Category Archives: Concordia University

What to Rethink?

Prepared a proposal for an upcoming Spirit of Inquiry conference at Concordia University.

In a recent video ethnography of the “Web 2.0” concept, anthropologist Michael Wesch invited the online audience to rethink a wide array of concepts, from copyright and authorship to identity and commerce. My session, if accepted, should follow these ideas along with specific emphasis on academic freedom, open access,  and flexible strategies for learning and teaching.

Here is my proposal:

Presenter Biography: An ethnographer as well as a blogger, Alexandre Enkerli has taught at diverse universities in the United States and in Canada. He currently teaches cultural anthropology and the anthropology of music at Concordia University. An avid Internet user since 1993, Alexandre has participated intensively in a large array of online activities, from mailing-list discussions in informal groups to creative uses of learning management systems such as Moodle, Sakai, Oncourse, Blackboard, and WebCT.
Title Of Session: Free, Open, Flexible: Rethinking Learning Materials Online
Session Learning Objective: This session seeks to help participants rethink the use of learning materials (such as textbooks and lecture notes) in view of opportunities for freedom, openness, and flexibility afforded recent information and communication technologies.
Session Approach: Facilitated discussion (45 minutes)
Abstract: Considered as a whole, learning materials such as textbooks and lecture notes constitute the “shoulders of giants” on which learners and teachers stand.

In this session, academic publishers, instructors, librarians, and administrators are all invited to rethink learning materials through their own experiences with online technologies.

A short, informal report on the principal presenter’s experience with podcasting and other online applications will be followed by a facilitated discussion.

This session will pay special attention to issues of open access, academic freedom, and flexible strategies for learning and teaching.

Together, session participants will construct a new understanding of the implications linking technological changes to the use of learning materials online.
Additional Room Needs: Preferred but not required: podcasting equipment.

Digital Ethnography » Blog Archive » The Machine is Us/ing Us Transcription

We’ll need to rethink copyrightWe’ll need to rethink authorship

We’ll need to rethink identity

We’ll need to rethink ethics

We’ll need to rethink aesthetics

We’ll need to rethink rhetorics

We’ll need to rethink governance

We’ll need to rethink privacy

We’ll need to rethink commerce

We’ll need to rethink love

We’ll need to rethink family

We’ll need to rethink ourselves.

Jobs and Satisfaction

This one is more of a web log entry than my usual ramblings.

Executive Summary: Life Is Good.

Continue reading Jobs and Satisfaction

Rule Concordia, Concordia Rule the Waves

[Drafted this on October 19, 2006. My resolution is to procrastinate less… 😉 ]

Despite the title, this is not about "ruling" anything. And it’s not about Britain. But it is about Concordia. In part.

Been spending some time at Concordia University recently. As it’s the next place where I’ll be teaching, I tend to think of it as "my university."

I feel as if my enthusiasm for this university will not waver for a while. It really is a pretty interesting place for the type of work I enjoy doing. Not the only place where I can be happy, possibly not even the best place. But I like Concordia and I’m not afraid to say it.

I’ve been thinking about what I like about Concordia. A fairly good example is that today (October 19, 2006), I spent an hour and twenty minutes talking about pedagogical issues with Olivia Rovinescu, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services. Sure, almost any university or college has equivalent services. Some of these centres are actually very useful. But this isn’t about comparison. It’s about satisfaction. I’m getting exactly the type of help I want. As it’s usually easier to complain about what we don’t get than to rejoice at what we do get, I think it’s very important to say such things when we do get good service.

My status at Concordia is quite precarious, at this point. To be very precise, I’m a PTF, part-time faculty. We do have a strong association, which means that we do get better conditions than many part-time lecturers at other institutions, but our status still isn’t anything like full-time, tenure-track professors. Which has a lot of advantages, actually. For instance, we don’t need to do any committee work, we can easily teach at different institutions, we don’t depend on the PTR committee, our research is free of some of the administrative burdens of constant evaluation, we need not know the intricacies of advising bureaucracy, students and administrators see us primarily as instructors/teachers, we can teach before having finished a Ph.D. (or, in some cases, even before the end of the master’s degree), we’re free to refuse teaching contracts without any penalty, and we get a fairly simple point system for professional advancement. On the other hand, we get fewer of the amenities afforded tenured professors and we may not have our contracts renewed year after year (even though some lecturers have become "fixtures" in their departments and can assume that they will regularly get work every semester, if they want it).

[I guess I stopped writing because I didn’t want to go too deeply on the moaning mode. Since then, I’ve thought about different issues and I now see my passion for teaching in a new light. I’ll surely post about that as well as about pedagogical philosophies, Frank McCourt, Radio Open Source on technology in education, my father’s experience as a teacher and educational psychologist, etc.]

McGill and UofT Ranked

Speaking of university rankings, McGill University describes its presence in the Princeton Review as praise. Their actual rankings in distinct categories are [drumroll, please…]:

The first category (rare class discussions) is surprising to me because, in my experience (taught at two universities in Quebec, two in Indiana, two in Massachusetts, and one in New Brunswick), university students in Quebec tend to discuss quite openly in class, much more so than U.S. students. But these rankings are based on perception, not analysis of classroom behaviour, AFAIK. And McGill has a high proportion of students from the United States.

In my mind, Concordia University would be likely to rank higher in “race/class interaction” as it’s a well-known part of people’s experience there (faculty, students, and administrators frequently discuss diversity issues). And since Concordia’s campus is quite close to McGill’s, it’s quite possible that Concordia would rank close to McGill for the “college town” category. Although, McGill students tend to live close to campus (including in the so-called McGill Ghetto) while Concordia students are scattered across town. Still, Montreal is considered a cool “college town” by people who attend all of its four universities.

The other Canadian university in the Princeton Review rankings is University of Toronto, which is similarly “praised“:

Hmmm… Where’s the UofT press release about its consecration by The Princeton Review? Can’t wait to see how they spin it. “At UofT, we pride ourselves for our groundbreaking approach to teaching. Students are encouraged to work by themselves, without the hassles of communicating with their professors or with their fellow students.”

Of course, those rankings aren’t based on stereotypes or frivolous factors. After all, which serious ranking wouldn’t have a category for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians?” Maybe rankings made by “Dr. Martens-Wearing, Tree-Cutting, Non-Smoking Omnivores.”
It’s quite difficult to compare Canadian universities with those in the U.S. because the systems are quite different from one another. For instance, tuition fees at (publicly-funded but private university) McGill are quite low ($1,668 for “Out-of-State Tuition”) and a full bachelor’s degree in one of Quebec’s universities is typically three years (because Quebec has a separate program between high school and university). So a full degree at McGill can cost less than $6,000. The “Best Value College” according to The Princeton Review is the University of Central Florida which charges $17,017 a year for Out-of-State students. Other expenses seem fairly similar between these two universities. UCF’s ranking is 16th for “Their Students (Almost) Never Study,” which is obviously a very important factor in selecting an institution of higher learning. We wouldn’t want these kind souls to be wasting their time studying! So, “best value” in the U.S. is quite different from “best value” in Canada. (AFAIK, no Canadian university charges as much as $17,000 a year in tuition fees.)

Ah, well…

University Rankings and Diversity, Redux

For some reason, responding to comments on my own entries doesn’t seem to work.

Jason points out McGill University as an example of the phenomenon discussed in own of my most recent entries:

University Rankings and Diversity « Disparate

And it’s exactly the case that McG fits the pattern. But they’re not alone. Some schools in the U.S. (with pretensions of being top-notch academic institutions) are even more deeply entrenched in this educational philosophy favouring prestige over knowledge.

Ah, well…

Good thing there’s such a thing as Concordia University.

University Rankings and Diversity

Speaking of Concordia University, it is officially taking position in favour of international principles for university rankings instead of those set out by a magazine.
Full Press Release

Concordia uses two of the items in the list of Purposes and Goals of Rankings for the Berlin Principles to explain its decision not to participate in the magazine ranking.

3. Recognize the diversity of institutions and take the different missions and goals of institutions into account. Quality measures for research-oriented institutions, for example, are quite different from those that are appropriate for institutions that provide broad access to underserved communities. Institutions that are being ranked and the experts that inform the ranking process should be consulted often.

5. Specify the linguistic, cultural, economic, and historical contexts of the educational systems being ranked. International rankings in particular should be aware of possible biases and be precise about their objective. Not all nations or systems share the same values and beliefs about what constitutes “quality” in tertiary institutions, and ranking systems should not be devised to force such comparisons.

Through these items, an image of institutional diversity seems to emerge. Concordia, instead of focusing on prestige or pseudo-objective measures of student satisfaction, proposes an educational philosophy with an emphasis on diversity and flexibility. Perhaps because of this philosophy, Concordia is an ideal context for me to teach and learn. Not that it necessarily deserves the highest ranking in surveys. But that it represents very precisely the type of place where people care about actual knowledge more than about public recognition. Public recognition can help some academic institutions maintain an aura of educational excellence but actual learning occurs in diverse contexts.