I believe it all began when I was facilitating workshops for the VideoWomen group, showing women how to use video equipment, camera, audio, lighting, and basic editing. In those days we were suddenly aware of the role of women in media imagery, so I prepared workshops on that topic as well. It was my first foray into the realm of teaching adults, and I loved it. At that time I also created ongoing VideoWomen-sponsored public events and screenings, along with our weekly cable tv interview program. I saw all of it as teaching, on some level.
In Edmonton, I co-taught an evening course on Meditation Techniques at Grant McEwan Community College. We went over the usual information on the chakras and sitting postures, mantras and concentration exercises. At the same time I was facilitating and leading a sufi group, which also involved meditation instruction, and individual study.
Later I came up with a continuing education course about the coming computer revolution: “Computers Feed My Family and Pay My Taxes.” This was a riff on a popular Alberta bumper sticker of the times: “Oil Feeds My Family and Pays My Taxes.” Both seem applicable today. In that 8 week course I presented an overview of the effects of computers on society and the transformations that could be expected in the years to come. I also showed the students innovative (at the time) video of computer-generated imagery and tried to open people’s eyes to the changes that were just around the corner. This was in the early 80′s, in Banff, and was the only course I taught there.
In Vancouver, I taught an 8 week course on Writing Skills at Langara College’s Continuing Education Department. When I began I was working with the course materials the previous instructor had passed on to me, but soon I had prepared my own. I then expanded to two additional 6 week courses: Writing the Opinion Piece and Research Skills for Writers and Reporters, both of which I developed, prepared and presented.
I was sad to stop teaching in the evenings, but had to do it, as my day job at that time (with THA Media) required travelling so I wasn’t be able to commit to the courses. So it wasn’t until I was working at VFS that I could get back into it.
While at Vancouver Film School Multimedia, then New Media, I taught several courses, and many of them shifted and changed with the industry over the years. All the courses I created and taught were 8 weeks in duration. I first came in to teach Marketing, and I prepared the curriculum and course plan for that aspect of the program. It was a combination of lecture, anecdotes and hands-on work from the students, who presented at a mock trade-show at the end of the course. (Marketing was not a favorite course for students who wanted to just create media.)
I also gave an overview that I really enjoyed, on the history of multimedia from cave paintings and synaesthesia through to Vannevar Bush to the Xanadu Project to Alan Kay to the the world wide web – with lots in between. The information was in two parts: History of Media, and History of Multimedia. If my notes ever turn up, I’ll find a way to add them to this blog.
Other courses I prepared and presented over the years there were PreProduction for Interactive Media (involving groups making pitches for their interactive projects, and presenting their production plans), Portfolio Preparation (in which individual students prepared resumes and their final work for jury assessment), Writing for Interactivity (an optional and exploratory course also offered in the evenings), Proposal Writing (developing skills in preparing materials and writing effective proposals), and the ongoing and often-changing course Introduction to Multimedia (sometimes featuring guest instructors in specialized areas, also offered in the evening program).
These courses were all hands-on, and any theory was presented in order to be applied, keeping in mind the student population at VFS were individuals who had chosen to go there to learn skills, not necessarily for theory. For example, the Industry Speaker Series which I facilitated for several years was not well attended as the students would much rather work on their computers than listen to someone present. It was a pity, because innovative artists and the people who were driving the new media industry in Vancouver (and who could have perhaps hired these students when they graduated) were weekly guests in the main theatre, and they showed all their latest and greatest in software, projects or industry stats. Whenever anyone “big” or “important” was coming to town, I tried to bring them in to speak to the students as part of this course.
By the time I left VFS, I was done with teaching for a long while, and had shifted myself away from that presentational mode. But just now, I was thinking about all that effort, all the energy and dynamism of the students, and of the great experience it was to take material and find ways to present it to people in such a way that they could grasp it and make it their own.
It’s been fun just remembering the teaching I’ve done in adult education and community colleges. I certainly learned a great deal from the course and curriculum development work and from implementation of the planned materials. All that stuff about learning outcomes, it’s still rambling around in my mind.
I’ve finally put together some of my earlier writings, self-published at Lulu, which has given me a storefront, Carol’s Special Interest Bookstore. It’s all still in process, but I’m happy to say that at least it has started. Now the two books there are just the beginning, and the facsimile book is still in a draft form, no doubt it will need to be revised. But, I thought, why not just do it? Instead of only working on material for others, I should also put out some of the writing I’ve done for myself. Watch that space, there’s more to come. I’m using Lulu for work that has a very limited appeal, and am still not sure about using it for work that I know will have a wider audience. Not because their print on demand isn’t great, it’s very good. But because they are in the US. Not a problem for anyone ordering a single copy, the cost is under the customs radar. But any Canadian volume more than that could be more costly than a local printer.
Here’s a page from the facsimile book:
Before I had formed VideoWomen, I made a video while at U of C, dealing with women’s issues, etc. Actually it was more of a media experiment. As the tape was erased long ago, I thought it would be fun to describe it here. First, I searched through innumerable films from the U of C archives and the NFB, gathering clips to edit together once they had been transferred to tape via the big old telecine machine. I ordered the many clips, included images of women from silents like Metropolis and The Phantom of the Opera, from anthropology films and other educational pieces, and from NFB shorts. Then I showed the finished work to a group, and as they viewed, their comments were recorded as the audio track. The work had one more layer to it, in which the whole piece was shown to the group again, and this time, in the lower right corner of the piece (much like picture-in-picture) the commenting group, recorded, sitting in the studio, discussing the piece again, as they viewed. This audio was additionally mixed into the audio of the final tape. I can’t even remember its title, and unfortunately, in keeping with my “process vs product” ideology at that time, I allowed the master tape to be wiped – no record of it exists at all.
In those very early days of video experimentation, the process was all, and the product meant little or nothing to us. We would bathe in the electron beams, and simultaneously watch and record, then watch again. Of course, there was much fun with video feedback as well.
How did it start? Doug brought the gear home – was it from the University of Calgary? and showed it to us. We started playing with it – Roberta, Doug, Gary and I taped ourselves doing ordinary things, fooling around, recording, experimenting. It was the very early 70′s or late 60′s, and we were high, in our early 20′s, all very into media.
A year of so later, feminism was in force – a rather sweet idealistic early feminism in Calgary. We were out of touch with the harsher politics, and just believed the ideals. I connected the pleasures of the video revelations with my interest in feminism and personal awakening, and with Susan Maag, started the group Videowomen. We managed to get some funding from the Canadian government and bought portapak gear and tapes. Set up a group that gave workshops in video, in media image, in women and media, and in media and social change. We had a weekly cable interview show, with a radical all-woman crew. Members took the gear home, made tapes and shared them with each other. It became a bit more serious, more finished in some ways, and lost the heady enthusiasm of the early experiments that Roberta, Doug, Gary and I had shared. Tapes were produced, some as finished products. The only lasting and meaningful tape to come out of this was the Birth of Leda, Sandy Botting’s home birth tape.
I don’t know where the women from VideoWomen are now, and although we were resonant with groups like Women in Film, we were outsiders as well. Calgary was self-contained, unconnected, unhip. It didn’t seem as if anything we did mattered to the rest of the world. Certainly, our products weren’t too important. But the process, that was something different.