Student Evaluations

As we're approaching the end of Fall semester here at IU, I've pre-empted the dreaded student evaluations by asking my undergraduate students to anonymously file a one-page assessment on what they feel they are getting out of my Media Life (wideranging introduction to new media, culture & society) class.

After reading through their lucid comments, just wanted to share an interesting and paradoxical insight.

Just about every student makes the same remarks: they think the course is interesting and it seems to make them aware of the dominant role their media (esp. cell phones, iPods, internet-enabled computers) play in everyday life. Some also 'get' the next step: that understanding the way media structure and are structuring all aspects of everyday life in fact offers us a mirror on a changing global society in terms of its fragmented (think social isolation and disintegration of the nuclear family), networked (think glocalization), and convergent (think worldwide virtual as well as geographical migration) character.

While its gratifying to read many, if not most like the course and some even are kind enough to write that I am a "great teacher", its disconcerting and perhaps more telling that they also in great numbers write that my lectures are "depressing" and (especially) "boring."


Many feel I should show more videoclips (visual literacy, anyone?) and should make more effort to be interactive and participatory.

Ay, there's the rub: 'show and tell' in combination with the acknowledgement that the lived experiences of students are valid contributions to an undergraduate pedagogy.

Of course in a way the students are completely right. In fact, what I am teaching about a society that is becoming increasingly individualized, networked, fragmented and connected (all at the same time), the modernist notion of (as Henry Rollins says) sitting the f**k down and shutting the f**k up (stfd & stfu) in order to listen for 60-70 minutes to a Man in a Suit (or something like that) seems awkwardly ancient.

Of course I could restructure the entire course as a wiki, as a co-creative and largely visual environment. Yet I am not sure if that way young people will learn anything that they did not already know. Maybe all of this is about (getting out of one's) comfort zones. Ultimately it is good to know that you are "slightly boring" and "really helpful" at the same time.

You know, consistency is sooo 20th century.