Permalink

Facts are discovered.

Knowledge is created.

Honor in defeat

In all my years of online teaching (and it’s over 20, mind) I have never had a worse start to the semester. My inbox is receiving student messages at the rate of about 3 per hour, and has done the entire first week. These messages are, as I’ve mentioned before, mostly related to not being able to find things. Many indicate that they haven’t read my announcements, so all have required individual responses.

This is heart-breaking for me, and not because of the time suck. My navigation in my courses has always been my pride. Students frequently mention on evaluations the ease of getting around the course, the knowledge of knowing what is due and when, the way the class hangs together. One Canvas feature, the To-Do list on the app, has put an end to all of that.

When the LMS undermines the integrity of my courses, it puts me in a bind. The disaggregation of content creates larger problems, as I’ve noted. I am being defeated by Canvas. The question is whether I can snatch honor from defeat.

The solutions I articulated last time, the new rules, are proving to be difficult to implement in Canvas.

For example, it is clear that proximity of content to task is crucial when students engage class material through disparate tasks. Reading must be together with a quiz or writing on that reading. Self-reported items must have the self-reported task alongside the submission. So what’s the problem?

The To-Do Lists

Canvas makes this much more difficult than it has to be, because the To-Do list itself is a fickle beast. Over the last 48 hours, I have learned a lot about it. There are, it turns out, several To-Do lists. One appears when you open the Home page of the course itself (let’s call this List A):

It includes Calendar events, so it would tell students everything they need. Unfortunately, it is useless, since the problem is that students no longer go to the course Home page in the first place.

Another To-Do list is on the new, improved Student Dashboard (List B). For some reason, it prefaces everything with the words, “Turn in”:

This is on the right side of what is basically a home page for the entire Canvas system for the college, and the Canvas folks don’t seem to understand that students don’t go there either. One reason is that it’s utterly cluttered with college announcements. It also does not include Calendar events.

Here is what students see in the tool they’ve suddenly started to use now that all their MiraCosta classes are in Canvas, the aggregated To-Do list on their phone in the app (List C). It also uses “Turn in”:

No Calendar events, no ungraded assignments. Here are the other things they can see on their phone:

The Inbox (Messages) Notifications (the default is Announcements and Message) Events (which shows only those manually added to the calendar) Dashboard with tiles

My student account is set as a student in five of my classes, so imagine all these from different classes, in different colors.

As far as I can tell, almost all of the students now only use the To-Do list in the app, List C. The questions I’ve received indicate that few use the Notifications, which is where all my Announcements would appear. These don’t appear on the To-Do list, implying that reading them is not something one needs To Do.

The Attempt to Solve This

Since they cannot see either the week’s readings or my lectures in the To-Do list, surely the trick was to get these to appear.

Option 1: Add everything to the Calendar as an event on a date

This would be easiest, but it didn’t work, because the app To-Do list does not show Calendar events.

Option 2: Make a page for each reading and lecture and check the box “Add to student to-do list”

I thought I could make a page for each reading and each lecture, then click the “Add to student to-do list” box, and they would be visible!

But it turns out this is not the case. Things added using the “Add to student to-do list” box only appear on the Course home page list (List A) or the Student Dashboard (List B), not the app To-Do list.

Option 3: Make readings into 0-point assignments or ungraded quizzes or surveys

No dice. It turns out nothing will appear on the To-Do list in the app unless it is a graded discussion, assignment, or quiz.

So that leaves me with only one option: make everything graded.

Grading and ungrading

No way am I grading every time they do a reading or view a lecture. Out of the question.

So the other possibility: ungrading.

I have never been a true believer in ungrading, or in the honor system. I allow it for some items, but not for others, and for those self-reported items I not infrequently discover plagiarism, dishonesty, or inferior work. The point of the system is to give feedback on this work, which I can do only up to a point.

The way to force ungraded tasks to appear on the app To-Do list is to adapt Laura Gibbs’ brilliant self-reporting quizzes and embed the material or link it in the instructions to that quiz.

So each lecture link would go to something like this:

For readings, I could adapt the trick I’ve been using to bring proximity to readings and homework assignments: use iframes to embed the reading in the instructions of the quiz. Then each reading link will go to something like this:

For six classes, needless to say, this will take a huge amount of time.

Now some people may say, “But Lisa, what happens when Canvas changes everything? It worries me that you might have to do all this work again!” As the Scottish policeman said in Casino Royale (1967), when it worried James Bond that he was a French police officer but had a Scots accent, “Aye, it worras me too.”

The Justification

As Jeff Goldblum’s character noted in The Big Chill (1983), it is impossible to go through the day without a juicy justification — it’s more important than sex.

So here I will defend a system in which I don’t believe: the honor system. Clearly, if everything that is assigned becomes a self-graded or auto-graded quiz, we’re on the honor system automatically.

I return to Stephen Downes’ idea of education: that it is the role of professors to model and demonstrate, and the role of students to practice and reflect. I think, frankly, that reflection is dead when the content and tasks are disaggregated. So what’s left is practice. The doing of history is what’s important, and I will grade it when they do it: writing assignments will always be graded by me. The rest will be (ungraded) practice, for points.

This will create an environment of trust (um….ok) and responsibility for learning (yes indeedy). [Suppressing cynicism will become my new watchword. Whiskey may become important.]

But wait, there’s more!

Possible further changes, then, after the zillions of hours making quizzes for the unquizzable, would include:

1) changing from weighted categories to points accumulation, because there’s no point in weighting anything

2) returning to Modules (which I just happily jettisoned) to force task completion

3) using Modules as the ugly home page to eliminate beautifying a Home page no one uses

4) eliminating the weekly pages I decided to keep instead of using Modules, which would entail losing all my introductory videos because it’s stupid to put a 2-minute Voki on a quiz

5) eliminating all multiple-choice quizzes because (a) I get too many student questions about them, (b) it isn’t really practicing to do them, and (c) Canvas can’t properly handle test banks anyway and I’m always having to fix them

6) vigorous use of James Jones’ brilliant due dates spreadsheet to make sure everything is dated properly

7) sorting out the remaining problems: getting students to the Information page (which is a FAQ they need), and forcing them to return to a Discussion that they think is completed after only one post

Thomas Jones Barker, Death of Captain Nolan (1855)

Disaggregated knowledge and the LMS

The advantage of teaching so many classes online is that I see patterns in student messages that lead me into larger issues. This one is HUGE. It’s not just about Canvas. It’s about the decline of Western education as we know it.

I stopped using Modules last term, because they “flattened” the elements of my class, making it appear as though each were of equal worth. Modules also forced students along a linear path of that week’s work.

I instead chose to keep my weekly pages, which list the things we do each week and when they’re due. I use bold for the higher-stakes assignments. Canvas automatically puts my due dates on the Calendar, and thus populates the students’ To-Do and Upcoming lists, which appear on the main (Home) page.

Over the years, more and more classes have switched to Canvas, so the average full-time student at MiraCosta would have four classes in a term. What the Canvas Calendar does is acts like any other calendar — it lists the tasks for each day or each week or each month. On the student Canvas app, it shows the To-Do list for each week from all their classes.

Sound convenient? It is convenient in the same way that bottled water is convenient, and that credit cards are convenient. It undermines traditional relationships globally, and creates a sea change.

Yes, I probably sound crazy saying that the Canvas Calendar represents the decline of Western education as we know it. But bear with me.

This week, the first week of class, I have had an unusual number of students message me saying they missed the assignment because they didn’t “see” it. By probing this, I’ve discovered that they mean it isn’t appearing in the To-Do list. This is regardless of the fact that I did check to the box to add these items to the To-Do list (I”ll check that technical issue later). I quickly responded with the yellow highlighted note on the Home page you see below, but I still was getting apology messages for missing work they couldn’t tell they needed to do.

This morrning a student wrote me saying she was sorry she missed it, but the primary source assignment wasn’t on the To-Do list. I sent a student my screenshot in Student View, showing that the assignment was indeed appearing on the list.

 

She replied with two screenshots where it wasn’t there. Here’s the one she sent from her phone:

And it suddenly hit me. The process she’s accessing, the To-Do List, lists all the tasks for all the classes a student takes. It thus disaggregates the courses entirely. She’s no longer taking my History class, or a Sociology class. She’s just doing work, clicking links, crossing things off a list.

By showing the student the tasks for the day, for all three of her classes, Canvas has not only reasserted its contention that all learning tasks are equivalent, but that they are tasks unrelated to anything else. They are just stuff the student needs to complete.

Most scholars think in terms of their field, then teachers think in terms of wrapping elements together to encourage understanding. On my weekly page, you can see that the tasks for the week relate to each other. They are all part of that week’s topic. They follow sequentially: first post the primary source (forum), then check it for points (quiz). My design has instantly become irrelevant.

My practical response today has been to go through all my classes, adding the weekly page to the To-Do list, as the first thing that week. It will be tricker to do this for my lectures and other non-graded or linked items, since Canvas doesn’t “see” those at all. I will have to link each on a Page and put the Page on the To-Do list, forcing students to click twice to get to it. This will take all weekend.

But my holistic response is much more important. The units we teach are no longer units — they contain no flow or contiguity when seen as disparate tasks. If students access all academic work as a flat list of tasks, there is no connection between assignments. There is no connection, for example, between Reading 3 and Quiz 3. Assign the Reading for Monday. Assign the Reading Quiz for Wednesday, and it isn’t clear they relate to each other.

This explains the other messages I’m receiving. “I see we have a Lecture quiz due, but what is that on?” At first I smirked and thought, “The Lecture, of course!” But now I realize they don’t see the Lecture unless they’re on the weekly page. “The Calendar says the second post is due – where do I post?” You can’t put two due dates for the same discussion forum. They don’t know where to return to in order to post.

In an age when we worry that students don’t read whole books, we have something here that is much worse. How can they do sequential and scaffolded learning when the system won’t let you scaffold?

It changes the rules utterly. Here are the “new” rules (some have been good practice for awhile):

1. Assessment and responses must appear with the content.

Quiz 3, in other words, must contain Reading 3 within it. You can’t have a link for Reading 3 on Monday and Quiz 3 on Wednesday.

Note here that group text annotation, of the kind I’m using in Perusall, is ideal. The content and the activity are inextricably linked.

2. Double-level discussion may not work.

In Canvas, to have students return to a discussion, it will be necessary to link to that same discussion in the Calendar later in the week.

One alternative will be to have the entire class inside a discussion forum. This won’t work in Canvas because it doesn’t allow real threads, but might work in other systems.

3. Navigation schemes are useless.

Obviously, my own weekly page navigation, even if it’s on the To-Do list, is worked against forcefully by Canvas.

Some would say return to Modules. But Canvas’ own Modules are irrelevant, except for adaptive release, or to force task order. Students won’t use the Modules page either, even if it’s the main page. They may never see it.

This also applies to the Home page itself, especially a nice one. It is now obsolete. All we’ve learned about making the Home page welcoming is irrelevant.

Again, the new rules (and I’m sure there will be more as we all think about it) are the result of the disaggregation of content and tasks. This is both an effect of the technology, and a cause of the disaggregation of knowledge. We’d better plan accordingly.

The internet’s not for learning?

I confess to being depressed by a summer article in The Economist, “The second half of humanity is joining the internet” (June 6). In the spirit of Thorstein Veblen’s critique, poorer parts of the world are getting on the internet*, mostly though mobile phones. And even fewer people there than in the developed world are using this online time to learn things.

The Economist article did not specifically count online courses, only “education information/services”, but the use is pretty low. And it likely includes looking up something on Wikipedia so you can win a game, or checking the weather.

People everywhere do the same thing: use the internet mostly for “timepass” – passing the time by communicating with friends and family, playing games, and watching videos. I’m not saying these things don’t cause learning. They do. But the purpose is entertainment and emotional satisfaction, not becoming an educated citizen.

It just serves to remind me how truly wide the gulf is between those who value education for its long-term benefits, and those who just want to pass the time. Are the people who get satisfaction from intellectual challenges rare? If so, will the smartphones make them even more rare?

Because that’s the crux of the issue. When all this internet-y, web-by stuff began, we educators were all excited. Vast libraries of information! Massive open online classes! Anyone can learn anything from anywhere!

I’m not anti-entertainment. I’m a huge classic movie fan, and I watch a lot of TV programs where one character calls another “Inspector”. I read modern novels just for fun, or to get to sleep. I’m not always working, always teaching, or always learning.

But I am again reminded of the old Zits cartoon:


The internet relies on huge servers, and uses tons of resources. It only seems “clean”. The mobile phones contain rare earths, the servers are so hot they need to be in the Arctic, the power plants chug away so we can have long power strips full of our charging device plugs. It’s odd to make that sacrifice just so that people can play Fortnite from anywhere.

Perhaps our goals were too utopian. The article points out that our vision of the subsistence farmer checking weather on his phone to save his crop doesn’t really happen. But why shouldn’t everyone use the internet for whatever they like? And can’t we learn wonderful things on our own? Some little boy somewhere is watching a Zeffirelli clip on YouTube and is inspired to become a great set designer. Some little girl is watching the US women’s soccer team and will be a great player. Is formal education a more important use of technology?

After two decades online, however, I am saddened that there hasn’t been a little more educational uptake and a little less “Whasup?”.

 


* I used to be very careful to distinguish the web from the internet — the internet is the entire online structure, while the web is the world wide web accessed through a browser. The recent dominance of the “app” and sites requiring log-in is closing the web, and has become the most-used aspect of the internet other than email.

Wells and the moon shot

On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I picked up my copy of H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon (1901), and found these paragraphs:

. . . Then with a click the window flew open. I fell clumsily upon hands and face, and saw for a moment between my black extended fingers our mother earth—a planet in a downward sky.
   We were still very near—Cavor told me the distance was perhaps eight hundred miles and the huge terrestrial disc filled all heaven. But already it was plain to see that the world was a globe. The land below us was in twilight and vague, but westward the fast gray stretches of the Atlantic shone like molten silver under the receding day. I think I recognised the cloud-dimmed coast-lines of France and Spain and the south of England, and then, with a click, the shutter closed again, and I found myself in a state of extraordinary confusion sliding slowly over the smooth glass.
   When at last things settled themselves in my mind again, it seemed quite beyond question that the moon was “down” and under my feet, and that the earth was somewhere away on the level of the horizon—the earth that had been “down” to me and my kindred since the beginning of things.

Ending the reading/quiz cycle

I certainly didn’t mean for the relationship to end suddenly. It has been tenuous for awhile, various arguments and complaints, but I always thought it was a communication problem. But finally I had to walk away.

In my History of England class, the textbook has been an issue for a long time. The most suitable and available academic text, by the Messrs Roberts, is two volumes, so that won’t work. The class is, unfortunately, only one semester (we have two for the history of the U.S., with a much shorter history). And realistically, even one volume is asking for trouble.

All the books I’ve used, including works by Roy Strong, Asa Briggs, and F.E. Halliday are outdated, out of print, or both. These have been replaced by volumes that sell well in the U.K., but require a previous knowledge lacking in American students: works by Jeremy Black, Simon Schama, and Simon Jenkins. I’ve been using the Penguin Illustrated History, which I love. It’s visual, I’ve written a bunch of quizzes for it, and it’s beautifully written. But students have become less enthusiastic, and it’s outdated now anyway.

Besides, it costs money. All my other classes require only my own pdf textbook, freely downloadable and printable. We are now required to indicate in the class registration system if we have a low-cost or no-cost class, so that automatically creates competition among classes as students realize they can take a class for less money. This was my last class with a textbook that had to be purchased, and it wasn’t easy for the bookstore, or students online, to find an inexpensive copy. So I unceremoniously dumped the textbook, and spend a couple of weeks this summer downloading, editing, and reformatting appropriate pages from the web. Then I wrote matching quizzes.

Canvas is not user friendly when it comes to importing, editing, and reusing quizzes, in any format. It’s test banks are obscure and hard to use. The result of my machinations was a set of single-question, matching quizzes for the new readings, and my old (now five-question) multiple-choice quizzes for my lecture. So I put one due Wednesday and the other Sunday.

Well, now the weekly course page was becoming really cluttered:

I don’t want to go all Copernican on this, but if I were a student it’s starting to look like hoops to jump through, instead of ways to explore material.

So I thought, what do I want them to get out of the reading anyway? My lectures already have a good outline of the main events of English political, social, and cultural history. And the depth is already provided by the documents we “read and discuss” (i.e. annotate in Perusall) each week. These readings are pretty intense for today’s community college students (Magna Carta, Archbishop Cranmer). So instead of adding new readings, it may be better to have them deal with these documents more.

I spent yesterday deleting all the quizzes, both lecture and reading. Instead, I’m having each student submit a “Document analysis paragraph” which uses all the names of the documents to support any single idea they have about the era we’re studying. I made a silly sample paragraph to model what I want them to do:

It’s in the form of a single-question graded survey, which will automatically apply points if they turn it in, so I can read them at my leisure and communicate individually with students who are struggling. And now students are doing, not reading and quizzing.

And thus I’ve broken the entire reading/quiz cycle in one swoop. I didn’t set out to do this — it just happened. But I’m pretty sure I’ll have no regrets.

 

Easy (for students) messaging in Canvas

Canvas’ messaging system sucks. Always has. Its new and improved version isn’t much better.

If you’re a student, and you want to email your instructor, there’s no easy way. You have to know that among the ever-proliferating global items in the far left menu, “Inbox” means the internal messaging system. You must also know already that it is for both “in” and “out” messages.

Then you need to know that this symbol is to write a message:

So you click there and it’s blank. If you have more than one class in Canvas, you must use the dropdown to select your class (which means you must have memorized what the official numbering system of your class is).

Then you must use Search to find your instructor’s name (so you must know not only who that is but how to spell it), or know to select “Teachers” to find your professors.

It’s always amazed me that students ever figure it out.

So I use the “Apps” to create my own menu item that sends students directly into a Message to me.

How to:

Go to Settings – Apps. The “Filter by name” and type in Redirect. Click on that app’s logo, then Add App.

This opens the Redirect App, so fill in the blanks.

The Name is what you want it to say in the course menu. The URL is your version of this:

https://miracosta.instructure.com/conversations?context_id=course_15859&user_id=83&user_name=Lisa%20M%20Lane

Change the server to your college’s canvas server, the course id to that particular course (it’s in its URL), and the user id and Canvas name to yours. Be sure to uncheck “Force open in new tab” and instead check “Show in Course Navigation”. Add the app, go back to Home, and you should see it in the course menu. Test it!

If you make a mistake or want to revise, use Settings – Apps – View App Configurations.

Now when a student clicks on that item in the menu, a Message opens, with your name as recipient and the course name already chosen. Not easy for us (you have to change the course id number every term) but definitely easier for them.

 

 

 

Red Lion Square

Back in June, I went to a meeting of the H.G. Wells Society in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. While I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to look around, I knew I was in a very special place.

In Red Lion Square in 1889, William Briggs opened the London headquarters of the University Correspondence College. He had founded the UCC two years before in Cambridge, and had begun a London operation from an office at 1 Strand Hotel Buildings (which were probably in Holywell Street, now just a widening of Strand). The new offices were likely at 27 Red Lion Square, but the labs and commercial address (for what was called the University Tutorial College) were at 32. So where are these places now?

I have only haphazardly engaged in this investigation, because the site itself isn’t that important. Who cares where H.G. Wells taught his laboratories? Well, I do, if only as a sideline. I have a pretty strong sense of place. I crawled around the Cole wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and asked questions at their photography archives, knowing I was in the same building, possibly on the same staircase, as Wells had been when he studied there (when it was the Normal School of Science) under T.H. Huxley. I’ve walked his path from the train station at Woking toward his house, and journeyed down Euston Road knowing he lived there, and looked up at the sign by his flat in Baker Street. Wells, I’m sure, would not object to my sense of geographic romance.

I began the Red Lion Square quest a few years ago, with this page from the University College London’s Bloomsbury project of 2007-2011. It not only mentions the UCC, but boasts a page on the University Tutorial College. That page cites Anna de Salvo’s book and Alan Tait’s article (I’m familiar with both). It also has a note about Briggs that sent me to the catalog of the British Archives, and ultimately to the archives themselves at Kew, only to discover that the documents were all about the college as part of Briggs’ will, not, as the site says, records of the UCC. The page also claims the UTC moved to Booksellers Row, which is not exactly accurate: the UCC textbook-selling operation and publisher (W.B. Clive) had been there since 1887, and remained there for some time. Booksellers Row, I know, is gone.

Searching for old places is always difficult in a living city. Here the case has been particularly tough, because the square was bombed during World War II. The Friends of Red Lion Square Gardens have a page on what happened, and I was able to note some of the addresses, and see a map of the square in 1952, showing the bombed areas.

Although I had read somewhere that the addresses around the square had changed a lot, the UCL Bloomsbury site said helpfully that Horwood’s maps of 1819 correspond with the Post Office listings of 1879, which isn’t 1889 but it’s close. So I found Horwood’s map at the Romantic London research website, and took a look.

This is the map of the square in 1819, and it includes house numbers. This confused me at first – you have to add in the indicator number (in other words, the “7” between 25 and 30 is “27”), then it makes sense.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1895 shows that not much has changed with the buildings:

So I printed out this map as a template, then used a pencil and noted the addresses I had. I know Conway Hall is at 25, on the corner of Lambs Conduit Passage. It was built in 1927, so it wasn’t there in 1889, but it helped me get my bearings. Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived at 17, and there’s a plaque I can see on Google Street View, so that helped with the other side of the square. Looking around the square in Google, I marked on my map all the obviously new (since 1950s) buildings. Here’s the result:

Having done this, I’m now not surprised the UCC building isn’t there, even if it wasn’t bombed. Very little of the late 19th century square exists. Red Lion Passage is gone, and is now the entry to a block of flats. Drake Street was later extended to Eagle Street.

Why did Briggs choose Red Lion Square for his college? In 1878, according to Old and New London:

“The whole of the square, having long since been deserted by the families who used to inhabit it, has become quite a warren, so to speak, of charitable societies, which we have no room to enumerate in detail.”

William Briggs, a Yorkshireman, wouldn’t have spent a penny more than he had to. I noticed in an photo from 1941 St George’s College (civil service and secretarial training), so I wonder whether Red Lion Square was particularly suited to small, private, educational institutions — the UCC was still there in 1941. The UCL Bloomsbury Project page noted that a lot of the area had been sold off by its 18th century aristocratic landlords to pay off debts.

So yes, I suspect it would have been a cheap place to set up shop. At 8A, across the Square, was the Midnight Meeting Movement, which “rescued” prostitutes, so there was plenty of learning to go round.

 

Knowing the ending

I joined many in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this week, attending the only San Diego screening of Apollo 11. Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary was made by recovering and editing many hours of audio and video recorded (usually separately) during the mission. The film was delightful at many points. I had heard the interview on BBC4 of how it had been made, and smiled every time they aligned the audio with the video of the headset chat between mission control and the astronauts. I gleefully recognized the “go – go -go” sequences as tributes to The Thomas Crown Affair, which came out the year before the mission (1968) and popularized split-screen cinematography. I even understood how conspiracy theorists could think the moon was a movie set (a la Capricorn One), because it looked so unreal. But even more impressive was the audience in the movie theatre. The movie-goers responded to the film while it showed, and applauded at the end, and I remember thinking, “this is strange — we all know the ending”.

I had wondered about that going in. How could the film be suspenseful when, unlike some of the other space missions, we know that the astronauts land, walk about on the lunar surface, and return safely? And yet here was an involved audience, and a geeky audience too — who else would spend their Saturday afternoon at the multiplex watching footage of the moon landing? The film was made for this group — there was no narration that wasn’t primary at the time (news commentary, control room conversation), and little explanation about what was happening. Clearly the audience played along as, for example, the line drawing of the ship rotated to latch onto the lunar module. They knew about all this, but laughed at the astronaut’s jokes, hmmm’d contently at Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind”, and held their breath during the re-entry into the atmosphere.

We live in a world now where it’s very difficult not to know the ending, even if you haven’t seen the film or read the book. “Spoiler alerts” are heeded mostly by purists. We see the trailers of the movie, and we know if it’s a comedy or drama. Everything is reviewed, in print and on the web, among friends in Facebook and Instagram. Even if there’s a twist, we know there will be a twist, just maybe not what it is.

It shows the best in human nature that we are willing to pretend, to suspend our knowledge. It’s as if the ending no longer has the responsibility of carrying the meaning of a piece. Instead, the story itself is the meaning, how it is told, or even the fact of it’s being told. It’s the opposite of cynicism, even as we live in a cynical world.

And I can certainly be cynical. I am not happy that the theatre didn’t show the film in their IMAX room (Lion King seemed to be more important), or that the Ruben Fleet Space Theatre IMAX isn’t showing it at all (WTF?), or that no one seemed to take advantage of the fact that the anniversary and Comic-Con were happening simultaneously (where do they think all those sci fi geeks come from?).  We have multiplexes all over the place and very few movies worth seeing — why was it just one showing in one theatre in the county?

I can also be cynical and patriotic at the same time. This was a huge American achievement — why is the BBC doing more coverage than American media? Why can’t we spend more public money on space exploration? I lived through the space shuttle years (I even went to see it land at Edwards Air Force Base). I assumed that the shuttle would always run and just get better and better, not stop. We shouldn’t be leaving space to Elon Musk and private money. In 1968 we funded the space program and the Great Society at the same time, so don’t tell me there’s no money. And if everyone wants to make us great again, what better than the space program to do that?

But even my discontent was overcome by the actual history, and an excellent film about the main events. Since 1969, people who remember the moon landings look at the moon differently. There were young people at the film who now look at the moon differently too. We went there, they think, for real. Not on a video game, not CGI, but for real. I don’t know the ending, but I have hope about what they’ll do with that feeling.

 

A glowing review

It’s funny what will make you laugh. For example, I found this review in my photos from my recent research trip. It’s from the Science and Art journal, shortly after H.G. Wells published his textbook:

Why did it make me LOL? Because I know that A.T.S. is A.T. Simmons, a friend of Wells from his Normal School days. Simmons’ obituary in Nature describes them as “almost inseparable” in college.

So, if any of my dearest friends want to review my work in a professional journal, go for it.