Fall 2020

"The Book is Better Than The Movie"

28 August 2020

Side-by-side images of the book cover and movie poster for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

How many times in your life has your favorite book become a movie? And how many times did you show up to the movie, incredibly excited (maybe even for a midnight showing, and maybe even in costume, and maybe you snuck in themed snacks) only to be let down because they left your favorite part of the book out of the movie or they changed a few details for some reason you can’t describe.

I used to be that person, enumerating each of the places in which the movie deviated from, and possibly ruined, the book. Until one day, when a good friend of a friend said, “You can’t compare books and movies. They’re just different.” She went on to explain how they can be loosely based on the same content but one is intended to be read, possibly with no visuals, and the other, a motion picture. These different media necessitate different ways to present the content. They can’t be compared. They have to be appreciated (or not) for their artistry in their own format.

As I go into this Fall 2020, virtual semester, it occurred to me, this is the same issue with face-to-face classes versus those delivered virtually. They can’t be compared. They’re just different. So as we prepare for this semester, I want to encourage my fellow teachers to not strive to make your online class just like your face-to-face class. You can’t. Just like a movie will never be the same as the book. Instead, think about your course outcomes and use all your creative wiles to figure out how to achieve them in this new platform.

Instead of lamenting “My online course doesn’t do x, y, and z, like my face-to-face class does,” accept the artistry of designing amazing virtual courses that achieve your desired outcomes in a new way.


First Day of Fall 2020

26 August 2020

Today is the first day of the semester. While we don’t welcome students back to our (virtual) classrooms until Monday, today the faculty gathered for the first time since May to talk about the upcoming year. Also, in light of the events that unfolded over the summer, we had an anti-racist framework workshop and discussion. Such a workshop is long overdue but it took the murders of far too many Black people to catalyze this action.

Doing the work of becoming anti-racist, for those of us who have had the privilege to not pay close enough attention until now, is not supposed to be easy or comfortable. But as I reflect on today’s workshop, I’m sitting with a lot of discomfort that’s unrelated to examining my own white privilege and, to be frank, the way I’ve hid behind my Mexican heritage as a way to avoid taking responsibility for my own racist behaviors.

Instead, I’m sitting with the discomfort of acknowledging that all of our full time Deaf Studies faculty are white and the vast majority of our adjunct faculty are as well. This is a problem. I’m sitting with the fact that Black students have come to my office in tears saying “I don’t want to go back to DEAF XX class, not because I don’t enjoy learning about the topic but because my teacher makes racist comments and I feel uncomfortable.” I’m sitting with the fact that I know we as a program desperately need to engage in conversations about racism and the ways in which our mostly whiteness may push out Black students and other students of color.

I’m sitting with all of this but I’m also sitting with the fact that the workshop was inaccessible in many ways. The presenters designed a beautiful website that would be a great resource to consume on one’s own, but over Zoom, with screenshare, with interpreters, it wasn’t possible to read the information on the screen, and pay attention to the interpreter, and pay attention to the constant stream of messages in the chat box. Some of the presentation involved showing music videos or playing songs that were uncaptioned. And some of the presentation involved showing pre-recorded videos that were, to use the popular internet word, “autocraptioned”. Not only are there errors in autocaptioning, but it’s also an unpunctuated stream of text, which makes it difficult (or sometimes impossible) to parse. This also contributes to Zoom fatigue, which I discussed in a vlog last spring.

So while I should be reflecting on how to be anti-racist, instead I’m lamenting the fact that what was a thought provoking dialogue starter for many of our faculty, I’m wondering how we can make Zoom more equitable so that deaf participants can also have full access to this important content. Because we need to do the work too.