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   Date: 2/12/09

Rocking the Global Curriculum

It was a perfect match: the University of Hamburg’s American studies department course on punk rock, and Steve Waksman, associate professor of music at Smith, whose recent book is This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk.

Two years ago, when Joe McVeigh, professor of German, was directing Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program in Hamburg, he sought to develop a course between the two institutions using videoconferencing.

After laying the technical groundwork, all they needed was someone to teach the course from Smith. Enter Waksman.

On January 26, at 11 a.m. (5 p.m. Hamburg time) Waksman spoke to a class of about 40 students via videoconferencing with an exciting multimedia presentation titled “Do It Yourself: the Ethics and Aesthetics of Punk,” concluding with a real-time question-and-answer session.

“It was great to get the chance to talk to a group of students that I otherwise would have had to travel 4,000 miles to address,” said Waksman of the experience. “But it was also kind of disorienting. I only saw my audience from above, in an aerial view, so never got to look them straight in the eyes.”

The talk was technically flawless, said McVeigh. Dr. Lars Schmeink, the instructor of the Hamburg punk rock course, was actively involved as well, translating the Hamburg students’ questions into English for Waksman.

Still, without the face-to-face perspective Waksman is used to during classes, he couldn’t gauge students’ responses to his musical samples. One cut he played for the class was Blitzkrieg Bop, a hard-driving tune by the Ramones, who are widely regarded as the first punk rock group.

“I couldn’t tell if it was loud enough to have the appropriate impact,” said Waksman.

Additional projects are in the works, says McVeigh. When he heads back to Hamburg as JYA director next year, he will be working to expand the possibilities of curricular videoconferencing connections between Smith and the University of Hamburg.

“If Smith faculty can lecture and teach here three-dimensionally, why not also two-dimensionally (by videoconferencing),” he poses.

Why not?


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