Teaching to the Future
Academic institutions of a certain age project a sense of weighty, even staid, history. Tradition and decorum are hallmarks. But the reality is that central to that tradition is constant change, even at the heart of a university—its curriculum. Every year, new faculty at UNH bring with them fresh ideas and specialties around which courses are built. The tenured faculty continues to expand the landscapes of the disciplines, crafting new courses out of research or creativity. Meanwhile, the University as a whole shifts priorities over time, affecting what and how courses are taught. The result is that over a dozen new courses are created every year in the College. A sampling of the latest offerings suggests innovation and interdisciplinarity, with a definite eye to the future—not the past.
|GEOG 796/GSS 896: Crowdsource Mapping, spring 2014|
Enlisting the Masses
Associate professor of geography Joel Hartter has teamed up with Cooperative Extension’s associate professor Shane Bradt to create “Crowdsource Mapping.” It is one of the first courses nationwide, they say, to address an emerging mapping technique that taps the power and technology of the common citizen to collect and share information during natural disasters, epidemics, terrorist attacks, or civil unrest. As wide-scale catastrophes unfold, it is often the people on the ground that capture the most timely information. Whether equipped with simple cell phones, smartphones, or nothing more than their eyes and ears, people experiencing the event firsthand can provide hundreds or thousands of observations through tweets, pictures, posts or adding points to online maps. By creating a system to harness these observations in real time, geographers can build maps to inform first responders and other crisis professionals so they can create a planned response.
The course is taught entirely online and is geared toward a wide variety of majors, not just future geographers. Crowdsourcing is a tool used by sociologists, anthropologists, engineers, and those who work in business and forestry, among other fields, so the knowledge is widely applicable, contend Hartter and Bradt.
“Crowdsource mapping is perfectly suited to be taught as an online course,” says Bradt. “Crowdsourcing by definition involves using the Internet to connect disparate people in a common goal, providing a nice parallel to online education. All of the mapping applications used in the class are web-based. Working virtually is an important part of the real-world application of crowdsource mapping.”
During the course, Hartter will focus on using mapping to track emerging issues in difficult environments nationally and internationally, while Bradt will use his wide experience with on-the-ground issues faced by people throughout New Hampshire.
|ENGL 415F: Literature and the Psyche, spring 2014|
ENGL 415G: Literature and the Visual Arts, spring 2014
Lit for PreProfessionals
The English Department has created a series of new courses at the introductory level that seek to engage students who are on professional career paths. For preprofessionals with tightly-focused curricula, the power of literature can help widen their understanding of their chosen fields.
The series contains eight courses, each of which concentrates on one profession within a literary framework. A student pursuing a career as a lawyer, for example, might find “Literature and Law” a fresh way to explore issues and practices central to a life in law. Students will use Franz Kafka’s The Trial to examine the bureaucratic nature of the legal system, Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men to reflect upon the ideals of the American jury system, and Jack Abbott’s In the Belly of the Beast to analyze the realities of American prisons from a prisoner’s point of view, among other texts. Other courses in the series explore the fields of business, medicine, animal science/pre-vet, information technology, psychology, visual arts, and religion.
“These classes spring from the assumption that literature offers a profoundly useful and compelling resource for considering fundamental questions professionals wrestle with each day,” says Douglas Lanier, professor of English. “Fiction offers the opportunity to vicariously experience someone else’s circumstances, to gain detailed knowledge about a different realm of human experience or an unfamiliar social system, and to understand a moral or philosophical dilemma in concrete, complex ways. It can also help us to entertain differing perspectives on a thorny issue, to think about how people respond to behavior, and to trace the consequences of one’s actions or ideas.”
These courses tap into the capacity of great works of fiction to address philosophical questions and practical issues unique to various professions—and to do so in the immersive and entertaining way that only art can.
Small class sizes of no more than 35 will allow for spirited class discussions and provide students the opportunity to develop marketable skills in analytic writing and persuasive speaking. The courses fulfill the humanities requirement of the Discovery Program core curriculum and are writing intensive but do not count for English department majors or minors.
Offered in spring 2014 are “Literature and the Psyche,” which will examine how literary texts have portrayed the psychological dimensions of life and the challenges such portrayals raise, and “Literature and the Visual Arts,” which will consider how writers talk back to paintings, and how painters and other artists find inspiration in the written word.
|POLT 584: Occupy Democracy: Participatory/Sustainable |
Democracy in Theory and Practice, January 2014.
Democracy in Action
An innovative new January Term course seeks to capture the energy of the Occupy Movement to teach students about what it means to actively practice democracy in America with a concern for sustainability. Marla Brettschneider, professor of political science and women’s studies, developed the course, “Occupy Democracy,” with both online and experiential components.
“What often passes for modern democracy usually bears little resemblance to the grand ideas of theorists and activists over the millennia,” says Brettschneider.
Students will learn what those grand ideas are and practice strategies for putting ideas into action. The experiential learning will take place at Camp Merrowvista, located on 600 acres in the Ossipee Mountains of NH. A team of camp leaders will facilitate the activities.
“The Merrowvista portion allows us unique opportunities to explore principles of democracy in ways we do not have the capacity to do on campus, and certainly not in an online class,” says Brettschneider. “By being responsible for our living environment, we will, of necessity, be required to negotiate meeting a community’s daily needs as part of the study of democracy in practice.”
Brettschneider ties democratic practice to sustainable practice, a concern at Merrowvista. The camp runs an advanced carbon footprint project that will allow students to live and learn how a large institution works ecologically and sustainably.