I saw the announcement about Google Calendar’s appointment slots feature a little more than a week ago, and the various reports of its availability reassured me it was being rolled out gradually. Until yesterday’s CNET report, though, I didn’t realize the reason I wasn’t seeing the feature had to do with viewing my calendar as four weeks at a time. The appointment slots feature showed up when I switched to the weekly view.
The spring term is winding down such that I don’t have much occasion right now to use this for scheduling office hours, but I will definitely give it a try in the fall. Just in tinkering around with it for a few minutes yesterday, I learned that the appointments are exceedingly easy to schedule, that the notifications are prompt, and that appointments, once scheduled, show up on the Mozilla calendar I use offline (and for keeping multiple calendars in one place). That it’s built into a system I already use for my calendar makes it a better option than Tungle.me, which I tried this spring term. Trouble with Tungle.me is that I don’t think to update it, and I don’t do enough to push students in its direction for appointment-making. Selecting one of Google’s appointment slots requires the scheduler to have a Google account, though, whereas Tungle.me’s appointments can be booked without signing up for an account. I remain undecided about the magnitude of this difference and will have to watch whether it makes any difference in the fall.
The appointment slots feature also gets me thinking about integrations for our University Writing Center, which has not yet adopted a booking system for writing consultations. We’re not there yet, but it would be ideal if we could create a scheduling system built on the Google Calendar API that would rival WCOnline.
At this time of year–because it is semester’s end, the last Friday of Fall 2010 (before final exam week)–I am thinking again about patterned precarity. “Patterned” because the academy’s clock punctuates our lives with fairly arbitrary (if systemic) endpoints. That semesters end means for many students an intensified two-week window near the end of time when a flurry of deadlines, for admittedly complicated reasons, amount to a heap of dustbin deliverables and an even taller heap of stress. I know I am generalizing: it doesn’t always go this way, nor does it have to go this way. But often it does. End of semester grunt/strain/anguish is palpable, thick in the air.
Especially so this semester, it seems.
E., my friend in Kansas City, shared an anecdote with me once about the learner’s mindset and the thrill of close calls. The story I (mis)remember goes something like this: in Kaffa, the region of Ethiopia known as the original growthplace of coffee, there emerged an astonishingly widespread practice among teenagers of something like “fender glancing.” Fender glancing is a game of chicken with moving cars. Basically, participants in this activity enjoy a rush by close brushes with automobiles. A near miss is invigorating–literally life-giving. I made it! As you might imagine, this does not always turn out well. Almost being hit by a car–when the choreography goes badly–can be lethal or at the very least bone-breaking. E. explained how he saw many correspondences to this in those he was teaching (to play soccer), particularly when they were bored.
Thrill seeking isn’t a new discovery or even a new cultural phenomenon elucidated by the derivative (i.e., friend of a friend said; an admittedly lazy, heard-about method) anthropology above. But it nevertheless reminds me about revaluing the relationship between what happens all along, in a given semester, and what happens at the end, as well as rethinking how practices in a given course must spill beyond the time-bounded container of fifteen weeks. In other words, for teaching, how can we redistribute intensive encounters so that a class doesn’t reduce to an ultimate showdown at semester’s end?