Sunday, November 26, 2006


Teach or Die

It has been a few weeks since I've posted a message to this "Doc or Die" blog and this still isn't going to be a message about my usual topics. In the past month I've simply been insanely busy with teaching and other responsibilities at UC Berkeley. I finally took some time off this Thanksgiving weekend and it has given me some time to remember why I started this blog and where it fits into my priorities.

Since October I've been giving 4 80-minute lectures a week in two courses, one called "Information Organization and Retrieval" that I taught for the first time last year and another one called "The Information and Services Economy" that is brand-new. I've always put a lot of energy into teaching, and think of each lecture I give as a one-act play that I write and act in, designing some minor parts and the associated choreography for student classroom interaction. Each lecture in a new course takes me a day or two to write, depending on how well I know the topic and the assigned readings, and in the Information and Services Economy course I don't know many of the topics or readings very well at all. The second time I give a lecture (as I'm doing in the IO & IR course) takes almost as much preparation because I have to substantially revise my last year's lecture, because now I know how the lecture can best reinforce the ones that immediately preceded it and best foreshadow the ones to come, things I couldn't have known the first time I gave it.

So the combination of two new lectures and two second-time lectures a week has meant that I spend most of my working hours so I can come out on the right side of "Teach or Die."

It has been suggested to me that I should just blog about my lectures, and if I was trying to be a "professional blogger" and guarantee my vast readership that I'd post something every day I could certainly do that. But my lecture notes are already posted (attached to the course syllabi linked above), and my goal for blogging was to go beyond what I already said in my classroom and make observations that would enhance that experience for my students.

I'm now down to the last two weeks of the semester and (except for a quick trip back to Boston for the XML 2006 conference that I've attended about 15 years in a row) I should start having more time outside of teaching and can put more effort into some research projects that have been limping along.

But I have one more dilemma to deal with. I made a list this morning of interesting topics that I want to blog about, However, I need to develop a final exam for my IO & IR course, and many of the items in my list could be questions that test a student's ability to think across lecture boundaries. So I guess I'll start blogging more frequently again after the final exam on December 12.

-Bob Glushko

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