GNU: global network university. What NYU is in the process of becoming. (For an explanation, see John Sexton’s interview with Charlie Rose.)

The picture above was taken at about 1:00 a.m. as I was living NYU Abu Dhabi’s Downtown Campus building. More hours ago than I can remember …

I was on the stationary bike on the top floor of Sama Tower rereading portions of Michael Gazzaniga‘s book The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas. Gazzaniga is in town as part of the first NYUAD Campus Forum.

Morning and early afternoon: conversations with faculty about the shape of the history major here, teaching Core courses, what’s working and what’s not in the writing-oriented courses this term.

Early evening off the rez talking about life in Abu Dhabi with a colleague who teaches literature and his wife.

8:00 p.m. at the DTC: Gazzaniga’s lecture for the students, “Dividing Cerebral Networks: The Split Brain Story, A Personal History.” Our affable guest talked about his life as a pioneering split-brain research, from his early days in the Dartmouth frat that served as the model for John Landis’s film to his career at CalTech in the early days of split-brain research, to his work in Italy and most recently at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at UCSB. Gazzaniga spoke engagingly about the joys of a life in science, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, working with peers and mentors who challenge you, the thrill of “unearthing something … when Nature reveals her secrets,” and the necessity of “having fun” as you work. The talk, punctuated with engaging anecdotes and some video clips about the research itself, was well attended, and the students had many questions afterward.

Tomorrow morning I’m joining other faculty (mostly from the Arts and Humanities group here!) for coffee with Gazzaniga. In the evening, he’ll be delivering a public lecture at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute called on “The Ethical Brain.” I’m interested to see the Q & A there, because the lecture will no doubt touch on some of the research about the neurological origins of religious experience that Gazzaniga discusses in his book.

And then, at 11:30 p.m. Abu Dhabi time (3:30 in New York), participation via Skype in a panel called “Open Access for Education”:

The potential applications of open educational resources are widespread – increased access to knowledge in regions where higher education is not readily available, recruitment and retention of students, curriculum development and research collaboration among faculty, and generating interest in higher education. At this forum, NYU and Creative Commons speakers will discuss new “Open Education” initiatives at NYU and elsewhere.

FAS Social Sciences Dean Dalton Conley spoke about NYU’s Open Education project, which has just gone live with two “courses,” one of which is my American Literature I class, which was videotaped last spring. After my brief remarks about what I hoped some of the uses of the American Liteature material might turn out to be, we heard from Jane Park, Education Coordinator at Creative Commons about the ins and outs of Creative Commons licenses. During the Q & A, Danny Walkowitz, whose lectures on New York City: A Social History also appear on the site, spoke about the difference between that set of lectures and a true “course.” Preparing for the session got me thinking about how the lectures might serve as the basis for a course at NYU Abu Dhabi, which use the lectures not only to introduce students to American literature but also to the concept of open education — and get them both to work on improve the materials and to contributing to what I hope will turn out to be a healthy conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of open education models. More on that to come.

Oh, and then there was the stream of Arsenal’s Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk  being beamed to a monitor in the office I was using from the Slingbox in my dad’s apartment in New York while I was doing the Skype call. Arsenal won 5-1.