Monday, September 21, 2020
As we continue to move through the Fall 2020 semester in "pandemic mode" (whatever that may be for you), the investments of colleagues in their teaching continues to amaze me. The number of teaching webinars and conference panels has been truly awesome, starting in the spring and continuing through the present. Social media posts on Facebook and Twitter offer individualized tips and the opportunity for innovators to build from them and post their responsive comments and additional advice. My friend Jessica Erickson (Richmond Law) wrote an excellent series of Prawfsblog posts at the end of the summer, the last of which can be found here (with links to the earlier posts in the series). Law faculties (including my own) are checking in with each other on challenges and victories on a regular basis. Although the experiences of others may be different, I have felt supported (and very much like I am part of a team) the whole way along.
Among the more stimulating--and daunting--parts of pandemic teaching presentations and conversations are those relating to the introduction of new teaching technologies. We have all dealt with this part of COVID-19 teaching in some respects and in our own ways. Some of us are more comfortable with technology than others. There's Zoom and the like, of course, but then there also are routers, and cameras, and lighting, and more. (I had never heard of a "ring light,", for example, until the COVID-19 pandemic was in full force.) I have been impressed by the extent to which colleagues not only have found technological solutions to some of the novel teaching issues that have arisen during the pandemic, but also have been willing to promote these solutions to colleagues and educate them on their use.
Over the weekend. I became aware that my UT Law colleague Glenn Reynolds had written a short piece on his use of a relatively simple three-camera system he has constructed (in his pool house!) to improve the production quality of his online classes. He is teaching exclusively online this semester. The piece, TIRED OF LOOKING GRAY AND BORING ONLINE? A SIMPLE 3-CAMERA TV STUDIO/CLASSROOM FOR LIVELY ONLINE TEACHING, is posted on SSRN here. The exceedingly short abstract is as follows:
Tired of the dreary webcam-look in my online classroom, I created a fairly simple and reasonably inexpensive three-camera studio using real video cameras for online teaching. This paper outlines how it was done, and provides suggestions for simpler, cheaper alternatives that are still far superior to traditional webcam approaches.
Glenn includes photographs in his brief treatment to better illustrate the camera functionality and his own working view, which I found really helpful. He also is very specific about the human resources he consulted, the equipment he has chosen to use (and why), and the expenses associated with doing what he has done. I share it here for your consideration. The more we can share our victories--as well as our challenges--with each other, the easier it will be for us all to survive (and even thrive) in our teaching through the pandemic.