Professional Development

In the 'Social Stratification in the Deep South 2009' Category...

From Ground Zero to Parchman: A Trip of Contrasts

Friday, June 5, 2009 9:02 am

My last posting was a week and a half ago – hard to believe! I remembered that this trip is one that will keep you busy from breakfast to bedtime. Erik and I have worked out a daily routine that allows us to get our work produced and posted, but sometimes it has taken a bit of ingenuity to get the job done.

We get up at 4:00 am each morning to process the video and images taken the previous day. Erik is already used to that routine from his dissertation work, but it took me a couple of days to adapt. The benefit of this approach is that there is usually a better Internet connection since everyone else in the hotel is asleep (particularly in the hotels with wireless only connectivity). It is also a nice slow traffic time on Facebook so the videos upload more quickly (Often at night, they just won’t go). When the sun rises, we leave the video processing and head out for our daily workout.

As Erik said, running is about our only option, but you’ll see from a picture of this morning, we work with what the place has to offer:

Shack Up Inn Workout Room

During the day, we are kept busy trying to document the day through video and images while we participate with whatever is taking place. We also try to monitor Twitter posts, which have been embraced by a small number of students. But we want to have some each day to show how the day is progressing.

Typically, class activities go until at least 8 or 9 pm. We still have hours of work, but have been too tired to do much more than recharge our equipment before falling into bed exhausted. However, the rhythm we have developed has worked well and allowed us to keep up with our work, stay as healthy as is possible with a diet majoring in fried, and fully experience the content of the class.

The past couple of days have been a perfect example of the range of experiences that are taking place. We are in the Mississippi Delta, a land of contrasts: vast flat farming fields, a rich history of blues and a high level of poverty. When we arrived on Wednesday, we attended a seminar on the Delta in Clarksdale at Ground Zero. This is a blues club owned by Morgan Freeman. It was a wonderful setting to hear Bill Luckett, a local businessman and partner of Freeman, talk to us. We returned that evening for an night of live blues music and dancing. The students (and grownups) had a fabulous time. Erik and I were particularly gratified when the students chose to leave their “signature” on the wall and used our class hashtag as the main identifier!

#Socstrat On the Wall

(footnote: Erik got out on the dance floor!)

But yesterday was a 180 degree turn around in atmosphere and emotions. It was Parchman Farm day, when we traveled to the Mississippi State Penitentary. It is a sobering and reflective type of experience and moved the students deeply. There has been much processing of reactions and you’ll be able to see reflections that we caught immediately after leaving Parchman. This year we visited the death chamber, as well as going into Unit 26 where the men live dormitory style. Sonny and “Country” addressed our group and it was predictable that the students were apprehensive and a bit frightened at that experience.

Arriving at Parchman

Today, we’ve been on the road since 7 and will tour the Delta. The day will be a long one, with Po’ Monkey’s as the highlight of the day! So, we expect to see the students’ moods to swing back to ones of enthusiasm.

Embedded librarians hit the Delta

Thursday, June 4, 2009 9:54 am

The Social Stratification course descended into the delta yesterday morning to spend a few days. We started the day with some interesting discussion with our hosts from the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University and found our way to the B.B. King Museum.

After a lunch of Po Boys at the Pea Soup we headed to the Shack Up Inn outside of Clarksdale. We spent the afternoon and evening at Ground Zero Blues Club. While at the club we heard from two presenters (Bill Luckett and Emily Broad) about the Delta.

The evening was our first ‘music night’ of the trip and proved to be enjoyable for everyone.

As the trip has progressed Susan and I have commented on the shifting role of technology in the course. The discussions on the bus and during presentations have been energetic and seem to have served the need to encourage reflective thinking in the course. As a result, there have yet to be any technology-centered assignments. As such, while the students have been very engaged in the course, their use of technology has served different purposes including documenting, networking/communicating, observing, and reminding. For example students have used twitter to document experiences and share unique facts and have on occasion used the Facebook wall to comment on an event.

The role of videographer has pretty much fallen to Susan and myself and while I know that we would love for some students to take on that role, the technical issues we have encountered just recording and posting videos while on the road make the point that videography is not as low barrier a technology as we thought in the beginning! We have managed to get into a rhythm though & have lots of short videos posted that show different parts of the course.

The exercise on this trip has mainly been running and this morning was one of our best ones yet. Susan and I ran the pancake flat side road south from the Shack Up Inn this morning & got a good Delta sweat going.

Six days to go. . . ..

Service learning on the south trip

Friday, May 29, 2009 8:11 am

On Thursday the Social Stratification course started our 3 day service project with the Southern Mutual Help Association. The day of work was punctuated with a great lunch at Rita’s Cafe (one of the work-sites), a discussion on the value of Zydeco music, and a great dinner at Bon Creole – the most recommended restaurant in town.

New Iberia was hit hard by Katrina and as our host told us, the work to rebuild is still ongoing. It was interesting to work alongside students and faculty on the trip particularly since the service project gave us all a good opportunity to experience the issues and environment that we have been discussing during the trip.

Check out the pics and videos from the first day of our project.

Erik and Susan: Embedded and in Alabama

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 6:21 am

Technology Central

“Technology Central in Birmingham”

Greetings from the Deep South. Erik and I are traveling for 16 days with the 2009 iteration of Drs. Hattery and Smith’s “Social Stratification in the Deep South” experiential summer course. This year there are 19 students, 13 from Colgate University (where Hattery and Smith taught this past year), 5 from Wake Forest and 1 from NC State. Our role on this trip is to deliver the technology that makes the course interactive to our virtual audience and to document the course activities through video, still images, and audio. As you probably know already, our “course shell” is a facebook page, coupled with a twitter feed and flickr. We have been kept busy, particularly with our “just in time” learning on video editing. Barry, we miss you!

We have been in Alabama since Sunday and the course focus has been on Civil Rights issues and history. This morning, after we spend the morning at the South Poverty Law Center, we will get back on the bus for a 7 hour ride to New Iberia, LA. We will spend the next four days there in our service project, helping with the reconstruction of a diner damaged by Katrina and subsequent storms.

Thus far, we are totally impressed with the student engagement with the coursework. The students are sharp and enjoy initiating discussions on the wide range of issues that have been introduced in the first few days. On the first day, a spirited discussion was interrupted by a lunch stop. After we started back on the road, the students asked to resume the interchange and continue exploring the topic. As Lynn can attest to from last trip, usually, post-lunch riding was a prime time for an afternoon nap!

We invite you to keep an eye on our facebook page and see the activities that take place as the trip evolves.

On being a videobrarian

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:09 pm

Today I watched in amazement as our own Susan Smith taped, edited, and posted videos from our Social Stratification course to our Facebook course page. Susan and I spent the last few days recording video and have over 70 GB of data and, as we should have expected, it brought our machines to a crawl. Today we turned our attention to producing shorter, more manageable videos and things are going much better :)

The south trip has been pretty exciting so far with lots of great discussions and opportunities to see new things and we are just getting started.

Tomorrow we head to New Iberia to begin our service project. Wish us luck!


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