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Welcome to the Remarkable Ocean World!
The web pages into which you are about to plunge have been a part of my course since 1996. They were created to give students unlimited access to the course materials, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Importantly, the "look-and-feel" of these pages are based on the suggestions of the thousands of students whom I've had the pleasure to teach over these past four years. Hopefully, that means these pages will be simple to navigate, easy to understand and more fun than a barrel of sea monkeys!
One of the primary goals of this site is to help students to learn how to learn, something called student-centered learning. Student-centered learning puts the responsibility for learning on the student. (As far as I can tell, it's always been that way but now teachers have a fancy word for it.) The idea is to provide a wide range of tools that students can use to discover knowledge. Where teachers used to be the "sage on the stage" now they are taking a more "guide on the side" approach.
That approach works very well with online delivery of a course for many reasons. Students have the flexibility to get their lectures and assignments any time of day or night. Their ability to communicate with the instructor and other students is greatly enhanced through e-mail, subscribable mailing lists, discussion forums and web postings. Where many of us dash out of the classroom to the next class or to work or home, on the web you can post messages, read messages, meet other students and send e-mail back and forth on a one-to-one basis with the instructor or other students. Ultimately, students will be able to "attend" lectures through live or recorded audio and video webcasts; they will be able to engage in interactive 3D "games" on a variety of educational topics and perhaps even complete the entire course on their own schedule, finishing it in 8 weeks, if that's their desire, or 36 weeks, if work and other obligations necessitate a slower approach.
All of these technologies are designed to accomplish one purpose: to get you excited about learning. Learning is a life-long process; teachers can't possibly teach you everything you need to know in 4 years (or 10 years!) of college. What we can teach you is how to approach problems and issues, how to find information needed to solve that problem or resolve that issue and how to make some sense out of it and communicate it to someone else. That's why every class you take is relevant, whether it's in your desired field of study or not. Any occupation that you pursue in life will demand that you think outside the envelope, that you tackle unfamiliar subjects, grasp their meaning and put them into practice. And that's where I come in, because while most of you probably aren't going to grow up to be an oceanographer, most of the skills that you learn in this class (many times without realizing that you are learning them) can be applied to any dream you choose to pursue. I guarantee it!
Some of you might struggle at first with the heavy online emphasis of this course. Relax. Keep an open mind. There are lots of people here to help you, especially me. If you struggle at first, keep at it. Ask for help. E-mail me. Call me. Come see me on campus. Invite me to your favorite coffee shop. We'll sit down with a laptop and go over the basics of navigating the web and sending and receiving e-mail. It really isn't that hard. My 75-year-old mother just learned how to surf the web. You can too!
Finally, I'd like to leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes. The first quote comes from John Morrow, a fellow grad student at USC. He used to tell me, "Life is not a dress rehearsal." And he was right! This business of school and life isn't practice for the next level of some video game, it's the real thing, every second of every moment of every day. Make the most of your life. Ask yourself, "Is this really what I want to do?" I'll tell you this, school is a drag unless you are passionate about it. Those students who make As aren't smarter than you, they just have more passion for learning. Maybe you don't really want to be in school. Maybe you'd rather be traveling in Europe or playing in a ska-gothic-punk band or hanging out with friends. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you pursue your goals and dreams every day. No one else is going to do it for you!
My second favorite comes from that great Roman philosopher and senator, Marcus Aurelius: "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." I think about this quote every day because when I wake up in the morning with that child's wonder, that surge of excitement about the day ahead, then I have a much better day than when I wake up with the attitude "this sucks." YOU decide your happiness, no one else. If you are unhappy, change your life or at least change you attitude. You will be amazed what a small difference it wakes when you wake up in the morning thinking "what a wonderful day!"
And just to show you that I'm not the only nut that thinks this way, here's an essay sent to me from a former student, one of your classmates:
College is about learning. It's not as simple as learning whatever it is that's being taught in your required gen-ed classes, though. It's about learning how to listen, how to speak, how to think. Learning who you are, who your friends are, the type of people you want as friends. Learning how to trust your innermost feelings, and how to find those feelings in the first place. It's about learning what's really important to you, and learning what you really don't give a damn about. College is about learning how to tolerate, how to accept, how to like, and how to love. Learning how to give as well as you receive, and how to trust that everything will even itself out on its own (you buy a pizza one night, your roommate will the next night). It's about learning that your mom and dad actually do have the right answers sometimes, and that your kid sister isn't such a dumb little kid anymore. College is about learning how to treat people as people, not as stereotypes. Learning that sometimes a kiss isn't just a kiss, that sometimes it means more, and that sometimes it means less. Learning how to achieve, how to succeed, how to accomplish. It's about learning how to not come in first place and still be proud, and about coming in last and learning how to admit that you could've done better. College is about learning that loud parties don't necessarily mean a good time. Learning that loneliness doesn't go away in a crowd, and that sometimes it's okay to be by yourself on a Friday or Saturday night. It's about learning that your lunchtime crowd doesn't constitute your popularity, and that popularity is all a matter of perspective. It's about learning that boredom is simply laziness of the mind, and that watching three hours of Thursday night NBC is not quality relaxation time. College is about learning how to pack a bag, how to pack a car, and how to pack a room full of way too much stuff. Learning that people probably like you a whole lot more than they'll ever tell you, and that it's your responsibility to make sure your friends know how much you appreciate them. It's about learning that simply doing what you're supposed to do isn't enough, you need to put forth twice that much in order to fully grasp whatever it is that's sitting in front of you. It's about learning how to make people smile. College is about learning how to miss people enough to not stick them in the past, and how to not miss them so much that it keeps you from moving into the future. Learning how to motivate yourself and how to motivate others. Learning how what the phrase "make do" means, and how to use it to make it seem as if you're not simply "making do." It's about how to swear in all the different languages of your class/floor/dorm/housemates. College is about learning. Learning how to live.
We are all engaged in a life-long journey to discover some truth and happiness about ourselves or about the Universe we live in. All of us are unique individuals with unique experiences and unique knowledge. No one can take that away from you. It is that uniqueness that makes all of us equally important, no matter what race, creed, income level, gender, sexuality, religion, political beliefs, whatever. We are all equals, myself included. If we treat everyone that way, we make ourselves open to the most precious lessons we will ever receive, the experiences of another person. Keep an open mind and an open heart. You may be surprised by what you discover.
I'm looking forward to getting to know all of you in this exciting new age!
Surf long and prosper!