Blog Post

Behind the Camera

(This article is cross-posted to my blog at


Today I attended the first day of #FutureEd, a course I’m taking at Duke with Cathy Davidson. You may recall that I actually took a course at Duke last year, which was great fun, and I just couldn’t help going back when I saw the syllabus posted online. This course’s full name is the History and Future of Higher Education, and promises to be a wonderfully engaging and critical meta-discussion about the academy. Not only is the course being taught at Duke, it’s also being taught online on Coursera, which is super-exciting. Cathy’s rationale is that she can’t fairly criticize MOOCs until she’s taught one herself, a refreshing attitude that is a rarity in the world of academics who just can’t be bothered.

One phrase that stuck out to me during today’s discussion was the idea that in education - just like in many facets of life - we often don’t consider who’s behind the camera. We take the technology for granted, and only recognize the humans behind it when we’re yelling at them when things break. We take our courses for granted too, but a lot of prep-work goes into them (a fact missed by our students and sometimes even our superiors).

I’ve noticed in my own teaching when you give students a look behind the camera, they’re more sympathetic towards the mistakes you make when you teach. I tell my students that on some days, I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing, but we’re all smart enough people to get over whatever problems may come our way. From discussing Bloom’s taxonomy to talking about the course has changed over time, letting them know why you make the decisions you do goes a long way. It also makes the times when you know exactly what you’re doing come along that much more authentically.

For anyone who’s read the past three entries on my blog, I might sound like a broken record saying this, but this is exactly why I started streaming game development on my website. I set up a routine where every night, I stream a couple of hours of uncut game development. Everything I do, from the successes to the mistakes to the awkward silences are being recorded for all to see! Programs aren’t just made… they’re written and rewritten and thrown out when you come up with a better way of writing them. It’s one of the reasons I love programming so much, and yet, it also isn’t put up front as often as it should be.



Great blog post, Barry.   I love the fresh tone, the openness of address, the specificity and the bold application and implication.  


Many decades ago, Moses Hadas, a mentor of mine toward the end of his life, was asked how long he spent preparing a class. "Oh, about 40 years or so," said he, and it's tough to beat that kind of prep. Never underestimate your course prep and reduce it to a few hours: it's all you've got, so it ought to be all you've lived. And, for that matter, "who's behind the camera" depends on perspective, since those "in front" of the camera are the ones who remember, and those "behind" are the ones who most want you not to forget.