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