through the clutter? (Seriously, please. I could use some good advice.)
Well, better get back to it. This paper isn’t going to draft itself … and I’m only on the first draft. Oh, the road that lies ahead … (or is it lays? I had to Google it. Ugh. Writing is so much work!) ;)
Sometimes the lights all shinin’ on me;
other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me:
What a long, strange trip it’s been….
Okay, so Lindsey and I have not been “truckin'” exactly, and I don’t even know if Lindsey’s got a deadhead bone in her body. But I was trying to think of words to go with our video reflection, and these are the lines that came to me.
Check out our reflections:
My New Year’s resolution is all about appreciating my experiences and feelings, whether good or bad, and I’m finding that resolution helpful through our WinkyFace ups and downs. As Lindsey and I have said in past posts, learning curving produces a LOT of anxiety. It is also amazing—to grow, to learn, to stretch.
The pain and the pleasure. Both part of WinkyFace!
And there’s more fun to come. A couple official vids that parody faculty life are almost ready to publish, and we’re planning silly interviews with literary / fictional characters. Good times.
Thanks for enjoying this long, strange trip with us!
Three things in the last few days have collided and helped me think about insecurities and how they can hold us back. Or not!
1) Faculty insecurities
I was reading about why faculty have trouble keeping up with new technologies. One of the reasons cited was that it is scary to try out new things in front of students. Teachers do not want to feel incompetent!
This perspective struck me as a) true and b) sad.
The truth is, we teachers expect students to take risks, to venture into learning with the understanding that things will go awry. We want students to feel uncomfortable at times, because that’s part of learning something new. If everything is always easy…if we’re always at the top of our game…well, that means we probably aren’t growing.
And if we expect our students to take risks and grow, we faculty ought to be leading the way.
We probably cannot avoid feeling insecure and even incompetent when trying new things. But maybe as teachers we can be explicit about those feelings and their normalcy. Maybe we can show students that insecurity is temporary, and that rewards await us as we gain competency and feel pride in what we’ve accomplished.
2) Frolleagues showed various levels of insecurity
On Friday, Lindsey and I visited the campus cafeteria and asked eight or ten faculty to pose for us with an irritated expression. (I don’t mean that Lindsey and I had an irritated expression; what I mean is that we wanted stills of faculty looking irritated. You’ll see why before too long when Five Stages of Coping with Feedback is edited for YouTube publication.)
Some faculty were more comfortable with this request than others, but almost every person we asked ended up posing for us.
Two observations from this experience: a) some people more easily feel self-conscious and insecure than others and b) most people who do feel self-conscious are usually good sports about ignoring those feelings in order to help out a friend (or a “frolleague,” as Kevin Dettmar has considered calling colleagues who are friends, though he’s worried it sounds too much like a colleague with benefits…a whole other conversation, really….).
I can’t really rate the awesomeness of everyone who posed for us, but I do want to say that I completely appreciate those who have a gift of hamming things up for the camera and those who don’t feel gifted but step up and do some hamming anyway. Both kinds of frolleagues are completely impressive!
3) I was (am?) haunted by insecurities
We’ve been filming using Lindsey’s DSLR and a similar camera from the Comm Dept, and I have very little experience with such cameras. In addition, my experience with YouTube has been completely amateurish, whereas Lindsey has a journalism background and has taken a photography course and simply has higher standards than I do about some things. AND the students we’re working with, Mackenzie and Brigid, have more experience with cameras and lighting than I do.
That combo of factors has made me feel VERY worried. I don’t want to be the one to mess everything up and disappoint everyone in the whole wide world! (Sometimes insecurities give me hyperbolic tendencies.)
I told Lindsey about my insecurities when we met to do some filming this past Friday, and she reassured me. Then, my insecurities became OBVIOUS when I was shooting Lindsey. (I wasn’t shooting Lindsey in a violent way, but more in a filming kind of way. When I think about how much worse a gun would be than a camera, my insecurities almost disappear. I am going to have to remember that.)
Anyhow, I was completely nervous that I wouldn’t focus clearly or I wouldn’t frame the shot in a way that would work. Lindsey was awesome, though. She said: “Take your time. You’re fine. It’s no rush.” (I’d show you a video of her saying that except I’m too lazy to edit it right now. If I were to show you the video, however, you would not only believe me that Lindsey is a very reassuring person but you’d also be impressed with how well-focused and well-framed that outtake is. Really. Not bad at all.)
Anyhow, I slowed down, and I made decisions, and if anything is completely sucky, we will do it over. But chances are that I did well enough. And I am bound to do better as we move on!
I think it’s okay to feel insecure and incompetent at times. I think it is not okay to refuse to do something because of those feelings (unless that something might have super-bad consequences, like performing surgery or giving someone a haircut right before an important gala).
To make the insecurity less debilitating, it helps to work with supportive people. It helps to take our time and to hear reassuring things (whether from others or from our own little voices in our heads). It helps to keep our work in perspective. And it helps to use available resources to make the situation more manageable.
As teachers, we need to make these strategies explicit for our students. Instead of appearing only as experts, we should also be role modeling learning.
And that means we need to let students see our feelings of incompetence instead of pretending that learning is easy.
Last note: In case you feel like I’m preaching at you, that’s not my intention. I’m actually preaching at myself!
So, today was our second day of filming for WinkyFace. It was my turn in front of the camera, and yes, I was nervous. I thought I would be most nervous about the acting (and I was pretty nervous about that; I’m type-A and self-conscious to boot!).
But as the process continued, I realized that the part that freaked me out even more than being on camera was not having control over what was happening. I couldn’t see the shots through the camera view finder. I didn’t know if things were level, framed properly, conforming to “my vision.” (Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I am a control freak. Yes. Yes, I am.) It was hard to cede control of the situation to Laurie, Brig & Mac. But, I learned a couple of valuable lessons in the process.
1) I need to be learn to be more trusting of my partners. They can handle things.
2) It’s OK to be a little un-trusting, too. It means your head is in the game and that you’re thinking about all that’s happening around you in a critical way.
3) We all needed to be a little more prepared. Day 1 we were really on top of things. Day 2 got a little lax, it seemed. I didn’t have key props ready. There was a LOT happening in my small office space. And, there were too many distractions (people, phones, equipment, etc.)
I spent the last few nights looking back over the footage we’ve accumulated so far. We’ve done some really neat, creative things. But, it’s clear that we’re novices at this. That’s OK. This is a learning process, and I honestly can’t believe how much I’ve already learned in such a short time. There’s stuff we’ll need to re-do, re-think, re-imagine. But, that’s where the good #learningcurving happens. I’m excited about Day 3.
Until then, I’ll leave you with some of the outtakes of our first two days of filming. If nothing else, we had some fun.
During the very first official WinkyFace shot, I somehow made a big clunking noise when I rolled my chair and it pulled on a lav mic that was wired under my shirt.
Laurie, When we said we were “rolling,” that is not what we meant!
No one actually said that, but we did all laugh at the bumpy beginning of our film day.
(Sidenote: We’ll be using wireless on Day 2 when we’re mostly shooting Lindsey so she won’t run into such oddly funny problems, and we’re hoping to get a splitter so we can use two wireless lavs on Day 3 when Linds and I will both be on film). (Are you impressed with my technical language? I really know nothing, but I do know that you gotta learn the lingo in order to join the discourse community, a.k.a. community of practice, a.k.a. posse.)
Anyhow, I made a big clunking noise right after the camera started rolling for the first shot, and that made us all laugh, and several times over the course of the filming I would begin cracking up for less reason than that. When I needed help getting serious, Lindsey would say, “Peanut butter crackers!” She said that was supposed to do the trick.
What actually happened was that when I felt giggles coming on, I would think “Peanut butter crackers!”, and that would be the thought that would push me over the edge. Thanks, Lindsey! ;)
That was the silliness. Now here’s a recounting of the stress.
I was actually surprised at how much energy I used during the video shooting. If I were looking at the whole scene, it would be clear to me that Lindsey and Mackenzie and Brigid were working their patooties off. They were figuring out the light kit and the cameras and the mic, they were actually filming the shots and keeping track of the whole process, and they were moving around constantly and thinking about details so it will all work once we’re at the editing stage in a few weeks.
Me, I mostly just sat around and said some words or made very particular faces or did very simple actions.
But I was exhausted when we were done. Partly, it might’ve been because I was nervous beforehand, just like Lindsey. And the other part, I think, had to do with worries about how I’d look and sound on camera. Brigid and Mackenzie were in a couple shots, and I wonder if they had those worries, too. I felt very self-conscious being the one who was being looked at by the other three people in the room. The lesson? I may pretend to be an actor for these vids, but I am definitely not an actor.
Now I’m looking forward to Tuesday to see the experience from the other side of the camera. And I’m ready to shout “peanut butter crackers” whenever Lindsey needs me to!
We had our first official WinkyFace video shoot yesterday!
I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. The night beforehand, I had so much nervous energy. I didn’t know how far we’d get with filming, so I wanted to make sure I was ready just in case we got to any of my scenes. (The plan was to start with Laurie’s.) Laurie, who worked on finalizing the filming schedule, said I should plan two outfits. I packed six. I had equipment strewn all over my house, cords occupying every electrical outlet.
We met a couple of hours before our scheduled WF shoot to go over scripts and last minute stuff. We had some lunch to try to relax ourselves. Then, we met up with our new production assistants, Brigid and Mackenzie, at Laurie’s office. As soon as I saw them, I felt at ease!
We’re lucky to be working with such great students this semester. We’re lucky that, when we said, ‘Hey, do you wanna spend the semester helping with WinkyFace,” they said yes! As part of the deal, they’ll earn three credits via an independent study with me. And so, the four of us will learn together just what it takes to get a YouTube channel off the ground.
Before we wrapped today’s session, we did a quick shoot with Brig & Kenz so you could meet them! Check it out!
I’ve been reading about expertise.
Let me back up a moment. Lindsey and I began brainstorming to write an article about teachers (us!) who model lifelong learning. In a shift away from the MOOC culture of putting the Sage on the (computer screen) Stage to share wisdom with the masses, we’re interested in teachers who are not sages but who instead model self-directed learning for their students.
What happens when students see teachers not as experts but as novices?
We are hoping good things happen!
And, so far, my reading about expertise has shown that we may be onto something. It turns out that experts are often so good at what they do that a lot of the process they use when applying their knowledge becomes automatic and intuitive, so the experts have difficulty explaining their process to others. Experts may even misrepresent their actual processes so that the students get all mixed-up and misled. Yikes.
Here’s an example. When I was about 19 or 20, I had never cooked chicken, and I never paid attention when anyone else was cooking it. One evening I was babysitting and was told to sauté some chicken in olive oil in a frying pan. I had no idea how to follow these simple instructions.
I ended up putting too much oil in the pan, and when I realized it was too much, I drained some into the sink. Unfortunately, the oil was piping hot at the time, and it spattered everywhere. I had burns from the spattering, and the oil sprayed onto the window screen behind the sink in a way that was unbelievably messy. (It stayed like that for several weeks, until I was babysitting again and had the presence of mind to clean up that messy screen, no matter what it took.)
My point? If I had seen a cook with just a bit more experience than me sauté that chicken, I would’ve been privy to all the steps as that cook applied previous experience to the task: “I’ve never cooked chicken this way, but I know that the word sauté means…” “When oil is hot, it spatters…” etc.
Instead, I received directions from a cook who was so used to sautéing chicken that explicit directions…well, they were never even considered until things went awry. Sautéing chicken was an automatic task for a 40-year old. Not so much for me. (And Google and YouTube didn’t exist back then in case you’re wondering why I didn’t just take out my phone to look up how to sauté chicken.)
I don’t have burn scars, in case you’re feeling worried about me or about the potential negative effects experts can have on learners. So let’s not get extreme or melodramatic or anything.
Furthermore, I don’t think Lindsey and I are complete novices in any way. However, we are definitely in the process of learning, and because we are collaborating and we hail from different disciplines, we regularly make our thinking explicit. And that part of being non-expert is important and awesome. I’ve already learned a lot from Lindsey, and I know I have a long way to go.
In the upcoming weeks, we are going to be working with two students, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping they, like Lindsey, bring their past experiences into conversation with these new situations in ways that I can learn from. Really, I hope that all four us end up learning and growing in conversation with one another.
Then, in the future, as Lindsey and I gain more experience, we will end up teaching courses that guide students through their own projects. That’s the most typical model for classroom teaching in higher ed right now, I’d say. Or it should be. Lecture halls have their place, but I don’t think they should be the main attraction.
It’s weird to think about expertise as something that can cripple rather than enable a teacher. I don’t think that is always or is necessarily the case, actually. But, at the same time, it’s helpful to know that undergoing the process of learning with students is nothing to be afraid of. Learning may ultimately be the best thing a teacher can do.
Maybe that is cliche or overly simplistic, but there’s something to it, yes? What’s your opinion? How much expertise does a good teacher need to have? And how is that expertise translated to students?
Looking forward to thinking more about it!