Like many authors, I teach writing to help make ends meet. Teaching part-time at a college and an arts high school doesn’t exactly make you rich, but I for one find it very satisfying. One of the obvious perks for me is getting to teach alongside steampunk progenitors Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock, both of whom are fascinating, brilliant men.
The other perk — the less obvious one — is the students themselves.
On one hand, I often find myself wringing my hands like an old fuddy-duddy about how this youthful generation is enslaved by technology. I’ve had two college students this year write about how they were “catfished,” for example, and it’s hard to understand a generation that has made the act of duping someone into having a phony online relationship so commonplace.
And then there’s their obsession with smart phones, providing a constant distraction in the classroom and leading students to shamble mindlessly down the hallways between classes with their phones in their faces, heedless of who or what they bump into. The zombie apocalypse is here already, I tell you!
On the other hand, I’m constantly inspired by my students, both by their creativity and their exuberance for crossing genres and mediums. And really, it all stems from the ubiquity of technology in their lives. Yes, even those damned smart phones.
At the behest of a handful of my high school students this year, I taught a class called Writing for Alternative Mediums (WAM), meaning writing for video games, phone apps, web comics, and whatever else the kids could dream up.
Like any savvy teacher who has no expertise or experience on a given topic, I “taught” the course as a seminar, meaning the students were forced to perform their own self-guided research, develop a project, and then present their work to the class.
The big winner ended up being me.
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