• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Friday Fragments

Twitter in a large lecture class, hope for society, comedians and more.

September 14, 2017
 
 

Someone on Twitter asked this week about the usefulness of Twitter among students in a large lecture class.

I was intrigued. We don’t have large lecture classes; we top out at 35, and even that is rare. There’s nothing here comparable to the 300 student intro lectures at Rutgers.  (That strikes me as a selling point for community colleges, but that’s another post.) All of which is to say, I’ve never seen it tried.

My guess is that some sort of group texting app would work better for classrooms, since they’re specific to a given group. Twitter is public, which means that comments made in one context will often be read, and reacted to, in another. Yes, Twitter has “lists,” so students could winnow down their feeds to a given class if they want, but what they put out there isn’t limited to the list.

That said, though, I’m guessing, and curious. Most students have the ability to access Twitter at this point, and I’m a fan of stuff that’s free. So I’ll ask my wise and worldly readers. Have you seen Twitter used well in a large lecture classroom?

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According to The Girl, who is wise in the way that 13 year olds are, the term “goth” has been replaced by the term “emo.”

Which immediately triggered thoughts of Emo the Muppet. Picture Elmo, but paler, and wearing lots of black.

When I did the Elmo voice and said “Emo feels misunderstood,” TG laughed as hard as I’ve seen her laugh in a long, long time. It did my heart good.

Naturally, I then had to google “muppet emo,” which led me to discover a Muppet emo band called...wait for it...Fragile Rock.  

As long as there are people out there who can create, and share, something as transcendently silly as Fragile Rock, I have hope for our culture.

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This piece on comedians and the ages at which their stage personae make sense struck me as especially relevant in the wake of Jerry Lewis’ death.  

I was of the generation that knew Lewis, if at all, as a shiny-haired host of a Labor Day telethon. When I got older, I saw some of his earlier stuff, and was shocked at the contrast.  In his younger days, he had a manic style that reminded this Gen X’er of an Ace Ventura-era Jim Carrey. His humor wasn’t mine, either in his early days or his later ones, but the contrast between 50’s Jerry and even 70’s Jerry was genuinely jarring. His humor only worked when he was a younger man; as an older man, it came off as pitiful. (The same could be said of Jim Carrey, come to think of it.) His only worthwhile acting work in my lifetime came when Martin Scorsese cast him basically to play himself, because Scorsese thought, correctly, that he’d make a fascinating grotesque.

Lewis and Miles Davis were born the same year -- 1926 -- and both took drug-addled five-year sabbaticals from show business in the late 70’s, both of which concluded with some of the worst work either one ever produced.  (The recent Don Cheadle movie about Davis focused on that period, which I considered a daring choice.)  Davis died much younger than Lewis, and nobody would have accused Davis of aging gracefully; by the end of his life, he kind of looked like a lizard.  But his persona made sense as he got older.  Even as his musical style evolved, and his fashion style, the “coolly distant” vibe still worked.  To this day, he’s the only musician I’ve seen (other than a conductor) turn his back to the audience in concert for longer than a spin.  I understood the reason, to some degree, but it was still a little surprising.

It’s hard to imagine a young Lewis trying to do the Martin-and-Lewis shtick with a young Davis. I suspect it would have ended violently.  Davis was a pretty good boxer in his time, and wasn’t known for suffering fools gladly. And neither man was a shrinking violet.

I’ve long been convinced that some personalities, and personas, make the most sense at particular ages. Bad boys may be charismatic when young, but they don’t age well. Nerds often improve with age, since they can’t remain quite as single-minded as life experiences accumulate.  Bodies have “set weights” that they want to be at given times; I can’t help but think that personalities have “set ages” at which they make the most sense.  Some of what looks like social awkwardness may be someone whose personality is out of sync.

I don’t know if there’s science on that, but I suspect some wise and worldly readers do...

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