Joe Farrell (Classical Studies, Penn) tries modest but interesting stuff in PennMOO

September 1995
I'm teaching a course on the Aeneid this term, crosslisted for advanced u-grads and grad students. Absolutely on spec I scheduled two MOO sessions, of which we just had our first. We logged on at the regular class time, 3-4.30 W, and were joined by Ralph Hexter, who teaches Classics and Comparative Literature at Colorado. In addition to him, Nita Krevans, another classicist who subscribes to the class discussion list, joined us from Minneapolis. Hexter has the guest of honor, though: the class had just read Aeneid 2, a classic New Critical essay on the imagery of that book, and a quite radical poststructural essay by Hexter, also on Book 2. the point was for the class to question him about his essay.

Neither Hexter nor I nor more than a couple of class members were MOO-literate at the beginning of the semsester. I told them all to go do the tutorial, and then I set up a regular office hour (9-10 R) so that I could learn a bit about it and so the students could come visit me and prepare.

I think most of them thought this was a crazy idea. After visiting me in my MOO office, I am sure they were not atall optimistic that it would work. The office hours were chaotic affairs, and though I got to sort of like the chaos of holding simultaneous multiple conversations, it was clear that we couldn't run the class that way. So I came up with a procedure.

The students were requiredto email me questions for Hexter at least a day in advance of the session. I forwarded him a few to give him some idea what was on their minds. I then selected which ones I would out to Hexter in the MOO. In the sessionitself, I posed the first question, and Hexter answered. The students had to keep quiet until they raised their hands (waved) and were recognized by me. I called on people and they were then able to ask follow-up questions, ask for clarification, etc. The frustrationof waiting for long answers was alleviated somewhat by a practice we adopted sending messages in one-or two-line pieces and typing $ when we were through speaking (this was in lieu of an honorarium for Hexter!). The whisper function helped keep things organized. I am told that there was a lot of whispering among various members of the class as well. How much of this was just joking around and how much was a serious layer of discussion, I don't know. But the response has been positive.

I'm going to post a raw and an edited transcript to my class archive on the ccat gopher. The edited one reads like something out of Paris Review; the raw one may be more interesting to people using the medium for their own purposes. I expect those to be up this week.

As I told Susan, I am trying to figure out a way to make better use of the medium for our next session, which is in late November. There will be another visitor, this one from Wisconsin. But while focused discussion os possible, it seems to me that it is not the MOO's strong suit. You certainly end up having a shorter discussion and one that fails to explore all aspects of an issue in the format we used. I am trying to think of a way to expoit the spatial aspect of the MOO.

By the way, it is obvious that my blithe assumption that this could happen so soon and work as well as it did was borneout *only* thanks to the extraordinary responsiveness and helpfulness of the Wizards! You guys are great!



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Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:25:42 EDT