Ontological Crises notes

THATCamp – ontological crisis


Music software – music educators not always clear on some issues – although composers have been digital for decades – notation accompanied by playback to hear what you’re writing, but product is a score –

Digital music software organized according to what you’re trying to do: programs are complicated and very expensive (up to $1K)

Students come into college having composed since 2nd or 3rd grade – have started with pen and paper, then get a simple composition tool – now, students have been using iLife with Garage Band for back score (a la nine inch nails) – Garage Band built for copy/paste loops, not single notes into sound file, not score

SO – pedagogically, have students who want to “major” in Garage Band (ie electronic music, broadly) rather than learning process and product for single note composition culminating in a score

Similarly – students using “cite this” feature without understanding variations in citation styles – don’t understand components of a citation, for example, so can’t modify or (when necessary) generate manually

Worry re how pushing students toward more sophisticated, specialized understanding (“pushing against student misconception”) affects student evaluations – note a general societal trend toward minimizing credence of “expert” in field (eg PhD), especially in academia

TIP: extra credit for going into Wikipedia and adding citations to the entry for their topic

Need to help students see why we’re asking them to do certain assignments, learn certain skills – another role for transparency  – look at the purpose or meaning for certain requirements

Helping students see the benefit of knowing why/what’s going on with a process – the advantages when the technology progresses, for example, and you’re able to see what’s going on

It used to be we had to find the material (shlepping to library and using card catalog!) rather than expecting that the material will find us – a consumer mentality?

Market-driven curriculum and orientation to product lead to some students’ prioritizing the end result (product) over the process we want them to complete that is reflected in the product

Need to broaden discussions with students about why something matters, is important, has practical significance – looking at whole curriculum, not just our class –

Useful to bring other faculty into class to model discussion, disagreement

J Z Smith on using syllabus on first day to demo/discuss choices that have been made, the differences those choices make – including in evals follow-up questions on how those choices panned out!

Could a department have their students participate in a curriculum design exercise? HWS had graduating womens studies majors come to lovely lunch and talk about the curriculum, including responses to curricula from other programs – resources from other programs came from student project (funded) during semester to review other programs and gather info

Need to start out with (1) assessing where students are/what they’re thinking and (2) lay out the big picture for them from the beginning

A “main responsibility” is making clear – not just in abstract platitudes – the value and stakes of a liberal arts education

**notes taken by Sally Stamper

**music composed during session available at:




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About leahshafer

Leah Shafer is an Assistant Professor in the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. You can follow her on Twitter @leahshafer.