Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Schau mal! Google Releases Streetviews of Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland

While reading one of my favorite technology blogs this morning (gizmodo), I learned that Google shrunk down one of its Streetview cars and drove it through the detailed dioramas of the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg. This is all the more exciting for me because, when I last visited Hamburg on a Tennessee Tech study abroad trip led by a colleague, I did not have time to view the Miniatur Wunderland, which I didn't mind because the price of admission seemed high at the time.

One of my best students GERM 1010 is a model train/landscape enthusiast and I am sure he will find this interesting. He's also planning on traveling to Germany this spring break through Tennessee Tech, but the trip won't take him to Hamburg this time. Schade!

I wonder if I can manage to integrate this into my German language classes somehow. The spectacle of Oktoberfest might be useful in the classroom.

Check out all the Streetviews here

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

CFP: Special Issue of JLCDS, ‘Drama, Theatrical Performance, and Disability’

I'm currently finalizing my abstract for a special issue of The Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies focused solely on Drama and Disability. Back in September, I came across this CFP by chance, and I'm glad that I did. Its goals are aligned with my current book project on disability in German dramatic comedy, though my proposal explores a more canonical drama of the 20th century (more details later after I submit my materials). 

I am curious to see what others are researching in the field, even though the issue won't be published until after Feb 2017. 
Is anybody thinking of submitting a proposal? There's still time!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

German Media and the Refugee Crisis

Bild cover, Aug. 29, 2015
Courtesy Bild

Recently, I helped an honors program student in my upcoming GERM 2020 course design an independent research project. Since he will be studying at the University of Aachen next academic year  and since he hopes to join the foreign service later, I suggested he develop a project on the Syrian refugee crisis, its global context, and the role that the city of Aachen is playing as it develops. He will contact (and hopefully volunteer at) a refugee shelter in Aachen, but while he is gathering background information about the social, political, and cultural impact of the crisis, I'll be sure to share this article with him:  

Unfortunately the article is not in German, but it does explore how the cultural institution (for better or worse) that is Germany's Bild newspaper is shifting with popular opinion.

Any other suggestions for where my student should start with this project?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

STEM Teaching MOOC complete, Achievement unlocked

I might have to print this out and hang it in my office. 

I just received an electronic certificate of accomplishment for completing "An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching". It was a great experience on a number of different levels:

First, I wanted to investigate the learner experience and the pedagogic structure of a MOOC. I will be teaching an online version of my general education course (GERM 2520 German Culture and Civilization) this coming spring, so this course offered many insights into both sides of the online delivery model.

Second, I saw this course as a great opportunity to learn more about instructional methods in the STEM fields. Having left science, math, and engineering behind so long ago, I was curious to see how STEM educators today prepare their students for the real-world application of course content. Unfortunately, most of my STEM colleagues I told about the course here at Tech were not able to complete it along with me, so we did not get to discuss methods or to collaboratively create learner experiences. Nevertheless, my colleagues (Chem Engineering, Geology, and Physics) and I did find time to have an hour-long discussion about the most valuable parts of the course which might have inspired them to take this course the next time it is offered.

Third, I wanted to insure that my instructional methods still reflect the best practices across the disciplines. I am constantly on the lookout for professional development opportunities like this, especially since we haven't had a teaching workshop here at Tech for a while now. Years ago, a course design workshop at the University of Virginia inspired me to adapt Eric Mazur's ConcepTest model to my humanities classroom, and I continue to find ways to integrate similar tools into my classroom. The ConcepTest model remains invaluable to me as a formative assessment and peer instruction tool, and it was vital to my flipped classroom (GERM 1010) this past semester  Once I receive my course evaluations, I will be able to share some of my methods and results. Look for that in a future post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Happy Ghosts of Seminars Past

Student-designed promotional flyer for our production of Woyzeck (Spring, 2010, University of Virginia's Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures). I remember how matter-of-fact the students were in justifying their gestures in this image. By the end of the semester (when this picture was taken), they and all the other student actors knew their characters so well. 
While freeing up space on an old USB drive this morning, I found this artifact from my years as a lecturer at the University of Virginia. In this upper-level course, we analyzed and then produced one great staging of B├╝chner's Woyzeck. The one post-dramatic choice that all the students felt comfortable with was beginning and ending the performance with the same scene, ("ein guter Mord, ein echter Mord").

As our performances made clear, so many students made such large strides in this course. I can't tell you how many times initially timid students tell me in their final reflective essay that they wish they had tried out for a larger part. The experience gave them so much more confidence in their German, as a similar experience at the University of South Carolina had for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Culture in the Classroom: Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert

Whenever it is rains heavily in Cookeville, every student tends to drive, which means that parking is even harder to find for everyone. Given that I knew today's torrential rain meant many late students, I decided to use this situational factor to their benefit. 

My 1010 students and I visually interpreted Heinrich Hoffmann's "Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert." Discussing weather was key to chapter 1 of Treffpunkt:Deutsch, so the first phase of our discussion was a great review of those previous communication goals. After we described how the first image constructs the idea of bad weather, I asked "Soll das Kind im Regen spielen? Warum oder warum nicht?". This engaged questions of recommendation/suggestion, which we've been trying to apply in class and differentiate from other modal constructions. I find that students tend to understand that they should use "sollen" to communicate recommendations/suggestions, but they rarely do this without direct prompting. Luckily the next two images in Robert's story demonstrate why he shouldn't play in the rain. 

 Actually, in the future and in more advanced classes, I could foresee using the stories out of "Struwwelpeter" to teach modal constructions. Given that the text and images are on wikimedia, this should be simple to integrate into a future textbook. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Butler University - German Language, Literature, and Culture: Getting Started

Over the weekend, while looking up a former colleague from my graduate student days at the University of Virginia, I stumbled upon this page of links (and even media), curated by subject librarian Franny Gaede. I found her collection to be such an excellent resource for students of German language, literature, and culture at all levels that I tweeted her out of the blue. Someone finally did all the hard work and collected (and organized) the best resources on the web. And today, I told my students about the site. Brava!