Paul L. Caron

Thursday, October 7, 2021

I Hate Recording Class, But I’m Doing It From Now On

Amy Bruckman (Georgia Tech), I Hate Recording Class, But I’m Doing It From Now On:

Have you ever sent this email?

I’m sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. We’ll mark you as present. Please get notes from a classmate. Hope you feel better soon!

I must have sent it hundreds of times over 24 years of teaching. But I think that approach is over. As a side effect of the pandemic, I’ve learned how to stream/record my lectures, and I plan to do it for the rest of my teaching career.

I hate streaming/recording lectures. The tech distracts me from focusing on the students in the room. And it worries me. I worry about saying something wrong, and having it thrown back at me later. If I make a mistake while teaching I always try to correct it, but being memorialized on video makes a mistake feel worse. I worry about being quoted out of context by someone deliberately trying to make me look bad. I worry about how I look.

I worry about being critical of work I’m teaching and having that get back to the work’s author. If I say in class, “Your textbook doesn’t do a good job of explaining issue X, so I want to clarify…” will that then get back to the textbook author, who is a friend at another university? If I’m in a graduate class and critique a research paper, does that get back to the researcher? I’m always careful about what I say, and work to be as politically neutral in class as possible. But I teach controversial subject matter like race and technology, and recording those discussions is scary. ...

With all that said, why am I planning to record my lectures from now on? The answer is: germs and incentives. I know that as a student if I had a scratchy throat (“Am I about to get sick? I’m not sure”) I would often still go to class. Getting notes from a classmate is just not the same as hearing the lecture yourself. We are incentivizing students to tough it out and come — and spread germs. We need to redesign our incentive system, permanently. Even if it’s nothing more than a mild cold, the right thing to do is to keep your germs to yourself. If we can make it easier for students to make that decision, we can keep us all healthier. I’m not talking about pandemic times — even when there is no unusual infectious disease spreading, we all still get colds and flu, and need to do a better job of not spreading them. ...

[A]fter 18+ months experience with recording class, saying “get notes from a classmate” seems pretty lame. I’m recording class from now on.

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