Storia di Ásta

Since the beginning of this blog, I have written in English, with just a few excursions to Spanish, the language I speak every day. Until recently I did not feel the need of using my native Italia, until now. I … Continue reading

The cultivation of curiosity

Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity. –A. Flexner Abraham Flexner conceived and developed the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and was its founding director from 1930 to 1939. A unique place, that was able … Continue reading

#inf115 wrapping up the New Media COVID class

Wrapping up a nice semester split in two with a great groups of students. New Media (inf115) is a course of Sagrado, set up with a connected an open strategy, which borrows from the syndicated content model as well as from other social and connectivist learning approaches.

But I am not here to philosophize on theory, but on this particular semester’s practice. We got ourselves into this COVID mess and had literally to evacuate the University on one nice day of March. Just one tiny week after (to transition and learn Zoom) we (almost synchronously with thousand other institutions) did the now-famous pivot thing.

So we found ourselves online, zooming and lecturing at full speed. On Whatsapp my colleagues were sharing their successes and difficult moments. On Zoom my students (I had so many students, this semester, omg) and I ventilated in a very gentle and elegant way how we were feeling. Students did not understand their faculty’s shyness (and their own illiteracy) with technology and with remote methodology. All shifted to Zoom, and suddenly everybody was doing sync classes online, and recording them for the absent. And that provoked more anxiety in many cases and somehow a bit of cognitive overload.

I took a just and correct decision, namely to not translate our twice-a-week meetings into twice-a-week Zoom sessions, afraid as I was of losing my students before even pivoting. Instead we did a range of async activities coupled with some lectures (more like introductory lessons). We worked a lot online in the digital world, which we connected to the atomic one with crossing assignments. We did a podcast, personal curation that distilled onto group meta-curation (curation of the already curated if you will). We were lucky since our course lent itself very well to the digital spin others were forced to take with little prep.

Students enjoyed the time of discovery and production of GIF’s, Instagrams and memes. They participated massively into the “Una foto cada día”, the daily photo challenge prepared by Alan Levine (one of his famous SPLOTs). They did quite some storytelling throughout all the course, and finished with a nice work with Google Arts & Culture, when they assembled a story told with works of art from collections throughout the world. They also created a website each to host and share their creations. I think that most of them can actually use their personal website as a portfolio beyond the class. Their websites can be accessed from the sidebar of inf115.com.

In the end, I believe students finished off with a good idea of the Web creative and publishing affordances and mastering its expressive language.

Let’s begin with a couple of such galleries as mounted by this semester’s students. This is a Nature-inspired Gooogle gallery — by Andrea.

And this one was by Penélope on Urban Art.

A poster elaboration of the quarantine meme, by Angelo Parks made us laugh with some romanticism.

While this next, done by Marieliz, made everyone feel… well, avenged!

Last, two Spotify playlists, born out of a master playlist begun by yours truly and finished off by students (here…). Students in the end decided to curate two smaller and better focused playlist. The first is a varied (language, music styles, etc) list from many paths of music. Play it along!!

The second is made of  only Puerto Rican musicians.

It’s the economy

Newspaper and café

The long pronounced mantra of current economies is that to survive in the disruptive digital world, one would need to

  1. Lower the number of workers
  2. Increase the content they produce.

Or, maximize per-worker productivity.

Which has a few corollaries: cut costs & cut number of workers (layover). By so doing, however, workers’ conditions and quality of life worsen, perhaps the quality of their work decreases, and so does their end productivity, inevitably.

It seems to me such discourse has been applied also to higher education (at least in North America), with bad results. The number of colleges and faculty (especially tenured faculty) shrunk; tasks and load increased; and the number of different and new courses/programs often increased.

However, it seems this trend is perhaps being questioned with good results. For instance, in the newspaper industry, things have gone more or less as described above, in a trial-and-error strategy that ended up shutting down many smaller venues and linked ever more news outlets to publicity income, thus kneeling effectively to Google and Facebook’s power. Oh, and paywalls.

Not so with Le Monde, one of France most important newspapers. Says its director:

Effectively, in two years, Le Monde has cut down not the number of journalists, but the number of articles published. Instead, it has increased the number of journalists and likely enhanced the articles they write (thus showing that they believe in journalists–the people, not the bots). Probably (Monsieur Bronner does not say in his tweet), it has even bettered journalists working conditions, who knows, more advanced equipment, more and better typewriters?

Interestingly, the move has produced an increase in the newspaper’s diffusion and number of Web readers.

I wonder, would such moves be practical and useful in other domains, including education? I bet they sure would. The rhetoric of always diminishing human resources (or their time or their space, or both) because it’s supposedly the only way to combat the digital disruption (the economy must always increase–why?) must not necessarily be. In the case of Le Monde, I just wonder whether they’re employing more full-time or part-time people. But I think I know the answer.

[Featured image: “Periódicos” by Gonmi is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Brexit: A Melancholic Goodbye

I was 17 and for the first time out of my own city and country. I was in London, summer 1976. I do remember Trafalgar and Soho from that stay. A month-long stay that my parents had planned to have me practice and better my English. Mind you, I didn’t practice much English. Public toilets in central London had signs in Italian. The waiters at the restaurant where I worked for two weeks–just in front of Harrod’s–spoke Spanish or other tongues but English.

I was most proud that I could move and work liberally and easily in London as I pleased, without my asking permission to anybody. That was the time when I began understanding the beauty of some kind of Union among countries. So, goodbye, UK. It is sad.

I enjoyed Scotland immensely when I visited many years later, and I still have may places to go in my bucket list: I’d love going to the Shetland islands, for instance, and going back to enjoy some distillery in the Highlands, now that I like Whisky.

The Guardian published a moving “Goodbye message” in 27 languages. Ain’t it great to have 27 tongues to mess with?

Italian film director Francesca Archibugi says:

My first reaction was like, ok, people, you wanted this. Now live with it! But my initial childish reaction (fully similar to the rage I had when the current president of the US was elected–and the same one, now he is being acquitted from impeachment) has evolved into some acceptance and the conscience that perhaps we were never that much together in Europe. Sure, political manipulation apart (the same unnamed president is responsible up to some extent of this Brexit), the EU will be weaker, and with it the dream of a federal union of states. Who knows, that dream every year seems farther away. But ok, perhaps #rejoinEU will be possible. Or having Scotland back as an independent state. I’d love it.

The New York Times published that Brexit is like some US State, say Texas, left the Union. Well, no. It’s actually very different. For a US State leaving the Union would in fact be quite more dramatic, give that the US is a federal republic; while the EU is not, and every member state is just that, a member with huge sovereignty.

Anyhow, I can’t but add that I do love the Isles, starting from their languages, cultures and yes, Fleabag.

[Featured image: Screenshot from The Guardian.