Beware academic squirrels!

Gray squirrel by Cloud Insoo
Gray squirrel by Cloud Insoo

I have been exploring iTunes U ‘ and looking at the free academic podcasts. There are so many good things to listen to it is almost overwhelming! Still, I thought it worth encouraging people to visit The Digital Campus. This is a lively bi-weekly broadcast with three hosts: Dan Cohen, Mills Kelly and Tom Scheinfeldt, they are self confessed nerds and cover a broad range of topics with an academic focus. I was lucky finding The Digital Campus for my first academic podcast, the three presenters chat in an easy, natural way with each other (in England we would say they sound like ‘good blokes’).

I had half expected to hear just one voice that would drone on with that imploded nasal tone of someone who prefers to listen to themselves rather than communicating outwards to others. I once took a ITV class with a lecturer who taught from PowerPoints while beaming the class out to a number of external campus sites. We sat at a table shaped like a Christmas Tree (arranged to enable the camera to see each person) and the professor perched at the top like the Christmas fairy. The students looked like carved Egyptian tomb figures with all our heads turned fully left, or right, to look at the professor or the next PowerPoint. The professor would plug in their laptop and start to talk without seeming to pause for two hours. I remember when I finally dared to interrupt the flow to ask a question I felt like Oliver Twist asking for more. (Why do negative experiences linger so long in our minds? What is that about? Why does any educator want to have a touch of fear in their classroom?) Perhaps, if professors like this begin podcasting it would be a good thing? They might develop some self awareness and upgrade their delivery style? My thought is that lecturers interested in podcasting are probably interested in the world around them. Such individuals are willing to communicate with students, open to finding healthy ways to help their students learn. They are probably interesting teachers online or offline, podcasting or standing at a podium.

Closeup of Cloud Insoo's grey squirrel
Closeup of Cloud Insoo's gray squirrel

The Digital Campus descibes itself as ‘A biweekly discussion of how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums.’ and they have produced 30 podcasts so far. A good place to begin is with Episode 10 – Risky Business? Blogs on Campus, Part I and Part 2.

I was interested to hear that the hosts of The Digital Campus had ventured into Second Life briefly as squirrels and had left shortly afterwards underwhelmed by the experience. This begs the question whether dressing as a squirrel has a negative effect on your Second Life introduction? (There are new avatars available for first time visitors and the squirrel appears to have been sent into hibernation for the time being.) They also seemed to find it hard to get past the problematic sexual content of Second Life. (See earlier cyberloom post that touches on this topic: The view from inside the volcano.) I often wonder what makes some people stay in Second Life and what turns people away? Is it the squirrels? Is it the sex? Do they avoid the internet too for the same reason? (I know, there are fewer squirrels on the web, that helps.) I once gave an hour long talk about the educational aspects of Second Life (with dreaded PowerPoints) and at the end of the talk a lecturer came up to me and said ‘I wonder what you get up to in Second Life?’ I wish I had said I ran an escort agency for squirrels but I didn’t.

Gray squirrel by Cloud Insoo
Gray squirrel by Cloud Insoo

Note: These photos show small animated squirrels by Cloud Insoo, they can be seen in Second Life™ at Aeryglow Wildlife.

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