Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Weeks 4 and 5 of MOOC: Gender Through Comics

Attrition rates for online courses are fairly high.  In the years I worked in distance education and eLearning, we always knew that external incentives were a huge reason anyone signed up for a masters program online and why they would complete the program.  We didn't keep in-house stats when I was working at UT or ASU, as many students blended their learning between on-campus and online, but I believe in our cohort of 15 students to begin a unique program we designed, we only lost 3 of the 15 or so who started.

Massive Open Online Courses have an estimated retention rate of about 10%.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either a problem or it is nothing to worry about.  What's interesting is hearing the various excuses and pointing of fingers I've seen lobbed in my personal experience over the years - from "it doesn't matter that the students leave in droves, they came in to get what they needed and left" to "if the faculty can't hold the students' attention, that's really saying something about the faculty".

What nobody is apparently willing to say is that maybe we already have ample evidence that this isn't working as originally intended.  Moving the posts in the first quarter of the game turns it into Arena Football, it doesn't improve the NFL.

Look, if you have a TV show and if by week 10, you've lost 80 - 90% of your audience, your show is getting canceled. It doesn't really matter how great of a debut you had.  If your whole network loses 80-90% of every program it runs, everyone is getting fired and you're shutting down.  If you had a play, and by the time you closed the final curtain your formerly sold out house was left with 10% of the attendees wanly applauding, you'd figure maybe the place was on fire and nobody had told the cast and crew.

I find the idea that students are dipping into classes, getting what they need, and then exiting a naive and groundless assumption and, frankly, the sort of useless hand-waving that folks in higher ed are good at.  I suspect they know better, but it's something to say until they put together some actual data on what's happening.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Course Update: Week 2 of Gender Through Comics Books

Update on 09/30/2021 - It's been 8 years since this post, and I do not know why it's getting traction now.  For some reason, this post is getting a lot of hits all of a sudden. 

I will say the following - in re-reading my comments I made at the time, I don't necessarily agree with these points exactly the same way now as I saw the issues then.  I think I'm now much more able to just let a question hang, or a problem exist without a specific answer.  Sometimes the challenge is the thing.  I don't think I demand a different model now the way I did then, and am able to better just handle an open question.

Maybe it's growth or my eyes being slightly more open, or I'm older and have had the past 8 years to ponder these same questions a whole lot more as the world has allowed more voices.  

Academia and criticism are hard.  There's a reason not everyone gets to do it.  And the topics in the class were challenging in a very positive way.  I believe internalizing some of this course was very good for me, indeed.  The methods and whatnot are up for discussion or critique, and they should be.  But just know that it was a good experience and I'm glad I was asked to review my own thinking in many ways by the course.

Original Post:

With the navigation issues resolved, Week 2 of the course Gender Through Comic Books, was a lot easier to deal with (the navigation is still awful, but at least I've basically sorted it out).   Of the promised 3-5 hours, I probably spent 3-4 hours, including an hour of guest lecture by comics maestro Mark Waid.  I did bypass a lot of the reading as I've read Superman: Birthright numerous times in the past, and was able to focus mostly on course materials - so that saved a good hour.

As has often been my experience with a lot of course reading in theory classes, the full articles are going to start feeling repetitive.  We've been presented the premise, and everything else is going to be supporting evidence - and this is why I was not a good student as an undergrad or, especially, during my glorious short, flamed-out career of not finishing grad school.

In this course, the basic concept is that "sex" is a biological designation and "gender" is a construct of personal and cultural choices.  I believe this makes sense in context, and  the readings made the concept pretty clear in Week 1.  In Week 2, the one article we were asked to check out gave some more evidence.  That's cool.  But by the time we get to Week 3...

This week was a mix of reading Superman and putting some coin in Mark Waid's pocket by selling a lot of copies of Superman: Birthright.  The task was to consider the construction of gender as it's played out less by instinct and more as part of a perception of roles of male, female and otherwise and how that's demonstrated by reading Birthright as well as Action Comics #1, an issue of Superman from 1960, and consider the ways gender is portrayed across 75 years.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So, That Online Course I'm Taking - Gender Through Comic Books

Just as an FYI - I intentionally wrote my piece on portrayals in women in comics earlier this week before getting into the reading for the course I'm taking.

The course is:  Gender Through Comics Books at and originating at Ball State.

Anyway, I work in higher education, currently in libraries, but from 1997-2006 I worked in Distance Education at large public research universities, UT Austin and Arizona State University.  From 2007-2008, I worked at a smaller eLearning company here in Austin that developed mostly corporate training materials with the occasional foray into creating materials for educators.

When I left university distance learning, it wasn't because I was tired of the field.  I thought eLearning was in its toddler-hood, but we were taking a leap to return from Arizona to Austin, and there weren't/ aren't that many positions out there for this, even with my sterling credentials.  Working in a media shop developing stuff for corporations was a great experience in many ways, and I learned a tremendous amount I doubt I would have gained at The Academy (as we like to say when we're wearing tweed and drinking hot tea from small cups).

Back in 1999 or so, I remember watching a clip from 60 Minutes on The Future of Education.  At the time, University of Phoenix was a rising star and talking heads were proclaiming that UofP had cracked the code.  In a few years we'd all be taking our courses through them, and there was no point in resisting progress.  They predicted (and were clearly relishing the term way, way too much) the concept of "rock star faculty", folks who would be THE faculty voice for a generation talking about America History 101, etc...  Nobody was sure how it would work, but they were certain it was just around the corner.  

It didn't happen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

No Post Thursday - what I've been doing (class, books, end of the yearly cycle)

This evening I went to the gym, watched an episode of Mad Men Season 5, did some pre-ordering of comics, and got pretty far along with the first unit of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I've started through Canvas.

When I get through the first week, I'll post some personal and professional observations as someone who (a) has read comics for a long, long time - including a good chunk of the assigned reading, (b) who actually does care about gender representations in media - but maybe not in a particularly prescribed way, and (c) who worked in distance education for a decade before moving on to digital libraries.  As bonus featurea (d) I already went through five years of undergraduate education in narrative media studies, and (d) I sort of have my opinions regarding scholarly writing when it comes to social criticism, so...  it's turning out to be an interesting experience already.

It's going to be a long post, and only, likely, I will care about it, so...  look for THAT.

Speaking of gender in comics and pop-culture, yesterdays post on why it's okay for Power Girl to have a "boob window" got a fair number of hits.  By that, I mean, we were around 95 last I checked, which is, like, HUGE for this site.  I never know what's going to get traffic.  I fully expected upwards of 18 clicks.

I am making a commitment to just admit I am going to just read all the Richard Stark novels and nothing else that is not a comic until I finish the Parker and Grofield series.  And then I have, literally, ten books to get through.

  • I'm about a quarter way through the Larry Tye Superman book Nathan gave me, so that might get read while I work through the Stark novels.
  • Dark City Dames by Eddie Muller - a book with bios of a handful of noir sirens, including sections on Audrey Totter and Marie Windsor
  • Altered Carbon - as recommended by Steven
  • the next three Barsoom novels starting with Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  • Doc Savage, Man of Bronze - personally recommended by no less than Chris Roberson
  • The Big Screen  - a non-fiction book on the history of cinema
  • The Killer Inside Me and After Dark, My Sweet, that I've been putting off for, literally, almost twenty years
  • the new Glenn Wheldon Superman book  
  • a Dashiell Hammett collection

As I said on the Facebooks today, I need more time to read.

So, no recommendations for a bit.  My plate is full.

Jamie's birthday is passed, and mine is next Friday, so if you're around and want a cocktail, email me.  We may be doing something about drinks on the 13th.

We have a yearly cycle that starts at Halloween and ends with my birthday.  Really, from Halloween, it's something every few weeks, including Valentine's Day, then March - the months of birthdays, etc...  And, of course, Easter and Mother's Day take us into May.  At this point I'm used to it, but it does seem like it compresses time into the various observances.  Summer has become my holiday from holidays, except for July 4th, which includes explosions and hamburgers and is thus becoming one of my favorite holidays.

My folks are headed back to Kenya for missionary work/ putting eyeglasses on Kenyans.  Always proud of them in their volunteer efforts.

Mad Men Season 6 starts Sunday night, so, leave a brother alone while he does his thing.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lo Content Mode for a Few Days

Today I go to the airport and pick up a candidate for the open position of: my boss.

From Thursday afternoon until Saturday evening, I'm kind of responsible for this person.  Tomorrow I pick them up and take them to the hotel.  Then it's dinner with the Search Committee.  All day on Friday it's interviews.  Saturday, I'm "showing them Austin" with the intention of selling them on Austin.  Hoo-boy.  

I hope they like comic shops and record stores, 'cause that's what they're gonna see.

It's a weird task to be given, but we do things old skool and with the prissy formality of a Dowager Countess in Higher Ed, and especially in libraries.  Thus, I establish who I am to this person by acting as their footman for three days.  

Really, I kind of consider it to be a test of the person's street smarts to make it to the hotel on day 1, but that's just me.

The proximity to the boss and this much time with a person who doesn't know me is, I would think, a whole lotta me.  And I can barely stand being with me for more than a couple of hours, so I can only imagine how this is gonna go for this poor person.  Also, I use a lot of swears when I drive, so the idea of driving this person around all Saturday is sort of chilling.

Anyway, I kind of have to go to ground for a bit.  Y'all take care.  I'll be around as I'm able.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Everyone relax. I'm back. Til Tomorrow.

I'm back from Baltimore.

You know, for a town that I think of as being pretty sketchy, I walked around last night in the touristy area after 10:00 PM, and it was actually really nice.  Found an area with a strip of local bars and went in with some A-level beer snobs to try some locals.  Discovered there's something called "sour beer".  As I asked them:  How is it I've lived on this Earth for 37 years and nobody ever mentioned sour beer to me before?

I didn't love it, it was fine, but... seriously, I feel let down by humanity.

The meeting was interesting, but I wouldn't describe it as "fun".  Dinner and then the bar was all right, but maybe less the governance talks regarding a semi-formal open source organization.  Still, I felt like I learned a lot, and that's always a good thing.

Tomorrow I pack it up and head to Spring, TX for roughly 24 hours of seeing former high school classmates at the conspicuously-named-but-no-turns-out-there's-no innuendo-there-after-all, "Bareback Bar".

Ah, Spring, Texas.  You never stop giving who you are, and I wouldn't want it otherwise.

Monday, March 11, 2013


No, I've never watched The Wire and your references will be lost on me.*  Yes, I'll get to it.

I am headed for Baltimore from Tuesday til Thursday.  I haven't been there since a day trip from DC when I was a kid where I saw an 18th Century Man-o-War and the rest of my family got lost in the projects looking for Edgar Allen Poe's house.

In honor of the trip, here's a cut from the super-depressing Lyle Lovett album, Joshua Judges Ruth

I'm going for work, not pleasure.  But I hope to have fun working, which, you know, weirder things have happened.

*The only characters' names I know from The Wire are Omar and Bubbles and I know what happens to Omar because the internet is full of people who hate narrative payoff, I guess.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Aggieland

I'm in College Station, Texas until Friday night.  Before this gig, I had only been to College Station once before.  A family friend was a jeweler here, and this is where we got our wedding rings.  I'd driven through a lot during college while headed elsewhere, but with my UT sticker in the window of my car, I didn't want to linger too long in the gravity well of Texas A&M.

College Station is a Texas version of places like Happy Valley that exist mostly because there is a University there.  Otherwise they'd be small towns with a red light or two and maybe one cranky dog watching traffic go by like all the rest of the small towns you pass en route to College Station.

I'm here for a small, regional conference, and it seems like it should be fun.  This group doesn't do much socializing after hours, so it'll be back to hotel and work tomorrow night.  I'm always a fan of the post conference bar meet up, but I don't think that's in the cards if the last conference is any indication.

This hotel should be a nice place, an extended stay hotel with a small kitchen, about 50 square feet bigger than my efficiency in college, but without the charm I'd added to the place.  But, it's been noisy, and I can hear the upstairs folks walking around.  Not something I'm used to in a hotel, and it reminds me why I gave up on apartment living.

Anyway, I'm pretty busy, straight through the weekend, so I don't know what blogging I'll be up to.

I've been posting a lot, so, you know, go back and enjoy the previous posts you might have missed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Worlds Collide: The Online Comic Book Course

For a long, long time, what I did for a living was "distance learning" which came to be called "eLearning".  Or, likely, now, "learning".

In 1997 I took a job as a camera operator and switch-room operator for a distance learning outfit in the College of Engineering at the University of Texas getting paid what seemed a king's ransom of something like $5.75 an hour.  At the time I was a Radio-Television-Film student looking for work that related to my dreams of working in movie or TV production,* and handling a camera - no matter how out of date - and working with audio and switching equipment - no matter how lo-fi - was a welcome change of pace from the hours behind the counter at Camelot Records selling copies of Blink 182 to perfectly nice people.

Somehow, upon graduation, I became the guy running the studio (they offered me insurance).  Mostly, back then, we were making duplicates of tapes of classes and mailing them (I KNOW), or hooking up with remote location via ISDN lines, satellite, or using some really, really early days video streaming that its best not to talk about.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

So, "The Internship" is coming out - How was I involved?

This Vince Vaughn/ Owen Wilson comedy was filming last summer. I happened to be in the building where they were filming, but it wasn't at Google in the Bay Area. The scenes on the steps there? That's a sort of union-like building at Georgia Tech.

I was scheduled to give a presentation after lunch, and I was delayed thanks to the scene you see in the trailer with Aasif Mandvi talking about how lucky they are to be interning at Google.

It was weird.  You kind of forget that when they're filming a comedy, the scene is funny to the audience but not to the characters, so Mandvi was improvising and trying different things, but to a room full of stone faced people in beanies.

The director, meanwhile, was laughing behind the camera, but nobody on the crew looked even mildly amused.  So, do with that what you will.

I know this, because I got trapped watching the filming when I was coming back from the men's room and trying to re-enter the room where I was presenting.

I think we were supposed to sign an NDA about this, but I didn't sign jack.

If that 0.5 seconds film you see has a little extra juice, that's The League you sense there.

By the way, everything about this movie makes me feel incredibly old.

Also, Vince Vaughn is about my height, which was surprising.  But he's in much better shape, which was less surprising.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thing not to do:

leave for a three day road trip when you wake up before your flight thinking "I might have a cold.  Oh, well, how bad could it get?"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rocky Mountain Hi!

I'm in Denver from tomorrow afternoon until Monday afternoon for work. Attending and participating in a conference.

I've never been to The Mile High City, but I certainly hope to join this club they have that I keep hearing is pretty great. Everything I know about Denver can be summed up this way:

That Elway Fellow is like Football Elvis

My buddy Matt hails from Denver

It seems to be home to the grossest family of beers I can think of

This dude is really named "Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr." and went to Texas Tech University

I won't actually learn anything else about Denver as I foresee a lot of the Westin convention center, cab rides, air ports and airplanes in my future.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Honest Truth About Why No Post and Mondo Gallery

I've already pre-loaded a number of October posts, and you'll get those for several days.

Sadly, now is one of those times that I'm terribly busy at work, and things like AWS going down don't make my job any easier.  Especially when I'm flying to Denver in a week and a half to talk about why my organization uses AWS.

So, the bottom line is that I've been super busy.  I worked Sunday night and I worked tonight when I got home.  I'll be taking tomorrow night off, but then I'll be working again on Thursday, and then on Saturday and Sunday.  Because: deadlines.

In the meantime, I'll try to provide some content, but I'm pretty busy, y'all, so bear with me for a couple of weeks.

I did make a trip during my lunch hour today to the Mondo Gallery in Austin.  They're doing a show on the theme of Universal Horror Movies, focusing on Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Creature from The Black Lagoon and Phantom of the Opera.  As you may know, it is Universal Studio's 100th Anniversary, and, historically, their most enduring franchise includes those creature features, even if they haven't known what to do with them for quite a while.*

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Anniversary of the Tower Shooting Part 2

Last night I posted on the Anniversary of the 1966 shootings that occurred at UT Austin.

Today I had no lunch plans, and so I got up from my desk and walked to the UT Tower, arriving just before 11:48 AM. The University of Texas doesn't do anything in particular to commemorate the day every year, and certainly not the time. When they do hold events, which does happen from time to time, I am uncertain if they hold them on the day and time of shootings.

So, walking up to the Tower, it was the usual mishmash you see in August. Tourists. Summer school students. Kids on campus for camp, a mixed bag of college aged people engaged in group activities you can't quite puzzle out.

The sky was clear today and the temperatures were in the high 90's.  Despite the lunch hour, not many folks walked the main plaza, an area most folks know is often hot and free of shade.  I'd venture that few were aware of the date.

I snapped a picture of the flagpole from our earlier post. It's not quite as far from a door as I thought, but it's still a good 30 yards, and that's if you cleared the hedge.

46th Anniversary of the UT Tower Shootings

On August 1, 1966 Charles Whitman killed both his mother and his wife while they slept.  He went and purchased firearms from local shops, then drove to UT Austin's central tower.

Then, as today, the tower was an administrative building and, at the time, was also the library for UT Austin. It still looms well above all other features not just on campus, but for much of the surrounding territory.   From the top of the tower, one has a panoramic view in all directions, far out to the hills of West Austin, into downtown to the South if you look beyond the South Mall and the older buildings on campus that surround the grassy strip, usually strewn with students studying and socializing.  To the East lies the stadium and a great swath of campus, and to the North, the science buildings, and past that, the Hyde Park neighborhood.

I went up the first time in 2000 shortly after the Tower's observation deck re-opened for the first time since a rash of suicides in the 1970's.  No, Whitman's atrocity didn't convince the University that it needed to be closed.

On that morning, Whitman took a footlocker full of weapons with him to the top of the tower, and knocked an administrative assistant unconscious with his rifle (she would die later at Seton Hospital).  He would show a final and baffling act of mercy as he let a couple who had not seen the secretary's unconscious form bypass him, and then he barricaded the door.  Moments later he would kill and wound several tourists who came to the door seeking to go out to the Tower's observation deck.

Whitman took advantage of the unimpeded vantage provided by the 27 story tower and began firing down upon students and faculty walking between buildings.  For about 100 minutes Whitman held Austin hostage between Guadalupe and the East Mall, from the North Mall to far past the South Mall, where visibility goes down to 21st Street and further down University Avenue.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Columbus (Ohio) Day, Comic-Con Stuff and a few words on Music

Columbus, Ohio

Tomorrow I present in front of a bunch of folks from a consortium of libraries here in sunny Columbus, Ohio.  The trip had been rumored since I was in Boston, but I didn't get confirmation that they actually wanted me here until last week.  With the mad scramble to get paperwork done during a holiday week, it wasn't really all locked down til Tuesday that I was actually going.  

So here I sit in a Springhill Suites in Columbus, Ohio.  I've seen only two slivers of the town.  The route I came in on and then the route I took to a nearby comics shoppe, something I like to do when I'm a-travelling.  I have to give a thumbs-up to Laughing Ogre Comics, not just for the great name of the shop (it sounds like they really want to open a pub where people can play RPG's with no fear of wedgies), but to their shop itself, which was professional, friendly, well-stocked and well laid out.  If in Columbus, we recommend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey! It's Me in the University of Texas Library Newsletter! Talking Comics!

A while back I was hanging out in the office of the Communications Officer for the UT Library.  I like to go in there both because Travis is hilarious and also because he often let's me take promo items like pens and whatnot.  Anyway, I was hanging out and Travis asked if I'd be interested in participating in their usual feature for the official newsletter for the UT Library where they ask a librarian to talk about some books they like.

Well, I'm not a librarian, but it's not like I can't read, and lord knows I'm not going to not give my opinion if asked.  "Can you walk about comics?" asked Travis.

"How many thousand words?" I asked.

Apparently they keep asking librarians this question, and they tend to get a lot of the same sorts of columns.  The Hail mary desperation play: ask the guy with the Superman poster what he thinks folks could be reading.

So, this quarter it's yours truly on Page 10 of the UT Library Newsletter.  "Ryan Steans Recommends".

I tried to mix it up a bit by mentioning different kinds of comics: biography, memoir, sci-fi, superhero...  We'll see how I did.

And, yes, Longhorns, that's me in the stacks of the PCL where I work everyday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This week, I visit Quincy

Apparently, Quincy wasn't looking for company.
I'm jumping on a jetplane and headed for Quincy, Massachusetts for a conference.  One I am not running, which is a relief.  It turns out Massachusetts is very far away from Texas, so basically all I am doing tomorrow is sitting on airplanes (my second favorite activity) and sitting at the airport (my FIRST favorite activity).

I can only pray someone in my row has a baby with colic or I get sat with the a guy really, really hitting on a girl as occurred during my flight back from Lubbock a while back (awwwkward).

Don't give me suggestions for the Boston area.  I'm just going to the conference and then coming home.  I'm not renting a car, and I'm not going to explore Quincy while I'm there.  Apparently the cab ride alone is setting the tax payers of Texas back more than I can believe, so I'm already more than a little out of sorts about this whole trip.

The Q thinks I need to just stay cool.

I'm sure it will be fine, I'm just ready to not be partaking in any events at the moment.  But the change of scenery will be nice, one supposes.  And I bet they still wear those fancy tri-corner hats in the Boston metro-area.

The deal lasts through Friday, so we'll be back on schedule as of Friday night or Saturday.  I dunno.

I wish I was just going to Boston like I thought when I signed up for this garfunkling conference.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The buttons were the white hot commodity of the conference, thank you

I only have one more day of this garfunkling conference.

If you had any doubt, the buttons were the white hot commodity of TCDL2012.

I am lord of the button-press
I think people are just desperate for anything fun during these conferences, and so why not the pink button that has nothing to do with anything?

And it totally worked, by the way.  I handed out my last button at 5:00 PM on the dot.

Also, if you want to find yourself in a waking dream, I recommend looking out upon the crowd as you're starting your presentation to see your parents ambling into the back of the auditorium.

Oh, hell yes.  The Admiral and KareBear took me up on my suggestion to come down and see me.  So, I think I'd just said "Hi, I'm Ryan Steans" when I gazed out across the half-empty room, and there they were, like a slow-moving apparition in need of a seat.  I quickly introduced them, they received one of the most earnest rounds of applause of the day, and I went on with my presentation.  Totally crazy.

Afterward, they got to meet my boss and some of my friends and co-workers, and off they went, disappearing into the mid-day sun as quickly as they had arrived.

They were the second most talked about thing after the buttons.

I'm hitting the sack.  I've been going since 6:00 AM.

But I'm having a lot of fun, even if its work.  And I suspect that's sort of where you want to wind up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm outta here for a few days

So, I have one of those jobs where when people ask what I do, the answer doesn't always make sense.  Some days I'm standing up training folks how to use software, some days I'm presenting in front of a room full of library directors, some days I am learning how to make a button (like the kind you wear pinned to your shirt), some days I wander around looking for ink cartridges because nobody on 3rd ordered them when we asked a month ago, some days I am writing plans for domination of digital libraries, and some days I organize and run conferences at which I am a presenter.

Starting Wednesday, I'm running a conference.