The Beginning of a (Cours)era

I’m signed up for the “Intro to Sociology” course being taught by Mitchell Duneier at Princeton via Coursera. This course, one of many free, open-to-the-public ones offered through the platform, will consist of one “lecture” per week (via video) and one seminar discussion per week, where a few people from the online community will be included in a seminar discussion along with Princeton students (via Google+). Duneier invited members of the online community to apply for slots in the Google+ seminar discussion, and I activated toward that opportunity the way some people do towards a chance to be on Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. I have no clue how many people have signed up for the course so far. What I know (from Dunenier in an email) is that “This is quite a diverse sociology class: your fellow classmates bring together a wealth of experience from around the globe!”

I learned about Coursera a few weeks ago from an article in the NYTimes by Thomas Friedman. I had not even finished the article before I’d followed the Coursera link and signed up for three courses: “Intro to Sociology” with Duneier (June), “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World” (July) with Eric Rabkin from University of Michigan, and “Greek and Roman Mythology” with Peter Struck of University of Pennsylvania (September).  My goal is to be stimulated intellectually and to have fun.  I’m totally intrigued by the blended/online education movement happening, especially with the elite institutions in America. Blended Education has been happening for a long time at places like Houston Community College and San Jacinto College.  The entrance of elite colleges onto the playing field is new and fairly subversive. It used to be that you had to pay thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in tuition to have access to the faculty members of these elite schools. Now they’re offering their expertise to the masses for free. How will it work? I aim to find out by participating.

In preparation for the course, Duneier sent us two articles to read: “The Sociological Imagination” by C. Wright Mills (1959) and “Getting In: The Social Logic of Ivy League Admissions” by Malcolm Gladfly — I mean, Gladwell (2005).  On Saturday, I spent about three hours reading and annotating these texts, fourteen pages total. My kids were listening to Harry Potter in their bedroom; my husband was snoozing in an afternoon nap; and I was on the couch luxuriating in annotating my assigned texts!

There are few things that I find more absorbing than annotating a text. Yesterday on the plane ride back from an educator’s conference in Atlanta, I was reading a book by a Dutch Catholic priest, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, by Henri Nouwen, and my colleague (also an English teacher) seated next to me noticed what I was doing and asked, “Do you annotate everything you read?” I answered without hesitating, “Yes. Yes I do.”

Just this morning I was reading and annotating a pamphlet I’d recently picked up at a neighborhood association meeting. I annotate newspaper and magazine articles. I annotate direct mail from people running for public office. I annotate novels that I read for pleasure, New Yorker short stories, daily horoscopes. If the text I happen to be reading appears online and it’s provocative enough, I will print it out and cut it up to fit the pages of my journal so that I can annotate it with pen or pencil.

I’ll be blogging about my experience with my “Intro to Sociology” experience here. Check back for updates and more pics of my insane annotations and evidence of my graphomania.

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2 thoughts on “The Beginning of a (Cours)era

  1. “luxuriating in annotating my assigned texts!”
    Do not let your students see this blog. This will confirm to them that you belong on the big screen in MIB headquarters. ;^)

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