Friday, October 17, 2008

Leading the horse to water

The new course in nanotechnology I was talking about a while ago is now really starting to take form. We've decided on the split between the departments, which entails who gets the bulk of the cash flow, and we've finalized who's going to be the subject teachers. Based on feedback from students, we wanted to have as few subject teachers as possible, so as to avoid situations with communication breakdown between lecturers, which always results in utter chaos and a poor learning environment for the students. 'Cause after all, we're trying to optimize the course for the students.

We're doing it for the kids, man.

My colleague and collaborator (from the same department) ended up as the course coordinator, which suits me fine, as it takes a lot of the administrative nonsense off my desk. Besides, we opted for positioning the course in the Spring semester, which means that my busiest semester teaching-wise just became a lot busier. Moreover, the topics covered in this course probably appeals to the students which are likely to choose my other course, so it might be that I'm losing students from my main course to the new one.

Of the three subject teachers, I'm the one who gets ownership of all things related to bio and medicine, which suits me just fine. I'll still be able to whack the students over the head with triple integrals via plasmonics if I want to, and besides I kinda' get my fill of being Equation Guy in the other course I'm teaching in the Spring semester. Not to mention that the majority of my research entails bionanotechnology, so I can pimp my work and show current research, hopefully landing me some potential M.Sc. and Ph.D. candidates.

What potentially sucks is that it's really hard to find a suitable textbook. As of right now, we've found exactly zero textbooks we can get away with using without putting some major time into writing a comprehensive compendium. I'm not sure how I feel about that, because I think I'd enjoy writing a full-blown textbook at some point, and a compendium feels more like a necessary evil than a viable alternative. However, at this point it'd be a pretty stupid idea to even suggest that we write a full-blown textbook, despite the fact that I'd probably enjoy doing just that. First of all, I'm probably too fresh off the academic turnip truck to have any kind of pull with a publisher to land such a deal. Second, spending a LOT of my time writing a textbook would absolutely wreak havoc on the current progression in my h-factor. And that would be downright moronic. 'Cause while both the government and the universities like to pretend that they reward effort put into teaching, that just ain't true. No "Teacher of the Year" award is going to mean jack $hit when you apply for funding, so that means the Knowledge Department and the Research Council could care less. And as long as you're - well - teaching something to some students and you've passed the phantasmogorgical time-sink otherwise known as the mandatory pedagogic course, being a good teacher doesn't even factor into the criteria listed as being necessary for getting promoted to full Professor. So contrary to what's constantly being fronted to the public, there's approximately zero incentive to be a good teacher beyond your own conscience and whether or not you're passionate about teaching.

They ain't kiddin' about the "Publish or Perish" thing.


Pigeon said...

I'll still be able to whack the students over the head with triple integrals via plasmonics if I want to

Of course you will, you're such a n..d :)

Wilhelm said...

Quiet down, you