This is the section for the “content” of the course. But it’s also an opportunity for you to think about just what course content really is and what it should be. When you take a face-to-face class, where does the “material,” the “stuff,” the “content” come from? Some of it, maybe most of it, comes from texts that you read.

LecturerA lot of it comes in the form of lectures.  What is a lecture?  Parents lecture kids, usually before grounding them.  Bosses might lecture employees, although it’s not really the best management technique, most people would agree.  If you clicked the link on the word lecture, and saw the definition, you’ll see that it’s originally from the word for the act of reading.  A lecture was originally a reading for an audience–where one person is reading (reciting?) and the other person are sitting and listening.

Of course there are other kinds of lecture.  I’m a student and fan of oral performance art, particularly the art of the carnival talker–and I’ve got some experience with that kind of performance myself.  I’ve studied these “lectures” enough to know that no oral performance is really ever a unidirectional communication.  Even if that professor (or medicine show “lecturer”) is talking the whole time, there is still communication happening–not just from the audience to the performer, but among the audience members.  How does that happen online?

What are your lectures like in college?  Some of them may be just like the traditional model–a whole big classroom sitting and taking notes (maybe) while one person stands and talks.  Maybe he takes a few questions.  Maybe at the end.  That’s a kind of performance, and one kind of learning can happen there, but I have to wonder if it’s always the best.

Lots of learning goes on when people talk and think and write–and talk and think and write to each other.  Listening can be a way to learn, but it’s not the only way.

In this course, we don’t have the opportunity for the traditional kind of “lecture.”  I don’t have you all in front of me, I don’t have the option of making you sit and listen to me (but I remember how many lectures I sat in while I was a college student, and I remember how many I listened to.  Those two numbers–how many I sat in and how many I listened to–are not equal numbers.  We do have many opportunities for you to talk and think and write–especially to each other.  That’s the main heart of the course–what you say and understand for yourselves and to each other.

I do, though, still have things I want to say to you! So for want of a better term, these “Mini-Lectures” are where I will say those things to you.  And I do expect you to read what I say.  And to respond to them.  You can add comments to any of these mini-lectures (and guests can do that, too).  And you can refer to them and respond to them in your reflections and your forum posts (guests can not do that).