Between the Sporting Lines

Happy New Year and third week in January! There’s already so much happening this year that I’ve not had a chance to share these slides from a talk I gave in December for a Foreign Services Institute panel on Sport in Western Europe.

Our panel was oriented around the challenges and experiences foreign service professionals might face as they enter their next assignments. I spoke with the group to recommend a set of questions that could be used to analyze the social and political circumstances of their environments – rather than an overview of any one aspect of sport or region in Western Europe.

I described my presentation as “talking a bit about the ways sport can be a lens to better understand the communities in which the students will be situated; that includes thinking about the origins and functions of sporting clubs (as it contrasts with U.S. sport models) — and how a keeping an ear to media coverage of sport can tell more about the readership than the sport/event itself. I suppose I’d call my remarks a series of critical questions the students can take forward and more rapidly relate to the context of their assignments.”

While I can’t be sure whether the group felt immediate resonance with my presentation, much like teaching a research methods or theory course, I do hope these questions will be triggered in interactions in the future – leading to better integration and understanding of host cultures.

What kinds of questions would you include in unpacking the meaning, impact, and role of sport if you found yourself in a new city or country? Please share your thoughts or relevant resources in the comments.

Active Audiences: SI Archives and Women in Science

Smithsonian Institution Archives audiences are actively solving mysteries surrounding Women in Science.

Over the last months, I have been privileged to learn first-hand the ways in which Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) is taking engagement with audiences to the next level.

By actively listening to quick-thinking audiences and continuing to expand articles about Women in Science on Wikipedia, SIA staff have been able to

  • identify previously unknown women in science and highlight arc-welding success,
  • learn more about women in research positions at the University of Chicago, and
  • bring attention to a record-setting pilot through the Wikipedia Did You Know? main page feature
Dora Dougherty Strother setting helicopter flight records
Dora Dougherty Strother setting helicopter flight records

Watch for more about #Groundbreakers – women who have made massive contributions to science and technology – every Wednesday through The Bigger Picture blog and connect with SIA on Facebook for more.

These are success stories from engagement and crowdsourcing and offer interesting take-aways for sustaining collaborative activities around cultural heritage collections.

Click through to read more in my post at The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives’ blog.

Quebec City & NASSS13


Just a glimpse at the cityscape in Quebec City…

More to follow on presenting, presiding, discussing, and developing new research ideas at the annual North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference #NASSS13 here in Quebec City.

So far, it’s been two days of dynamic conversations, aggregating interest in various topics, and making use of my very dusty French language skills.

If you’re interested in fans and fan behaviors, come join us in the final session of the conference, 2:45-4:15, in the Ste-Foy Suite; many angles of participation and much chat about football (soccer) fans.

I can’t wait to learn more – see you there!

Manifesting Active Learning

Last week, Dr. Jason Farman from the University of Maryland shared his “Manifesto for Active Learning” on ProfHacker and I offered a few additions.

As Assistant Professor of American Studies and Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park, Farman shared the ways in which he approaches teaching groups of students from diverse backgrounds – with an equally varied set of interests and goals.

Farman’s manifesto suggests learning should include

  • multi-modal experiences: lectures, discussion, online, IRL, visual, reading, and doing (!)
  • awareness of and making space for learning styles and personality types in the classroom
  • thinking holistically about the environments in which students live … OR the contexts that inform their opinions, behaviors, and integration of knowledge
  • and how they can flexibly apply what they’re learning in the classroom to everyday and work experiences
  • integrating and encouraging use of technology – in keeping with the ways students ALREADY engage with ideas and peers in digital spaces; welcoming unfolding discussions
  • acknowledging and celebrating effort and growth in perspective, rather than merely “grade” performances

Below are the pieces I would add to the manifesto, which I shared in the comments section. I believe active learning also includes:

  • allowing and working through conflict
  • tracking and assessing change and progression of thought, skills, and data analysis
  • integrating moments of vulnerability into learning

I wrote:

Excellent snapshot of the confluence of technology, communication, and learning styles in contemporary classrooms! My additions to the manifesto are conflict, iteration to assess change/learning, and vulnerability for an engaged learning experience.

My best courses* have featured a combination of lectures, discussions, and
tutorials/practicals – but individual classes in which I could flesh out, then moderate opposing perspectives (disagreements) have been most productive. Working through conflict allowed us to highlight some of the key points and cultural values we’ve attached to the topics; we can problematize these perspectives as a group, as well, meaning we can unpack them in detail. I also used mid-class flash debates or polling to allow students to hash out their views as they are integrating theory.

I often think of our classroom experiences as akin to ritual (we come together regularly, we perform certain tasks, we confront myths and beliefs, we emerge “changed”). We can couple that collective experience with the individual processes of change in perspectives that may occur over a term. Tracking particular perspectives offered moments of best engagement: one reason I love teaching introductory Anthropology and Sociology courses and seeing critical lenses calibrated in discussion! I’ve used documenting opinions early in a course and then re-evaluating them at the middle and end to see whether and where our thinking as a group and individuals has moved. Bringing a similar approach with more rapid intervals could actively demonstrate engagement with course
content and open opportunities to wider applications (i.e. capturing lessons from media discourse, history, sport, entertainment, etc), as well.

Finally, I’ve seen vulnerability (though hard to quantify!) impact planned lessons and the import of class experiences in many ways. The students willing to offer a “less than right” opinion or admit they may not have considered their perspective fully often triggered nuanced discussion. Vulnerability seems to offer chances to capture powerful learning moments and discover gaps in knowledge through discussion, often something I need to address as a teacher-researcher (and lifelong student!), and interrogate my own existing views. Thanks for sharing your manifesto!

*”best” based on regular attendance, student evaluations, and student performance

Do you have any experiences or opinions about active learning – either as a lecturer and teacher or as a student? Let me know in the comments or join in the discussion at ProfHacker – and get more “tips about teaching, technology, and productivity” while exploring the challenges of working in contemporary academic environments. Discover more of Farman’s work at his website – including his syllabi – or @farman on Twitter.

We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.

– Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (2013)