Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Ignorance is bliss" and "the unexamined life is not worth living;" was Thomas Gray or Socrates closer to the truth? I often ask students to reflect on and discuss quotes and the one from Socrates generally is favored more by them. I don't think Gray meant this exactly -- but I do wonder if being shallow or self-reflective leads to greater happiness. Not that I think "deep" people are necessarily less satisfied than others; the ignorant have their share of disappointments too.

I was thinking about this the other day (ironically as I was performing the rote task of cleaning the cat box). It isn't the only time I've turned the dilemma over in my mind, and this time it wasn't just to amuse myself while doing something unpleasant (though that would have been a good enough reason) but because I am engaged in a difficult and rewarding project -- creating a new syllabus for a class I am going to teach for the first time this summer.

I am going to attempt a blended learning class again, after what I consider to be a disaster with that type of delivery (in 2008). This time the class will be graduate, and I am going to use a combination of face-to-face on campus, web conferencing, and online.

To that end, I am likely going to buy a new laptop. I don't have a camera for video recording, and although I know I could get by with audio and text web conferencing, I want the option of video. It will also allow me to take the current laptop to Samsonville, because the desktop there is minimal (can risk a decent wired machine there with the chance of lightening strikes) and I hate packing up the laptop to schlep it back and forth.

I've also created a reader for the class, sort of like a course pack of journal articles, but instead of photocopies, this is a real book that will also be available as an e-book. I am so happy with the experiment that I will do the same with foundations and toleration in the future.

So aside from grading "papers" from this semester, this is what has been occupying me. I've had a productive break, and in spite of my prediction otherwise, feel pleased by my progress. The on campus meeting yesterday was interesting (for a task force about online teaching and learning that I am on), and I feel in fairly good shape for this semester. More "papers" to go, but I'll get there.

In other news, we got tickets for BNL at Tanglewood in July. (Really good tickets, in fact!) And, I am successfully managing to (re-)read The Winter of Our Discontent a little at a time, without letting it take over my life and crowd out all else. This is the third book I've been able to read this way, and I'm pleased.

I bought a recumbent bike, which will be delivered this week. (One more effort to combat my aversion to formal exercise.) Spring (not that it feels like it) and summer invitations are starting to arrive. Will have to be careful about not getting too booked up. Things are good!

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