Monday June 6th, 2011 will mark the 5th Anniversary of my graduation from Brock University, yes that means I graduated on 06/06/06, we were the class of the devil.
In honour of the 5th anniversary I will spend the next week blogging about some of my best memories and experiences from Brock University.
I attended Brock from 2002 – 2006. I earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Popular Culture.
In the fall of 2001 when I applied to Brock University, I had never been to the campus. I did not step on to the campus until August 2nd 2002, nearly 5 months after I accepted my offer to attend Brock University and study Popular Culture.
August 2nd, 2002 was SMART Start, a program held every year by Brock University students to help orient first year students and their families before school officially starts in September.
I was a keener and overachiever, like I always have been and likely always will be. Before attending SMART Start I thoroughly researched every aspect of Brock University. I was the kid who the minute first year registration opened I was online (via dial-up) registering for my carefully selected first year classes. SMART Start was organized into sessions for the students and session for the parents. Since I was a keener and had already completed all of what the students sessions were addressing, I got to spend the afternoon with my parents in the parents’ session.
Little did I know then, but my over-eager attitude was going to shape my entire university experience. The afternoon session for the parents was a keynote address from one of Brock top Professors, named Barry Joe. Barry Joe was a 3M award-winning professor who worked in the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies (CTLET) at Brock University, as well as taught in two faculties. His role in the CTLET, as I understood it, was to help train other professors to better utilize classroom techniques and technologies to improve interaction with and education of students.
Barry Joe’s presentation to the parents, explored his teaching philosophy through the example of one of his classes. The class Barry Joe used as an example was COMM2P90, know to students as Computer Mediated Communications. Barry openly admitted that he was part of the scribal era, romanced by books and written words upon a page. Part of his background was in German Language and Literature. Barry had a keen interest in technology though. He was interested in how the digital generation interacted with technology and how technology changed the way people perceived text, narrative and how communication was ultimately effected.
I remember sitting listening to Barry talk about his class and his belief that he had just as much to learn from his students as he had to teach them. I was in awe, completely inspired and entranced by his words. I was so excited that I had chosen a school that had a professor like this. A professor who valued the minds of his students and who wasn’t afraid to approach ‘new’ concepts, even though they may be foreign to people, including himself. He talked about his RL (Real Life) classroom, and his virtual office hours. He conveyed stories of heated debates that his class had had on topics of digital communications and the ethics in digital communications.
I remember as I sat there with my parents, my Dad and I turned and looked at each other and said simultaneous “I/You am/are so taking that class!”. Unfortunately for me it was a second year class. I had to make it through first year before I could enroll in Barry Joe’s class. When registration opened for 2nd year, I was online (again on dial-up) the minute it opened registering for COMM 2P90 before the class filled up (I registered for my mandatory classes second).
Over 4 years at Brock I took 4 of Barry’s classes.
COMM 2P90 – Computer Mediated Communications
COMM 3P90 – Advanced Topics in Computer Mediated Communications
COMM 2P91 – Introduction to Hypertext
COMM 3p90 redone – Cross Media Narratives (My previously classes actually helped to develop the curriculum for this class)
Barry’s classes were the classes that I always looked forward to. The semester’s when I didn’t have one of his classes I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like I was challenged or stimulated to the degree I’d come to expect from post-secondary education. Without his classes I didn’t feel like I was in control of my education, I felt like a spectator instead of a participant.
Barry is the kind of educator who makes students take ownership of their education. He is not one of those professors who stands at a podium dictating textbook material in the most monotonous of manners. Instead he was the professor who would sit in a desk facing the students, popping candy rockets while participating in the conversation. In the classes I had with him, the students were in control of their education. While he introduced a topic to us, it was up to us to determine where the discussion went and how it evolved. He always said that he loved his COMM classes because they provided him with epiphany moments; our knowledge and perspective gave him a great understanding of the world as he viewed it. Barry always told our classes that he came from the generation where both feet were firmly planted in the scribal world. It was clear though that he was an exception. While he had one foot firmly planted in the scribal world, he was constantly dipping his toes into the digital realm. He was our professor, but he operated from the perspective that he was on our territory. We, his students, had grown up part of the digital realm, and we knew far more than we gave ourselves credit for. Barry often managed to educate us by facilitating the realization and growth of the knowledge we already possessed.
While other professors were constantly breaking us down and making us unsure of ourselves and our knowledge, Barry was giving us the strength and the confidence to believe in ourselves and our knowledge. He was giving us the ability to fight for our ideas and win. While his classes were largely based on the present and the future of technology, we often found ourselves exploring historical concepts and their relation to our world. Our classes explored concepts of community by looking at Tonnies notions of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, and by reading excerpts from Marx’s Communist Manifesto We delved into notions of identity as presented by Freud, Jung, Moeller, Erikson and many more.
We looked at the traditional construct of narrative and how narrative has evolves in response to technology and how it continues to evolve as it is reproduced across several mediums simultaneously.
One of our classes looked at hypertext books, specifically Afternoon and Patchwork Girl. We started the class looking at hypertext books and by the end of the class we were teaching Barry how hypertext narrative could be seen in movies like Kill Bill and Memento. It was a fascinating discussion, and honestly quite hilarious. Imagine a class of 15, 20 somethings, trying to convince a long-standing professor, passionate about books, that what he is talking about in terms of hypertext narratives was from our perspective easily applied to examples found in modern cinema. We made him watch a number of movies, but his reaction to Memento was by far the most entertaining. After the first time he watched it, he simply did not get it, no matter how much explanation we gave. It was so entertaining that as a gift upon my graduation, I left him a copy of Memento hanging from his door a long with a note explaining how much his presence in my academic career had meant to me.
Barry is someone I will never in my life forget. He made such an impact on me as a student and as a person. The things I learned in his classroom have extended far beyond the walls of the classroom, as they always did; they colour the way that I see the world and view digital communication. His never-ending passion for learning and education is something I hope I will forever carry with me.
His friendship, knowledge, and unwavering dedication to students and the education process is something I will forever value and is something that I wish for every student to experience.
It has been five years since I graduated, and I still cannot say thank you enough to Barry Joe for all that he taught me.
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