Posted by: crudbasher | June 24, 2011

Reputation in the Classroom

If you are a regular reader of this blog, have you ever wondered why I call myself Crudbasher? I’m that name on Twitter too. It’s kind of a weird name especially in education circles isn’t it?

When I read articles about education I always make note of the names. There are a lot of Ph.Ds aren’t there? Some people I know who have Ph.Ds are always insistent that they are referred to as Dr. John Somebody Ph.D. I understand that they spent a lot of time and money to get that Ph.D. I get it. However, I know lots of people who are Dr. Somebody and have never had an original or creative thought. The Dr. tells people you spent time and money but doesn’t really reflect what you know. In many industries like the Music and Film industries it doesn’t matter so much what kind of degree you have, it matters what you can do. The industry where it really matters most is in fact education. Have you ever met someone with a Ph.D who won’t really associate with lesser people? It’s like you have to have one too in order to be worthy of their time. So here’s the problem. You can put this Ph.D in front of a class of college students 20 years ago and they would all be impressed I am sure, but the students are changing. Today’s students are wondering what level character the professor has in World of Warcraft and how many Facebook friends they have.

 So what is reputation anyway?

Reputation(n) the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public generally.

You get a reputation based on your interactions with others. Twitter is a perfect example of that. I don’t follow people on Twitter because of their degrees, I follow them because they say interesting/useful things. It’s a social thing. You never used to worry to much about reputation until you got into college anyway and were thinking about getting a job.  A lot of your reputation was then generated by the credentialling of the university. There just weren’t a lot of ways to interact with the rest of the world. Today of course, there are a vast amount of social networks and ways to interact way before you ever get to college. Technically you can’t be on Facebook until you are 14 but even then, that’s years before you get to college. The point is, students are developing their online identities and reputations way earlier than in the past. Some college freshman now have successful blogs, small businesses, publish works, and even popular media on YouTube.

Online Reputation

You see, on the Internet you can be greater than you are in real life. A boy who is too small to play football can be a badass-dealer-of-death-and-distruction in Call of Duty. Students today have a different way of measuring success and the reputation it helps generate. Not only that, but they are learning all sorts of useful skills online in games. That student you are lecturing to might be a leader of a clan in World of Warcraft where you use the skills of negotiation, economics, leadership and tactics. Just because it’s a video game doesn’t mean it isn’t a real experience.

A student is always connected online. A professor who tells then to disconnect from that world is going to lose major points with the students when they do so. A professor who can’t use technology effectively is not going to have a good reputation with their students. I’m not saying that having a Ph.D is useless. Not at all. The knowledge you get from the process can be very valuable. It’s just that the Ph.D just isn’t going to help much outside of the faculty lounge with this generation. Just like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is reputation. Keep in mind your students are your beholders. What cut it 20 years ago has changed.

So back to my name.

I think social relationships are changing in all parts of society and soon will in schools too. I’m so convinced I’m not building my online reputation with my real name. I’m going to let my work speak for me, not my degree and not my name because the rules are different here. My name therefore is a kind of Rorschach test. What would you think if you took a class taught by a person who went by Crudbasher? Would you think it was unprofessional? Should I instead be Dr. Somebody? If you think so, then you are already starting off at a disadvantage with your students. My class of students these days would think it’s cool and ask me what games I play. It’s a great way to connect with them and let them know it’s ok to learn from each other. Dr. Somebody is a person who is up on a pedestal.

There are no credentials on the Internet, just your earned reputation. Even for a Diablo 2 Barbarian named Crudbasher. 🙂

Crudbasher the Barbarian

 

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Responses

  1. Wow… just wow. I hope there was some satire in there.

    Do you really believe it will help our educational system if professors start pandering to students’ wishes to know “what level character the professor has in World of Warcraft and how many Facebook friends they have?” I agree that some (many?) professors lack original thoughts, and I know full well that having students like you is an effective way to get strong teaching evaluations… even if your teaching is crap and the students learn nothing.

    Does it create a “disadvantage” with the students? Absolutely! But the last time I checked, the goal was to get students to learn something, and then perhaps to have them be decent employees after college. Pandering to them in this way is not a good recipe for the students’ future success. I think Bill Gates had a few wise words on that subject a couple of years back…

  2. Hello Professor Tafisk,

    First of all thank you so much for commenting! I seem to have struck a nerve in you, and reading your own blog, I can see why.

    I come to my conclusions from 11 years in the classroom at my university. There, we teach a class every month in an accelerated program so I have taught a lot a classes. I always had two classes at once so if you do the math I have taught 264 class sessions in that time. If you figure each class had about 30 people on average that means I have educated over 7500 students. I believe I was somewhat successful in this. For example, did you see the movie Cars from Pixar? One of my students worked on that. I only mention this because as you said on your blog:

    “It is arrogant to believe that you have all the answers without first gaining a substantial knowledge base and exposing yourself to conflicting opinions. You are thinking independently when you gain knowledge, examine ideas you might initially find incorrect, and come to your own conclusion.”

    I am speaking from my recent personal experience as a teacher. I am curious as to how long you taught and when you retired? Do you have any recent teaching experience with this generation of students?

    Regardless, the purpose of my post is to try to get teachers to understand that there is more to teaching effectively than to spew information to the students, and then test them to see how much they retain. Getting them involved and passionate about the subject will produce much better results than bullying them or treating them like idiots. I also read on your blog that you don’t seem to have a very high opinion of your former students.

    I quote again:

    “…as anyone who has ever observed a college classroom knows, college students very often lack consciousness. And much like the spider with a tiny brain, they often lack the intellectual heft you would expect of a creature that can spin such an elaborate and beautiful web.”

    I try to see the best in my students and help them achieve it. I find that talking about their interests a bit is a good way to break the ice and establish a connection with them. It also doesn’t hurt me to show them I am human. To answer your question, yes I do think it would help a great deal for professors to show a little humanity and respect their students.

    So in closing I would like to ask you a question. Is an environment based on fear and intimidation more effective than one based on mutual respect and a love of learning?

    I sincerely look forward to continuing this fascinating discussion!

  3. If I might offer some quick answers and comments:

    1: Yes, I have taught this generation of students. I haven’t been gone very long.

    2: If you check some of my other posts, I do occasionally comment that I liked my students. I viewed them for what they were: 18-22 year olds. People in that age group often do stupid things. In spite of that, they are often endearing in their own way.

    3: Where did this idea of a classroom environment full of “fear and intimidation” come from? Remember, I’m writing a humor/satire blog. It’s a different kind of rhetoric and it’s not possible to extract my overall views by picking out a few lines.

    4: I see no problem with showing students that you’re human. One can be human and still run a lecture-style class. (My classes were primarily discussion-based, so I don’t have a dog in the lecture pro/con debate.) Keeping students awake in class is good as long as it does not interfere with the transmission of knowledge/understanding, but not challenging them to rise beyond what they currently are is a grave disservice. Your post makes it sound like you weren’t asking them to rise.

    5: I cannot fairly judge your effectiveness as a teacher without seeing you in action, but you should know better on one point. You said that one of your students out of 7500 ended up working on the Cars movie. If only one out of 7500 of your students succeeded (and I doubt you know what all 7500 are up to) that’s not a statistic I would be trumpeting. And by saying “succeeded,” I’m assuming the students role was something at least marginally important. My point is: the example proves very little.

    6: “Mutual love of learning” sounds a little too idealistic to me. A lot of teachers get students who are only in college to get their diploma and then a job. I think you’ll agree that a teacher has to tailor his teaching methods to his students’ needs. (That’s needs, not preferences.)

    7: Students need to become accustomed to having authority figures in their lives. When they leave college, they will have a boss and the boss will be nowhere near as nice as you seem to be. I think it’s better for students to learn the hard lessons while they’re still in school (and can’t get fired) instead of on the job where the consequences are much greater.

    • Hello Professor Tafisk,

      Thank you again for responding! I enjoyed reading your last very well written comment and would like to respond to some of your points.

      2. People in any age group do stupid things. The fact the students are in school indicates to me that they understand they have things to learn.

      3. I agree that it’s not possible to pick out your overall view of students by reading just a few blog posts. I find it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between satire and venting. My mistake. I was however making a point about my original argument. Your reputation as far as I was able to determine was based on those writings. Students will know a lot more about their teachers when they search the web so I think that can change the dynamics of the classroom.

      4. You stated: Keeping students awake in class is good as long as it does not interfere with the transmission of knowledge/understanding. How will they learn more if they are asleep? Also, as you mentioned you don’t know my teaching abilities but fyi, the classes were quite rigorous.

      5. Obviously that student was exceptional, but I thought equally obvious was that he was not the exception. You get all kinds of students and all kinds of outcomes as you well know. That point seems like a cheap shot.

      6.Perhaps I am more idealistic than you. I do agree that we have to put the students needs before their wants but their wants should be considered. I do completely agree that a lot of students are in college for the wrong reasons. It’s very frustrating.

      7.Thank you for acknowledging the possibility that I could be a nice person! 🙂 I do have to disagree with you a few things though. In K-12 the students have had nothing but authority figures in their lives. The problem is they don’t know yet how to think for themselves. I like to think of college as a place you can learn but more importantly, make mistakes in an environment that encourages learning from them. There should be consequences sure but the problem with making sure there is a hard lesson to learn is it discourages them from taking chances. As Sir Ken Robinson says: “If you aren’t prepared to be wrong, then you will never come up with anything creative.”

      Well I am prepared to be wrong. In this argument, students will be the final judges as they decide where to go to school. Just as there are all kinds of students, there are all kinds of teachers so they have a choice. I think they will migrate to teachers they can more relate to and connect with.

      I thank you for being a part of our profession and for the students you helped educate. I’ll keep an interested eye on your new blog and wish you luck and inspiration!

  4. Interesting post and discussion. I have found that students do relate whether a teacher is active online, whether that may be through blogging or social networking. Students like to be challenged with novelty (hopefully their teacher can fulfill that task) and feel comfortable to relate to a teacher who shares their interests and their digital world (even if not all their online activities).

  5. […] wrote a post last month where I spoke about how the new generation of students have different ways of assigning worth and […]

  6. […] These professors are pretty well known. They have a reputation in the AI community. If their class is worth it and fun, word will spread rapidly online. If they […]

  7. […] Reputation In The Classroom  […]


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