Introducing the Collective Anthro Mini Lectures Project for #COVIDcampus

Introducing the Collective Anthro Mini Lectures Project for #COVIDcampus

By Paige West and Zoë Wool

During the past few months colleges and universities all over the world have shifted our teaching online because of the COVID 19 Pandemic. While many in our community have taught extraordinary online courses for decades, both because of the needs of rural and remote communities and because of the increasing global neoliberalization of higher education, many of us have not.

As we scramble to put courses online for the first time ever in extremely short time periods (many of us were asked to have online courses up and running in less than two days once our employers announced the switch to online teaching) and at a time when we are worried for the health of our communities, our families, our friends, our students, our colleagues, and the millions of strangers who are facing this pandemic globally, we may need a little help.

Taking very seriously the clear and compelling calls to resist the fiction that we can become brilliant virtual teachers overnight and the cogently articulated worries that this pandemic and the rapid push for online instruction may have long term consequences for higher education given the many companies, state legislators, and administrators who have been pushing for pedagogy without faculty for decades now, we have created a platform for anthropologists (and those anthropology adjacent) to create and share 10-30 minute videos and accompanying texts and pedagogical resources (slides, film clips, lesson plans/assignments suitable for online submission) as a way to supplement, enliven, and collectivize the work we are all already doing to take our courses online.

we have created a platform for anthropologists (and those anthropology adjacent) to create and share 10-30 minute videos and accompanying texts and pedagogical resources (slides, film clips, lesson plans/assignments suitable for online submission) as a way to supplement, enliven, and collectivize the work we are all already doing to take our courses online.

Our platform is not meant to replace active engagement with students by faculty, nor is it meant to provide the same kind of pedagogical content and experience that out students receive in the classroom, or in online courses that have been developed with due time, resources, and training. We remain concerned that in the neoliberalized university, online teaching is rarely a good way to produce collective knowledge and reciprocal engagement. But for the sake of our students, we are following the dictates of our employers while trying to stay true to the spirit of relationality that many of us find more essential than ever in our work. There are lots of wonderful people creating similar sites of sharing and caring so we’ve kept our ask specific.

What should I do for my mini lecture?

These videos can be based on your research, your synthesis of other people’s research, your reading and analysis of key theoretical texts, your critiques of the discipline of anthropology, and just about anything else that you would use in your own classroom to teach about our field. We welcome any form of creativity that you can come up with and we welcome lectures pitched to different levels. For each video, while we know people will produce their own content, we ask the following:

  1. Please keep the videos between 10 and 30 minutes.
  2. At the beginning of the video, please say who you are and what you do. (“I’m Paige West and I’m a cultural and environmental anthropologist.”)
  3. At the beginning of the video, please tell the students what you are going to tell them about and why. (“This video focuses on the research that resulted in my first book, Conservation Is our Government now. It can help us understand the relationship between European ideas about nature and culture, the ideas about the world that people living in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea have about value, and the power dynamics that exist in international environmental conservation projects.”)
  4. At the beginning of the video, please tell the students what kinds of questions you were asking when you did the research or the analysis you are about to present and how you worked to answer those questions or conduct that analysis. This is a kind of ‘methodological’ component for the videos. We include this so that these videos can be used both for topical teaching and for more general introduction to anthropology courses.

For accessibility purposes, we’ll be trying to add transcripts of all videos as quickly as we can. Our plan is to hire work study students (who suddenly have no work) and students participating in the #COLA4all strike at the University of California.

How do I record my mini lecture?

  • You can use Zoom (platform of choice for #COVIDcampus) to record your mini lecture, which also allows you to include a slide show on the screen pretty easily. Here are some instructions.
  • Most recent model iphones and other smart phones will take good enough video and audio. You can place your phone on a shelf or rig up a make shift tripod, hit record, and you’re off to the races. Here are some tips about filming yourself.
  • If you would like to record a conversation with a collaborator, rather than a solo lecture, you can do that in Zoom (see above) or in Skype (instructions here)

Where do I upload my materials?

We have chosen the Open Education Resource Commons (OERCommons.org)as our platform. First, go to OERCommons and create an author account. Then email us at [email protected] with your name and the address with which you registered so we can add you as an author to the Anthropology Mini Lectures resource. Once that’s out of the way, here are the steps:

  1. Login to https://www.oercommons.org/ and navigate to the “Anthropology Mini Lectures” resource which you’ll find in the “My Items” section of your profile (the profile button is on the top right of the screen)
  2. Click the “edit” button.
  3. Scroll all the way down to the bottom and click the “Insert new section” button.
  4. Give your section the name of your lecture (keep it brief, simple, and informative).
  5. In the “Main Content” section, click on the “Insert Video” button and follow the prompts to upload your video (NB: the upload will take a while–please be patient! If the progress bar stalls or the upload really doesn’t work, follow the instructions in #6.)
  6. Add any additional files (PDFs, documents describing suggested digital assignments or exercises, slide shows, etc) by clicking on “Attach Additional Resources” and following the prompts. You can attach multiple files but must do so one at a time.
  7. Click SAVE (at the top of the screen). We will do our best to update the page with new resources at least once per day.

Finally, thank you. Many of our students are scared and feeling extremely alone. We believe that our classrooms, and the social worlds that they are capable of producing, may be a place of refuge for many of our students in the coming weeks and months. Before they left campus, we saw that a few times a week. We were part of what seemed like, with all the appropriate caveats in place here, a normal, daily, weekly, and monthly routine. We know that all students are different, and that many of them have obligations that take priority over their courses even at the best of times. So we are not assuming that we have any undue power over how okay or safe they feel in the world. However, for many of us, teaching gives us a sense of normalcy and creates both spaces of learning and spaces of collective being and stability. During this next few months, we all may need that.

Paige West is Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Colombia University and Director of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University. Paige’s broad scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. Since the mid 1990s she has worked with indigenous people in Papua New Guinea. She is the author of three books and the editor of five more and the founder of the journal Environment and Society. In addition to her academic work, Paige is the co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research, a small NGO dedicated to building academic opportunities for research in Papua New Guinea by Papua New Guineans and the co-founder of the Roviana Solwara Skul, a school in Papua New Guinea dedicated to teaching at the nexus of indigenous knowledge and western scientific knowledge.

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