November 9th, 2016

Eine amerikanische Tragödie!?

Alle waren sich so sicher. Nach einem turbulenten anderthalbjährigen Wahlkampf schien es kurz vor dem 8. November 2016 nur ein mögliches Ergebnis zu geben: Hillary Clinton. Die Umfragen, allen voran Nate Silver, die New York Times, die Washington Post – alle, alle hatten mit einem sicheren Wahlsieg der Demokratin gerechnet. Und alle lagen falsch.

Eine erste Ahnung, dass auch ein anderer Ausgang der Wahl möglich sei, hatte ich am 26. Oktober, als ich mit der Schriftstellerin Esther Dischereit, die ich zu einer USA-Lesereise eingeladen hatte, durchs ländliche Virginia ins Shennondoah Valley fuhr: neben Farmen, Kühen und restaurierten Schlachtfeldern des amerikanischen Bürgerkrieges war dort ein Meer von Trump/Pence-Schildern zu sehen. Für den (Klein-)Städter aus Fredericksburg, der auch sonst meist nur andere Städte in den USA zu Konferenzen besuchte, war dies eine Ernüchterung. Sollte es wirklich möglich sein, dass die Menschen für einen rassistischen, sexistischen, politisch unerfahrenen Prahler und gegen ihre eigenen Interessen abstimmen würden? Dachten diese Menschen wirklich, dass ihre nach Übersee verlorenen Arbeitsplätze wieder zurückgewonnen werden? Dass durch Handelsbarrieren und strengere Zollbestimmungen der gewerbliche Arbeitssektor, der trotz lächerlichem Mindestlohn in den USA immer noch teurer war als in asiatischen Ländern, wieder wachsen würde?

Auf welche Zeit referierte dieses „Make America great again“? – Die 1980er Jahre von Reagan und Kaltem Krieg? Die 1950er Jahre der Kommunistenhatz und Rassentrennung? Auf eine Zeit, als der Mann das Brot verdiente und die Frauen in der Küche, die Schwarzen in den Ghettos und die Schwulen und Transsexuellen im Closet blieben? Als es mit der Sowjetunion und dem Ostblock noch einen einfach zu identifizierenden Feind gab? Leider ist das Leben im 21. Jahrhundert komplexer geworden.

Und daher scheint mir, dass dieser Wahlsieg auch eine direkte Folge eines anderen ist: George W. Bush in 2000. Dessen Gesetz „No Child Left Behind“ (Kein Kind zurücklassen) von 2002, dass Kinder in den Schulen einem ständigen Test-Zyklus unterwarf, der kaum noch Zeit zum Unterrichten ließ, hat nun die Wähler von 2016 hervorgebracht: kein kritisches Hinterfragen von Prozessen und Autoritäten, keine Kreativität mehr. Das Schulsystem bis hinauf in die Universitäten muss sich nun ständig rechtfertigen, was die Job-Relevanz von einzelnen Hauptfächern, ja sogar von bestimmten Kursen sei. Es ist auch diese eingleisige Business-Haltung, die Donald Trump Auftrieb gab. In einer Zeit von komplexen Unwägbarkeiten, beruhigt es, wenn einem einfache Lösungen versprochen werden. Folge dem Rezept und du wirst erfolgreich sein. Die öffentlichen Universitäten, die von der Finanzierung durch die Politik abhängig sind, werden derweil zu Kaderschmieden fürs mittlere Management degradiert.

Und wenn wir schon von Bildung sprechen: die Folgen einer Präsidentschaft, die Erderwärmung und Evolution als Quatsch abtut, sind auch international noch gar nicht abzusehen. Was sagt es über ein Volk, wenn es solche Männer(!) wählt? Die Herabwürdigung von Wissenschaft, von akademischer Bildung wird nur zu einer weiteren Verdummung der breiten Masse und des öffentlichen Diskurses führen. Die Eliten auf beiden Seiten des politischen Spektrums werden unterdes weiter teure Privatschulen und –universitäten besuchen, sich gegenseitig mit Geld und Jobs bestechen und die Macht fest im Griff behalten. Auch wenn Donald Trump dieses Mal die Stimmen der Weißen ohne Ausbildung (O-Ton Trump „I love the uneducated“ [I liebe die Ungebildeten]) mit dem Versprechen bekam, mit dem politischen Establishment in Washington gründlich aufzuräumen, das wird wohl kaum passieren.

Und hier sehe ich den Silberstreifen am Horizont: Die demokratischen Strukturen sind in diesem Land zum Glück so tief verwurzelt, dass es hoffentlich auch diese „amerikanische Tragödie“ (The New Yorker) überleben wird.

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October 24th, 2015

FLAVA 2015

Annual Conference of the Foreign Language Association of Virginia – September 24-26, 2015

The financial support of the Teaching Center allowed me to present at the annual state conference a workshop on how to organize a World Language Day. (WLD) After organizing this annual outreach event at UMW for the last seven years, I felt that we could expand our reach by inviting colleagues at other universities and high schools to organize such a day to foster the learning of foreign languages. The idea (backed by the board of FLAVA) is a network of regional competitions and a state championship in Richmond to follow. Colleagues from Old Dominion University, the University of Richmond, as well as Virginia Commonwealth University are interested in participating.

In addition to my presentation, I also presided over the annual chapter meeting of the AATG-Virginia and organized a swap workshop for teaching ideas in German. FLAVA is an annual treasure troth for me as I always learning from my colleagues as much as they do from me, especially in terms of contemporary music, and new Internet apps and websites.

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October 24th, 2015

What I did this summer…

Goethe Institut Summer School in Denver, Colorado – July 12-18, 2015

Thanks to the generous funding of the UMW Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, I was able to fully participate in the Goethe Institut Summer School in Denver, Colorado.

The Summer School brought together two  distinct groups of people from across the U.S.: 20 young German teachers with 3-5 years of teaching experiences to hone their language skills and learn about the integration of STEM topics into language teaching and eight seasoned German language instructors from the secondary and post-secondary level who prepared four two-hour workshops on STEM topics within the context of these themes:

  • Intercultural Learning
  • Use of Electronic Media
  • Modes of Communication
  • Assessment

Those workshops were, then, tried out with the younger colleagues as learners. They will be used in the future as training tools for German teachers in our respective geographic areas, in my case Virginia. I will offer those workshops at Immersion days of our professional organization, the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) as well as at the annual state-wide conference of the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA).

The preparation of the workshop proofed to be immensely useful, especially since I am planning for next semester a seminar on German in the Sciences to accommodate the growing number of double majors in German and the sciences.

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March 13th, 2013

How to use Evernote

Per request of my colleagues in the Domain of One’s Own cohort group, here is the link to today’s Lifehacker post on the use of Evernote.

http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing

 

 

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February 13th, 2013

“The Digital Scholar” – “The Open Scholar”

To be honest, Weller’s discussion of digital scholarship (chapter 4) leaves me conflicted. While I would definitely appreciate more open access to scholarship online, I am also worried about the abuse.

  1. Authorship – the now classic New Yorker cartoon (below) applies to academic authorship as well. Of course,the open access would make it also possible to improve on articles or other scholarly “products” (databases, collections, ..), the peer-review process would widen the scope of the input. Also, the “damn third reviewer” could now be multiplied by x. Especially for controversial research this could lead to endless discussions that, in the end, do not lead to an improvement. On the other hand, such an exchange would be beneficial. But when do you draw the line and say this article is the best it can be?

 

2. Copyright – I am waiting to see if the New Yorker will come after me for posting this cartoon on my blog. Working in the field of visual communication and having gone through the process of securing print permissions for images in research article and paying handsomely for them, I wonder if the current copyright laws would not be a hindrance to open scholarship. Further complicating the matter is the question what copyright laws apply. We have to keep in mind that the Internet is not an U.S.  enterprise. An example: I am trying to include in an article a German poster from the 1920s that I found on a published CD of a prominent German poster collection (German Historical Museum). The said collection had been expropriated by the Nazis in the 1930s from a Jewish collector and has been given back recently to his grandson who lives in Miami, FL. He puts those posters up for auction later this month. Which copyright law applies? Oh, and also, the artist who designed the poster has died less than 90 years ago (=cutoff to be considered in the public domain).

3. Plagiarism – Somewhat connected to the last point: will open scholarship also be open to more plagiarism by our students? In Germany, two government ministers had to step down within the last two years since it was detected that both had plagiarized significantly on their PhD theses. While plagiarism might be easier to be detected on the B.A. / B.S. level graduate students might not be immune to it either. One could argue that plagiarizing minds will always find a way to do it, would open scholarship make it even easier for them?

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February 13th, 2013

Some reflections on Weller’s “Digital Scholar” – Digital Natives

In chapter 2, Weller makes the argument that our students have changed and provides data on how much time today’s students read in comparison to play online and watch TV. He quotes Oblinger (2005) and Grunwald (2003) that found that students want from the Internet mostly “new information’ and “learn more or learn better.” I find that that conclusion a bit to superficial; it does not account for the use of the Internet as either Pull Medium (Hulu, Facebook) or Push Medium (creating of content). While anecdotal it is my impression that students attitudes towards the Internet is more of a hedonistic one. That seems to be confirmed by Oblinger’s finding that 74 per cent of teenagers use IM as a major communication tool as well as Brown (2009) and Rowlands (2008) that point to a lack of reading and research skills. Digital Natives as a whole seem to me still in their infant stage. In addition and as Weller points out himself in 2.7., we don’t really know “what or if people are learning.” While there are plenty of educational resources (see 2.10) available, an assessment of their success is difficult. Visitor hits alone are not sufficient evidence.

All those are, of course, no reasons NOT to explore the possibilities of online, connected learning (2.12).

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February 6th, 2013

Password trouble

I had password troubles earlier with the domain, but it’s all ironed out now. Then I came across this:

542368_505483789489853_2028516155_n

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February 6th, 2013

A new project – A Domain of One’s Own

Here is to a new beginning in blogging. After a number of years behind Blackboard and Canvas walls, my university’s Domain of One’s Own project triggers me to write down my thoughts on the process of getting my own web domain (www.marcelrotter.net) in a more public way.
The first challenge – choosing a domain name. What would be appropriate for a site that will eventually reflect my professional activities: full name?, nome de guerre? descriptive name? .com?.org? .net? I settled on my full name and the .net suffix as I hope to make this site part of my professional NETwork.
It speaks to the solidity of the project that we work in cohort of 5-6 and approach the creation of the domain with its different sites from a goal-oriented standpoint rooted in reading and group discussion.

The first reading is Martin Weller’s The Digital Scholar.

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May 23rd, 2008

This just in…

Weblog blogs

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May 15th, 2008

Freshman Seminar Workshop

I am sitting in a two-day workshop on freshman seminars (FSEM). Together with ca. 45 other colleagues, some of whom have taught or will teach a FSEM , we are discussing ways to design a successful FSEM. In our first sessions, we learn about the freshman and what they know, can do, and expect. Martha Bubis ist just talking about the technical skills of the freshman. One point that I see in my own work is the coexistence of deep pockets of knowledge and complete ignorance when it comes to technology. Or as I put ut yesterday at teh Faculty Academy

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