Two whole posts in a single month? Watch out, folks, Arestelle’s getting crazy here! 😉
I have been busy. I have spent too much time fretting about scholarship applications and not enough figuring out how to write them (or writing my previous references to beg another favor). I have completed a second Coursera class while simultaneously working on a third. (Wait did I tell you about the first? It was Game Theory; it was fun and cool and challenging; you should try it when it runs again.)
Statistics One, taught by Princeton’s Andrew Conway, is the one I just completed; it had a few glitches that need worked out and leaned a little too far in the direction of learning how to write programs to run statistics, as opposed to focusing on the concepts on which those calculations are based. This made it feel like I was just playing puppet by the end, just typing in the code that the video said to type or copying it over from an example to the script for the assignment and getting answers right half by chance.
I did learn some new things, though (granted, that’s not a high bar to go by, since I have no background in stats), so hopefully I can hold on to some sense of the things to look out for in reported statistics – sample size (a huge enough sample size can make almost any little effect “statistically significant”), effect size (this’ll tell you if the effect is negligible in spite of “significance”), etc. And Princeton doesn’t award certificates or statements of accomplishment for their Coursera classes, so I didn’t worry as much about the ‘grades’ I was getting – just what I learned.
The one I’m still working on is the most engaging yet (and Game Theory was engaging): ModPo, or Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, taught by UPenn’s Al Filreis and several TAs. They’ve managed to make it feel like a poetry class – it’s all Socratic seminar style discussions, with only occasional mini-lectures by Al, who’s got a contagious mixture of my first philosophy professor’s taste for collaborative learning (over lecture and test) and my Dante prof’s sheer exuberant enthusiasm for the subject. I could definitely see him veering off on a Karenlike excited half-hour tangent on some point of historical and artistic context for a poem. (Of course, that won’t mean much to you if you don’t know Karen. This is she. And this, at the end of the post.)
…Is it bad that I’m looking forward to Penn next year as much for proximity to the Writers’ House as for my grad program? You definitely want to check out this class. Forget about highbrow academic rigor for 10 weeks (this is me saying this) and just come for fun. We’ve even got some of the poets we’re reading joining us on the forums and Facebook, now we’re up to the Language poets. How cool is that?